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!

Parents Need to Keep Growing, Too

During the last quarter of this year, I decided to slow down with public speaking and ministry in order to recharge, rest, and focus on the family. This was something encouraged by Edric as well.

It was also a new season for me as a mom. Since our eldest son, Elijah, went through puberty and grew taller than me (to nearly Edric’s height), my understanding of parenting a young adult had to grow. I wanted to be present, emotionally and physically, to be able to minister to him as he dealt with the transition into young adulthood. Obviously my role in his transition was secondary to Edric, who modeled (and continues to model) manhood for him.

There were challenges with teaching Tiana as well, which required me to spend more time with her and to study how to be a better homeschool mom. So I dove into books and didn’t do as much writing in my blog. It felt like a time to channel my energies towards my kids, and to commit to be a learner myself — to re-learn how to parent, how to teach, and how to be still in order to spiritually and emotionally feed myself. My endometriosis seemed to be indicative of stress, too, according to my sister doctor, Carolyn, so I had to make lifestyle changes, exercise more, and eat healthier.

Therefore, this past quarter was quiet and enriching for me. I read a number of amazing books and enjoyed the reflection time. Slowing down presented me with many opportunities to observe my kids, pray more intentionally for them, and to adopt a growth mindset. How could I expect my children and other people around me to grow if I didn’t push myself to do the same?

When I look back on 2017, I had two big issues that I wrestled with almost everyday as a mother. The first was how to relate to Elijah, my young adult. I didn’t want to be overbearing but I didn’t want to stop being an influence on his life either. He still needed guidance from me and time with me. On the other spectrum, there was Tiana, who had learning struggles. As a mom, I had to grow in patience because I found myself getting irritated and annoyed more easily this year, and I knew that there was something wrong with my heart whenever I made hurtful comments, snapped at my kids, acted entitled or made them feel like they had disappointed me.

We often blame our weaknesses on circumstances or people but the reality is these only expose what’s really in our hearts. As the Word of God explains, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” (Luke 6:45)

It was humbling to be confronted by the ugly carnality inside me, the negative emotions that I would feel, and to come before the Lord and admit that I could not raise my kids or teach them without his grace and help. I felt lost at times, overcome by my own frustrations and feeling defeated.

Because I focused so much on what my children were or weren’t doing, I would feel the stress of parenting them and teaching them when confronted by the following challenges:

1. Elijah’s emotional mood swings or outbursts over his studies and his responsibilities.

2. His lack of tact and respect when expressing his opinions when he wasn’t mindful of his tone.

3. Tiana’s short term memory issues that made it difficult for her to retain what she learned.

4. Her continued struggle to grasp concepts as quickly as her siblings.

After reading through Paul David Tripp’s book, Parenting — 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, these lines revealed that one of my inner-person problems was looking to my children and my homeschooling to affirm my sense of self-worth, which was wrong:

Your children can’t give you life. They can’t give you sturdy hope. They can’t give you worth. They can’t give you peace of heart. They can’t give you right desires and motivation. They can’t give you strength to go on…Jesus is your life, and this frees you and your children from the burden of asking them to give you what your Savior has already given you. (p.79)

The Lord helped me to identify the root cause of my impatience, namely the pressure to “produce” perfect children so I could look like a perfect mother. Once I recognized this, it was easier to stop myself from criticizing my kids or losing my temper.

My streak hasn’t been without times of failure but there have been more by-the-grace-of-God-Almighty-moments where I bridled my tongue because I didn’t want to wound the hearts of my kids and push them away from the Lord. After all, I wanted to raise them to love and follow Him, so why stand in the way of that by not living like someone who loved and followed God herself because I was angry, judgmental, and easily upset?

The temptation to be reactive is ever-present, even in the most casual of circumstances which is why I must always think through what is making me upset and why I am unsettled, remembering that parenting is not about me. It’s about connecting my kids to the Lord.

For instance, just the other day we were practicing singing a hymn in the van. Elijah made one negative comment after another about everyone’s tone, pitch, quality of sound. He started to affect the emotional climate of our family with discouraging statements. More than once he also accused me of being half a note off as I tried to teach them certain songs. “Mom, you’re off. Mom, that’s not the right key. Mom, please don’t sing that part.”

I am so glad I was in the front seat and only Edric could see my facial expressions. I must confess to rolling my eyeballs two or three times and signaling him to address HIS son’s attitude towards me. (You know how children suddenly become your spouse’s child and the possessive pronouns change when you feel upset with them.)

Anyway, I didn’t lash out in anger even if I wanted to “put him in his place.” I felt like turning around in my seat and saying, “Just quit it! Stop talking to me like that. You are being such a nit-picker! It’s upsetting everyone, especially me!”

Instead, I requested that he comment in a more polite way, and Edric and I also told him to consider how his mood was impacting his siblings. If I had talked harshly towards him, he would have felt embarrassed and resentful, which would not have allowed him to sing the hymn with sincerity or praise to the Lord. Thankfully, he recognized that he wasn’t being so respectful towards me and he became more mindful of his words. His attitude also changed.

Like I said, I have experienced this sort of tension with Elijah on various occasions this year. More than using instances like these to help me teach and train my kids, the Lord has taught me that I have a lot of growing to do myself in order to respond with the grace and mercy that He would have me respond with. These two — grace and mercy — produce the daily patience that I need to have.

Recently, I asked Elijah if the way I have dealt with him is working and he said yes. Whew. Thank you, Lord. So here’s what I try my best to do:

1. Give him space to process his feelings. He doesn’t like it when I keep talking or give my input when he is emotional.

2 Ask him to go to a room where he can be alone to pray about what he is going through. This temporarily removes him from the moment of stress to a quieter, calmer place where he can think and speak to the Lord.

3. Act like his shock absorber by cushioning the negativity with positive, encouraging words, as well as praying with him, and giving him lots of hugs. If I allow myself to get emotional, it only exaggerates his own feelings of stress.

Very recently, I told him how much I appreciate him and he responded, “I still like to hear that mom.”

Our young adults need to be affirmed and built up. It matters to them!

What about with Tiana and her learning challenges?

1. Celebrate little victories and commend her for effort. I appreciate that she is trying her best and she is progressing everyday. Everyday that she gets a concept or remembers what she needs to is a milestone to be thankful for!

2. Be very careful about my tone and my facial expressions when I start to feel frustrated. Sometimes this means standing up and leaving the scene to recalibrate my own emotions. I praise God she told me that my tone has improved a lot! Thank you, Lord.

3. Pray for her to keep improving and growing, and for God to help me the best teacher to her (and all my kids).

4. Spend more time building a relationship with her so she knows she is loved, treasured, and special, because she is! She doesn’t have to perform to be loved or accepted by me. And she doesn’t have to compare herself to others because God has a special plan for her life and the gifts He has given her. She’s a beautiful person inside and out!

For all my kids, at all times, I need to be walking closely with the Lord. There is no other antidote to my selfish and hurtful tendencies apart from coming under the control of the Holy Spirit.

“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another. So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”

‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13-16‬ ‭

Let me conclude with another excerpt from Tripp’s book that I hope will encourage you as it has me:

Mercy is parenting with a tender heart. Mercy is not taking your children’s failures personally, but viewing their struggles with compassion. Mercy is about blessing your children with your patience. It’s about being as careful to encourage as you are to rebuke. It’s about discipline that is kind and correction that is gentle. Mercy is about being firm and unyielding and loving at the same time. It is about refusing to indulge your irritation and your anger. If you are parenting with mercy, you don’t condemn your children with a barrage of harsh words. If you’re parenting with mercy, you don’t compare your righteousness to your children’s sin, letting them know that their problem is that they’re not like you. Mercy means not allowing your heart to grow bitter or cold. It is about always being ready to forgive, not making your children pay today for the sins of yesterday. Mercy is about moving toward your children with love even in those moments when they don’t deserve your love. Mercy is about being willing to do things over and over again without throwing it into your children’s faces that you have to repeat yourself. It’s about refusing to motivate your children by shame and threat. Here’s what mercy means for your parenting: mercy means that every action, reaction, and response toward your children is tempered and shaped by tenderness, understanding, compassion, and love. Parenting is a life-long mission of humbly, joyfully, and willingly giving mercy. (p.197-198)

We have received much grace and mercy from the Lord, so we, too, have to grow in grace mercy as parents.

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.” Isaiah‬ ‭30:18‬ ‭

Picking Strawberries and Sowing Character

A visit to Strawberry Fields in Baguio proved to be a great lesson on obedience for our children and their cousins. We got to Strawberry Fields late in the morning to find that most of the strawberries had been picked.

Even if the older kids were disappointed, we asked everyone to stand in line anyway, in case Farmer Tony (who owned the particular field we were at), allowed us to enter. There were others ahead of us and the kids got anxious as the people combed each row to find whatever strawberries remained. Yet they stood in line patiently bearing the heat of the midday sun, listening to Edric’s instructions.

When it was finally their turn, Farmer Tony welcomed them in and asked them to wait for instructions. However, two women and two kids, who were in line after us, asked if they could just come in to take a photo of the field. “Picture-lang,” was their claim. So we accommodated their request, and our kids and their cousins had to wait again.

The family wasn’t going to pick any strawberries, especially since this wouldn’t be fair to everyone who had been waiting, and to our kids and their cousins who were there before them and worried about the lack of strawberries remaining. Farmer Tony allowed them inside in good faith while our children looked on with restraint once again. What upset all the kids was the family actually started to pick strawberries, explaining that it was just for the photo-shoot’s sake. “For experience,” they said.

Of course all our kids and their cousins began to comment and say, “Hey, they said they wouldn’t do that. They lied.” Strong words from twelve kids all standing in row!

We told them to chill, and be calm. They didn’t need to make a scene or impose their convictions on this family. But of course Edric and I were kind of annoyed at the family’s lack of integrity and for being bad examples of obedience to our kids, as well as nephews and nieces. The rule was, if you wanted to pick strawberries you had to stand in line and wait for your turn. Furthermore, there were hardly any strawberries left on the field and these adults were encouraging their kids to pick out juicy ones for the photo when they weren’t supposed to.

Edric approached them and in a nice but firm way called out the fact that they didn’t honor their statement, but the women just giggled like it wasn’t a big deal. I don’t know what their young children, whom they told to pick the strawberries, thought of the fact that they were breaking rules and being dishonest.

Although we it wasn’t our place to dictate the value of integrity and obedience on that family who took advantage of Farmer Tony’s kindness, as well as ours for letting them cut in, Edric reiterated to our own kids and their cousins that they should OBEY Farmer Tony. Only take the red ones and pull them off the way Farmer Tony told you to.

Our kids and their cousins, ages 3 to 14 excitedly went hunting for their strawberries. Thankfully, they obeyed and didn’t run around like wild animals, yanking off every strawberry they could get their hands on. There were so many more green ones but we instructed them not to take those. In the end they only filled up one box together but they still had good attitudes and they had fun.

It was a peaceful, organized, strawberry-picking morning without us adults getting overwhelmed or stressed by unruly children. In the van, on the way back to the hotel, we had processing time with all the kids. Edric and I commended them for obeying and for having integrity. They didn’t get to harvest as many strawberries as they hoped to but they came away sowing seeds of good character which will reap a more important harvest in the future!

Here’s a great passage to teach our children, especially the older ones…

“Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. 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 ‭6:7-9‬

Marriage and a Cramped Hotel Room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So that’s what we did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loving Our Husbands When They are Weak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s stand by our husbands, ladies!

Have Intentions vs. Expectations in Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of course, I was overjoyed!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:3-5‬ ‭

Smile at Your Husband

I had a meeting in Edric’s office that he wasn’t aware of, so when I tapped on the glass of the conference room he was in to wave hello he looked pleasantly surprised. After both our meetings were done, he found me and pulled me close to him to say, “It made my day to see you!”

This is not a cheesy entry to the beginning of a sappy romance novel, but it felt kind of like one of those moments that made me gushy inside. I still get that. Sigh. I’m a secret romantic. What can I say? When my husband takes me in his arms and flashes his dimpled smile at me like I’m the best thing he’s seen all day, it doesn’t matter what kind of stress I’ve had. I feel safe, special, and loved.

I think we all need to smile at our spouses more often. Why? Communication, as we have so often heard, is primarily non-verbal. If we don’t smile, our spouse will naturally assume that we aren’t happy with our relationship or happy with them. When we do smile it changes the climate of our relationship and the mood of the moment.

Okay…let me be honest, although I enjoy being with Edric and he’s my favorite human (I have to say human because God is my favorite person), there are days when his personality and decisions frustrate me and it’s really hard to smile! So yes, sometimes I have to think positive thoughts about him to squeeze out that smile. However, more than that, I have to focus on my own relationship with the Lord.

Like today, in the car, on the way back from a talk that Edric and I gave on “Leading from the Home,” I reacted towards Edric for asking me to hand our oldest son, Elijah, a plastic bag for his trash. Elijah had finished his packed lunch in the van and he needed a place to put it. Edric turned to me and asked, “Can you help him?”

Since I was the middle of something and he was already holding the plastic bag, I replied, “I’ve been helping everyone with their lunch,” hoping he wouldn’t rely on me. It wasn’t a nice comment, and I let it out because I felt like he was in the better position to hand Elijah the plastic bag.

Well, Edric didn’t understand why my tone and statement sounded so self-righteous, and we went back and forth discussing my claim that “I was helping everyone.” So I definitely wasn’t smiling and neither was he. However, I praise God for the spiritual spankings he gives me when I’m in the wrong. He told me to humble myself and apologize. I resisted for a bit but then I did. And no surprise here…the smile came! Edric also softened up and forgave me.

Now, all is well. He’s on his computer and I’m here, typing this entry. In fact, I just told him, “I love this! You, men, together doing things we enjoy.” He did just say I was weird for finding this moment so pleasurable, but I’m sure he meant that in a good way. (Think positive thoughts.)

If we aren’t smiling at our spouses it’s because there is probably something misaligned in us, on the inside. And more likely than not, I am pretty sure it has to do with our focus being off. We are looking at our husbands and depending on them to make us happy. Naturally then, our smiles will be few and far between. The great news is that we can be happy because of God is the source of our joy!  I really like what Proverbs 31:25 has to say about a woman who fears the Lord. It declares, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.”

If our husbands got the privilege of being around wives who smiled at the future, think of the impact it would make on them!

For those of you who can remember the days when you were dating your spouse, you know that your smile communicated 1. You were happy to see your man. 2. You enjoyed his company.

I could charm Edric over with a smile when we were dating. But guess what? It still works! And I’m not saying that because I manipulate Edric with my smiling. Today, the same is still true. When I’m with Edric and I smile, it communicates 1. I am happy to see him. 2. I enjoy his company.

For example, when Edric comes home and I greet him with a big smile and a “Hi, babe,” he smiles generously back at me and his instinct is to spend time with me. The opposite is true. When he comes home and I act moody or disinterested in him, forgetting to smile, then he will, more often than not, quip, “I guess you’re too busy,” and avoid me.

If we want a more satisfying relationship with our husbands, let’s smile, ladies! It’s a natural face-lift to make us look younger, and you will really appreciate this…Ron Gutman, the author of Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act wrote that “British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.” (Source: Psychology Today) What a ridiculously wonderful amount of endorphins!

So try it. Right now. If you are with your husband, smile. Feeling generous? You can even add, “Hon, I really enjoy being with you.”

If you’re struggling, remember the golden rule for relationships, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31) Do we want our husbands to smile at us? Then let’s smile at them!

The Significance of Time (For Kids)

It’s amazing how a day spent with my girls, giving them my undivided attention and playing with them, can make such a big difference in their responsiveness to me. I am sure that the same applies to all other children who get quality and quantity time with their parents.

My daughters and I had a whole day’s shoot for Friso, a milk brand we are endorsers for, and the story boards revolved around bonding activities together. We did scrapbooking, food prepping, and dressing to frolic in the rain, and the girls thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It didn’t feel like work. More importantly, they felt like this was girls’ time. We engaged one another. I wasn’t distracted by my phone or other priorities. It was just the three of us having fun together since the boys were with their dad.

By the end of that long day, which I thought would have surely worn them out, the girls were still energized. They tailed me wherever I went. All they wanted to do was to be with me and hang out with me. I thought by then they would have had enough of me but the very opposite was true, especially for my older daughter, Tiana. She was like, “What are we going to do now, mom? Can we do more scrapbooking?”

The other sweet thing I noticed was how affectionate Tiana was that evening. (Catalina is naturally a hugger.) Tiana, however, tends to be more economized with her affections. Yet that night, she hugged and put her arms around me spontaneously, multiple times.

Although I have known the very obvious connection between time and influence for many years through experience and research (as many parents do), I too often ignore that time holds such power to unlock the hearts of our kids. I get busy, even as a homeschool mom who spends each day with her kids.

However, being around doesn’t count as much as being present in each moment with my kids. There is no substitute for it. Nourished and secure children have parents who are both physically and emotionally present.

When parents ask me, “What do I do about my child who isn’t listening? Or “How do I reach out to my son who doesn’t tell me what’s going on inside?” There are countless other questions similar in nature that basically speak of a parents’ desire to connect with their emotionally distant child. I can’t think of a better solution than to say…

Spend time with your child. Don’t have a secret agenda that makes your intentions for bonding with them suspect. Just enjoy their company and let them enjoy yours. Do this consistently over a period of time and a magical thing will happen. Your child will willingly give you his or her heart.