Archives for December 2017

Marriage and a Cramped Hotel Room

I chose a hotel that didn’t have a gym or restaurant because it’s fairly new so Edric was frustrated that I didn’t do my due diligence. He was right but I didn’t like his negativity so our evening was a little tense after we checked in to the hotel that had already been paid for in advance (we couldn’t rebook somewhere else without forfeiting the money).

In the past he probably would have stayed upset until the following morning, but last night, after going out for a bite to eat, he came back to the hotel room with a big bottle of water for me, to apologize for, in his words, “making me feel discouraged.”

His tone was sweet and understanding. It was like a Jekyll and Hyde instance where he left our room acting like the latter and came back as the former.

Truthfully I could have done a better job at picking the hotel when I had my assistant book the place. I merely scrolled trough Booking.com to select an option that was well-reviewed (which it was), and near the Hongkong Convention Center we had to be at everyday. However, Edric and I do enjoy our workouts and of course, we never skip out on breakfast. So these two were important considerations that I should have looked into. Plus, there was the space factor. It was the smallest hotel room we have ever stayed in. Ever. Like, if we had tripped in the room, we would have merely fallen against the wall instead of onto the floor because it wasn’t wide enough or deep enough to injure ourselves in!

Initially, Edric researched online to find another hotel to pay for even if it meant spending for two places since we couldn’t forfeit our reservation. That’s how upset he was.

Thankfully Edric forgave my mistake. I really prayed that God would speak to him when he left the hotel room because arguing about it would have escalated the issue into something ugly. Well, I am glad that the Lord ministered to his heart while he was out eating dim sum and noodles.

When he returned as a changed man, he explained, “I didn’t want to be a spoiled brat. That’s what God convicted me to think about. Why not be flexible and make the most of the situation?”

So that’s what we did.

The next morning, God allowed us to find a breakfast restaurant called The Flying Pan which served big American-type breakfasts on exceptionally large plates. Edric was in heaven. The next day we explored further and found the Brunch Club on Peel Street which was more my speed, quaint and tucked away. So one of our problems was solved — breakfast food.

As for the absence of a gym, we tried finding fitness clubs where we could pay per day but then decided to save money. After all, we did so much walking around. Edric managed to do push ups on the small space beside the bed. And I worked out my abs by the entrance to the bathroom.

Edric is the kind of person who tries to be thorough and exacting with himself. So when others mismanage his expectations it’s hard for him NOT to feel frustrated and disappointed. However, God gave him a wife like me, whose shortcomings he has to accommodate and be patient with.

As for me, I don’t like being around negative, demanding, and unappreciative people. Edric can sometimes fall into these behaviors when things aren’t to his liking or standards. However, I am happy to say that he is more often than not a positive person, especially in comparison to the Edric version 1.0 at the beginning of our marriage. Nevertheless, I need someone like Edric who refines me and keeps me from getting puffed up with pride. He is able to correct me areas of my life that others may not see. He also pushes me to keep improving and growing, which I need to do.

So there you have it…Two people who don’t always like each other’s opposing personalities, especially when circumstances highlight these differences. Yet we both know that God has given us to each other to chip away and cleanse the parts of us that need to be smoothened and purified. For Edric it’s his impatience. For me it’s my resistance to correction. (There are more undesirable qualities in us that God continues to reveal as well.) Therefore, both of us are better off with each other than without.

Perhaps I can summarize all of this with insights from Timothy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, where he writes the following…

The first part of making your marriage into a relationship that enhances growth is to accept this inherent feature of married life. Marriage by its very nature has the “power of truth” — the power to show you the truth about who you are. People are appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticisms from their spouses. They immediately begin think they married the wrong person. But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness of your heart — it’s marriage itself. Marriage does not so much bring you to confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a real, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it…Don’t resist this power that marriage has. Give your spouse the right to talk to you about what is wrong with you.

Keller points out that marriage allows us to see ourselves for who we really are, then he explains that it also allows us to see whom our spouses can become.

When people first begin to see the flaws in their spouses, some flee marriage. Others withdraw, downscaling their expectations of happiness almost completely and just learn to get along. Others go into a long period of fighting and blaming their spouses for their unhappiness. All of these approaches share one thing in common, however. One spouse looks at his or her spouse’s weaknesses and says, “I need to find someone better than this.” But the great thing about the model of Christian marriage we are presenting here is that when you envision the “someone better,” you can think of the future version of the person to whom you are already married. The someone better is the spouse you already have. God has indeed given us the desire for a better spouse, but you should seek it in the one to whom you are married. Why discard this partner for someone else only to discover that person’s deep, hidden flaws? Some people with serial marriages go through the cycle of infatuation, disillusionment, rejection, and flight to someone else — over and over. The only way you’re going to actually begin to see another person’s glory-self is to stick with him or her…Do you obsess over your partner’s external shortcomings, or can you see the beauty within, and do you want to see it increasingly increased?

There are moments when I fall back into feeling resentment towards the parts of Edric’s personality that affront me. No doubt, he feels exactly the same way about me. Yet, I have seen God transform him in so many remarkable ways that these changes affirm why it’s worth it to stay married to your spouse.

Selfishly speaking, spouses upgrade! You get a better version of your spouse with each passing year as the Lord works on his or her character. Of course you and I have to cooperate with His principles so we can be instrumental to this upgrading and not a block to it.

The other, more important reason is not so much about what your spouse becomes for your own benefit, but what Christ is making you into. None of us, married or single, will ever grow in substance or character unless we experience heat and pressure likened to what coals go through in their pre-diamond state. Even though the process can feel ugly, God uses people (our spouses for the married) and circumstances to refine us till we shine with the beauty that is Him. So marriage is a lifetime of preparation for future glory! Isn’t that a comforting thought when incidences and personality differences irk us?

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Edric and I discovered that our cramped hotel room was a divinely appointed, diamond-making space of a place when we changed our perspective and attitudes. This is what happens when we adopt the mindset that the apostle Paul challenges us to have. “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For we died to this life, and our real life is hidden with Christ in God.” When we recognize this and live this way, someday, “when Christ, who is our life, is revealed to the whole world, we will share in all his glory.” (Colossians 3:2-4)

Loving Our Husbands When They are Weak

I consider my husband, Edric, to be a strong leader, especially as a husband and father. Yet there are seasons when he is emotionally and spiritually down. It’s during these occasions that I must love him by being his strong ally and supporter. Being strong doesn’t mean I take over his role or start wearing the pants. Rather it means that I must come along side him to help in whatever way he needs me to, which very often translates to encouragement and prayer.

This past week, Edric got into one of his emotional slumps due to our finances. Because of his decision to let go of ANC’s On the Money, as well as turn down speaking invitations for corporations to focus on the home education business for the balance of the year, he began to worry about our dwindling personal income. Although he tried to process his anxiety with spiritual lenses, it was one of those moments when he was yearning for assurance and needed someone to talk to.

When I was a younger wife my style was to point out the mistakes that Edric would make and challenge his decision-making by offering my own supposedly “great” ideas and advice. My intentions were to “help” by course-correcting – redirecting his decisions or telling him what he should do. However, I’ve come to realize that this approach only made him feel more frustrated with himself and others. In this sense I was doing him a disservice. I had to recognize that my role was to help him fix his eyes on Christ when he began to feel the weight and burden of leading our family and the organizations he was entrusted with.

What does this mean? When my husband is feeling emotionally or spiritually weak, I should…

Elevate God to his rightful place in both our hearts — as sovereign, all mighty, and good.

Be thankful for what the Lord has given us. Avoid dwelling on what He may be purposefully withholding. In doing so, my attitude of praise can have a positive impact on Edric.

Pray with and for Edric to keep following God, honoring Him, doing his best to be excellent in everything he has been called to do, to be endowed with supernatural wisdom and capacity, and to trust the Lord’s plans and His ways.

On the afternoon when he opened up to me we took a walk in our backyard to survey the progress of our garden project. I could sense Edric’s readiness to confide in me. Apart from the financial concerns there were a number of business issues that disappointed and frustrated him. So, I had to ready myself. Don’t add to Edric’s discouragement by complaining, belittling, judging, or getting anxious yourself. Tell him instead, God has never let us down. He will continue to take care of us and provide for us.

I believe this with all my heart. God is always faithful. Although I too worry when Edric gets anxious about his business decisions and our finances, I settle my emotions with the reality that God is bigger and greater, and He is ever in control. When I come from this point of truth, I am able to minister to Edric during his moments of honesty and vulnerability. I am able to come alongside him and speak life into him, reviving his spirit.

Our husbands need this from us, wives. I wish I could say that I had a perfect score for encouragement but there are times when I let my mouth speak before I’ve thought through how to respond and Edric. As a result he feels no better for having confided in me. In fact, he will sometimes think that he ought to have kept his woes and fears to himself, since I only magnified them with my panicky reactions.

The good news is that when I do a good “job” as his encourager, it makes him want to share with me again and again in the future. More importantly, his hope in the Lord is restored and he feels spiritually and emotionally strong enough to re-embrace his role as a leader.

Personally, I feel the best part is when he actually turns to me and gestures for a hug. He needs a big, long embrace after we talk, just to know that I am there for him, that we are in this together, with the Lord, as a team.

That afternoon, Edric and I hugged for a while. Then we lingered on the patio, enjoying the breeze of the evening air while taking in the last rays of light that faded into the backdrop of a darkening sky overhead. We ended our heart to heart moment with prayer.

Immediately afterwards, God brought his comfort and assurance. He let us hear the sound of our children laughing in the background, as they romped around in the yard, among the holes and dirt mounds that the laborers had worked on that day. Edric and I directed our attention to their playful banter, so amused at their merriment that we couldn’t help but smile ourselves. We watched them jump from one dirt hill to another, barefoot and soiled, neither tiring or caring that night had settled in as they continued in their play, oblivious to our conversation or the concerns we had exchanged.

Their laughing voices were a wonderful reminder from the Lord that there is much joy in our lives to praise Him for! To hear our children enjoying themselves so unreservedly while playing in the dirt! They were happy and well, by His grace. What more could we really ask for?

More significantly, we dwelled on the reality that we have the God of this Universe as our Heavenly Father. What other riches can be better than the fullness and infinite largeness of Him? If we have less and own less, our God’s capacity to provide isn’t lessened. He remains the owner and sustainer of all things. And He will continue to care for our needs as he always has so that we can also care for the needs of others.

“For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:10-11‬)

Lastly, if our children found ways to celebrate holes and unremarkable dirt hills, might we not learn to see the win-less seasons of our lives with the same childlike wonder and faith, anticipating that we are merely stepping on a portion of God’s greater canvas? There’s a beautiful plan coming to fruition while pieces of us (our husbands’ lives as well as our lives) are under His divine construction. So why not perceive the mud as part of the adventure and enjoy it together?!

Well, the good news is that the Edric awoke the next day renewed in Spirit. God also spoke to Edric through His word and comforted him with promises.

“…No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

What did I learn (relearn) as a wife? I need to love my husband and support him through his difficult and trying seasons, when he doesn’t always feel strong or in control. These are occasions when I get to live out what being a helpmate means — spiritually and emotionally supporting Edric (and giving him big hugs and affectionate embraces) so he can go out and fight the battles God has called him to with renewed vigor and resolve!

Let’s stand by our husbands, ladies!

Have Intentions vs. Expectations in Marriage

When author and speaker, Casey Carstens of the World Needs a Father Movement, joined our family for dinner during his recent trip to the Philippines, we had the opportunity to ask him about his relationship with his wife, Jenny. He was honest and humble about his shortcomings as a husband, as well as his past tendencies towards being harsh and temperamental. The operative word was “past”. What radically changed his marriage, according to him, was the principle of intentions versus expectations.

“The secret to a good marriage is to have no expectations of your spouse. Instead it is to have intentions…intentions to bless, to help them grow in her faith and walk, to become all she can be for the Lord, and to pursue Christ-likeness. It’s not about an exchange, I do this for you so that you can give me this or that. Or, I won’t do this unless you do this for me. Instead, it is, I will commit to think, speak, and act in a manner that intends your highest good. If I am about to think, speak, or act in a manner that has any hint of self-centeredness then I will not think, speak or act in that manner.”

Edric and I have chewed on this principle for a while, trying to digest how it applies to our marriage. Well, this past week we better understood how problematic expectations can be and why these can’t be the focus of our marriage.

Edric and I were in the middle of worship when the speakers sounded really loud on our side of the auditorium. To muffle the sound, he asked for tissue to plug his ears with. I usually have tissue in my bag. But when I felt for it, the only thing that remained was the plastic for the tissue. No more tissue.

When I leaned over to explain this to Edric, he looked disappointed. I shouldn’t have made a big deal out of his facial expression, but I confronted him with, “What? Are you upset?”

This spiraled into a ridiculous discussion while we were standing singing praise songs with the congregation. Goodness. Eventually we apologized to one another towards the latter part of the service, however this wasn’t the end of our conflict.

The next thing that happened was I gave him bad directions while he was driving back home from a party. We ended up getting stuck in traffic on a Sunday. Sensing his irritation I challenged him once again, “What’s wrong? Are you upset?!”

I didn’t understand why he had to be annoyed. It wasn’t like we were in a rush to go anywhere. So when he kept asking me to “waze” how long it would take us to get home, I let out a disrespectful, “Wait!”

I didn’t like him pestering me. Of course he didn’t appreciate my tone or attitude at all.

Two days later, when we were getting ready to go to bed he thought he might be coming down with something and asked for Manuka Honey for his throat. I responded with resistance.

Instead of saying, “Sure, hon,” I mumbled, “I’m already in bed and tired.” Truthfully, I was. And I didn’t think he was deathly ill to need me to get it for him.

When he acted disappointed with me, I offered to get the honey for him just to avoid a conflict but he muttered something about not wanting to be an inconvenience. I retorted, “It is inconvenient to serve you. But that’s how marriage is, right? Being inconvenienced for each other?”

He thought I was trying to instigate a conflict so he retaliated with stone cold silence at first and then we ended up discussing this idea of expectations in marriage again. We couldn’t find a resolution that satisfied both of us. It was more like, I didn’t like feeling like he was so easily disappointed with me, over small things, and he was struggling with not feeling embittered with me, over small things.

So for the duration of three days, Edric and I were not okay. On the outside we seemed fine, but underneath we were upset with one other, masking our frustrations with busy-ness and ban-aid fixes like cheap apologies. At a certain point he got dramatic and said, “I don’t know what to do. I am confused about what I should expect from you or if I should expect anything at all.”

It wasn’t like he didn’t want to fix this. He just didn’t get what Casey Carstens meant about having no expectations, especially in the area of wanting to be served by me. Frankly, neither did I. It seemed like a rather unrealistic concept to be faithful to.

Therefore, it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that Edric decided on a conclusion to end our strife. But first he sat down with a group of older men who are mentors to him in order to get their wisdom.

He asked them what they thought of the principle of intentions vs. expectations. They could relate to his struggle and added their insights. One of them shared that after he battled cancer, he learned to appreciate his wife more and not demand so much from her. My dad, one of the men in this group, also added, “I can relate. I also like to be served.”

He admitted that having no expectations of my mom was hard for him as well. (I also know this because my mom and I have conversations about how similar Edric and my dad can be when it comes to wanting to be served.)

Edric phoned me shortly after his meeting. His tone was kind. According to him, listening to the men encouraged him. He very sincerely asked me for forgiveness, adding, “I realize that I have been selfish. Instead of thinking of what you should be doing for me and not reacting when you don’t serve me the way I want to be served, I want to serve you. I remembered the Christ has a lavish love for His bride, the church, which ought to be how a husband loves his wife.”

Back in July he had this same realization, but the impact had sort of worn off, so he re-emphasized his need to be this kind of husband.

Of course, I was overjoyed!!!

I am not excusing my own behavior and disrespect. I also had to apologize to him and really mean it.

Since we have restored our relationship and I can now speak about it with a good conscience, I want to praise the Lord for working in the heart of Edric. He has since been extra patient with me, choosing to serve himself when he notices that I might be busy or preoccupied. Last night, he came into the bedroom with yoghurt and he jokingly asked, “Do you notice this? See, I can serve myself.”

He has also been very encouraging and appreciative, telling me that I’m doing a good job as a wife and mom. That makes my day!

This afternoon, he brought Titus and Elijah to the dentist, something that I usually have to do. Since I had an all-day shoot for Friso, a milk brand I am a brand ambassador for, Edric volunteered himself for their appointment. In his words, “Don’t worry, hon, I will take care of you.”

He’s been using that line a lot since Wednesday. In response, I’ve been inspired to serve him more. There’s this deep sense of gratitude for his efforts to be flexible and less demanding.

Sometimes, in a marriage, one person has to adjust first and choose humility before the other recognizes his or her wrong. If both refuse to submit to the Lord and remain hard-hearted and prideful, the marriage isn’t going to get better, and conflicts will remain unresolved and a source of increasing pain.

There are days when God prods me to be the catalyst for healing and other days when he speaks to Edric to initiate the healing (like he did during this past week). This principle of intentions vs. expectations is still sinking in for Edric and me as we try to grasp its implications in our marriage. However, we both know it definitely has something to do with us seeking out the good of the other before thinking of ourselves, and relying on the Holy Spirit for the capacity to do so.

Ultimately, what comforts me is that God is at work in our marriage. We continue to be imperfect and to wound each other when selfishness takes over, but the curve is still looking like it’s headed upwards, by God’s grace!

The principle that Casey Carstens shared with us may not be explicitly stated in the Bible, but there is a passage that somewhat captures the essence of it…

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:3-5‬ ‭