Highlights of Our Peru Adventure

This was my first time to visit Peru with Edric. We stayed in Cusco and took the Hidden Valley Tour, and the Machu Picchu Tour. Peru is beautiful, probably one of the most beautiful countries I have ever seen. I can’t describe it the way the pictures below will. I couldn’t bear to archive these without sharing them.
I really believe it’s necessary for a husband and wife to escape once in a while. It doesn’t have to be to a place like South America. The trip is crazy long from the Philippines (almost 30 hours if you go through the US.) It can be a local trip or somewhere in South East Asia. The point is to find the time to be with one another without the kids so you can build on the romance. 

As a parent of five it’s challenging to enjoy extended couple time. Plus, Edric is on vacation mode when we are away so he is more relaxed and more eager to talk (and listen). For as long as we can leave our kids with my parents, his parents or willing siblings of ours, we know the kids will be just fine. In fact, they mature and grow while we are gone. They also appreciate us more! 




It’s Never Okay to Throw a Toilet Paper Roll at Your Husband

After writing an article last week on “Fighting with Gentleness,” I messed up big time. I mean, BIG TIME. I’ve been honest with my readers about my mistakes as a wife and mother, so I’m not going to plaster over this one.
During an argument with Edric two Sundays ago (after church, mind you), I threw a toilet paper roll at him. Yes, a toilet paper roll! Why?!

What triggered this outburst in me? What happened to me?! I’m not a thrower.

Okay, I’m not going to lie. There was one other time that I threw something. It was four years ago. Edric and I were agitated at one another. I flung the remote control towards the other end of the room where it crashed into the wall and fell apart.

I had to apologize profusely and ask for forgiveness for my display of violence. Thankfully, Edric dispensed his forgiveness in a very sweet and gracious way, assuring me that he loved me no matter what. But I regretted that moment for many months after. I still regret it.

So why did I revert to throwing again? And this time, a toilet paper roll?

Let me go back to the beginning, when a discussion took place about breakfast. (We have at least one altercation a year that deals with breakfast. I don’t know why. It just happens.)

Edric’s first statement was to serve variations of scrambled eggs. We eat pretty hearty breakfasts. Eggs are a big part of our morning meals. For a while, we were doing more scrambled eggs than fried or boiled. Then Edric asked to add more fried eggs to the menu. Finally, a few weeks ago, he was tired of the sunny side up eggs and requested for more stylized scrambled eggs.

My fault was forgetting to inform our househelp right away. So I had to apologize to Edric for not implementing his instruction immediately. This initial conversation was fine. But the breakfast discussion continued. Edric commented about how his morning meal is often cold. So he specified that breakfast be served at 6:15 AM instead of at 6 AM.

This kind of irked me because it seemed so nit-picky. A difference of 15 minutes? Really? But I got it. Ever since I can remember, he has disliked eating re-heated food and wants everything served hot right before he sits down at the table. So I tried to avoid over-reacting.

However, when I asked him what time he wanted breakfast served on Saturday and Sunday, he answered, “That’s flexible.” I got confused. If hot meals were so important to him then why say that the timing for breakfast on the weekends was flexible? When I bugged Edric to give me a time, he began to be annoyed. So I said something like, “Look, you’re the only one who has a problem with cold food, so please say a time that we can all work with for the weekends, too.”

Edric rebutted, “Everyone has a problem with cold food.”

“Everyone?” I challenged. “It’s just you who has this issue.”

Then I proceeded to interview each of the kids sitting in the back (such a disrespectful thing to do), and they all supported Edric’s hot food perspective. Oops. I was the loser.

He snapped at me and said something he never has. “You’re bringing the kids into this? You are so pathetic!” It wasn’t a shout but there was emphasis and anger in his tone.

Oh my. It was on. I forgot everything I wrote about fighting with gentleness in my article, and the war began.

Defensively I quipped, “Well, not everyone has a problem with cold food because I, for example, don’t care if food is hot or not. In fact, I don’t even like hot food.” (I seriously don’t because it burns my tongue.)

“You mean you don’t like freshly cooked, warm food?” Edric asked doubtfully.

“Yes I do, but I can live without it,” was my response.

“So if you go to Shang-rila buffet, you won’t mind it if the food they served wasn’t hot?” Edric cynically questioned my logic.

“That’s a totally different scenario. My point is, if you are so picky about hot food then you should decide a specific time for breakfast to be served on the weekends, too, so we can all adjust to you,” I replied.

He still refused to give a time, claiming that it was my responsibility as a homemanager to institute these things. But, since he was micromanaging weekday breakfast schedules then why not do the same for the weekend, too?

When we got home and the kids vacated the car, I nearly pinched him on the shoulder and snapped at him, “Don’t ever say something like that to me!” (I was referring to the pathetic statement.)

He fired back at me, “No, you don’t do that!” (Referring to my disrespect and attempt to pinch him.)

Some of the older kids heard this. This situation was awful. We had argued in front of the kids and dishonored one another. Up to the bedroom we both stomped.

Edric wasn’t going to brush this conflict aside. He sat across from me on the bed and initiated conflict resolution. I can’t narrate everything that was said, but it was a convoluted mess of tears, frustration, exaggeration, blaming, judging, and yes, a toilet paper roll at the height of it all. That was my doing. I stormed out of the bathroom with the toilet paper in my hand and meant to hit his body with it but I totally missed. He was only two feet away, too. (My aim is terrible when I’m emotional.)

He volunteered his body to be hit again as a taunt, and I half jokingly claimed that I needed a bigger object to throw at him. Of course I didn’t take him up on his offer!

Somewhere in the middle, Edric pulled the “you are going to have your period” card to explain my irrational reactiveness, which got me worked up again because my period was far, far away. And he pulled out his phone to video our conversation as evidence of my emotional instability. He planned to archive the video for future reference. This didn’t help towards resolution.

We must have been in our bedroom for over an hour, with the door locked and the kids pounding on it several times calling us down to lunch. We had to gently shoo them away, explaining that, “Mommy and daddy need to talk.” The older kids understood, but the younger ones returned several times. In the end, Edric and I asked for forgiveness from one another and from our children. Peace returned to our home.

But, wow. I couldn’t believe the incident happened in the first place, and over a breakfast conversation! It was so wrong of me to hurl that toilet paper roll at Edric. It was so wrong of me to snap at him and be disrespectfully irritated. When I think about that incident I am reminded of a very important life principle: Never let your spiritual guard down.

1 Peter 5:8 so sensibly put it: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Edric and I spent the first quarter of 2016 serving the Lord and ministering to others. Yet, serving the Lord and doing ministry doesn’t guarantee spiritual perfection. In fact, it sometimes has the tendency to make one complacent about their spiritual walk. To be honest, I wasn’t praying as faithfully. I may have been reading my Bible, but I wasn’t living with dependence on the Holy Spirit every single day.

When I’m not controlled by the Holy Spirit, I am the WORST version of myself. Impatient, prideful, spiteful, unkind, judgmental, unmerciful, bitter, and vengeful…these are just a few of my un-shining characteristics. And yes, I can even go so far as to throw a toilet paper roll at my husband! It’s only by God’s mercy that I missed. The point is, there’s not an ounce of goodness in me apart from Christ. I can’t cruise along the Christian life and assume that I’m not going to revert back to my old self. Therefore, I always need to acknowledge my need for God’s power to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Furthermore, God is opening up more opportunities for me to have a more public platform. Now, more than ever, I have to be careful, conscious, and intentional about walking intimately with Him. In a climb with some of the ladies in my discipleship group, I saw a sign at the summit that read, DANGER. Whenever we experience successes in life, this is when we are most vulnerable to falling and failing spiritually. My dad used to say, “Prosperity is more dangerous than poverty.” In the same way, I believe that accomplishing much makes our hearts more prone to pride, selfishness and other sins of the heart that are deadly to the human soul.

The day after Edric and I fought, I went on a run and cried out to the Lord. I felt so broken and discouraged. As I was running, the Bible passage that came to mind was 2 Chronicles 7:14, “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I prayed, Lord, please forgive me and please heal my marriage.

God was gracious to me. I didn’t deserve grace, but the next day, He caused Edric to be extra sweet and kind to me. Edric acknowledged that he had to take better care of me, to cherish and nourish me as His wife. It was an affirmation that I must keep praying for my marriage. Jesus Christ is the only one who can restore and heal it when it needs fixing. And He’s the only one who can protect it when the evil one seeks to divide Edric and me. 

Psalm 16:2 declares, “You are my Lord; I have no good beside You.” That’s my declaration at the end of this post. Lord, I cling to you. If you aren’t in my life, I am a completely lost, broken and unholy person who damages those around her. But I don’t want to be that way. Please help me. Be the goodness in me that pours forth into the lives of those around me, into the lives of my husband and my children. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Maybe you are like me and you’ve messed up at one point in your marriage, or many at many points, or you are messing up right now. Don’t lose heart. You can change, you can be restored, you can find grace and help in your time of need. I pray you will seek the Lord as the answer. 

 

Centro Holistico

   

 My mom and I visited Centro Holistico today for our mom and daughter date. Carolyn, my youngest sister is finishing her med studies and she was receiving training here for her clinical elective.

   
 Centro Holistico doesn’t feel like a doctor’s clinic even if it is. It feels more like a mix of home and spa which makes it inviting and relaxing. It’s operated by medical doctors who integrate Eastern and Western medicine. Their aim is to “create a more patient-centric and holistic approach to health.” 

   

  
My mom and I met with Dr. Carisse Diana Drilon-Dalman (MD-MBA, CAMA), who was introduced to us as Dr. Candy, for short. She is a doctor of Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine. At 38 weeks pregnant, she is still up and about! We also met her husband, Dr. Ryan EM Dalman (MD-MBA, ADS, CAMA), Doctor of Integrative General Medicine. They are both Medical Acupuncturists and Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists.  
Dr. Candy patiently sat down with my mom and I for about forty five minutes. I really appreciated how she asked all kinds of questions related to our total persons. She covered medical history, diet, exercise, sleeping habits, and what causes stress, among other things. 

Afterwards, she did a live blood analysis for both of us. I discovered that I am eating too much protein, not drinking enough water, and not eating enough leafy veggies. She suggested barley and chlorophyll for my greens. For my scoliosis, she did acupuncture. It was so relaxing, I fell asleep! My mom got acupuncture for her metabolism and she consulted about her fatty liver.  

My blood cells didn’t look so healthy. I need to work on my diet! Ay! 
My mom had some large crystals from exposure to pollution in her blood. 

 

Live blood analysis shows what your lifestyle has been like for the last three months. It reveals the truth about your diet, water in take, stress levels, organ health like kidneys and liver, and a host of other indicators that can help you identify root issues in your body. 

Dr. Candy gave such practical advice using natural options and she analyzed all the medicines, vitamins, and supplements my mom is taking from a Western medical perspective, too. Her full recommendation is emailed afterwards.

At present, the clinic is far for me to get to but it’s worth the travel time. They have patients who even come from far north for their unique and effective approach to prevention, health and wellness. 

Centro Holistico is located at the 2nd floor of Commerce Center Avenue, cor. East Asia Drive, Filinvest Avenue Corporate City Alabang, Muntinlupa City. Hopefully they will put one up closer to home, after Dr. Candy gives birth, of course! 

Doctors: 

   
Services:

  
Prices:

  
Clinic Hours:

Monday to Friday 10AM – 7PM

Saturday 11AM – 7PM

Sunday and Holidays 11AM – 6PM 

Contact numbers: 828-8863 / 0917-5812990

www.centroholisticoph.com

Facebook centroholistico.ph

Instagram: @centroholistico

This is what medicine should be about (a quote on their wall): 

Why Children Learn Best at Home

At the recent Global Home Education Conference in Brazil, I met Debra Bell again. She is one of my homeschool heroes. She was an educator who taught her own kids so she understands the differences between homeschooling and conventional schooling better than most people do. Her book, Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, has helped countless families navigate the challenges of homeschooling. Furthermore, she has gotten her PhD on learning psychology and done extensive research on how children learn. In her workshop, she explained 8 reasons why children learn best at home.

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I want to add just two other points that I covered in the talk I gave in Cebu. Firstly, learning happens best at home because parents are able to focus on the heart of their child.

The amount of time I have with my kids allows me to study them thoroughly and prepare their hearts to receive instruction. A few days ago, I found out that Edan was tempted to run away sevearal times. Edan? My sweet son? Run away?!!! I started to cry. But instead of panicking, Edric and I decided to take him out to lunch for fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and ice cream (some of his favorite things, especially the latter.)

During this lunch we asked him to explain what was going on in his heart and he told us that he gets very angry inside. Sometimes, he gets angry with Elijah, Edric or me. Oh dear. When he does, he thinks, Maybe I will just run away. This was shocking to me because I think our home is a pretty loving, stress-free home environment. But apparently, Edan doesn’t always see it this way.

For one thing, he doesn’t handle conflict with his brother, Elijah, well. (We are working on this.) He likes to avoid getting into discussions when he is frustrated. Furthermore, he gets hurt when Edric or I correct him with a negative tone. He actually used the phrase, “When you get mad at me.” His love language is words so he is very sensitive to what people say.

We both encouraged Edan by saying, “Edan, you can talk to us about anything. Anytime you are going through something, you can come to us. We want to listen to you, to help you. We love you and you are important to us.”

I also told him a story about a boy who grew up in a wonderful Christian home where he was deeply loved. “However,” I continued, “this boy grew up and chose the wrong friends who invited him to do drugs. So he got addicted and fell away from the Lord. When I interviewed the parents to find out what happened to this son of theirs, they revealed that he hid things in his heart. He didn’t share what was going on inside. As a result, he listened to the lies of the evil one. It’s the same way with any of us, Edan. Imagine a sheep on a field by itself. To a wolf, it will seem like vulnerable and easy prey. But if that sheep was beside the shepherd and with the other sheep, the wolf would think twice. It will be harder for him to attack the sheep. As a Christian, it’s difficult to follow Christ alone, just like that sheep. We need others.”

Edan smiled at Edric and me. He knew what we were getting at. He came away from our lunch feeling like he was treasured and special, that we love him no matter what.

Does this mean that he will never feel like running away again? The temptation may still come. In fact, he recently said, “Mom, I am getting that feeling again,” when Edric and I were about to go out on a date! Hmm…was this manipulation?! I talked to him about his feelings and the next day, we took all the kids out for a movie and dinner date.

Why is the heart so important when it comes to homeschooling? If my kids don’t trust me or don’t feel secure in their love for me (or Edric’s), they will not listen to my (our) instruction. Furthermore, if their hearts aren’t spiritually okay, their minds won’t be okay either. Homeschooling gives us a lot of time to get to know our children and to invest in their hearts.

Three years ago, I attended Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s seminar in Berlin on Why Home Education Works. He presented an interesting conclusion from the view point of a developmental psychologist. I wrote about his theory a few years ago, which I found to be very insightful. (He isn’t even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.) According to Neufeld, homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature in to a healthy and whole person who can achieve his fullest potential. Years of research and study show that a child was designed to be raised and educated at home because the most important element in a child’s development towards maturity is his attachment to those who are responsible for him (aka parents).

There’s another aspect to focusing on a child’s heart, which is to help them internalise obedience and respect. This is a prerequisite to effective learning. Imagine trying to get five children to sit down and do their work if they don’t obey? Nightmare. My focus will be diverted to behavioural management instead of valuable hours spent acquiring knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

It’s challenging for Catalina right now because she is in obedience-training mode. But I’m amazed at how big the change has been since we became intentional about disciplining her. I can tell her, “Catalina, sit down.” Or, “Catalina, don’t be fussy.” Or, “Catalina, wait, because mommy is still talking to your brother.” She will listen. Not perfectly. But she’s improved significantly. Therefore, it is now plausible to teach her. Her heart is ready. Some months ago, it would have been crazy to attempt this.

Yet another critical aspect of focusing on the heart is imparting convictions to our children. When they understand that they are accountable to God to live for His purposes and glory, they will make wise choices about the use of their time, the thoughts they entertain, the habits they develop, and the friends they hang out with. When it comes to education and responsibilities, they will try their best even if no one is watching them.

Another reason why learning happens best at home is more practical in nature. The skills needed for the 21st century are not achieved through the conventional methods of schooling. I’ve been reading Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – and What We Can Do About It. He describes 7 Survival Skills for the 21st Century for Work, Learning, and Citizenship. Academics are great but they don’t rank as high with CEOs and owners of some of the largest and most profitable businesses in the world. Tony Wagner interviewed top CEOs and business owners and they revealed certain abilities that they look for, which I’ve posted below:

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Interestingly, all these skills can be honed in the context of the home and through parental instruction! When I read Wagner’s book, I got so excited! It made me realise that homeschooling is not just about creating an optimum environment for learning, focusing on their hearts, and providing the foundation of character and conviction in our kids. Homeschooling can prepare our kids for the REAL world.

1. Critical thinking and problem solving —  We  can teach our kids to ask questions, to be resourceful, and to find sensible solutions to learning challenges they face. It’s not about memorizing facts or content mindlessly. It’s about making logical and intelligent choices.

2. Collaboration and leading by influence — We can teach our kids to work together, love and forgive one another unconditionally. We can also teach them to deal with personalities and engage people they may not naturally gravitate to. More importantly, we ought to remind them to pursue Christ-likeness and encourage others by their example. Good leaders inspire followers. They don’t lord it over others.

3. Agility and adaptation — We need to train our children to be flexible. Learning doesn’t always happen in a predictable fashion. Everything doesn’t always go as planned in life either. Sometimes we need to pursue the same goal but change our methods in the process and our kids have to learn to adjust. For example, we need to learn about math concepts but if the book doesn’t cut it, what other sources can we use?

How about when a child doesn’t get his or her way? We can teach them to respond with the right attitude. And when a child fails at a task, we can gently push them to keep going.

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism — Many homeschooling families do home-based businesses. Our kids have tried doing this several times. But we need to give them even more opportunities to practice creating a business idea and executing it, and how to earn money even while they are young.

With older children, we can apply initiative by making them responsible for their learning. Don’t hover over them all the time. They have to take ownership of their learning goals and proactively improve themselves.

5. Effective written and oral communication – This is self-explanatory but apparently, many students today have problems articulating themselves well when they write or speak. Our own kids can be prone to the same problem if we are not intentional about building these skills. At the same time homeschoolers can have an edge because they have access to experiences that conventional schooled children may not.

A few weeks ago, my friend’s 10 year old, homeschooling daughter stood along side her dad to give a short testimony about how her father is loving to her mom. She helped give examples to the audience about how a husband should cherish his wife. She was articulate, poised and she memorized her entire talk. She did an amazing job!

I have used Institute for Excellence in Writing to help my eldest son develop his creative writing skills. He used to abhor writing. But after using this material he wrote a 52 paragraph narrative about his Mt. Apo climb. He did a great job, too. When I met author, Andrew Pudewa, in Brazil I thanked him for the blessing he has been to us all the way in the Philippines. If Elijah displayed a negative attitude toward writing in school, I don’t think a teacher would spend hours searching for a better way for him to learn to write. But mothers will do this kind of thing for their kids.

6. Assessing and analysing information — With the overwhelming amounts of information accessible to children today through the Internet, we need to teach them to evaluate and process content. Will they take everything at face value or will they think twice about making decisions based on what they read and see online?

Elijah makes stock reports and submits them to his dad. He reads through articles and updates about the businesses he invests in and gives recommendations based on his research. But he must do so thoroughly because his investments are at stake. As a result, he trains himself to sort through the information before coming to conclusions. By God’s grace his portfolio is doing pretty well, too.

7. Curiosity and imagination – Everyday our kids have time to play, explore, discover, invent and create. We don’t cannibalise the hours of their day with school work. To my horror I was told that some conventionally schooled students in highly competitive institutions have to study into the late evenings during the week then wake up ridiculously early to avoid the traffic to school. This makes me want to cry. These kids are missing out on the wonders of childhood which should include day dreaming, exploring, inventing, creating, and mastering their areas of giftedness.

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Finland is at the forefront of revolutionary educational methods and their methods have been proven successful. In an article written by an 7th grade math teacher in the U.S. who completed his Fulbright research assignment in Finland he explained, “We (in Anerica) can’t even stick to ONE philosophy of education long enough to see if it actually works. We are constantly trying new methods, ideas and initiatives. We keep adding more and more to our plates without removing any of the past ideas. Currently we believe “more” is the answer to all of our education problems— everything can be solved with MORE classes, longer days, MORE homework, MORE assignments, MORE pressure, MORE content, MORE meetings, MORE after school tutoring, and of course MORE testing! All this is doing is creating MORE burnt out teachers, MORE stressed out students and MORE frustration. Finland on the other hand believes less is more.” Source: 11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us Less Is More

I also believe in less is more to give way to pursuits and activities that do more for kids. Over the weekend, I spoke to parents from Cebu who encouraged their 12 year old daughter to study fashion design while she was homeschooling. She competed with students much older than she was. But she turned out to be the most imaginative of them all, according to her teacher. She presented her first project in an unconventional way, displaying a 1920’s outfit to explain the uniqueness of that era in fashion design. At 14, she continues to study design and is excelling at it! If she is amazing now, how much more when she actually studies it in college?!

What’s her big advantage? Her parents didn’t choke the creativity out of her by cramming her mind full of academics. She spent many hours sketching and drawing before she ever took up fashion design. And she did this during her childhood years.

Knowing that learning happens best at home brings me great comfort as a homeschooling mom. It also affirms our family’s decision to choose this lifestyle. Furthermore it is starting to look like the future of education is headed in the direction of home education. Or, at the very least, something very similar to the way learning transpires at home and customizes learning for a child.

The world is changing fast and educational models are becoming outdated more quickly than institutions and governments are able to adjust to these changes. Homeschooling parents may seem crazy to those who anchor their sense of security on school systems and on reputable school brands. This article is not about criticizing those parents. I believe parents who homeschool and parents who send their kids to school are well-meaning and love their kids just the same. But maybe one day soon, people will applaud the brave parents who had the foresight to recognize that their children could learn more, be more and accomplish more in their home instead of in a traditional classroom.

Vionic Makes Me Bionic

 My feet get really tired at the end of the day because I have feet issues. A part of it could be my arches which gave me problems as an athlete when I was younger. The other difficulty I have is wearing heels for longer than 2 hours. Anything stiletto-y kills my feet. My scoliosis may aggravate this. Furthermore, my toes get scrunched in heels and I can’t take the pressure. So I prefer wedges or flats. Yet even then, without arch supports, my feet are usually sore when I get home. I know it’s not an age thing because this was happening in my twenties. 

  This week I was sent a pair of Vionic sandals and my first impression was, Hey, these look so comfy! And then I slipped my foot into them and they were very comfortable indeed! But this love at first slip-on has happened to me in the past so I wasn’t totally convinced yet. I had to test them. 

Today I finally got the chance to. I walked around in them for 12+ hours. When I retired my feet and legs for the evening, I didn’t have the usual pains I normally would with other shoes. Plus no part of the straps dug into the top of my feet either. All in all, these Vionics made me feel bionic! (I just had to use that word.)

I like that my pair is elevated which gives me an extra inch off the ground. At the same time, the cushioning has the right mix of firm and flexible. And I also like the color I got, which is easy to pair with most of my casual outfits for the summer. 
What makes Vionic special? Got these screen shots from the Vionic site:  

   

  

Vionic shoes promote foot health which is something all mommies need (all women need.) I can imagine how these would especially benefit preggy moms. They are intelligently designed so you can wear them every day for hours and hours. Many of Vionic shoes carry the American Podiatric Medical Association seal of approval, too. The other plus is they are stylish. Personally, the great benefit to me is the arch support, padding for the heel, and the generous amount of wiggle room they give my toes. They are sweet to my feet. :) 

Check out more styles at Vionic Philippines

Saying Goodbye to Seasons of Motherhood

I finally weaned Catalina two months ago. It was kind of a forced wean because Edric and I traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for seven days which left her no option but to take the bottle. But like all my other kids who breastfed for a long time, she resorted to milk in a cup instead.

When I came back, she still asked to nurse and I tried but there wasn’t any more milk. Of course I could have produced it again had I let her keep latching on. But at two and a half years old I also figured it was time to move on. She breastfed primarily for comfort, not for sustenance. 

Still, she made attempts so I would explain, “Mommy has no more milk.” This answer didn’t always satisfy her so I had to add, “Mommy can always hug you and hold you. I will always love you.”

  
I thought I accepted the weaning as the right thing to do until I broke down one Sunday afternoon. Catalina saw me and reacted, “Why? why?” And then she pretended to cry, maybe to emphathize with me or maybe to make fun of me. (Knowing her personality, it may have been the latter!)

It finally dawned on me that breastfeeding babies has come to an end. Sure, okay, technically, I can have more kids. But I may not, and apart from that, it’s dealing with the reality that Catalina is “growing up.” She isn’t a baby anymore. In fact, she told me she’s “a little lady” because that’s the term Edric uses to describe her. 

Sometimes, I want my little baby back! I miss breastfeeding her to sleep, being able to comfort her when she is scared, tired or needy, the physical bonding we share that is so tender and special, and how happy and satisfied she looks when she is nursing. (It’s always difficult for me to wean my babies.)

Older moms used to tell me things like, Cherish every moment with your babies, you will miss this. I would look at them while holding an infant in my arms or breastfeeding one, tired as heck, and their advice seemed distantly relevant to me. But now, from the vantage point of having nursed five babies, survived the sleepless nights, and moved past the feeling of being “tied-down” by the responsibilities of caring for infants, I look back and think…they were right. They were all right! It all came and went so quickly, so soon. And, sigh, I miss it all.

Those difficult seasons made me a mother. Those trying nights of waking up to comfort my babies allowed me to discover the amazing resilience we have as women. And those challenging moments of teaching my babies how to communicate, walk across a room, feed themselves, and learn other survival skills they would need as little humans made me believe that God gave moms a supernatural patience and grace to persevere and repeat ourselves a thousand times! 

Being a mother has been such an adventure, and it continues to be. I’ve come to accept that it’s always going to be hard to say goodbye to each season of motherhood because I am a fully invested mom. Whether it’s the first few months of caring for a newborn, breastfeeding through the infant stage and beyond, raising wiggly toddlers, homeschooling young children, or navigating the teen years (this is a recent one), there will be tearful passages and triumphant ones that make up the sweet song of motherhood. Like me, there’s no committed mom out there who will not feel the sorrow of leaving one stage and entering another.  

So I must move forward with gratitude, embracing the experiences that my growing children will live through with me. It may be goodbye to having babies but it’s also a big hello to exciting times ahead. 

For instance, I am learning to appreciate Catalina and love her in new ways. She sleeps in the girl’s room with Tiana but sometimes, during the wee hours of the morning she will sneak into our room, inch into a space beside me on the bed and quietly whisper, “Can you hug me, mommy?” 

When I am dead tired, I drape an arm over her body to make it seem like it’s a hug, but this doesn’t count for her. She will insist, “Can you face me?” Then she will press her cheek to mine and close her eyes. I will smell her soft skin and feel the warmth of it against mine. Soon after she will doze off peacefully and I will smile…partially because I can go back sleep, too, but more so because this is its own kind of special. Breastfeeding was wonderful but this is better. This is a new season to treasure.

  

The Chocolate Chamber 

After our seminar in Cebu, Edric and I got to drop by The Chocolate Chamber of Raquel Choa as recommended by a PR friend of Edric. It was worth the stop before our plane ride out. 

   
   
   
    
We were greeted by Raquel’s son, AJ, who recommended the Founders Chocolate Cake and TCC, as well as the Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate. He goes to Abba’s Orchard, my favorite Montessori School in the Philippines. (Okay, I am biased because we know the owners). But he was gentlemanly, courteous and only 13!  

  
I am not a chocolate person. Edric is. But everything he recommended was delicious! We also got to sample their truffles. Yum! 

  

  

 
I was impressed by the chocolate but I was more impressed by how Raquel Choa’s kids are involved in the business and helping out. According to AJ he goes to at least one of their branches everyday after school. While a lot of kids in Manila go to tutors or do homework after school, he is learning how to run a business and work hard. That’s sweet! Literally and figuratively.  

Chocolate is best shared with those you love. And here’s my sweet love…

 

Fight with Gentleness

Gentle in the dictionary means considerate, kind and amiable in manner and disposition, not harsh or severe. I want to be like this, especially towards Edric and the kids. But my one big struggle is how I deal with conflict – conflict between Edric and myself when we get into an argument or don’t share the same perspective, and conflict between my children and me when challenges arise as we homeschool.

Edric and I have a great marriage, by God’s grace. However, we butt heads because we are opinionated people and oh, so different. When my opinion sounds even mildly disrespectful, he takes it personally and retaliates, which brings out the wrathful side of me in return. When we both remain prideful, the discussion gets verbally ugly. There’s no shouting or cursing, but we jump right into the crazy cycle of trying to win against each other. It doesn’t end until one of us chooses to be humble and apologize. Thankfully, our conflicts have become less and less heated over the years, but they are still present, and of course, they still hurt.

 With my kids, the challenge is remaining calm and positive while I homeschool. On days when they are all over the place because they are distracted, unmotivated, and uncooperative, it deeply frustrates me. I find myself mouthing out negative statements or giving dramatic speeches to guilt-trip them into listening to me. Neither of these methods helps us homeschool better or improves our relationship with one another.

   

  

Thankfully, I read a passage in Colossians that got me thinking about this idea of fighting with gentleness:

Have the right perspective. We need to look at circumstances with spiritual lenses. Sometimes, the earthly and material world can seem so big and important. But we are to look to the greater life we have in Christ, not the one we have died to.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

When I start to think, I’m so irritated at Edric right now, or so annoyed with my kids, I have to ask myself, What is causing this anger? What is the source, the root of the conflict I am in? Is it something that really matters in the grand scheme of eternity?

95% of the time, the issues I encounter between Edric and myself, and my children are trivial when I look upon them with heavenly lenses. The other day I reacted to my five-year old daughter, Tiana, when she kept reversing her numbers as I was teaching her math. I was upset because she repeats this mistake often. But then I stopped myself as I looked at her face and saw her sweet puppy dog eyes studying my expression. At that moment, she knew I was irritated. So, I had a choice. I could continue making her feel inadequate or I could protect her heart, which is infinitely more important than pressuring her to perfect math skills as a five year old. After I changed my tone, adding cheer and sweetness to it, her confidence revived itself and she diligently finished her work.

Put aside the old and put on the new. It’s normal to struggle with our old nature. But God reminds us that we are dead to it. We are no longer children of wrath who are enslaved to sin, unable to please God, and destined for destruction. Therefore we can’t think or behave like we still are.

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” Colossians 3:5-8

As we put aside our sinful nature, we are to put on our new nature in Christ. We are to put on Christ-likeness. Yesterday, I had a crazy schedule that turned circumstances into the perfect context for a conflict with Edric. I brought my five kids to violin, piano, ballet (for the girls), basketball (for the boys), Filipino class, conducted a talk on choosing curriculum, and went to the grocery without yayas to help me. While I managed to bounce around from one venue and activity to another, I also had to think through the menu for the couple’s bible study we were hosting that evening.

At 4:30 pm, Edric called me twice but I didn’t hear my phone ringing because it was on silent mode. I called him back and he asked where I was. He informed me we had to go home earlier than expected to meet with one of the couples before our study (a meeting he forgot to inform me about). Although I was at the tail end of my shopping, he was already outside of his office, waiting on the street with the kids to be picked up. He was hot and tired, and concerned that we would be late.

I arrived about fifteen minutes later with a vehicle stuffed full of groceries, violins, gym bags and basketballs. Edric didn’t appreciate being greeted by this chaotic mess. Since our van was color-coded we were using a smaller vehicle which meant that only two rows were usable for seven of us and a driver. I held Catalina on my lap, Elijah and Edan sat in the front together while sharing a seatbelt, Tiana positioned herself in between the two front seats facing the back seats (a very precarious position), and Edric and Titus squeezed in beside me.

We were probably breaking a number of MMDA rules. Edric challenged me with the question, “What was your plan?”

Honestly, this was my plan. It was a bad plan. I surveyed all the bodies in the vehicle and the back rows stacked to the ceiling with our belongings and groceries and thought, Okay, this was a dumb of me.

As soon as I could, I apologized and asked for Edric’s forgiveness. He was quiet. (I might have spied some steam coming out his ears as he attempted to stay cool.) I prayed that he would not be reactive and he wasn’t!

For a split second, my old self wanted to turn the tables around. I wanted to point out that Edric didn’t inform me about our meeting with our couple friends so he had no reason to fault me for being late. I also wanted to point out that he was kind of giving me the cold shoulder even after I apologized. However, if I had gone this route, I am certain that a marital version of World War III would have ensued. Thankfully, the Lord reminded me to practice gentleness by being humble and quiet. It worked!

The next part of Colossians 3 says, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians (3:9-11)

Remember you identity. God tells us that we are loved, not just loved, but beloved (a word that means cherished and treasured). Because God sees us as special, we have nothing to prove. Instead, we have everything to improve to live up to this identity.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” (Colossians 3:12)

A few months ago my good friends and family members were involved in a special needs event for children called A Night to Shine. It was sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation with the aim of making special needs children feel like kings and queens for the night. Something magical happened as these special needs children were treated like royalty. According to the volunteers, not a single one of them acted up, threw a tantrum or misbehaved. In a gathering of about 500 people, this was a miracle! They responded so positively to the value and worth attributed to them.

Similarly, when we know how much God loves us, it motivates us to be our best. In a conflict scenario, this translates to the ability to surrender our rights instead of proving that we are right. We can anchor our security and sense of worth in Christ, not in the way other people treat us or fail to love us.

Choose to forgive and to love. Two days ago I cried in the bathroom as I tried to understand one of my sons. He pushed my buttons in all the wrong ways this past week. It deeply aggravated me and I was harsh with him. I told God, “I don’t know what to do. Can you help me, Lord?”

God’s reminder to me was to continue to forgive and love my children no matter what. Being a wife and a mother is a ministry. Ministry is messy and ministry always requires God’s grace and dependence on Him.

In my parents’ 40+ years of serving the Lord, their greatest obstacles have been dealing with people. But I never saw them lose their temper or bad mouth people who slandered, criticized, or disagreed with them. Not once did they speak with bitterness about them in front of my siblings and me. They may have expressed their sadness and concern but they never gave us cause to hate the persons who hurt them. Instead they would encourage us to pray.

Although I think my parents are wonderful, I know that it is Christ in them that enabled and still enables them to forgive and love people. They understand that ministry is about living out the grace of God, the manifestation of which is forgiveness and love. Do they always feel like it? Of course not. They are human. But forgiveness and love are superhuman choices we CAN all make when we know what Christ has done for us.

“…bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:13-14)

Pursue unity. In a day and age when people are divided over so many issues, Christ-following families should have homes defined by unity and peace. People need convincing proof that Christ is real, and I believe one of the best ways to demonstrate this is to pursue unity with one another. What is the secret to unity? As the verse below reveals, it is love.

“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14)

There are times when I say that I forgive Edric or I ask for his forgiveness, but my statements are devoid of real love. I just mouth them out because I want to end the conflict. But without love, unity is not attainable. I end up harboring resentment in my heart or developing negative attitudes toward Edric.

How can my heart move towards him when there is so much standing in the way of doing so? How can there be peace when apologies and forgiveness are superficial? The application for me is to apologize in love and forgive in love in order to attain unity, and unity in turn will invite peace.

Be saturated with the Word of God. The devil specializes in filling our minds with deceitful thoughts. To counter these lies, we need to be filled with God’s truth.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell with you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual sons, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

I can’t lose my temper when I’m meditating on something like Proverbs 15:1 which advises, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

God’s Word is powerful, living and active. The more we read it, the more influence it will have over our thoughts and actions, conforming these to do what pleases God.

Be thankful. In Colossians 3:1-17, being thankful is mentioned three times so it must be important. The last part ends with this: “Whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I respect Edric. Since meetings and activities required me to be in his office a lot this week, I got to observe him closely. It made me appreciate how hard he works, the stress he has to deal with, and the difficult choices he has to make. What a guy!

I tanked up on positive thoughts about him, so when he was annoyed with me yesterday for missing his calls, being late, and stuffing the vehicle full of groceries, it was easier not to be negative in response. Furthermore, during our couple’s group, I also told him that I have great respect for the choices he makes because they reveal his deep love for God. This made him a little teary eyed and it was a tender moment. But the point is this…when I have an attitude of thankfulness to the Lord for Edric and even my kids, I am less likely to focus on the things they do that upset me, and more likely to respond with gentleness.

  
Gentleness is a great and powerful virtue. I’m discovering that it is one of the best ways to deal with conflicts and to preserve unity in our home. And here’s a great promise to inspire us, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Now it’s time to apply, apply, apply!

To My Young Adult

My husband, Edric, decided to institute a rite of passage for all our sons when they leave their childhood years and enter young adulthood. Since Eljah was the first to enter this stage, it was very special when we invited the key men in his life for dinner to pray over him and pass on their godly wisdom. 

   

I sat at the other end of the table and watched this ceremony transpire, thankful that God gifted our son with mentors who love Him and love the Lord. 

   

  

 When a publications company asked me to compose a letter to my children about how to help children process obstacles and difficult circumstances positively, I decided to write one for Elijah. I gave him a shorter one to read up on Mt. Apo when he reached the summit. But this one is something I want all my children to have when they become young adults. Plus, Elijah said he liked this one better! 

—-

It is hard to believe that you aren’t the little baby I once held in my arms. Have I prepared you enough, taught you enough to navigate the years ahead of you – years that will be marked by hormonal changes, growth spurts, and emotional tests?

In our family we don’t call these years the teenage years. Your dad and I have explained that thirteen means you are a young adult. But this doesn’t mean that you won’t have to deal with the same challenges that “teenagers” go through. You will meet transitions, upsets, disappointments, failures, wins, highs, and lows, and I want you to understand first and foremost that this is all a part of growing into the person God has planned for you to be.

You may be growing up in a positive home environment where you are treasured and loved unconditionally by your dad, siblings and me. However, not everyone outside of our family is going to applaud your principles, like you as a person, or give you a medal for effort. Sometimes, reality will fall incredibly short of your expectations, too. Worst of all, something precious and important to you may even be taken away.

As you know, something unprecedentedly evil happened to me when I was just a little older than you are now. We have talked about how I was a victim of rape. This tragic experience awakened me to the reality of evil in the world, deep pain, and darkened hope. I think now, more than ever before, it’s necessary for me to remind you that we live in a fallen, sinful world. My tragedy was not unique. There are many people who go through harrowing circumstances, some much more terrible than what I had to endure.

I tell you this not to frighten you or make you afraid of your future. I tell you this because you must understand that there is brokenness in this world because of sin, and someday, this brokenness may pierce your own heart. You may question everything you believe about who God is as you meet a cross road where you must face the question of faith.

It is at this juncture when you must cling to the truth that will anchor you. God loves you. He has a plan for your life. Even if you may not always be able to see this plan with your physical eyes, believe that it is good because God is good. In the book of Hebrews it says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) My prayer is that you will have the maturity to interpret every circumstance with spiritual eyes – to have faith in God’s character.

Years ago I chose to believe that God never wastes our pain. He is a redeemer. He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

When I look at my life today, you are a testament to this goodness. God gave me a child like you to love. He gave me your dad and our family. Furthermore, He gave me the privilege of serving Him and telling others about Him by using my life’s story.

God is also writing your life’s story. Let Him continue to do so by trusting Him always. Don’t try to grab the pen when the plot becomes uncomfortable. He’s got everything under control.

In the meantime, walk with Him one day at a time. Love Him and obey Him. If you do so, you don’t need to worry about what lies ahead. As Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

When I think about you growing up, this is what comforts me. If you have Christ in your life, you will be okay. You will have His peace, joy, grace, hope, power, and presence. This means that you will have everything you need to persevere and to overcome the obstacles and challenges you will face. Best of all, you will come out of these life lessons and tests stronger, better and wiser. You will be equipped for the special work that God will entrust you with. You will also be able to maximize your gifts and talents for His glory.

Finally, let me end this letter with the charge and encouragement that God gave to Joshua when he was about to conquer the Promised Land. “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you…Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Like Joshua, God has a purpose for you to fulfill. It stretches out before you just as the Promised Land did before the Israelites. This thought is both intimidating and exciting! Furthermore, your dad, your siblings, and myself may not be physically present everywhere you go (even if we would like to be), but God will ALWAYS be with you. And just like Joshua, He is telling you to be strong and courageous, to let His Word and principles guide you. If you do so, you will be prosperous and successful.

Know that I love you always, through everything. And no matter where you are or where you go, remember that I will be praying for you, entrusting you to the One who is able to uphold you and shield you.

Always here for you,

Mom

 

 

Junior Preneur 2016

This is our children’s first time to join the Junior Preneur event. It’s been a difficult two weeks for them because they did a project that was technical and involved many stages. They made concrete geometric forms to hold succulents.

 First, they developed templates for the molds, measuring them out meticulously. Then they created the molds using cardboard, duct tape and polycarbonate. (The polycarbonate was a pain to cut. That was my job!) Afterwards, they mixed several batches of concrete, both light and dark, with sand and without sand, depending on the desired effect. Once the concrete was ready, it was poured into the molds and left to cure for several hours. Twenty four hours was the ideal time period. At the beginning we were all so eager to see the finished products that we prematurely opened the molds. This was a disaster!

   
   
After multiple tries and fails, they finally got a cement mix formula that worked well and they followed the right curing time. The succulents were placed in the geometric planters, ready to be sold. 

   

 The final step was preparing their booth concept. Thankfully, Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas (both for the geometric designs that inspired the kids and how to create an organic look for their display). 

    
 I don’t know if this product is a repeat but the hard work and character training was certainly worth it. Furthermore, I got to know my kids’ personalities better in the process. 

My eldest, Elijah, is a perfectionist and struggled immensely each time we failed. He had to deal with disappointment and follow through even if it wasn’t easy to keep going. Edan, my second son, experienced getting dirty and uncomfortable which he usually avoids. Mixing the concrete and pouring it into the molds was a messy activity. He also got to execute his sense of orderliness when he set up an assembly line system for the finishing stages. Titus, my third son, tried his best to contribute where he could and he didn’t complain even if some of the tasks were beyond his ability level. My daughter, Tiana, was positive and cheery as usual but it made a big difference when she would sing spontaneously to lighten everyone’s mood. Catalina got in everyone’s way but her siblings decided to give her tasks to keep her productively busy.  

As for me, I had to block off the past two weeks to prioritize helping them. So there was no writing for me. Plus I smelled like concrete powder almost every day! But I thoroughly enjoyed the bonding and fellowship that transpired between the kids and me. And I never get bored doing artistic or craft-related things. 

At the end of it all, the struggle to come up with a business idea and execute it was obstacle-ridden, exhausting, and discouraging. But, as my husband, Edric, so wisely put it, “Hard work is a reward in itself.” This is so true. 

    

  
 The kids may not recover their monetary investment (or mine!) but they invested in a learning experience that taught them skills, character traits and values that will allow them to be wiser entrepreneurs in the future.

Courageous Caitie’s Legacy

I have been scrolling through messages and posts about Courageous Caitie and it’s difficult to swallow the ending that today gave us. She passed away this morning after her platelet count dropped to 1 and her oxygen levels were critical.

When I found out, an hour later, on my way to the bathroom to take a break from my homeschooling, I was in shock. Maybe a part of me expected the worst given the recent updates on Caitie’s page. But a part of me also hoped for the miracle we all did, the chapter in her story we all prayed for – supernatural, physical healing.

Wouldn’t that have been a testimony?! Wouldn’t that have brought glory to the Lord, a triumph to give the watching world cause to believe that God answers the prayers of his children, especially those who love and follow Him?

I really hoped for this. I don’t think I had as much faith as Caitie’s mom did to believe that it could actually happen, but I certainly hoped it would. Several exchanges between Tine (Feliz) Lucas and myself through Viber brought more encouragement to me than my attempts at sending verses and warm messages did for her.

She always concluded our online conversations with a firm belief that God’s promises of healing in His Word were spoken just for Caitie. But I also know she felt like giving in to the fear and the doubt many times. Doctor Joy, Caitie’s pediatrician, and Tine’s sister, Jen, are friends of mine and they told me she wasn’t always feeling strong. They would ask for prayer support. And whenever possible, I sought updates from them, not wanting to bother Tine constantly because I knew she was dealing with a lot. Yet, even Tine’s vulnerability to those closest to her and the glimpses of it she revealed online sounded like strength to me. What mom could’ve survived the months she did, in the way she did? She is a hero to me. So is Jay Jay.

They became heroes to all of us. I don’t know if I could have posted updates and prayer requests as often as they thought to. But it was their faithful chronicles of Caitie’s journey that invited people to be a part of it. Somehow, even if Caitie’s condition baffled everyone because of its complexity and rarity, we all found something familiar in her life’s story that resonated with us.

As a mom, my heart ached and broke each time I saw Tine’s posts, especially the ones that desperately sought prayer. And the photos…oh, the photos! They were honest and tender, and sometimes too difficult to look at.

This afternoon, I find myself confronted with the reality of Caitie’s passing and there’s no way to dismiss it without considering the gravity of what just happened. Courageous Caitie, the little spirited girl whom thousands cheered on and supported through prayer, giving, fundraising, and writing about, breathed her last in the arms of her loving parents. She inspired the best in all of us as we saw her fight hard till the very end.

I sat around the table at lunch, shortly after I found out she died, my children’s laughter invading the grief in an almost assaulting way. They were teasing one another. I picked up Catalina who reached up to be held and put her on my lap. This looked too pretty a picture compared to the one I just saw – Jay Jay and Tine cradling Caitie’s still body.

   
 The tears began to fall. I wanted to appreciate that my children were living, breathing, and eating their lunch, but I also wanted to be alone for a while.

“Why are you crying, mom?” Elijah asked.

I excused myself from the table and hid in the guest room, leaving the kids to their bantering and teasing. Catalina followed me, of course. She always does. I hugged her tightly. Caitie wasn’t much older than she was.

Catalina traced the line of my tears and also asked, “Why are you crying?”

“Someone’s baby died.” This was the easiest way for me to explain it to her.

“Oh, someone died?” She looked concerned. If she only understood.

Someone died, Lord. Not just anyone, too. After all that fighting, why not the gift of a miracle? It feels like a cosmic let down to everyone who was looking on.

I struggled to grasp God’s plan in all of this, for Tine and Jay Jay’s sake, especially.

As they pack up Caitie’s belongings, thumb through her art work and homeschool work, and look on the empty bed where her form once was, I know it’s going to hurt like heck. I know they believe that God has a plan because they want to trust Him, but I also know that their memories will cling to images of Caitie and their hearts will long for her. They will feel the void and the loss like no one else will, and I can’t imagine what that will be like.

At a time like this, it may seem insensitive to mouth out bible passages, but I find that it is God’s very Word that fills in the space which Caitie’s death has left behind. Right now that space looks like a dark, empty hole into which faith might collapse. It’s easy to doubt the nature of God as loving, good, and sovereign when a parent loses their child.

A few months ago, I read Philip Yancey’s book called Why? The Question that Never Goes Away. He wrote, “From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way.”

He also quoted poet Christian Wiman who, in his meditation, My Bright Abyss, made this statement. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, My God, my God, why has though forsake me?…The point is that he felt human destitution to its absolute degree; the point is that God is with us, not beyond us, in suffering.”

Yancey goes on to say, “Christ is God crying I am here. Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.” (pg. 54 – 56)

God doesn’t always give us the miracle we hope for on this earth. But it isn’t because He doesn’t care. He sent His son, Jesus Christ to enter into our pain. The book of Isaiah described Christ as “despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; It was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2-6)

Furthermore, our understanding of healing is limited to physical relief and restoration. These are earth-bound fixes. Yet God’s plan for healing finds its truest meaning in eternity. When Christ died and rose again, He conquered death. Therefore those who believe in Him will also conquer death.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immorality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immorality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Caitie loved Jesus. Even in her young age, she understood that He died for her sins and she gave her life to Him. She was courageous for Him. I have no doubts that Caitie is alive and well in heaven with the Lord. The miracle of her story was not that doctors cured her cancer but that Jesus gave her life – eternal life.

It’s not coincidental that Caitie passed away right after the week when people gave most attention to Jesus Christ and celebrated His resurrection. Even in her death, she testifies to what He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

What a sweet promise to revive our crushed hope. This is not the end of Caitie’s story, as it isn’t the end of God’s story for each of our lives. He is a redeemer and he never wastes our pain.

Yancey told the story of Jerry Sittster, author of the books A Grace Disguised and A Revealed. He was a professor of Whitworth College who lost his wife, mother, and four-year old daughter in a tragic car accident when a drunk driver hit them. In A Grace Disguised, which speaks of what happened, he composed, “The loss brought about by the accident had changed my life, setting me on a course down which I had to journey whether I wanted to or not. I was assigned both a tremendous burden and a terrible challenge. I faced the test of my life. One phase of my life had ended; another, the most difficult, was about to begin.”

Twenty years later, in A Grace Revealed, he surmised, “Eventually, we will live happily ever after, but only when the redemptive story ends, which seems a long way off. In the meantime, you and I are somewhere in the middle of the story, as if stuck in the chaos and messiness of a half-finished home improvement project. We might have one chapter left in our story, or we might have fifty. We could experience more of the same for years to come, or we could be on the verge of change so dramatic that if we knew about it we would faint with fear or wonder, or perhaps both. We could be entering the happiest phase of our lives, or the saddest. We simply don’t know and can’t know…In my mind there is only one good option: we must choose to stay in the redemptive story. However unclear it might be to us, we can trust that God is writing the story.” (Pg. 61 – 62)

We do not know the course our lives will take on this earth, nor do we know if our children will be spared from the ills that are in this fallen world. Like the Lucas family, we may face similar trials. However, we can know the Divine Architect who has a master plan for everything we go through. His redemptive story for you and for me is that we experience the love and grace He displayed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and enter into a personal relationship with Him that will continue for all eternity.

On Courageous Caitie’s timeline either Tine or Jay Jay wrote, “I miss you Caitie. But I’m glad were able to give you great family memories here on earth.” However, beyond the earthly memories of family and the precious moments they shared together, I do believe the most important gift that Tine and Jay Jay gave to Caitie was the gift of knowing Christ. Indeed, they did the one most loving thing they could ever do for her as parents – they prepared Caitie for her eternal home.

I was reminded that this is the most loving thing that we can do for the people we love, too. We do not know how long we will have to love the people God has surrounded us with. Let us make Caitie’s life count by passing on the miracle of Christ’s love to our spouses, our children, our families and friends. Caitie fought hard to teach us this and she died to remind us not to hold back, waste time, squander opportunities, or trade the lesser things for the greater things.

Thank you, Jay Jay and Tine for sharing Courageous Caitie’s journey with us. You raised a beautiful, special girl who lived for an exemplary purpose — to bring the hearts of the broken to the healing arms of Christ, where she is smiling, waiting there for you. 

  

 

Be the Supermom God Has Called You to Be

The landscape of motherhood has changed significantly in the last decade.

Moms today…
• Multi-task on their smartphones (Pinterest, Instagram, online parenting communities)
• 61% of moms 18 to 32 are unmarried
• 64% say that parenting has become more competitive – pressure to be the “perfect” mom.
• Perfect means organized, educated, fit, focused on family, has a great job & able to cook.
• Will spend for organic/natural foods and products for their children. SOURCE: mothermag.com/millennial-mom-statistics

Interestingly, an article by livescience.com revealed that one of the distinct ways motherhood has changed over time is that today, moms feel a whole lot of guilt. When moms stay at home they fear they aren’t contributing enough financially or they won’t be respected. When they go to work they worry about neglecting their children. Today’s moms also have more to do and less time to do it. As a result, we are more stressed about wanting to have it all. Trying to be supermoms makes us super crazy.

As I begin this entry I want us to lay aside the anxieties that loom over us and look at the mom God has called you and me to be. Who is this mom? And what is her purpose? What really makes her super? (I’m doing this as a cathartic experience for myself, because I need this!) 

Unless we settle these questions, we will continue to pursue an image of motherhood that is based upon the world’s standards of success and not on God’s standards for us. We will be tempted to compare our children with others and derive our sense of security and worth from the way they perform or what they achieve. 

Some months ago, my kids joined a basketball program and they weren’t the superstars. Initially, I wasn’t surprised because they hardly played basketball. Yet, as I watched their session, it became very obvious that their cousins outshone them in every aspect of balling.

When I got home, I complained to Edric, “You need to spend time playing basketball with the boys. They don’t know how to play. This is your department. You and I are athletes but they are terrible at basketball. How can this be? We need to do something!” 

He looked at me like I was a raging demoniac. Where was this ugly competitiveness coming from?
I wanted our kids to be good basketball players for pride’s sake. Furthermore, I blamed Edric for not being intentional about training them at home. He didn’t appreciate how I was pinning this on him and reacted to me, which resulted in a conflict.

Afterwards, I realized that my perspective was wrong. My disquiet and anxiousness about their ability to perform athletically were rooted in jealousy and insecurity. I didn’t want their cousins to be superior to them in sports.

Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” As a mom I need to remember that in Christ, I hold together. When I don’t keep Him as my anchor, I end up wounding those I love with my negative perspectives, words and actions.

Motherhood isn’t a contest. My children aren’t trophies. The first thing I need to understand about motherhood is the word STEWARDSHIP. I don’t own my kids. They were entrusted to me, to Edric, so that we might raise them in accordance with God’s will and purposes. The Bible says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:13-14

My fourth child, Tiana, put it very well when I asked her one morning, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She answered with conviction, “I will be whatever God wants me to be.” As a five year old she understood that she belongs to the Lord.

Since my children were made for the Lord, stewardship means…

…teaching my children to love and honor God with all that they are. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
…disciplining and correcting my children when they exhibit attitudes and behaviors that do not conform to His character. (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 22:15)
…protecting my children from influences or experiences that harden their heart towards Him or lead them away from Him. This includes minding my own example to them. (Psalm 119:9, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Proverbs 13:20, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Mark 9:42, 1 Corinthians 11:1)
…identifying the gifts and bents of my children and helping them to develop these for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
…giving my children a vision for their lives – how God can use them to accomplish His will and purposes. (Proverbs 29:18, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11)

It is my God-given purpose to raise my children this way — a responsibility that I cannot delegate to others or pursue half-heartedly. I am accountable to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for this sacred trust.

“For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:11-12

Someday, when I stand before the Lord, I will give an account of my role as mom. What did I do with the children He gave me to raise for Him? Will I be found faithful?

This doesn’t mean that my children must turn out perfect under my watch. At the end of the day, my children are also accountable to God and they must make the choice to follow Him on their own. However, I do believe that God will look at the years that He gave me to teach and train them, and ask me what I did with those years. Did I do my best to build the right foundation in my children’s hearts and minds — a foundation that will prepare them to love, obey, and follow Him?

The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:10-12, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Our task is a supernatural one, which can seem daunting and intimidating, but before I end this entry, I want to remind all of the mothers out there that God loves you and me. We are precious to Him. It’s important to let this reality invade our hearts completely because motherhood requires us to be sacrificial and resilient. We aren’t fit for the task when we meet each day empty and wanting, or oppressed by our own emotional and spiritual issues.

There was a time when I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of mothering five children. It felt like I was in a perpetual season of imperfection. My homeschool schedule was shot and my children’s academic progress was snail-like. I ended each day tired and lost. However, God brought me back to the truth that I needed to hear, the truth that calmed the turbulence inside me. He loves me. He is for me. He will uphold me.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are…” 1 John 3:1

I have found that one of the best ways to encourage my children when they are feeling down, discouraged or frustrated is to remind them that I love them. I love them no matter what, just as they are. Similarly, but in an infinitely more amazing way, God loves you and me, even in our imperfection. We don’t need to be supermoms to be acceptable to Him. What a relief! 

Why should this matter so much? God will equip you and me to be the moms we need to be. As we seek His will for our children and parent them accordingly, Luke 12:29-31 assures us with this image of our Heavenly Father: “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. Luke 12:29 – 31

  What a comfort to have a daddy we can always run to when we mess up, feel inadequate, fall apart, or need encouragement. He’s not just any daddy, too. He is all-poweful, all knowing, all-present, and all-amazing! 

He’s saying to us, “Don’t worry. Seek after me and I will take care of you.”

As we focus on being faithful stewards of our children, let’s not forget that we have a faithful Father who is committed to enabling and empowering us. We have a high calling to fulfill, but we are never alone as we do so. God puts the “Super” in all of us!