Archives for June 2014

Totally Cute Theme For Girl’s Birthday Party

I had the privilege of being a ninang (godmother) during a birthday party today. And I just loved the Farm Girl Theme! What a great idea for a birthday party!

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Party decor and theme by:
LUXE PARTIES & Photography
Luxe Parties
Email: luxepartiesmanila@gmail.com
Contact no. 09189851203

Father To Son-In-Law

This is something I should have posted last week, but here it is anyway…

We celebrated a belated Father’s Day with my dad two Tuesday nights ago. Of course we went to his favorite restaurant — Summer Palace in Shang-rila.

There are only four top hits for my dad when it comes to Chinese food…Lugang, Choi Garden, Summer Palace, and Gloria Maris.

He got his Peking Duck and steamed Lapu-Lapu fix so he was very happy. Everyone wrote him letters and cards and he read through each one aloud.

My dad has always appreciated home made cards that tell him what he means to each of us. It’s not a narcissistic thing. Like any good father, he wants to know that he made and is making a positive difference in our lives.

During the dinner, the grand kids hovered around him as he gladly received their written gifts. He was delighted to read everyone’s cards and letters, smiling and adding drama to his voice as he went through each one.

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As the night came to a close, we all asked him to give the fathers at the table his words of wisdom. This was his 3-point, very simple sharing:

1. Assume responsibility for your family’s well being – God has entrusted to you your wife and children. You are to provide physically and spiritually and you are to give direction to your family. You are responsible. Your role cannot be delegated.

2. You have to be intentional. This is about modeling Christ-likeness and spending time with your children to teach them the habits, attitudes, and life principles that will prepare them for true success.

3. Have a positive home environment. Be fun. Do not complain and grumble or focus on the small things. In other words, don’t be reactive or easily irritated.

As I listened to him I appreciated how consistent he was at applying those same things when we were kids. He has truly been an amazing father. It was because of him that all of my siblings and I became committed followers of Jesus. His example, discipline, encouragement, godly leadership, and love for the Lord made us desire to serve and follow Christ, too.

But there is something else I am really thankful for. My dad discipled his sons-in-law. (He continues to do so.) In fact, I teared up when he read Edric’s personal letter to him. Edric shared about how important my dad’s affirmation and positivity have meant to him over the years. He said he learned God-confidence from my dad.

As confident as my husband may seem, he struggled a lot with insecurity when he was younger. For example, one relative told him he was “very ugly,” which kind of scarred him. Another one made him feel like he wasn’t good enough. So he grew up with certain emotional pains that made him feel like he had to continually prove his worth. My dad helped him to understand who he is in Christ.

During a recent retreat, I heard Edric say that his life has been a story of three fathers. His first father (my wonderful father-in-law) raised him and taught him about manhood. His second father, my dad, healed him of childhood insecurities, and led him to the father of all — God the father. Edric’s third father — God — saved his life and brought meaning and purpose to it beyond his own selfish goals and ambitions.

Many years ago, my dad sat down with Edric and told him about Jesus Christ and how to have a personal relationship with him. This changed his life forever.

Before Edric married me, my dad had a “talk” with him about God’s design for sex in marriage. Sounds pretty crazy and awkward but Edric actually appreciated it.

When we got married, my dad mentored and discipled Edric. He invited Edric to join the group of men he met with weekly for accountability and the study of God’s word. And he would ask Edric regularly, “How are you doing, son?” which allowed Edric to share what was on his heart. He also gave Edric opportunities to serve along side him in ministry. My dad would affirm Edric’s gift for speaking which encouraged Edric to preach and teach God’s word to others.

My dad’s presence as a father to Edric made such a difference in Edric’s life, which ultimately, turned out to be beneficial for me and our kids! I got a husband who was mentored by two great dads — his own and mine.

In Edric’s letter to my father he wrote…Inscribed in the British pound is a quotation by Sir Isaac Newton, which reads, “If I have seen farther it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. I want to thank you, dad, for being a giant in my life.”

What a blessing a father can be to his son-in-law when he takes it upon himself to mentor and guide him in love! Thank you, dad!

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Bangkal Thrift Store Shopping

In this furnishing stage of our house building, looking for decorative pieces has become one of our favorite bonding activities. Edric and I have shopped in the malls, in antique stores, and in furniture shops. A few days ago we went to Bangkal for some bargain hunting.

At the suggestion of Edric’s cousin, Marty, we checked it out to look for old solid wood finds. It was pretty easy to get to Bangkal area. We took Edsa, crossed over South Luzon Expressway, then made a right on Evangelista. Once we got there, we asked where the thrift stores were. Amazingly, we actually ran into someone from our church who helped give us directions.

Most of the stores in Bangkal were hot and junky, but we did find some unexpectedly cool things. Thankfully we were both dressed for the occasion, too. We went there in shirts and shorts. And before we got there, I accidentally snagged my shorts in a 7/11 store. Unfortunately, the snag was a bad one. It cut a hole into my shorts that I had to hide with my purse. Since we were in thrift stores, my shorts fit right in!

We came away from Bangkal buying two arm chairs, a desk swivel chair, and a side table. Everything was Narra! And it only cost us 14k (including the delivery charge and refurbishing). Kind of makes you wonder where they find these pieces!

I am still holding my breath because we saw the “before” but we haven’t seen the “after”. By tomorrow I should be able to post pictures.

At the very least, Edric and I had a lot of fun. We were enamored by the same things as we went from shop to shop.

When we ended the day at a watch repair shop, Edric turned to me and said, “I could be with you all day. I like to be with you all the time!” I should’ve said something sweet but honestly, by this hour my thoughts were turned towards Catalina and breastmilk supply. We had been gone since 10 am and it was almost 5pm. I wasn’t able to reciprocate with an equally romantic statement, but I did acknowledge him with a smile. I felt the same way, too. Had it not been for breastfeeding, I could have kept shopping with him.

It’s great to be married to the man you love but it’s even greater to be married to a man who shares the same interests and passions, who can be your leader, lover, and protector, and also your best friend. I really thank the Lord that Edric and I share this kind of relationship. I suppose this is what the Bible means when it says the “two shall become one.” Even our taste in decor is one and the same!

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This Is What It’s About

When people ask me how I homeschool several children, I tell them the secret is to teach my kids obedience. Character is key.

If a child has learned obedience, he or she can be taught attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and the importance of having the right attitude. These traits can make or break the homeschooling experience for any parent.

There’s no way I can teach my five energetic, gregarious, and very curious children if these character traits are not present or, at the very least, developing in their hearts.

Yesterday, I was homeschooling seven children. My niece and two nephews were over to homeschool with us. They did great! But my two older boys, Elijah and Edan, didn’t start out too well. They had a conflict that resulted in Elijah throwing his hands up in exasperation and Edan chucking a pencil on the floor. They were going over Filipino together and Elijah was frustrated that Edan didn’t seem to be listening. Edan was annoyed that Elijah was forcing him to do his work.

We couldn’t continue our homeschooling without dealing with this. So, I called the two of them aside and we transferred to a room where we could have some privacy.

“Auntie Joy! I need help!” I had to ignore the calls of my nephew at the door and request that he wait till we were done.

In the room, I asked the boys to sit close to me. Both of them were fighting off the tears.

“Let me ask you something, boys…we’ve been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. Which of the aspects of love have you NOT been practicing?”

There was an awkward silence but they looked up at me and began to speak voluntarily…

“Love is kind. Love is not rude,” was Edan’s response.

“Love does not keep a record of wrong,” admitted Elijah.

How I love the word of God and its power to convict the hearts of my children! I asked them a simple question but they were convicted.

We recited 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 together again. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices when the truth wins…”

Their faces softened which told me that their hearts did, too. They knew that they had not honored God’s word, which was the greater issue.

“I know you guys love the Lord, you love one another and you don’t want to hurt each other. How can you improve?”

They proceeded to share their feelings and frustrations. I let them talk freely so I could find out why they were being so reactive towards one another. Elijah was deeply upset that Edan apologies for unkindness didn’t seem sincere. He felt that the same offense was bound to happen because there was no “real repentance.” Edan, on the other hand, didn’t like being ordered around by Elijah.

I helped Edan to see that he was not practicing “Love is not proud,” too. To both I said, “We are an imperfect family. Mommy and daddy are imperfect. All of you are imperfect. That’s why we need Jesus. We need to keep applying God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our relationships.” I went on to admit my own struggles. “Honestly, when I was teaching Titus about rhyming earlier and I asked him ‘what rhymes with pin and he said cup’ I felt like smacking him. But I didn’t because that would be very wrong. But I want you to know that I understand the frustrations you feel towards one another.”

They began to laugh because they heard me teaching Titus earlier and it was kind of a comedy!

We must have spent ten more minutes talking about how to change and apply God’s word in our lives. We ended by praying together.

I said, “I want each of us to pray and confess to the Lord our sins.”

At first the boys resisted. “I don’t know what to pray, mom,” quipped Elijah.

“Don’t worry. I will start, and then you can listen to what I say.”

So I prayed to give them a template of how to acknowledge and confess our sins before one another and to the Lord. Afterwards I invited the boys to do the same. Why did I want them to pray aloud? I wanted them to humble themselves. The best way to do that was to pray.

It’s one thing to say sorry and then walk away from the situation. It’s another thing to come before the Lord and say, “Father will you forgive me for my wrong attitude. Please forgive me for the way I treated my brother. Please help to me to change and improve so that I can become more like you…”

They didn’t pray using those exact words, but in their kid-version way, they said the same thing. I listened to them pray and they started to tear. There was a brokenness that took place that was necessary. I got teary-eyed, too. They were honest and sincere as they spoke to the Lord.

We all embraced and I told them how much I love them. Afterwards, we returned to our homeschooling. Their hearts were ready and we had an amazing day with their cousins.

I’m sharing this story because this is the key to homeschooling. We need to prepare our children’s hearts before we can instruct their minds. Godly character is the bedrock. We must pause to address what’s going on in their hearts – especially when their spiritual compass is off. In fact, we need to drop everything if necessary, and minister to our children spiritually when their attitudes and behaviors are displeasing to the Lord.

How could I possibly continue teaching Elijah and Edan, forcing them to do their Filipino just because they had to, and ignore or postpone the more important matter of their heart condition? Would God bless the work of their hands if they were continuing in sin? How would he allow me to teach well if I wasn’t faithful in prioritizing what really counts in his eyes?

I must always seek to understand where the real “battle” lies. Of all the teaching challenges that may confront me as a homeschooling mother — dealing with the academics, equipping my kids with the practical skills to succeed when they enter into a university, and passing on godly character traits — the latter must precede the others. It’s imperative to instill character traits upon which a successful education can be built.

For my younger kids, obedience is the first priority. The optimum window to establish my authority (and Edric’s) has always been between the ages of 0 – 2. Catalina is at that point where she is exhibiting brattiness. At 10 months old, she intentionally throws her head back, bounces up and down while crying, or she flings her body on to her bed for dramatic effect. Edric and I recognise that it’s time to address these things. After two years old, we know it gets harder. Once a child has experienced what it is like to get his or her own way, there is greater resistance to submission.

I know a child whose parents started implementing effective and consistent disciplinary action later rather than earlier. The child had already grown accustomed to getting her whims accommodated by those around her. Her parents also tended to be child-centric in their childrearing. As a result, she was difficult to teach and train. It was complicated to get her to do simple things like eat vegetables or keep silent when appropriate. She tended not to listen to other authority figures, too. Because the parents are now course-correcting their parenting, she is improving. But like anything in life, prevention rather than intervention is the way to go.

We have to start teaching obedience before a child gets into the habit of defiance. Once obedience is established, we can turn our attention towards other character traits like attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and having a positive attitude. As I said earlier, a child who has these traits will be much easier to homeschool. It won’t be a flawless experience. However, when unpleasant, ungodly behaviors and attitudes surface during a homeschooling day, our children can be REMINDED to revert back to what they know is correct and pleasing to God.

Let me end this with a story about Titus that personally blessed me as a mother. Titus is my youngest “official” homeschooled child. Tiana, who is just 3 years old, is not yet enrolled with a program. And my baby girl is too young for formal instruction. As a kindergartener, I don’t expect the same sort of self-directed learning that I encourage my older sons to have.

However, a few weeks back I had to leave the house in the morning. So I assigned the kids their work and told them I would check on them when I got back. I wasn’t too sure if Titus would be able to do his Filipino on his own, but when I got home, he showed me his notebook. His finished work was inside it. I was very pleased!

In the evening, when I was feeding Catalina, he peered into my bedroom. “Come in,” I motioned to him. He smiled and skipped over to my side, snuggling under the covers. I told him I was very proud of him for doing his homeschool work. And I asked him, “Why did you finish it?” He said, “Because I wanted to obey you.”

I loved that answer.

Titus can be a highly distracted child because he is so curious. For him to finish his assigned task without someone peering over his shoulder to remind him to do it made my day! I was happier about his motivations rather than the actual output. He valued obedience.

My prayer is that my children will internalize godly character and experience the blessings of doing so. Our family is a work in progress. God deals with my heart daily as a homeschooling mother and he is molding the hearts of my kids, too. We make mistakes and struggle with our weaknesses but I can’t think of doing anything else with this season of my life. As a mother to young children, I want to be where the more important battle is. For me, the battle is at home…winning my kids for the Lord by teaching them what really counts. This is what homeschooling is about.

From enemies to best buds again…
 

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Biz Kidz Version 2

Our kids participated in the Biz Kidz event of TMA Homeschool last Saturday. It was such a well-planned event. I am not tooting my own horn here because I had nothing to do with the planning (even if Edric is the Managing Director of TMA Homeschool 🙂 ). What I especially enjoyed about being at the event was seeing all the ideas and creations of the homeschool kids who were present. Plus, there was that homeschool community vibe that made the place feel like we were among family. This is one of the benefits of being a part of an accredited program like TMA which has over a thousand students enrolled in it. It’s like a huge family where collaboration and fellowship can happen among parents and kids.

Biz Kidz held its second year run and the kids were required to submit their business proposals before getting the approval to participate. Our kids did origami art like they did last year. This time they also added a published book based on a story they wrote. It was illustrated with origami figures.

Honestly, they didn’t really make money because the printing wasn’t cheap but the experience was worth it. The kids worked hard to sell their products. They put in the time and effort. By the end of the day they sold all their cupcakes with origami toppers, almost all their books (about 40 of the 50 we had printed) and they sold some of their origami cards, too. I was very proud of them for trying their best.

My applause extends to the other families and kids who were there. Everyone did a great job and some of the ideas were super creative. Events like these make me appreciate our homeschooling lifestyle. Our kids aren’t getting a typical education. I feel like they are getting so much more, especially when they get to be a part of an activity like this that requires them to apply practical life skills.

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It’s So Hard to Say Sorry…Sometimes

With five kids who are dual citizens, US and Filipino, Edric and I have to visit the US Embassy and Department of Foreign Affairs more often than most parents have to….more often than we would like to. Whether it’s getting a consular report of birth abroad, passport, or renewing an expired passport, we have to be in the US embassy or DFA almost every year.

I dread preparing all the paperwork which can be so tedious and time consuming. However, the most stressful aspect of it all is getting from our home to the different government facilities on time.

Now that we live in the QC area instead of Global City, we need to give ourselves a generous amount of time to travel. Today our appointment was at 7:45 am to renew Elijah and Titus’ passports. So Edric said we had to leave by 5:45 am.

We went to bed pretty early last night but Catalina didn’t do too well so I wasn’t very perky at 5:20 am. Usually, I can get ready in twenty to thirty minutes. I am a no frills kind of person so I don’t need to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. (I don’t even own a hair dryer…I should probably get one. But my hair is so wispy it dries quickly.)

Edric and Elijah were in our van by 5:50. I didn’t get down till about 6:00. Titus came a few minutes after. At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal but Edric looked at me disapprovingly. He thought I didn’t have a sense of urgency. When we got out of our village, he began expressing his annoyance, pointing to the traffic and saying, “Five minutes matters.” I was just quiet. The cars were moving pretty slowly. Uh oh.

When we got to Makati, he made a comment about the traffic again and said, “See, see, we are not going to make it. You can forget the embassy. You probably should rebook our schedule.”

Whoa. What was up with his doomsday perspective?!

“Why do you have to be so negative?” was my response.

“Because I used to work in Makati. I know what the traffic is like.” He had one of those irritated but restrained faces, like he was trying very hard not to be angry with me. (I need to give credit to him for this because he has changed a lot. He tries to be more quiet when he is irked with me so he can process his emotions.)

I retaliated a little, “So what do you want from me?”

“Say sorry.”

Huh? For 10 minutes? Come on.
I didn’t want to. I was quiet.

Instead of saying sorry right away, I prayed for mercy. “Lord, please, please can you help us make it there on time? Please show me mercy.” But my motivations were wrong. I wanted to make it just to show Edric that he was being over the top about my 10-minute lateness.

How could I ask for mercy if I wasn’t willing to say sorry?! I knew that God wouldn’t honor that prayer because my heart wasn’t right.

Why was it so hard to say sorry anyway?

I did a self-analysis…

I don’t seem to have a difficult time asking for forgiveness from relatives, friends, and others. But when it comes to Edric, I struggle with saying sorry sometimes.

Why? PRIDE.

This morning, I knew I was late but I also thought…give me a break, I prepared all the documents and went through all the trouble — photocopying, getting photos done, going through their records, filling out the forms. There was no thank you for that. I also had to wake up for our baby and she cried this morning so I couldn’t get ready as quickly. Furthermore, did my lateness merit his dark-cloud comments? Like we were NEVER going to make it to the embassy because of me?

God convicted me that I was just rationalizing. I was late so I needed to apologize for that. That was the issue. If we agreed on 5:45 I should have been in the van at that time. It doesn’t matter what circumstances caused my tardiness. It didn’t even matter that Edric was asking for an apology in a manner that didn’t suit my preferences. I WAS LATE. I should have just said, “Will you forgive me for being late?”

My thoughts were…Are you a child of child? Do you belong to him? Stop wrestling with the demon of pride. You need to learn to humble yourself. Do you want God’s blessing? Do you want to make it to the embassy?!

Yes, yes, yes, yes!

I turned towards Edric and said, “Honey, will you forgive me for being late?”

It wasn’t so hard after all. It came out pretty well and I didn’t gag on those words!

Of course Edric forgave me. He always does.

I asked for the Lord’s mercy again. This time it wasn’t about proving that I wasn’t such a bad person. I really didn’t want to go through the hassle of rescheduling our appointment. God was merciful indeed! He allowed us to make it to the embassy on time, with some minutes to spare before our appointment. A nice plus was the kindness and courtesy extended to us by the officials who processed our paperwork. One of the officials was a viewer of Edric’s show and he was extra gracious to us, giving us his email so we could coordinate with him directly for our children’s
Social Security numbers.

God is so good!

As I was reflecting on the events of the morning, I remembered the beautiful wedding we attended last Sunday night. The officiating pastor for the first part of the ceremony (who also happened to be my dad) gave three principles for marriage — commitment, communication, and forgiveness.

He said that these were non-negotiable in a marriage. And the enemy of marriage is selfishness, which is just another name for pride.

Saying sorry to Edric when I made a mistake even if I didn’t feel like I did something “very bad” was absolutely necessary. Why? First, Edric expressed to me that I needed to say sorry for being late so I shouldn’t have been defensive. I was late. End of discussion. I should have acknowledged his perspective and communicated the desire to improve and change.

Second, when self-centered thinking started to invade my consciousness, I should have fought it off right away. (Saying a sincere sorry immediately is one of the antidotes to having a hard heart.)

Third, when I got married I made a commitment to Edric before God to be his wife. This may not seem like an epiphany but what does it mean to be a committed wife?

A committed wife is humble. A committed wife knows how to say sorry. A committed wife wants to get better as the years go by. A committed wife receives correction with grace no matter how it is delivered. A committed wife pleases God with the thoughts she entertains about her husband and her actions towards him. And a committed wife receives God’s favor.

God could have allowed us to be late so that I learn a painful lesson. But he was merciful and gracious to me. When I admitted that I was prideful and apologized to Edric there was a peace that came from God…a peace that we would make it to our appointment and all would be well. This peace would have evaded me if I hadn’t responded to the Lord’s conviction to ask for forgiveness.

It is hard to say sorry sometimes (in marriage) but I am learning that when it is, it’s usually because I am prideful, selfish and refuse to honor my commitment to be a good wife to my husband. If I want God’s favor and hand of blessing in my life and marriage then I need to reject these ungodly inclinations and focus on doing what I know God wants me to and stop making excuses!

The wonderful bonus to all of this is Edric apologized to me too for being reactive. Praise God!

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I am committed to this guy no matter what!

Daddy Flashcards

Our family gift to Edric for Father’s Day was a set of “Daddy Flashcards”. I asked the kids to give descriptive words or phrases about Edric as a dad, and they came up with sentences to support their descriptions. Then we laminated the cards to make them look more “official.” (I love my laminator!) Edan helped me with this part. And presto…
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The kids wrote their cards for him, too.
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I was especially moved by Elijah’s letter.

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Edric’s favorite sort of presents are home-made ones. If we just got him a gift and didn’t write a card he would feel really sad. So this time no purchased gift but he was all smiles! Yeah!

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Consider Wearing and Using “Belly Armor”

I wish I had known about Belly Armor by RadiaShield while I was pregnant, especially since I was on electronic devices quite often, using my IPad and IPhone to write entries. Thankfully Catalina can still use the Belly Armor blanket and I can cover myself when “working” on my gadgets too. But it’s most beneficial for pregnant women who don’t need to give their babies unnecessary radiation exposure. The biggest plus is having peace of mind that you did your best to protect your unborn child from radiation. Why do I find out about cool stuff like this after the fact?!

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RadiaShield carries light-weight and luxe blankets for mommies and babies:

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Tees:

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Belly bands:

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For more information check out: Belly Armor Learn about the hazards of exposing your family to radiation from electronic devices and how you can protect those who are most susceptible — babies and children.

Here’s my little Catalina playing around in her Belly Armor blanket. Thanks Jem Perez for this very thoughtful gift! Love it!

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You Are My Kryptonite

Edric threw his work bag into the back of the car, and plopped himself beside me. “You are my Kryptonite,” he said, throwing his arms over his head with a smirk on his face.

“Huh?! Me?!”

“Yes, my Krypton.”

I inched over to him and hugged him. I love being Kryptonite…his “weakness,” as he calls it.

We had come from a lunch and I should’ve gone home by myself, but I turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you just come home with me?!” He didn’t have much going on at work so I hoped he would take the invitation. (Plus, if he had stayed at the office, he would have been home really late because his car was color-coded.)

“I think I will do that,” was his response, and I could hardly suppress my giddy excitement. The idea of having him around for the afternoon was such a treat!

Shortly after, he semi-ruined the romantic moment when he jokingly presented what looked like a booger to me and said, “Come on, I dropped everything for you this afternoon…take it. We are one person anyway.”

“Yes we are, but we don’t have the same boogers.”

He just wanted a reaction from me, a scream of girlish horror (which he received).

I’m glad we still have fun. We play silly games. We tease. We laugh. We exchange ideas and opinions. We argue and discuss our differences. We finish each other’s sentences.  We serve the Lord together. We cry because God is good…because it’s so amazing to raise children and watch them grow up…because we don’t deserve anything that we have…because it’s all grace.

This is grace. Right here. Right now. Having a husband who is tender and sweet towards me even after 13 years of knowing everything ugly, sinful, and complicated about me, and then calling me his Kryptonite. It’s flattering. It’s comforting. It’s scary!

If I don’t walk with the Lord I can be a stumbling block in his life. I can be a thorn in his side. I can be the devious whisperer who hisses negative thoughts and ideas into his ear…about people, circumstances, the present, the future…

So I have to guard my own heart. I must walk faithfully with the Lord and make sure that I encourage him to do the same. While he is my leader and the head of our home, he has given me the privilege of his trust. And with this comes a responsibility.

He said, “I must whisper well.”

A woman whispers into the ear of her husband and she can influence him towards or away from Christ-likeness. Take for example, Jezebel to Ahab.

1 Kings 21:25 tells us, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him.”

That’s not who I want to be to Edric! But I can certainly become this way if I’m not careful. I can have a Jezebel-spirit if I’m not filled with the Holy Spirit. A Jezebel-spirit is one who seeks to control and manipulate her husband to do what is wrong in God’s eyes, for her own gain and purposes.

Recently, I have wanted to buy more furniture for the house. But Edric has told me that we have to “tighten the belt” now. We have spent a lot for our new home so we have to temper our purchases, spread them out. My impulse is to finish decorating everything right away. But I have to mind what I say when I express this desire to him. If I pressure him, he will find a way to make more money. However, he is trying to turn down offers for added income so he can streamline his activities and be more focused. As crazy as it may sound, this is a good thing. It’s what I have prayed for.

The last six months have been tough with him traveling to so many different parts of the Philippines. God convicted him to be very selective about what he commits to. Of course this means less money. However, it also means more time for family, ministry, and spearheading the homeschooling movement. These are God-honoring preoccupations that matter in eternity.

As for the house, it’s here. It’s pretty much done. The sprucing and decorating can happen as we go along. In the meantime, I have to practice contentment and thankfulness. I’ve got to support Edric’s desire to give more time to the Lord’s work and not push him to make more money for me to spend on our house. In other words, I have to mind my whisperings as his Kyrptonite because he listens to what I have to say and values it, because my happiness matters to him, and because he loves me. Therefore, my heart has to be wholly devoted to the Lord so that I speak words that encourage Edric to make choices and decisions that honor God. I want to be a GOOD Kryptonite!

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37 NASB)

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The Magic of Unconditional Love

The kids and I spent the morning at Splash Island with my siblings and their kids a few days ago. We were having a belated celebration for one of my nieces who turned 7. It was my first time to visit Splash Island and I would give it a 6 out of 10 for cleanliness and upkeep, an 9 out of 10 for fun.

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From a parent’s perspective the hygiene and sanitation factor is important to me, especially since I have little kids who often put their fingers in their mouths and swallow pool water all the time. But my kids could care less about these things. They were laughing about the frog that was swimming in the water, which the lifeguard nonchalantly picked up and chucked out of the pool, and the dark mold which made creepy patterns in the water tube slide (according to Titus).

Regardless of how Splash Island has aged over the years, the kids had a blast. Some of them even liked it better than Imperial Palace (a beautiful, world-class water park in Cebu).

Unfortunately, two unpleasant things happened during our water park morning. Elijah lost his very expensive prescription glasses, and Edan’s old and ugly crocs were stolen. (I find it hard to believe that anyone would have wanted those shoes!)

The day began with the kids bouncing around in the huge wave pool. Since I had gone to the park with 5 kids, no yaya, and no Edric, I wasn’t very “on the ball” about certain details. One very crucial detail was telling Elijah to give me his glasses before he got into the wave pool. Initially he wanted me to keep them in the locker but I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to see anything if he got lost in the park. So I told him to keep them with him. Bad idea.

While I was preoccupied with watching my three younger children, Elijah and Edan took on the biggest waves right away. A few minutes later, Elijah’s glasses were knocked off his face by a wave. Unable to see clearly, he had no idea where they were in the water. I was at the opposite end holding Catalina so I couldn’t rush over to help him find them either.

Some moments later, my siblings and I tried to look for them, hoping they would be washed “ashore.” Nothing turned up. I prayed and prayed. I also asked Elijah to hold on to Catalina when the wave pool was turned off so I could do a more thorough search. Since I didn’t bring goggles, the life guard was kind enough to lend me his. On any normal day I wouldn’t have used a stranger’s goggles, but I was pretty desperate! I swam along the sides of the pool to check the corners at the bottom. I dove down numerous times to survey the floor. Even if the water was kind of murky at the part where the waves came from (which should have totally disgusted me), I didn’t stop my hunt until I covered every inch along that end of the pool. My siblings searched other areas of the pool as well. Sadly, it was all in vain. Visiting the lost and found twice and asking them to call or text me in case the glasses were turned in didn’t make a difference either. Sigh. I felt horrible.

In the meantime, Elijah didn’t seem to mind a bit. He couldn’t see much but he was having such a good time it didn’t really matter that the entire park was blurry from his perspective.

The kids and their cousins spent the rest of the morning on the slides while I held on to Catalina. I was kind of glum because I couldn’t believe the glasses were gone. Plus I dreaded to call Edric at work to let him know.

In the changing room, I finally phoned him. Surprisingly, Edric didn’t seem too upset. He was disappointed but he didn’t get angry. I didn’t really expect him to flip out but I thought I was in for a teaching session that might have begun with, “So what were you thinking when you told him to wear his glasses while swimming?” There was none of that.

At about 12:30 pm, I had to leave. The boys stayed with their cousins and I took the girls home. During the ride home, I profusely apologized via text, telling Edric again how sorry I was. I didn’t check my phone until a while later but when I did, I read this message…”I love you and I will always take care of you.”

What?! Wow! I texted him right back, “Thanks babe. That actually made me cry…” To which he replied, “Great, that’s the idea.”

He knows what a sucker I am for sweet, tender professions of his love for me, especially when I make a mistake and feel very ashamed and unworthy. In the grand scheme of things, losing a pair of glasses may not have been a big deal. But ever since we moved to our new home we have emphasized to our children the value of being good stewards of God’s blessings. Letting Elijah wear his glasses while running around the water park was a very irresponsible decision. I should have made it very clear that he could wear them while walking from one ride to another and then asked him to hand them to me before swimming.

While I was mulling over my impaired judgment, the last thing I thought I would receive was a text message telling me that I was precious, important, and cherished. When Edric sent me his message, I felt a sudden rush of joy. He didn’t rub salt on my mistake by giving me a lecture about responsibility. Instead he emphasized my value to him as a wife. That made my day! In fact, I was so excited to spend time with him that I dressed up in an outfit I knew he would like, dropped by the store to buy him snacks, and went to his office for an impromptu visit. He was thrilled to see me.

When we were finally in the car together, he looked at me with a big smile and said, “I like it when you give me undivided attention!” He also asked, “Did you notice that I didn’t say anything negative when you called me about the glasses? That’s my new realization. I won’t say anything if I have nothing good to say and I will wait before responding.” (Edric is such an intense person that he can be reactive when circumstances trigger his emotions.)

Of course I noticed! And I loved it! After all, he knew that I was very cognizant of my wrong. So he took a much kinder approach and reassured me that I didn’t have to fret over what happened because he loved me and would always take care of me.

I felt transported to one of those cheesy scenes where I was running towards Edric in a field of flowers wearing a white billowy dress (no braces or bangs) and everything was golden with sunshine. My, my, my, the power of words spoken in a timely fashion to soothe and calm the soul of a perturbed lover (aka me)!

This incident made me realize that spouses need to say things like this to one another more often. It’s like a magical formula for romantic feelings. It’s hard for lovey-dovey feelings to blossom when the soil of a relationship is overgrown with the weeds of fear, shame, anger, disappointment, insecurity, and unforgiveness. But when unconditional love is offered, especially to the one who is undeserving, it inspires them to change for the better and to love the giver in return.

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From a spiritual perspective, it’s the same way with God. An understanding of what He did for us on the cross should result in the desire to repent of sin, serve him, follow him, and be with him. He is the truest example of unconditional love and he invites us to rest in this love rather than hide in our shame or continue in sin. Furthermore, being filled with His love allows us to channel it to others…especially to our spouses who need it the most from us!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11 NASB)

 

From the Heart the Mouth Speaks

I was sitting across from Elijah while he finished his curry and noodles over lunch. He said, “My eyesight is getting worse. I can hardly read without my glasses on.” About a year ago, he could take his glasses off and read something that was 12 to 24 inches away. But not anymore. Of course it troubles him. It troubles me, too.

When he watched “Heaven is For Real” with my dad a few weeks ago, he told me, “Mom, I was so happy to know that in heaven no one is wearing glasses!” He is definitely looking forward to perfect vision in eternity.

It’s always hard for me as a mom to watch my children struggle through life’s disappointments. I can’t help his eyes get better, at least not yet. There’s the option of laser surgery when he turns 21 but he’s got many more years to go until then. And we were told that his eyes could get really bad when he goes through puberty. Sigh. We shall cross that bridge when we get there.

For now, what encourages me is Elijah’s faith and walk with the Lord. He lives with an unfulfilled longing — to have better eyesight. But he has the right perspective. He has turned that longing over to the Lord.

After we talked about his eyes, he added, “I have three prayers that I always pray…the first is that I will always love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is that we will all go to heaven at the same time. Third is that my eyes will be healed.” (I suppressed a tear! I am such a crybaby mom.)

Elijah may only be 11 years old, but his relationship with God teaches me how to have faith. He went on to say, “Only God can answer these prayers.”

It’s moments like these, during casual, random conversations with my children that I really get a glimpse into what’s going on in their hearts. I was blessed to know that loving God was number one for Elijah. That’s number one on my prayer list for all my kids, too. If God should grant that Elijah stays faithful to him all the days of his life, it would be my greatest joy as a mother. Whether we are raptured together or his eyes are restored completely, these things are secondary to the first of his prayers. If he loves God with all that he is, he already has heaven and he already has his sight.

In the meantime, as a mom, I keep hoping in God’s goodness and plan for Elijah’s life. The same goes for all my children. There are times when I know that God is doing something in the life of my child or children and I must stand aside. I watch as their faith is tested and purified in God’s refiner’s fire. Sometimes it is hard to watch. But each of my children must come to that point in their lives where they choose to follow God. I cannot choose for them. They must have a personal encounter with Him and His love, grace and forgiveness. I cannot experience these things for them.

However, Edric and I have to be present and available so we can be privy to what’s happening in their innermost persons. And then our job is to provide the environment and example, to teach the truth that leads our children to Him, and to pray earnestly and habitually for them. The rest of their life stories…especially the circumstances, trials, and challenges that will come their way, we have to surrender to the Lord and trust that he is control. He has a master plan for calling our children to Himself. If Edric and I do our part, then we can rest in that assurance.

I hugged Elijah yesterday when he was getting emotional about his eyes again. And he let me hold him. Sometimes I think that he is very mature in a lot of ways because he acts older for his age. But at that moment he was still a child and he needed a hug from mom. I asked him if it still mattered that he got hugs from me. And he said, “Mom, of course, if I go blind (his worst fear), that’s the only thing I will feel.” Oh okay. Kind of dramatic but what a totally sweet thing to say! Thank you Lord for these precious years…

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