Archives for February 2017

The Importance of Gut Health

Only recently, I discovered that the stomach functions like a second brain. Gut health is so important, you can actually cure yourself by eating the right food and avoiding the ones that are actually killing you silently. 

For example, I have dealt with memory issues and slight insomnia in the last year. These problems became more pronounced in the last quarter of 2016. At first, I dismissed these concerns as consequences of busy-ness and too much activity. However, when I met with Life Science Senior Medical Consultant, Dr. Oyie Balburias, he explained that my root problem was most probably mal-absorption of protein. 

Although protein is part of my regular diet, my results and lengthy discussion with him revealed that I am deficient in it. Interestingly, I also work-out and exercise regularly but my body scan showed that I was a negative 2 for muscle, which means my fat to muscle ratio is that of an under-exercised person! That was sobering! (And depressing!)

Until I cure my “leaky gut” issue by changing my diet to avoid foods that I am intolerant to, I will continue to have protein-absorption problems. Furthermore, I have to ingest the right mix of macro and micro nutrients, which Dr. Oyie prescribed for me.
What I appreciate about functional medicine is that it considers how everything about the body, such as its organs, systems, emotional and spiritual dimensions, are interconnected. With functional medicine, prescription medicine isn’t the first option, rather it is a person’s “relationship with food” that becomes the primary means to achieve one’s health goal.
According to Dr. Oyie, “Often times people eat their way into the problems or illnesses that they currently have and the best way to start the healing process is to eat their way out of it. All of this starts with an improved relationship with food. For many of us, our relationship with what we eat is often complicated. We know what’s good for us but we can’t help sneaking in that piece of cake in the middle of the night or grabbing fast food when we’re in a rush. For some it’s gotten so complicated, that their relationship with food has become counterproductive to their physical and emotional wellbeing.”
I sat through my three-hour consultation with him– a very comprehensive look into my history—and thought to myself, “This all makes so much sense!”
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to change our eating regimens and food preferences is because our stomachs, being the second brain of our body, “control us.” If we develop an addiction to sugar, it’s because our stomachs have programmed our brains to like it. So we have to slowly eliminate foods that are harmful to us. Many people, for example, don’t do well with dairy or wheat. Personally, I’ve noticed that wheat causes bloating in me. So I’ve tried to stay away from it as much as possible. 
Dairy is a tougher one to remove for me (and my kids). Out of curiosity I asked the doctor whether dairy was okay for kids. He said, for as long as cows aren’t injected with hormones, antibiotics, and steroids, then dairy is okay for kids (those who don’t have lactose intolerance).
I researched about the milk that my kids drink – Friso. It’s also the brand our family endorses. And I found out that Friesland Campina does not inject their cows with hormones, antibiotics or steroids. Hooray! They try to keep their milk as close to nature as possible. So I can give Friso to my children with a good conscience. They need the calcium and nutrients which I don’t want to compromise on.
Dr. Oyie also emphasized how a child’s gut health has to be established very early on, as early as the first two years of life. Otherwise, children tend to have allergy issues and other health complications. And what a mother eats and doesn’t eat before and during pregnancy plays a crucial role in the formation of a child’s healthy gut. A lot of sugar while pregnant is a big no-no!

Since I am learning all of this after the fact, I have to be wise about the way I feed my five kids who are all beyond two years old. It’s still possible to restore gut health in my kids, which is the good news. 

As for me, Life Science will be prescribing a diet very soon which I hope to be able to share with you. But, every person has specific needs so it is best to do a thorough assessment of your over all health before subscribing to any diet. 

That’s another principle I learned from Dr. Oyie. “Each person was uniquely created by God,” as he said, “and therefore its needs are also unique.” What works for me may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for me.

Edric, for example, is in much better health than I am. Even though we pretty much eat the same foods at home, and we both avoid sugary foods and junk foods as much as possible, he is healthier than I am. I honestly felt very jealous when I first saw his results. However, his problem has to do with the  mitochondria in his cells. Since he tends to get very busy and his schedule is hectic, Dr. Oyie advised that he needs to eat a diet that’s for athletes, and that he needs to learn relaxation techniques and how to “switch off” when it comes to activity. According to him, things like watching TV and internet surfing and are not positive sources of relaxation. Screen time at night wakes up a person’s system, confusing its natural reliance on circadian rhythms. So Edric also quit watching TV series before bedtime.

True forms of relaxation and recharging are praying, fasting at least once a week (which resets the body), deep breathing and meditating on truth — God’s Word. My sister, who is also into functional medicine, suggests that uplifting music is beneficial as well. Personally, I find that being outdoors, climbing mountains, sitting in a bath tub, and getting a foot and head massage help me to de-stress. 

Of course, Edric has to intentionally set aside moments for rest in his calendar, too. This year, he committed to do this and asked that his assistant to create “blackout” dates when he won’t schedule any commitments. I was relieved to hear this because his schedule naturally impacts mine. 

I wrote a little bit about functional medicine earlier this year and it seems to be a topic I keep returning to. On the one hand, the philosophy behind it is so sensible — nutrition, wise choices about how we use our time, manage stress, rest, and exercise are the best ways to achieve optimum health for me and my family. On the other hand, I am writing about this again because my struggle continues to be with food. I love to eat! So this knowledge about gut health and its impact on the body is a reminder to apply self-control and discipline! As Proverns 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” How true it is that the body breaks down when we can’t exercise self-control over what we eat! 

Before the Love Month Ends at S&R


I’m still away, very away, in the Middle East in the world of camels and enjoying the desert. It’s been a wonderful time with Edric and the kids.

Before the month of February ends, please enjoy some shopping at S&R for me. I miss it! Grocery shopping is very different in Dubai and Abudhabi. Apart from Carrefour, I don’t see many big supermarkets like I am used to in Manila. 

Edric and I took a trip to one of the mini-groceries a block away from our hotel to pick up some detergent, deodorant, and food the other day. It was a teeny-tiny place where we had to squeeze through the aisles and avoid head-on collisions as we turned each corner.

I’m the kind of shopper who particularly fancies going to the grocery. This is where I spend most of my money as a wife and mother, so I do appreciate it when it can be a total experience – a place where my kids enjoy coming with me to, where I don’t feel rushed or stressed, where I don’t bump elbows with people going in the opposite direction; where I am confident of the quality of the produce, meats and products, and where the service is excellent.

Although I can’t always find everything I need in S&R, it’s one of my happy places as a mother. Back when I used to frequent the branch in BGC, where we used to live, there was a disabled man who would warmly greet my kids and me at the entrance. He always smiled and said, “Nice to see you, again.”

It’s those little things, if you know what I mean.

Since this is the love month, I just want to appreciate S&R for the love it gives its members. It matters. Atleast to me.

As for those of you who may be interested in discovering what’s new at S&R and what sweet promos they are offering, keep reading…

Honey Roasted Nut Mix (P899.95): 

Huggable Shopkins (P949.95): 

Lentil chips (my kids love these):

Cheesecake Factory Cheesecakes (P999.95):

Buy 1 Take 1 Bathrobes (P999.95):

Quiche (P164.95):

First Homeschool Conference in Dubai

If you have friends and family who are interested in home education, please invite them to this first-ever homeschool conference in Dubai! This is one of the reasons why Edric and I are presently in Dubai with our kids. For more information please visit:

Extreme Patience Required (EPR)

I have a son, who will remain unnamed in case he reads this someday, who likes to take his time…all the time. He has little sense of urgency. This becomes a source of frustration for each family member when we are rushing to an event or have to honor a commitment and are pressed for time. 
Whether it’s eating, dressing up, homeschooling, or finishing responsibilities, his tendency is to delay, be distracted, and lose focus. Over the years, Edric and I have disciplined and trained him to be otherwise but it continues to be a challenge. Edric even got him a watch so he could use it to track his time but he lost it! 

Extreme patience is often required of us as we teach and train our son. Furthermore, we have to carefully consider the positive side of his personality type. Because he is such a chill person and so easy going, he isn’t a reactive, easily angered person. He doesn’t make demands on others, harbor bitterness, and his default disposition is joyfulness. So Edric and I have to manage the tension between training him and encouraging his God-given uniqueness. 

These past few days we have been in Dubai. Edric and I are here for a series of talks and business activities and we took the kids with us. Almost every meal, our son who likes to take his time is the last to finish. Before we head out the door, he is putting a shoe on, using the toilet, looking for a jacket, or in the middle of something he should have completed thirty minutes earlier. 

During one of these occasions when everyone was out the door and he hobbled out of it with one shoe on and a sock and a shoe in his hand, I asked him what he was doing for the last hour and his reply was, “Umm…I was swiveling around in the chair of the room.” 

Seriously, he can do absolutely nothing for stretches of time and find this deeply gratifying. He’s a stop-to-smell-the-roses kind of person…”stopping” being the key word. 

Like I said, this personality type comes with its strengths. However, Edric and I move about so quickly that it’s tiring to wait for this son of ours to mobilize. This trip has magnified his character flaw, so it has been a real lesson in patience for both of us. 

I nearly failed as a parent when this son lost a piece of his expanders (it’s like a retainer for the mouth to open up the jaw). The accident happened after he forgot to be ready at the hour we agreed upon and Edric and I had to get to the venue of a seminar we were speaking at. Edric couldn’t be delayed so he went ahead to set up his laptop while I tried to hurry our son along.

Unfortunately, a very important piece of his expanders flew out of its container and landed on a tiled floor that had patterns which completely camouflaged the piece. So I nearly cried in aggravation as this accident required me to get down on my hands and knees while in my heels to comb through each surface area of the tiled floor to feel for the piece. 

This is ridiculous!, I thought to myself. Why does __________________ do these things?! Ahhhh!!!! 

Meanwhile my son showed no distress whatsoever which kind of irked me! I reminded him, “You can’t do this…make everyone wait for you. It’s inconsiderate. It’s something you have to change and improve on, okay?”

I am glad the annoyance came out of me in that way rather than shouting at him like I felt compelled to do. My patience had reached its limit and it took the grace of God to contain my irritation! Thankfully, I was about to do a ministry activity with Edric which kept me mindful of my responses. But if I hadn’t been in prayer that day, or spent a good chunk of it preparing for my talk and being in the Word of God, I am sure my emotions would have taken over in a very ugly manner. 

We didn’t find the piece after about ten minutes of searching which was all I could spare before my seminar. So the kids and I left the hotel room and hung a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door knob so we could resume our search later on in the evening. At the end of our day, our son did his best to find the piece and recover it which was good news. (These expanders are pricey!) 

Edric and I have considered how to help him after our speaking engagement. I believe the root problem for him is discipline. He has to train his mind to plan wisely and resist the impulses he feels to move on to something else when there is a task at hand. He also needs to discipline his body so that it follows the dictates of his mind. 

Here are some solutions that Edric and I intend to apply:

1. Don’t stop training him until he develops a sense of urgency, proactive-ness, and responsibility. As tiring as it may be to keep telling him the same thing over and over again, the burden is on us to do so until he internalizes and applies these things on his own. 

2. Stay beside him when he homeschools and eats his meals so we can monitor him. Yesterday evening, I sat beside him and he downed his soup and pasta in a fraction of the time it usually takes him. This is because I got to remind him constantly and reach over to rub his back every time he got distracted. 

3. Commend him when he puts effort into quickening his pace. Because he gets corrected a lot, we don’t want him to grow up with insecurities or feel like he is compared to his siblings who don’t have the same issue. So we have to balance out our training with affirmation, too. This also means communicating to him that he is unconditionally loved and accepted, too. 

4. Correct him in private. His siblings tend to feel the same annoyance that we do towards his mannerisms and personality, so it’s unhealthy for them to hear us correct him in front of them. This will only fuel their aggravation. 

5. Edric intends to spend more focused time with him. After all, he’s a boy and there’s nothing like the attention and mentoring of a father to a son. 

6. Extend grace. This son of ours makes mistakes quite often and as tempting as it is to lose our tempers with him, we absolutely cannot as it will destroy the seeds of faith that have been planted in his heart. Our greater desire for him is that he loves and obeys the Lord. If we do not respond to him in ways that are spirit-filled, and if we do not ask for forgiveness when we fail in this area, we will push him farther away from us and this goal. 

7. Thank the Lord for Him. His personality is a blessing and his life is a beautiful gift. Does he need to keep improving in certain areas? Of course. But it doesn’t make him less special or important to us or the Lord. So we need to thank the Lord for being intentional about giving us a son with his unique traits.

8. Pray. Edric and I need to remember that we can’t control our kids. We may be able to train them and discipline them, but their hearts are another matter. This is God’s department. He is the one who causes real transformation of the heart so that the behavior follows. Prayer acknowledges our dependence on Him to make this happen. 

I don’t know if this son of ours sounds like one of your kids. But if he does, be encouraged. Faithful discipleship always produces fruit. 

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:11‬ ‭


Conquering Mt. Pulag

Climbing Mt. Pulag, the second highest mountain in the Philippines, was one of those bucket list moments for me. Edric and I decided to join the Valentine’s Day Pulag climb organized by the Rock Ministry of our church. It was an unconventional way to celebrate our commitment to one another but the experience proved to be one of the best ways to revisit our relationship and glean valuable life lessons. It was one of the most difficult, self-inflicted challenges we surmounted together!

Day one involved a climb to Camp 2 from Ranger Station — an easy two and a half hours. We pitched our tents by mid-afternoon and didn’t mind the drizzle. At this point the cold felt bearable. By 5 PM, however, the weather conditions deteriorated significantly and everyone in our group of about seventy-two climbers retreated to our tents to seek refuge.

My vision of the evening had star gazing, fellowship, singing, and outdoor cooking in its picture. This fantasy was impossible as no one dared to venture outside of their tents to hang out when the rain and wind continued. Moving around the campsite would mean getting clothes and shoes soaked and muddied. Only those foraging for food from neighbors and those who desperately needed to relieve themselves attempted to. (Some actually resorted to Ziploc bags to contain their “organic matter.”)

Had it not been for the calm composure and confidence of our team leader and friend, Jessie Tan, who is an experienced mountaineer and owner of the local brand, Conquer, we would have skipped dinner entirely. He ably got two burners going under the vestibule of one of the bigger tents. Edric and I, along with our friends, gathered in that same tent to eat off whatever resembled a plate or bowl. Amazingly, we feasted on adobo, salpicao, rice, and steak, courtesy of my brother, Paul, and sinigang, prepared by my brother-in-law, Joel. (It almost felt wrong to have that much food when we were supposed to be roughing it.)

When the rain did not relent, everyone’s bigger fear was the biting cold. I didn’t quite understand what my mountaineering father-in-law meant when he briefed Edric and I about the possibility of hypothermia on Pulag. Well, I very well got what he meant that night.

Although we prepared the right gear, we didn’t anticipate how frigid and uncomfortable the rain would turn the event into. The extreme drop in temperature, windchill, and precipitation which persisted into the early hours of the morning made us doubtful about reaching the summit when we awoke at 4 am the next day.

Throughout the night I tossed and turned, unable to get any quality sleep. It didn’t help that Edric wore a pink panther shawl around his neck which had big paws on it that kept slapping my face each time he turned his body (see photo above). Moisture also entered the floor of our tent. Had it not been for the inflatable padding my father-in-law lent Edric and me, we would have been sleeping on a layer of icy water.

Throughout the night the wind battered our tent but thankfully it returned to its form after each onslaught. Our group of eleven which included my brother, his two sons, my sister and her husband, four friends from our discipleship group plus Edric and I had it better than others who pitched on higher ground which made them even more vulnerable to the wind and cold. We found a spot surrounded by miniature bamboo that created a natural barrier around us. Some people whose tents were more exposed to the elements had to evacuate and transfer into sturdier, Conquer ones. (That’s a plug for my friend!)

By 6 PM, hope of sunlight emerged as some color returned to our surroundings. But the sky remained cloudy and it’s grayness concealed what should have been a beautiful display of the sun rising. Campers awoke to a nervous energy as the group discussed whether to attempt the ascent or wait it out some more. At first the guides were unwilling to take us up but after some persuasion they agreed to do so. Not everyone decided to abandon the shelter of their tents but there were a good number of us who were intent on making it to the summit.

Edric and I were part of the first group. With our hands stinging from the painful cold and our bodies bundled up in several layers so that only a portion of our faces was exposed, we proceeded to trek upwards behind our guide. At certain moments, our balance was compromised by the force of the chilly wind as it beat heavily against us. But we pressed on. The walking produced body heat that warmed us to our extremities.

Three-fourths of the way our guide decided to wait for the rest of our team. Edric and I couldn’t hazard stopping for fear that our body temperatures would drop, so we kept going till the shadowy form of the last peak presented itself among the clouds. Adrenaline kicked in and we bounded up (well, Edric certainly did), and the feeling of reaching the summit was extraordinary! God used the wind to push the clouds along so that we actually had more visibility of the scenery below than we expected to have. We had to anticipate the timing of each clearing of the sky as these moments passed within seconds. The Lord also added the bonus of a rainbow.

What life lessons did I pick up during this climb?

Lesson # 1: Listen to your husband. On the day before our climb to Mt. Pulag Edric and I had an argument about whether a porter should carry my bag. He thought I shouldn’t rely on a porter while I insisted on having one. My plan was to wear a waist pack and turn over all my other belongings to the porter whom I hoped would trail along right behind me in case I needed to access my windbreaker or fleece. “This is good livelihood for them”, I reasoned with Edric, but he turned toward me with an annoyed look on his face and blurted something like, “You are being a baby!”

Of course this triggered a defensive reaction on my part and I pridefully argued that I birthed five kids without anesthesia and I am the type of person who is low maintenance and the farthest thing from fussy. So that’s how our packing experience began.

We went back and forth for a while until we finally apologized to one another, and I also gave in because I knew that disobeying him would lead to my demise. Stuffing my essentials into my back pack, I psyched myself to bear the burden of it.

Well, I am so glad that I listened to Edric instead of forcing his hand to give in to my glamping version of climbing. When we got to the Ranger Station, most of the porters didn’t show up. They must have assumed that the weather forecast would dissuade climbers from coming to Mt. Pulag. So I wouldn’t have had the luxury of paying a porter to carry my bag had I banked on one to do so. Edric gave me a knowing look and I acknowledged with a, “Yes, you were right,” which he always appreciates hearing from me.

Furthermore, since the weather changed quickly over the course of our ascent, having my jackets and beanie readily available to was a big blessing.

Lesson # 2: Learn from others who actually know what they are talking about. People dish out all kinds of advice (about anything) assuming that Google gives them credentials to do so. Yes, I even do this sometimes. But there’s nothing like learning from people who have actually experienced things like parenting, marriage, financial stress or success, endured trials and surmounted them, and in this case, climbed real mountains. After talking to at least three people who knew what Mt. Pulag was really like, I internalized their advice and panic-bought what I didn’t have in my closet and couldn’t borrow.

Under-preparing for this experience would have been disastrous for us. However, Edric and I got the things that mattered most during this climb which saved us from hypothermia. 1. Waterproof shoes 2. Hiking socks t prevent blisters 3. A waterproof and windproof jacket. 4. Fleece layer 4. Thermal layer 5. Protection for the face, head, and ears. 6. An insulating pad for the floor of the tent to elevate our sleeping bags and cushion our spines 8. A sturdy but light-weight tent.

Lesson # 3: Trust God. Everyone was praying that the sky would clear so the climb would be more pleasant. I know many of us were disappointed that it kept raining through the night and that the cold was near insufferable for us tropical folks. However, we also continued to believe that God would make a way for us to get to the summit and see the wonders of his creation from the peak. And we did! He let us catch a glimpse of his glory and faithfulness as the wind which had been so dreadful actually exposed the blue sky above, the mountains and valleys below, and the sea of clouds that Mt. Pulag is famous for.

Another amazing miracle was that our large group got permission to pitch all our tents at Camp 2. Previously, we were informed that the group had to split in two because of its size. About forty would stay at Camp 2 and the rest would start their climb from Ranger Station at 1 am and proceed directly to the summit. Given that the weather was horrible, the second group would have suffered a great deal or given up. There is no way they would have completed their ascent. However, God granted us favor and the group was allowed to stay together so that no one was out climbing when the weather was at its worst.

Lesson # 4: Success is rarely achieved alone. Having Edric by my side and friends and family members who were a source of encouragement, humor, and wisdom during the experience made me realize that we all need support and company as we journey through life. Furthermore, the right relationships matter. Our Mt. Pulag team was determined to finish well. In life you want to be with those who are intentional and purposeful about their choices and goals.

Being with Edric in the tent, suffering together in the cold also gave me courage and peace. As long as we were together I wasn’t worried. I knew he would take care of me. We would finish this feat together, as a team.

Lesson # 5: Perseverance through trial results in strength of character. There were moments when I battled thoughts like, What am I doing in this miserable cold? This is a life-threatening situation! Why did I agree to do this?!

Yet the struggle to survive proved beneficial for my character growth. I needed the affliction to muscle me up emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope…” Romans‬ ‭5:3-4‬ ‭

First, it made me thankful. Being able to clean the grime from underneath my nails after I got home, enjoy a hot shower, and sleep under a comforter in a room with four walls and a ceiling felt like heaven!

The hardship also increased my threshold for pain which is so important in this age of instant gratification. I detested bearing the cold (which reached -3 degrees) but the ordeal made me realize that God gives strength to press on, keep going, and stay positive.

Life is not all valley, all hill, all plateau, all dessert or all mountain. There will be times when it feels easy and other times when the challenge is extreme. Yet in view of eternity, everything is momentary. And very often the points when it seem impossible to win only means that the victory is surprisingly close.

For followers of Christ, the greatest victories are to overcome sin and death. Both of these Jesus Christ did for us on the cross and when He rose again from the dead. Therefore we can persevere through all trials and all difficult seasons of our lives because of the hope that He gives. Our circumstances may not always change for the better but our destiny is secure.

“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 ‭15:55-57‬ ‭

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison…” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-17‬ ‭

Lesson # 6: Set your mind on home. Towards the end of our climb, as Edric and I descended the mountain, we talked about the highlights of our experience. I shared that mine was knowing that we were finally headed home. The mountain peak was awesome, the event was unforgettable, but it was the thought of home that excited me most. This mindfulness of home kept me energized the entire way down. Edric and I rushed back to the Ranger Station in an hour and a half even if it was supposed to take three hours!

As followers of Christ, the assurance of going home to him as we enter our twilight years or deal with the reality of sickness and hardship should supersede whatever fear or pain overwhelms us. I was excited about the thought of our earthly home but how much more joyous it will be when we enter our heavenly one. Whatever our struggles, disappointments, or triumphs may be, the best is yet to come.

“Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord- for we walk by faith, not by sight- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:6-8‬ ‭

Would I climb Mt. Pulag again? Maybe not at the same time of the year! But I have no regrets. I came down from that mountain marveling at the handiwork of God and his faithfulness, a renewed respect for mountaineers, a deeper appreciation for Edric and our marriage, a special memory to cherish with family and friends, wisdom and grit from the character-building journey, a sense of gratitude for the blessings of food, clothing, and shelter, and a yearning for my heavenly home.

God Loves Single Moms

After Edric and I give parenting talks, many single moms come up to us feeling discouraged and anxious because of our emphasis on the role of a father. They tend to fear that their children will not grow up with the support and mentoring they need from a dad. We often encourage them by saying that God is gracious and then give them practical tips on how to parent alone. However, our vantage point is still different and single parenting is best explained from the perspective of someone who is actually in a position to say what the challenges are and how to surmount them.

Last weekend, Edric and I were in Cebu with friends Mel and Cathy Po, where we had the privilege of speaking alongside actress, Jodi Sta. Maria to a large gathering of Ateneo parents. Jodi shared her journey as a single mother and she itemized these life lessons: 

Security – a child longs for security. It’s possible for a single parent to meet this need by being available and creating a home environment where a child knows that unconditional love and forgiveness abound.

Identity – a single mom’s identity has to be rooted in the Lord and she has to transfer this truth to her child/ren as well. God is father to the fatherless and husband to the husband-less. When a single mother understands how much God loves her, she doesn’t have to worry about how others label her or judge her. Her identity is hidden in Christ, therefore her joy and peace also come from her relationship with Him. These are not dependent on circumstances or others. 

Non-negotiable Date Time – Since single moms tend to get busy trying to provide financially for their child/children, it’s important to safeguard date nights with them. These are predictable moments in the week when children can look forward to bonding time with mom. 

God-centered Parenting – Pschologists, the media, and books will have all kinds of opinions about how single parents should teach, train, and raise their children. However, the best source is still God’s word. He is the author of parenting. Principles such as Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go so that when he is older he will not depart from it, and Deuteronomy 6:5-7 – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and teach your children to do the same, are still applicable to solo parents and their kids. 

Love as Motivation – Children are inspired to change, to improve, to excel when they know with certainty that they are loved. Unconditional love is a powerful motivator. Not only should our children be assured that we love them no matter what, we also have to make choices for them that are based on unconditional love verses selfishness. Whether single parent or not, this is a real struggle. “Let all that you do be done in love.”‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭16:14‬ ‭

Educate Yourself – Every parent needs a doctorate degree in parenting. But no school exists for this sort of degree! So we have to attend biblical parenting seminars, read books, and surround ourselves with parents who have successfully raised their own children so we can learn from their mistakes and victories. Edric and I continue to grow in our parenting from getting together with other couples who are also committed to teaching and training their children. We exchange “best practices.” Single parents can do the same. 

Memories Last Forever – Invest in memories. Some of my fondest memories are of my childhood years, sitting around the dinner table as a family, exercising together, traveling, and vacations. These are forever imprinted in my heart and mind…as they will also be for kids of single parents who deposit fond memories into the emotional banks of their kids. 

Overcome the Circumstance as a Family – I would like to add that you can have a new “team” of people who will become your child’s family to provide the emotional and spiritual support you both need. No parent should be an island. “It takes a village to raise a child” is such a true statement. So find that village of people. Maybe it’s your parents who can come along side you to help you parent. Or maybe it’s a sibling and his or her family who can be part of your child’s growing up years to fill in the gaps. 

Manage Your Time and Priorities – When I had the chance to ask Jodi (who is super humble and down to earth) how she balances being an actress and parenting her son, she revealed, “I don’t take on multiple projects at a time. I used to, but I don’t anymore.” 

She admitted that she has earned the freedom and respect from the industry to turn projects down, which is a blessing from the Lord. However, I am sure it’s not easy to say no to good sources of income as a single mom. Jodi is a great example of someone who works hard to be a provider but recognizes that God is her ultimate provider. Prioritizing her son, as well as giving time for her weekly discipleship group, speaks volumes about her desire to put what’s most important first. It’s no wonder God is also blessing her career! 

I want to end this entry with a passage that I read a few days ago that I feel is so perfect for single moms. Whether you are a widow or abandoned by the man who should have been committed father to your child, may this minister to you. God loves you, single mom! If you honor Him and obey Him, He will certainly uphold you and provide for you. 

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. ‘For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth. ‘For the LORD has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even like a wife of one’s youth when she is rejected,’ says your God. 

‘For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you,’ says the LORD your Redeemer.

‘For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken,’ Says the LORD who has compassion on you. ‘O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires…All your sons will be taught of the LORD; And the well-being of your sons will be great.’

‘In righteousness you will be established; you will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; and from terror, for it will not come near you. No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭54:4-8, 10-11, 13-14, 17‬ ‭

Healthy Calories for Kids

My kids are naturally thin, which I know is better than being fat. But their slimness concerns me when they get sick because they tend to lose weight. So my goal is to get healthy calories into them. To keep it simple for me (since I have so many kids), this is my simple plan for them this 2017: 

1. For fat – REAL butter not margarine, and use olive oil as much as possible

2. For carbohydrates – Brown rice mixed with white rice at least twice a day. Bread is okay, occasionally. 

3. For protein – Cheese, Eggs and Chicken (Bounty Fresh because they don’t have hormones or antibiotics), Fish, and beef. But we lean more towards fish and chicken.

4. For fruits & vegetables – Large servings of fruits at breakfast and fruits for snacks. Serve a variety of vegetables for lunch and dinner (require kids to eat veggies). A person once asked me, “How do you get your kids to eat vegetables?” Well, first, you need to teach them to obey. Then you tell them, “Eat your vegetables,” and they will! 

5. Give vitamins. 

6. Drink milk twice a day. Our younger kids drink Friso. (It’s easier on the stomach.)

Here are some recipes I also came up with to sneak in the twice a day recommending milk intake into their diets (especially for Tiana and Catalina):

Mixed Berry Shake 

1/2 c. Mixed frozen berries (from SM Hypermart, Rustans Fresh, or S&R) 
8 oz. Water
5 scoops Friso Milk Powder 

Strawberry or Mango Smoothie

1/2 c. Frozen strawberries or mangoes 
4 oz. water 
5 scoops Friso Milk Powder 
1/2 c. plain yoghurt 

Cold chocolate (once in a while) 

1 pack Chocolate Powder (Swiss Miss or Hersheys)
8 oz. Water 
5 scoops Friso Milk Powder 

Milk Ice Pops

8 oz. water 
5 scoops Friso Milk Powder 
Frozen ice pops tray to freeze the milk

Permissible snacks (beyond fruits & vegetables): Lentil chips, veggie or other chips (without MSG because my kids get skin reactions to it), raisins, prunes, nuts, butter and honey on whole wheat bread or peanut butter & jelly, cereal, cereal bars, and popcorn. 

Occasionally, they can have Cheetos and chocolate. As much as possible, I don’t put these in our pantry, not just for their sake, but for mine, too! 

I also have an app downloaded on my phone to track my kids’ growth which is super easy to use:

When Words Hurt

Proverbs says that life and death are in the power of the tongue. Life words inspire our spouses and children towards fruitful thinking and behavior, while death words tear down, embitter and demoralize them.

How timely it was when our Tuesday couples’ group discussed Craig Groeschel’s Soul Detox series which began with the topic of Toxic Words. What is the most hurtful thing anybody has ever said to you? What is the most encouraging thing that anyone has ever said to you?

These were the questions we were all asked to answer. So each one of us shared about instances in our lives, whether in our childhood, the near past, or in the present, when toxic or life-giving statements were made by family members, friends, colleagues or strangers to us. A number said that parents’ words were a source of deep wounds.

Yet I praise God that most of us applauded our spouses as the persons in our lives who have declared the most positive words to us. I personally thanked Edric for speaking two life giving statements that have meant so much to me. The first is, “I will always love you. There is nothing you can do that will change my love for you.” The other one is, “Don’t worry baby, I will take care of you.” These assuring statements mean so much to me!

To apply the lesson on how to avoid saying toxic words, Edric taught as a simple principle — three guidelines for taming our tongues: Right word. Right time. Right motivation.

Ephesians 4:29 commands us, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification, according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Although there may be instances when we need to correct a person, it may not always be the appropriate time to do so. As the passage explains, “according to the need of the moment.” Or, there may be occasions when we want to bring up an issue with our spouse, child, friend, colleague, or subordinate and our motivations are tainted by selfishness. Instead we are to consider whether it will bring “grace” to them. The motivation is restorative, to connect them to or back to Christ.

A few months ago, when our driver accidentally drove the rear car wheel of our vehicle over Elijah’s foot, I know Edric struggled to control his anger. As a protective father, his instinct was to lambast our driver right after the incident happened and pulverize him with criticism, even if Elijah’s foot ended up being okay. However, he thought through the repercussions of shaming our driver. Would this bring him closer to Christ? Would shouting at him testify to Christ-likeness?

Of course the answer to both those questions was, “No.” So Edric paused and denied his first impulse. Later on, in private, he had a serious conversation with our driver about how he could improve. By then Edric could speak in a calm manner while getting the pertinent message about awareness and carefulness across. Our driver, no longer rattled by his mistake, also responded to Edric’s instruction well and was extremely apologetic. Shortly after, Edric had the opportunity to share the gospel with him, which our driver openly received. I don’t think he would have been as responsive to Christ if Edric had closed the door to his heart by lashing out in anger.

I recall another incident when Edric, speaking for the first time before our church congregation, delivered a message that he felt lacked spiritual insight. He walked off the stage discouraged to face my father, who was mentoring him to be a Bible teacher. Expecting to be castigated and lectured he heard the words instead, “Good job. I know you did your best.”

My dad knew what Edric NEEDED to hear at that moment. Eventually, he looked for a teaching moment when he could advise Edric about how to preach a better sermon. However, the point is that he let some time pass so that Edric wouldn’t dwell on his discouragement.

Today, God has given Edric the ability to handle His Word accurately and insightfully. He has grown to be a very good Bible teacher, and this isn’t just a biased wife saying this. I believe God has bestowed upon him a gift for communicating with people. Yet I imagine that Edric may not have pursued this path had my father spoken the right words at the WRONG time when he was mentoring him.

We may not always be the recipient of the same kind of grace that the above examples demonstrated. Some of us may have been (and continue to be) battered and assaulted by abusive speech and negative statements. So how can we safeguard our hearts and minds from the devastating effects of toxic words?

First, we need to fill our minds with truth. After Edric and I broke up in our dating stage to honor God and pursue purity, the evil one bombarded my mind with lies like, “You will never be blessed because of your past mistakes. God will not love you the same way He loves your siblings. You are a failure.” The constant theme behind his deceit was performance-based acceptance. I had to “perform” to earn God’s favor, to do penance in order to redeem myself. However, I clung to the affirming truths that I read in God’s word.

Romans 5:8 assuringly says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” A few chapters down it also declares, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans‬ ‭8:1)‬ ‭

When we sincerely repent, acknowledging our sinfulness to the Lord, and cling to the grace He offers us, He promises that we are no longer condemned. Let us remember this when the evil one seeks to devour our peace and joy with his lies.

While our first response is to counter toxic words and statements with truth — also known as defense — our second response is to apply wise and grace-filled offense.

I recall an incident when one of my relatives remarked, “Catalina is dark, why is she so dark?” in reference to her skin color. It was a tactless comment intended to compare her to my four other fairer-skinned kids. God gave me the wisdom to reply, “Oh really? I love her skin. I think it’s beautiful!” I meant it, too. Instead of challenging my response, that same relative smiled and backed off.

There are people in this world who get a rise out of making comments to provoke others. I have received a number of these on my blog and Facebook Teach with Joy page that may or may not be meant to incite me. They certainly appear to be a challenge to engage in conflict. But I’ve come to realize that I cannot control what people say. The only thing within my control is how I respond.

Whenever I feel the urge to wield the power of the pen to embarrass or belittle those who hurt me with their statements, I have to ask myself, Will I honor God if my retorts are motivated by pride? Is it worth my time to battle with people who like to be combative, who are out to prove that they are right? Might it be better instead to pray for them?

If we belong to Christ, we are accountable to Him for every word that comes out of our mouths (and devices!) Instead of avenging ourselves, He encourages us to “Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke‬ ‭6:28)

Oh, I know that’s hard to do! But, the good news is, whenever we start to pray for people who verbally offend us, we actually develop a heart of compassion for them and we change for the better, too. This isn’t to our credit either. It’s because the act of surrendering difficult people to the Lord and elevating the issue we may have with them to a spiritual plane gives us a divine perspective. The Holy Spirit replaces our vindictiveness with Christ’s love and capacity to forgive. Therefore I believe God’s command to bless and pray for people who hurt us is also His way of shielding and liberating us from the anger and hurt we feel when we are victimized by them.

Since most of us live in community with others, we are bound to hear negative statements, accusations, and unkind things said about us. If there is room to improve then let’s humble ourselves and do so, but if these judgements are false and baseless, then let’s be reminded that we are precious to our Heavenly Father. If no one ever affirms us as special and important, He certainly considers us as such. When words hurt us we don’t have to retaliate or carry these hurts into our relationships. The truth of God’s love for us should anchor us so securely that we can speak life words into the hearts and minds of others and respond with wisdom and grace when people verbally attack us or put us down.