Helping A Child Overcome Shyness 

My fourth child, Tiana, might be labeled as shy by people who first encounter her, especially when she clings on to me during social gatherings. She is very sweet and such a darling but she isn’t always confident around people she doesn’t know. I have come to understand that the root of her behavior goes beyond the shyness. She has a fear of people, something I used to struggle with as a child.

My fear of people crippled me at times. I worried about acceptance. I got intimidated by people who were smarter, more popular, more beautiful. I was scared to try new things because I didn’t want to be ridiculed. I preferred the comfort of certain friends rather than mingling with unfamiliar people. I was concerned about the impression I made on people. The real issue was self-consciousness and self-centeredness.  

It wasn’t until much later on in my life that I learned the principle of choosing to be a blessing, to look past myself and see the needs of people around me. My mom taught me this. She said, “Whenever you are with people, seek to be a blessing.” This advice changed me.  

I stil have to make a conscious effort to put on this mindset because it goes against my predisposition. But it has made a big difference when I go to a social gathering, an event, or meet with people to spend time with them or get to know them for the first time. It’s not about what can they do for me or how they will respond to me, but how I can minister to them?

Furthermore, when I am overwhelmed by the social situation, I pray! I ask God to help me be a blessing. And He does! He gives me a heart for the people I am with so that the focus is not on myself or my insecurities. Instead, I am challenged to think of how I can reach out, and make others feel special and important. 

The Bible says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Like my mom helped me, I am helping Tiana move past her “self-consciousness.” For example, the other day she was crying when I told her she had ballet class. This may not be a big deal to most little girls who love to wear tutus and dance, but for Tiana it was like a nightmare! She was afraid to be with people she didn’t know. However, I gently informed her she had to obey. Plus, we were going to get through this as a team. She nodded her head with tears in her eyes. 

I reminded her that she just learned a bible verse during our family devotion that went like this, “Do not worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” (Philippians 4:6) So I asked her to pray when I saw that she was about to cry again. And she did. We prayed together. 

When we got to her class, we arrived early. Young girls her age started to trickle in to the dance room. Tiana did not pay attention to them. She sat at the end of the room drawing on a piece of paper. So I assisted her. I asked one of the girls what her name was and introduced her to Tiana. And then I asked them to play together before class started. Initially, Tiana didn’t want to, but I insisted. So she asked if her two year old sister, Catalina, could accompany her. 

 Catalina tends to be more outgoing, so she gladly obliged. She was the one shouting out, “Come, Tiana!” Tiana, her new friend, and Catalina ran back and forth across the room. It was a senseless game but at least it got Tiana’s mind off her self. 

  Tiana started to warm up to her new friend. But when class was about to start and other girls were around Tiana, she began to tear again but I gave her an encouraging look that said, “You can do it!”
  

 She got through the entire class splendidly! Every once in a while she looked over at me and I met each glance with a smile, silently mouthing the words, “Good job!” 

When she was done, she ran over to me and exclaimed, “I had sooo much fun, mom! And I made new friends! They are so nice.” Afterwards, I asked her how she was able to get over her fear and she replied, “Have no fear, Jesus is here!” It was the cutest thing to hear her say that rhyme. 

Will Tiana be able to go to her next ballet class alone? That may be a stretch, but now she knows that there is nothing to be afraid of. 

 As a mom, it is my responsibility to help Tiana work through her fears by teaching her to turn these over to the Lord. The next level will be teaching her to initiate friendliness rather than waiting for others to seek her out or include her. She will get there, by God’s grace! 

Breakfasts In Our Home

Breakfast is a pretty substantial meal in our home. Personally, I wouldn’t mind eating dinner leftovers for breakfast, but Edric and the kids always want hearty, intentional morning meals. Oh how I wish they would be happy with eggs and cereal, but this is simply not acceptable in our house. So it’s always a challenge to think up breakfast food options which…

1. Look appetizing for my dearly beloveds (Presentation matters to them. They got this from Edric’s side of the family because my family was vastly different growing up. Think Vikings eating out of pots and pans.) 

2. Are filling. Everyone wants a big breakfast in this house.

3. Are preservative free (as much as possible.) We avoid canned food products like spam, corned beef, Vienna sausages, etc. But admittedly we haven’t quite quit the bacon or the boxed pancakes. Any good recommendations?!

4. Are easy enough for our househelp to replicate.

Here are our family’s top picks for breakfast meals, in no special order. And, I keep adding to these options:   Pancakes and bacon. We use honey instead of syrup. It’s a little easier on the nutritional conscience. 

Tapa and egg. I got a great recipe from my mother in law for this tapa! SM Hypermart also sells inexpensive Rib-eye sukiyaki cut which I get for this recipe. 
Mushroom, tomato, and cheese omelette with basil from our plant. It’s always hard for me to pull leaves off our herbs. I feel sad! We get our pandesal freshly made from our village. As you can see, I am generous with butter, for as long as it is butter and not margarine.   

This is always a winner for my kids. Connie’s Kitchen’s Tuyo. Edric likes Gustazo’s Tuyo. For as long as it’s tuyo, my kids gobble this up!    

Village Gourmet’s Farmer’s Ham and eggs with whole wheat pandesal on the side (and lots of butter! Yeah butter!)

 
Oatmeal (not the quick cooking kind, but the rolled oats and preferably GMO-free when I can find it in Rustan’s Fresh.) Edric and Elijah also love Brie cheese, served here with nuts and prunes.

  
Danggit! One of my more preferred breakfasts. Anything I can eat with vinegar is up there. And stinky fish is always up there! (Not so much for Edric whose olfactories can’t handle the funky smell of dried fish. But for me…ayee! heaven!)

 
This is the only canned product we really eat. Century Tuna’s hot and spicy version and solid in vegetable oil. We cook both versions together with onions and the kids devour it.   

Titus likes his bagels! We put lots of cream cheese on ours and top it with strawberry jam. On the upper left is a bowl of granola with yoghurt and fruit.

  
Adobo flakes on fried egg on rice. If we have adobo the night before, we make adobo flakes the next day. Yummy! On the top left is banana with Nutella. This is Tiana’s all-time favorite way to eat bananas. 

Ideally, the food should be presented the same way so I took these photos to print out for our househelp’s reference. 

Not photographed: 

– Cereal and scrambled eggs with cheese 

– Spicy sardines (we like the San Marino brand) and fried egg, and pandesal.  

Rice is pretty much a staple in all our meals and we usually mix white with multi-grain, red, or black organically grown rice.   

What’s a hearty breakfast in your home? I need more ideas! 

Fourteen Is Better Than Thirteen

I sat across from Edric at a cafe this morning, studying his face like I hadn’t seen it a million times. Has it really been 14 years since we were standing at the altar, speaking our vows? Are we really parents to five amazing kids?

 Apart from the peppering of his hair and the smile lines at the edges of his eyes, he doesn’t look much older than he did in college. I actually think he is a more handsome version of his younger self. I like the way he is aging. It’s attractive to me.

The cafe was an unplanned departure from our original schedule. He should have been at the office and I should have been with the kids. But our vehicle needed a battery-change, so there we were, making the most of the opportunity to share breakfast and talk.

“Is this what you imagined?,” He asked me. “Is this what you imagined marriage would be like?”

It was an unexpected question but the moment called for it. We were tucked away in the corner of the cafe, and it was the day after our anniversary. Our overnight date at the Marco Polo hotel was coming to a close. So I said, “I didn’t think this far when I was single, but I knew that you were the person I loved and wanted to share my life with.” 

“It’s better than I imagined,” he added, like he meant to answer his own question. “I used to be afraid that our relationship would change as we got older, as we aged, when our bodies were no longer in their prime. How would this affect the way we perceived one another? But then I realized that marriage has stages to it. During the early years, the physical aspect seemed to be a large part of our intimacy. Yet as the years went by, I discovered a depth beyond the physical…like this, right now, being here with you and enjoying it. We are stuck here because of a car battery problem, but it’s totally fine because we are together. There’s no other person I would rather be with, raise children with, and serve the Lord with.”

I smiled as he took my hand, possibly in between chewing my tuna melt sandwich. (I was graceful about it, trying not to ruin the moment.) 

Fourteen years may be few compared to couples who are celebrating their silver anniversaries, but for us it feels like a lot of history. We have weathered many seasons together. It dawned on me, as I was reminiscing and recalling the early years of our marriage, that this history matters. The longer we stay married and honor the commitment we vowed to, the more palpable the oneness feels. 

When the Bible says that two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), I started thinking about the word ‘shall.’ While oneness is symbolized by the event of sexual union between a husband and wife, oneness is also a process. Oneness happens over time, memories, pain, and joy. The person I am today feels so intensely entwined into the person Edric is. 

   
 From two separate threads as single people, we became a tightly wound chord of three – the Lord, Edric and me. I may not have imagined what fourteen years of marriage would be like, but I know for sure that I can’t imagine life without Edric. Not now. Not after fourteen years of oneness. 

How does a relationship become like this? Where two people can be vulnerable and honest and naked and unashamed…and you can say “I love you no matter what, even if I know all your imperfections”…and you laugh at things that no one else finds funny…or signal mysterious codes across a room full of people and get each other’s message because an eyebrow was raised, or a mouth twitched, or a wink was sent your way…and you can lie in the stillness and quiet, closing your eyes to the events of the day, the good and the bad, and feel safe because the arms that are embracing you are familiar, and you fit so comfortably in each other’s spaces…and, yes, you also have three boys and two girls who act and speak like little versions of yourselves, but are way cuter, who need you both as dad and mom and need you to stay together because you are a family…and you navigate through the storms in your relationship and outside of it, hand in hand, looking to Christ to walk you through them, to heal the wounds that hurt like heck but make you stronger…and you may fight and disagree and really NOT like each other sometimes but you know that this is forever and you will commit to work it out because this is the person whom you chose to love and will continue to love in spite of, just because, and most certainly till you are old and wrinkled and maybe even toothless. 

As Edric and I live out the vows we once made to each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer til death do us part, my desire to be his and his desire to be mine increases all the more. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Solomon 6:3a) 

It’s hard to explain this when so many people quit on their marriages emotionally or legally soon after the difficulties confront them. And I know why they do. There’s always a reason that pushes them to do so. I’ve wrestled with some of these reasons myself. But from this vantage point, and not as one who professes to be an expert at mouthing out advice on relationships, but as one who has chosen to stay married for fourteen years (so far), my observation is this: fourteen years of marriage was way better than the first thirteen, and by God’s grace, I think fifteen will be better than fourteen. And by faith I believe that the best is yet to come, not next year or the next, but decades down the road! 

Why? Because this is the beautiful mystery of oneness – God’s design for a husband and wife – to journey together into the endless, vastless and unfathomable depths of love, His love. After all, it is not our exhaustible human love that binds us to one another. I love Edric because God first loved me. Edric loves me because God first loved him. As 1 John 4:19 put it, “We love because He first loved us.” It is the strand of God’s eternal love in our relationship that keeps us from unraveling, that strengthens our resolve to remain committed to each other through each passing year, that pulls us forward when we struggle to go on. 

As I end this entry, I want to say, stay. Don’t go. Stay through the seasons that are difficult, that feel unending, when human love has lost its feeling, and promises have been broken. Stay and see how God can renew and rebuild what is damaged in us and in our marriages, and meet our unmet longings with His amazing love. God is the author of marriage and His love is its keeper and healer. 

And to my husband, Edric, I thank you for staying with me. I love you more today than ever. Happy Anniversary!
“(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a)

   
 
 

Pursuing Peace at Home

Sometimes managing household help and a driver is stressful for me when their inter-personal relationships get complicated. When unsettled issues linger, their work and the environment of our home is affected. But my greater concern is their spiritual health and what lies behind the conflict.

For several months our household help and driver were embittered with one another. Their dissension began with minor irritations over personality differences. But the hurt escalated until they started name-calling and criticizing. When I asked each one of them what the issue was, the problem between them had become so convoluted, Edric decided to set a meeting to settle their conflict once and for all.

This morning, he mediated a nearly two hour discussion. First we prayed together and then he gave each person the opportunity to share their frustrations. He didn’t let emotions escalate and he prevented the higher-strung individuals from butting in and making snide comments. When everyone had the opportunity to speak up, he helped them identify the main issue.

The main issue was pretty simple — our driver was hurt because one of our household help was moody towards him. So he was demotivated to assist our girls when it came to chores outside the scope of his driving responsibilities. This angered the women who interpreted his attitude as laziness. They began to incite him with comments like, “you just sleep and eat,” which gave him reason to disdain them. Months passed and the angry feelings increased until they became noticeable to Edric, me, and our kids.

Today, Edric ably sorted through the mess with them and encouraged them to pursue peace. The two hour meeting turned out to be a wonderful time of healing for our household help and driver.

Edric asked all of them to say what they appreciated about each other, and what they could improve on. Tears were shed. Humility and forgiveness were present, and reconciliation took place.

At the end, I reminded them that our home represents Christ because we are followers of Jesus and so are they (each one of them has a personal relationship with Him). Therefore I concluded my little part of the speech I was allowed to inject, thanks to Edric, with the reason why we need to be at peace with one another. We want to glorify Christ in our relationships and in our home. They wholeheartedly agreed.

To give them a practical application, Edric went over Ephesians 4:29 which reads, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NASB‬‬

He made them read this passage and internalize it so they would remember to speak in ways that edify and not wound one other. We also prayed together to conclude our meeting. Afterwards, everyone was smiling and the atmosphere had changed from tense and chilly to warm and sunny!

I decided to write this entry because I was blessed by Edric’s leadership today. He sounded like a frog because he was battling a bad cough and laryngitis but he prioritized this peace-keeping mission to restore the relationships that were broken in our household. He could have left the problem to me to fix, but he knew that I needed his intervention to facilitate the meeting in Filipino and to assert his headship. The women were flaming some some pretty hot emotional fires but because they deeply respect Edric and have a healthy fear of him, they listened to his counsel and guidance. Edric also assured me that he knew the culture and how to steer the course of the discussion so it would remain focused and productive.

Fri Feb 07 2014 16-43-48 GMT+0800

When all was quiet again and we had a moment together, I thanked him profusely for coming to my aid. 1 Timothy 3:2-5 talks about the qualifications for an overseer as one who is “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” ‭‬‬

I know this passage is especially for church leaders, but in the verses which precede it, the encouragement is to aspire for church leadership. This means that every person ought to consider putting on the qualities that describe a leader. And being a good leader includes managing one’s household — ordering it and taking charge of it.

I used to think this was about making sure that our kids are well-behaved and obedient. But it was brought to my attention again today that the responsibility is greater. Edric and I need to disciple our household help and driver. They don’t just work for us to serve our family. We must be committed to their spiritual health, too. God has placed them in our lives so we can bless them and minister to them. Sometimes, this means Edric, as the head of our home, has to steer them towards Christ-likeness like he did today.

I may have been able to set up and oversee the meeting today, but I know it wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did so I praise God for the wisdom and initiative he gave Edric. What an amazing difference it makes when a man embraces his God-given position of authority in the home!

Tue Jul 01 2014 09-12-43 GMT+0800

Discover True Life

In the book, Be the Best Mom You can Be, authors Marina and Gregory Slayton wrote, “The search for identity and meaning is central to the human experience, and the need to count for something and to matter does not disappear when we become moms. Moms have a critically important role as mentors of the next generation, but many of us struggle with feeling insecure in a world that values outward success and measures everything from looks to academics to material accomplishments. This is because the world gets caught up in tying identity to how well we ‘measure up.’ But if we as moms go down this path we will end up feeling insignificant and unsuccessful. Striving for self always ends up separating us not only from others but also from God.” (Pg.61)

Reading this paragraph the other day deeply convicted me. My spiritual kryptonite is worrying about what people think about me and wrestling with discontentment when I fall short of my own expectations. I trouble myself with thoughts like, I should be more talented, more capable, more accomplished, more beautiful, more physically-fit.

It certainly doesn’t help when I saturate my mind with images and ideas that permeate social media. Whether the channel is through Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest, the effect is similar…Does my life measure up to what I see? Am I good enough? How can I compete? 

I suppose this is the insidious reality of being human. Everyone is susceptible to vanity. But let me speak for myself instead of attempting to drag mankind down with me to make my weakness look less ugly! What I’m trying to admit to is this: the temptation to benchmark myself against others and prove my worth is very undead in me.

Therefore, I have to go back to the cure…anchoring my security in Jesus Christ and aligning my purposes to His. I have to do this regularly — to revisit what God has done for me, how much He loves me, and what His will is for my life. Otherwise, I pursue the world’s definition of success and it’s offerings for fulfillment only to find that these aren’t the things that truly satisfy.

To resist the pull which distances me from God and His will, I make some practical choices. First, I meditate on God’s truth. Meditating on God’s truth involves regular Bible reading. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the Bible cover to cover and yet I still pick up valuable insights that I can apply.

Second, I choose to guard what I see and hear. The apostle Paul said, “All things are permissible but not all things are profitable.” It may be easy to access media and entertainment in a day and age when everything is a click or swipe away, so I need to have self-imposed filters. I make a conscious effort to avoid overexposure to sites, movies, or tv programs that diminish my desire to follow God’s will, direct my attention towards materialism, or stir up feelings of self-centeredness.

Third, I am selective about the close friendships I keep. Colin Powell was credited with saying, “It is better to be alone than in the wrong company. Tell me who your best friends are and I will tell you who you are. If you run with wolves, you will learn how to howl but if you associate with eagles you will learn how to soar to great heights.”  This isn’t about avoiding every person who doesn’t share the same values as I do. Ministering to people is different than best-friending them. However, when it comes to choosing the persons who surround me as confidants, counselors and advisors, I am picky, not snobby, but wisely selective. I want to learn from people who encourage me to seek God and correct me when I’m going off-course. I am not strong enough to withstand peer pressure (good or bad) which is why I need to be with people who will hold me to a standard of righteousness and holiness, both by word and by example. 

Fourth, I seek out ways to grow my hunger and thirst for God. Prayer is certainly a part of this. But this is also about “setting my mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.” (Colossians 3:2) Sometimes, the best way to do this is to physically remove myself from my day to day preoccupations in order to see the bigger, spiritual perspective. Who am I? Why am I here? What am I living for? There is so much untruth in the messages, visual stimuli, and experiences I encounter daily that it becomes necessary to take a pause in order to detox!

If you are like me and need to get away for a weekend to recalibrate your heart and mind, consider attending the True Life retreat at Mt. Makiling Recreation Center on July 31 to August 2, 2015. I’m looking forward to much needed spiritual feeding and renewal, and the opportunity to rediscover what TRUE LIFE, TRUE LIVING is all about! What about you? (Edric will also be speaking for one of the sessions so if you could, please say a prayer for him, too!) Check out True Life 2015 for more details.

 

Have Fun With Your Spouse

Our Thursday night group is on the third session of Craig and Amy Groeschel’s DVD marriage series entitled “From This Day Forward.” The most recent topic was especially relevant and practical as the Groeschel’s shared about how to have fun as a couple.

They suggested three simple concepts that are well-worth applying to ignite or reignite passion in marriage:

1. Face to Face Fun. Do you and your spouse set aside a date night during the week when you can speak face to face, heart to heart, and connect intellectually, emotionally and spiritually?

When Edric and I were newly married, we enjoyed long, drawn out conversations as we sought to get to know one another. Real effort was made to discover what he liked, what I liked, what our dreams, passions and peculiarities were. As the years passed, pragmatism defined our interactions. Busy-ness overtook quality time. To remedy this, we religiously safeguarded an evening in the week to have that face to face fun time. No cellphones to interrupt or distract us, no children clamoring for our help or attention, and no business-talk as much as possible. We asked one another how our marriage was, what we felt like we could improve on independently and as a couple.

It is rare that we miss our date night during the week. But there were a couple of instances in the last few months when our schedule made it difficult to go out of the house for dinner. So Edric called our househelp and asked them to set up a table and chairs on the balcony so we could have a private dinner. The kids were not allowed to disturb us. Catalina was more challenging since she kept pressing her face against the glass doors and managed to come out several times. Finally, she was carried downstairs by one of her siblings, crying all the way down to the kitchen. Although tempted to rescue her, Edric insisted that we continue with our plans to talk. She survived just fine without me.

The point is connecting as a couple is important. It needs to be prioritized. I once read that couples naturally grow apart through the years and not closer. Without effort invested to get to know one’s spouse and connect with them regularly, feelings of love fade. Therefore speaking face to face must become a habit. We must intentionally seek to know what is going on in one another’s hearts to cultivate intimacy.
Here are some face to face questions we can ask our spouse…

– how can I pray for you?

– what’s been on your heart lately?

– what was the highlight of your day/ week?

– is there anything I can do to make you feel more loved and special?

– how can I improve as a spouse?

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Please note that once a week face to face fun time may not be enough if that’s the only opportunity we have to be with our spouses. It’s like starving ourselves during the week and eating a buffet once to make up for the deprivation! A marriage can’t stay healthy if a husband and wife have zero relationship in the week and expect the face to face fun time during date nights to work. The Grosechels encourage on-going conversation. And here’s the reality…”men like headlines but women like details,” so let’s remember that this habit of communicating may take some getting used to because of our God-designed differences but the benefits will outweigh the cost of adjustment. (Wait till the end to understand what this means.)


2. Side to side fun.
The next principle is about sharing activities together. Guys, for instance, are more likely to open up in the context of activity. I remember this about my dad and brothers. They would always bond with one another during sports.

One of the wives in our Thursday bible study group took up golf because she realized she was becoming a “golf widow.” So she purposefully played golf to engage in her husband’s world and her husband really appreciated it.

When our husbands are participating in an activity they thoroughly enjoy, they are relaxed and stress-free. A lot of times this is when they are willing to be more detailed and communicative, too. Craig Groeschel actually said there are two occasions when a husband is more inclined to share what’s on his mind and heart — in the context of activity and after sex! (True or false?)

Not every wife may find it realistic to get involved in the same activities her husband enjoys but there can be a fix to this. For example, Edric used to turn to basketball with friends as his recreational outlet. But when he realized that this was something that took him away from me, he decided we should find a sport we could both get into.

Years ago, when badminton was still a fad and clubs were sprouting everywhere, we competed as a team. I never considered badminton a real sport at first. Real sports to me were like basketball and soccer (football). Well I was wrong. Badminton turned out to be a pretty challenging sport. Plus, I burned a ton of calories in the process which helped me loose post-pregnancy weight. Edric and I looked forward to our weekly/bi-weekly badminton games and the talking rides to and from the clubs where we played at.

These days we work out or run together. But we also serve in ministry as a team which adds an even more meaningful dimension to our relationship. Working together towards a goal or ministering along side one another gives us insight into each other’s personalities. Furthermore, the experiences we encounter (both good and bad) provide us with more topics to talk about and connect on.

3. Belly button to belly button fun. Leave it to Craig Groeschel to come up with a phrase like that! He was offering a word picture for sexual intimacy. I want to talk more about sexual intimacy in marriage because it’s definitely essential to a marriage and deserves a future post all of its own. But in the meantime, I am only going to highlight what Craig Groeschel said (paraphrased) which had me laughing till the point of tears…”Men work on your approach — be tender, romantic, bring a gift. Stop making everything sexual! As for the ladies…make an approach! Any approach! Get some lingerie, be romantic, prepare the hot tub, light some candles…”

We know that men and women view sex very differently and need it very differently, too. But it is integral to a marriage. Whenever Edric and I counsel couples one of the questions we ask is how is your sex life? Almost all of the time there is a correlation between poor communication and poor sex. Those who admit that sex in marriage is non-existent or rare have major communication problems between them. And sometimes these communication problems stem from deeper issues such as infidelity, pornography, or unresolved conflicts  that need to be healed first.

Face to face fun, side to side fun and belly button to belly button fun. That is the ideal sequence. Enjoy the first two points and the third follows naturally. And let us always remember that sex in the context of a marriage between husband and wife is God-designed and beautiful! Look at what Proverbs 5:18 says…”Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Now read verse 19 on your own and be pleasantly surprised at how God celebrates sex in marriage! Yes that’s in the Bible!

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Photo credit: Mayad Beginnings

Compliment Character


Years ago my third son, Titus, might have seemed like a difficult child to parent. He was strong-willed, easily upset, and physically curious. He cared little about the consequences of his actions and would often drive his older brothers, Elijah and Edan, to absolute frustration when he would destroy their toys or ruin their games with his uncooperative spirit. 

As for me, my patience was also tested with Titus. He tended to do the very opposite of what I would tell him to do which was often very maddening. Yet after applying biblical discipline and teaching him what it means to have a relationship with Jesus, Titus matured past his Wreck-It-Ralph and Curious George toddlerhood.

Today, Titus is a transformed child. This is largely due to the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. While he retains his natural curiosity to explore and discover, he has learned to exercise restraint and self-control. More importantly, when he came into a personal relationship with Jesus some years ago, his attitude became easier to redirect. He understood the importance of obedience and sought to honor Edric and me.

Previously, Edric and I were harder on Titus because there were a number of attitudes and behaviors that needed correcting. But as we learned to affirm and call out the positive in our children, we sought to do the same with Titus. In the process, other wonderful aspects of Titus’ personality began to emerge.

For example, one of Titus’ more outstanding traits is his thoughtfulness and consideration of others. Whenever he gets prizes or candies from a party or event, his instinct is to set these aside to share them with his siblings. Whenever we are homeschooling and he hears me remark, “I am thirsty, does anyone want to get me water?,” he will run down the stairs to get me a glass of water from the kitchen. Sometimes he randomly does so without me asking at all. I tell him how much I appreciate this everytime and he beams.

The other evening he set aside food and water for Edan who was sick and stuck in a separate room for “quarantine”purposes. I forgot about bringing food up to Edan but Titus remembered and I applauded him for this In fact, he volunteered to bring Edan’s dinner up to him. A few moments later, he came to me teary-eyed. “Mom, I really feel badly that Edan is sick.” He went on to share, “I really wish he was better.” As he attempted to stop himself from crying. I hugged him, blessed by his tenderness of heart. (Thankfully, Edan did get better after a few days.)

Tonight, Titus displayed yet another example of thoughtfulness and kindness by letting Elijah have the toothbrush that he wanted. I was surprised when he came into the kitchen with an ugly pink toothbrush instead of the nicer Oral-B one that was in the linen closet where I directed him to go earlier.

“Mom, can I have this one?”

“Sure, but I have another one for you.”

“Yah I know, the Oral-B one, the nicer one, but I gave it to Elijah.”

It was a simple gesture but I was so proud of him for letting Elijah have first pick. I told him. “Titus, you are so kind. I am so proud of you! God is going to reward you for the way you think about others and your unselfishness. I will get you a new toothbrush okay?”

He paused for a moment, then replied, “It’s okay, mom, I don’t want you to have to spend money.”

For a toothbrush?! I thought to myself. He didn’t want me to spend for a toothbrush?! This kid is killer sweet!

I began to reflect on the Titus before this seven-year old version…the one who used to be more self-centered, defiant and generally unaffected by the way he inconvenienced or “tortured” everyone else around him. That Titus has been replaced by a kind and thoughtful son who loves Jesus and his family. Surely it is God’s handiwork in his young heart, but I also believe that highlighting the positive has been a very effective way to inspire him to grow in the area of character.

As a mom, I need to balance out my teaching with generous praise, putting on a detective’s eye to spot godly character in my kids. I really believe that when Edric and I see the good in our children, it inspires them to pursue that good and even surpass it! We are all called to edify one another with our words, and our children, amongst all others, need to receive this edification from us in order to bloom into the persons God wants them to be. 

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭29‬ NASB)

Renovating the Homeschool Room

Who messes up on IKEA instructions?! I do! I did! With a day to redecorate our homeschool room before it was going to be documented for an interview on homeschooling, I tried to rush through assembling eight pieces of furniture with my kids and made several mistakes. Of course I felt incredibly inept and discouraged! IKEA is supposed to be dummy-proof…if you religiously follow the instruction manual. I decided that I pretty much got it after skimming through the manual and took it from there, using my own logic and instinct. Well, neither of these worked perfectly. 

I found myself frustrated and stressed. My kids were doing the best they could, and they were having a lot of fun, but after a while, they too realized what we were up against…Too many pieces of furniture to put together for a mom and five kids. (Catalina had to be banned several times because she was stealing the tools.)

Edric came home and saw me in dire straits. His instinctively announced to the kids, as he surveyed the mess we made, “Have no fear, daddy is here!” Everyone cheered! 

Like a general who had total control of his army, Edric organized all of us into stations and roles. He was much stricter than I was and very bossy which took some getting used to at first, but if it had not been for his leadership, I would have struggled through the renovation. 

Could I have organized and fixed the room myself? Probably. I am not a helpless chick. I know how to use a tool box. But was it nice to be rescued by my husband? Of course! 

There was something about his command over the situation that was very reassuring. I didn’t have to bear a burden that he was very willing to take upon himself. And he knew how to follow instructions much more methodically and carefully than I did. 

I actually waited twelve years to have a homeschooling space like this! Thank you, Lord! I hope you enjoy the transformation of our homeschool room which we got done in about 10 hours thanks to family team work and Edric’s able leadership! Tadah! 

Before…   

  In process…

  
    
   
    
   
After…

   
The kids wanted a stage with different colored backgrounds for their “green screen” videos. (Still working on this part.)

    
 Still organizing the shelves…  
    
    
   
Still to add…beanbags and rug for reading area, kiddie table and chairs, and drawers for more storage. Any other ideas or suggestions? 

By the way, I found most of the furniture at Furniture Source Philippines. They are located along Granada Street, right after Ortigas avenue and before Gilmore in San Juan. You can check out their Facebook page and Instagram. Their prices are higher than what I would pay for from an actual IKEA because they ship products in but I still didn’t spend as much as I would have if I had gone with other suppliers.

 
 

You Cannot Pray and Stay Upset With Your Spouse

I darted out the door for a 10 PM run a few evenings ago after Edric and I had a conflict. The cause of our dissension isn’t worth mentioning because it was, once again, something silly and trivial. It reached a climactic point when I declared in my exasperation while riding in the car beside him, “This is irritating, you are so irritating. Why are you making a big deal out of this?!”

In all my marriage, I have never insulted Edric this way. We teach about expressing frustration with “I feel” statements but I did exactly what we tell couples not to do — I criticized him.

Edric restrained his anger and kept silent. We were nearing the bend that turns into our home but the chilly air between us stretched the time to an eternal minute.

Where did I go wrong? Not too long before this, we were enjoying the company of friends, engaged in lively discussion, and exchanging spiritual insights. What a contrast to the oppressive atmosphere that put miles between us. I looked out the window, consumed by my ugly thoughts, stewing in a toxic mix of rage and apathy.

After writing an article entitled, Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences, there I was thinking, I am tired of this. We just don’t get each other. I need to run this off.

As soon as I got home, I changed, grabbed my running shoes and snuck out the front door. If Edric had seen me, he might have dissuaded me because it was late in the evening. Guiltily, I tiptoed out, leaving the door unlocked so I could slip back in unnoticed. Yes, I know, I was in bad spiritual shape! Criticizing my husband and then sneaking out of the house like a rebellious teen! My, my!

Even if my motivation was to get away from Edric to process my feelings, the run afforded me something better…time to pray. I soon discovered what is consistently true about prayer and conflict. It is impossible to pray and stay mad at your spouse!

As I communed with God, a strong conviction rose in my heart to humble myself. I didn’t want to give in to the prodding but how could I keep praying without recognizing my wretchedness and wrong? In the presence of a holy God, my sinfulness was made obvious.

God reminded me that it didn’t matter that there were actions or words spoken by Edric that hurt me. There was no excuse for my own behavior and response. These things were within my control. He asked me to initiate an apology, to go up to Edric after my run and sincerely ask for his forgiveness.

Prayer has a way of recalibrating my heart and mind so that my attention is drawn towards the Lord and away from my carnal perspective. This is one of the reasons why I am convinced that prayer is absolutely necessary for my spiritual survival and a healthy marriage. God reveals to me so many areas I need to change to become more Christ-like when I pray.

On the one hand, there is His Word and the support of friends and family who tell me when I am not living out His principles. But when I pray, God ministers to me in an intimate way.

God showed me once again that my thoughts, words, and actions are emblematic of my theology. When I resist being submissive or respectful to Edric, the real problem is my relationship with God, not Edric. Sure, Edric may have areas of improvement and he would say the same about me for sure. But the bigger issue is I don’t trust that God has my best interests at heart. I start thinking of his principles for marriage as unfair and unrealistic. My focus is no longer following God’s and pleasing Him, but giving in to the dictates of my emotions.

When I got home I found Edric sitting in the family room unwinding in front of his laptop. He didn’t realize I had been gone for the last thirty minutes. I meekly approached him asking, “Will you forgive me for disrespecting you, for saying that I was so irritated, and for being so angry? I am so sorry.”

The next day, Edric also asked for my forgiveness for being selfish and self-focused and all was well between us again.

Very often, I think of how prayer can change circumstances and people around me. But God is teaching me that prayer changes me most of all. Whenever I come before God, he reveals to me a sin I have to confess, a command I have to obey, a word of encouragement, an insight from His truth, the assurance of His presence, or the hope I need to keep pursuing His will. When I don’t pray, I become vulnerable to the schemes of the evil one who darkens my thinking with untruth.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples, anticipating his impending death on the cross, the told them, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38 NASB) He knew what challenges lay ahead of them in the days to come, how their faith would be shaken like never before. Clueless, the disciples didn’t listen but fell asleep!

Many times in my own marriage, I know that I am supposed to commit my relationship to Edric to the Lord by praying regularly and vigilantly. However, I’m not as intentional about it as I should be. Sometimes, I fall asleep in the spiritual sense, forgetting that every marriage is under continual threat from the divisive maneuverings of the evil one who wants to destroy marriages and tear spouses apart. The spiritual battle is real.

Last week, our church held a five day prayer and fasting time which did wonders for my relationship with Edric. Being in the spirit of prayer made a huge difference, not just for me but for Edric as we came together to pray each night of our fast.

Prayer put a spiritual shield around our marriage. Edric was especially patient and understanding towards me, and I found myself better able to receive correction and deal with issues between us with a gentle and quiet spirit. MIRACLE! What an affirmation to the power of praying to the Lord!

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Experiencing this victory affirmed why I need to make prayer a habit in my life and marriage.  As authors and speakers Craig and Amy Groeschel put it, “Seek the One with your two.” Translated: Seek God with your spouse by coming together in prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated…pray during meal times, pray about shared concerns, and pray for each other.

I began with the title, “It’s impossible to pray and stay upset at your spouse,” but the more positive perspective is, “It’s possible to keep loving your spouse when you are committed to praying to the Lord about yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.”

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Be An Honorable Parent

As a mom, one of the principles of parenting that has stood out to me the most is modeling – how my children copy my example whether I want them to or not.

I’m not proud to say this, but a few years ago, I made the mistake of losing my temper in a very bad way in front of four of my five kids. They lost pieces to an educational material that I needed to teach them mathematics. In my frustration, I dramatically threw the box on to the floor, letting all the parts fall out with a loud crash, and I raised my voice, scolding my kids about how they needed to be better stewards and more responsible.

After the drama, I looked at my children and they were all tearing…from the oldest to the youngest. This was the first time they had seen me get angry in this way and it scared them. It scared me too when I realized how easily I can snap and wound the hearts of my kids.

I asked for their forgiveness and had to talk with each one of them because they were deeply affected. It was a very humbling moment. I couldn’t take back what I had done so I just hoped they wouldn’t remember it as time passed.


Recently, as I was encouraging my kids to be kind to one another and speak respectfully to each other, I asked one of my sons this question, “Do you see mom getting angry or shouting at you guys?” I hoped he would say, “No, you don’t mom, we should be like you.” Instead, his very honest answer was, “No, you don’t lose your temper but,” he continued with emphasis, “there was THAT ONE TIME…” (referring to when I threw the box on the floor!)

Even just one ugly display of anger leaves an imprint on my children. My children can very easily become casualties of my bad example if I make losing my temper a habit.

IMG_9230While my dad was preparing for his Sunday message, he went over his points with me and emphasized the need for parents to be honorable. We commonly understand honor as something children are commanded to do for their parents, and he has preached on this topic many times. But during our conversation he added, “Parents shouldn’t make it difficult for their children to honor them. In fact, they should make it easy.” 

As I gave this perspective more thought, I recalled my own experience as a child. Even if my parents weren’t perfect, I wanted to obey them and honor them. I didn’t struggle with feelings of bitterness or resentment towards their authority. Were their times when I didn’t always agree? Certainly. But at the end of the day, I wanted to obey them. It wasn’t because my parents epitomized perfection, but they modeled consistency in one area that I want to highlight.

I saw the fruit of the Spirit in their lives – the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Even if their ministry was very public, they were the same Spirit-filled people outside of the home as they were in private, with my siblings and me. They weren’t hypocritical, instructing people to do one thing and then giving themselves license to be selfish, temperamental, moody, or demanding at home. In fact, of all people in their lives, they were most gracious and considerate towards us, their children.
Up till this day, I am very grateful that my parents modeled being Spirit-filled to me, and they continue to do so. I would like to share with you two recent experiences with my parents where they encouraged me once again with their examples. 

 I will start with my mom. Some months ago, my mom and I tried to get into the CCF building using the same entrance we always do. We were headed up to the 8th floor for a leader’s meeting, when a very strict guard who was on duty that day stopped us. Apparently, there was a new policy about using IDs and this guard was a new employee who was very eager to enforce the rules. My mom didn’t know about the change in protocols. She always went up and down using the same entrance because it’s the easiest way to get to my dad’s office or to the floors where she has meetings with the other pastor’s wives.

With an interrogative tone, he questioned where she was going. My mom tried to explain that we had an elder’s wives’ meeting. When he wasn’t convinced, she politely tried to say that she was Pastor Peter’s wife. Still skeptical, he asked, “Can I see your ID?” She pulled out her wallet, looked for her driver’s license and showed it to him. I don’t know if he was looking for proof of marriage but his skeptical expression seemed to imply this. He looked over her license and back at her, and pulled out a radio. “Nandito ang asawa ni Pastor Peter?” It was phrased in a question form, so neither my mom nor I were too sure what he was trying to confirm.

In the meantime, I looked over at my mom who was a picture of calm and cooperation. Since the guard seemed to be well meaning even if he was a little bit clueless, my mom didn’t insist on using that more convenient entrance. She and I walked to the opposite end of the building so we could comply with the new security measure of wearing IDs before accessing the office floors during weekdays.

She didn’t get upset about being inconvenienced or make any remarks about the guard’s not too courteous behavior. Furthermore, she didn’t act like she was “above the policy” as the wife of CCF’s senior pastor. My mom’s example reminded me that we are all servants. Leaders should never have a sense of entitlement or expectation that they deserve special treatment. She modeled for me how leaders should be humble and willing to submit to authority, following rules with a positive attitude.

By God’s grace, I am also blessed to have a dad who is a good role model of being spirit-filled. Earlier this week, I asked him if he could visit the sick father of a close friend of our family’s. In fact, I really begged him to because this man’s lung cancer had spread and multiplied, and his body was becoming unresponsive to treatment. His lung doctor gave him a very negative prognosis. So I requested that my dad go to see him in the hospital so he could share the gospel and pray with him.

My dad’s free day was Tuesday evening. But Tuesday is normally his most hectic day, since he has back-to-back meetings with church leaders. However, he told me he would make himself available at 6 PM so I confirmed this schedule with him and my friend. For some reason, I thought the hospital we had to drive to was in St. Lukes, Quezon City, so we headed in that direction. Edric and I were with him in his van, instructing the driver where to turn using the Wayz app so we could avoid the evening traffic. When we were a minute away from the hospital, I called my friend to let her know, and she said, “Okay, so you are near Global (referring to St. Lukes, Global City)? I will come down to see you in the lobby.”

“Global?!” I panicked. “I thought you said St. Luke’s Q.C. Oh no, wait a minute, I will call you back!” I had to excuse myself from the conversation and put the phone down to check my text messages. Sure enough, my friend had specified St. Luke’s Global. I don’t know how I missed this! I called her back to apologize and explain that I made a mistake.

My dad heard the entire conversation, but he very calmly said, “It’s okay. We can go tomorrow night.” I couldn’t believe it! There was NO trace of annoyance in his voice or in his body language. He even added cheerfully, “This is great, I can be home earlier and have dinner with your mom.” Not only did he refrain from embarrassing me or making me feel stupid, he saw the unfortunate mistake from a positive perspective!

After my dad dropped Edric and me off so we could ride in our own vehicle, I started to cry. This was partly because I was frustrated at myself for inconveniencing my dad and my friend with an idiotic mistake. But even more stirring to me was my dad’s graciousness. (The next evening he made time again to go with me all the way to the right hospital…St. Luke’s Global City.) 

 The point I wanted to make about parents being honorable is this: Honorable parents honor God in their responses. They represent Christ to their children in such a way that their children want to have a relationship with Him, too. To the best of my recollection my parents were like this but if there were occasions when they weren’t, they asked for our forgiveness and how they could improve.

As parents we need reflect on some hard questions. Do our children see evidence of the Holy Spirit in us when we encounter stress, trials, unpleasant circumstances or relationship issues? Do they see convincing proof that we are followers of Jesus Christ in the way we handle our time, money, or choose our habits, attitudes and values? If not, what can we change? If yes, then praise God!

I pray that all of us will seek to honor God in our lives so we can lead our children to do the same. God has given us the unique privilege and responsibility of primary influence so let us be honorable parents in the way that the apostle Paul said to his spiritual children, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Family Values

When I married Edric, I had no idea what kind of a father he would be to our future children. I hoped that he would be intentional, committed and present in their lives, but there was no way to be certain until we actually started to have kids.

I still remember the incalculable joy that lit up his face when our first son, Elijah, was born. By God’s grace I gave birth Lamaze, so I was cognizant and alert when Elijah came into this world. From behind the gauze mask, Edric’s eyes started to tear as he stomached the gravity of God’s gift to us. He was now a father.

Edric and I fumbled through our parenting in the early years of being a dad and mom. However, with the help of biblical principles from God’s Word, advice from mentors like our parents and other men and women of God, the accountability of family and friends, and good books, our understanding and application of parenting improved through the years.  (We have to keep improving still!)

I used to pressure Edric to be more involved and to be a spiritual leader to our kids, but all my yakking wasn’t what ordered his priorities. As Edric grew in his love for the Lord, God put it in his heart to ponder upon his place and purpose in our children’s lives. It was prayer and encouragement that made a difference, not nagging. Furthermore, he came across a passage of scripture that really convicted him to embrace fatherhood as a sacred trust. 

“We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭78‬:‭4-8 NASB) 

Today, Edric is the one who reminds me to be more intentional! Very recently, he came up with a code of Mendoza Family Values. It begins with this statement: “A Mendoza f.o.l.l.o.w.s. JESUS.”
F – FORGIVE one another
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O – OBEY God and authorities 

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L – LOVE one another unconditionally and love people to Jesus

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L – LEARN God’s Word and His Truths

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O – ONE (Live for the Audience of One – God’s glory)

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W – WORD (Keep your word)

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S – STEWARD (Be a good steward of your talents, abilities, opportunities, time and resources.)

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Edric has based our family devotions on these values in the last few months, giving a bible passage that corresponds to each trait for our children to internalize and memorize.

Every family needs to have a sense of identity that is rooted in their belief system. For our family, our identity is rooted in Jesus Christ and we want to follow Him faithfully. But what does this mean, in practical, everyday situations, especially for our kids? 

The list is something our kids can refer to again and again as they make choices. It isn’t an exhaustive list and there are many other character traits and principles our children need to learn, but this list helps to give them an image of a Christ-follower. Of course the bigger challenge is that Edric and I need to role model The Mendoza Family Values ourselves! 

Have you given thought to your family identity? What values will define your family? 

Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences

 After fourteen years of marriage, I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot change Edric to become like me (you’d think I would’ve figured this out sooner!). It really just hit me recently, that this endless attempt to make him completely understand my personality is a futile preoccupation. First, he is a man and that already makes him Martian to my Venus-ity. Second, the family context and culture in which we were raised was unlike each other’s. Third, I actually appreciate Edric the way he is even if sometimes, the way he isn’t like me can be infuriating. Fourth, the point of marriage is not to become like one another but to become more like Christ and to exalt Him and not us. This aim takes our differences and unifies them under a common purpose and goal.

 Nevertheless, the struggle remains…how to get along and remain faithful to that commitment to love one another. Let me illustrate this…

The other morning I prepared what I thought was a pretty amazing breakfast for Edric — a bowl of oatmeal, a plate of cheese, prunes, and walnuts, toast with honey and butter, scrambled eggs, sliced oranges, and malunggay tea. I giddily arranged everything, expecting him to be amazed and delighted at how beautifully plated his food was. I waited for him to say, “Wow! Thanks hon!” Instead, he sat himself in front of his breakfast and asked rather tersely, “What’s this in my oatmeal? Did you put evaporated milk?”

I took this reaction as a complaint instead of a mere question so I retaliated with a comment that went something like this, “That’s all you have to say after I made all of that?”

Edric didn’t appreciate my interpretation of the situation, especially because I muttered it in front of the kids. I should have been more prudent and more respectful. But I thought his question expressed ungratefulness. Annoyed with me, he corrected my attitude and judgmental spirit on the spot (also in front of kids). “The problem is you had expectations and so you thought my question was negative. I just wanted to know if you put evaporated milk in my oatmeal.”

It was unusual for him to correct me with the kids present because we tend to take up our issues with one another in private. With the kids spectating, I felt just cause to add, “Are you going to do this with the kids here?” Well, he corrected me even more! So I stopped, afraid that our interchange wouldn’t benefit the kids. I didn’t want to put our conflict on display. Plus, Edric was getting more and more frustrated with me for challenging him. I apologized to our kids, but inside I was a volcanic mess.

When we were finally alone, Edric and I got to talk. He called out my tendency to hyperbolize any sort of negativity from him — whether it be a comment, an expression, or his tone of voice — if it looks or sounds like the opposite of positive, my defenses kick in and I retaliate. Admittedly, I am overly sensitive when it comes to Edric’s opinions and assessments of my duties and responsibilities as a wife. When he communicates his displeasure, I feel deeply discouraged. My problem is I am allergic to even the most subtle portrayals of irritation from him. Instead of looking past his method to the intent of the correction, for my good, I fight back. Sigh.

I attempted to explain that this response is due to my upbringing, because my home was a positive, cheery environment. Think sunshine and sparkles. People appreciated one another and applied grace towards imperfections. Initially, Edric took this to mean that I was making a comparison to our present family culture. But I assured him that my past merely provided a reference for how we ought to relate to one another. I praise God that after several turbulent exchanges where our emotions began to escalate, we were able to sort through the hurtful comments properly. Edric led us to good conclusions.

  1. I need to be more humble when correction comes my way (no matter how it is delivered).
  1. Edric will make a conscious effort to apply gentleness of tone when he corrects me.

He also called our children into the kitchen and sat them around us. “Kids, will you forgive me for the way I talked to your mom? I was trying to correct her but I should have said it in a sweeter way.”

“You weren’t so nice,” Edan observed. (I wanted to clap but I didn’t!)

“Yes, you are right and I want you all to know that I shouldn’t talk to your mom that way. And you shouldn’t either. If you see something that she needs to change, you need to say it in a polite way.”

Edric explained to them that they had to respect me and speak to me in a manner that honored my position as their mother. The kids understood and returned to their play. I really appreciated this. Edric didn’t have to emphasize his own error but he did, and very humbly, too. This restored our family to authentic oneness.

We have been at this point many times as husband and wife. Our disagreements often feel like marital dejavú! We still wrestle with similar issues that irked us about each other at the beginning. They can even be called irreconcilable personality differences.

Thankfully, God has protected our marriage from some of the major problems that many relationships have to work through, such as infidelity, addictions, abuse, etc. I am not saying that it isn’t vulnerable to the same things. Yet by God’s grace, our conflicts revolve around personality differences rather than conviction-based ones.

Even so, if we weren’t committed to resolving our conflicts, small issues would most definitely distance us. They would pile up and make it easier for greater hurts to infect our marriage. For example, if Edric and I didn’t address our differences constructively, we might resort to quiet tolerance. Neither of us would be able to express genuine feelings. Untouchable subjects would naturally cause our communication to suffer. And then we might be less inclined to connect sexually because we don’t feel that spiritual or emotional oneness that ought to precede healthy intimacy. As we continue to drift apart, having made this manner of relating to one another a habit, we would seek out people or activities to satisfy unmet longings. This vulnerable state would put us in a position to make choices that could really harm or destroy our marriage.

The point is that Edric and I must continue to pursue oneness in Christ, accepting that there are aspects we cannot change about one another. That’s what commitment is…applying God’s grace and forgiveness when those differences sting, and going back to the ONE who holds us together. We both want to honor and obey Him. We want to glorify Him in our marriage. We want to live out His principles and not insist on the personal preferences that polarize us.

Is it hard? Is it challenging? Is it maddening at times? Yes, yes, yes. Yet after each conflict that is resolved we find ourselves saying that we love one another still. The even more amazing thing is, when we work through our issues by pursuing oneness in Christ, we discover that love can be better, bigger, and deeper than the love we knew in the year that passed.

My encouragement to young married couples is don’t let your irreconcilable personality differences pull you apart so you become two separate people over the years. Let those differences draw you closer to the Lord. The best parts of being married are yet to come. Don’t bail out emotionally and spiritually when conflict arises.

About two weeks ago I was visiting with my dad in his study room, where I have enjoyed many one-on-one conversations with him about life. He told me something that changed the way I think about the differences Edric and I have. He said, “Differences don’t really go away. Take for instance your mom and me. The same things that bothered us about each other at the beginning continue to be there. But we have learned to grow in grace.” 

He said it so beautifully I wanted to cry. Okay, I’m crying a little bit now. The truth is no marriage can survive without God’s grace and every marriage blooms with it. So if you are feeling discouraged today, receive God’s grace in your life and choose to give it to your spouse!

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭24‬ NASB)