Archives for January 2017

Make a Commitment to Wellness

For the past few days I set aside my fitness meal plan to indulge a little. Thankfully, this break from healthy eating was short-lived. Part of my rebellion stemmed from angst over a consultation about my overall health that left me feeling discouraged. The consultation itself was an amazing experience. Everything made sense about wellness from a cellular level. But when I received the prescribed diet for me, I did the opposite of what I was told to do! Alas, the sinfulness of the human heart!

I ate bread, rice, and meat that I wasn’t supposed to, thinking that the suggestions of what to avoid were unrealistic. Eating is so important to me that I flipped out as I read through the list of grains, nuts, and organic products which the prescription asked me to abide by, which weren’t very easy to source.

Yet, after three days of food protesting I came back to my senses and consigned to the fact that I can do better with my food choices. Although I consider myself a healthy eater in the sense that I avoid sugary desserts, candy and chocolate, juices, soda, and loads of carbs, I am not consuming an optimum diet.

As a result, this has diminished my overall sense of well-being. I am not supposed to eat certain foods because they simply aren’t good for me and I am intolerant to them. Even if I feel angry that this is my reality, I also know that going in the opposite direction — that of rebellion — will eventually lead to my demise.

Today, I went with Elijah to S&R to study how I can revise my current menu for the home. I will be checking out other places as well for organic produce, as well as gluten-free, dairy-free options so that I can confidently conclude that I tried my best. The rest I will have to leave up to the Lord and entrust my body to Him as I do my part.

During my visit, I was happy to see things I can eat and drink:

  • Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
  • Almond Flour
  • Lentil Chips – no added sugar and gluten free
  • Olive Oil Mayo 
  • My favorite mixed berries pack was on sale! 

S&R also had cage-free eggs, organic vegetables, and a bunch of gluten-free and non-gmo snacks and products. I have known about these in the past but this time I actually paid attention to them.

A number of exercise equipments were on sale, too! (Someday I hope to have a home gyms. Sigh. For now it’s running the hills of our village)…

Elijah greatly helped me. He’s a young man now and prides himself on being able-bodied when I need extra muscle. He’s also thrifty so he kept me from overspending!

There’s a difference between wellness and fitness. Apparently you can be slim and trim but internally off-balance because your gut health has been compromised. I will do another post on the results of my consultation which became an eye-opener. For now it’s good to know that if I really want to be committed to wellness there are options out there for me and my family (and I won’t starve to death).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Family that Gardens Together…

Towards the end of last year, Edric and I decided that we want our kids to be more involved in chores around the house, specifically gardening. This would allow us to approach two needs simultaneously – getting our kids outdoors to exercise, and instilling responsibility.

We canvassed for a grass cutter since the Carabao grass in our backyard was getting out of hand, and found a great deal at HMR in Cubao. After calculating how much we would save by utilizing our own grasscutter versus paying a gardener to come in once a week, we jumped on the opportunity to buy a motorized lawnmower that was sold for ¼ of the cost it usually was. Plus, Edric nostalgically recalled the days when he mowed his aunt’s lawn in the U.S. over the summer, and was excited to relive this experience.

In fact, he fended off the kids when he first got the lawnmower working, even if they eagerly asked to have their turn! Eventually, he entrusted the machine to them (and even to me) and we all got a chance to test its efficiency.

I must say that mowing the lawn can be very therapeutic and fun.

When Edric and I spent those days time outdoors, the kids naturally followed our examples. Over the holidays, Edric recruited our sons to perform gardening duties with him beyond cutting the grass and they thoroughly enjoyed their bonding time. They also got to exercise which was a nice bonus.

The girls and I assisted by sweeping, using the shears, pruning, and collecting trash. Surprisingly, even Catalina found the experience of yard word engaging and worked hard to do her role. She didn’t complain at all. It was an afternoon well spent together.


Neighbors’ househelps looked on curiously as our family worked together. I don’t know what they were thinking but I’m guessing it’s not typical to see five kids and two parents gardening in Metro Manila. I’m hoping our family can do this consistently and take it to the next level by doing some crop-growing and small-scale farming.

Kids, including my own, may default to indoor activities because of gadgets and media, but once they get outdoors with the family and do something productive, they actually enjoy the benefits that these experiences provide. 

I’m really thankful that this gardening initiative began with Edric. His pull on our boys is much greater and he knows how to turn grass-cutting, weeding, pruning, and garbage collecting moments into a good mix of fun and challenging. The kids, especially the boys, operate like good soldiers when he is around! If you haven’t yet considered gardening as productive family bonding, you might want to give it a try! 
 

About Manuka Healthy Honey

I have gotten questions from parents regarding Manuka Honey, which my family uses and posts about on Instagram and Facebook. For the record, I’m not selling Manuka Honey. But I was asked to be an endorser for it and I readily agreed to be one because it works!

The health philosophy behind Manuka Honey is something that resonates with me. I’ve always been “anti” antibiotics and into preventive health so Manuka Honey makes sense for my family. To be honest, it is pricey. Some people are shocked when I tell them how much the MGO options can cost, but the reality is getting sick is costlier.


My youngest used to be highly prone to respiratory infections. Every month she would get sick for the first year of her life. And it would take a long time for her to get over what should have been a simple cough and cold. Her immune system was a little more fragile than her siblings’. So everytime a virus got passed around from child to child in our home, I was pretty certain she would be a casualty of it to a greater degree. Sometimes, I would have to resort to antibiotics because her breathing became laboured.

She was diagnosed as asthmatic when she was a year old. However, she’s been spared from major lung infections and issues as of late. I know this is God’s grace. But it’s also because her immune system is better.

We avoid giving her lots of sugary foods. She has time to play outdoors, under the sun (the good sun). When she’s sick, we take a pause from the dairy, and we keep her home so she can get lots of sleep. When she gets congested, we nebulise with saline solutions and give her Manuka honey. The place where we live has significantly less pollution than other parts of Manila so I know this also makes a difference. Since she is homeschooled, she has less exposure to sick peers, too. Therefore, she tends to be able to fight off these infections without medication.

Last week, she was fighting a cough and cold but she got past the fever and malaise stage by resting and taking Manuka Honey MGO 400 as a curative measure.


Although she didn’t like the taste of Manuka honey when she was younger, she now asks for it. (I have to control the amount she wants to take!)

For those who want to know more about Manuka Honey and its benefits, please read on (if you don’t, I won’t take it personally. I won’t even know. ha ha. I know there are readers out there who don’t like me “endorsing” products. But rest assured, I’m selective and careful about what I write about on this site.)

New Zealand is the most isolated major honey producing country in the world. Its geographic location makes it an optimal place for the Manuka flowers to bloom. It has been know to produce Manuka honey with the highest Methylglyoxal content.

Manuka honey is a monofloral honey from the nectar of the Manuka flower that grows in remote unspoilt areas of New Zealand. It has unique and naturally present properties that aren’t found in other varieties of honey.

Methylglyoxal (MGO) is a compound that gives Manuka honey its antibacterial component. It is found in high concentration in the nectar of Manuka flowers. The higher the concentration, the stronger the antibiotic effect. So far, Manuka honey is the only food found with significant MGO content. Unlike antibiotics which destroy the balance of good bacteria vs. bad bacteria in our guts, Manuka honey doesn’t.

About 75% of mass produced honey is oftentimes artificially processed. It is usually made of artificial flavor, additives and food coloring that has either negative or very small health benefits.

Manuka Honey has several MGO concentrations. So naturally, the question is what MGO is best for me and my kids?

MGO 100 & 200 are best taken daily for maintenance to help boost the immune system. Children above 1 year old can take it (not younger). These both help to prevent coughs, colds, and flu. Take 1 teaspoon 15 to 30 minutes before breakfast and before going to bed.

MGO 400 & 550 help with acne and eczema, tooth decay and gingivitis, sore throats, respiratory health such as asthma and bronchitis, hyperacidity, acid reflux, stomach ulcers, constipation, diarrhea, burns, wounds and even MRSA. Manuka honey can be applied directly to a burn wound and it will soothe it dramatically. I’ve tried it myself on a wound that occurred due to baking.

Source for Manuka Honey information: Manukahealth.ph

Manuka products are available in:

Bonifacio Global City, Taguig (1-D Kensington Place, 1st Av. Burgos Circle)

Robinsons Magnolia (2nd Level)

Glorietta 2 (Ground Floor)

TriNoma (3rd Level)

Lucky Chinatown Mall (3rd Level, Reina Regente Street Corner, Binondo)

Ayala Center Cebu (2nd Level)

Ayala Abreeza Mall Davao (Ground Floor)

For more information and nationwide delivery, you may also contact 632-984-8855, 632-636-5588, 0999-9977-4277, 0917-863-5588 or check out their website at manukahealth.ph

 

Technology and Hands-on Learning

Last year I was introduced to a company called Smart Toys, a distributor of learning materials that combine technology and hands-on learning. One of their products is called Marbotic — learning materials that were created by “tech-lovers and education experts to blend traditional wooden toys and touchscreen technology.”

Smart Numbers teach kids to count using ten beautiful wooden numbers and three educational apps inspired by the Montessori method. Smart Letters combine three apps and twenty six wooden letters to help kids learn reading and writing.

Catalina tested the Smart Letters out and she thoroughly enjoyed taking each letter and placing it on the screen to hear it’s name, sound and discover what words begin with the letter.

Marbotic is unique because it engages children with tactile experiences as they learn, but it also harnesses the advantages of technology. Although it’s a little pricey, it’s one of those educational toys/materials that you can use with succeeding children. The wooden letters and numbers are well-made, sturdy, and don’t require batteries.


Children as young as one year old can handle these with supervision and by three they can learn independently.

I also asked my kids and their cousins to sample Smart Toys‘ 3D coloring books which come in four different titles–Dino, Ocean, Safari, Bird. After kids color the pictures, they can pair them with a free app that makes their art come to life.

Other notable educational products by Smart Toys are Augmented Reality (AR) Books. These AR books come to life when you scan them with your smartphone or tablet. There are seven titles — Dino, Ocean, Safari, Farm Animals, Bug, Herptile, and Birds. 

Kids can read about creatures come to life on a page! It’s augmented reality for educational purposes. 
As a homeschool mom, I am thrilled that there are so many materials out there that I can use to teach my kids. My mom taught my siblings and I using textbooks with newsprint pages. We survived and did fine because that’s all we really had to choose from. Today, however, homeschool parents have a plethora of options for every bent and interest of their children. This is the best time in the world to be a homeschooler! 

For more information on Smart Toys please contact 0917-8877959 or follow @smartoysph on Instagram. 

 

We Don’t Need More Crazy Moms

I have been spending time with women friends, exchanging notes about their relationships with their mothers and it breaks my heart to hear story after story about their “crazy” moms– moms who are self-absorbed, bitter, broken, unkind, play favorites, and suffer from identity issues. 
There are valid reasons behind the bad parenting choices these moms have made, but they may never fully realize how deeply they have wounded their daughters, women who are my friends, who are moms just like me. It’s miraculous that these women friends are turning out to be such wonderful moms themselves. That’s the grace of God in their lives. However, it’s also sobering to be confronted by the reality that my thoughts, words, and actions matter so much to my own girls. I can become a version of “crazy” if I am not spirit-filled and resort to hurting them, too. 


To be honest, there are times when I do. As a homeschooling mom, wrestling with impatience is an everyday struggle. Even if I don’t yell at my kids, I feel very exasperated when they don’t understand a concept I have repeatedly taught them, or when it’s hard for them to exercise logic and common sense when a lesson seems easy and basic. Sometimes this aggravation manifests itself in deep sighs, rolling eyeballs, or negative comments that make my kids feel inadequate and insecure.

Just the other day, I was teaching Tiana math and she forgot how to count to 100 by 5s. Irked at how quickly the lesson faded from her consciousness, I snapped at her and gesticulated with my hands like I was in pain, “I don’t understand. This isn’t hard. What’s wrong? Why can’t you get it?” 
As I mouthed this out, I gripped the pages of her math book in my hands and motioned like I was going to tear it in half. Even if I wanted to, I really couldn’t have because I mistakenly held onto a portion of the book that was too thick. 

Tiana noticed all of this, of course. She self-consciously bowed her head to a point where I could still see her beautiful eyes, now troubled, looking up at me with concern and fear. She probably wondered what I would do next and the rest of the kids visibly displayed their anxiety as well. 

My heart sank. What was I doing?! An immediate apology was necessary to abate everyone’s tension. I took Tiana in my arms and said, “Please forgive me, Tiana, for getting irritated. I love you. I was wrong.” 

I felt horrid, a big time failure as a mom, as a homeschooler. 

Why was I so worked up about Tiana’s inability to count by 5s? And why did this display of frustration and rejection on my part have to happen again to my sweet girl? (I wrote about a similar entry earlier last year.) 

Well, just like the moms my friends described, I have the same tendency to be controlled by my emotions, to act out of arrogance, fear, and selfishness. The real me is an ugly person whose default mode is to express this ugliness unless I am controlled by the Holy Spirit. 
Over the past weekend, one of the topics of a retreat we attended as a family was the “Exchanged Life.” The speaker, a good friend of Edric and mine, delivered a powerful message that can be summed up in the phrase, NO LONGER I BUT CHRIST. 

I praise God that He didn’t just save us from our sins, He equipped us to overcome what is broken and ugly in all of us. He gave us the power to be victorious over our common follies and common mistakes by sending the Holy Spirit to dwell in us when we come into a relationship with Him through Christ. 

Most days I am not a crazy mom and this is because of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life but it doesn’t mean I don’t have “crazy” in me. It lurks and waits for opportune occasions to bear itself, fangs, horns, and all, and the damage is not to be diminished.  

To the moms who can identify with this struggle and to those who grew up in homes where they never felt unconditionally loved or accepted by their mothers, might I encourage you with this: We don’t have to pass on the hurts our mothers wounded us with, and we don’t have to be the kind of moms who give in to the crazy in us. We have a God who loves us and redeems our pasts, and who secures our future. He is committed to helping us be the moms we need to be, no matter how we were mothered ourselves or how challenging it may be to fulfill this role in the present. However, we have to make some hard choices.


First, we may need to ask for forgiveness from our daughters. And we may need to forgive our moms (even if they never say sorry.) If we don’t, bitterness will defile us and those whom we love. 

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:14-15‬ ‭

Next, we have to invest in relationship-building activities and routines that minister to the hearts of our daughters. It can be reading to them, learning to cook together, taking walks, having “tea or coffee” (my mom does this with my sisters, sisters-in-law, and me periodically), going to the grocery or doing errands together, giving random hugs and being generous with words of appreciation for their character, their talents, and abilities. The point is to do with them and for them what matters to them, what makes them feel special and important. 

Two nights ago, my eldest son, Elijah, reminded me to tuck Tiana into bed when he carried his little sister, Catalina, into the girls’ bedroom. Tiana remained awake, unwilling to retire until I prayed and kissed her goodnight. I happened to be caught up in a long conversation with a friend who needed some counseling so I assumed that Tiana fell asleep.
By this time, I had comfortably settled in to sleep but Elijah’s reminder encouraged me to inconvenience myself to be with her. I stepped into her darkened room quietly and caught sight of her sitting up in anticipation, hoping I hadn’t forgotten. She smiled with relief as I came to her side to smother her with a kiss and hug, and pray with her.

“Were you waiting for me?” 

She nodded and then peacefully slipped under the covers and closed her eyes. 

That moment gave me a picture of what daughters are like. All daughters, no matter what season or age, are hoping that we will notice them, accept them, and desire to be with them. Let us break the cycle of pain we inherited or the one we initiated by meeting their need for our affection, attention, and affirmation so that we can create a cycle love that our daughters will pass on to their future families. 

You Cannot Out-Give God

When I wrote the book, When a Good God Allows Rape, my purpose was to use my personal story to reach out to broken and wounded people and to give God the glory for what He has done in my life. By God’s grace, the book became a bestseller last year as reported to me by my publisher, OMF Literature. When the royalties came in a year later, God impressed upon my heart to give the money to Him, as my first fruits. After all, I had written the book for His purposes, so logically whatever I earned from it should go to His work.

However, this prodding came at a time when Edric and I were a little tight financially. Although we were getting by and we were still comfortable by God’s grace, Edric had taken a six-month leave from the show, ANC’s On the Money, in favor of focusing on Homeschool Global and the Homeschool Association of the Philippine Islands (HAPI). As result, he also gave up part of the income that came with him being the lead anchor. So any influx of money was good news!

Yet I praise God for Edric’s response to God’s leading about the royalties (even though he didn’t struggle a little!). When I told Edric that God convicted me to give the money from my book’s earnings back to Him, Edric fully supported me. He said, “Go for it!” 

Even if Edric knew that money could have been useful for us at that period in time, he understood the principle of giving back to the Lord what belongs to Him in the first place.

How true it is that you cannot out-give God! Shortly after, an agency set up an appointment with Edric and me to pitch an idea for a year-long campaign involving our family. It was for the milk brand, Friso, by Frisland Campina, a company based out of the Netherlands.

Previously, I had also been approached to be part of another milk company’s marketing efforts but that fell through. However, God knew that Friso was a better fit for our family because of its philosophy. 

Unlike other formulas, Friso is committed to making its milk easy on the tummy of children. The process it goes through before going into the can is a gentle one. It receives heat treatment only once, which means that it preserves the integrity of its proteins so that kids are less prone to constipation when they drink Friso.

I am also a breastfeeding advocate, so formula is only an option above two or three years old for me. Thankfully, the specific product of Friso they were asking me to represent was for three years old and up which means I didn’t have to compromise my conviction about breastfeeding.

Furthermore, Friso keeps their product as natural as possible, without neglecting nutrition. All the farmers of Frisland Campina are the owners of the company, so they are personally involved and invested in the care of their cattle. Their cows have a very happy life! They have required grazing times outdoors and they aren’t forced into machines to be milked. Farmers also pass on their trade to their children and teach them the science behind raising cows, the quality of the grass that they feed on, and how to create an environment that stimulates the optimum production of milk. 

Watching the videos of the farmers mattered to me a lot. Since I homeschool my kids, I’ve never been one of those moms who gets suckered by the pitch of milk companies who say that their milk increases the IQ of children. Although I believe that nutrition certainly enables brain development, most milk brands provide good nutrition. However, since homeschooling is one-on-one, I know that my kids’ education is customized in such a way as to maximize their giftedness, interests, and strengths, as well as augment their weaknesses. So when Friso told me that their milk brand protects gut-health in kids because of the process that’s involved in getting it from the grass to the glass, then that interested me! And when I was shown fat cows grazing happily outdoors and scenes of fathers mentoring their sons about their trade that resonated with me!

Plus, I couldn’t help but see a parallel between the cows and my own kids. As the farmers of Frisland Campina are concerned about keeping a natural environment to ensure that their cows are as healthy as possible, I would like to think that God has given me, through homeschooling, the most natural setting for my kids to mature and develop holistically. My kids aren’t rushed to and from school, they don’t spend useless hours in traffic, they aren’t robbed of ample time each day to play and explore, and they have good friends whose families I am well acquainted with. They stick to a schedule, but they also get to learn beyond the books we use, and they aren’t taught with cookie-cutter approaches that classrooms have to implore for large groups of kids.  


 
I’m sharing all of this to magnify how good God is, how He opened the door for our family to be a part of Friso’s campaign as endorsers, a company that is aligned with our own values, and one that offered a financial deal that far surpassed what I gave to the Lord from my book’s royalties. This all happened after I obeyed God’s nudging to present my first fruits to Him instead of hording it for myself, which I was tempted to do.
 
May this entry encourage you to trust in God’s goodness, too. I want you to know that God is a magnanimous God who delights for us to experience His blessings. There are occasions in our lives when He intentionally withholds material comforts, but there are other moments when He deems it the best time to release His generous provision.
 
What this experience taught me and continues to teach me is that God often tests the condition of our hearts by way of our pockets. Exodus 23:19 says, “You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the Lord your God.”

Money affords us this façade of security and it’s very easy to adopt the perspective that the money we earn belongs to us because we worked hard for it. However, provision ultimately comes from God’s hand, therefore our greatest security is not in acquiring more money but in obeying Him and following His leading in our lives. 1 Chronicles 29:12 rightfully declares, “Both riches and honor come from You (God), and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”


 

The Organized Home

My husband has always wanted me to be an über organized wife and homemaker. I have tried over the years to live up to this desire of his. But it’s always been a challenge to be consistent. I start off well but then busy-ness gets in the way or the kids and household help don’t cooperate with my “systems” for orderliness. Stacks of paper get taller, toys and books end up on wrong shelves, junk accumulates, expiry dates get ignored, and frustration levels increase because people can’t locate what they are looking for.  

I am not blaming others. At the end of the day, managing the home falls under my watch. And the key for me is to turn my attention towards home making, which is difficult to do when I am everywhere else but in the home. 

There were a few things I could no longer stand as 2016 came to a close, namely the pantry, refrigerator, storage room, homeschool room, linen closet and guest room closet. I am not as OC as Edric may be, but we share a similar distaste for stuff that uselessly occupies space. We periodically give away items or participate in garage sales. And very often, we simply throw away useless clutter. Why, for example, do we have to keep used gift bags and broken fly swatters? We had a bunch of these in the pantry for no good reason. 

Edric actually finds closet-cleaning cathartic. When he has the privilege of free time, I will often see him standing in front of his clothes or shoes assessing which articles need to be taken out. Moments later he will emerge with a pile of things to give away. And then he will rearrange every shelf and drawer and feel like a new man afterwards. 

Towards the end of the year, our kids joined a rummage sale in our village and they diligently helped me sort through their toys, clothes, shoes, and books until we blocked our hallway with an uncountable number of things to load into our van and sell at ridiculously cheap prices. How did we accumulate this much stuff?! We aren’t even the hoarding type of family. 

There is always going to be something in our closets that we can part with or give away, and it’s good for our kids to learn this early on so they don’t develop unhealthy attachments to material possessions. 

Over the last two weeks, four other areas were decluttered, too. I solicited the help of the kids to fix the homeschool room. Edric employed them to assist with the storage room. I took command of the pantry and refrigerator. Tiana provided some assistance to me for these areas as well.


There is something about straight rows, books in cascading order, lose items in bins, and structure that make you feel like a better person. Like you actually have it together as a homemaker. This sounds like the confession of a desperate housewife but I am totally serious. Order allows me to think clearly and be more efficient as a wife and mom, heck, as a human being, period.

It used to bug me that Edric pressured me to improve in the area of organization. But I am so glad God gave me a husband who sets the bar high when it comes to order. He’s been a good example to me. His email inbox is clean. (Mine has like 4,000 unread messages…I know. It’s ridiculous. This will be next month’s project.) His computer files are categorized very sensibly. He has a place for every thing he owns and a packing process whenever he travels. He “spreadsheets” whatever he can, even the kids and me, so he can create goals and intentional plans to reach those goals with us. His week revolves around predictable schedules and he uses a rating system to evaluate what commitments he needs to prioritize or calendar. 

Now, I look at these habits of his and think, What a guy! I am in good hands. I need to be more like this!

At the very least, I have to do my part to create a home where Edric feels relaxed and happy to return to everyday because everything is in order. Granted, we have five kids so “everything in order” might be shooting for the stars, but it’s my role to try my best anyway. 

This is where I am at so far… 

Dirty kitchen pantry:

Kitchen pantry: 


Refrigerator:


Homeschool Room:


I still have to fix my closet, the linen closet, finish my 1-month meal and grocery plan and home management plan, and do some repairs and renovations around the house. Still a long way to go…

Organization, I am learning as a home-manager-in-progress, is not a one time event. It’s a daily commitment to…

1. Have a place for everything and return things to their proper place.

2. Teach my kids and household help to follow systems so everyone is involved in keeping the home organized (beyond just neat or clean).

3. Stick to a reasonable schedule so I am not rushed or too busy to stay organized.

4. Model to my kids the character of orderliness and the value of decluttering.

5.  Be a good steward. God has entrusted to me time, relationships, the home we live in, and the belongings we have. If I am not organized, these aspects of my life will be compromised. So I need to do my best to be faithful. Not perfect or obsessive, but faithful. 

Happy organizing! 1 Corinthians 14:40 encourages, “But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.”

Teaching Kids To Be Responsible for their Choices 

Sometimes it’s hard to avoid rescuing my kids when they make mistakes. I have to resist the urge to save them because my maternal instinct tells me to protect and cradle my children. However, some of them aren’t tiny tots anymore. They don’t need pampering from me. In fact, to do so might even be a disservice to their character growth in the area of learning responsibility and accountability. 

A few months ago, one of my sons lost his temper while playing on the piano. In his irritation, he banged on the keys with full force. Since it was an older piano, something inside (too technical for me to explain) collapsed, causing all the keys to become unplayable. He confessed his mistake to me which I appreciated, however an appropriate consequence was necessary. His hard-earned garage money went to paying for the repair of the piano. 

Did I feel like showing him mercy? Of course! But I knew this consequence would instill in him the values of stewardship and exercising self-control over one’s emotions. 

As my kids grow up, their consequences have to be modified. For example, after the age of 6 or 7, spanking isn’t as appropriate a form of punishment anymore. Furthermore, they pretty much get obedience and respect. Praise God! It’s the other character areas that begin to need work…things like discipline and responsibility. 

Very recently, I encouraged the kids to get rid of some of our cats by entrusting them to friends or family members who were willing to take them. However, they insisted on keeping all the cats for themselves. We now have seven. Too many! Five Siamese and three black and yellow-eyes ones. (The black ones I don’t particularly fancy because of their naughtiness). It’s impractical for us to feed this many felines and the impact on our monthly groceries is significant. 

My deal with the kids when it comes to their animals is, “I will take care of you, my kids (aka my animals), and you will take care of your animals.” 

So whatever needs the cats have beyond food is their look-out. When their kittens got some sort of skin problem, the kids begged me to bring them to the vet. They kept asking me to but it wasn’t a priority for me because of the busy-ness of the holiday season. However a a week ago when the hustle and bustle died down there was a window to take the cats to the vet. 

At first, I thought of inconveniencing myself to do it for them. But then a lightbulb went on in my head as I realized that this could be a great learning experience for my kids. 

I told my kids, “You guys will be the one to bring the cats and pay for the fees incurred by the visit to the vet.” 

Thankfully, there was minimal resistance. I armed them with my cell phone, but asked them to take along their own cash. I did hand Elijah my ATM just in case they didn’t have enough of their own money. Looking back, this was a bad idea, for safety reasons. Plus, I caught Elijah trying to slip my ATM into his shoe for safekeeping! Thankfully, I saw him before he plowed his foot on top of it. 

The extent of my meddling was preventing him from crushing my ATM with his foot and advising him to carry a man-purse with his iPad in it, my phone, and the ATM. This was the extent of my meddling, but I did ask the driver to keep an eye out for them (without facilitating the discussion with the vet).

My four older kids dressed up, put their cats in cages and spent the morning at the pet clinic. They had to speak with the vet, explain the problem, ask their questions, and pay their fees. It took about three hours for them to wait their turn. They returned home hungry and tired for a late lunch at 1 P.M.

Admittedly, a part of me was concerned about whether they would be able to accomplish the task. Yet, every time I picked up Edric’s phone in order to call the kids, Edric dissuaded me, encouraging me to let them be and give them room to figure out what to do.

The good news was that the cat skin problem turned out to be a very curable lice issue that isn’t contagious to humans. The better news was that our kids matured during this experience, and learned a valuable lesson on responsibility. 

Waiting for three hours at the vet with dogs yapping all around them, and seeing one of their seven cats scratch up the arm of the attendant till it was bloodied, proved to be a new and unpleasant ordeal for my kids. However, they came home feeling a sense of pride for having braved through the experience without Edric or me to hand-hold them. And, they finally embraced what it means to be responsible pet owners. It’s costly to care of pets and they need to understand that it’s not the househelp’s or my role to worry about their animals. 

As for me, I am trying to transition out of the coddling parent stage with my older kids, especially because they are boys. They don’t need a hovering mother who micromanages them and fixes all their problems. It’s not easy for me to watch them fail, suffer the consequences of their choices when they make mistakes, or allow them to be “off on their own.” However, when I take a back seat during situations like these they learn accountability and responsibility effectively. My job is to partner with Edric to mentor them, pray, and entrust them to the Lord.

 

Why Your Renewal of Vows Can Mean More Than the Day You Said Yes

It’s always a joy to share in the celebration of a wedding. The starry-eyed bride, blooming, and radiant, standing beside her dashing groom is a scene I will never grow tired of witnessing. There’s something magical about the day a person commits to marriage, and it’s hard to imagine any other celebration in one’s lifetime dethroning it as queen of all events. Plus, there’s the amount of effort, thoughtful planning, and spending that goes into it that elevates it to a different level of stress and glory. 

Last night, however, I got to be a part of a renewal of vows ceremony that represented a much more beautiful truth about God’s design for marriage. Ruth 1:16-17 declares, “…Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 


Even if the passage was directed towards Ruth’s mother-in-law, it powerfully epitomizes what it means when a couple pledges to one another, “I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”

It’s easy and romantic to profess this at the beginning. But when you’ve been through hell on earth with your spouse (to put it as bluntly as possible), the more intuitive choice seems to be the renouncement of that vow in favor of self-preservation. 

Yet there are couples who stay on the harder path, the one that requires them to walk together when feelings of love have withered and hurt has deeply rooted itself within their hearts. Although animosity has killed whatever hope for love they might have clung to, and they can no longer stomach a reason to honor a commitment that has drained and wearied them to utter exhaustion, they do the counterintuitive thing. They keep going even without being able to see, with human eyes, the restoration and redemption they seek. This is the power of faith in God to do the impossible, what the book of Hebrews calls, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews‬ ‭11:1‬)‬‬

Edric and I first met Tye and Elaine (the couple who renewed their vows) at a juncture in their marriage when quitting was the humanly sensible recourse. Theirs was a relationship broken by infidelity and continuing deceit. They sat before us, as part of the breakout group we were accidentally assigned to facilitate during a couples’ retreat, and the despair of disappointment and hurt visibly darkened their countenances. I thought to myself, there’s only one person who can save this relationship and resuscitate it back to life, and that person is Jesus Christ. 

I didn’t know how Christ would work His miracle in them. But they came to the conclusion, after the retreat, that He presented an alternative to leaving one another. This was the genesis of a long, arduous two-year climb to rebuild a marriage that onlookers might have regarded as a hopeless case. 

It takes one prayerful and relentless person in a marriage who believes that Jesus transforms to turn on the light of hope back on in a marriage. A committed husband or wife who is willing to change, to humble himself or herself for the Lord becomes a channel of God’s forgiveness, love, peace, and joy to awaken the unbelieving spouse from the point of resignation to the point of recognition. Edric and I saw this in Elaine, and eventually we also saw it in Tye.

When a wife or husband consistently manifests Christ-like behavior amidst the turbulence of a troubled marriage, the other begins to wonder whether the person they once fell in love with might still be there…the wife who used to honor, submit to, and prioritize him…the husband who used to patiently understand, care for, and cherish her. 

Surely it is as 1 Peter 3:1-2, and 7-9 have iterated it: Wives who are submissive to husbands who don’t deserve such submission (because they are themselves disobedient to the Lord) win their husbands over to Christ by actions that display chaste and respect. Husbands who seek to understand their wives and their weaknesses, as well as honor their wives, receive God’s favor by means of answers to their heartfelt prayers. And if both wives and husbands seek to be harmonious, sympathetic, humble, loving, kind, and refrain from vengeful actions in words or deeds, then they place themselves in a position to inherit blessing from the Lord. 

It’s very hard to ignore the grace of Christ in a person’s life, especially in a spouse whom you encounter daily. “Why is my spouse responding so differently? Why is my spouse still here? Why is my spouse choosing to love me and forgive even when I have hurt him or her and continue to do so?  How is this possible?!” Questions such as these will naturally pique a spouse’s curiosity and fertilize his or her heart with seeds of the gospel. 

The one beautiful truth that Tye and Elaine’s renewal of vow ceremony taught me was that a dead marriage cannot kill the resurrected Christ! He is at work and alive in each person who loves and follows Him, and in each marriage that He is welcomed into. 

My father used to say, “A big problem is big when you focus on the problem. But when you focus on a big God then the problem becomes a small one.” 

Our focus on and trust in a limitless God invites His power into our problem and His solution into the impossible circumstances of our lives. This includes our marriages.

Tye and Elaine are now enjoying a grace-filled marriage, where Christ reigns at its center, and their testimony beckons those in broken relationships to hope against hope that theirs can be restored, too. They openly share what they have been through to encourage others. 

It has been a privilege for Edric and I to be a part of Tye and Elaine’s journey, to be first-hand witnesses to how God changes people. First, He changes us as individuals, healing us and making us complete in Him, and then He changes the people and circumstances around us in accordance with His will. He specializes in 360 degree healing, not bandaid fixes to the wounds in our lives. 

Elaine, in her impromptu renewal of vows speech, made a remark that brought many of us women to tears. “I would not change anything we went through.” For her to pronounce this when two years ago she battled anger and bitterness is a testament to God’s healing! 

A wedding day will always be special, but a renewal of vows can be even more meaningful when you say I DO AGAIN to a person whose wretchedness and flaws you have lived with, and vice versa. This is what Tye and Elaine demonstrated last night. This is what we should all do as married couples. 

A renewal of vows is coming to that point of understanding what saying yes to marriage really means, what love really means — a commitment to an imperfect person for their highest good, which often requires sacrifice. It is to understand that two imperfect people can return to the honeymoon stage of their marriage and keep rebuilding it daily because of Jesus Christ. 

The unique thing about Tye and Elaine’s renewal of vows was that Tye connived with our discipleship group to plan a surprise ceremony for Elaine. I can’t go into how elaborate the plan was and the maneuvering that was involved to hide this secret from Elaine. But the process was priceless for all of the ladies in our couples’ group who banded together to produce a DIY event for Tye and Elaine. Our husbands were pretty game to wear the outfits we asked them to as well. 

Dapitan, Dangwa, Kamuning, each other’s household items, time, talents, and lots of prayer…this is what it took to make the event happen. 


I was so blessed by the ladies (and the kids) in our discipleship group who tirelessly decorated, baked, coordinated, offered their expertise, and labored to make the evening memorable. God gave us the capacity to function like a professional team of event planners! Everyone was willing to do this for free and to sacrifice because we have supported one another and been there for each other during the highs and lows of our lives. We know what it means to fight for and fight together (with the Lord’s help) for our marriages.


Ambassador Gregory Slayton once said, “You need to surround yourself with battle buddies in life.” 

Edric and I are so thankful to the Lord to have several groups of battle buddies whom we meet with for accountability, fellowship, prayer, spiritual feeding, and encouragement. 

Last night was a celebration of Christ’ love and goodness in all of our lives, a time to remember that God can revive dead marriages and resurrect them to something even more beautiful than they once were! Our part is to cling to Him and embrace the Ruth 1:16 by saying to our spouses, “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay.”

We Don’t Need to Have it All this 2017

It’s probably a cliche to say that women want to have it all. But the truth remains that this is often our perspective which is why many of us end up frustrated and unhappy. Just look at the first woman, Eve, who had the perfect guy and the perfect garden, and yet she failed to deny herself the ONE thing that she was told she couldn’t have.

We haven’t changed much since then. We still subscribe to the idea that happiness and fulfillment will be ours when we have that dream guy, beautiful children, a Pinterest-worthy home, successful career or business, and loads of money to spend on our every material desire. The list is more exhaustive than this…I could add to it a vibrant social life, popularity, flawless and ageless beauty, a thriving ministry or worthy charity, etc.

Let’s get real. There’s no way to “have it all.” As my father used to wisely advise my siblings and me, “Life is about choices.” 

Many times the choice is about whether we will live for ourselves and our worldly accomplishments or heed the Lord’s plan for us. In Matthew 16:25-26, Jesus tells his disciples, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  ‭

I have often been asked, is it possible to homeschool my child and be a working mom? It isn’t an easy question to answer because everyone’s circumstance must be taken into consideration. Some moms are single parents while others play an integral role in the financial stability of their families. As much as I would like to promote homeschooling and reply, “Yes, it’s possible!,” I would be setting them up for future heartache and frustration if I failed to include this reality: It’s not sustainable for moms to give their 100% to a 9 to 5 job and 100% to homeschooling. At some point it will come down to a matter of priorities rather than trying to “have it all.”

BUT…here’s a spiritual perspective to consider. God has a surprising way of rewarding the faith decisions we make. I know moms who stepped down from their corporate jobs to be consultants from the home or even quit working entirely in obedience to God’s calling so they can focus on homeschooling. As a result, their husbands received surprise promotions or their businesses experienced financial successes to cover their family’s’ needs. Or, they learned to make do with less. In other words, provision wasn’t a problem for the Lord when they aligned their priorities wit God’s will for their lives.

I thought this was a fitting article to write at the beginning of 2017. What choices did we make in the past year? Will we continue to make these? Are these choices in line with the priorities that God wants us to have?

To be honest, I started the year with my ducks in a row but somewhere at the half way mark, I became preoccupied with doings that veered me away from my priorities. I took on projects that ate into my time with the kids. This meant that I made more money but I sacrificed quality homeschooling. More spending capacity didn’t equal greater peace or happiness for me because I knew that I was trading something more important — my day job as a homeschool mom — for activities that would not matter much ten years from now. Edric and I convened to evaluate how to protect my schedule in 2017 and I am looking forward to a less frenetic pace of life so that he and the kids have the best of me.

Over and over again in my life, I have found that focusing on the right priorities is costly. For example, when I got married to Edric I knew he wasn’t a wealthy guy. He worked hard and had a stable job, but financially speaking, we wouldn’t be swimming in cash or enter into marriage with the ability to afford luxury. But I was okay with that. The more important consideration for me (besides Edric’s love for the Lord and for me) was that he desired to provide for us to the best of his ability, and that he committed to rise up to the challenge of being a provider. So between the option of waiting to be financially comfortable before getting married or getting married young, I chose the latter. 

Some people commented that we were too young to be getting married. But our parents had given us their blessing and we both received confirmation from the Lord through His word, mentors, and specific answers to prayers that the timing was right. 

Did we have financial challenges? Definitely. But I wouldn’t trade the year we got married and the history we’ve shared for the material wealth we could have possessed had we postponed our marriage in favor of earning more money. 

Furthermore, we didn’t think it was healthy for us to stay in a serious relationship and struggle through the temptations of purity for an extended period of time. And yes, sex in the context of marriage was something we were looking forward to. So why delay being able to enjoy this aspect of marriage for too long?! 

In our society today, young men and women are getting married later and later, and it’s more and more uncommon to find a 20+ or 30+ virgin — male or female. My hats off to the few, gloriously standing men and women who have vowed to preserve their purity no matter what. However, it’s extremely difficult to navigate through the sexually charged environment that surrounds us without becoming a casualty of immorality. 

Therefore, Edric and I prioritized getting married early because we knew we wouldn’t last, purity-wise. We were too attracted to one another! Think of how exhausting it would be to continually resist the pull of gravity! I am sure you understand what I am saying because we are all the same. When we love someone, it’s God’s design for us to desire sexual intimacy with them. But it’s not God’s design for us to experience this outside of marriage. (If you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you already know that it’s only by God’s grace that Edric and I broke up at one point in our dating stage to run away from this struggle.)

When Edric and I got engaged, we opted for a short four months to plan our wedding. The short engagement was a form of protection for us as well. We kept our plans for the wedding simple, practical, and inexpensive. Fortunately, we got married before the dawn of the age of Bride and Breakfast (Janna and Ian Simpao are my friends so I can say this without disrespecting their website.) Those images of perfect weddings and gorgeous ideas would have driven me crazy with envy. 

So what did our wedding look like? Did I “have it all” as a bride? Most certainly not. Our original venue and dream for a beach wedding changed two weeks before the day of the ceremony. My entourage probably suffered through the cold of the Tagaytay air as they walked down the aisle in their chiffon dresses designed for the beach. 

They carried two wilted roses stabbed through the center of an orange stuck for lack of an expensive bouquet to hold. Our table arrangements had hardly any flowers on them. And my dress had no ornate beading or dramatic flare to it. I designed it myself, bought the fabric with my mom and mom-in-law in Divisoria, and paid 15,000 pesos for a seamstress to execute my drape-everything-to-one-side (my good side) asymmetrical vision of a dress. 

Our giveaways were fifteen peso 3×5 wooden frames with the verse, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

Oh, and by the way, Edric and I forgot to have those frames handed out. So for years, we had boxes full of these frames and no clue what to do with them until my mother in law creatively used them as Christmas decor. 

My good friend, Jennie, did a superb job on my make up (as a favor) and it looked fantastic at the beginning but as the night progressed, photos will prove that my face turned greasy-looking with the unwanted bonus of a pimple surfacing when the concealer wore off. Plus, I had strands of hair falling across my forehead and sticking to it. 


A number of other mishaps occurred but I would rather tell you that I was the happiest bride in the world. To be honest, the fails didn’t matter to me. I was marrying Edric before God, family, and friends. Every untoward incident and substandard aspect of my wedding day paled in comparison to the commitment he and I were making to one another and the joy of sharing that moment with those whom we loved. 

Could our wedding day and reception have turned out to be flawless had we prolonged our engagement period? Could the affair have sparkled with all the impressive trimmings and trappings that came with a hefty sum? Most probably. However, we valued getting married sooner than later, and looked forward to the marriage rather than the actual event of the wedding. 

Today, my priorities are…

1. to please, honor, know, love, and obey God 

2. to be the wife and mom He has called me to be.

3. to minister to others and declare the gospel message by using my talents, abilities, and resources 

4.Take care of myself so I can do all of the above 

I know it doesn’t sound like a magnificent list that will earn me worldly accolades. However, after half a year of striving in some ways to “have it all” I am convinced that these are and will continue to be the most valuable things to me. 

So how will this translate into practical goals:

– Finish reading my Bible again

– Pray more consistently – Colossians 4:2

– Make room for quietness and stillness (without depending on my phone for entertainment)

– Read more books that are spiritually edifying, that give me a storehouse of truth to draw from and bless others with

– Make Edric feel important by completing the list of things he wants me to get done 

– Respect Edric’s authority and submit to his leadership — be his strong supporter. 

– Improve in the area of serving him by having a positive attitude when he asks me to do something 

– Be more responsive when he initiates sexual intimacy (He told me to add this! Ha ha!)

– Be more affirming and encouraging to Edric and the kids

– Protect my homeschooling schedule by keeping my mornings and afternoons free as much as possible, except for days when the kids have classes

– Give each of my kids lots of personalized time so I can meet their needs more intentionally 

– Try to do the things that my kids enjoy. Be more playful 

– Read to them more often 

– Continue to use my blog and social media platforms to reach out to people 

– Be more involved in the lives of the women I disciple 

– Drink veggie and fruit shakes consistently

– Sleep early in the evenings 

– Exercise at least three times a week 

– Say no to speaking engagements and projects when they conflict with my priorities.

I know most of us will think through our resolutions as the 2017 begins, but I hope we will prayerfully ask the Lord what our priorities ought to be before making our lists.  We don’t need to have it all in 2017, but we can let God have all of us so that our priorities are aligned with His will and design for our lives. In so doing we receive the blessing of having the most important things! 

I have used this before but I will end with it again because it’s so encouraging… 

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew‬ ‭6:26-33‬ ‭

Happy New Year!