Archives for September 2017

Celebrate VS. Compare 

I was in the bathroom when Tiana rushed in excitedly, looking for a bandaid for her brother, Titus. She seemed anxious when I asked her why she needed it. “He has a wound on his toe. It’s bleeding!”

She voluntarily came to his aid and located the antibacterial cream that was in my closet, too. I watched her with pride as I thought of how sweet she was to help her older brother. It’s not uncommon for her to come to the rescue of siblings who aren’t well or who have injured themselves. Instinctively, she reacts with genuine concern.

Two days ago, Catalina battled a fever. Tiana was the first to recognize that she wasn’t feeling well, and suggested that Catalina rest in the guest room, which she transformed into a “hospital room.” When I went in to check on Catalina, Tiana had spread a blanket on her, turned on the AC, and put snacks and water on the bedside table. She hovered over Catalina mindfully and sang her a short lullaby. When Catalina decided to watch tv for a little bit, she walked her over to the family room where Catalina fell asleep. Tiana struggled to pick her up (she’s three fourths Tiana’s size!) Then she carried her to the bed to make sure she was comfortable.

In the afternoon, Tiana also wrote a note for Catalina and handed it to her. It read, “I love u, Cat.”


Catalina brought it everywhere she went. In the evening, I found it on her bed beside her. I asked Catalina why she kept it with her, she said, “Because Tiana gave it to me.”


I got teary-eyed as she gripped the letter in her hand while fighting her fever.

Edric and I affirmed Tiana for her servant-heart and love for Catalina. We praised her for being so sweet and compassionate.

Observing the way Tiana cared for Catalina gave me a renewed appreciation of her personality and strengths. She is an empathizer. Maybe someday she might go into social work or become a doctor (if that’s what God has in store for her.) Whatever it is, I am pretty sure it will have something to do with rescuing others and serving them.

In the past three years I’ve gotten stressed by Tiana’s ability to cope with academic subjects such as math and language arts. It’s taken her a while to develop numeracy and reading skills. At the age of seven she struggles with abstract reasoning and spelling. Yet she is a tender-hearted, kind, and thoughtful child who is emotionally mature and full of joy! In light of eternity, I do believe these are the faculties of a person that ought to bear greater weight. I am so proud of her!

Her academics will follow. I don’t doubt it, and I must remember to be patient and positive when learning goals aren’t achieved. In the meantime, I am affirming her in the areas where she excels.

In today’s world there is often an overemphasis on academic performance. Even homeschoolers can get suckered into this mindset — where we want our kids to be high achievers and better than everyone else. However, this pressure leads to performance-based learning and living, where a child’s self worth is based on how they fair academically. Of course, this also causes us to be stressed out and impatient when our kids don’t meet our expectations.

Instead, we ought to celebrate whom God made our kids to be, liberating them to “run their race” in life without comparing themselves to others or feeling like they fall short of our expectations. After all, God gives accordingly not sparingly. He isn’t stingy with the gifts he bestows upon our children. He is purposeful! Whatever abilities or inabilities they have are not hindrances to His power to accomplish His plan for their lives. Let’s not be a hindrance by forcing them to be what they aren’t meant to be. Let’s remind them to be thankful for their limitations, their uniqueness, and to do all things for His glory!


“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.” Psalms‬ ‭139:13-14‬ ‭

Walk in Love

 Titus, my third son has been wearing expanders for his upper and lower teeth for a good part of the year. He has large front teeth and his jaw is narrow, so his dentist, Dr. Marla Valenzuela, suggested that he get expanders to enlarge his jaw. These expanders are not cheap. They have also seen many adventures as Titus has, on different occasions, left them in places where he shouldn’t have, broken parts of them accidentally, and gotten them dirtied. During our recent trip to Singapore these expanders ended up in the trashcan of a Chinese restaurant, but I will get to that in a moment.

My husband, Edric, spoke on a series of topics during a retreat while we were in Malaysia on the theme “Radical Love Begins at Home.” 


His culminating message was preached at CCF Worship Service in Singapore with the challenge to “Love More.” Our kids spoke with us during different messages of the retreat and the day that Edric spoke at church, we spent time with the leadership team over lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

Titus, along with my four other kids, occupied tables with children of the leaders’ where they merrily engaged one another and played games. As for Edric and myself, we were caught up in conversation with the rest of the adults, exchanging stories about our faith journeys, marriage, parenting, and ministry. Since Titus forgot his expander’s case, something I’ve repeatedly reminded him not to do, he placed his expanders on a wad of tissue next to his plate before eating his lunch.

Caught up in his interactions with new friends, he didn’t notice that the waitress innocently swept his expanders (and the wad of tissue in rested in) off the table onto a tray that was cleared into a trash bin. Edric and I had no idea either as we were seated separately from him during the meal. As the lunch came to a close for us we excused ourselves from the gathering to rush off to a bookstore before our flight home to Manila. We had promised Edan a trip to Kinukoniya, his favorite bookstore, to buy a science book. Intending to keep our commitment to him before leaving for the airport, we collected our children and bid farewell to everyone.

It was at this time that Titus whispered to me that his expanders had vanished.

“What happened?!” I asked, dumbfounded, that he didn’t realize this earlier.

“I left them on a tissue, on the table, and then now they are gone…maybe they were thrown away by the waitress.”

I glared at him for a moment, unimpressed by his simplistic deduction of the situation.

“Hon, this is serious. How could you have lost your expanders?”

Titus, looking clueless and helpless at this point, made it difficult for me to be upset. He obviously needed a solution, not a lecture. Yet, I feared that Edric would react in an irate way when I passed the problem on to him. After all, we were in a rush and tight schedule before our flight home. I was going to propose that we leave the expanders buried wherever they were. I wasn’t about to go digging through the trash with my bare hands to sift through all the used tissue, dirty food, and mysteriously sticky goo! Most certainly Edric wasn’t going to do it either, not dressed in his Sunday shirt, and especially because he gets more disgusted by icky things than I do (or so I thought).

Amazingly, Edric level-headedly assessed the situation, spoke to the waitress and asked to be directed to the trash. Without hesitating, he dug his hand into it and felt for the retainers, pulling napkins and objects out of the trash to examine them one by one.

Was this my husband who was bent over the trashcan, sorting through the waste without making a single comment about how inconvenienced he was?!

It most certainly was! What a dad!

I suppose he saw what was really going on. This was a divinely appointed moment to apply four straight days of speaking about Christ-like love, and how it ought to impact our relationship with the family first. This was love in action.

After five minutes of consistent digging, he got one expander, then the other, as our friends looked on and cheered. Titus smiled in relief, almost too happy to realize that he shouldn’t put his expanders back on right away before disinfecting them!

I’m sure the experience profoundly affected Titus. Over the years he has gotten himself into a number of predicaments that required our intervention and problem-solving. Sometimes these occasions have been deeply aggravating because of how ridiculous they are. From getting his head stuck between rails so that we needed to carry his body and push it through in order to free him, to snipping his hair off so that his forehead was grossly exposed and exaggerated, to destroyed different electronic equipment in the home because he wanted to examine what was inside of them, to locking himself in a storage room so that the door had to be broken down, to swallowing a marble so that his intestinal area had to be x-rayed and I was told to examine his poop everyday with a stick to anticipate the exit of the marble, well, let’s just say that God has used him to teach Edric and I patience and grace. 


We do love him immensely and nothing will ever change that (something we’ve repeatedly told him), but these occasions do tempt us to react with irritation.

He knew that losing his expanders was a big deal. However, Edric’s gracious gesture quelled whatever stress he might have been feeling. (It certainly alleviated my anxiety, too! I didn’t want to have to pay for new ones!)

As we walked to the train station, Edric put his arm around Titus to let him know that everything was okay. He was forgiven.

If we want our children to be loving, they have to know what love is, to experience being loved, especially when they make mistakes. When the temptation to get annoyed, to be reactive, to lash out, to inflict pain with our words is strongest because we are disappointed, frustrated or angry, then we must tell ourselves, “This is the best time to demonstrate to my child what love really is.” 

I’m not saying that we should ignore our responsibility to discipline them. But there will be times when instead of a lecture, they may need us to listen. Instead of making them feel guilty, we can remind them that God gives grace. Instead of harboring hurt or bitterness against them, we ought to unconditionally forgive them and hug them. And rather than acting selfishly, we can imitate our Savior as Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
 

Blood, Sweat, Tears and Snot on Day 1

BLOOD. Our homeschooling year 2017 – 2018 commenced on Monday with Titus waking up to a nose bleed. It’s happened before, but this was the fourth consecutive day that he had one causing a measure of alarm. (Thankfully, the bleed didn’t recur following Monday.)

SWEAT. Catalina ran around the room, climbing furniture, and tumbling wherever she could like she had been injected with adrenaline. She appeared periodically at my side to get my attention with her hair matted to her face by sweat. Eventually, I asked Edan to keep her busy, which he did very effectively.


SNOT. Every five minutes Tiana had snot exiting her nostrils in a very unsightly manner which was uncharacteristic for her usually feminine and put-together self.

TEARS. About an hour into the morning Elijah had a meltdown when he couldn’t figure out the answers to certain binomial problems. He vocalized his exasperation and tore up his notebook page. (Hmm…sounds like something I once did with Tiana’s math book! Ayayay!)


To talk things over in private, I invited Elijah into my bedroom. I let him relax on the bed so he could have a break from his math work. It took a while to calm him down. I asked him if there was something deeper troubling him inside since his reaction over binomial problems seemed extreme. At first, he rejected my appeal to talk it over, but after using a soft and gentle tone with him, hugging him, and assuring him that I loved him no matter what, he started to respond. (Hoowee! The things we have to do to get our kids to open up!)

Although he initially argued that Algebra was irrelevant to life and he went on and on in an irate manner about it’s “pointlessness,” he eventually admitted that the real issue for his frustration stemmed from pride. 
At this season of his young adulthood, Elijah is learning to wrestle with failure and blocked goals. This is a good thing for someone who is very capable. Normally, he breezes through tasks with ease and confidence, which is great for me as a homeschooling mom of five. This means I don’t have to micromanage what he does every single day. He pretty much educates himself. However, Algebra 2 is proving to be challenging which is humbling for him.

He also shared that he needed to grow in intimacy with the Lord. Instead of treating his walk with Christ as a checklist of things to do – like reading His Bible, praying, etc – he recognized that greater intimacy with the Lord ought to result in the right perspective when it comes to homeschooling and self-control over his temper.

So that was my first day of homeschooling for our 2017 – 2018 year. It felt like a mess! It was emotional, trying, and we didn’t get as much of the academics done as I hoped we would. 


However, the kids and I are now a month into our 2017 – 2018 year. We’ve adjusted to the rhythm of our morning schedule, starting between 8:30 AM and 9:00 AM and ending by 1 PM (sometimes later for the older kids). I’m happy to announce that the stress has greatly minimized since the first two weeks. The kids are enjoying themselves and so am I. It’s a miracle! 

Elijah recently told me, “Mom, I realized that the logical thinking that Algebra requires you to do is actually helpful for my computer programming.” He actually appreciates Algebra 2 now and is doing splendidly in his math! Another miracle! 

My encouragement to homeschool moms who may read this is don’t give up when the day to day gets challenging. It is not easy to homeschool our children. However, through the years I’ve observed that the problems my kids encounter while homeschooling such as bad attitudes, laziness, and uncooperativeness, are rooted in spiritual issues. On the one hand, I can take the despotic approach and command them to “get their work done,” ignoring their heart conditions for the sake of accomplishing my learning goals for the day, week, month, or year. However, homeschooling gives me the time and opportunity to address what’s going on beneath the tears, grumbling, negativity, or slumped postures.  Homeschooling affords me (and Edric) the privilege of instructing their hearts. 

I believe that a proper education for our children goes beyond the shaping of their intellect to the molding of their character. While knowledge and thinking skills are important, the greater determinant of success will be their character. So when a morning of “school work” in the home is interrupted by issues such as bad attitudes, wrong perspectives, and lackluster motivation, I must welcome these interruptions graciously and treat them as important teaching moments. It’s not easy to do so when I want to plow through the day and get the academics done, but in the long run, it’s these moments of investing in their spiritual lives that turn my children into better students and better people.

So press on! God provides the grace and God will give us the wisdom to handle the different obstacles and trying situations we will face as we homeschoolers. And, the reward of children who  love God, who are strong in character, who push themselves to learn even when they don’t feel like it, who persevere through the hardships of achieving their goals, and who do their best for the Lord, will be well-worth the blood, sweat, tears, (and snot)!  

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans‬ ‭5:3-5‬

When homeschooling gets tough, let’s remember that God loves us and He has empowered to stay the course through the Holy Spirit! 

 

 

Elijah Shares About Gratefulness 

In Singapore, Edric and I got our kids to share testimonies with us. This is the one Elijah gave to illustrate the passage in Ephesians about gratitude:

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”‭‭ Ephesians‬ ‭5:17-20‬

Elijah: 

I am growing up in a world where everything is so easily accessible and instant. As an example, my Dad wore his braces for eight years because he did traditional braces (but also because he never went to his appointments). In contrast, my braces are called turbo braces and they only take six months to straighten teeth…but it still feels like a very long time to me.

To be honest, I struggle with being patient and not getting what I want when I want it, but I praise God for my parents who are intentional about teaching my siblings and me how to be content and grateful.

Here are some practical ways they try to teach us this value (please forgive me if this is stuff you have heard before).


Typically, we receive several gifts from our relatives and friends during Christmas and birthdays. Because our parents do not want us to get tired of all our gifts quickly, they only allow us to open one gift at a time.

They want us to learn to wait. For the last two years, Catalina my sister was not allowed to chew gum because my Dad wanted her to wait. She would ask almost everyday and my parents would tell her, “when you turn four.” When she was finally allowed to eat gum just this month on her birthday, she was so happy and grateful, but the downside was she ate almost twenty pieces on the day of her birthday. Thankfully, gum is illegal in Singapore so this will be good for her.

Growing up, if we wanted something and we were fussy about it, our parents would tell us to stop fussing or else we wouldn’t get it. Continued fussing meant we would be disciplined. Instead of fussing, we were encouraged to say okay mommy or okay daddy with a good attitude. When we didn’t get to go to Kinukoniya bookstore the other day and one of my brothers was so disappointed because he researched how to get there and we had walked halfway. But my dad said we would be late to our meeting with the Ccf organizers of the retreat so we had to walk back. My brother started to tear but then he chose to change his attitude and chose to smile despite his bad mood. I know it was hard for him and I was blessed by his good example.

We were also taught by my parents not to be entitled about things like gadgets. When we want to have a gadget, our parents will either give us an old, half-broken hand-me-down or they will make us pay for it ourselves. Once, I asked my parents if I could get an iPad. They said that I would have to use my saved money and money from jobs I did with my Dad, like speaking engagements. After several months of hard work and hard research, I finally saved enough money to pay for 75% of the total price because Dad was gracious. Paying hard earned money for the device taught me that money doesn’t grow on trees. It helped me to learn to appreciate the things I have.

To further teach me about hard work and responsibility, and how to be grateful, Dad took me mountain climbing for four days out in the wild. I had to live with little and life was hard. We climbed over different terrains, like farms, forests, boulder trails, and 87 degree cliffs up the tallest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo. No showers, toilets, and I even learned how to kill a chicken so I could have something to eat. These experiences taught me how to be thankful for everything, even the roof over our heads. After three days of climbing, some kind villagers offered their home for us to sleep in. It felt so nice to have a real roof over our heads and a little more leg room. When I got home it felt like coming back to a five star hotel!

My personal conviction is that gratitude is a byproduct of our perspective on God. If we trust that he loves us and wants what is best for us then we won’t complain if we don’t get what we want.

When I was six, riding in the car with my Mom, I pressed my face against the window because I had a hard time reading the billboards. My mom and dad took me to the doctor and my eyesight was 250. I felt so discouraged. But my parents reminded me of the passage in Jeremiah 29:11, which I also had read in my quiet time. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

This really comforted me because I knew that even if God didn’t bring healing to my eyes, he had a good plan for me. Today my eyesight has gotten even worse. It’s like 500. Sometimes I get anxious that I may go blind and I feel bad because I keep praying for my eyes and God doesn’t answer with a yes to heal them. But God does remind me to rejoice. Someday I will see clearly in heaven.

If we are followers of Christ, our best life is in eternity and our lives here are so short. So I am looking forward to having perfect eyes in heaven! (And Lord willing, laser surgery when I am old enough.)

I am still learning gratitude and how to be thankful in all things. So please pray for me to always have the right perspective and not be entitled or a complainer.