Mt. Masungi

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

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

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

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

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





Site: www.masungigeoreserve.com

Address:  Kilometer 45, Marcos Highway, Rizal Philippines 

Email: trail@masungigeoreserve.com

Fight for Your Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is saying…

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

I will love my spouse because I love Christ.

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

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

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

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

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

Let me end this what what John Piper said…

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

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

The Real Father of Father’s Day

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mommy Pampering Time!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




 

The Good Things vs. the Great Things


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Early on in my marriage, my husband, Edric, was into computer games. It took some years for him to wean himself away from this addiction. Although I must say that his addiction wasn’t like the very destructive kind that paralyzes a lot of young people (and grown-ups) today. Apparently, some kids cut their classes to play computer games. That’s a different level of addiction. Edric’s was mild in comparison.

However, I had a brother who played computer games obsessively until a few years ago when God got a hold of his heart and convicted him to change for good. So I’ve nursed a little bit of paranoia that leaked out of me whenever Edric’s interest in computer games got piqued.

As a young wife and mother, it bothered me immensely whenever I would see him seated on our living room couch, fixated on the screen, with his eyes hardly blinking and his fingers moving furiously. I would think to myself, How can this person lead our family?! Worst of all, I would say cutting and disrespectful statements in the attempt to make him stop.

Eventually, I learned to pray for him instead of nagging which resulted in miraculous intervening from the Lord. As a result, I am happy to say that he generally avoided computer games for the majority of our marriage. Although there were some seasons when he would get into it again, they were short-lived. He got busier and busier through the years, leaving little room for this sort of entertainment. He got to the point where he preferred to channel his attentions towards the kids and me, and find ways to hang out with us.

A few months ago, however, he decided to join an NBA2K league again with his good friends. His main purpose was to reach out to them and have some clean, boyish fun. So he purchased the NBA game while we were in the U.S. in the first quarter of the year, and started practicing for this league.

At first, it didn’t bother me. Edric didn’t have much time to practice so he reserved this for the late evenings or days when he wanted to unwind after a grueling day at work. His practice sessions didn’t really interfere with family time. It wasn’t like he was neglecting his priorities.

However, as the tournament drew closer, his competitive bug kicked into full gear and I noticed that he disappeared more frequently during what should have been “family times.” I mentioned my concern on a few occasions but I knew this was a sensitive topic so I avoided saying too much. Plus, he also assured me that he was renewing his game-playing just for the tournament season.

Instead of making a big deal out of it, I continued to pray that God would give him wisdom as the leader of our family. After all, I knew Edric’s heart, that he sincerely and truthfully loved God and had a relationship with Him. Therefore, if he was straying from the course that God would have him on, then surely God would get his attention in an effective way to correct his trajectory.

On Friday before his tournament, the kids had their music recital. It was the culminating activity for the quarter, covering a little over two months (about the amount of time that Edric had been playing computer games again.)

Many years ago, Edric and I agreed that MAPE classes would fall under his department for our homeschooling. I would focus on the academics. So, technically speaking, making sure the kids practiced for their violin performances was his lookout. But Edric hadn’t been very aware of what was going on with the kids over the last few weeks because his default mode was to come home and “practice” for the big tournament day.

Before the recital I mentioned to Edric that the boys were struggling through their pieces and were ill-prepared for their recital. I was terrified for their sake. They obviously hadn’t practiced hard enough. Yet at that point, there was nothing I could really do to salvage the situation except allow them to learn from their choices.

When the boys played on stage, Edric turned over to me, with a mortified and shocked look on his face. Our kids got through their songs but our two younger boys squeaked through their pieces. (The violin instrument is probably the most unpleasant instrument to listen to when played incorrectly.) Edric couldn’t believe how unprepared they were.

Afterwards, he decided to have a talk with the boys which began by asking them, “How do you think you did, boys? Did you do your best?”

Titus confidently declared, “Yes!” (This made us laugh because his answer revealed more about his half-full vs. half-empty kind of perspective on life rather than his ability to accurately access his own performance.)

Our two older boys were more realistic and admitted that they hadn’t practiced the way they should have.

Edric concluded by encouraging them to do their best in everything that they pursue, for God’s glory. He attempted to be gracious while insisting that practice was a non-negotiable part of their daily disciplines.

Well, the day ended with the kids learning a life lesson, and the next day was Edric’s NBA2k tourney. He woke up totally excited and energized for the event. I stayed home with the kids as he road away with one of his close friends.

During the rest of the day I assumed that all was well until I received a call from him at 2 PM. These were his words: “I lost EVERY. SINGLE. GAME.” He sounded upset and humiliated.

According to him, he did so horribly that some of the guys weren’t even looking at the screen while competing against him! But he did include a positive note about sharing the gospel with one of the men who joined the tournament.

In an attempt to diffuse his disappointment over losing, I welcomed him home with a good dinner spread. I also knew that he must have come away from the experience with wonderful reflections and I was eager to hear these.

He told me, “God reminded me that I must replace the good things in my life with the great things. Hanging out with the guys playing computer games isn’t a bad thing. It can be a good thing when it’s about reaching out to guys to build relationships to win them over to Christ. But computer game playing is not a great thing, either. After I watched the kids violin performance yesterday, I was convicted about how my attention was diverted by my own ‘practice’ sessions. Had I been more zoned in to what was happening with the kids, I would have recognized that they slacked off with their violin practices. I would have stepped in to do something about it. But I was distracted. I wasn’t there.”

I am able to write about this experience now because I have my husband back…every part of him! Hooray! Today he told me how excited he was to spend time with the kids. His plan is to take them outdoors to go biking or running this afternoon.

As I shared in the beginning of this entry, it’s only by God’s grace that Edric doesn’t have major issues when it comes to computer gaming. However every single person in our family needs him to be present, wholly there. And for him, computer games is one of those things that takes him away from us. This detour from his more-often-than-not engaged husband and father mode caused some funkiness to develop in our kids. Maybe even in me! Yet, I’m thankful to the Lord that He nipped the issue quickly!

The game playing could have progressed to something really unhealthy for Edric and our family had he won the tournament and emerged as the champ. The win would have affirmed the time he spent training for the tournament. It would have given him cause to defend his title for the next one. But no such thing came to pass. God’s kindness to him was allowing every single defeat in order to send a loud and clear life principle: Choose the great things over the good things.

As for me, I’m rejoicing because I know God loves Edric so much that He protects him from going off-course. Even the slightest of Edric’s missteps are visible to the Lord. I want to continue to pray that God will not let him slip.

“Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad. Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip.” (Psalm 66:8-9 NASB)


God loves every single man in our lives. If there is anything that troubles or unsettles us about the men we love (be it a husband, boyfriend, father, brother, etc.), we can be assured that God sees the areas that they need to improve on to become more like Him.

Sometimes, it’s very tempting to get in the way and nag them to death or try and manipulate circumstances so we can facilitate their growth process faster. However, we must learn to rest in God’s love for them and avoid rushing into the scene to “fix” things.

If we continue to pray for the men we love and surrender them to the Lord, doing our part to obey God, too, then we can be confident that God will intervene in His way and time. He will direct them and order their steps in accordance with His will.

How do we know this? Because He loves them immeasurably more than we can ever love them. And He is faithful and able to transform their hearts to desire and pursue what pleases Him — the great things.

“This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭48:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Potty Training and Parenting

Finally, Catalina can go to bed at night without wearing diapers. She actually initiated this milestone on her own some days ago when she adamantly said, “I don’t want to wear diapers. Only panties.” This happened before she took her last pee of the evening, when she removed her pull-ups and chucked them into the trash can.

I was pleased with this display of independence. She stopped wearing diapers during the day at about 2.6 years old (later than my other four).

The approach was to mix in a good amount of positive pressure and training. We had to spend about two months teaching her how to use the toilet. Many mishaps occurred in the process! But then she got it! And I was able to save hundreds of pesos in diapers. Even if I put her diapers on at night, it was much cheaper than going through five or six diapers a day.

Now, she has declared herself liberated from night time diaper wearing. To keep from wetting the bed, we don’t give her anything to drink before she sleeps, and we make sure she pees before she is tucked in. After this, I will be training her how to use the potty on her own.

Every one of my kids reached this stage in different ways. It’s a comforting reminder that they get to their milestones eventually. Some take longer than others but they get there. One step at a time, that’s the key. Furthermore, I have to let my children bloom on their own, according to God’s time table.

Even if I am anxious to move them up the developmental ladder quuckly, I tell myself, RELAX. Whether it’s speaking, walking, sleeping on their own, eating on their own, potty-training, reading, writing, independent learning, athletic ability, the reality is that some things will not happen at the specific point in time that I want them to. I can do my best to create an environment that encourages my kids to grow and mature, but I also have to trust in God’s plan for them.

Trusting in God’s plan for them means I should avoid comparing my kids to each other and others. It also means appreciating my kids’ uniquenesses and enjoying where they are at. 

More importantly, it involves focusing on the right goals. My kids are not going to outsmart or outtalent every child out there. I think they are pretty amazing and special in their own way, just like all other children are. But parenting them is not a contest. I don’t have to prove anything through them and their skills…any skill they achieve or master. Neither should I feel guilt-ridden or wallow in discouragement when my best efforts at teaching them skills don’t produce the results I hope they will. 

Instead, I have to be FAITHFUL as a mom. I have to be present and intentional so I can help them discover their God-given limitations, strengths, personalities, and physical traits to accomplish His purposes. As I do so, I can relax, and leave the success part to God. He will define what that means for each of my kids. And His definition trumps all others’!


“Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬ ‭NASB

Don’t Sweat the People Stuff

My parents come under fire for things every now and then as church leaders. People criticize them and scrutinize what they do which comes with the challenge of leading others.


I have often wondered how they handle the people stress in their lives with such grace. Certain things that would send me into an emotional tailspin hardly phase them. It’s not because they are immune to hurt or stress, rather it’s the way they process hurt and stress. They remain joyful and hopeful in the Lord.

Over the many years of watching their lives up close and learning from their examples, I have come to observe that there are three effective perspectives for “the people stuff” (aka difficult people in your life) that we can adapt:

You can’t please everyone. Not everyone is going to applaud you and give you a handshake for what you do. There will always be those who find something about you to complain about or pick on. As one person said, “‘Pharisees’ are still alive today.” Sometimes you and I are the Pharisees, too!

We can’t rid the world of judgmental people. (Let’s not contribute to the pool by being one of them, either). However, living our lives to please people isn’t going to solve the problem of disappointing them or failing to meet up to their expectations.

There have been occasions when my blog entries weren’t digestible to everyone. People simply didn’t agree with the biblical perspectives I wrote about, particularly on marriage and parenting. Sometimes, their comments were an all-out personal assault. The prideful me wanted to retort with scathing remarks. However, I realized that there was no point in fighting battles against people with completely opposite world-views. That wasn’t the route to take to win them over to the Lord.

Instead, I was reminded to hold to my convictions, and to focus on pleasing God…not people. I like how Galatians 1:10 puts it, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

It’s impossible to please everyone. That’s a universal truth if we haven’t figured it out yet. The good news is, it’s possible to make choices that honor God. In the process my hope is that people will see the logic behind choosing to follow God, not because I argue them to death to prove my point, but because they see actual evidence in my life that ministers to their hearts.

While I think that apologists are badly needed in this day and age for the defense of faith in God, I also believe that the most convincing argument for the truth of God’s Word is transformed lives. Do we testify to the love, joy, peace, and grace that are found in Jesus Christ? Do we exhibit a contagious faith?

Listen with humility. God uses people to refine our rough edges or do massive work-ups on our hearts. Sometimes the very people who correct us, as well as those whom are difficult to get along with, are the very people we need in our lives to develop Christ-like character.

Are we willing to listen to what they have to say? We don’t have to make them our closest confidants or best friends, but is our default response to run away and shut them out of our lives or is it to love them still and be grateful for the way God is using them?

Furthermore, not all of what they say may be accurate or true, but is our disposition to be humble or is it to be combative and defensive? God reminds us that the humble have his favor. Psalm 25:9 tells us, “He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.”

In my years of ministry, I’ve made many mistakes with people. I’ve hurt people along the way because of my personality or lack of sensitivity. After I gave birth to my fourth child, Tiana, a group of ladies I had known for a very long time confronted me and told me the areas I needed to change and improve on. It was deeply humbling as I sat there with a panel of women in front of me expressing their frustrations towards me. Some were in tears, some were less emotional, but all of them had something to say about how I had wounded them.

It wasn’t easy to listen to them because some of it sounded like it had been blown out of proportion. However, I did my best to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. The fact that their feelings were pretty unanimous meant there was definitely something I could change to be a better person.

Still, some of them lingered in the hurt I had caused and pulled away from me. At that point, I didn’t want to pursue them relationally. I wanted to back off and give up. Yet, God taught me through this trying season of ministry that I must pursue people with His love. Even if I don’t feel like it, His love compels me to.

The rebuilding part was a challenge because I had to win back their hearts. It didn’t happen right away. For some, it took a number of months and even years. However, today, it is by God’s grace alone that I can say that my relationships with those women have been healed. I love them more today than ever. Furthermore, I know that God used them (and still uses them) to teach me how to be more loving, more giving, and more selfless.

People aren’t the real enemy. The evil one plants seeds of divisiveness in our relationships all the time. He likes to tear marriages, families, and organizations apart. So we need to recognize his handiwork and modus operandi. He turns our focus towards people and their offenses against us rather than towards the Lord and our walk with Him.

Instead of seeking out God-honoring resolutions, we end up being pawns in the evil one’s chess game. His ploy is to make us casualties by planting resentment and bitterness in our hearts, which keeps us from following and obeying God, and ultimately destroys us and those around us. Bitterness occupies the place of grace when we invite it into our hearts.

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Hebrews 12:15

Sometimes, when Edric and I help to facilitate reconciliation between people, we hear them make statements that are incongruent with their profession of faith. They will say, “Yes, I’ve forgiven them,” yet in the same breath will continue with, “but I’m not ready to meet with them or to be with them.”

For followers of Christ, we can’t have this attitude. Hebrews 12:14 commands us to, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

Living at peace with others is paired with living a holy life. Our relationships with people impact our intimacy with God and vice versa. If we are not walking intimately with the Lord, we will not process people problems properly. Peace with others will not be a priority. Rather, our responses will favor things like self-preservation and/or revenge.

I know this temptation all too well as a wife! There are times when Edric is the source of my people stress (thankfully, it’s not often). When he is, I plot out ways to get back at him in my head. However, I have to resist this urge as a child of God.

Matthew 5:9 says, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” A true child of God “works for peace.” A true child of God doesn’t burn bridges, leave issues unresolved without doing their best to restore their broken relationships, neither do they gossip and slander others, or nurse bitterness and distrust.

I know it’s hard to commit to peacemaking, especially when betrayal is involved. It almost seems stupid to allow ourselves to be vulnerable when there’s a very high possibility that we can get burned by doing so. So my encouragement to myself and to others is to trust in God and entrust people to God.

Realistically speaking, we can’t control people and force them to act and behave in ways we want them to. Instead we must remember that God is sovereign and in control. For example, He can bring wrongdoers, offenders, and those with mal-intent to justice. In Deuteronomy 32:35 God says, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.”

Another comfort is that God exposes the secrets of a man’s heart. Luke 8:17 tells us, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

God is not blind to the ills and sins of people. But sometimes we act like he is when we panic and take justice into our own hands. Are we greater than God’s hand? Do we know more than He does? Of course not. These are rhetorical questions. Our best resource when it comes to difficult people is to acknowledge the capacity of God to do something by praying! People can fool us with their pretenses but they can’t fool God.

Best of all, God can change the people who wound us the most and transform them completely. When the apostle Paul encountered God, he was radically changed. From a murderer of Christ-followers, he became a torchbearer of Christianity.

My parents have repeatedly told me, “See people for who they can become in Christ. Don’t focus on who they are now with all their issues and shortcomings.”

In the meantime, when it comes to problematic people stuff, let’s be accountable to the Lord for what’s in our own hearts. As Psalm 139:23-24 puts it, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

The other day I had a conversation with my dad about some people issues that he has been facing at the moment. When I asked him how he handles everything, he told me (paraphrased), “I sleep very well at night. When people say negative things about me, it makes me evaluate what areas I have to change. If there is something there, then I work on it. If there is no merit to what is being said, then I leave it up to the Lord to handle.”

He also added that his energies are directed towards seeking God and serving people which protects him from being consumed by people issues.

In conclusion, let’s not sweat the people stuff! We can’t please everyone so let’s focus on pleasing God. Let’s learn to listen and be humble because there’s always room for improvement. God uses people to refine us. Remember, people aren’t the real enemy so let’s not become a puppet of the evil one by participating in his divisive schemes or adapting divisive mindsets. Instead, let’s surrender difficult people to the Lord and trust that He is in control. He possesses the power to effect change in their hearts and our own. Our part is to be reconciled to others as much as possible by seeking to be  peacemakers, and to walk in obedience and faithfulness to the Lord.

Sometimes this will mean feeding our enemies and clothing them, or extending a handshake or a hug, or writing a letter that expresses an apology or reaches out to a person, or choosing to forgive even without receiving a sincere sorry from an offender, or showing acts of kindness, withholding words that will provoke someone to anger, or praying for those who have hurt us, or sharing the gospel with them.

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Matthew 5: 43 – 48

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

 

 

 

Siblings as the Best of Friends

When Elijah arrived from his Holy Land Tour last Tuesday it was 12:30 AM so his younger siblings had to wait till the morning to see him. They had been counting the days!

(Elijah took this trip with my parents who took him for his 13th birthday)
Elijah was pretty exhausted so he slept in longer than my other kids did that morning. The cute thing is that Edan sat at the foot of Elijah’s bed, patiently waiting for him to wake up. He just watched Elijah, anticipating the moment when his eyes would open.

As soon as he did, all of my kids pounced on Elijah, hugging him repeatedly. They all started chatting in a lively manner, trying to get his attention, trying to tell him stories about things they did while he was away. At the breakfast table, they spent two hours laughing and engaging one another in conversation. It was obvious that they missed their older brother a lot. Even our two-year old, Catalina said so.

Homeschooling has played a big part in cultivating our children’s deep love and affection for one another. Edric and I almost always get the socialization question when we do Q and A portions in our seminars on homeschooling. Because I am a homeschooling mom, I don’t quite understand why people think that socialization is an issue for homeschoolers. Sure, they may not get to hang out with same-aged peers every single day, but they don’t lack opportunities to have great relationships with other children, especially their siblings.

Most of us have been conditioned to believe that the school setting is where children ought to make friends. Eyebrows of concern are raised when a parent removes a child from this environment and keeps them at home to learn. What friends will they possibly have is a question that a lot of parents worry about as they weigh the pros and cons of home education.

However, let’s be comfortingly realistic. In the Philippines it’s hard to imagine that a homeschooled child can grow up isolated, lonely, and socially awkward just because they don’t go to a school and have classmates. First of all, even without counting siblings, the number of cousins most Filipino kids have is astounding! Furthermore, Filipinos naturally congregate and get together. For example, there isn’t a week that goes by without the celebration of someone’s birthday.

Plus, homeschoolers also meet with other homeschooling families and form coops or playgroups that meet regularly. Most homeschool families I know have to tone down their social activities in order to get their academics done!

Therefore socialization really isn’t an issue at all. Sadly, I think the greater issue is that children are herded together in classrooms in a very unnatural way. After all, when a child leaves school and moves on to work or start a business or pursue a profession, they are almost never in a predicament that looks or feels like a classroom.

So, while children need relationships, let’s not make the mistake of thinking that they are better off developing these outside of the home. A study by The Family Pediatrics said that “when the family environment enables their (children’s) needs to be met, children generally turn out well, both socially and psychologically…The ability to cope with and adjust to life problems and demands is based upon psychological foundations of early family experiences.” (www.kon.org/urc/v5/mahalihali.html )

Personally, I believed that home provides the most natural context for children to grasp and enjoy the beauty of relationships…what it means to love, forgive, accept, and sacrifice for one another. Socialization has actually become a compelling reason for Edric and I to keep homeschooling. It gives our children the opportunity to practice relationships principles day in and day out.

Tonight, Edric and I went out on a date and came home early. It was 7:45 PM and we spied on our children as we snuck up the stairs to avoid announcing that we had arrived. We saw them huddle together over a game in our homeschool room, enjoying one another’s company and totally unconscious of our presence. It was a sweet sight to hear their unscripted laughter.

My kids may not have hundreds of friends. They have a good number of friends (most of them homeschooled, too), but for me what’s more important is that they have one another. Although they still squabble and work through their differences as brothers and sisters, they are embracing more and more the wonderful truth that siblings make the best of friends.

I enjoyed the same blessing growing up and today, I still call my siblings my best friends…

Give Priority to Your Spouse

Edric and I seem to get busier year after year, but one thing I appreciate about him is that he prioritizes me. If I were to tell him that I needed him, not in a crying-wolf sort of way, but genuinely and sincerely, he would drop everything for me.

The past two weeks were spent traveling, speaking, counseling and meeting with people about various issues, plus a section of the rip-rap of our house collapsed. By Tuesday afternoon, I didn’t want to attend another event. I just wanted to go home.

It takes me a while to get to this point of emotional and spiritual exhaustion. However, people issues can quickly do this to me. As much as I enjoy dealing with people and seeing God transform their lives, there are periods when it’s deeply discouraging, too.

For example, when I can’t force people to make the right choices (although I sometimes wish mind-control was a super power I possessed), and I see them make decisions that are against God’s will, it saddens and frustrates me. I have to wait on the Lord to speak to them and bring conviction to their hearts. In the meantime, it wearies me when people stew in their wrong emotions instead of actively pursuing God-honoring solutions or listening to biblical advice.

Yet this is what ministry is all about, patiently dealing with the messiness of imperfect people (myself included, of course), and pointing each other to God’s love and grace so that we might all be radically changed by it.

Compared to what church leaders have to contend with, I think that I’ve been exposed to the softer side of the battle. When I think of what my parents have to contend with on a daily basis as they shepherd a mega church, I know that my own dealings with people issues are quite minor. Nevertheless, it’s important that I seek out ways to recharge.

First, when I start to feel burdened and anxious, I return to my anchor – Jesus Christ. Prayer, filling my mind with His truth, and recognizing that He is present takes my focus off people and onto Him. As Hebrews 12:2 puts it, we need to keep “fixing your (our) eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith…”

Second, I’m thankful to God that I have my husband, Edric, to turn to. Whether it’s holding my hand, embracing me, praying with me and for me, offering words of comfort, or helping me to have the right perspective, he brings much needed calm to my spirit.

I can’t run away from the storms that come with the terrain of ministry, and I know I can’t run away from people because God’s Word tells me to love people, even when they display themselves as unlovable. But sometimes, I just need a break.

That Tuesday afternoon, before we were supposed to attend another ministry event, I expressed to Edric how tired I was. At first, he gently attempted to convince me to go to it. In fact, I was dressed for it as I sat in his office waiting for him to finish up with work. However, as he listened to me and took in the sight of my demeanor and posture, he sensed that I wasn’t alright.

So he reassuringly said, “I’ll take care of you.” Then he called in his assistant to inform her that we would be passing on the dinner affair. He requested that she ask if we could get out of our commitment to the person who invited us, and to send our apologies.

His sensitivity to recognize that I was running on empty meant a great deal to me. His consideration spelled L-O-V-E. Even if it was important for us to be at the gathering, he knew that ministry to me, as his wife, took precedence. When we got home, I went to bed a little past 7:30 and slept for about 12 hours!

Edric and I aren’t the type to beg off from a ministry activity we’ve said yes to so this incident was an exception rather than the norm. Lest this be interpreted as an example of why it’s okay to break commitments to people when your spouse needs you, this isn’t what I intended by this entry.

Indeed, there may be occasions when this may be necessary, but the point I’m trying to make is that prioritizing one’s spouse is one way we can affirm our love for them.

Sometimes it’s putting the gadgets away and out of reach when you are having a conversation with your husband or wife so you can give them your full attention. Or…

It’s letting go of a habit or activity that takes time away from your spouse…

It’s going on that much needed date night so you can be together, just the two of you, and leaving the kids at home…

It’s avoiding a course of action that you know will wound your spouse…

It’s honoring your vow to stay pure and keep the marriage bed holy…

It’s taking the time to listen to your spouse’s feelings even when you would rather do something else or be somewhere else…

It’s taking your spouse’s call while you are in the middle of a meeting…

It’s doing your best to resolve a conflict between the two of you because you know that lingering in the hurt isn’t healthy for your marriage…

It’s purposefully praying for one another…

It’s keeping your promise about something you told your spouse you would get done for him or her…

It’s speaking your spouse’s love language whether it be words of affirmation, gifts, time, acts of service, or affection…

It’s seeking to meet their heartfelt needs even if it requires sacrifice from you…

I don’t know what giving your spouse priority might mean in your marriage, but I do believe it’s one of the most convincing ways to communicate, “I love you.” Bold and grand gestures of devotion are great, but there’s nothing that can top the consistency of letting your spouse know every single day that they are the important, that second to the Lord, they have priority over your earthly relationships and pursuits.

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Many things in our lives will scream IMPORTANT, so let us pray for the wisdom to sift through the things that demand our attention and ask, which ones will destroy our relationship with God, our marriage and family if we neglect them or engage in them?

I don’t know who Brandon Sanderson is but he said something very insightful: “The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” If we want to have a good, solid marriage (and even a romantic one), we must recognise it as a vital thing and commit to treat it that way EVERY DAY.

 

Newsletter Project – Making Language Arts Fun

Getting my boys to write is often very challenging. So I have find creative ways to inspire them to write. Today, my fourth grader, Edan, and I worked on a newsletter for his Language Arts project. 

To get my younger boys to churn out content, I let them dictate their ideas to me. Edan told me what he wanted to include in his newsletter and I jotted down his sentences. Afterwards, I asked him to go through his material to edit it.  

We used Smilebox which has a variety of templates to choose from. Here’s the finished project…enjoy! 
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When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

Edric and I were awoken at 3 AM to the sound of what we thought to be thunder. It wasn’t until the morning that we were informed by our house help that the wall of our rip-rap fell into the street below.

Shocking! It looked like rubble after a bombing – rocks piled on one another and the earth exposed.

My two thoughts were, Thank goodness this didn’t happen when our kids were playing in our backyard! God is merciful. God protected us. We had a houseful of children because my nephews and nieces spent the night, too. Praise God they weren’t harmed either.

But my second thought was, Oh my goodness! What a disaster! 

I was tempted to blame the people behind our wall’s construction, but where would that have gotten me? As I began to mouth out my frustration, Edric reminded me that this wasn’t going to be productive. He was right.

We took a morning jog and I decided to pray and thank the Lord that he kept us safe. In the grand scheme of things, it was just a wall. Sure, there was major damage to it and it’s going to be costly to repair it. But this Is something fixable. It’s not a person’s life, and praise God, it’s not one our children’s lives we are talking about here.

As I surveyed the rubble and looked at the mess it left on the street, I meditated on several spiritual observations:

First, there’s always something to be grateful for. Our wall may be a tragic mess but we still have our lives and our home. Much of the world can’t enjoy a comfortable home. At least we have one. And by God’s grace, it’s comfortable. Therefore my heart is thankful.

Second, the wall that fell represents what is physical. The earth underneath represents what is within all of us — the spiritual person. Our wall tumbled down but the soil remained compact and stable.

We will go through circumstances in our lives where the walls around us will crumble. Maybe we will experience sickness, financial struggles, relationship issues, or we will enter into a season of obscurity after the high of a success. Whatever it is, will our inner persons survive? What will hold us together?

Years ago when everything I understood about the world was torn apart because I was a victim of rape, I came to a cross road where I had to choose what I would believe in. What would I cling to as truth? Would I choose the path of hatred, unforgiveness, anger, fear, and doubt? I knew these emotions would lead me down a dark path…the wrong one. So I determined to hope in who God is and to interpret what happened through spiritual lenses. He gave me the grace to forgive the men who violated me, which put me on the road to healing.

Colossians 1:17 tells us, “He (Jesus) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This has been true in my life and in the lives of countless people who have embraced this reality. Jesus will hold us together during times of crises.

Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Have you ever met people who have gone through incredibly difficult circumstances and yet the Lord transformed them into more beautiful versions of the persons they once were? I have! I have met amazing people who were victims of tragedy and yet they have blessed the world with their testimonies. They have declared what God has done and pointed others to Him.

In tough times, it is the inner person who is revealed. We may be able to hide behind pretenses and mask who we really are, but when we encounter obstacles; when people wrong us; when we lose something or someone important to us; and when we fall on desperate times, our true selves will be made manifest. That’s when we will recognize what anchors us, and what defines us. And this is what others will see, too!

Third, it isn’t the walls of our home that keep us safe at night. We can build a fortress to protect ourselves from intruders, natural disasters, and other calamities. However it is the Lord who makes us “dwell in safety.” “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) True security is to know that God is sovereign and in control.

Fourth, this world is not my home. Last Sunday, Edric preached a wonderful message in CCF Baguio entitled, “Act Like a Citizen of Heaven.” He challenged the audience to adapt attitudes and behaviors that glorify God and to set our mind on heavenly things. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)

Well, I believe that God wanted Edric and I to apply this message! So He gave us an opportunity to do so through this unprecedented disaster. Indeed, the broken things of this world remind us that we are destined for a better one.

On this earth we witness decay, death, and destruction. Therefore, let us NOT hope in what is temporal and passing. Let us not live like this is as good as it gets. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) May God open our eyes to recognise what He is doing as He molds our character through earthly struggles by way of people or circumstances, and may we look to Him for the life and peace that He gives and promises.

This has been a tough two weeks for me emotionally, and the wall falling was like an exclamation point in the midst of it all. Yet God has been my comfort. He has been my ROCK. “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” Psalms‬ ‭62:6‬

Maybe something is happening in your life right now and the walls are tumbling down, or maybe you are standing in the heap of the rubble, in the aftermath of a tragedy. I pray that you will find your sure footing on the rock that is Christ. He will uphold you. He will help you rebuild what has been broken.

Letting Go

This is a new stage of parenting for me, parenting a young man, as my husband and I like to refer to our 13 year old son, Elijah. After he turned 13, it felt like parenting 101 for me all over again.

I don’t really know what I’m doing. It feels like navigating unchartered waters in a misty fog.

By God’s grace, Elijah has been a pleasant “teenager”…so far. This is possibly because he hasn’t actually gone through puberty yet. I’m expecting this to happen within 2016. He’s at the beginning stages of it. However, he hasn’t exactly shot up in height. His voice hasn’t cracked yet. And well, other things are pretty much the same.

As I anticipate the hormonal transformation he is going to go through, I’m preparing myself, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to “let go” of the mothering bit. He’s not a baby anymore. And as my father in law lovingly reminded me, I’ve got to stop babying him.

I don’t really think I “baby” any of my kids, but if packing Elijah’s bag for his two week trip to the Holy Land counts, then yeah, I guess I do. I matched his outfits and oriented him on everything that was in his suitcase. I stayed up until late the night before he left to prepare his backpack with essentials.

It sounds like a form of babying, but letting him go on a trip without Edric and me accompanying him seems like a big step in the opposite direction. This is the first time any of our children have flown to another country without us.

The first night, I looked at his empty bed and felt like crying. His brothers were most certainly crying. I saw them in the dark, sitting on their beds doing so. When I flicked the light switch on, there were tears in both their eyes. They missed Elijah. I gave them big hugs and tucked them into bed, trying to offer words of confort I also needed to hear.

It was my parents’ idea to treat Elijah to a trip to the Holy Land with them when he turned 13. This is their plan for each grand child for as long as they can. So, the good news is he’s with adults whom I trust. My sister and her husband are on the same tour, which is doubly reassuring.

However, it took me a few days before the separation anxiety subsided. I am finally able to relax. Elijah doesn’t have a phone with roaming capacity so we have to rely on spotty Internet connection to communicate through his Ipad. I’ve talked to him briefly during the week and he already sounded like a more mature version of himself.

He was riding on the bus with a woman beside him during our first conversation and I was like, “Who is that girl beside you?” Eventually, he told me it was a young lady whom he shared the bus ride with.

When my dad jokingly said, “Yeah, he’s been talking to lots of girls,” I was like, “What? Really? What girls, Elijah?”

Elijah interrupted me quickly by saying, “Mom, you know I’m not at that stage yet.”

Oh okay. Whew. I know that. He’s not interested in girls yet, not in the romantic way, at least. (I suppose this is one of the benefits of homeschooling. Children stay children for longer. They aren’t influenced by the culture of school where people crush on one another early.)

The most challenging part for me about letting Elijah travel without us was getting over the worry. What if he gets lost? What if he gets abducted? What if he gets injured? I don’t think there is any mom out there who won’t be able to relate to my anxiety.

But I am trying to dwell on the positive aspects of this two-week separation. Elijah is making new friends; he is spending quality time with the Lord as he experiences the Bible come to life; he has to practice responsibility as he keeps track of his belongings; he has to mind his budget; and he is learning to look after himself. If climbing the tallest mountain in the Philippines with his dad was “Lessons on Manhood Part 1”, then this is “Lessons on Manhood Part 2.”

Yesterday, Elijah contacted us to show us the shofar he bought. It was a huge ram’s horn! And he told his dad that he got it for a great deal. I’m trying to picture Elijah bargaining with a Jew for this trumpet and I’m proud of him!

As for Edan, my second son, he has stepped into the “kuya” shoes. Today, I asked him to baby-sit his brother and sisters in the hotel room while Edric and I gave a three-hour seminar on homeschooling and parenting. I left my phone with him, but he didn’t have to SOS us at all. When I returned to pick them up the kids in the hotel room, they were entertained, busy, and having fun without us.

When food is left on the table, Edan is also our new garbage man. I usually ask Elijah to eat everyone’s leftovers but now it’s Edan’s turn. Somehow, this has increased Edan’s capacity to eat. He’s been eating a ton of food in the last week!

What about me? Elijah’s trip away is a reminder that God is the one who protects my children. I need to relax and trust Him. It’s not my control or my presence that keeps any of my kids safe. I do my part but their wellbeing is ultimately in God’s hands. So I don’t need to worry when I can’t keep an eye on them 24/7. God can do a much better job.

I am also learning not to be dependent on my kids for my sense of joy or purpose. The first day Elijah was away, I thought, Is this what it’s going to feel like when my children leave home one day? Ouch. It hurts!

I’ve invested so much time in my children’s lives because of homeschooling that I can’t imagine what it will be like when my kids go off to college or pursue careers that take them away from the Philippines. And eventually they may start their own families, too.

So I’m thankful for this foretaste of what it will be like to really let go. It’s allowing me to re-visit where my sense of identity lies. Yes, motherhood defines a big part of who I am, but my life can’t revolve around my children. They’ve been given to me for a season, to instruct, influence, minister to, and disciple. I’m certainly going to make the most of this time while their hearts are malleable and responsive to me (and Edric). But one day, they will have to stand on their own and make choices without mom and dad around. And I will have to deal with the void their absence in the home leaves behind and look forward to how God will use me in another season of my life.

If I’m to be fruitful when I’m an older woman…fruitful in the purposeful sense because I’m fulfilling God’s plan for my life…then I have to be anchored in the Lord. I am a follower of Jesus first before I am a mom.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine you are the branches; he who abides Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

And hey, no matter what, I will still be mom to my kids. Someday, my children may not need me the same way they need me now, but there will always be a big space in my heart reserved just for them and the door to it will remain open.

Singer and songwriter Mark Shultz wrote When You Come Home years ago which used to make Elijah tear as a younger child. He would tell me to stop the song because he couldn’t listen to it. It’s such a tender song. In the end, the mom in the story passes away but she reminds her son that she will be waiting for him in heaven. Elijah never liked to think of being separated from me when he was little. And now he is off on his own!

I haven’t listened to the song in a long time, but it makes sense to include it here as I ponder upon this idea of letting go. (I’ve been in a sentimental mood since Elijah left so you get another emotional song in this post!)

What’s my take home from this song? Let go as your children grow up and grow past needing you, but always keep your arms open.

When You Come Home

My first day of recess
They all laughed at me
When I fell off the swing set
And scraped up my knee

The nurse called my Momma
To say I’d be late,
And when she gave me the phone
I could hear Momma say
“I’m so sorry, son.
Oh I think you’re so brave.”

And she was smiling when she said:

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home

I waved good-bye through the window
As I boarded the plane,
My first job in Houston
Was waiting for me

I found a letter from Momma
Tucked in my coat
And as I flew down the runway
I smiled when she wrote:
I’ll miss you, son,
You’ll be so far away

But I’ll be waiting for the day

When you come home
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong
And I will be here
When you come home

Well, I don’t think
She can hear you now,
The doctor told me
Your mother is fading,
It’s best that you leave

So I whispered,
I love you
And then turned away.
But I stopped at the door
When I heard Momma say,
I love you, son,
But they’re calling me away

Promise me before I go

When you come home,
No matter how far,
Run through the door
And into my arms;
It’s where you are loved,
It’s where you belong,
And I will be here
When you come home,
When you come home.