A Greater Purpose For Learning

I have often told my kids that language skills are important. Reading, writing, composition, and comprehension are all necessary and worth the hours of arduous study and practice required to hone them. They aren’t always eager about my pep talks. But they are beginning to experience why these are valuable beyond the discipline of learning academics.

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As often as possible, we ask our kids to speak with us when we teach at retreats or events. This gives them a venue to apply what they learn. Elijah speaks more frequently with Edric. Edan is getting his own version of speaker’s training as well. The point is to let our kids see how they can be a blessing when they develop a skill or ability that would otherwise seem insignificant to their childhood ambitions and preoccupations.

What kid likes to learn things like grammar and other tools for good communication? My children don’t naturally gravitate towards these disciplines. In fact they would prefer NOT to do their language arts subject. But nowadays they have good reason to.

A person who can read, write and speak well can be used by God to communicate his truth and bless people.

Most young children think of learning as their inescapable day to day reality. They can’t wait for semester and summer breaks. I know this because there was a season of my childhood when I was in a conventional school. I studied but I wasn’t inspired to do so. It was my duty, a responsibility that felt very much like a chore.

On the one hand, kids need to accept that they have to study well whether they like it or not. I had this conversation with Elijah this morning when he told me he wasn’t motivated to do his homeschool work. How wonderfully humbling that this surfaced right after I wrote an article on using creative ways to motivate a child to learn! He is an older child so I tread more carefully with him, trying to respect that he will soon be a young man. I don’t want to be an overbearing mother. But I did tell him that sometimes we decide with our head first and the feelings follow. We may not always feel like doing our responsibilities but we have to. So we make the choice to and God will bless the effort. By the end of the morning his mood changed. (Thank you, Lord.)

Going back to our children’s involvement in public speaking…

This is one way to get our kids to apply what they learn in a very practical manner. But the more valuable reason is we want them to see the bigger picture. Their education is profitable for the fulfillment of God’s plan. If they give their best now to train their minds, they can use their talents and abilities to make a difference for God’s glory.

The Bible tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NASB)

God invites even children to participate in the building if His Kingdom. At a young age, they can serve him and others. They can look beyond subject studies to seek a higher purpose for learning.

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“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭4‬:‭12‬ NASB)

Project Playground: Mission Accomplished

My back was killing me last night after Edric, the kids, and I finished building a playground in our backyard. One of our shared “fantasies” as parents was to give our kids a yard where they can play. And we imagined that they would have a treehouse or some semblance of a playground in it. So last Christmas, Edric and I “invested” in a wooden playground set from HMR. It was a great deal and it came with fun features we knew the kids would enjoy.

Since we moved in to our home with a grass-less yard a few months ago, we waited until the ground was leveled off to start the playground project with the boys.

I did not know my husband was such a handyman, but it was a nice discovery. In fact I think he was challenged by my ignorance of his manly building skills. This fueled his desire to put together the playground with himself as chief builder, Elijah as engineer, Edan as sorter and assistant builder, and Titus as runner. I supplied the cookies.

The first stage was the most difficult. Edric and the boys adjusted to all the manual labor. And getting the foundation right was tricky. I heard them grunting, huffing and puffing. But they got it done. That was day 1.

Edric admitted that despite his inclination to prove his manliness to me, he experienced a moment of weakness at the beginning. He was tempted to delegate the project to the workers who are still at our house. But he realized that caving in would have negated his attempts to teach our sons character traits like perseverance and the blessings of hard work.

There was no way to finish the playground in a day so Edric returned to the project a few days after and spent about 12 total hours upon completion.

I finally joined in on all the fun for the last stretch and I realized how hard it was. Those nuts, washers, bolts, and weld nuts were a pain to sort and use. So many different sizes and applications. They made me crazy. Plus there was the lifting of heavy wood pieces and the unfortunate occurrence of losing the instructions. Somehow it all came together.

We finished at nearly 8 pm, using flashlights to see what we were doing. The kids got to revel in their feelings of accomplishment and test out the accessories of the playground.

I like how Edric put it. “There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing the outcome of physical toil.”

Seeing the playground take form was worth the backache I got. This wasn’t just about building a playground. It was about building a family memory that we can all treasure, and building character in our kids. Some life lessons and experiences are truly worth the investment of physical effort, time and money!

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Motivating Children To Learn

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have positively splendid learning days every single day…where our children have voracious appetites for reading, rise to the challenge of difficult assignments, and approach life with an insatiable curiosity to discover, know, and develop new skills? Wow. Wouldn’t homeschooling be a dream?! Okay, okay, every single day may be asking for too much. But I think it’s fair to expect that the good days can outweigh the tough ones.

Every homeschooling parent will encounter days when his or her child is not thrilled about studying. It’s completely normal. If this sort of de-motivated behavior starts trending, then a parent may have to take drastic measures to fix the problem. But the occasional attitude hump and bump along the way is to be expected.

Here are some helpful questions to ask…How do we kick-start our children’s internal sparkplugs? What is within our control to change, alter and improve? Could it be aspects like our perspective on our kids, the methodology we use, the materials we have chosen, or the environment we have staged for learning to happen? Is it something outside of our control? Like our children’s physical conditions, their attitudes, or heart issues that are spiritual in nature?

Answering the above questions will allow us to isolate factors that contribute to our children’s frustration or de-motivated approach to learning. For example, author George Harris, said, “When a child is given the right degree of difficulty in his studies so that he enjoys the challenge and experiences a feeling of accomplishment, he will improve in those subjects and carry those positive feelings into other areas of his life. A bored and frustrated child, on the other hand, will feel like a failure; that feeling too, will be carried into other areas of life, causing him to be afraid to try new things or learn new subjects.”

Dr. Raymond Moore says that a home teacher is confronted with the onus to make classwork and all learning for a child both challenging and exciting so they will want to return to it again and again. Is this possible? Shouldn’t our children simply swallow the bitter pill…that learning is hard work and they must accept this as their reality and get over their negative attitudes about it?

I’ve tried that approach. “Just do your work because you have to.” On the one hand, there are moments when this is applicable. But it’s very tiring to force a child to learn when he isn’t interested in doing so. Can you imagine multiplying this sort of scenario 5 days a week x 10 months in a year x 13 years of homeschooling (if I homeschool from K to 12)?! I would give up in the first year for sure!

With a little creativity, I believe every child can be ENCOURAGED to learn and homeschooling can be a positive experience for both parent and child.

After experimenting with several approaches on my kids (they tend to be the guinea pigs for all my homeschool experimenting, especially when it comes to curriculums and methods), I came up with a simple system that has been working so far. I’m saying “so far” because seasons come and seasons go. Sometimes, what works for one year won’t do for the next. What works for one child will have zero effect on another. But I praise God that SO FAR, this system is producing desirable outcomes.

For the longest time, I have placed post-it tabs in my children’s books. These tabs mark the “stop” points for each day of work. For example, if I want Elijah to cover 5 pages of his math book, I will stick a post-it tab on the fifth page. When he sees the tab, he knows what he has to cover. I also put several tabs in each of their books so they can go past the tab and proceed to the next one if they are feeling particularly inspired and energetic about their work that day.

Using tabs as markers lets my kids know their daily goals. But this school year, I added another component to this tab system:

  1. The kids complete their assigned task(s) for a certain subject area by working until they reach a tab. (The number of pages is pre-determined by me or agreed upon with my kids.)
  2. After doing so, they pull off the tab and bring it to me.
  3. I will check their accomplished work and sign the tab, indicating the date and subject area as well.
  4. They will take the signed tab and stick it beside their name on a wall chart.
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  6. This process repeats itself with every subject.
  7. By Friday, the kids count the number of tabs they have collected during the week and they can do one of the following: get 5 pesos for every tab or accumulate at least 20 tabs so they can draw from the MYSTERY JAR. (they may combine their tabs with their siblings’ so their points are higher).
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  9. The MYSTERY JAR is filled with fun rewards that they get to pick from. (1 mystery jar draw = 20 tabs.)

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Last week we didn’t get to do more than 3 days of homeschooling, so the kids pooled together their tabs and drew from the jar. They pulled out a prize that read, “Date with Mom.”

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When Friday came along, I took all the kids to High Street for lunch and we also went to the bookstore. That was our “date.” My mother-in-law joined us, which doubled the fun.

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This week, the kids collected 60+ tabs which entitled them to 3 draws, 1 of which allowed them to have an extra draw. Here’s what they drew from the mystery jar:

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Somehow this tab thing is encouraging my children to go beyond their daily requirements. They use the tabs as a means to compete with one another (in a healthy way), and they look forward to redeeming mystery prizes for their hard work.

I hear them yell out, “I want to get more tabs!” and I see them dig into their books with eagerness. It’s a lovely sight to behold for this mother of five! I’m grateful that my kids are generally easy to teach, but witnessing their added spunk and gusto energizes me, too!

Simple ideas like this one can help to motivate your child, especially when they are younger. Ideally, however, you want to get them to the point where they really enjoy learning, no matter how hard it becomes. I’m beginning to see this happen in my eldest son, Elijah. While the tab system inspires him to get his tasks done, he likes to learn with or without this system in place. As an older child, he feels fulfilled when he grows in knowledge and wisdom, and he enjoys the challenge of learning.

Eventually, I’m hoping that his younger brothers and sisters will be the same way. Edan is showing signs of progress in this area. Nevertheless, I will keep up this tab system, until I have to come up with something else. After all, my kids aren’t the only ones who need motivating. I do, too! And getting to teach motivated children motivates me!

Not In Front of the Kids

For the most part Edric and I avoid “SHAMING” one another in front of our children. We don’t make each other look bad so that our kids are forced to pick a side when an argument or conflict ensues between the two of us. In fact, we avoid contradicting each other when our kids are around. I said, “for the most part.” There are occasions when we don’t follow this rule because we forget to be more prudent. Unfortunately, our kids end up being spectators to our back and forth dialoguing about who’s perspective is right.

Some weeks ago, the kids joined the Biz Kidz event of TMA Homeschool. Edric encouraged the kids to participate, so the boys and I conceptualized a business idea for their origami hobby. Prior to the Saturday event, the boys and I slaved away. We put together the book they authored and illustrated, had it printed, and worked on the origami products they were planning to sell.

When Saturday came around, we were exhausted. I was frazzled as I finished topping their cupcakes with their origami designs. About two hours before we had to pack up the van, Edric started interrogating me with questions like, “Did you calculate your profit?” “What was the kids’ business proposal?” “Are you guys going to make ANY money?” He went on to criticise my planning skills.

While he thought he was being helpful, his timing couldn’t have been worse. We were about to load the van. I was dead tired from lack of sleep the night before. The kids were excited about the effort they had put into their projects and products. But at that moment, they looked on with discouragement as Edric made his inquisitions and negative comments.

I felt hurt. I couldn’t believe he was cutting me down in front of the kids! Plus, if it mattered to him so much that the kids do a good job on this, then why was he coming in at this point, when we couldn’t do anything about his suggestions? I was discouraged and irritated. His very valuable business perspective could have helped us a lot…two weeks before! These were some of the thoughts raging through my head as I distracted myself with packing our products.

Edric got the inkling that I wasn’t too thrilled about the things he said. I praise God that he has a sensitive gene built in to him that knows when I’m hurt. So he came up to me. I quietly expressed to him how I was feeling…that he had shamed me in front of the kids and that he was discouraging all of us. I praise God that he was humble enough to respond with a public apology. Immediately, he turned 180 degrees around to say sorry to our children.

He repaired his mistake by saying something like this, “Kids will you forgive daddy for saying those things to mommy? I am so proud of you guys and mommy for working so hard!”

That changed the tone of the morning and we went off to Biz Kidz together. He also promised to assist us with the set-up of our booth during the event.

Although, the kids didn’t make a ton of money, they bagged the MOST PROMISING BUSINESS IDEA award. Edric and I were very proud of them.

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I wanted to write this article because I’ve counseled people in the past who feel like they are caught IN-BETWEEN the conflict of their parents. It is very difficult for children to feel pitted against one parent by the other, or forced to take a side. I’ve also witnessed spouses cut-down, embarrass, and criticize their husband or wife with their children present. This sort of family culture breeds contempt, hurt, and stress. It also increases the likelihood that sons and daughters will grow up to do the same to one another, and to their future spouses (and children).

I’m reminded that we need to create a climate of respect for one another in our homes, where we treat our spouses with dignity and honour, and do the same to our children. We may not always favour our spouses’ methods, perspectives, and personality quirks, but we can address these sort of differences privately. And if it isn’t an emergency to get our point across, we can sort out the issues during a more appropriate time.

Yesterday, I came across a poster on Pinterest which read: THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. It proposed very thoughtful questions about the things we say and how we say it.

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Is it inspiring?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

1 Peter 5:5 “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

 

 

 

Love Beyond Poetry And Passion

When I was married in my 20s, I knew only of young love — the kind that inspired poetry and passion. But now that love has aged with me and for me in the heart of Edric, I prefer this version of love – one that feels young but old at the same time.

There are moments when Edric looks at me and I know he beholds me as one who is familiar. But then his eyes glint with a curiosity, as though he is meeting a part of me for the first time.

It’s a wonder that he remains committed to discovering that there can be more to me. More to the face he has seen ten thousand times. More to the person he has shared ten thousand conversations with.

I blush under his affectionate scrutiny and blurt out, “Why are you looking at me like that?” He replies, “I’m getting that feeling again.” And he will tell me how much he loves me.

After 13 years of marriage, I am grateful to be loved like this — loved beyond the poetry and passion…where Edric and I can celebrate honesty as two unmasked, unraveled persons. This is intimacy. And intimacy blossoms in the context of permanence and security, where a man is as Christ to his wife and a wife as the church to Christ. The fruit of intimacy is a sacred and profound love where husband and wife choose to need, want, and give to the other through the changing seasons of life’s landscape. Perhaps I can share this better through a story…

When I was a child, my siblings and I made whirlpools in a circular kiddie pool at the clubhouse we frequented as a family. We collaborated to run around the edges as fast as we could, forcing the water to spin in one direction. Then came the most fun part — letting ourselves float along and be dragged by the current.

My life as of late has felt like a spinning whirlpool. Unlike those glorious days of childhood where it was okay to be pulled around and around for the fun of it, whirlpools in adulthood are stressful and maddening. I blame mine on the centrifugal force of busyness.

When Edric and I got back from Brazil, we jumped right back into our activities. Two days after we arrived, still recovering from jetlag, we went on an out of town trip. During the same week we entertained guests and attended social events. I was confronted by all the make-up work my kids and I had to get done for homeschooling. Furthermore, I accepted several commitments and appointments that were crammed into an already packed schedule following our arrival. All of these were good things in and of themselves. But when I saw no hope for a pause, I grew anxious.

There are super women out there who live, breathe, and eat stress. It them stronger. But I don’t have that kind of power. Busyness is my kryptonite. My immunity drops and my emotions go south.

So I lost it…emotionally. Edric had no inkling apart from a few exchanges where I made quips like, “I think we were doing too much again.”

It was 12 AM on Thursday night when Edric turned over to his side to fall asleep after his “good night and I love you, hon.” I lay on my side feeling lost and confused, praying honestly to the Lord about my frustrations. While I wallowed in self-pity, clutching my pillow a little too melodramatically, Edric heard my quiet sobbing and asked if I was alright.

“No. No I’m not. I don’t feel like anyone understands what I’m going through right now.” (Of course these sort of statements are never true.)

“What’s wrong?”

He saw me get out of bed with my disheveled hair, oversized Florida Gators T-shirt, doing like a Frankenstein walk over to my desk in the darkness. I was feeling for my laptop in the darkness having suddenly remembered that I had to send an email to a couple we were counseling.

“What are you doing?” He followed me to my table. “Stop it. You look like a crazy person. I want to show you something.”

He pulled me to himself and walked me over to the large floor to ceiling glass sliding doors that opened up to our balcony. The lights of the city illuminated the quiet night like a canopy of colorful stars. In the distance I could make out the outline of the mountains set against the cloudless expanse of the sky. It was a spectacular view.

“Look at this. Do you remember when I surprised you for Valentines Day and prepared dinner for you on this balcony, when the house wasn’t finished yet? And we looked forward to moving in? Can you believe that we are actually living here now?”

He invited me to sit with him outside so we could talk. I was reluctant to at first but his persistence prevailed. There was no getting away from this. He wasn’t going to leave me alone. We sat out there with the crickets as background music to a monologue of my thoughts. When the mosquitos wouldn’t quit biting Edric’s legs, he decided to be more practical and said we could continue this on our bed.

Edric listened until he could interpret my emotional driveling and concluded, “I think you have been through some major life events as a woman this past year and you have had no time to process all the changes. And you need that. I know you.”

I nodded then sobbed like a little child with my head tucked under my arm. Yes, that was it! What a relief to be psychoanalyzed so correctly.

Then he asked me to come even closer to him so that I was completely in his arms and he whispered, “I will take care of you. I think I haven’t given you enough attention lately. Do you want me to take the afternoon off tomorrow? I can come home early. You know that I like to rescue you…”

I wanted to be taken care of. I wanted to be rescued. At that moment I was the epitome of spiritual and emotional weakness.

The next day, Edric finished off a meeting in the morning and came home to do his work in the dining room. Every time I saw him, I had one of those puerile, giddy, girly smiles. We didn’t have to be joined at the hip that afternoon but knowing that he was around gave me inspiration as I tended to the kids and managed home affairs.

I’m the kind of woman who will climb off the balcony of a three-story home to get to another balcony to find a way into a study room to fix a jammed door. (I had to do that about two months ago and the workers saw me doing my acrobatics from our back yard while my children looked on in terror. “Mom! You might die!” The workers were pointing and making comments like I was insane. I assured them that I knew what I was doing. To my children I said, “You are NOT allowed to do this. EVER.”)

The point is I can take care of myself if I need to. I can deal with my emotions and process them with the Lord so I don’t dump them on Edric every single day. But there are times when I need his perspective, his friendship, his understanding, or a hug and a kiss, and the calm of his voice when he says, “everything is going to be alright.”

God didn’t create women to be helpless creatures who are dependent on men for their survival and happiness. Heck, we bear the physical pain of birthing children on our own. We find fulfillment in the work of our hands, in the pursuit of our God-given talents and abilities, and in the relationships we keep. However, there is something about the strength of a man, the assurance of his presence, and his desire to take the lead and protect that settles us and allays our fears.

Is it just me?

People have criticized me for saying this. But I think they’ve missed the point. I’m not saying that a woman needs a man to feel complete or satisfied with life. At the same time, it would be ignorant for someone to say that a woman NEVER needs a man. (Hello…sperm + egg = person.)

I suspect that most of the women who say this don’t really believe this deep inside. But they have been hurt and disappointed by men. So have I. At some point, we have all been victims or casualties of men’s wrong choices. (As they have been of our own sinful decisions, too.)

To protect myself, I concluded that I would not let myself be vulnerable to a man. I wanted to be in control, independent, and capable of looking out for myself. But then I married a man whom I could trust, who invited me to a relationship with no pretenses. There was no promise that he would never hurt me, but I knew with certainty that he was a man who loved God. So God gave me peace — the peace of knowing that Edric would be the one to keep my heart.

I let myself be honest…honest about needing him. I’ve chosen to need him as he has chosen to need me. We need one another for different reasons, but in this truthful surrender of independence, we found that the journey together was better.

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In a recent event for my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary, they sang an edited version of Adam Sandler’s song, “I Want to Grow Old With You.” Their rendition reminded me that marriage isn’t about growing past each other’s imperfections. Sometimes the areas that we don’t like about our spouse or ourselves still remain. But when we choose to need, want, and give to the one we married as the years go by, God provides the filter of grace. This filter distills the flaws and harsh realities, removing the impurities that would otherwise poison and corrupt our hearts with selfishness, bitterness, fear, pride or regret. And meltdown moments at 12 AM, when held as one’s beloved, wearing an ugly t-shirt and haloed by unkempt hair, bear image to the sweet irony of love. For in loving beyond the poetry and passion we find that we return again to these.

Happy Anniversary, Edric Mendoza! This one was for you.

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Caught On Camera

This past week, homeschooling solutions asked me to take video answers to questions posited by other homeschoolers or would-be homeschoolers. Since my week was pretty hectic, I had to find time to get the videos done at home and then send them so they could be uploaded for the launch of their site.

I asked Elijah to help me out because he is my go-to person for tech-related concerns at home. He set up the camera and positioned it for the light using a chair and books. And then he told me what hand signals he was going to use to let me know when to start talking and stop talking.

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It took a couple of takes to figure out what worked and how to eliminate unnecessary noise. But since it was done by amateurs like us, the videos came out very “home-made” in their feel.

At first we were laughing and having fun as we did this project together. But after a while I began to feel really tired. We had to tape 10 answers. And more often than not, each time we did one, we had to retake. So I began to feel agitated and impatient. When Elijah would make a mistake, like knock the camera or accidentally delete a previous take, I would complain.

But when I viewed a couple of the takes where I switched from interview mode to correcting Elijah, I watched my facial expressions and tone, and I was like, “yikes!” Is that what I sound like and look like when I am irritated?! My poor kids!”

I am glad I got to see myself in action because I didn’t realize how my smallest gestures of negativity get magnified when they are captured on camera. Afterwards, I was more mindful about being patient as we finished the remaining taping sessions.

Lately I have wondered why my kids use a harsh tone with one another when they are upset. They don’t shout but I can hear the annoyance in their voices and it has surprised me. Well, now I know why. My kids speak to one another using the same mannerisms they see in me!

I remember a story of a mom who was upset that her daughter yelled at her. When she was asked if she also screamed at her daughter, the mom replied, “Yes, but that’s different. I am the mom.” (Hmm…it’s not different.)

If we want our children to respect us and respect others, they need to see us demonstrating the same thing, especially to them. We all have habits or reactions that seem harmless until they are caught on film. How much more thoughtful we would be about what we say and do if we knew people could watch the highlight reel of our ugly parenting moments on national television!

Here’s a noteworthy consideration: The Bible tells us that people will “give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

It also tells us we must correct one another with a “spirit of gentleness.” Galatians 6:1

On a side note, Elijah didn’t even use his glasses while he was helping me because they were broken. (I was the one who accidentally hit them in the car a few days ago.) So he was straining his eyes to look at the camera screen just to help me. What a sweetheart! I took a photo of him today with his glasses. He wore them to an event this morning because they were his only option but they sat crookedly on his nose since one side of the glasses popped off when they broke. And he had to tilt his head to one side to keep them from falling off! He didn’t even complain. He was his usual jolly self. Sigh. It’s images like this that inspire me to be more loving, more patient, more spirit-filled. Children are so tender… (And we will be getting new glasses tomorrow!)

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The Isaac of Money

When my kids do anything noteworthy in their lives, I attribute it to the Lord. I know that I am a flawed mother and it is only by God’s grace that my children have the desire and commitment to love him with all that they are.

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A few weeks ago I was blessed by the resolve of my 11-year old son, Elijah, to give his hard-earned money to our church, as an offering. Elijah has money in three “instruments.” The first is his small stock portfolio. Second, he has a savings account where he has placed his salary from Edric. His job is to speak with Edric on road shows around the Philippines. Third, he has a glass jar at home where he had several thousands of pesos in cash stashed in it.

Over three years he has put money into this jar from garage sale earnings, birthday money, origami business earnings, and odd jobs he has done for me, like tutoring his younger brother, Edan, in Filipino. It wasn’t a ton of money but it was valuable to him.

We don’t give our kids an allowance. As homeschoolers, they don’t need one. If they are hungry they can go to the fridge or pantry and get something to eat. Lunch is on the house, too…naturally. So, if they want money, they learn that it has to be earned and worked for.

During one Sunday service, Elijah heard a message about Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son. The preacher asked, “What is the Isaac of your life?” Unbeknownst to me, it got Elijah thinking.

After worship, he confided in me. “Mom, I am going to give God all the money in my glass jar.”

I must admit that I was tempted to respond, “Are you sure? You don’t have to. God will understand if you keep it. You worked hard for that money.”

But I didn’t want to quell the Holy Spirit’s prodding in his heart so I affirmed his desire to give to the Lord. I asked him why he thought money was his Isaac. And he replied, “I think about money a lot. How to make money and what I can buy with it. How to invest it. It preoccupies my mind. And I had not tithed in a long time.”

So before we left for Brazil, he emptied out his glass jar and stuffed his bills and coins into an envelope. I saw him holding on to it during worship and then he dropped the envelope into the tithe box at our church.

An “Isaac” can be symbolic of something or someone we love most in this world which has the potential to replace our love for God. Sometimes it can be a blessing that has turned into a curse.

When I was in college, Edric was a kind of Isaac in my life. He and I compromised in the area of purity so we decided to break off our relationship after we graduated, to honor God first. It was a painful period in my life and his. But purging ourselves of one another’s presence allowed us to devote our time and attention to growing in our walk with Christ and serving him.

God allowed Edric and I to get back together and marry, just as he returned Isaac to Abraham. But this may not always be the case when we surrender a person, circumstance, material possession or pursuit to God.

God declares himself a jealous God in the holiest sense of the word. He is jealous for our love, not in a selfish, self-centered way, but in a manner that seeks our good. After all, our truest joy is found in worshiping and loving him above all else. Substitute gods may bring us a measure of happiness and pleasure, but satisfaction is NOT guaranteed.

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience …” (Colossians 3:5-6)

For my son, Elijah, money was becoming his idol. Interestingly, after he gave his money, he felt relieved and more “relaxed” because he didn’t have any more money in the jar to focus on. This is what he told me!

In the same way, when Edric and I broke up, it was painful but I felt peace. We made a difficult choice but it was for the right reasons. I knew that if God wanted Edric and I to get married he would bring us back together. If not he had someone better for him and someone better for me.

To this day, there are things in my life that can take the place of God if I am not careful. Elijah’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit encouraged me to be more vigilant. I too need to make sure that my heart is wholeheartedly devoted to God.

I-Angel Hipseat Carrier

I received an awesome baby carrier as a gift a few weeks ago. It has an ingenious seat built into it that removes the pressure from a mom’s back and shoulders.

The seat allows Catalina to sit comfortably facing me or looking outwards, or she can ride on my back.

This morning I walked around with Catalina in it. She did great which was surprising because she doesn’t like to be carried all the time. And I don’t like to hold her for too long because she can get heavy and squirmy.

I-Angel is going to come in very handy for taking Catalina out of the house and for our family travels. The only downside is it can be bulky because of the built-in seat. So if you aren’t wearing your baby on it, packing it or lugging it around may be a slight inconvenience. But it is quite lightweight which is nice.

I really like the one I got because the color can be worn by Edric or me and the fabric is very breathable. It’s one of the most comfortable baby carriers I have ever used. I think the built-in seat is so clever!

For more information: I-Angel

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Complement, Don’t Complicate

“Complement, don’t complicate me.” That’s what Edric said to me at 35,000 feet in the air, on the plane home from Brazil.

I was nagging him about a certain commitment which I was afraid he would de-prioritize when we got sucked into the vortex of our busy lives in Manila. He didn’t appreciate my attempts at “helping” him. Apparently he had already set in motion important details that would affect the commitment in a positive way. I was just jumping in again, eager to MAKE SURE he made the right choices.

This is when I get into trouble relationally with Edric…when I try to MAKE SURE he makes the right choices. My duties have been delineated — keep the home in order, the children are mannered, disciplined and homeschooled, and the monthly expenses are managed well. Focusing on these responsibilities liberates him to give his time and attention to business and ministry. I don’t need to be a hover craft to his decision making.

If he wants my input and insight, he will ask for it. He usually does. Otherwise, I need to let him steer the wheel of this mothership we call our family.

I apologized for nagging and asked, “How can I support you?” That’s when he very tenderly told me, “Babe, I need you. You know that, right? But I need you to complement me, not complicate me.”

A complement is a wife who fills in the gaps and the holes that fall under her responsibility. She is her husband’s strong supporter.

A complicator, on the other hand, looks at her husband’s holes and tries to fill them for him. She also weighs him down with her emotional and spiritual immaturity.

Sometimes being a complement to Edric is manifest in the simple things…like serving him with joyfulness. He told me he felt like crying when my mom cheerfully said to my dad, “It’s my privilege to serve you.”

This happened one morning when we were in Brazil together. My dad asked for fruit from the buffet table, and my mom practically bounced out of her chair with eagerness to get him some. In contrast, I was hoping Edric wouldn’t ask me to get him anything! All I wanted to do was eat my cheese, butter and bread without being interrupted.

Edric could sense this so he told me that afternoon what an impact my mom’s statement had made. “Really?! You felt like crying?!” I asked him. My next thought bubble was, I must be pretty bad in this area!

Apparently, during the trip he felt like I didn’t DELIGHT to serve him, that I would get annoyed when he inconvenienced me with a request.

For example, we were standing in front of Copacobana Palace Hotel waiting for our tour bus when he asked me if I had his granola bar because he wanted to eat a snack. We didn’t get to eat lunch so snacks were the next best thing. (My husband has the fastest metabolism of anyone on earth that I know of. Every two hours he gets hunger pangs.)

“Did you put it in my bag?” I asked.

“Just check your bag.”

“But did you put it in there? Because if you answered that question then I would know whether to check for it or not.”

“If I knew that I put there I wouldn’t ask you.”

I didn’t want to remove my backpack and go through the contents because I had stuffed it full. My breast pump was in there and extra clothes in case it got cold. Having to sift through the contents would be troublesome. But I stuck my hand in anyway when I realized he was getting frustrated with my attitude. I didn’t find the granola bar the first time I tried because I didn’t try very hard.

“It’s not here.”

“You’re sure?”

“Did you put it in here?” I asked again with irritation in my tone.

“Did you check for it well enough?” He replied, equally annoyed.

I was infuriated with our back and forth questioning. My logic was, if you remember that you put your granola bar in my bag then I will trouble myself to thoroughly look for it.

Edric felt hurt. He didn’t understand why I was so reactive. Since he had expressed to me that he was hungry, he thought I would try my best to find the granola bar.

Looking back, the basis for my reactive spirit was silly. Why did I give him such a hard time? Why was I so nasty? I was just thinking of myself and not prioritizing him.

It turned out that the granola bar was in the front pouch of my backpack! Whether he put it there or not is secondary to the fact that he asked me to look for it and I should have done so with a better attitude because I love him.

This is one of several incidences in Brazil that revealed how much I have to improve in the area of serving Edric. One of the best ways I can be a complement to Edric is to serve him with gladness, to consider it “a privilege” as my mom said to my father. It is something he longs for me to do.

So a few nights ago, at 12 AM he was hungry and asked if there was anything he could eat. My initial thought was, Now? Why?! But I remembered how much my service matters to him. He had a long day and he needed me to take care of him.

So I went downstairs, made some grilled cheese sandwiches and took them up to him. His eyes lit up! But I also detected disbelief mixed in with his delight.

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“Wow, what did you do with my wife?!” He asked.

Yes this wasn’t a dream. I wanted to apply what I learned about being his complement.

Edric was in heaven with his cheese sandwiches. He was so sweet and grateful. I felt ashamed of myself. Goodness gracious, have I set the bar so low?! Ecstasy over grilled cheese?!

We hung out in bed and he had his tray of food beside him to happily munch on. Since we were jetlagged we did exactly what we shouldn’t have done and watched 3 episodes of Arrow. It was a lot of fun but our bodies were so confused the next day! I woke up close to 10 am, which I never do! Ever!

My mom’s example made me desire to change. I ought to act and behave in a way that captivates Edric’s heart and ministers to him. If I embrace the role of being a complement to him, I will meet his longings and desires so he feels empowered and inspired to be the man God wants him to be.

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Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭2‬:‭18‬ NLT)

How to Travel Without Your Baby

20140804-175657-64617754.jpgI’m not an advocate of separating a nursing baby and mother for the sake of traveling. But I believe there are occasions when it may be necessary or even beneficial for both to be a part.

For example, your husband really wants you to go on a “honeymooney” vacation with him for 3 days, just the two of you. He wants to revisit couple hood and have you all to himself. If your baby is eating solids and over six months, I would say take the trip and leave your baby at home with your parents (I’m sure they won’t mind!). A trip with your hubby can rekindle romance and intimacy which will make you both better parents!

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The biggest challenge will be keeping up your milk production while you are away and then returning to breastfeeding when you get back. If that’s your fear, then take heart. Perhaps this post will encourage you.

Edric and I were in Brazil for 11 days and we opted NOT to bring Catalina. I vacillated between taking her and leaving her, going over the pros and cons. At first I was dead set on making sure she came with me. When my parents invited us to speak with them in Curutiba, Brazil, I was like, IF WE DO GO, WE HAVE TO BRING CATALINA.

However, two weeks before the event, Edric and I really thought through the decision and we decided not to. I was anxious and relieved at the same time. There really was no perfect scenario, but here were the factors that gave us peace of mind about her staying behind with our four other kids:

  •  At nearly 1 year, she was eating 3 sizeable meals a day.
  • Her intake of breastmilk was down to 14 to 16 ounces a day or 4 to 5 feedings. Her schedule looked something like this: 6 AM, 10 AM, 2 PM, 7 PM, 10 PM.
  • She could drink milk from a cup or glass or bottle.
  • I didn’t have enough milk stored in the freezer to sustain her for 11 days but my friends, Ron and Ivy, donated theirs. Ron, in particular can pump mega amounts of milk! She’s like a beautiful cow. Thankfully, she was generous enough to send me an oversupply of frozen milk.
  • Catalina’s paediatrician, Dr. Joy Ty-Say (the best pedia in the world), advised that she stay. Looking back, I’m glad we listened because Catalina got Roseola three days after we left which means she would have had it in Brazil.
  • Catalina was on a great sleeping schedule at night that would have been shot to heck by the jet lag effect.
  • I had a fantastic nanny to care for her in my absence and my kids would be staying with my in-laws. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) have always been the best people to leave our kids with when we are away.
  • The travel time to our destination and back was going to be uncomfortably long – Almost 30 hours with layovers.
  • Since Edric and I needed to speak and minister to people during this trip, we wanted to be able to focus on doing this.
  • Edric and I were also planning to celebrate our 13th year of marriage.

Even if these reasons made us inclined to go without Catalina it wasn’t an easy decision. It’s always difficult for me to leave any of our children and this was my first time to leave one of my breastfeeding babies. If circumstances were different, I would have preferred that we had waited until next year to take this trip to Brazil. But God made it clear through people, circumstances, and his word that this was a trip he wanted us to go on.

Nevertheless, I parted with Catalina tearfully. It felt unnatural for me to be away from my nursing child for an extended period of time. Eleven days felt like forever. So how did Catalina and I survive without one another and then reunite to continue our breastfeeding relationship?

I had to pump on a regulated schedule, preferably no more than 3 hours in between pumping. It didn’t matter where I was. I found a place to sit down with my nursing cover and pump. This was a challenge. I brought a hand pump! On the one hand it was super easy to carry along and quiet. But on the other hand, I probably didn’t get as much out of me as I could have with an electric or battery operated pump. However, my Avent pump worked just fine to keep my supply going.

On the 6th day my milk decreased a little. But this was related to emotional stress and lack of water in take. My emotional stress was connected to having to give a very personal testimony about a tragic experience in my life. As for the water, it was hard to come by in Brazil. We had to keep buying mineral water and I didn’t like spending for it. Eventually, I just drank out of the tap in our hotel room. When my mom suggested that I try it since she had been doing it without getting stomach problems, I guzzled down glasses of it! (My mom has a stomach of steel. She “trained” it by drinking tap water all around the world. I’m not as brave as she is and I’m not recommending this!)

Pumping on a schedule meant doing so even during the conference sessions and while touring. But I didn’t care and nobody did either. One time, I had to stand up with my not so pretty nursing cover because Edric and I were introduced to the audience. That was a little awkward. I had one hand under the cover holding my hand pump and the other one waving. On other occasions I pumped while riding in tour buses or taxis, while eating a meal, in the mall, etc.

Unlike some of my friends who stored every ounce of milk they pumped during their travels, I dumped mine. I’m not proud of this but it was the simplest way to keep my milk production operation going. I didn’t bring a sterilizer for my pump because it would have complicated my pumping “system.”

It was hard to throw away my milk. Everytime I poured it down a sink, I felt sad. I tried to convince Edric to drink it so that someone could benefit from it. He agreed to if it was cold. But, when the cream rose to the top after I kept milk for him in the refrigerator, it was asking too much. I agreed. It didn’t look very appetizing. I couldn’t bring myself to drink it either. So I pumped and dumped.

One of my friends, Kim, took along an ice chest with her when she traveled with her husband, and she was able to keep all her milk frozen. Amazing! She paid a lot of money for excess baggage and threw out clothes she didn’t care about so she could bring home her milk!

I favored the practicality of dumping it, but there was emotional aspect to doing this. It felt wasteful. So depending on the situation, a mother has to decide what is important to her. Go through the trouble of sterilizing a pump and storing milk while traveling or pour it out after each pumping session. It’s not a moral choice but some people have very strong convictions about breastmilk. I have friends who donate their milk to babies who are in need so it would be difficult for me to say that pumping and dumping is the best way to go.

Besides pumping regularly, I kept taking my Life Oil pills (Malunggay) which I had been using for months. Two capsules a day, plus all my other vitamins and minerals. I learned a new word from my friend, Kim, who stored her breastmilk and took it home. GALACTAGOGUE.

Take a galactagogue to increase milk supply (ex. Fenugreek, oatmeal, Malunggay, Motilium). Malunggay capsules were the most familiar to me because I usually take them when I am breastfeeding. I also knew about Motilium which I had used for my children’s stomach problems in the past. When I read up on it, I found out it was safe for nursing mothers to take but I never did try it to increase milk supply. Kim told me she had tried it and it didn’t impeded her intestinal functions. Motilium comes in suspension or tablet form. Both Life Oil and Motilium are available at Mercury Drug. Both of these can be pricey. There are other brands of Malunggay capsules sold in Mercury Drug and generic drug stores like Generics Pharmacy.

When taking a trip away from a nursing baby, I wouldn’t recommend going over a week. Eleven days was pushing it for me. I would have preferred a 5 or 7 day trip if we had not attended a conference. Since we wanted to maximize our time in Brazil, we added two side trips – Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo was not worth it but Rio was. Sao Paulo is a massive city. There isn’t much to see in terms of tourist spots. It’s like a bigger version of Makati and way more expensive. As Brazil’s financial capital, it’s more of a business destination. As for Rio, this was our “honeymoon” part of the trip. We added this so we could celebrate our anniversary.

Most people don’t need to combine a conference and vacation in one trip. In fact, I would advise that a nursing mother focus on just one. The commitment of pumping and the emotional difficulty of being away will take its toll. At a certain point it was hard for me to Face Time with the kids and see Catalina. During one of our calls, she said “Mama” and pointed to my face on the screen and cried. That was tough!

As for the pumping, I got a plugged duct the day we left which was massively painful. At first I thought it might lead to mastitis but Edric and I prayed and 12 hours later, I was able to get rid of it. With a plugged duct, the best way to alleviate it is to keep nursing or pumping. I couldn’t do the former so I did the latter. Even if it hurt like heck, I forced myself to pump. Right after the duct unclogged itself, the pain dissipated. That was a happy moment. Previously, lifting my arm was painful!

I thought the biggest challenge of all would be returning to my breastfeeding relationship with Catalina. (That’s why I don’t recommend taking too many days away from a nursing baby.) I prayed about being able to nurse Catalina again, committing the final outcome to the Lord. Worse case, I was willing to stop breastfeeding. But that would have broken my heart. I gave my concern to the Lord and tried my best when I got back home.

My plan for reintroducing Catalina to the breast was to hold her first and be physically accessible. I was planning to try but I prepared myself to be rejected. If she turned me down then I was going to wait for her to remember that I was her milk source and pump in the meantime.

God was so good! When I got home, she expressed interest in latching on and she nursed right away! I was so happy. I thanked the Lord for affirming the decision to leave her. Since Thursday evening when we arrived, Catalina has returned to her nursing routine. Praise God!

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not saying that all mothers should leave their nursing babies and go away on a trip. But if you are put in a predicament where you need to or have to be away for a couple of days then here’s what you can do:

1. Pump enough milk two months before to store in the freezer so your baby can stay on breastmilk while you are away. Depending on the age of your baby, store enough ounces to cover your absence.

2. Have one person train your baby in advance to take breastmilk from a bottle or cup. I usually introduce a bottle to my babies when they are about a month old. Breastfeeding advocates often recommend later. But I’ve found that letting them try the bottle even two weeks after giving birth doesn’t cause confusion if the bottle isn’t given habitually. I don’t ever give the bottle myself. I have the nanny do it. But bottle feeding is always a last resort. I always prefer to breastfeed directly.

3.  Start taking a galactagogue if you feel you need to increase milk supply. Some women don’t need this and sometimes galactagogues don’t really affect milk production positively. But it’s worth trying a few weeks before you leave for your trip.

4. Avoid being away from your baby before the trip happens. It was hard not to do errands during the last few days prior to our Brazil trip, so I took Catalina with me as often as possible. This ensured that she was breastfeeding until the last possible moment.

5. Train your baby’s nanny to defrost and prepare breastmilk in the bottle so she is confident about giving it when you are gone. I taught Catalina’s nanny how to use the very simple Safety 1st Babypro Bottle Warmer.

6. Leave your baby with someone you trust. Grandparents are always a great option!

7. Pump every 2 to 3 hours when you are away. You can take a 6 hour break at night when you are sleeping so you get enough rest. But if you want to be super diligent about pumping, you can wake up once to pump. I used Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump, but I also recommend the one my sister uses which is very efficient, lightweight, quiet, and portable. She bought hers at Rustan’s: Medela Swing BreastpumpMedela Moms is very helpful if you want to consult them before buying a pump.

8. If you pump and dump, bring a bottle to store your pumped milk in until you find a place to pour it out. I went to the restrooms so I could wash out my pump and bottle each time. Since I wasn’t sterilising, I just used whatever soap was available.

9. If you want to store all your milk, bring milk storage bags, ice packs, a portable cooler (your breast pump may already come with one), a larger cooler than you can check-in, and a steriliser for your pump and bottles. Use the portable cooler and ice packs when you pump on the go. And the larger one to transport milk storage bags from one place to another. Keep the ice packs frozen by using the hotel refrigerator. If you check in your milk with frozen ice packs, they should be okay for 24 hours. It’s rare to be on a plane trip for longer than that, unless you are traveling to Brazil! According to my friend, Kim, airlines are pretty accommodating about checking in breastmilk. But, if you go over your allotted baggage weight limit, you will have to pay.

10. When you get back home, pump before you see your baby just in case she doesn’t latch on right away. If she doesn’t, stay on the bed with her and have skin to skin contact. She will most likely remember. If she is awkward about sucking at first, don’t worry. Be accessible and Lord willing, you will get back to your breastfeeding groove soon enough!

 

 

Sunrise On Copacobana Beach

A couple of nights ago, Edric told me he was feeling lost. (With the number of hats he has to wear, juggling his responsibilities can get overwhelming.)

Maybe it was the jet lag and the cold weather that got to me because I felt annoyed as he was going on and on about how he couldn’t handle a particular ministry he was in charge of. I was like, “What?! You committed to it. You can’t just back out of it.”

According to him, he didn’t anticipate the commitment level it would entail. We went back and forth discussing the reasons why it was challenging. Instead of drawing him out and asking him questions, I wanted him to skip over to the park where he resolved to keep going no matter what the cost. For me it was a matter of principle and duty. Since this didn’t happen and I was falling in and out of consciousness while I fought the urge to sleep, I said, “If that’s how you feel, then quit. Just quit.”

This was the least helpful thing I could have said. First of all I didn’t even mean it. Second, it was an insensitive way of closing the conversation because I was too tired to go on.

It wasn’t a surprise that Edric’s response was a frigid “GOODNIGHT.”

The next day we joined my parents for breakfast and my dad asked him how things were going. (When he gets the chance to, my dad invites Edric to update him. He likes to know how he can pray for Edric and mentor him as a father.)

I watched and listened to my dad as he sat through sentences and sentences of Edric’s concerns about his responsibilities and time management. My dad patiently interacted with him without lecturing or cutting him off. It was a marvelous site to behold because I had done the complete opposite the night before.

As Edric shared what was on his heart, he seemed to receive greater clarity. My dad asked him questions that got him to think through his motivations. By the end of that hour Edric felt encouraged and built up.

I wish it had been me that inspired these feelings in him. But I had missed out on the opportunity to do so.

As we headed back to our hotel room, I admitted to my mom that I had to work on my listening skills. Sometimes I get impatient when people want to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, especially when they revisit the same issues again and again. For me, if you know the right thing to do then do it, don’t paddle around the pond of feeling, circling round and round. Or quit walking into the muck of despair when you can take the more solid, higher ground.

I sound awful and mean when I say this but I think it has more to do with a personality type. Even though I feel things deeply I like to process emotions expediently. Edric prefers to express his emotions freely and he takes a while to come to a conclusion. But once he gets to that point, having journeyed through many degrees of feeling, he emerges with resolve and conviction that is unparalleled. It’s actually one of the things I appreciate about him. But in marriage, when I am thinking only of myself I end up responding in a manner that hurts Edric when he is in that “emotional-cocoon-state-of-mind.”

As I observed my dad over breakfast, I learned a valuable lesson about good communication. I mentally archived it as a template. First, he asked questions. Next, he paid attention. Third, he shared experiences and struggles that resonated with what Edric was going through. Fourth, he acknowledged Edric’s feelings without belittling them. Fifth, he gave constructive suggestions that Edric could act on. Sixth, he helped Edric decipher what was going on in his heart.

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I am so thankful to the Lord that Edric and my father have a wonderful relationship. And I am also thankful that my dad has improved in the area of communication over the years. In the past, when someone would open up and get emotional with him, he tended to be more left brain in his response.

For example, years and year ago, during my dad’s birthday celebration, Edric very vulnerably expressed to him how much he looked up to him as a father. He talked about what a positive difference he made in his life. After Edric’s tearful speech, my dad said, “good job.” Oh, and he did include some sort of pat on his back after giving him a half-hug. Good job?! Good job?!

After that incident my very concerned mom talked with my dad in private and told him that Edric might have gotten hurt by his lack of responsiveness. When my dad realized this he apologized to Edric as soon as he could and best of all, he changed for the better. His present default mode is to listen, dialogue, empathize, and encourage.

With Edric, God gave me the opportunity to remedy my failure. While we were in Rio, at 4:30 in the morning (we both woke up thinking it was 7 am), he asked me to rate our marriage. This is an exercise we do with couples we meet with to gauge how they are doing.

In the darkness of our hotel room I said, “Probably a 9.” He gave us a “7.” Of course I was curious to know why. And he enumerated three ways I had upset him during this trip.

1. I didn’t serve him with enthusiasm. My expectation was he was going to serve me on this trip and take care of me.
2. I didn’t seem interested in talking to him because I would whip out my phone and write.
3. I was self-deprecating on several occasions about myself. Sometimes I make negative comments about my post-baby-body hoping that Edric will reply with adulation for it. But this often backfires. (Gals, my mom used to say don’t ever point out your flaws and turn them into a discussion with your husband. It’s unattractive and unbecoming. Most of the time a husband doesn’t notice every pimple, dimple, wrinkle and crinkle unless you start spotlighting them.)

I stapled my mouth shut as I listened to him, making the effort to apply what I remembered from my dad’s example. When he asked me, “Are you okay?”

“Not really. But I feel like talking about my perspective will not be helpful.”

I got up to use the toilet to buy myself some thinking time, and then I sat back down beside him. “I am sorry babe. I will change.”

He wasn’t expecting this. And he added, “What about me? How can I improve?”

“Honestly, I think you are great. You are a good husband, you take care of me, you have become much more patient…”

“Are you playing mind games with me?” He kidded.

“What? Of course not.” I was serious.

Then we went over each of the three points that he raised and identified how I can change and be more understanding towards his needs. Edric enjoyed and appreciated our conversation. So did I. It was refreshing to take the gentle and quiet spirit approach. (God reminded me that I really need to continually humble myself and do this more often!)

By 6:30 am we prayed and took a walk on Copacobana beach as we watched the sunrise. It was cloudy and rainy when we arrived in Rio, but the sun was breaking through. For the first time we got to see a more picturesque beach which had looked dull when it was overcast.

The scene was emblematic of our marriage. Our relationship is not a perfect one. We have stormy and dark days from time to time, but when we apply God’s principles, the forecast looks bright! He is the light of our marriage!

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What Is This Love?

Brazilians are very much like Filipinos — warm, relational, and sincere. It’s been such a joy to interact with them and get to know their culture better. I have to gesticulate to communicate because most Brazilians don’t speak a smidgen of English. I’ve learned a few Portuguese words — obrigada (thank you), todo (total), Deus (God), minha (my), agua (water), bom (good), boa noite (good evening), oferta (special discount), saida (exit), entrada (enter)…

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Over the past week of sitting through the family conference sessions at First Baptist Church of Curutiba, I picked up a couple of insights that have been especially meaningful to me. Two days ago, Pastor Paschoal Pirigine talked about the idea of love as found in Ephesians 5:25.

The text reads, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

What is this love that Christ demonstrated? How can we love our spouses and children in the same way? 

He shared two insights: Love must give itself completely, without limits. Love must reinvent and resurrect itself.

Interestingly, it was observed that people in concentration camps during World War II were of two kinds. The ones who were perceived to be strong, who were most likely to survive, did not. It was those who where weak but cared for others that tended to survive. Why? Because they had something to live for. They loved beyond their own capacities.

We tend to lose perspective about the fact that the God of the universe came to earth in human flesh. The endless had to “fit” into the finite. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

When Jesus sacrificed himself, he died for the sins of the world. He could’ve stopped it all and come off the cross to end his suffering. Yet he gave his life with complete abandon. We may think it was easy to do because he was also divine. However, we know that he struggled with the realities of his limitations when he said, “Father if possible, remove this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done.”

We too are confronted by our limitations so often, especially in the context of a marriage and family. How does a person keep loving a spouse who is unfaithful? How does a mother keep loving a child who is impaired by a disability? How does a child keep loving a parent who is consistently angry and unreasonable?

Some of these limitations seem insurmountable. Yet true love sees beyond the impossible. Against all odds it seeks to exceed its limits for the sake of the person it chooses to love. Christ didn’t come off the cross because he loves us. He came to finish his mission — to die in our place so we might receive forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God.

Do we easily give up on our family members?

Pastor Paschoal told the story of a son who was addicted to drugs. This person was jailed thirty times! When he asked the parents if they felt like giving up, they replied, “We will never give up on our son.”

I don’t know what I would do if my son was this way! The reality is we are used to replacing and forsaking what pushes us to our limits. It’s the easier way out. But the solution to overcoming these limits is to focus on what Christ did on the cross for us.

We must seek to do as Christ did. Love must “raise and reinvent” itself. After Jesus died, he raised himself and “reinvented” his body. He was raised with a new body. We know this because his friends didn’t recognise him right away. Similarly, we must resurrect our love and reinvent it in new forms, expressing it in new ways.

Pastor Paschoal went on to share that at 15, his love for his wife (his girlfriend at the time) was to show up at the seashore to meet her. When there was a flood in their city, his love compelled him to walk through the waters to go to her. At 21, love was to sit down with his young wife and say, “no matter how much we have, we will find a way to go through life together.” Today, loving his wife is to care for her as she struggles through the pain and challenges of an autoimmune disease that is affecting her nervous system. The disease is causing her brain to shrink.

According to Pastor Paschoal love must be reinvented for every phase of life. As each year passes, it should change according to the need of the other. It must be expressed in new ways to communicate itself. It must be resurrected newly, daily, through the seasons and phases of life, through the history of a marriage and a family.

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

I know of a couple who survived the crisis of multiple infidelities on the part of the husband. Because the wife understood Christ-like love, she chose to forgive her husband unconditionally. This resurrected their love. Today, they have a beautiful marriage and they are impacting multitudes for the Lord. Although it didn’t happen overnight, the choice to forgive gave their marriage a fighting chance.

Only love that is amplified by the grace of God allows us to experience what is humanly impossible. Until we recognise what Christ did for us, “how he loved the church and gave himself up for her,” as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, we will not be able to love beyond our limitations or resurrect and reinvent love to meet the needs of our beloved. We need to abide in this love to give of this love.

When we embrace Christ’s love and mirror it in our marriage something amazing happens. A man and a woman who are so different, who come from dissimilar contexts become one person. This is the miracle of love. God creates one person, one life, one family, one dream, one culture.

I want to end with something John Piper said in his book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” Marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. A marriage between a man and a woman was designed form the beginning to be a reflection of the covenant relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

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When I read this, it really ministered to me. It renewed my resolve and commitment to love Edric for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. Why? Because marriage was designed to showcase the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church. Christ will never leave his church, his bride. Christ will never betray or forsake his church, his bride.

Do our marriages display the same truth for our children? For the world? It is this truth that makes a marriage sacred. To love without limitations, to resurrect and reinvent love in our marriages is to declare the gospel — that God is a good and loving God. When this happens society will pay attention and notice. This love will spread from our marriages, to our children, and to the world.

If you want to read a book on marriage that will radically change your perception and understanding of it, click this link:
This Momentary Marriage