Archives for March 2016

Courageous Caitie’s Legacy

I have been scrolling through messages and posts about Courageous Caitie and it’s difficult to swallow the ending that today gave us. She passed away this morning after her platelet count dropped to 1 and her oxygen levels were critical.

When I found out, an hour later, on my way to the bathroom to take a break from my homeschooling, I was in shock. Maybe a part of me expected the worst given the recent updates on Caitie’s page. But a part of me also hoped for the miracle we all did, the chapter in her story we all prayed for – supernatural, physical healing.

Wouldn’t that have been a testimony?! Wouldn’t that have brought glory to the Lord, a triumph to give the watching world cause to believe that God answers the prayers of his children, especially those who love and follow Him?

I really hoped for this. I don’t think I had as much faith as Caitie’s mom did to believe that it could actually happen, but I certainly hoped it would. Several exchanges between Tine (Feliz) Lucas and myself through Viber brought more encouragement to me than my attempts at sending verses and warm messages did for her.

She always concluded our online conversations with a firm belief that God’s promises of healing in His Word were spoken just for Caitie. But I also know she felt like giving in to the fear and the doubt many times. Doctor Joy, Caitie’s pediatrician, and Tine’s sister, Jen, are friends of mine and they told me she wasn’t always feeling strong. They would ask for prayer support. And whenever possible, I sought updates from them, not wanting to bother Tine constantly because I knew she was dealing with a lot. Yet, even Tine’s vulnerability to those closest to her and the glimpses of it she revealed online sounded like strength to me. What mom could’ve survived the months she did, in the way she did? She is a hero to me. So is Jay Jay.

They became heroes to all of us. I don’t know if I could have posted updates and prayer requests as often as they thought to. But it was their faithful chronicles of Caitie’s journey that invited people to be a part of it. Somehow, even if Caitie’s condition baffled everyone because of its complexity and rarity, we all found something familiar in her life’s story that resonated with us.

As a mom, my heart ached and broke each time I saw Tine’s posts, especially the ones that desperately sought prayer. And the photos…oh, the photos! They were honest and tender, and sometimes too difficult to look at.

This afternoon, I find myself confronted with the reality of Caitie’s passing and there’s no way to dismiss it without considering the gravity of what just happened. Courageous Caitie, the little spirited girl whom thousands cheered on and supported through prayer, giving, fundraising, and writing about, breathed her last in the arms of her loving parents. She inspired the best in all of us as we saw her fight hard till the very end.

I sat around the table at lunch, shortly after I found out she died, my children’s laughter invading the grief in an almost assaulting way. They were teasing one another. I picked up Catalina who reached up to be held and put her on my lap. This looked too pretty a picture compared to the one I just saw – Jay Jay and Tine cradling Caitie’s still body.

   
 The tears began to fall. I wanted to appreciate that my children were living, breathing, and eating their lunch, but I also wanted to be alone for a while.

“Why are you crying, mom?” Elijah asked.

I excused myself from the table and hid in the guest room, leaving the kids to their bantering and teasing. Catalina followed me, of course. She always does. I hugged her tightly. Caitie wasn’t much older than she was.

Catalina traced the line of my tears and also asked, “Why are you crying?”

“Someone’s baby died.” This was the easiest way for me to explain it to her.

“Oh, someone died?” She looked concerned. If she only understood.

Someone died, Lord. Not just anyone, too. After all that fighting, why not the gift of a miracle? It feels like a cosmic let down to everyone who was looking on.

I struggled to grasp God’s plan in all of this, for Tine and Jay Jay’s sake, especially.

As they pack up Caitie’s belongings, thumb through her art work and homeschool work, and look on the empty bed where her form once was, I know it’s going to hurt like heck. I know they believe that God has a plan because they want to trust Him, but I also know that their memories will cling to images of Caitie and their hearts will long for her. They will feel the void and the loss like no one else will, and I can’t imagine what that will be like.

At a time like this, it may seem insensitive to mouth out bible passages, but I find that it is God’s very Word that fills in the space which Caitie’s death has left behind. Right now that space looks like a dark, empty hole into which faith might collapse. It’s easy to doubt the nature of God as loving, good, and sovereign when a parent loses their child.

A few months ago, I read Philip Yancey’s book called Why? The Question that Never Goes Away. He wrote, “From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way.”

He also quoted poet Christian Wiman who, in his meditation, My Bright Abyss, made this statement. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, My God, my God, why has though forsake me?…The point is that he felt human destitution to its absolute degree; the point is that God is with us, not beyond us, in suffering.”

Yancey goes on to say, “Christ is God crying I am here. Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.” (pg. 54 – 56)

God doesn’t always give us the miracle we hope for on this earth. But it isn’t because He doesn’t care. He sent His son, Jesus Christ to enter into our pain. The book of Isaiah described Christ as “despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; It was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2-6)

Furthermore, our understanding of healing is limited to physical relief and restoration. These are earth-bound fixes. Yet God’s plan for healing finds its truest meaning in eternity. When Christ died and rose again, He conquered death. Therefore those who believe in Him will also conquer death.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immorality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immorality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Caitie loved Jesus. Even in her young age, she understood that He died for her sins and she gave her life to Him. She was courageous for Him. I have no doubts that Caitie is alive and well in heaven with the Lord. The miracle of her story was not that doctors cured her cancer but that Jesus gave her life – eternal life.

It’s not coincidental that Caitie passed away right after the week when people gave most attention to Jesus Christ and celebrated His resurrection. Even in her death, she testifies to what He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

What a sweet promise to revive our crushed hope. This is not the end of Caitie’s story, as it isn’t the end of God’s story for each of our lives. He is a redeemer and he never wastes our pain.

Yancey told the story of Jerry Sittster, author of the books A Grace Disguised and A Revealed. He was a professor of Whitworth College who lost his wife, mother, and four-year old daughter in a tragic car accident when a drunk driver hit them. In A Grace Disguised, which speaks of what happened, he composed, “The loss brought about by the accident had changed my life, setting me on a course down which I had to journey whether I wanted to or not. I was assigned both a tremendous burden and a terrible challenge. I faced the test of my life. One phase of my life had ended; another, the most difficult, was about to begin.”

Twenty years later, in A Grace Revealed, he surmised, “Eventually, we will live happily ever after, but only when the redemptive story ends, which seems a long way off. In the meantime, you and I are somewhere in the middle of the story, as if stuck in the chaos and messiness of a half-finished home improvement project. We might have one chapter left in our story, or we might have fifty. We could experience more of the same for years to come, or we could be on the verge of change so dramatic that if we knew about it we would faint with fear or wonder, or perhaps both. We could be entering the happiest phase of our lives, or the saddest. We simply don’t know and can’t know…In my mind there is only one good option: we must choose to stay in the redemptive story. However unclear it might be to us, we can trust that God is writing the story.” (Pg. 61 – 62)

We do not know the course our lives will take on this earth, nor do we know if our children will be spared from the ills that are in this fallen world. Like the Lucas family, we may face similar trials. However, we can know the Divine Architect who has a master plan for everything we go through. His redemptive story for you and for me is that we experience the love and grace He displayed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and enter into a personal relationship with Him that will continue for all eternity.

On Courageous Caitie’s timeline either Tine or Jay Jay wrote, “I miss you Caitie. But I’m glad were able to give you great family memories here on earth.” However, beyond the earthly memories of family and the precious moments they shared together, I do believe the most important gift that Tine and Jay Jay gave to Caitie was the gift of knowing Christ. Indeed, they did the one most loving thing they could ever do for her as parents – they prepared Caitie for her eternal home.

I was reminded that this is the most loving thing that we can do for the people we love, too. We do not know how long we will have to love the people God has surrounded us with. Let us make Caitie’s life count by passing on the miracle of Christ’s love to our spouses, our children, our families and friends. Caitie fought hard to teach us this and she died to remind us not to hold back, waste time, squander opportunities, or trade the lesser things for the greater things.

Thank you, Jay Jay and Tine for sharing Courageous Caitie’s journey with us. You raised a beautiful, special girl who lived for an exemplary purpose — to bring the hearts of the broken to the healing arms of Christ, where she is smiling, waiting there for you. 

  

 

Be the Supermom God Has Called You to Be

The landscape of motherhood has changed significantly in the last decade.

Moms today…
• Multi-task on their smartphones (Pinterest, Instagram, online parenting communities)
• 61% of moms 18 to 32 are unmarried
• 64% say that parenting has become more competitive – pressure to be the “perfect” mom.
• Perfect means organized, educated, fit, focused on family, has a great job & able to cook.
• Will spend for organic/natural foods and products for their children. SOURCE: mothermag.com/millennial-mom-statistics

Interestingly, an article by livescience.com revealed that one of the distinct ways motherhood has changed over time is that today, moms feel a whole lot of guilt. When moms stay at home they fear they aren’t contributing enough financially or they won’t be respected. When they go to work they worry about neglecting their children. Today’s moms also have more to do and less time to do it. As a result, we are more stressed about wanting to have it all. Trying to be supermoms makes us super crazy.

As I begin this entry I want us to lay aside the anxieties that loom over us and look at the mom God has called you and me to be. Who is this mom? And what is her purpose? What really makes her super? (I’m doing this as a cathartic experience for myself, because I need this!) 

Unless we settle these questions, we will continue to pursue an image of motherhood that is based upon the world’s standards of success and not on God’s standards for us. We will be tempted to compare our children with others and derive our sense of security and worth from the way they perform or what they achieve. 

Some months ago, my kids joined a basketball program and they weren’t the superstars. Initially, I wasn’t surprised because they hardly played basketball. Yet, as I watched their session, it became very obvious that their cousins outshone them in every aspect of balling.

When I got home, I complained to Edric, “You need to spend time playing basketball with the boys. They don’t know how to play. This is your department. You and I are athletes but they are terrible at basketball. How can this be? We need to do something!” 

He looked at me like I was a raging demoniac. Where was this ugly competitiveness coming from?
I wanted our kids to be good basketball players for pride’s sake. Furthermore, I blamed Edric for not being intentional about training them at home. He didn’t appreciate how I was pinning this on him and reacted to me, which resulted in a conflict.

Afterwards, I realized that my perspective was wrong. My disquiet and anxiousness about their ability to perform athletically were rooted in jealousy and insecurity. I didn’t want their cousins to be superior to them in sports.

Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” As a mom I need to remember that in Christ, I hold together. When I don’t keep Him as my anchor, I end up wounding those I love with my negative perspectives, words and actions.

Motherhood isn’t a contest. My children aren’t trophies. The first thing I need to understand about motherhood is the word STEWARDSHIP. I don’t own my kids. They were entrusted to me, to Edric, so that we might raise them in accordance with God’s will and purposes. The Bible says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:13-14

My fourth child, Tiana, put it very well when I asked her one morning, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She answered with conviction, “I will be whatever God wants me to be.” As a five year old she understood that she belongs to the Lord.

Since my children were made for the Lord, stewardship means…

…teaching my children to love and honor God with all that they are. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
…disciplining and correcting my children when they exhibit attitudes and behaviors that do not conform to His character. (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 22:15)
…protecting my children from influences or experiences that harden their heart towards Him or lead them away from Him. This includes minding my own example to them. (Psalm 119:9, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Proverbs 13:20, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Mark 9:42, 1 Corinthians 11:1)
…identifying the gifts and bents of my children and helping them to develop these for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
…giving my children a vision for their lives – how God can use them to accomplish His will and purposes. (Proverbs 29:18, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11)

It is my God-given purpose to raise my children this way — a responsibility that I cannot delegate to others or pursue half-heartedly. I am accountable to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for this sacred trust.

“For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:11-12

Someday, when I stand before the Lord, I will give an account of my role as mom. What did I do with the children He gave me to raise for Him? Will I be found faithful?

This doesn’t mean that my children must turn out perfect under my watch. At the end of the day, my children are also accountable to God and they must make the choice to follow Him on their own. However, I do believe that God will look at the years that He gave me to teach and train them, and ask me what I did with those years. Did I do my best to build the right foundation in my children’s hearts and minds — a foundation that will prepare them to love, obey, and follow Him?

The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:10-12, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Our task is a supernatural one, which can seem daunting and intimidating, but before I end this entry, I want to remind all of the mothers out there that God loves you and me. We are precious to Him. It’s important to let this reality invade our hearts completely because motherhood requires us to be sacrificial and resilient. We aren’t fit for the task when we meet each day empty and wanting, or oppressed by our own emotional and spiritual issues.

There was a time when I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of mothering five children. It felt like I was in a perpetual season of imperfection. My homeschool schedule was shot and my children’s academic progress was snail-like. I ended each day tired and lost. However, God brought me back to the truth that I needed to hear, the truth that calmed the turbulence inside me. He loves me. He is for me. He will uphold me.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are…” 1 John 3:1

I have found that one of the best ways to encourage my children when they are feeling down, discouraged or frustrated is to remind them that I love them. I love them no matter what, just as they are. Similarly, but in an infinitely more amazing way, God loves you and me, even in our imperfection. We don’t need to be supermoms to be acceptable to Him. What a relief! 

Why should this matter so much? God will equip you and me to be the moms we need to be. As we seek His will for our children and parent them accordingly, Luke 12:29-31 assures us with this image of our Heavenly Father: “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. Luke 12:29 – 31

  What a comfort to have a daddy we can always run to when we mess up, feel inadequate, fall apart, or need encouragement. He’s not just any daddy, too. He is all-poweful, all knowing, all-present, and all-amazing! 

He’s saying to us, “Don’t worry. Seek after me and I will take care of you.”

As we focus on being faithful stewards of our children, let’s not forget that we have a faithful Father who is committed to enabling and empowering us. We have a high calling to fulfill, but we are never alone as we do so. God puts the “Super” in all of us! 

Highlights of Dubai & Abu Dhabi

Visiting the UAE last month was an amazing experience. The last time I was in Dubai was six years ago, after a trip to Israel, and while I was seven months pregnant with my fourth child. 

This trip was unique because we got to connect with Filipinos. Meeting with Filipinos every single day and getting to know their stories and spiritual journeys was especially meaningful to me. 

In the evenings Edric and I would speak, along with Elijah, who was the only one of our kids who came with us. (It gets expensive to travel as a family of seven!) Elijah got a special treat because he was turning thirteen. 
Edric and I spoke on marriage, courtship, parenting, homeschooling, and personal finance. What a privilege it was to be able to talk to an audience who was so engaged, eager and appreciative. People were tired from each day of work but they sat through our nigh time sessions very attentively. 

We ended our days very late but it was worth the investment of time and energy. Ministering to Filipinos overseas blessed me in a special way. I realized that all over the world, God is at work. He is moving in the hearts and minds of people. We can be a part of this work or we can sit on the sidelines and let these opportunities to experience God’s transforming power pass us by. 

During one of our lunches with some couples from CCF Dubai (a branch of our church), they opened up to us about the story of a family who was in dire financial straits. The husband and wife were jobless and in desperate need of money. Since the husband had cases against him for debt, he could not be employed until these cases were settled. Both the husband and wife had come to know the Lord and were convicted to make changes in their lifestyle to avoid future debt. In the meantime, their children were pulled out of school and they had no means to buy food or pay rent. No employment options had opened up for either the husband or wife in many months. And even if other Filipino families had pooled together resources to help them out, this was not a sustainable fix. When this case was presented to us, we didn’t have great advice to give, but we did what we knew to be the best solution. Even if this family was absent during that lunch, we huddled together in prayer, beseeching God to do a miracle. 

That evening, we received word that the wife was hired at the exact moment that we had implored the Lord! She updated the couple who had told us about their story. When they informed her that we had all been praying, she inquired as to the time. It was 1 PM when she got the call from her employer and that was the very hour that we lifted up her family’s situation to God! 

Edric and I witnessed other stories of God’s handiwork in the lives of the people we met and connected with. These brought us spiritual encouragement and deep joy. Once again we came to the conclusion that it is a privilege to serve God. 

Personally, I believe that the great reward of serving God is being witness to the transforming power of His grace. The more Edric and I get involved in ministry as a couple, the more we see that God is real, present, and actively at work to perform His will and purposes in the lives of people. 

“I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints; and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.” Philemon‬ ‭1:4-6‬ ‭

Here are some visual highlights of our visit: 

Dubai Mall    

 The biggest candy store in the world

   

The Burj Khalifa – tallest building in the world

  
Burj Al Arab – Seven Star Hotel (ridiculously expensive)

   

   

  

  

 Souk Medinat Jumeirah 

   

    

   
 Battuta Mall

   
 Gold ATM machine? Whuuut?!
  
Eating Lebanese Food with new friends. Yum!!!    

     

Snow Park in Mall of the Emirates

   
    
 
Boardwalk at the Marina

 
 
Speaking Engagements: 

Parenting and homeschooling…
Q and A with leaders…  

Love and courtship…  
Money Talks with Randell Tiongson
 
Perspectives on Healing

Personal Finance:

   
 On to Abu Dhabi…

   

     

   Ferrari World
    

  

   
 Emirates Palace Tour – another 7 star hotel

   
    
    
                    
  
   
  

  

Reborn: 1 Walker Concert 

On April 3, 2016 at 7 PM at the Mall of Asia Arena, Ogie and Regine Alcasid, along with Jaya will perform in Reborn: 1 Walker Concert. This is a praise concert for a cause, for the benefit of Anawim Lay Missions Foundation, Inc., home for the abandoned elderly and Shepherd’s Voice Radio TV Foundation, Inc. 

 Read more about how this unique band of mega stars came together for a greater purpose at Our Awesome Planet.

  
 Ticket Prices:
VIP – P2,500
Patron – P2,000
Lower Box A – P1,500
Lower Box B – P1,200
Upper Box – P600
Gen Ad – P300

Tickets are available at SM Ticket Outlets or visit SM Tickets

Submission to My Husband Is a Heart Issue

 

    I never quite graduate from learning what it means to submit to my husband’s authority. Just when I think I’m doing all right in this area, a new challenge appears that reminds that I’m still in the process of becoming the wife God wants me to be.

About two weeks ago, my dad, who was going to preach on Sunday, asked Edric and I to recommend people who can share about how small group discipleship has positively impacted their relationship with Jesus Christ. Several persons came to mind. Two of them were a husband and wife who went through major marital problems but are now in the process of restoring their marriage. When we first met them they had deep wounds they were working through, but today, they are committed to one another, they love the Lord, and have a passion to tell others about Him.

Although their shared testimony would surely encourage the church audience, Edric and I sensed that talking about what happened to their marriage in public was premature. Even if we have witnessed amazing change in their lives, they needed more time to heal. So we parked them as an option and thought to ask someone else.

Later on in the week, however, my dad messaged me again. Sunday was fast approaching and he was still looking for someone to share his or her testimony to add impact to his message on small group discipleship. I felt like it was up to me to help him.

Before I go on, I need to admit to something. Edric has lovingly cautioned me about this before, that in my desire to honor my dad or mom, I sometimes move ahead of him, without getting his approval for decisions I make. Whenever my parents ask me for help it is, more often than not, ministry-related. And when it’s for ministry, I interpret the request as valid.

While I don’t always say yes to them, there have been occasions where I have taken on speaking engagements or activities that they ask me to be a part of before asking Edric for permission. My thought bubble often is, This is for ministry. Edric will understand. But my presumptuousness gets me into trouble because conflicts in schedules arise and Edric and the kids are inconvenienced by my decisions. More often than not, Edric is a good sport about it because he loves dad and mom and knows that their intentions are virtuous. So the issue is not between my parents and Edric who have a great relationship. The issue is I don’t consult him first and he ends up feeling pressured or manipulated to accommodate the choices I make.

Over the years I’ve tried to be more sensitive about this. Even if I love my dad and mom, I cannot make rash decisions in their favor without seeking Edric’s approval. Serving them is not more important than submitting to my husband, who ought to be my priority.

When I got married, Edric became my authority. God’s word is clear about the principle of leaving and cleaving when you are married. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Although both of us seek to honor his parents and my parents, it cannot be at the expense of our own marriage.

Furthermore, it isn’t my parents whom I’m directly accountable to anymore. I’m under my husband’s authority. Ephesians says. “Wives be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24

Let me return to the story I began with to illustrate how crucial it is that I obey this command of the Lord and do not move ahead of my husband. When I received the message from my dad, asking for a person or persons to share their testimony, I thought, Perhaps it’s alright if the couple (the one I referred to at the beginning) give their testimony anyway.

At that moment, Edric was busy speaking at a conference so I couldn’t broach the idea to him. Furthermore, I came up with the rationalization that my intentions were right. This was for the Lord, for ministry. Edric would understand. I will just confer with him after he is done his talk.

There was a small voice telling me this wasn’t the best idea, that I was acting impulsively, but I ignored the prodding of the Holy Spirit to check with Edric first. In my haste, I called the wife and proposed the idea to her. I asked her if she would be willing to give her testimony with her husband. I even sent her a sample outline to guide her and her husband as they thought through what to share. And then I added that Edric would call her husband to confirm everything.

My plan was to tell Edric after he finished his speaking engagement, which was to end about forty minutes later. (What was forty minutes? I really could’ve waited!) I hoped that Edric would approve of my decision and see the positive in it.

However, when I first told him that I had proposed to the wife that she and her husband share on Sunday, he was like, “I thought we agreed that they weren’t ready. Did you manipulate things again?”

Manipulate things? That seemed like a harsh way to put it. But maybe he was right. Maybe I had maneuvered circumstances in such a way that he had to go along with my plan. After a little persuasion, he agreed that the couple’s testimony would have impact and minister to the hearts of the audience. But, it was I who had set the ball in motion.

Edric called the couple and set the phone on speaker mode to discuss what they would be sharing at the pulpit. This was Friday evening. In the meantime, I contacted dad letting him know that we had found someone to share. I felt like I was a good daughter who had done him a favor.

After our conversation with the couple, they seemed eager and excited. The wife forwarded me her version of their story and it was beautiful. Everything seemed to be working out just fine. We challenged them to write their testimony as a team, where the wife would give one portion and the husband would give the other. They had until midnight to get back to us, which they did. There were no barriers so far.

However, at about 2 AM, I received a text message from the wife explaining that they wouldn’t be able to share anymore. Certain emotions and histories were unearthed that needed to be dealt with and the husband, in particular, wasn’t ready. He felt terrible about backing out because he wanted to honor God by serving Him in this way, but the reality was he couldn’t stand before an audience at this point in time to declare the things he wanted to. It had been a tearful night for them.

My heart was crushed. I knew this was my fault. The stress this couple went through as they tried to piece together their sides of their marriage journey could’ve been prevented had I not gone ahead of Edric and operated outside of the covering of his authority. We should have let them be as we initially discussed, trusting God’s time-table for their healing, instead of putting them in this predicament. As a result, they felt discouraged and disheartened, especially the husband, who felt like he had failed the Lord for not being ready to declare His goodness in their lives. (Of course this wasn’t true and Edric reached out to him to minister to him.)

As for me, I read through the message of the wife, and started to tear myself. This couple became a victim of my decision to go against God’s design for marriage. I presumed to know better and to justify my conclusions about their readiness before getting permission from Edric. Had I asked Edric before making that call to the wife, he who would have repeated what we originally established, that it wasn’t the right time for them to share their testimony publicly. But I chose to push it anyway because of my dad’s pressing need. The results were disastrous, in my estimation, and the pain the couple went through, unnecessary. In the end, I had to apologize to the wife, hoping that she would extend my apology to her husband. And I had to tell my father that he had to look for someone else to share on Sunday…the next day. Of course, I also had to say sorry to Edric.

When I confessed to Edric the chain of events, he was frustrated with me and highlighted my faulty decision-making process. I sought to come to my dad’s aid but went about it in the wrong way. Instead, I should have followed what Edric and I had decided earlier that week about the couple’s status, and remained resolute about it. Instead, I caved in to what I perceived as an urgent need and the couple became a casualty of my insubordination.

Edric was correct. I had no defense to give to minimize the guilt I felt. I simply had to embrace that the root issue was my failure to internalize what submission to my husband is – it’s a heart thing. Do I really want God’s blessing and favor in my life, in my marriage and family? Do I really believe that God’s principles are for my protection and my good, and the good of those around me?

I chose to forget this on Friday when I made that phone call in haste. I chose to believe that it was up to me to find someone to fill in the space for a Sunday sharer. What was I thinking?! God could have found someone to stand before the church with a powerful testimony to give that would bring glory and honor to His name! I wasn’t greater than God’s hand!

Indeed, God provided the perfect person to share. Venus Raj, former beauty queen of the Philippines, and a committed follower of Jesus Christ, stood at the pulpit when my dad called her up in the middle of his message, to talk about the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was in awe as I listened to what God has done in her life. She was radiant with an inner beauty that far surpassed her reputation as a beauty queen. It was the beauty of a woman who found love, joy, and peace in the Lord.

What did I learn that weekend? I learned that my good intentions must never bypass God’s word and instruction in my life. I cannot say, “Well, I’m doing this for the Lord, but contradict an instruction such as submit to your husband.”

I also learned that there are no contradictions when it comes to honoring my parents and honoring my husband. When I am faced with a decision that must favor one over the other (and neither are asking me to do something against the word of God), I must choose to obey my husband first. In doing so, I bring honor to my parents. God will bless the decision I make to submit to Edric by blessing them, too. How is this so? Edric may choose to change his mind about a matter that he was originally not in favor with. Or, God will provide for the need of my parents or answer their concern in a way that is greater than my capacity to do so.

  In His sovereignty, God is able to cause all circumstances to work together for the good of those who love Him as it says in Romans 8:28. But this is a promise for those who love Him. And those who love Him are those who obey Him and delight to obey Him.

I wrote this post because I understand what it is like to be a wife who struggles with submission. There are times I get it right, but there are occasions, like I shared above, when I think I know better or I see submission as a deterrent to accomplish a goal that I desire to happen. God continues to teach me that submission is a heart issue. It’s between God and me, and whether I want to obey Him with all that I am.

Allow me to close with this passage in Leviticus 26, which holds for us the promise of blessing when we obey God. “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land... So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you... 11 Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12 I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”

 

 

 

How to Get Kids to Be Motivated Learners

I often get the question, “How do you manage homeschooling 5 kids?” To be honest, it isn’t always easy. And my default answer is to say, “It’s God’s grace.” Truthfully, that’s what keeps me going. There are days when my kids aren’t the perkiest students, and I think to myself, Oh no. This is going to be a tough day!

Yet, for the most part, I remain hooked on home education. I can’t imagine doing anything else in the world at this season of my life as a mom. Furthermore, I try to get my kids to the point where they don’t need me to hover over them (which can be exhausting). My goal is to help them become motivated learners, rather than children who are non-functional unless I incentivize them or push them every single day.

Over the years, I’ve implored a few “tricks” that have been working so far. Here’s hoping you will be able to pick up a few that will benefit you, too:

1.Prioritize reading and comprehension. When my kids are 5 and below, this is my primary focus. I introduce phonics when they are 2 or 3 (I started a little later with Tiana). Usually, this happens through song. I still use Sing, Spell, Read and Write, which hasn’t failed me yet. With much repetition, my kids are able to identify letters and their sounds, which then give way to putting sounds together. They begin to read CVC words (consonant, vowel, consonant). As they build confidence and understand how words are formed, they move on to longer words and sight words.
Instructing a child to read must be balanced with lots of read aloud time. Otherwise, learning to read feels like a chore. The inspiration to read comes from time with mom, as they sit beside me, on my lap or around me, and trips to the bookstore or a library to explore the wonders of books!

With my fourth child, Tiana, I didn’t do this early enough and she wasn’t as excited about learning to read. However, a few months ago, I decided to commit to reading aloud with her more often and it has made a big difference! She will come to me with a pile of books and we go through them together.

The Sing, Spell, Read, and Write workbooks have a lot of spelling lists, but I don’t panic when she can’t spell everything. My personal belief about spelling is that good readers get spelling. I’ve seen this with my older boys. The more they read, the better they spell. It’s the frequency of exposure to words that makes an imprint in their minds.

My second son, Edan, who just recently grew in leaps and bounds as a reader, now says, “Oh mom, I saw that word, I remember reading it.” Whenever I give him spelling quizzes, he can write down words correctly, not because we do lots and lots of practice spelling but because he has improved as a reader.

Give books as gifts. Toys are fun to have, but make books a premium. I’m always on the lookout for book series’ to bless my kids with. By the time kids are in 2nd grade (and earlier for some), they can read chapter books with confidence. They may not be as fast as their older siblings, but if they like the story or topic, they will read the book.

Last Christmas, I got my fourth grader, Edan, a set of Boxcar Children Books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Edan read one for his Language Arts last year and asked if he could get more of them for Christmas. We are currently trying to build his collection. He read 12 of the books in 2 weeks and they are about 200+ pages long each! Titus wanted to be a part of the action so he read a couple of them, too. Every time he would come across a word he didn’t know, I encouraged him to ask me, which was a very “relaxed” way to build his vocabulary.

When children have the skill to read, they are eager to read books with topics that they like. So I tell moms, buy books that are interesting to your children. Don’t rely on the list of children’s classics. Find out what your child is into then take him to the bookstore to get a book on that topic.

As a five year old, my eldest son, Elijah, was obsessed with dinosaurs. Every good book I could find about dinosaurs I got for him. Then he moved on to airplanes and I did the same thing. Today he is an avid reader. Sometimes, I need to tell him to rest his eyes because he will go on and on!

  It brings me deep joy to see my children on a couch or bed with books around them. This means they are learning without being dependent on me! When Edan took a liking to Botany, he requested books on plants. It didn’t matter whether they were above his reading level because he was driven to learn more about Botany.

Reading is the key to unlock the door of knowledge, understanding and wisdom. So don’t give up until you have a confident reader who enjoys books. For some children, their time table for proficient reading is longer. Keep going. A very intelligent guy I know didn’t learn to read well until he was 10 years old, but then he picked up a Charles Dickens novel and read it cover to cover.

Sometimes, children aren’t interested in reading because they are distracted by computer games and media. Investigate what activities may be competing with your child’s interest in books and eliminate them or set restrictions.

What about comprehension? Comprehension can be taught through dialoguing. Some of the curriculums I particularly enjoy teaching are those that involve reading to my kids and asking them questions. Most of the time these are materials that I get for Bible and character, science, history, and social studies. Furthermore, these lessons are interesting to me, too! I was never talented at memorizing facts so it helps to go over science, history and social studies again. Whenever I read to my children, I pause at reasonable points (for younger kids, after a couple of sentences or a paragraph, and for older kids, after a couple of paragraphs, a page or a number of pages.) Depending on the age and ability, I start with bite size bits of information to make sure my kids are being attentive before asking comprehension questions.

The ability to comprehend begins with the discipline of attentiveness. Whether it is reading words on a page or being read to, a child needs to be trained to be present and engaged. Asking questions is one of the most informal and effective ways to do this. When I ask a question and my kids can’t answer, I read the parts again, or I give the answer to demonstrate how they should answer. Then I say, “Be ready, because I’m going to ask you a question again soon.”

With younger kids, you may have to say this often, but you can also inspire them to answer by complimenting them a lot when they do. When Titus, who is not as verbose as my other kids, shares his insight on a topic, I affirm him a lot! Maybe I will even throw in a hug or a squeeze to let him know that I’m proud of him for putting in the effort.

2.Logic matters. I have found that my kids benefit from logic exercises, puzzles, and solving problems that require critical thinking. Acquiring math skills becomes a lot easier because they have worked out the left hemisphere of their brains. Catalina is eagerly doing Logico Primo with me. I started this with her recently, and she pulls out the material herself in the mornings so we can do it together. This Grolier product is pricey but I personally feel that the investment has been worth it. It’s reusable and it feels pretty indestructible, too (the plastic part). That’s important when you have lots of kids! (Grolier has a lot of other products that develop critical thinking skills.)

The great thing about homeschooling is that home affords the best environment for kids to experience how math makes sense. Classifying, sorting, counting, learning about time, ordinal numbers, basic arithmetic, and the like happen in the context of everyday activities, and most especially play. Furthermore, these pre-math skills are vital to more complex operations and applications of math in the later years.

3. Play is important. My children have lots of time for uninterrupted, unscripted play. This has especially benefited my third son, Titus. When he was younger, I went a little easy on him with formal instruction because he was and is a more mechanical and physical child.

 Today, he hardly needs me to explain his math. Just the other day, he told me how much he likes multiplication. Granted, it isn’t complicated multiplication yet. But I do credit his penchant for understanding math with all the playtime he has had. And he still plays a lot!

Games are also a great way to develop logical thinking skills in children. I’m referring more to strategy board games that involve physical interaction with family members. My husband, Edric, likes competing with our kids over board games. Through the years we’ve seen how board games push our boys to apply mathematics. Titus, although younger than his brothers, wanted to be involved in these games. His math skills vastly improved when he got to use his simple knowledge of arithmetic to calculate his points during or after a game, and when he had to think critically to solve problems he encountered.

Our sons like riddles and mindbender games, too. For example, an app that they recently used is called Can You Escape? It requires you to use logic and math to get out of a building you are trapped in. Last year, a kind relative also donated Puzzle Mania books to our kids, which contain all kinds of creative and unique puzzles to solve.

4. Harness the power of music and art. I didn’t realize how beneficial music instruction was to our children until I began to see, first hand, how it connected to their ability to learn.

Our sons take up violin. It is one of those instruments that will screech in an awful way when it is played incorrectly, but will completely enthrall when it is handled properly. Because it doesn’t give room for error, it trains their ears so they can hear even the slightest off-pitch note that is sung by a person or played on an instrument. More importantly, since it requires both abstract movement from the bow and precise note playing, it taps into the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Learning an instrument like the violin not only increases intellectual capacity, it demands hard work from my kids, which spills over into their studies.

The arts also play a vital role in our children’s academic success. An article published by pbs.org explained the connection between art and academic achievement. “A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.” Why is art so good for our children’s intellectual health? It develops a child’s motor and language skills, creative thinking and expression, visual perception and attentiveness, as well as traits like determination and perseverance.

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5. Use technology and creative resources. When children have a solid foundation in reading, comprehension, and arithmetic skills, instruction can be supplemented with apps, educational games or educational sites. This liberates a homeschool parent from having to be the expert in a subject area. It allows a child to learn independently and figure things out on his own, too.

Sometimes, they may be better off with an educational site or DVD Rom as the mode of delivery for content they need to learn. In the last two years, I’ve relied heavily on Khanacademy.org for Elijah’s mathematics. He also takes Coursera or Udemy for classes that are relevant to him since I am ill-equipped to teach things like programming, website development, app development, photography, graphic design, etc. Although these aren’t required of him for his level, they are practical life skills that he can use later on.

DVD courses for older children are also effective. I got Elijah a DVD course for his writing called Institute for Excellence in Writing by Andrew Pudewa. Years ago I heard about this curriculum but I didn’t really need it until now. It dramatically improved Elijah’s writing skills. I love to write but Andrew Pudewa is a better teacher than I am, so I conceded to his expertise in this area. Recently, Elijah wrote a 52-paragraph narrative of his Mt. Apo climb, something he could not have done last year. Thanks to this program, his skills have been greatly enhanced!

With the younger kids, I don’t need as much technology. I prefer to interact with them myself. But as they get older and understand how to control their time on devices and can make responsible choices about media, I give them the flexibility to use online sources, DVD Roms, etc. to make the learning experience more engaging and effective for them. The wonderful thing is I don’t have to be seated right beside them. I can be in the same room minding the younger kids while my older ones do their work independently.

6. Address learning gaps. When a child has academic areas where he or she is weak in, it’s hard for him to move forward with confidence. My sister, Candy, is a dentist in the U.S., but when she was homeschooled, my mom noticed that she wasn’t good at spelling. How can you become a dentist and memorize technical words if you are a bad speller? My mom didn’t know she was going to become a dentist, but she knew that Candy needed remedial work in this area. As positively as she could communicate it, she told her, “We will work harder on spelling to catch you up to where you need to be.” Candy improved significantly when my mom took the time to address this learning gap of hers.

Sometimes our children are held back because there is a missing piece to their academic puzzle. When Elijah was in his early elementary years, he wasn’t that interested in math. There were aspects of it that didn’t make sense to him. To cover all possible gaps, I asked him to re-learn basic arithmetic and work up to his level. Since he had covered most of the topics in the past years, he could go through the lessons quickly. In the process, however, he was able to cover weak points in his math foundation. Today, he really enjoys math and is delving into pre-calculus topics on his own. I don’t think he would have been at this point if I neglected to address the gaps in his learning.

7. Be a facilitator, not a teacher. While I am called to instruct my children’s hearts and point them in the way they should go, I prefer the term “facilitator of learning.” I believe in a child’s God-given ability to learn. Given the right factors and environment, they will most certainly learn. However, it’s also my job, as educator Ken Robinson said it, “to control the climate” of their learning environment rather than “to command and control” their education.

When my kids call for my help, my first instinct is NOT to rush to their side to spoon-feed them with what I know or what I think they should know and do. As often as possible, I ask them to figure things out on their own. They may struggle a bit and even express their frustrations, but I let them stew in their emotions for a while before rescuing them. Or, I will explain parts of what they need to know without divulging complete solutions. In the process, they discover how deeply gratifying it is to come to their own conclusions, accomplish or discover things without my interference…especially when their effort index is high. If they need me to show them everything and explain everything it imparts the message, you need mom to learn so don’t do anything until she helps you. There will be occasions when they do need me, especially in the early years, but as they grow in their abilities and skills, I lovingly ease them “out of the eagle’s nest” and let them soar on their own.

A facilitator is not absent. She is present. She watches carefully, asks the right questions, sets expectations and communicates them, course corrects when necessary, gives helpful directions, encourages a child to focus, points a child toward resources to accomplish a task, and supplies opportunities to achieve learning goals. She also communicates confidence in a child’s ability and builds them up.

One of the ways I enable my kids is by telling them things like, “You can do it. Try and do it without me first and then if you really need me, I will help you. You can even surprise, mommy.” When I say something like, “You can surprise, mommy,” they are enlivened by the dare.

They will reply, “Okay, okay. Don’t look, mom!” Some moments later they will proudly present work that they did all by themselves. Tiana is just 5 so I don’t use this trick on her too often, unless it’s something like handwriting practice, coloring a picture, or doing simple math. This especially works for someone like Titus who is 7 years old. He steps up to this sort of challenge.

If my children really are lost after trying their best, of course I come to their aid. However, as soon as I can, I will leave them alone again to apply what I just helped them to understand and comprehend. This strategy varies for each child and subject area. Some kids can breeze through math but slow down when it’s language arts. The longer you homeschool your kids the easier it will be to tell the difference between when they truly need help or when they are simply distracted and lazy.

8. Communicate responsibilities clearly. On one wall of our homeschool room is a list of responsibilities and a daily schedule for each of my kids. At the beginning of our homeschool year, I sat down with them and explained what was expected of them on each day of the week. Responsibilities included their daily assignments for academics and extra curricular activities. I’ve included a copy of their schedules for your reference. Feel free to copy or modify them. This list keeps my kids accountable. They know they have to get all their responsibilities done before spending their discretionary time. I added independent reading time, outdoor exercise, music practice on most days as part of their responsibilities. As a result, they aren’t constantly coming to me to find out what they need to do each day. In fact, my older boys try to get their lists checked off as early as possible. Mendoza Kids’ Homeschool Schedule .

Edan, who is my more structured child, appreciates knowing exactly what he needs to do. He thrives on order. The point is I give my kids the opportunity to take ownership and to be disciplined. Kids actually feel more secure when they are provided with a framework. They appreciate knowing what their restrictions and liberties are.

9. Reward hard work. Even God is a rewarder! Hebrews 11:6 tells us this. Similarly, rewarding our children does wonders. In an older post I wrote about my tab system for motivating my children. Every so many pages in their books, they collect tabs for work accomplished. At the end of the week, they count their tabs or pool them together. If they earn 20 or more, they get to draw from what we call, The Mystery Jar. This jar has pieces of paper with rewards written on them that appeal to my kids, things like a trip to the bookstore, ice cream, a free educational app, a science toy, eating out, etc. Because they can’t anticipate what they will draw (or change it once they’ve drawn it), it’s exciting for them to pick a prize from our Mystery Jar. It’s easiest to use reusable plastic tabs like Post-its or more reasonable versions that work the same way which can be purchased at Office Warehouse or National Bookstore.

10. Finally, make a child accountable to God and to do his/her best for His glory. When I encounter learning issues with my kids because they aren’t motivated or focused, I have to spend time addressing their hearts. At the end of the day, their ability to learn and their drive to do so isn’t for me or Edric, or even for themselves. They are accountable to their creator, God, and they need to remember that the choice to do their best is a reflection of their relationship with Him.

Furthermore, because they have a relationship with Him, He will enable them, equip them, and faithfully fulfill His plan for their lives. When I’m tempted to panic and lose sight of this, I have to re-orient my own reasons for homeschooling, relax, and pray. My job is to create a learning environment that gives my children the best opportunity to build foundational skills that will allow them to seek after and know God, and glorify Him. Even though it’s valuable for them to be excellent at the academics, the more important question is, “What’s the point of it all?” And I still go back to Deuteronomy 6:5-7, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

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A MOTIVATED LEARNER is someone who…

…takes the initiative to get his/her responsibilities done.

…is eager to learn and enjoys the process of discovery.

…steps up to take on difficult challenges.

…perseveres through failures and mistakes.

…knows where to go to get the information he or she needs.

…can process content and information critically.

…contextualizes what he or she has learned and makes it practical and applicable.

…can effectively communicate what he or she has learned to others.

…internalizes the conviction to do his/her best for the Lord.

Global Home Education Conference

Edric and I will soon be in South America to attend the Global Home Education Conference (GHEC). Although I’m not thrilled about leaving our little ones behind, I also need to extract myself from my daily routine as a homeschooling mom, from my myopic perspective, and look at home education from a global perspective.

Edric is actually part of the GHEC board, a team of movers in home education around the world, who have been planning this event for the last 18 months.

What is the GHEC? 

GHEC 2016 is a leadership conference for policy makers, researchers, movement leaders, and parents interested in home education…The GHEC 2016 is a three-day event that brings together those with an interest in freedom of education and home education in particular to provide a stimulating environment to gather the best cross-section of research and to cultivate a commitment to parent-directed education. Home education highlights the most crucial factors in the freedom of education discussion. Who is responsible for education? What role do parents play in the education of their children? To what extent is the state responsible for education of children? Source: About GHEC

The last time I attended the GHEC in Berlin I learned so much from the speakers and connected with people from all around the world. It was inspiring, encouraging, and life-changing. One of the talks that I liked the most was given by child development psychologist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld. He gave the audience this thought-provoking question, “When did your child first fall in love with you?”

His point was: we can’t influence children if we don’t have their hearts. Furthermore, children don’t mature in a healthy way when they aren’t secure in their relationship with their parents. Read more about this in my article: Why Home Education Works

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This year I am looking forward to picking up more insights from veteran homeschoolers, policy makers, and influencers who are making an impact on education around the globe.

Somehow, I also became part of the workshop speaker’s pool to talk about the support systems that we need to make available to homeschooling families. It’s a super small role and I’m slightly terrified about it because it’s outside of my comfort zone to speak with amazing moms or people who have a lot more experience than I do. But Edric and I are here to serve. (He will be a speaker, too.)

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Please pray for me, that I will be a blessing and encourage the attendees with some practical wisdom (Edric, too). Furthermore, please pray that both of us bring glory to God. (Of course, please pray that we don’t get bitten by a mosquito carrying the Zika virus!)

Why is the GHEC important to Edric and me? I will quote GHEC’s goal here:

The ability to choose home education is a right. It’s a right well-documented in international law. It’s our right as parents to direct the education of our children. And it’s the right of children to receive an individualized education experience that best suits their needs and goals.

This concept cuts across cultures, methods, and beliefs. It exists regardless of motivation or methodology in home education. This conference is a gathering for those who have an interest in engaging the important questions surrounding home education.

We are blessed to be able to home educate our children in the Philippines because the government is supportive of it. But we must seek to defend the rights of all families who want to choose home education for their own families and cannot because the laws of the land deprive them of this right. Furthermore, what affects one part of the world will eventually impact all of us. So this is for our children’s future, too.

If you want to attend the conference but can’t fly to Brazil to be there physically, you can catch the live stream.

I’ll try my best to post my learnings, too!

 

Lessons From Climbing the Tallest Mountain in the Philippines

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Entry by my son, Elijah Mendoza.

My dad had been planning a rite of passage for me for a long time. He said we would have it when I turned 13, and through that I would transition from a boy into a young man. Since it meant becoming a young man, this experience had to capture the manly traits my Dad wanted me to embrace. So, he decided we would climb a mountain. But, not just any mountain, the tallest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo!

I was so excited, because I wanted to bond with my Dad, be able to experience camping for the first time, and be able to say, “I climbed the tallest mountain in the Philippines!”

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Guess what? I can now say it! I climbed the tallest mountain in the Philippines. Praise God! But more importantly, I am now a young man. According to my Dad (and Mom), part of completing this right of passage was to journal my learnings from the experience.

I’d like to share with you two of the most important things I learned from climbing Mt. Apo. The first is the value of perseverance to achieve a goal. Mt. Apo is around 3000 meters high. It took us 4 days to climb the mountain, 2 up, and 2 down. And though we had a porter to carry some shared equipment for our group of 5, I had to carry my own pack with most of my stuff. I had to carry this as we went through farms, forests, marshes, flatlands, brush lands, and even boulders. I carried it through scorching heat and thick rain, while balancing on tree trunks, and even up an 87 degree cliff. In fact, there were moments where I would trip and fall, and I would get so annoyed with this load, and the added pain it was causing on my shoulders. But Dad would encourage me to push myself. And by God’s grace, I never thought of quitting. I kept pushing myself to endure all this because I was focused on the goal of finishing the climb, and remained excited about reaching the peak, then eventually going home.

Thanks, Conquer gear!

Thanks, Conquer gear!

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When we finally made it to the top, it was spectacular! We got to experience the sunrise above the clouds, and we worshipped God together. All the effort it took to achieve our goal taught me how gratifying it is to work hard versus taking it easy or giving up. I love how the Bible teaches us to persevere in Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

DSC03475The second thing I learned was to be thankful. Life on the mountain was rough and hard. Even food and leftovers I would normally stay away from at home I would swallow down quickly, because I was so hungry. I even had to help kill a chicken just so we could have a meal! This chicken was gummy and hard to chew because it was a native chicken, but I ate everything! I also had to learn to take a poop in the wild, even without toilet paper. I was so desperate, I had to use leaves!

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Furthermore, since I was used to sleeping in a small tent on a hard floor, it was a treat when we got down from the mountain and a villager welcomed us into their house. Their life there was very simple, but compared to sleeping in tents in freezing cold, we got to stay in a clean house with a roof! Anything with a roof felt like a five-star hotel.

I learned that you don’t need a lot to survive and everything we have is a bonus and blessing from the Lord. A warm meal is a blessing. Having a bed to lay on and a roof over our heads is a blessing. Even having toilet paper is a blessing! So when the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”, I learned to literally thank God for everything.

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Climbing Mt. Apo was a life-changing experience for me. God used my Dad’s intentional training to help me better understand what it means to be a man. There were many things I learned from this experience, but these two are, for me, the highlights. Being a man is about being perseverant to accomplish the tasks God asks us to do. It also means taking responsibility for what has been entrusted to me and being thankful and grateful for it. Please pray for me in this new phase in my life. Please pray I apply these learnings, and more importantly, as I continue to grow through the years, I will become more and more like Jesus, the ultimate manly role model. God bless you!

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