Archives for January 2018

Growing in Patience

One of my big struggles as a mom is patience…patience while homeschooling, especially while homeschooling my girls. Today I was tempted to get annoyed again when one of them couldn’t understand a concept that she had learned many times.

“What is 10 divided by 10?” I asked.

“30? No, 20? Hmm…5?” She replied. Obviously guessing.

When I give her manipulatives to work with she does much better so that’s how I have adjusted my instruction. However, the struggle is so real for me. I want to shout or throw something in exasperation at times. It’s only by God’s grace that I don’t do either. Yet I feel the rising anger inside and it takes the Holy Spirit’s power to suppress it and respond with grace instead.

When people ask what does it mean to be filled by the Holy Spirit, and is it a one time thing? The answer is it’s a day by day, moment by moment surrender of the will and self to the Lord.

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions…Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:16-17, 24-25

It’s saying, “Please take over because I am going to mess this up. I am desperately dependent on you to do what is right.”

By God’s grace my daughter told me recently, “Your tone has improved a lot and you are more patient.”

Whew. Praise God! Homeschooling is also an education for me, a character education!

Let’s not get discouraged when we find ourselves in predicaments where the ugly is about to come out of us. To the degree that we are weak, we are strong in the Lord. Our inabilities and incapacities give us the opportunity to experience that we can bless when we feel like cursing, press on when we are tired, and be patient, accommodating, and gentle when we want to express anger.

Never believe the lie that you and I can’t change. We can change when we yield to the power of Christ in us.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Learning to Wait as a Wife

More often than not, my husband, Edric, is an action man. He is goal-oriented and mission-focused. He didn’t use to be this way. Earlier on in our marriage he tended to procrastinate which would stress me out. Today, he plans ahead and follows through. I have great confidence in his leadership and ability to make things happen.

However, this doesn’t mean that we always feel as strongly about what is urgent and what isn’t. Occasionally, when I need his input, a decision from him, or when I want to finish a task right away and Edric doesn’t share the same conviction about it then we have conflict.

Lately, our disagreements have revolved around purchasing tickets and confirming trips that we have blocked off as a family this year. I want to book tickets and go on certain vacations and he is of the mind to hold back and manage cash flow. I get this. Of course we have to pay attention to budgets and be wise about our spending. Edric is trying his best to be a faithful steward of our finances and investments and he made some big purchases and business decisions last year so we aren’t as liquid. But I have been comparing our spending capacity to my siblings again and been disappointed that they got all their tickets for similar trips we are supposed to take. We weren’t able to do the same because Edric didn’t think it was the right time to buy, even if the deals were good.

So there I was, feeling disappointed and jealous. I did my best to research options and I sent these to Edric hoping to convince him to jump on the deals. Plus, my greater fear was that delaying ticket purchasing would limit our options later on. However, Edric insisted that we wait. I wanted to argue and insist, Why? I have money, I will just pay for it. Inside I was grumbling and annoyed that he didn’t want to be expedient about it.

At the same time, we had just ended a weeklong prayer and fasting at our church, so there was the spiritual perspective to be had in all of this. God reminded me to pray. So I prayed something like this, “Lord, teach how to be patient and not to insist on what I want.”

God also showed me this verse: “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU.” (Hebrews 13:5)

It was so spot on. I was struggling with contentment again, evidenced by my anxiety and frustration over waiting for Edric to make a decision. God quieted my heart and convicted me about my lack of faith and trust in Him.

If Edric is trying his best to manage cash flow and expenses, then why do I to rush a decision or manipulate him to act immediately? Can I not rest and be patient in order to experience God’s better plan through his leadership?

So I backed off and quit nagging Edric. Worse case, if we didn’t get to go on the trips I really really want to this year will it kill me to forfeit these things? I will feel sad and wish otherwise but the truthful answer is, No. I will still have much to be thankful and grateful for.

I thought I would share this experience to encourage those of you who tend to be like me. We often think we know better than our husbands and want our way, right away. We don’t appreciate it when they take their time to make a decision. It makes us restless and worried that we are going to miss out on something that’s important and valuable to us. The reality is maybe there will be instances when their delayed action results in a loss of some sort. However, when we choose to trust God by honoring our husbands’ authority and wisdom, He protects us from greater loss. We don’t always see what He saves us from or the blessings He has in store when we obey and submit in faith, but He is most certainly a God who rewards those who act in faith. As Hebrews 11:6 reminds us, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

Well, what if we can’t always trust our husband’s decisions because of their poor judgement and character? Surely there are situations when we question their moral authority and feel like if we don’t step in and take action, take matters into our own hands, then our husbands will make major mistakes that compromise the well-being of our families. I am deviating from airline tickets to more significant decisions.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land.'” (Jeremiah 17:5-6)

In other words, don’t rely on people, our spouses or our own strength to deliver us or save us from future misfortune and problems. This kind of thinking very often leads us to compromise God’s principles, which then results in greater negative consequences.

For example if a wife were to say, “I have no confidence in my husband’s decision-making capacity because he has failed me so many times, so I will take charge and do what I think is right for me, for my family, even if it means not being submissive to him or honoring his authority,” will this really solve the root issues of that marriage and of these persons?

It is not the husband’s bad leadership that is the main problem. It is that the husband and wife have not come to a point in their spiritual journey where they have chosen to surrender their lives to Christ and made him Lord of their marriage. Therefore no amount of maneuvering or attempt to do things their own way (both spouses) will make themselves or their marriage and family better.

After all, we cannot violate God’s design for marriage and expect that it will lead to the blessings of protection, peace, and joy in the long run. So what can we do when we are married to spouses whose decision-making we do not trust? Whose poor judgement and character leave us anxious and worried?

First, we can give our lives fully to the Lord and ask for forgiveness for turning away from him. No matter how righteous and good we may deem ourselves to be, especially when we compare ourselves to others, the truth is we all fall short of God’s righteousness, and we need to repent of our pride, selfishness, lack of faith, and even, self-righteousness.

“The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (Psalms 51:17)

Second, we can humble ourselves before God and surrender our worries to him, honestly confessing our fears about the future.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” (Hebrews 4:16 )

Third, we can ask God to intervene, and shield us from the consequences of our spouses’ bad choices. God promises to protect his children.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need. Even strong young lions sometimes go hungry, but those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.” (Psalms 34:8-10)

Fourth, we have to pray very intentionally for our marriages and our spouses and believe that God hears us.

“He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas.”

(Psalms 102:17)

“The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous.”

(Proverbs 15:29)

Fifth, we ought to live in a such a contagiously Christ-honoring and Christ-elevating way that our spouses will want Jesus, too. Our example will encourage their heart-change.

“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.”

(Ephesians 5:1-2)

Sixth, we we need to keep obeying God and walking by faith, trusting that He will bless us, our marriages and our families.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

(Galatians 6:9)

Seventh, let us go in peace, resting in the Lord.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you his peace at all times and in every situation. The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

In marriage, we do not lose by waiting on the Lord to speak through our husbands or to change the heart of our husbands. In the process of waiting, we grow in faith and endurance, learning to depend on God to protect, preserve, and fulfill his promises to us. Whatever the outcome, even if it isn’t always our idea of what is good, surely it is God’s plan for what is best!

I am looking forward to all the trips and vacations God will allow us to take this year, and the ones he will keep us from. And the good news is we actually have so many miles on our credit card to consume that we may end up paying less than what the airline ticket sale deals were offering! Edric showed me the options yesterday and I thought to myself, good thing I didn’t force his hand last week and pressure him to commit to make purchases earlier. Because of waiting for the Lord’s right time, He is opening up better options for us. Yey!

Brain Breaks for Kids

Whenever my kids start to get sluggish or de-motivated with their homeschooling, I try to give them “brain breaks.” Basically this means time away from their current work to de-stress and divert their attention to a more relaxing activity. However, it’s called a brain break because they are still doing something purposeful and beneficial for their brain.

Elijah is seen here taking a pause from his writing work, playing with a Perplexus maze toy. (The boys have several of these that they have collected over the years. Got them on Amazon.) Boys often need breaks from composition!

After about five to ten minutes, he returned to his work re-energized.

Here, Edan and Titus are helping Catalina assemble an art toy she got for Christmas.

Sometimes, I let Titus hold a globe and quiz him on locations of countries, cities, bodies of water. He loves geography so this is a fun brain break for him.

Edan is teaching Catalina reading for me while he waits to do his next assignment…(He really likes doing this which is a blessing to me!)

During other times, I let my sons read a page or two of a book they are enjoying in between what they are doing, just to break up the monotony.

Brain breaks can also include doing some art, eating a snack, singing or dancing, doing some research about a topic online, or solving a fun puzzle. Basically, the idea is a five to ten minute period to get them away from something that may feel long and tedious in order to give the brain time to rest and relax over an activity that is enjoyable to a child. It’s also necessary to know what my kids like and are interested in otherwise a brain break will feel more burdensome than de-stressing. After a brain break, I find that my children come back to the task at hand with renewed energy and resolve, and we get through the homeschool morning just fine, as well as finish the day by noon or 1 pm. So these breaks don’t actually take away from academic time. They allow for maximization of academic time better because my kids can focus and re-focus without getting over-fatigued.

Hope this tip helps you!

Boundaries for Moms

This doesn’t work for my kids. If this was dad’s sign, it would work. My older boys know better, but my two little girls? Ay. They still manage to peer in from behind the door to ask me questions.

Sometimes as a mom it feels like there are no boundaries for personal space. I must have an invisible sign the reads, “Mom is available anytime, all the time.”

This includes following me into the toilet (for my girls) to conference with me, and when I am trying to nap, waking me up with non-urgent questions like, “Mom? Mom? Can I play with this toy?”

“Can’t you see that I am trying to nap?”

“Oh, sorry, mom.”

Twenty minutes later, when I am in wonderfully pleasant sleep…

“Mom? (With a tap to my arm or trying to peel an eye open) Is it okay if we watch some tv?”

I end up saying yes in my disoriented state, looking up to a child hovering over my body that resembles my worst nightmare at that very moment.

“Please stop waking me up to ask me questions, kids. I am sleeping!”

So my youngest skips out the door and announces to all, “Guys, don’t talk to mom while she is sleeping!”

I wish this could be a more obvious thing for my kids. Nobody should ever have conversations with anyone who is asleep. Please. It doesn’t even make any sense to write out that sentence.

Anyway, I find that as a mom, I need to elicit the help of Edric to get the kids to respect me. Normally, they obey and listen, and honor me. However, there are times when their tone requires tweaking, or they don’t come down right away when I am calling for them to sit at the table.

If my kids were all in the six year old and below category this sort of delayed response would merit a spanking on the behind. But with my older kids, they understand obedience and respect and there are occasions when they are simply distracted and don’t jump up attentively at the sound of my voice. So I have withdrawn privileges to discipline them. However, Edric’s laying down the laws of our home helps a lot, too.

So he backs me up, which is really nice, and has mini seminars with all the kids about how they are to respect me — namely in the area of tone of voice and responsiveness, and well, he can now add not disturbing mom when she needs her private time and space in her room. I am going to mention that one later!

How to Get Boys to Read

I always prayed that my kids would love reading but they didn’t all follow the same “path” to becoming proficient readers. Their developmental differences and personalities had to be taken into consideration as I taught them to be readers. However, there were a few things I did pretty consistently to encourage my boys to pick up books that I hope will help you with your son(s):

  • Read stories to them as infants, or as early as now if you haven’t started yet. It’s never too late. Even older children appreciate time listening to a parent read an entertaining story. My fourteen year old still enjoys being read to.
  • Teach letters and their sounds (phonics) as soon as possible. Even if they don’t start reading right away, familiarization with letters and their sounds will give them a good foundation for decoding words. You can identify letters and words everywhere you go, too — on signs, billboards, boxes, lists, toys, etc. If you make it like an “I Spy” game it makes it even more fun for boys. “I spy a letter O, can you find it?”
  • Use online reading programs to supplement your instruction. I wouldn’t depend on these to teach your child to read because a parent is usually more effective than an app or online program. To reinforce my instruction, however, I did use Starfall and Reading Eggs.
  • Study what they are into and get books that allow them to read and learn about their interests. You can start with picture books just to get them used to handling books. As they get older, they tend to appreciate books about adventure, machines, inventions, mystery and suspense, science fiction, comedy, war, etc. Forget about getting them into the Classics at the beginning. It works for some boys but not all of them. That can wait till later on when they are more confident readers. With Edan, he actually preferred comics like Calvin and Hobbes and Adventures of Tin-Tin to books with just text in them. (He’s my visual learner.) Now, however, he can sit through reading hundreds of pages of a book he likes.
  • Take them to the bookstore or second hand book store and make these trips feel like something special. “If we get our work done this week, we can go to the bookstore!”
  • Reward with books. Give books as presents. Elevate reading and learning through reading as a value and not just a skill in your home. A significant number of Christmas gifts this past year for our sons were books.
  • Introduce them to a good series or collections. A good series lures them in and makes them want to keep reading what happens in the next book. At present, my third son, Titus, is hooked on The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer. When Edan was younger, he had many of the Mr. Men books. Then he went on to Box Car Children, Choose Your Own Adventure, Life of Fred books, and at present, he wants the whole set of Horrible Histories, and he’s reading The Heroes Guide Series by Christopher Healy.
  • Appreciate and applaud their book reading. “Wow! You read that book?! It’s a long one!That was a hard one!” Boys like it when you are impressed with their skills. It appeals to their competitive nature.
  • Don’t compare them with others, especially their siblings. Elijah read earlier than the others, but eventually Edan and Titus got into reading, too. If the reading environment is a conducive one, they will get there so there’s no need to panic or worry that they won’t ever read. I have had to learn this truth with five kids. Each one is different but with consistency and the commitment to teach them to read, they do embrace it at some point.
  • Let them see you reading a lot and enjoying it. It also helps when older siblings set the example and talk about what they are reading about. That’s how Edan and Titus got curious about reading some of the books that Elijah was reading.
  • Limit screen time and accessibility to devices and gadgets. Don’t, for example, buy each of your kids a phone and an IPad or laptop, and upgrade them to the latest models regularly. Let them earn these, use hand-me-downs, or let them share a family device so time on it is limited due to multiple users. If they are always entertained by television and gadgets, it will hard to pull them away from these to sit down in front of a book.
  • Pray for them to love reading! I do this regularly. At the end of the day, any ability or capacity our children have are gifts from the Lord and He delights to answer our prayers for our kids. And with something like reading, the ultimate aim ought to be getting them to love to read the Word of God.

So my boys are reading well, praise God, now it’s time to work on my girls’ love for reading!