Teaching Kids About Healthy Sexuality

The question “When and what do I teach my kids about sex?” comes up in parenting huddles, where moms gather together and air their concerns about how difficult it is to protect our children from the sexually-charged world we live in. It is seemingly impossible to completely shelter our kids from the images and messages that blatantly celebrate sexiness and sex outside of marriage.

Moms have opened up to me about their children being exposed to pornography at ridiculously young ages. My own kids constantly feel the need to turn their eyes away from magazine racks that exhibit half-naked women on their covers in places like groceries, hardware stores, and bookstores. These places are supposed to be family-friendly places! However, our children’s eyes are hardly “safe”. It’s also difficult to sit through television programs because the ads between shows aren’t always wholesome for kids.

Let’s take a realistic look at how challenging it is to raise our kids with healthy views and convictions about sex and sexuality:

– Nearly 60 percent of sixteen to eighteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly one third of thirteen to fifteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly 60 percent of sexually active teenagers do not use a method of birth control, and the same number of kids have never once talked with their parents about birth control.

– Ninety percent of kids surveyed believe in marriage, yet 74 percent say they would live with someone before or instead of marriage.

– Thirty-one percent of teen girl virgins say they have felt pressured by a guy to go further.

– Sixty-seven percent of teens who have had intercourse wish that they had waited.

– Over half of the young people in America claim to have had oral sex by the age of twenty-two.

– The average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography is eleven years old.

– Three million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur each year among teenagers.

– In the summer of 2000, Twist magazine did an online survey of ten thousand girls, over half of whom were under fourteen. Amazingly, 24 percent of the girls who said they were virgins responded that they engaged in oral sex.

– There are fourteen thousand acts of intercourse or sexual innuendo on primetime TV. (Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns pg. 17 – 18)

Even if our kids are growing up in a morally toxic world, the good news is we don’t have to resign to this reality. There are several ways that we can be part of the solution to help our children grow up with healthy views and convictions about sex.

First, we need a mindset change. Sex is an amazing thing! Sex is God’s beautiful design for creation, intimacy, and pleasure in marriage. Why have we let the media, wrong experiences and inherited perspectives distort this truth so that we are ashamed and embarrassed to talk to our kids about it?

Unfortunately, this means that most kids don’t have conversations with their parents about healthy sexuality. They also hear confusing, negative messages about sex from their peers, role models or media. When it comes to the “sex talk”, many parents simply avoid the discussion, wait too long before educating their kids on the topic, or they simply tell them, “Don’t do it!” The message that religious organizations often pass on is that sex is a BAD thing so don’t do it outside of marriage. As for the rest of the world, it’s all about safe sex practices — how to do it without getting pregnant or STDs.

We need to have positive conversations with our children about sex, letting them know that it is neither ugly or dirty. It is wonderful! So wonderful it’s worth protecting and safeguarding for marriage.

After having five children, I realized that all kids, at some point wonder how they physically arrive into this world. Some kids are curious at younger ages, others at later ages. By the age of 7, our kids pretty much understand what sexual intercourse is and why it is beautiful in the context of a husband and wife relationship. Edric and I have this conversation with them early.

We answered (and continue to answer) their questions without substituting cutesy names for their private parts. Here’s a summary of what we cover…Girls have a vagina. Boys have a penis. There’s nothing immoral with those words. The two parts fit together according to God’s design so that a husband and wife can express their love for one another in the most intimate and special way. When sperm comes out of the man’s penis and goes into a woman’s vagina, one of the sperms will meet the egg inside the woman to form a baby. When you get to a certain age, you will start to find a girl beautiful or a boy handsome, and you will want to share this experience with them. But God wants you to save this for your husband or wife because it’s such a special thing.

Whew. That wasn’t too tough, was it?

We try to have these dialogues in a straightforward, non- squeamish way. Edric is better at this than I am. Sometimes I get uncomfortable going through the details. But I praise God that we are on the same page about educating our kids on sex in marriage early. If they hear unbiblical views on sex from friends or media, they can cross-check this info with the truth we’ve told them.

It’s also important to explain gender differences early. Because we’ve helped our kids to properly identity their body parts and the differences between female and male anatomies, they understand gender distinctions as early as 2 years old.

I remember asking our sons one time, “How do you know you are a boy?”

One of them blurted out, “Huh? I have a penis!” Like, hello, mom, did you intentionally ask a dumb question? Of course he didn’t say this. But I loved that his answer was so confident and uncomplicated.
On a comedic note, when we moved into our home and our 4-year old daughter walked into her bedroom, she announced, “No boys allowed. This is the vagina floor!”

Edric and I busted out into laughter. Basically she meant, “This area is for girls only!”

Beside teaching our children gender distinctions, we also need to tell them that their sexual organs are to be treated as sacred and private, educating them on what is appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to being touched. 

So many kids today become victims of sexual abuse, molestation and even rape. Tragically, most of it happens in their own homes and they get confused about whether it is wrong or not. If these is anything that makes me angry, heartbroken, and terrified at the same time it is that children are so commonly violated in this way in this country. About 60 to 70% of the people who come to me for counseling can recall at least one instance when they were abused by someone, and usually it was a relative. And they aren’t coming to me for counseling for these past experiences per se. However it comes up during the session as I ask questions or as the person opens up to me about their history.

My struggle as a mom is not to live in fear and pass on this fear to my kids because of my own past trauma as a rape victim. Yet at the same time, I want them to be aware that this can happen to them. So they need to protect themselves.

Edric and I tell them, “Don’t let anyone touch your private parts. These are private parts. Other people aren’t supposed to see them or touch them. And if anyone ever does that and tells you not to tell anyone, you can always tell mommy and daddy and we will protect you.”

Here’s a great book that teaches kids how to protect themselves. Available through @belugadreams


We also tell our household help not to touch our children’s private parts, unless they are bathing the little ones. (By two or threeyears of age children can be taught to wash themselves.) We teach our little daughters to dress modestly and cross their legs, too, so they aren’t exposing their underwear. We tell them, “Sit like a lady.”

As parents, we also have to model for our children how a woman and man interact with one another, relate to each other, and how we fulfill our roles within the family.

Furthermore, dads should spend time with sons to mentor them and moms should spend time with daughters to mentor them. Edric took Elijah to Mt. Apo when he turned 13 so he could have a rite of passage into young manhood. During their climb they were with a seasoned mountaineer and his son, too.

After four days, Elijah came home scruffy, stinky, and weathered! He learned how to have grit, to push himself and survive difficult weather conditions. He also watched Edric very closely. On the mountain, they spent time worshipping the Lord, sharing the gospel with other climbers, and reading Elijah’s letters from family members for his 13th birthday.

Not too long after this event, Elijah wrote a touching letter to Edric that included these lines, “Dad, thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man because I need you to be my role model. I really look up to you and I want to be like you…” With happy tears, Edric and I glanced at one another and smiled. What a privilege to meet this need in our kids!

Our children’s first concept of gender identity comes from us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, they are observing us and looking to us to understand what it means to be a man or woman according to God’s design.

At the same time, we need to affirm their worth in the Lord because relationships at home have a significant effect on the choices our children make and will make, especially when it comes to sexual purity.
My dad used to tell my sisters and I something like this: Each of you is like a “Rolls-Royce.” Think of a common car versus something like a Rolls-Royce. Everyone gets to drive a common car. Not a Rolls-Royce.

What he meant to say was, “No test-driving allowed! Don’t let guys treat you like a common car because you aren’t!”
Granted, it was totally a guy thing for him to compare us to cars, but the principle behind his advice was important. He wanted us to realize that we are special, that HE THOUGHT WE ARE SPECIAL, that guys should treat us as special. More importantly, he demonstrated what it means to be treated as special by being available, encouraging, and discipling us. (My mom was the same way.)

Very recently I was counseling a beautiful lady who suffered the after-effects of a painful breakup and bad relationship with a guy who was controlling and manipulative. When I asked her about her family culture, she told me she never felt good enough or important to her parents. So she thought it was normal for a guy to treat her badly, too. After all, she was brought up in a family where she had to prove her worth in order to be loved. Her father also made her feel incompetent and incapable. She tolerated her unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend for a miserably long time until God opened her eyes to see that marrying this guy would have been a huge mistake. Up till this day, as an adult, she longs to have a loving relationship with her parents but she feels misunderstood and rejected so often by them so she finds it difficult to ask them for advice when it comes to boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.

As I listened to her, I was convicted to put extra effort into strengthening my relationship with my kids. They need that security from Edric and I, and they need to be able to trust us with their hearts so we can influence them to make wise choices.

In her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, author Meg Meeker writes that parent connectedness is the number-one factor in preventing girls from engaging in premarital sex and indulging in drugs and alcohol…Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention…76% of teenage girls said that fathers influenced their decision on whether they should become sexually active…

It’s only by God’s grace that my parents met this need for affection and the desire to be valued in my siblings and me. As a result, we weren’t as eager to seek out this need in the opposite sex. Okay, so I floundered the most in this area because I actually had one boyfriend in high school and it wasn’t a very healthy relationship. But my sisters and brothers, wow. My youngest sister’s first kiss was at the altar! She made it very clear to her boyfriend (the only guy she had a serious relationship with) that she had strict boundaries. No kissing before marriage!

Maybe you were more like me and made mistakes. And maybe you are a parent reading this and you know that your child is not staying pure. I hope this bit will give you hope, as you come alongside your child to pray for them and restore them back to the Lord.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you know that I had two serious boyfriend relationships before marriage. I didn’t have sexual intercourse with my boyfriends, but I did everything else. So I tell people that I struggled with sexual impurity to call it what it is.

Even if I was raised in a good home, I made the choice to go against God’s standard of purity by going “too close to the edge.” The fact that I was a victim of rape and sexual abuse probably made it easier for me to rationalize my choices but that wasn’t an excuse.

I remember my mom calling me long distance one evening while she was away on a trip, and she gently asked, “How are you and your boyfriend doing? I dreamt about you guys last night and you were doing something you weren’t supposed to.”

I knew what she was alluding to and I must have turned five shades of pale. God had spoken to her through a dream! Can you believe it?! I was so convicted and bothered. I admitted to my mom that my boyfriend and I were indeed doing something inappropriate. This wasn’t the only time I had to make a confession to my mom or my dad.

However, their emphasis was not on lecturing me, embarrassing me, or judging me. Were they hurt? Yes. Were they concerned? Yes. Did they have to set restrictions? Yes. But they did these things in a manner that was redemptive. There was grace and forgiveness in the context of an existing love relationship with me. This inspired me to please God because I knew that my parents wanted what was best for me. They had proven this for many years prior to me ever being in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

Author Jim Burns said that as parents we need to convey to our kids that “God created sexuality, and in the light of marriage, He sees it as very good. Our children need to know that God wants the best for each of them in this area of their lives. He is not the great killjoy but rather the creator and sustainer of life.”

Unless our kids are convinced that we are for them, that we are on their side and want what is best for them, they won’t listen to the values we want them to internalize when it comes to their sexuality. So let’s start investing in our relationship with them from the very beginning so that the truths we pass on to them about safeguarding purity will sink deep and take root in their hearts. They might not make perfect choices (like me) but may their relationship with us and with the Lord, through the power of prayer, hook them back and get them back on track.

Here are some facts that tell us why sex is best reserved for marriage: (Source – Ray Short)

Fact 1 – Premarital sex tends to break up couples.
Fact 2 – Many men do not want to marry a woman who has had intercourse with someone else.
Fact 3 – Those who have premarital sex tend to have less happy marriages.
Fact 4 – Those who have premarital sex are more likely to have their marriage end in divorce.
Fact 5 – Persons and couples who have had premarital sex are more likely to have extramarital affairs as well.
Fact 6 – Having premarital sex may fool you into marrying a person who is not right for you.
Fact 7 – Persons and couples who have premarital sex experience sexual satisfaction sooner after they are married. HOWEVER –
Fact 8 – They are likely to be less satisfied overall with their sex life during marriage.
Fact 9 – Poor premarital sexual habits can be carried over to spoil sex in marriage.

As I end this, I want to propose that committing to purity is a family thing. When Edric and I were a younger couple, we watched a bunch of cool TV series on certain evenings to relax and unwind. These shows had great plots but they also had scenes in them and values that blatantly celebrated unbiblical perspectives on sex. We would close our eyes through those parts or press fast forward to avoid watching the “unholy” stuff. But after awhile we were like, What are we doing? This is a waste of time and it is not honoring to the Lord.

We realized that if we can’t sit through programs like these with our kids because we don’t want their minds polluted, then why do we think our minds are exempted from being corrupted as well?

We are all called to holiness. Furthermore, it’s easier to encourage the entire family to pursue purity if we all use the same filtration standards. Here’s a great passage that gives us guidelines for what we should watch and listen to: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭

There’s nothing inherently wrong with media. But the evil one uses these channels to influence and infiltrate our minds. Therefore we must be discriminating as a family about the kinds of shows, programs, music, and movies we entertain ourselves with. Everything that we take in shapes our values and perspectives. 

Psychology Today tells us that “Today, children are being sexualized earlier and earlier, in part because they are exposed to sexual material in movies, television, music and other media earlier than ever…A 2012 study shows that movies influence teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors as well. The study, published in Psychological Science, found that the more teens were exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they started having sex and the likelier they were to have casual, unprotected sex.” (Psychology Today)

When our oldest son, Elijah, started using an IPad he purchased, he installed restrictions on it to protect himself from going on sites or accessing media that could be pornographic. I praise God that he was convicted to do this on his own, as a child. Now that he is entering the crazy hormonal phase of young adulthood, my prayer for him is that God will continue to keep him pure hearted. I pray that for all my kids.

Even if Edric and I try our best to raise our kids with healthy sexuality, it’s no guarantee that they will stay pure in heart and mind. However, I believe they have a better chance of doing so if we start teaching them young. As the Scriptures say, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Psalms‬ ‭119:9‬ ‭

I really like what Paul said to his young disciple, Timothy: “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know what your perspective on sexuality has been. Maybe you are a young parent, trying to figure out how to raise your kids right. Or maybe you have older kids who are interested in the opposite sex or already dating someone and you are worried about the choices they have made or will make. Or maybe you are a person who is struggling with gender identity or sexual promiscuity. Or you didn’t grow up in a home where you saw healthy gender roles modeled by a mother or father, or you experienced sexual abuse.

Whatever your life state may be, I want you to know that God has a plan for you, as the man or woman that he designed for you to be. Everything that you have been through He can redeem and make beautiful. If no one has ever valued or treasured you and if you don’t feel like you are not worth much because of your choices, you need to know that God sees you. He knows you. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. He loves you and He died for you because you are so precious to Him! He can purify you and me and restore whatever sexual brokenness we have gone through.  

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms‬ ‭51:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

TMA Homeschool Becomes Homeschool Global

TMA Homeschool has upgraded its identity with a new name — Homeschool Global (HG). After nearly 17 years of serving homeschool families, this rebranding better encompasses the plethora of TMA Homeschool’s support systems for homeschoolers.

As I write this, I may sound a bit biased because I’m directly connected and invested in this program. My kids are enrolled under HG and my husband is the President of this company. So let me just get that out there to be forthright.

 

IMG_0629It’s not a perfect program but it’s definitely a pioneer of the homeschool movement in the Philippines on many levels. It was the first-ever accredited home education program of the Philippine Department of Education back in 1999 as TMA Homeschool. It was also the first to offer high school accreditation for homeschoolers and U.S. accreditation for families who plan to send their children abroad for university. Students under HG have transitioned to top schools all over the Philippines. Furthermore, it offers an open curriculum system that gives parents the flexibility to customise the education of their child.

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HG was also the first homeschool provider in the Philippines to develop a portfolio system for evaluating children’s progress. Another plus is that HG has a host of advisors, both Academic and Family Advisors, who are homeschooling or have homeschooled, who are committed to helping parents successfully teach and train their children. At the end of each year, HG also implements achievement testing to cull data and provide parents with valuable information on areas of strength and weakness in their children, as well as comparisons to global norms.

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Since 1999, HG has served thousands of families both here and overseas. Through the years of dealing with all kinds of families HG understands that families need more than just accreditation and curriculum to homeschool their children well. They need to belong to a community, receive academic support, attend relevant trainings and events, get connected to other homeschool parents through cooperatives and playgroups, and have access to enrichment classes, testing services, as well as group learning opportunities for their children. They also benefit from being a part of a program that can represent their concerns to the Department of Education. These are some of the support systems that HG makes accessible to families.

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My kids will be having their portfolio reviews with HG very soon as we close our homeschool year. To be honest, these seasons can be stressful because I have to look through the work my children have done and make sure they’ve complied with the requirements for their level. Not every parent likes these reviews and some choose to homeschool with other providers who have a more cookie-cutter approach to evaluating children’s progress. Some parents still prefer the more familiar school-ish methods of testing and assessing kids given their own experience with conventional models of education.

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Personally, I believe that the portfolio method of evaluating student progress is a superior way of gauging a child’s total development. During a conversation with an official of the Department of Education a few years back, she acknowledged that portfolio reviews are the way to go and lauded TMA Homeschool for implementing this.

Pen and paper evaluations, although simpler to use and standardize, can only tell so much about what children know and do not know, while portfolios show things like projects, life experiences, research, compositions, applied learnings, and the unique creations of students. Kids are encouraged to present their work and talk through the highlights of their year, as well as synthesize their learnings, which is so much more like what they will be doing as professionals or business owners in the future.

Here are sample contents from the portfolio of my fourth grade son, Edan:

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Portfolios aren’t always displayed as physical folders, too. Older children often decide how they will put together their own portfolio. Many times this is in electronic form and they get to present to their peers as well as an advisor. (Elijah is busy finalizing his portfolio on the computer.)

I’m personally thankful for all the advisors from HG who have walked along side me in this homeschool journey and given me greater insight into my children’s personalities, strengths and weaknesses. The feedback from these porfolio reviews has been vital because it has challenged me year after year to think through how to better teach and equip my kids.

Beyond the personalised support, I suppose what HG really gives me is peace of mind. It’s assuring to know that my family is under the umbrella of an organization that has a long-standing relationship with the Department of Education and gets the real essence of homeschooling. HG is unique in the sense that it’s not just comprised of educators but of people who were homeschooled by their parents, people who successfully homeschooled their kids, people who are still in the trenches of homeschooling, and people around the world who are part of global homeschooling initiatives. In short, I’m pretty confident that HG knows homeschooling more than any other program in this country.

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HG Website: HOMESCHOOL GLOBAL

Facebook: HOMESCHOOL GLOBAL

Yet like I said earlier, it’s not a perfect program. I remember instances when Edric (aka the President) would ask me, “Is it worth it? Should I keep pushing the cause of homeschooling. I am tired.”

He would get discouraged when parents were disappointed with services or the organization made mistakes that compromised the homeschooling experience for families. But the feedback through the years whether good or bad has been beneficial, both to humble Edric and the team, and to make them revisit their motivations and evaluate the systems that HG implores to help parents.

By God’s grace, I have seen HG improve every year and I can vouch for the heart of the people behind this program, especially the President’s (wink, wink). I know that Edric and the team remain committed to changing what needs to be changed in order to help parents successfully homeschool their children.

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Okay, so let’s get real. At the end of the day, it’s not a program like HG that’s going to make your homeschooling the amazing experience it ought to be. It’s your commitment to the goal and vision God has put in your heart for your children. If that means God has called you to homeschool your kids, then choose a homeschool provider that will best enable you to pursue that goal and vision. For our family, this happens to be HG. But, you have a number of providers to choose from today versus 10 years ago. It’s a great time to homeschool!

Let me end this by saying that even if I highly recommend HG for personal and idealistic reasons, I’m first and foremost an advocate of homeschooling and I’m here to encourage you and equip you in whatever way I can. So whatever provider you settle with, may God enrich, empower, and bless you on your journey as a homeschooling parent!

 

 

 

 

Money & My Honey

When I married my husband, Edric, I knew that we weren’t starting off with a lot of money. It wasn’t an issue for me. I was a starry-eyed bride caught up in the romance of our relationship. Furthermore, his good work ethic and his desire to be a good provider made me feel pretty confident that money wouldn’t be a problem for us. Maybe we wouldn’t be rich but I was certain we would have enough. More importantly, Edric loved God and honored Him. God would surely bless Edric if he kept seeking Him first. This was the hope I clung to.

Well, reality set in within the first year of our marriage. It wasn’t easy having just enough. Admittedly, coming from a family with means felt like a big contrast to what we had. Enough didn’t quite feel enough. I couldn’t travel. I had to stick to a budget. Even if I didn’t grow up seeing my parents spend on luxury goods because that wasn’t a value of theirs, I was used to living pretty comfortably.

When I compared my state in life to my siblings and parents, jealousy and disappointment would settle in. God had to deal with my wrong perspective because the discontentment infected me with worry, stress, and frustration.

I didn’t want to be the kind of wife who made my husband feel like he wasn’t good enough, or a nagging woman who pressured him to be a better provider. After all, he was trying his best. Together, our incomes didn’t amount to a whole lot of money but he was certainly doing his part to “bring home the bacon.” So I had to learn to be quiet and turn over my fears and concerns to the Lord. Thankfully, God also used the years when we struggled to teach me valuable lessons about money.

BE A “THANKER” NOT A COMPLAINER. Although we didn’t have a lot when I compared myself to wealthy people, we certainly had everything we needed. God didn’t fail us. We always had food to eat and we didn’t have health issues back then. Our children were born strong and without complications. We could even afford to household help. So how could I complain?!

I’ve come to realize that whatever financial state my family and I are in is God’s will for us at that juncture in our lives. Therefore whether there is abundance or lack, rejoicing is in order!

LET MONEY ISSUES STRENGTHEN YOUR RELATIONSHIP. I’ve told this story before. As a young couple, we had one of those unreliable second-hand cars. It would break down and be a pain to get started when it was nearing the end of its life. However, Edric and I were able to laugh through these moments of car trouble. God allowed us to see the humor in our predicaments and enjoy them as romantic memories.

We would say, “Imagine if we had everything all at once, what would we have to look forward to?” Because we didn’t start off ultra comfortable, we got to dream together and encourage one another to keep hoping in God’s plan for our lives, including our finances.

Having a thankful attitude also enabled me to celebrate the blessings of others. I remember an instance when one of my kids told me that their cousin made a big deal out of their new SUV. A part of me felt annoyed at my nephew for bragging, especially because Edric and I needed a new vehicle. But then I realized it was a prideful thought. So I turned to my son and told him, “Tell your cousin, ‘praise God, I am so happy for you.'” I meant it with all sincerity, too.

Today, I still have to practice this perspective. When people around me succeed or increase in their wealth, I have to remind myself, “Be happy for them!” It doesn’t mean God loves me less when He prospers others materially. Whatever I have is God’s allotment for me and I can choose to be miserably envious or to be richly content in Him!

BE A CHEERLEADER. Edric invested so much effort and time into being a provider for our family. It was a burden he gladly chose to bear but it was a burden nonetheless. When he would open up to me about his defeats and fears as a man, God taught me how to speak life to his heart (something I had to improve on as a wife!). I built him up and communicated to him my confidence in his abilities. I cheered him on, reminding him that God would surely bless the work of his hands. I could say this truthfully because I knew Edric loved God and obeyed God’s will in His life. Yet even during seasons when Edric made mistakes God trained me to trust that He would redeem and restore Edric and be merciful to us.

Recently, I was speaking to a group of single ladies and I told them, “There’s no perfect man out there. He doesn’t exist. But you and I, as women, have the unique capacity to encourage and build up the man God has called us to marry and love. And our affirmation transforms him and empowers him to be the man God has called him to be.”

When the realities of our less than ideal financial situation sunk in early on in our marriage, I had to decide whether I was going to be a cheerleader to my husband or a discourager and life sucker. By God’s grace I chose to be the former. And to this day, when business stress inflicts Edric, I whisper to him, “It’s going to be okay, hon. God will take care of us. I know you are working hard and doing your best. I don’t doubt that He will bless the work of your hands.”

It still matters to Edric to hear this, as it probably matters to all men out there who need a hopeful boost when their thoughts begin to darken and their outlook turns bleak.

  IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY. God owns everything as the Psalms declare. “The earth is the LORD’S and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it.” Psalms‬ ‭24:1‬ ‭

Therefore every spending decision must consider God’s values and priorities. When women ask me about whether it’s okay to buy designer bags, I don’t guilt trip them by saying that it’s a sin. Rather, I encourage them to consider whether this is how God wants them to use their money. Designer bags and luxury items are not sinful things. Instead it’s the motivation behind their purchase.

Why do we buy expensive products? Sure, they can be distinctively prettier and yes, maybe the quality is a factor, too. However, can we say with 100% certainty that God would applaud us for spending tens of thousands, and hundreds of thousands, even millions on luxury items? Especially when we do so to ascribe worth to ourselves and convince others that we are somehow more special because we can afford to buy these superfluities?

It may not even be the extravagant things. Yet, we’re driven by a compulsion to acquire material possessions. They may not be expensive when placed in the realm of luxury, and yet we derive pleasure and joy from accumulating and hoarding. It could be toys for our children, clothes, gadgets, even groceries! (The grocery is where I go crazy!)

SURRENDER YOUR DREAMS TO GOD AND FOCUS ON SEEKING HIM. If there is one person who can keep our longings and dreams safe it’s the Lord. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present which assures us that He knows what is best for us. If a longing or a dream in in contradiction with His good purpose for our lives, then He will change these to something far better.

I wanted a home for our family at the 10-year mark of our marriage. This was my dream. It didn’t happen. As the walls of our condominium seemed to close in on our growing family, I entrusted the desire for a home to the Lord. Edric was convicted to give to the building fund of our church and he wrote a check that spelled goodbye to our house plans. Yet, God’s leading to him was so clear. “Build MY house first.”

In tears, Edric wrote, “God owns everything” behind the check and in faith, deposited the check in the offering box. Three years later, we moved into a home that God miraculously and supernaturally provided the money for! However, He intended for us to exercise faith with our money before He supplied for our dream.

“True humility and fear of the LORD lead to riches, honor, and long life.” Proverbs‬ ‭22:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

God’s economics are often counterintuitive to human reasoning. When we question our financial circumstances we must believe that His character will not fail us, even if His will may unsettle us.

No matter what season we have found ourselves in and continue to find ourselves in when it comes to finances, God has proven himself faithful. It’s never really about whether the money is enough, but whether we come to the point of recognition that God is ALWAYS enough and MORE than enough! ‬‬

“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

If you want more practical tips and lessons on how to handle money so it doesn’t handle you or cause issues between you and your honey, consider attending the upcoming Family & Finance conference this July 30. 🙂 To register: Family and Finance

Your Kids Are What You Eat

We binged on junk food when we got back from our trip to New Zealand and Australia. It was a good and terrible thing. I was bloated and lethargic after one night of joyous gluttony.

Normally, we don’t eat this way as a family. Growing up, I didn’t either. My mom fed us raisins, home made popcorn, and fruit for snacks. We hardly drank fruit juices, too. It was basically water. So I never acquired an appetite for coffee, tea, soft drinks or juice.

I am a water girl and I drink chlorophyll powder and turmeric. That’s about it. But once in a while I will eat a piece of cake, gobble down M&Ms, and Jalapeño Cheetos. Yet I try to avoid doing this on a regular basis, especially because I am aging. It’s doubly hard to get rid of fat and build muscle.

The challenge is training our kids to eat nutritiously and make wise choices when it comes to taking care of their bodies. At the beginning it’s about teaching them to obey, which includes finishing what is on their plate. By the age of 4 (I wish it was earlier), our kids eat what we give them and ask them to. Praise God. That’s His grace.

Another aspect is setting boundaries and being a positive example as parents. If we don’t make healthy choices we can’t expect our kids to do the same. It’s a family thing. Our kids are what we eat becauase they tend to eat what we eat.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or unrealistic either. I am not vegan or someone who eats only organic food. Sometimes I wish I was, and I applaud those who are this disciplined. But it’s not that easy to be organic about everything in the Philippines. Plus, focusing too much on what we can and can’t eat can cause our children to be paranoid and legalistic. Our kids pick up on what Edric and I talk about so quickly, so the older ones get overly concerned about their sugar intake and they look at labels for preservatives in food because they hear us converse about these things.

However, there are some non-negotiable about our diet. First, minimal refined sugar. Take soft drinks for instance. Soft drinks are hands down bad for your body. So we don’t let our kids develop a palate for it. They don’t see Edric and I drinking it either. Sometimes Edric will buy a Coke when we are at a Chinese resto but that’s about it. And the kids will give him a hard time and say, “Why is dad drinking a Coke?!” Like its a mortal sin!
Thankfully, because we talked to them about the badness of soft drinks early, they have no liking for it. Even when they go to other people’s homes or parties where pop is served, they avoid it on their own.

With the exception of my chocolate chip cookies, we use honey, muscovado or coconut sugar to sweeten food. And we don’t do powdered juice drinks either.

Secondly, we look at labels when it comes to the food we eat. Anything with preservatives like sodium nitrate and MSG are red flags. Unfortunately, this means that we can’t eat yummy stuff like corned beef and Spam. I miss those days! Although I am ashamed to admit we haven’t quit the bacon yet (this is a tough one for Edric and our kids) and Knorr Sinigang Mix, for the most part, we avoid canned goods and the anything with a label that sounds too technical to understand.

Once again, we aren’t dogmatic. Sometimes I serve hotdogs to guests. But they won’t be the red ones!

Third, we don’t like to eat a lot of fast food. It’s a last option for our family. Like…when we are desperately hungry. Otherwise, it’s home cooked meals for us. Brown rice, fish, and veggies are a favorite combination for my kids and me. With Edric we have to give him more options but we tend to veer away, in general, from pork.

When it comes to snacks, I have to improve on the selection I provide for my kids. Thankfully, there are amazing options for healthy snacks these days. I am also writing this so I can think through a better plan for the snacking part of our day.

I was thrilled to be sent samples from a company called The Honest Crop.


My kids consumed these in one day! Now they are asking for more! Look at how pretty the chips are! I ate an entire bag of these myself. They also have Taro Chips and Sweet Potato Chips. Both so delicious!


Besides giving them fruit, carrot sticks, cheese, and nuts, I am hoping to add these to our snack menu, too. Woohoo!

Here is The Honest Crop’s price list:

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Highlights of New Zealand Trip

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New Zealand is officially on my list of favourite places that I’ve been to.  Clean air, nature, a laid-back culture, friendly people, multi-cultural, family-oriented, a great Filipino community, and almost every establishment closes by 5 PM! It’s definitely a country I want to visit again with the rest of our kids. I can’t include all the photos we took but here are some highlights of our trip:

The Auckland Museum. We learned about the Maori people who were the first inhabitants of New Zealand.

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We took several trips to the grocery (something we like to do in every city we travel to!) I loved the options for children’s vitamins! Took a number of boxes home for our kids.

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Oh, Hobbiton! This is an absolute must-see! For all the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans out there, you will not a regret a plane trip just to see this place. Edric got really into character. He bought the Ring to rule them all and elf ears. The record number of photos ever taken in Hobbiton = 3,000! I don’t think we even reached 250. But when you get there, you will want to take so many!

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The Auckland Zoo was a special treat for Edan, who is an animal-lover. He took charge and mapped our way through the place. Seeing a Kiwi bird up close was pretty special.

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Glowworm Caves in Waitomo…


Lunch at the boardwalk with our friends and amazing hosts, Ryan and Lei…It’s always such a special thing to meet with followers of Christ in other parts of the world. Ryan and Lei pastor CCF Auckland. They are a great team!

God gave us a blue sky despite the unpredictable winter weather…

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Speaking for the singles, marrieds, and parents…

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Visiting the Sunday market. If you want to see what New Zealanders are like, don’t miss the markets! 

Serving at the CCF church. Edric preached and I gave a talk on managing stress.

Leaving with our hearts full and eager to come back!

Rest is a God Thing

In our fast-paced, performance-driven, results-oriented, and pressure-filled world, many of us neglect to rest. During our trip to New Zealand (which was amazing!), I conversed with a lady in her 50s who confessed to feelings of guilt every time she takes a break from her work.

She struggles to give herself time to be still and activity-less. As a business owner of a catering and food company she is doing very well financially, but she is also addicted to her work. First, she loves what she does. Second, she is an activity-driven person (she likes to be busy). Third, she’s got a big heart to serve others. Put all those elements together and you have a person who doesn’t know how to switch to “off” mode even when she should.

In a very comedic way, she even admitted that one of the causes for the absence of sexual intimacy in her marriage was that she habitually rushed her husband through the act! Why? Because she was always thinking about the next task she had to get done instead of enjoying their special times together. They remain committed to one another to this day but it’s a marriage sordidly lacking in the affection area.

So I told her, “Rest is not a sin. Rest allows you to be a better wife, mother, and a more productive worker. Even God rested!”

She smiled. As a long-time follower of Christ, she knows this, but I suppose it assured her to hear it again. Will she actually apply what I told her to? I don’t know. At the end of the day, she has to look deep inside to assess why activity is so important to her that she feels the compulsion to keep going to the point of absolute exhaustion.

None of us are built like the Energizer Bunny that I used to see in commercials as a child. This bunny demonstrated the longevity of the Energizer brand. As human beings we aren’t wired the same way. We can’t keep going, going, and going like a mindless battery. We have a body, a soul, and a spirit that benefits from rest. 

There at three kinds of rest that I would like to talk about. The first is the Sabbath. On the 7th day of creation, God rested. “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:3)

There are several things that stand out to me in this passage: 

  1. Rest came after God’s creative work was done. It was not an act of laziness.
  2. God blessed the 7th day. It was His idea. He made it special and important.
  3. He sanctified it. It is a holy day, set apart.
  4. He exemplified what it means to rest. He did not take a break because he couldn’t continue working. He’s God! He’s all-powerful. The Hebrew word for rest in this passage is shabat which means “to cease or stop.” (gotquestions.org) In Exodus 31:17, it even says that God was refreshed by His rest. 
  5. Another insight I gleaned from the Genesis passage is that God must have spent time with Adam and Eve on the 7th day when He rested. They were created on the 6th day. On the 7th day, God set aside the work to give them His full attention. What an amazing father God is! He delights to be with us. He wants us to know that we are His priority. I can imagine God conversing with Adam and Eve as they walked through the garden, as they reveled in the wonder of His creation. Similarly, the 7th day is a time for us to be in God’s presence, to reflect on His goodness, provision, and to cease from our striving and doing.

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. Genesis 20:8-11

Besides the 7th day, I believe there’s a second kind of rest that we ought to consider. It’s the mindset of rested-ness in the Lord

When I was in the U.S. with my family for a month, I saw how difficult it was for moms who do everything (love your husband and your kids, teach and train the little ones, breastfeed an infant, work, clean, cook, and do laundry). I didn’t even have to work! I was on vacation, but the daily chores were absolutely maddening!

Since I couldn’t stomach the mess, I found myself exhausted every night trying to tidy up after my five children. I refused to take breaks because I felt guilty ending the day without the laundry done, the kitchen impeccable, and everything put away.

At the same time, I thought to myself, this is horrid. I am not cut out for this, but I can’t stop myself from going in and out of every room like a policewoman/obsessive compulsive-house-keeping-attendant. As a result, I was too tired to wholeheartedly enjoy Edric or the kids. I saw them as the cause for my fatigue and I felt irritated when they weren’t considerate about their mess. What about time with the Lord? That suffered too. The first thing I thought about in the morning was cooking breakfast.

When I revisit the motivations that were driving me at the time, they were actually rooted in pride. I felt like I needed to prove that I could do everything, that I was somehow “super” as a mom. I pushed myself to maintain order for my own sake, because it mattered to me to be able to say that I had it all under control. I liked the control.

Did my husband care that I fluffed the last pillow and arranged it neatly on the couch after smoothing out the creases that made it look bunchy? Did my kids care that I picked up their shoes and lined them up beside the doorway before the day came to a close? Of course not. What they cared about was having me engaged and all-present in the moments we shared together.

To be honest, I wasn’t. My mind drifted towards each crumb that littered the kitchen floor, each stain that smeared the upholstery, and each unwashed item of clothing that had to be sorted and thrown into the washing machine. I had relaxation issues. Perhaps, given enough time I would have learned to chill and be realistic about how much of the mess is tolerable…what can be left to clean up the next day in favor of the more important relationships that need me.

However, I never quite got to that point because the vacation ended after a month, and we all returned to Manila where I once again delegated these sort of duties to our househelp.

Somehow, when our househelp is tasked with the cooking, cleaning, and the laundry, I pay less attention to the details of managing our home. But when it’s all on me, I notice every wrong thing in the home and feel like a failure when I don’t do something about it. And that’s why I know it’s a pride thing. When I’m in charge of something, I tend to get my sense of self-worth from what I do. And I am robbed of peace when my performance is mediocre, and I feel annoyed or disappointed when it’s not appreciated.

During the plane ride to New Zealand, I read a book by Becky Harling entitled Freedom from Performing: Grade in an Applause-Driven World. A performance driven person is someone who…

  • Is a slave to the expectations and demands of others
  • Compares herself with others, measuring her success against theirs
  • Exhausts herself trying to keep up
  • Defines her identity in terms of accomplishments
  • Lives to please others and becomes disillusioned when the affirmation isn’t there

What a refreshing read this book was for me! It allowed me to recognize that I can be a performance-driven person, forgetting that life is not a rat-race, it’s a grace-race. It’s not about trying to beat everyone to prove that I’m the best at what I do. It’s not about pursuing perfection for the sake of my self-esteem. Neither is it about comparing my worth to others. Rather it’s about…

…growing more and more like Christ in the way I think, act and speak everyday.

…recognizing that my strength and capacity come from the Lord, therefore all glory for any good that I do goes to Him.

…focusing on what really matters – loving God and loving others (starting with Edric and the kids).

…sticking to a routine that is a healthy kind of busy. For example, avoiding too many nights out of the home away from the kids, or planning meetings or activities that are in conflict with my priorities of being a wife and mom during the week (also known as learning to say, “No, I am sorry but I’m not available,” or “I can’t commit to that.”)

…being purposeful about time spent on things like social media and the Internet.

…carving out time for myself during the day or week (besides Sunday for me) to feed my mind with wisdom and truth, fill my emotional tank, strengthen my body, and listen to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this means writing an article, reading a book, connecting with girl friends, exercising, being still and reflective, or taking naps! Even Jesus encouraged rest! “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.'” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)” Mark‬ ‭6:30-31‬ ‭NASB‬‬

…surrendering what I cannot control to the Lord and embracing His plans with an attitude of thankfulness and praise.

Daily rested-ness matters because it reveals our perspective on who God is and who we are in relation to Him. Are we striving and struggling emotionally, physically, and spiritually because our priorities are off and our focus is on worldly success rather than pleasing God? Are we stressed and anxious as we work because we do not trust that God is in control? 

Jesus says, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy-ladden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) True rest is found in Him. It’s not about laziness. It’s not about the absence of work or hardship. We have to work and do our best. That’s a given. There will be days when the work feels bitter and difficult, and the outcome of our labor is imperfect and disappointing. But we can rest in the reality that our success is in the hands of the Lord, and our success is dependent on whether we are WITH the Lord.

“For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity…For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him (God)?” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23,25

“And He (God) said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.“” Exodus‬ ‭33:14‬ ‭

The third kind of rest is eternal. “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭14:12-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Whether it is rest on a Sabbath, daily rested-ness, or rest in heaven, I believe God designed rest to remind us that life isn’t about endless work, performance, or toil on earth to earn money, enjoy luxuries, gain fame or power or derive our sense of self-worth from our accomplishments. Striving after these things doesn’t give us real rest. They can give us a false sense of it at times. But they cannot replace the rest found in knowing we are loved by God, that His presence is with us, and that we can trust in His plans for us. 

So take a break from whatever you are doing right now (even reading this) and just bask in that reality. Give the Lord your stress and your worry, and let His peace wash over you. He loves you dear friend. 

 

Lessons from the Hillsong Conference in Sydney

Rarely do Edric and I get to attend a conference where we aren’t serving in some capacity. So it was wonderful to be at the Hillsong Conference in Sydney as a participant. There was no worrying about what to say on stage, no thinking through logistic details or program flows, or having to create committees and trouble shoot issues.

A lot of time when you put on the here-to-serve-mindset, you anticipate the challenges and the struggles that come before or during an event. You are spiritually armed and ready because you have been in prayer and have come to the Lord with an attitude of dependence. In contrast, when you are an attendee in a huge conference where you can hide among the multitudes, it’s very easy to let your carnality take over.

My heart was put the test as a participant this past week. I encountered a series of inconveniences and annoyances throughout the duration of the conference that were God-ordained, for my character growth.

On the second day, we lined up early to enter the space assigned to our group. But we had to wait for twenty minutes only to be told that we had to leave to go elsewhere because there were no more seats. This didn’t make sense because each seating area was reserved for a specific number of people who had marked IDs that allowed them entry. Plus we got there way before it was about to start.

An agitated organizer came up to our group to announce, “There are no more seats in this area.”

In a nice way I commented, “We have been waiting for a long time.”

He replied with sarcasm, “That comment is not even helpful!”

My blood curdled at his rudeness and Edric told me later he wanted to land a fist on his face. But I stopped myself from making an issue out of it and Edric held his composure. It was the perfect application for the message that evening by Steven Furtick.

He said, “If your perspective is connected to your pain you lose your praise. But if your perspective is connected to your purpose in Christ, you will be able to say all things work together for the good of those who love him! Paul had to spend the night in prison so the gospel could be set free on a continent. Make praise your way of life.”

Make praise your way of life! Not negative words, not complaining or grumbling. God always has a plan. God uses every circumstance for character-training reasons.

Instead of fighting back I remained quiet and told myself, “Lord you are teaching me something here and I am going to choose to be thankful.”

Right after, however, we were prevented from entering the entrance we were herded to. We were told we weren’t allowed to use that entrance because it was designated for another group.

Thankfully, Edric used his godly charm to appeal to one of the marshals. He explained what happened and because of his politeness, the marshall helped us out. A few minutes into the program he even sat beside Edric and told him, “You are such a nice guy. Where are you from? I like people like you guys.”

They had a conversation about how Filipinos, Indonesians and Malaysians are so easy to deal with and so wonderful to have as guests at their conference. Well, praise God! I could have ruined that good reputation had I lost my cool!

Other things happened outside of the conference that were upsetting…like having to leave our hotel room early in the morning on the last day of conference because we were asked to transfer to another room. But the hotel assigned us to a room that was occupied!

I opened the door to the sound of a woman’s voice. She must have been startled by my entry and called out from the bed, “Mark?”

Who was Mark? I don’t know! But It was embarrassing. I closed the door in a panic and Edric and I looked at one another dumbfounded. The hotel apologized for their big mistake and gave us another room key.

On the same morning, as we made our way to the event, an elderly man yelled at us for unintentionally blocking the 7/11 convenient store. We were having a conversation in front of the entrance and he got so angry he started mouthing out profanity and directed it toward us. (This was shocking because the majority of my encounters with Australians had been so positive!)

The climax in all of this was loosing my wallet with all my credit cards and IDs in it. It’s not in my personality to lose something so valuable! I felt terrible about it. But at the same time I was reminded that it’s just a wallet. God must have allowed me to make this ridiculous mistake for a reason.

When my son, Edan, felt stressed for my sake, I told him, “It’s okay. I would rather lose my wallet than lose you. There’s no need to be stressed. Don’t worry. Daddy will be my money.” I added that last bit as a joke to lighten his spirits.

Edric was especially calm. He tried his best NOT to be annoyed with me. He even took it upon myself to call Manila in order to report my lost credit cards.

Then he said, “Did you notice that I am not reacting?”

He wanted some affirmation, so of course I indulged him. “Yes, babe! I am so impressed!”

I am absolutely certain God allowed each inconvenience to encourage the application of His truth in my life.  As speaker Edmund Chan said, “Truth doesn’t change people. It is truth applied that changes people.”

The conference was amazing and inspiring but it would have meant nothing if I disconnected what I learned from real life. Real life was everything that happened to me outside of the sessions — being disrespected, treated as unimportant, being yelled at, losing things…

Its only by God’s grace that I didn’t respond with anger or stress to any of the above even if I was very tempted to. Why? I focused on the comforting and sobering truth that I am a follower of Jesus. It’s not the circumstances around me that should dictate who I am or who I become. It’s who I am in Christ that determines how I should process and respond to the circumstances around me. So when people don’t treat me the way I hope they will and when events don’t happen the way I hope they will, my hope is in Christ and my destiny is to be more like Christ.

 

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ‭Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Respect Issues – It’s Not Cute When a Toddler Calls You By Your First Name

Of all my children, Catalina, my youngest, was the one child who exhibited disrespect through her words and actions. Sometimes, I would think, My goodness! Who spawned this child?


During one particular incident I was leaning over the kitchen island when she tried to ask me about eating chocolate. Since I was engaged in a conversation with one of my other children, I couldn’t attend to her immediately. Instead I carried on with my dialogue. So she came up to me, smacked my behind, and voiced out, “Joy! Get me chocolate!”

Standing at about 34 inches tall, this two year old of mine, with her beady black eyes and dark wavy hair has always packed in a lot of fire into her tiny frame. In this particular instance, she probably did not realize that she had done something very disrespectful. To everyone else who saw and heard what happened, it was very tempting not to break out into laughter. But all of us knew that she had “crossed the line.”
Edric also experienced something similar when she addressed him as “Psst, hoy! Edric!” while sitting on the toilet.

Both of us talked to her and explained why her words and actions were not acceptable. We demonstrated how to speak to us in a courteous and honoring way. And we also warned her that if she did this sort of thing again she would be disciplined for it.

It must have been a week later when I instructed her to do a task and she retorted with a “No!” This time her defiance was very clear. So I took her to our bathroom and reminded her that we had a rule about disrespect and she broke it. In this instance, she received a spanking. A big hug followed and a sorry from her.

She now thinks twice about dishonoring us. Still, it hasn’t been easy to train our youngest. She’s like a bull. A cute one. Very strong-willed. Intense. Easily upset. But no child is too tough inside to train or disciple. Some kids may take longer than others. However, God calls us, as parents to train our children in Proverbs 22:6, and we have to believe that He will provide the grace and ability to make it to happen.

Here are some practical tips we have picked up from God’s Word, other parents who have raised their children successfully, and our own experience with being parents to five kids:

  • Start disciplining and training early. The earlier, the easier it is to prevent bad attitudes and behaviors from becoming habits that are difficult to deal with.
  • Establish your authority. Edric and I love our kids and they know this. However, they also know that we are God’s appointed authority in their lives. He has entrusted to us the responsibility of training and teaching them to learn the importance of obedience and submission to the Lord by learning to obey and submit to us.Our kids have a lot of fun with us but they also have a healthy fear of defying us. They understand that we mean business. For example, we don’t ask your kids, “Would you like to go to bed now?” when we want them to go to bed. We tell them. “It’s time to go to bed.” Period. If they stick out their tongue, throw a fit, say no, or delay their obedience, then we follow through with a consequence.
  • A consequence can come in the form of spanking, withdrawal of privileges, confiscation of a toy or gadget, or a “time out.” We stick to spankings during the younger years which has worked very effectively. And no, our kids don’t have psychological issues as a result of this form of discipline. Whatever you decide to use as a form of discipline, be sure to follow through. Consistency is key.
  • As a wife, I also have to model respect to Edric so that my kids see what it looks like and I don’t undermine what we are trying to accomplish. They have to see that I also esteem my authority. Furthermore, Edric builds me up as their authority by reminding them that they are to honor me. He has had to sit our older boys aside one or two times and address the way they communicate with me. Very sternly, he let them know that they are not to use a tone that is impolite when talking to me.
  • Complement the discipline with instruction. For example, we explained to Catalina why it’s not okay to use our first names. We also taught her how to respond when we give her a command. She must reply, “Okay, mommy or okay, daddy,” with a good attitude. I actually wait for her to change her facial expression or her tone so that it’s joyful. I don’t let her run off with a grumpy and angry face. When it comes to the boys, Edric teaches them how to be gentlemen – to show deference for people. Sometimes it’s about holding the door open for ladies, shaking the hand of an adult, acknowledging a person when they ask a question, or minding their own noise pollution in public places or tight spaces.
  • Be on the same page with your spouse and people in the home. As husband and wife, Edric and I need to share the same principles for respect, and disciplining for disrespect. Since we have house help, we also ask our house help to let us know when our kids don’t treat them nicely or kindly. We let our kids know that they aren’t allowed to disrespect the house help. Another thing that has helped is welcoming the reports of friends or family members who tell us when our kids are misbehaving. We are on an all out war against disobedience and disrespect in the hearts of our kids so we need all the help we can get!
  • Enlist the aid of older siblings to be an example of right behaviors and attitudes. The power of older siblings to influence younger siblings is incredible.
  • Commend positive character. When Catalina obeys or responds to us with respect, I call it out and affirm her. She smiles bashfully but she loves to hear the encouragement and is more likely to repeat the right thing she did. I don’t just say, good job honey. I yell out, “Wow! I am so proud of you!”
  • Spend a lot of time with a child who is unruly, acting up, or having issues such as disrespect. This will allow you to find out what’s going on in their hearts and strategize how to train them and minister to them. Disrespect reveals a more serious heart issue. That’s what you want to uncover. For example, when my older son, Elijah starts talking to me with a tone that is condescending or sarcastic, I look at him and gently ask, “Is there something wrong?” and we find time to have a heart to heart conversation about what’s bothering him. Sometimes the problem is I have done something to offend him or hurt him so I need to apologize for this, or he feels stressed and pressured, or perhaps he is struggling with some inner conflict or sin that he needs to repent from. When the root issue is tackled, the right behavior follows.
  • Don’t model disrespect among family members. A child can easily mimic shouting, criticizing, negative talk, and bad attitudes from parents or siblings. If we don’t want our kids to treat us this way, we can’t give ourselves a reason to act that way towards one another either. We need to cultivate a culture of respect for each another in the home, even towards our own kids. This entails being polite when we talk to each other and to them, being appreciative and kind, and using the magic words, please and thank you. Let’s model what it’s like to be a blessing to the people so our kids can copy us.
  • Pray for tenderness in the hearts of our children. The bible says that the hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of God and he directs it where he wishes. Similarly, the hearts of our children are like channels of water in his hand. He can orient these little hearts in the direction they should go. I bank on this truth for my kids. Surely, God can take a hard heart and tenderize it!

In conclusion, let’s not lose hope, retaliate, or be intimidated when our children are rude or ill mannered, especially towards us. There’s no quick cure but with patience, gentleness, teamwork, consistency, positive modeling, and God’s help you and I can train our children to be courteous and honorable towards others. This is God’s will for them and it’s a goal that we can achieve by His grace!

Mt. Masungi

This was my first time to visit the Mt. Masungi Georeserve. It was amazing! My friends and I trekked up the mountain which took a about an hour and a half one way. Our time extended because of all the picture taking. We couldn’t help but take photos everywhere!

Mt. Masungi used to be in danger due to land grabbers but it is now protected by the DENR thanks to bloggers, journalists, outdoor enthusiasts and environmentalists. They made too much noise about saving the place to be ignored. Here’s a blurb from their site: “The georeserve is an area we have been protecting for over fifteen years now. Having to deal with a myriad of illegal loggers, quarries, and others, it has been a challenge, but ultimately a meaningful and fulfilling one. Today, we are excited to share our love for the place with you. We hope that you see something special in it like we did.”

Newly opened last December 2015, Mt. Masungi is meticulously maintained and it continues to be “beautified.” The georeserve also has strict rules.

  • Absolutely zero trash (no food allowed except for things like trail mix or energy bars.)
  • You have to wear head gear at all times unless you are taking a break or taking a picture.
  • Only 15 people to a group/per guide as the max number.
  • No walk-ins allowed.
  • Reservations must be made and no refunds will be given unless you cancel three days in advance. (Friends who fail to wake up early enough to make the time slot will still have to pay for their reservation!)
  • No stepping on unpaved areas (follow the yellow brick road type of thing.)
  • They will give you 1 liter of water in the form of 2 500ml bottles, and a whistle for emergencies.
  • Children below 13 cannot go although I wish they could because they would love it!
  • No picking of leaves or flowers to bring home.
  • No disturbing of animals by making boisterous noises.

A visit to this place will cost you 1,400/person but it comes with a snack, water and it’s worth every peso! It’s a relatively easy climb with lots of stops to rest, to enjoy the view and the creative elements of the park, like the hanging bridges, the spider web, and the gigantic hammock.





Site: www.masungigeoreserve.com

Address:  Kilometer 45, Marcos Highway, Rizal Philippines 

Email: trail@masungigeoreserve.com

Fight for Your Marriage

In the past weeks, Edric and I have been counseling different couples about issues in their marriages, ranging from minimal to major. From our vantage point as counselors, the one thing that has been a consistent predictor of successful outcome in these relationships has been the individual choices of the persons involved to fight for their marriages by obeying God’s Word. 

Last night we spent time with a husband and wife who are emerging from a dark time in their marriage. Edric and I sat beside them in wonderment as we listened to the strides they have made since we first heard of a betrayal that could have (and should have) destroyed their relationship. As they spoke honestly about the challenges and the victories they have experienced in the last month it was like listening to two entirely different people – people who have been radically transformed by the grace of God.

We knew them to be great people before this difficult point in their history, but today there is 360 degree healing taking place in them that is clearly the handiwork of the Holy Spirit. Only God can search out the hidden wounds and cure the unseen hurts that have left us unable to know the abundant life that is described in John 10:10. In our discussion with this couple last night, I was reminded as the woman spoke of completeness, that it is God’s intention to mend and fix EVERYTHING that is broken in us. He’s not a God of partial healing. He is a God who specializes in COMPLETE HEALING. 

However, we cannot taste of this healing if we do not invite the grace of God into our hearts and minds by humbling ourselves to the point of repentance. About two months ago, I was dealing with anger issues towards Edric. Everytime he would do some thing that reminded me of our personality differences, I would feel agitated and think to myself, “Here he goes again. Why is like that?!” 

These thoughts would invade my consciousness often, and they were accompanied by discreet eye-ball rolling and snarly looking faces from me. It wasn’t until I had an outburst where I threw a toilet paper roll at him that I realized I had a serious problem. I was angry with Edric.

Yes, I loved him and I was committed to our marriage, but I also entertained negative thoughts, prideful comparisons, and bitter judgments about him. This made me susceptible to the influence of the evil one.

During one afternoon, I sat in on a bondage breaker session, which is basically a time when you identify areas in your life that have made you susceptible to demonic influences or oppression. The session wasn’t actually scheduled for me but for a friend who asked me to sit in with her to pray with her.

The list of areas to reflect on and revisit historically during a bondage breaker session is quite comprehensive. It includes things like sensuality, immoral relationships, pagan practices, witchcraft, sexual abuse, addictions, and emotional sins (as categories). Underneath each category are detailed experiences that a person may have knowingly or unknowingly participated in or been impacted by because of their ancestors. In the process of going through the list, a person is encouraged to name each of the sins, confess them in Jesus’ Name and renounce any demonic oppression that they may be suffering from due to these sins. It’s about acknowledging past and present sins and claiming victory in Christ over darkness. But it’s effective only if a person is truly repentant.

Even if the session wasn’t for me, I got really convicted when we crossed the part about anger. Edric’s name came to my mind. As we ended that time together, I prayed for the women who were with me and I also prayed for myself, confessing my anger aloud. 

Afterwards I had a discomfort in my stomach that stayed with me through the evening and into the morning of the next day. I kept feeling the need to burp. I don’t like to make a big deal out of demonic manifestations but I have seen some that were stomach-related. 

I also know that spiritual oppression can surface in physical ways and that spirits can terrorize us physically, even as followers of Jesus. If Jesus Christ is in us, an evil spirit cannot occupy the seat of our hearts because it belongs to Christ, but we are susceptible to demonic harassment due to sin. For some reason, my gutt was affected after I prayed with my two friends. Does this mean I was demonized or had been demonized somehow? Only God really knows. 

As for me, I did what was in my control. The next day, when I got up to run by myself, I declared out loud, “If there are any evil spirits oppressing me because of my anger, I cast you out in Jesus’ Name. If there are any spirits of anger in me, be gone in Jesus’ Name and do not return.” The uneasy feeling in my stomach went away. But the more important effect of the power of Jesus’ Name to liberate me from this anger was to be seen in the days and weeks to come.

Instead of feeling deeply aggravated at Edric each time he did something that bothered me, I felt unusually calm and unaffected. I’m not saying that I wasn’t tempted to react in irritation, but the incense that would typically inhabit me wasn’t there anymore.

In fact, instead of rage I actually felt sweet feelings toward Edric! This was the handiwork of the Lord. Surely the evil one couldn’t have placed those positive feelings in my heart for Edric since Edric was still doing the same sort of things that usually irked me.

Let me get to the point. This part isn’t so much about demonic oppression as it is about opening our eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare. We need to see what’s really going on. The evil one is hell bent on destroying our marriages. That’s been his game plan since God presented Adam and Even as husband and wife. He hates marriages. Marriage between a husband and wife is God’s showcase of His love. It’s intended to be a parallel to the relationship we have with him. As author and speaker John Piper so beautifully stated it, “marriage is the doing of God and the display of God.”

As Christ is to the church, so ought the man to love his wife and as the church is to Christ, so the woman is to submit to her husband. The evil one doesn’t want us to understand any of that. And once he breaks up a marriage, he is able to “kill several birds with one stone” very effectively – the couple, the children, and society. Think of all the lost and wounded people inhabiting this earth who are also hurting others because they have been victims of broken homes. It’s an epidemic. 

As Edric and I ended our conversation with the couple I referred to at the beginning of this post, my heart was overwhelmed with joy and hope. Sometimes we focus on the vast number of unhappy and unhealthy marriages out there and we tend to feel discouraged. But God is doing amazing things in marriages today.

Is it really possible to have a loving marriage that lasts a lifetime? Or are we going to resign ourselves to the common marriage story that begins as a fairy tale, plays out like a drama in the middle, and ends like a horror film?

By God’s grace, it doesn’t have to be that way. God’s grace is there. It is powerful. It is present. 

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 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 ‭4:14-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The couple we were counseling should have become a statistic…another failed marriage, another broken home. But against all human reason, they are more happily married than they ever were. They have a renewed love for one another. Communication with their kids has improved significantly. And their sex life is unexplainably amazing! What?! How is this possible?!

It’s possible because they both chose to respond to God’s grace. Very specifically, they chose to:

  • Humbly confess and acknowledge their sins against God, against one another, and others. 
  • Repent and renounce any addiction or sin that was standing in the way of their relationship with Christ and each other.  

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret to that kind of sorrow. But the worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

  • Identify the history of hurt and problems in their individual lives and marriage. They were completely honest with one another and with us.
  • Forgive each other unconditionally and forgive themselves.
  • Commit to change the areas that they needed (and need) to.
  • Pursue intimacy with God by reading His Word, praying fervently, and meeting with other couples for accountability.
  • Hope in God’s good plan for their lives, marriage, and family.
  • Seek to minister to other couples in order to help them have Christ-centered marriages, too.

I wrote this to encourage everyone of us to do whatever it takes to fight for our marriages. Some us may think we cannot do this. Perhaps this is because our threshold for enduring a difficult marriage is adjusted to our own preferences, what we want for ourselves. And perhaps it’s because we have misunderstood what marriage is all about when we first committed to it. But our situation, as unique as it may seem, is not more painful than what every other couple is going through at this very moment. 

Marriage is HARD. It’s hard for everybody. There will always be irreconcilable differences and things we just don’t like about our spouses. They will do things that make us want to quit. And no matter how wonderful our spouses are there will be times when we want to decapitate them (and probably have the right to.) 

Yet, instead of sulking and pitying ourselves when it gets tough, and thinking we ought to be happy and deserve someone better, let’s not look for or imagine the nearest exit. What we want for ourselves will not be beyond those exit doors. Temporarily maybe. But it’s not going to cure what’s inherently wrong with us or our marriages. 

What’s inherently wrong is our hearts. We don’t know God well enough or seek Him intimately enough to understand that He loves us, that He is for us, that He wants to bless us, that our marriage is not about us but about Him. 

The question is are we willing to do whatever it takes to fight for our marriages? Are we willing to wait patiently on Him and obey Him UNTIL we see the blessings of doing so? 

Fighying for our marriages is saying that I will no longer live for myself but for Christ

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is saying…

I will stay in my marriage not for myself but for Christ.

I will love my spouse because I love Christ.

I will reject the habits, desires, and selfish and sinful actions I do that hurt my marriage because I don’t want to hurt Christ.

I will obey God’s design for my life and marriage because I want to obey Christ.

I will fulfill my role as a husband or wife because Christ asks me to.

I will be and I CAN BE a better husband or wife because Christ is in me.

To those of us who are married, we must DO EVERYTHING IT TAKES FIGHT FOR OUR MARRIAGES not for pride’s sake but because the name of the Lord is at stake and the lives of people around us are at stake. We are responsible to our spouse, to our children, to a lost and dying world. (If you don’t want this responsibility then don’t get married in the first place.) But if you are married like me and you profess to be a follower of Jesus then you and I must be committed to having Christ-centered, Christ-glorifying marriages, NO MATTER WHAT! And the amazing thing is, when we follow God and obey Him, His glory in our lives becomes our greatest happiness! 

Let me end this what what John Piper said…

The greatest joy is joy in God. This is plain from Psalm 16:11: “You [God] will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Fullness of joy and eternal joy cannot be improved. Nothing is fuller than full, and nothing is longer than eternal. And this joy is owing to the presence of God, not the accomplishments of man. Therefore, if God wants to love us infinitely and delight us fully and eternally, he must preserve for us the one thing that will satisfy us totally and eternally; namely, the presence and worth of his own glory. He alone is the source of full and lasting pleasure. Therefore, his commitment to uphold and display his glory is not vain, but virtuous. God is the one being for whom self-exaltation is an infinitely loving act. 

John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God

The Real Father of Father’s Day

The only thing Edric wanted for Father’s Day was to have our family values printed and mounted on our walls. This should have happened two years ago, but I procrastinated getting it done for various unacceptable reasons. 

A few weeks ago, he reminded me again, half jokingly, half hoping that I would actually finish this home project for him. 
However, we got busy with meetings and ministry activities, so Father’s Day slipped from my consciousness. It wasn’t until this week that the reality of my deadline confronted me. 

I panicked and contacted a friend who prints canvasses, asking how much she would charge and how long it would take. To my surprise, she told me her company could get it done in one to two days and she wouldn’t even charge me for the frames! I couldn’t believe it! 

It was Thursday when I spoke with my friend, Mags, and she efficiently delivered seven 20×20 inch frames to my house with a Happy Father’s Day cake and a balloon arrangement. In short, she got everything I needed to make Father’s Day special for Edric. What an unexpected blessing from the Lord!

Edric came down to the kitchen with the kids, and he was thrilled to see the frames lined up on display for him. They were arranged in the order of the word F.O.L.L.O.W.S. Our family come from the acronym, The Mendoza Family FOLLOWS Jesus. 


He told me, “I really feel special today.” 

I want to be able to take credit for conceiving this plan to surprise Edric like this on Father’s Day. But this day displayed how marvelous God is. It really had nothing to do with me. 

God knew how important those framed family values print outs were to Edric, who had made comments year-round about how he wished to see them hanging on the wall above our stairway. And I should have prioritized his request but I kept postponing it. Still, God graciously and mercifully made a way for me to get them done.

Making Father’s Day special for Edric would have flopped if the Lord didn’t come to my rescue by using my friend, Mags, who generously and graciously went out of her way to help me. God made a statement about Himself by this kind favor: His goodness toward His children is based upon His character and not because we are deserving. 

I know some pretty amazing dads and I also know some very disappointing ones. But God used the little miracle he performed to remind me that the focus of Father’s Day ought to be on him. He is the best father of all. He is the father that warrants all the praise. 

As a father, God’s love cannot be manipulated, purchased, or corrupted by circumstances or people. He is not earthly as we are. He is holy and pure. So when He calls Himself Father to us, we can be sure that He is infinitely better than the greatest father we can ever imagine and He will never think or act like any of the imperfect fathers we may know. 

None of us are entitled to have a perfect father like God is, but He invites us to be His children because He loves us. Let’s not allow our encounters with disappointing or absent fathers lead us to false conclusions about who God is. God is a good father. Period. That will never change. 

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”‭‭ James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NLT

Beyond thinking about what to do for and give to the fathers we know, we should be thinking about what to do for and give to God, the Father. What would make Him happy? What would delight Him? Our hearts, our obedience, our devotion. He wants to call us all His children, the question is, do we REALLY want to call Him our Father? 

“But for us, there is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭8:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Mommy Pampering Time!

I just came from an event by Marilenstyles in collaboration with Solique gel nail polish by Girl Stuff to launch two of Marilen’s favorite colors — Rose Quartz and Serenity. Pretty, pretty!

imageWhat a wonderfully relaxing time of fellowship with old friends and new ones. Somehow when women get their nails done in a salon there’s an instant connection between us all! Especially when it happens in a cozy place like Coco Nail Studio.

It was my first time to visit Coco Nail Studio in Madison Galeries, Lifestyle Mall in Alabang Hills. Very far for me but worth the trip!

What will bring me to an event all the way in the south? Friends! Marilen Montenegro of Marilenstyles.ph, Happy Puno of Stella & Dot and Keep Collective, and Janina Guttierez-Tan of Girl Stuff.

I have always admired Marilen’s sense of style. Every time I see her, she looks ready to be photographed! She’s naturally stunning but she also knows how to infuse her unique sense of style into everything she does. From fashion to home making and decor, her blog, and the myriad of things she’s involved in, this collaboration between Girl Stuff’s Solique gel polish and her brand, Marilenstyles is yet another venture that reveals her heart to inspire women to be the most beautiful version of themselves — inside and out.

As for the brand, Girl Stuff, this is my favorite nail polish because it’s safe for my daughters to play around with and its so much more reasonable than imported brands. Plus, Janina, the genius woman chemist behind Girl Stuff products was personally involved in the formulation behind her nail polish line.

She launched her gel polish (which is long lasting and doesn’t need heat or light to set it) just last year. It’s called Solique. When I don’t have time to go to the parlor, I do my own nails with Solique gel polish which come in fun and vibrant colors.

Then there’s Happy Puno’s Stella & Dot and Keep Collective jewelry which range from sophisticated, tribal, youthful to personalized. Happy Puno is a homeschool mom like Marilen and myself, but she’s always had an entrepreneur bone in her body. She is one of those women who is excellent at everything she pursues, and she’s channeled this trait to her new endeavor — selling jewelry pieces that are a match for every kind of personality.

Edric bought me a few things from Stella & Dot last Mother’s Day. And I am proud to say that we were one of Happy’s first customers! Woohoo!

These three women are great examples of what it means to maximize your talents. They are fully-engaged, hands-on mommas and yet they find ways to use their abilities and areas of giftedness. They are able to monetize their passions and look fabulous at the same time, too!

image

Thank you Marilen, Happy, Janina, (and new friend, Gigi of Coco Nail Studio) for an afternoon of much needed pampering!