Three A’s in Parenting

I have been sitting through the seminars at Hillsong Conference in Sydney, Australia, sorting through all the insights that I have been picking up. Every session has taught me something worthy of a blog entry but I will begin with the one that struck a parenting chord with me.

During one of the leadership workshops, not expecting to hear any points connected to motherhood or fatherhood, I leaned in very attentively when the speaker, Chris Hodges, zoned in on the biblically recorded words that God the Father declared to His Son in the gospels. According to Him, there were only two instances when we hear the verbalized words of God directed towards Christ and these bore the same message in both passages: THIS IS MY SON. WHOM I LOVE. IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED. (Matthew 3:16-17 and Matthew 17:5)
What do we see here? 

1. This is my son (child): Acceptance

2. Whom I love: Affection 

3. In whom I am well pleased: Affirmation 

According to Hodges, these three A’s will create a culture in the home that will produce leaders. 

Every child desires to belong, to know their identity in the context of family, to feel unafraid to fail and make mistakes because they are unconditionally loved and accepted. Hodges shared about how he dealt with an under-aged drinking instance that his son was busted for. His son tended to be the type who kind of went with the flow without thinking through the consequences too well. 

As Hodges picked up his handcuffed son at the precinct, he relates that he had two options in that moment. The first was to berate, lecture and scold his son for his stupid mistake. But the more important second option was to tell him, “I have never loved you more than I do now. And I know you have never needed me more than you do now. What you did was wrong, but this is not who you are.” 

Edric and I have found ourselves in similar predicaments with our kids, especially Titus, who, at times, tended to act before thinking when he was a younger child. Although the circumstances he got himself into deeply frustrated Edric and me, we would remind him, “We love you no matter what. Nothing will change our love for you. But because we love you we will help you to change for the better.” 

By God’s grace, he has changed a lot! (He just chipped his front tooth the other day by diving into a shallow part of the pool but we love him anyway!)

Our children also need our affection — physical demonstrations of love. Each of our kids is different, but they all appreciate hugs from us. My fourth child, Tiana, will ask for a hug and kiss every night after I pray for her. Peaceful sleep follows when I complete this nightly routine. It matters to her. 

Amazingly, my children become more responsive to homeschooling when I pepper their mornings with spontaneous hugs. There is something about generous doses of affection that energizes them. 

The third thing our kids need from us is affirmation. Some weeks ago, I walked into my bedroom and Elijah was busily reading a new book. I told him that I enjoyed his company so much and that he and his siblings were my favorite people to hang out with (besides Edric, of course.) He looked up from his book and said, “I really need to hear that still, mom.” 

This surprised me because he is such an independent and confident young man, by God’s grace. In fact, I thought that if I compliment him too much it might make him proud since he is gifted in many ways. Yet, like my other kids, he longs to be told that he is important, valued, and special. 


I wanted to end this post with a nugget of wisdom my mom passed on to me. “See people for what they can become (in Christ).” As we communicate to our children acceptance, affection, and affirmation, they may not always obey, respect, or honor us. However, who they are today doesn’t have to determine who we can help them to become tomorrow. With God’s supernatural grace, they can grow up to make a positive difference for Jesus on this earth. 

Hodges challenged us to prophesy great things over our children. He would declare to his kids every day, “You are a leader. You are an influencer, you will not be influenced by the world.” 

Let’s remind our kids of the same! 

Why Reconciliation is Possible

I shamed my husband, Edric, in front of two of our sons last night, as dinner came to a close. It was one of those moments when I didn’t mind my tongue like I should have. 

Elijah asked his dad to pass the dipping sauce, but Edric, who was caught up in another conversation, failed to hear him. Finally, I handed the sauce to Elijah who commented, “Dad didn’t hear me even when I kept asking.” 

Perhaps it was the manner in which he released the words from his mouth that Edric found disrespectful. There may have been a hint of contempt in his tone which disturbed Edric and incited him to address Elijah rather sternly, “Were you mocking me? Don’t mock me.”

I felt like Edric came across too strong, like a male wildcat trying to subjugate another for posing a threat to his position as alpha. (We just came from a Safari so pardon the paltry attempt at including wildlife imagery.) 

When Edric asked Elijah to apologize to him for his disrespect, I blurted out, albeit in a soft voice to seem less combative, “You (Edric) should also apologize to Elijah.”

“Excuse me?” Edric didn’t appreciate my meddling. 

“The way you said what you did was hurtful,” I retorted matter-of-factly.

He requested that I stay out of the dialogue between Elijah and him but something primal in me kicked in (there I go again with the wildlife), and my maternal instinct to protect what I perceived to be a wounded child became manifest in an ugly way. I should have bit my tongue and waited for a more opportune moment to give my perspective, which Edric would have received peaceably. However, I wanted to say what I wanted to say and I hastily pointed out what I interpreted as a parenting error on Edric’s part. So I added, “If you want to be respected, be respectable.”

Oh my!!! How could I have said that in front of the kids?! 

Further exacerbating the situation for me was the fact that in the weeks prior we had been serving from a platform, talking about parenting! How could we be violating the very principles we shared so passionately to others to apply in their families? 

Edric gave me a dagger look that warned me to quit because we were contending with one another in front of our sons. So I kept silent until they exited the table to join their siblings upstairs. 

Meanwhile, Edric and I duked out our issues. There was no shouting, cursing or heated dialoguing but we wrestled with our prideful spirits which reared their heads at different points in the hour that passed. We talked about what we both did wrong and what we didn’t like about what each other did or said. Edric was obviously offended and hurt by the statements I made and the untimeliness of my interjection. And I thought he had been more reactive towards our kids as of late. 

In the end, we came to the conclusion that Edric would apologize to Elijah for his style of correcting and I apologized to Edric for cutting into his discussion with Elijah, and for disrespecting him. Furthermore, we had a family conference with our kids to ask how we could improve after asking for forgiveness from them for our bad examples. The kids readily forgave us and went on to play the game “Marco Polo Freeze” in our bedroom with Edric. 

Edric and I were able to go to bed at peace having resolved our conflict. Although it wasn’t easy to suppress our pride when we addressed the areas we needed to change, we both knew that the God-honoring thing was to humble ourselves, ask for forgiveness, and commit to be better spouses to each other and better parents to our kids. 

If I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus it would be nearly impossible for Edric and I to reconcile our differences. We are so opposite in our personalities. Sometimes our personalities polarize us and it’s a struggle to bridge the gap that divides us. There are things about him that I immensely dislike and there are things about me that totally annoy him, too. (I praise God that through the years I have learned to appreciate most everything about him, even the aspects of his person that I used to react to.)

The crazy thing is this morning I woke up to the sight of him as he sat on the edge of our bed readying himself to face the day and my first thought was, I love him so much! There was no trace of anger. In fact I forgot about our quarrel. 

How could I think so positively about him when last night I felt such intense irritation towards him? (Is this a schizophrenic relationship or what?!)

Edric and I are two flawed, selfish, and prideful individuals. These personalities are present in both of us. Yet we also gave our lives to Jesus Christ many years ago, and till this day He works in Edric and me, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to weed out what is undesirable so that we act more like Him and less like our ugly selves. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans‬ ‭8:2-3‬) ‬‬

The above passages explains that Christ set us free from our sinful tendencies like pride, anger, and selfishness by giving His life up for us. It goes on to say in Romans 8:5-8, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God…” 

In other words, when we don’t have Christ, we cannot make decisions and choices that lead to true life and peace. We cannot fix our marriages or our relationships because we simply do not have the capacity to. It reveals how we cannot even please God because we are enemies of God and what He wills for us. 

It’s no wonder why so many of us quit on our marriages when God is against us doing so. Apart from the Spirit at work in us, we will follow what our flesh desires and wants. We will insist on our wills. But there is hope! Let’s look at the rest of Romans 8…

“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him…”

We can think and act differently from what is expected of our fleshly selves (like I can be reconciled to my husband, ask for forgiveness and choose to love him), because of the Spirit of God. Since we can think and act in ways that please God because of the Holy Spirit, then we very well should! We should not live “according to the flesh” which still exists in us, but “put to death the deeds of the body.” (Romans 8:12-14) 

In eternity, we will not have to deal with the weaknesses of the flesh. Whew. Thank God. Instead there will be a “redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) We can look forward to the hope that one day we will be set free COMPLETELY from having to battle the inclinations of the flesh. 

Now what does this have to do with marriage and reconciliation? If Edric and I didn’t have the Holy Spirit in our lives, we would not be together today. We would not be enjoying our marriage the way we do. I know countless other couples who would echo the same. 


Last night’s example of a fight would have escalated further or we would have buried the hurt and resurfaced it as anger and bitterness. But thanks be to God because reconciliation is possible time and time again. The cycle of new-mercies-every-morning is not dependent on us, as flawed, changeable human beings. It is dependent on who God is and His Spirit in us, transforming us from within so we can love and forgive. 

When I think about how Edric and I will journey into the future, fully conscious that we still have the propensity to hurt each other and make mistakes, my heart is filled with hope. It’s not because we have a great marriage, but because we have a GREAT GOD who is committed to us! 

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭1:6)‬ ‭

 

Life’s Divine Interruptions

Our family was on its way to a speaking engagement when the door of our van jammed open (not shut). The kids and I dropped by Edric’s office to pick him up and when he opened the sliding door of our van, it wouldn’t budge back into place. Ordinarily, we could have waited for the driver to bring the van to the nearest dealer to have it serviced and hung out in Edric’s office. However, we had forty minutes to get to the venue of our speaking engagement so the best recourse was to get an Uber ride. 

By God’s grace, Edric remained calm and composed although I knew he was stressed by the untimeliness of the problem. He asked the kids and I to stay in a cafe while he sorted out what to do next. In about ten minutes he made arrangements to have the van brought to the dealer and coordinated for our uber vehicle. Our ride came shortly after and the kids and I piled into the back seats. (It was actually my first time to take Uber and I was amazed at how convenient it was!)

On the way to our event, Edric and I began chatting with the driver, who was a very nice gentleman. He opened up about his history and family, and told us that he nearly lost his life in a motor cycle accident. Edric and I both felt prodded to share the gospel with him. As we proceeded to do so, telling him that there are no coincidences in life and that God wanted him to know that he is loved and there’s a plan and purpose for his life, Edric segued to the importance of trusting in Christ alone for our salvation. 

The driver listened and interacted with us, answering our questions honestly and responding positively to the gospel message. By the end of the thirty minute ride, Edric prayed with him and he willingly accepted Christ to be his Lord and Savior. 

This occasion was a reminder that God interrupts our plans in order to fulfill His. At first, I was anxious about how we would honor our commitment to speak and get our family to the venue on time. Plus, I felt frustrated that the van surfaced such a ridiculous issue when we were in a hurry. (It turned it to be a fluke, too, after it was inspected at the dealer.) 

Our agendas, no matter how important we may think them to be, do not take precedence over the Lord’s agendas. And one of His desires is that the lost be found and that people are reconciled to Himself. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:20‬ ‭

It was actually a privilege to sit in that Uber vehicle with that driver and tell him about God’s grace and love, but Edric and I had to be mindful of the fact that God allowed the inconvenient circumstance of our van door jamming so we could spend time with this man. 

More and more I am learning that it is our spiritual perspective and response to problems and issues that determines whether or not God will get the glory in our lives, and whether or not we will enjoy the honor of participating in His work. He certainly doesn’t need us to make a difference, but He allows us to, and it is tragic that we can overlook the opportunities He sends our way because we focus on the frustration over disappointments we face instead of perceiving them as life’s divine interruptions. Maybe the interruption is an invitation to tell another person about the Lord, to be a blessing, to be grateful, or to give God glory. Whatever the divine purpose God has elected the interruption for, may we receive His grace, wisdom, and courage to respond the way He wants us to! 

“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.” (Psalms‬ ‭25:4‬)

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

 

The “Love Letter”

Some women have asked me if it is too big a risk to rely solely on a husband’s income (given that he could tragically pass away and leave his family with nothing.) However, with advance planning and preparedness, this concern can be addressed. Here’s where the idea of a “love letter” comes in. It’s basically a letter written by the primary income-earner in the family that explains what to do in the event of his passing. Although this could be called a “will,” it is something more. 


My husband, Edric, got this idea while interviewing certain guests for the show, On the Money, on ANC. He secured certain investments in order to safeguard the kids and me should anything happen to him. The funds would be enough to cover our needs (and more) if he were to be taken by the Lord before me.

When I first heard him explain this during a finance talk he gave, I teared thinking about it. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like without Edric (I still can’t) and the reality of these investments were almost more troubling than reassuring because they implied a life without him. Yet, I am also grateful that he gave considerable thought to this. 

Although it’s common in Philippine culture to look to relatives when financial needs arise, and it’s a beautiful trait to be so caring for one another, I also feel that there is something very unhealthy about the burden we place on family members (whether it be on grown children, parents, or siblings) to give of their hard-earned money when they also have needs of their own. One of the things I appreciate about Edric’s side of the family, especially his father’s, is that they were raised to fend for themselves. There was no pressure or expectation that monetary support would come from anywhere else but from what each person had the capacity to earn, build, or acquire. By God’s grace, they remain close and have great relationships with one another, and money hasn’t come between them. 

Thankfully, Edric grew up with a father who instilled the value of “providing for one’s own” in him, too. Therefore Edric assumed that it was his responsibility to protect the kids and me from future financial stress or from being in a position that would burden others to provide for us if his life were cut short. The truth is neither of us know when we will go and as much as I would like to think that Edric and I will live forever, or expire together at the same time with all our kids, or be raptured as a family, these are romantic fantasies that may not happen. Hence, Edric has a love letter written for me that affirms his love for the kids and me, revisits the values which define our family (I asked him to add this part, ha ha ha), and very practically includes the persons whom I need to get in touch with to access such and such accounts and insurances, etc. (Truthfully, I do not know the exact details of the letter to this day and I don’t want to until it needs to be opened.)

It pains me to envision his parting words but knowing the letter exists has somehow magnified my appreciation for his leadership, initiative, and wisdom, as well as allayed my fears about how the kids and I will survive. Even if I bring in some income, my primary job is home educating my kids, and whatever I contribute from projects is not commensurate to what Edric currently makes. If he were to be incapacitated or pass away I would be in financial trouble as a mom of five kids! 

Ultimately, my security (as well as his) is in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is our provider and sustainer. It’s only because of His enabling and blessing that we are presently okay financially and physically able to generate income. Yet, we are called to stewardship of our resources and to plan with the future in mind as Proverbs 6:6-8 says. “Go to the ant, o sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest.” 

God has entrusted each one of us (all persons) with the capacity to work hard to provide for our families. Although financial status may vary, we all have God-given talents and abilities that we can utilize. Furthermore, Proverbs 12:11 wisely explains, “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.”

1 Timothy 5:8 puts it very seriously, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

I talked to a taxi driver the other day and he may not have had the same opportunities available to him that Edric and I did growing up but he embraced the same perspective about being responsible for one’s own family. He was doing his best to think about the future needs of his children, especially because he got into an accident where he almost lost his life. 

Every sensible person understands that future health and well-being are not guaranteed. We might not all make decisions accordingly but wealth isn’t forever and unprecedented circumstances such as losses come upon all of us. Therefore we need to do what is within our control. This is the intent behind the “love letter” principle — an act of foresight that anticipates the brevity of life, reaffirms the love for family and the values shared by family, and safeguards the financial well-being of one’s spouse and kids. 

Obedience and Discipline

As our children move up in their ages, training them in obedience doesn’t stop. Disciplining for disobedience, however, may evolve into different forms.

When our kids are young, we employ spanking with a paddle or flat rod that doesn’t break the skin. It stings enough to make an impression about the importance of obedience. However, it doesn’t bruise them or injure them like a physical beating done in anger would. In fact, it’s never to be done in anger.

For those who aren’t familiar with the past articles I have written on spanking, allow me to re-emphasize the following: 

– We don’t spank in anger. 

– It’s done in private for disobedience of a rule or instruction that has been communicated clearly. 

– One or two efficient swats across the rear end (where it’s most padded in their body) is enough to inflict calculated pain. 

– We explain to our child(ren) why they are getting a spanking, that learning obedience is necessary to protect them from future pain. 

– We allow them to acknowledge how they disobeyed us and ask for forgiveness. 

– A hug and I love you follow after the ordeal.

We can count the number of times we have had to spank each of our kids. Spanking’s intent in our home has not been punitive or to shame our kids. As much as possible, we’ve also avoided using it as a threat to manipulate them into obeying us. (I must confess that I’ve made my foibles with Catalina in particular.) Yet generally, spanking was and is used to connect disobedience with consequences. The kids learned and continue to learn to respect and honor authority. We don’t spank excessively or for an indefinite period of time, either. By the age of six or seven, the approach to discipline evolves. 

Three of our five kids are past the age of seven, so spanking isn’t as effective anymore and they have graduated to different forms of discipline. With the older boys, we employ natural logical consequences and withdrawal of privileges.

For example, recently, the boys had to pay for the repair of their gadgets. They hadn’t stewarded these properly, something that Edric and I instructed them to do. As a result, screens needed to be repaired. Having understood that they failed to take good care of gadgets that had been entrusted them, they owned up to their mistake and apologized. However, a consequence followed. They used money they worked hard to earn and gift money to pay for their mistake. It was a painful lesson but a memorable one. 

Yet another example was when they didn’t complete certain assignments I asked them to while I was away in Kenya. They were tasked to finished reading their history material. Well, they only read a few pages. So what happened when I got back from Kenya? Their time on gadgets was suspended until they finished their history work. They knew this was a fair consequence. I had to withdraw privileges for disregarding my instruction. Since gadget time to play educational games or do coding mattered to them, this consequence “stung.”

For the most part, I praise God that my kids are obedient. They want to honor Edric and me, and they try their best to obey us. So these moments of having to withdraw privileges or allow them to experience natural, logical consequences are infrequent. But they still happen. 

When I get tired of correcting or training my kids in the area of obedience, or when I get intimidated by my strong-willed children like Catalina, I have to tell myself, Obedience is for their good. If I love them I will NOT stop teaching them to obey. Edric is committed to the same thing.

Why is obedience so beneficial? 

1. PROTECTION from self-inflicted pain. Many people reap the consequences of wrong choices, choices that go against the God-ordained authorities in their lives, and against God’s plan for them. As a result they end up spiritually, emotionally, and physically broken. 

Proverbs 30:17 affirms this. “The eye that mocks a father and scorns a mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.”

Deuteronomy 28:15 warns, “But it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” 

When I was sixteen I dated a guy without the approval of my parents. I was stubborn and failed to honor them. Although they didn’t outrightly tell me to stop dating the guy, I knew that they thought I was too young. However I persisted in the relationship. In the end I was so crushed and broken-hearted. I felt used, manipulated, and disrespected by the guy on many levels. The relationship turned out to be an awful one. I wasted two precious years of high school.

Looking back I wish I never dated the guy but hindsight didn’t spare me from the consequences of my wrong choice. Had I prioritized honoring my parents, my high school years would have been so much more productive and fruitful.

2. The PROMISE of well-being. 

God rewards obedience. “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God…” (Deuteronomy‬ ‭28:1-2)

Ephesians 6:3 says, “it may go well with you and that you enjoy long life on the earth,” but it’s premised by obedience and honoring of parents in verses 1 and 2. We can take the phrases “go well with you” and “enjoy long life on the earth” literally.  

Logically, when we refrain from going against God’s design and principles, we avoid many of the problems that cut a person’s life short. Take for instance a very simple example. I tell my kids not to eat a lot of sugar, explaining to them that it’s really bad for their bodies in excessive amounts. If they refuse to listen, they will get a slew of sicknesses associated with a bad diet. In the long run, they will compromise their health.

On a more serious level, my siblings and I trusted in our parents’ approval when it came to choosing our spouses. We wanted their blessing in this area. There’s no doubt that going against their wishes would have led to undue stress in our relationships with our spouses and issues that we may not have foreseen. 

Having counseled many couples and singles in the area of marriage and relationships, I see how God has given parents certain instincts and insights when it comes to helping their children select a life partner. Even when a parent or parents can seem unreasonable, for as long as they aren’t asking their child to do something against God’s Word, most children are better off respecting their parents’ wishes about the person they should marry. 

Some people obey God but they don’t live long on the earth, yet I still believe they lived the exact amount of time that God wanted them to in order to accomplish His purposes. In this sense, they lived full lives. My sister-in-law’s brother died a day before turning thirty. He was on-fire for Christ, but God took him sooner than later. Here is where I won’t pretend to understand the greater purposes of God. However, I do know that for Steve (my sister-in-law’s brother), he lost nothing by dying young. In fact, he is surely rejoicing in the presence of the Lord. His legacy in the hearts and minds of people lives on today which tells me that the life of a godly person doesn’t end on earth at the point of his or her death. Instead it continues to make a positive impact on others. 

3. PURPOSE and discernment of God’s Will. “My son, observe the commandment of your father, and do not forsake the teaching of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light…” (Proverbs 6:20 – 23)

Many people have asked me, “How do I know what God’s will is?”

The simple answer to this question is to obey in the areas that are obvious then God will reveal the rest. Corrie Ten Boom said, “When we are obedient, God guides our steps and our stops.” One of our life purposes’ is to live in daily submission to the Lord. What are some practical areas where we can submit to Him? Purity. Holiness. Forgiving those who have hurt us. Loving people. Honoring Him with our choices.

These are obvious areas where we don’t have to ask, “Is this God’s will for me?” Substitute any of the above into the question and the answer is, “Yes, it’s God’s will for me to be pure, to be holy, to forgive, to love, to honor Him.”

Are we obeying Him in these areas? If we aren’t then how can we expect Him to show us what comes next? Daily attentiveness and listening to the Lord’s voice is a prerequisite to hearing Him clearly when we have to make the bigger decisions – what job to take, whom to marry, where to live, whom to partner with in business or what business venture to get into, etc. How can we discern God’s voice when it really counts if we’ve deafened ourselves to Him in the day to day? 
“The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14)

4. The POWER of God and the PRIVILEGE OF PARTICIPATION in building His Kingdom. When Joshua was leading the Israelites across the Jordan River to enter the promised land, the priests had to step into the water first like God asked them to before it dried up for them. Then, they could walk across safely. The miracle didn’t happen before the obedience.

When Edric and I have conflicts and we are about to minister to people whether it’s via public speaking or counseling, we have to resolve our issues first and ask for forgiveness from one another, otherwise there’s no empowering of the Holy Spirit in us to connect with the hearts of people or to effectively deliver the Word of God. We may not feel like doing so, but the Bible tells us to ask for forgiveness and to forgive, and to refrain from doing so would be a violation of God’s Word.

Just this morning, Edric and I got irritated at each other for being late to a meeting. It was my fault for leaving my phone but I felt that his reaction wasn’t fair. So I accused him of failing to be on the ball himself and not deciding on a specific time for us to leave the house. Well, this conversation snowballed and I rolled my eyes at one point and called him a “jerk” under my breath when he couldn’t hear me. I know. It was bad. I was so wrong. I let my irritation control my tongue. 

Since we were on our way to a ministry meeting, we had to resolve it. We knew we couldn’t stand before the Lord or others with authenticity or with spiritual authority. So we both apologized and asked for each other’s forgiveness. It wasn’t easy but it was necessary. We knew there would be no power in our lives if we remained in sin, persisting in disobedience towards God in the form of anger and unforgiveness. 

5. The PEACE of knowing we true followers of Christ. 

Many times, Edan, our second child who always like to be sure about everything (a sigurista in Tagalog), asks me, “Mom do you think I love God?” 

My reply is almost always, “Edan, I know you love God because you desire to obey us, you desire to obey Him. There is evidence in your life that you have Christ in your life.” 

When we obey God from the heart, we can confidently say that we are true followers of His, that we love Him. John 14:21 tells us, “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” Obedience is the evidence of real relationship with God and love for God. 

Since obedience is of infinite importance, let us keep OVER-emphasizing obedience in our homes. In fact, in ours, we get everyone to memorize the mantra, “Obedience brings blessings!” Even little Catalina will shout this out if prodded to. The benefits of obedience are beyond material things — beyond monetary gains, fame, or worldly accomplishments. These things are wonderful, but what counts more is that our kids avoid the painful consequences of sin, that they experience a long, fruitful life that is directed by God for His purposes and empowered by Him, and that we have the peace of knowing they belong to Him. And might I just add, obedient kids are such a delight! They are a blessing to their parents and to those around them.

Courage

We had the opportunity to go to Bukidnon yesterday where we enjoyed family tiem at Dahilayan Adventure Park. World-class ziplines, ropes courses, a luge ride, a drop zone and a base jump make up for an incredible fun place to take the family.  

Since not many people were keen on traveling to the Mindanao region, the park wasn’t crowded. In fact, it was the best time to go! And, it felt very safe to be in Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro City, where we also stayed. (The military was extremely cautious and the peace and order was commendable.)

At the park, Edric challenged the boys to do some pretty difficult activities, one of which was the Base Jump. This meant they would leap from a high tower like a paratrooper (without the parachute) until the resistance from the harness kicked in. Elijah, who tends to be the adventurous one was incredibly excited. Titus, our laid back and easy going fellow, felt slightly terrified but jumped right off the platform easily. Edan, on the other hand, who is very calculated and risk-averse, actually got teary eyed when it was his turn. He was scared out of his mind. 

Some days prior, Edric encouraged our family to memorize Philippians 4:7 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The Base Jump proved to be the best application of courage for Edan who was very tempted to escape from the challenge. With the encouragement of Edric and his brothers, as well as onlookers, he inched towards the end of the platform and leaped off, tears and all! 

It was a man-building moment for him. Afterwards, Edric affirmed all the boys, especially Edan, and processed the definition of courage with them. “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is embracing the fear and overcoming it.” 

As for me, I had my own moment of terror when Edric asked me to do the Drop Zone, which involved being cradled in a swing that launched from a 120 foot point. I hate heights! But Edric convinced and suckered me to tandem-ride with him. 

I got through the ordeal without peeing in my pants so I am grateful. The first part, as usual, was the worst of it…when I felt like I was plunging to certain death. 

It looked crazy high from on top, at the launching point…Edric had to pull the chord to release us. I couldn’t have done it. 


This was the happier part…


It takes a father and husband like Edric to get our family to do these things. Even if personalities like Edan and myself would prefer to avoid vomit-inducing rides and experiences, Edric is able to pep talk us into doing them anyway. I must say that I appreciate his pushiness afterwards but when I’m in the moment I’m resistant and difficult and I say things like, “I can’t believe you are making me do this!”

Since I have three boys I can’t act like a sissy. I’ve got to keep my cool when faced with challenges so they aren’t infected by my fear. And since courage is a trait Edric is trying to instill in our kids, especially our boys, I need to help him model this for them. 

There were a bunch of other activities to enjoy in Dahilayan Adventure Park and the prices were very affordable (even for a big family). Our younger kids got to ride on the shorter ziplines and everyone had a blast! We could have spent the entire day there but we had to head back to Cagayan de Oro City to conduct a seminar.


I want to thank CCF CDO and our friends, Mel and Melanie Santos, who introduced us to this place! It was a great discovery, something the kids hope we can come back to in the future! 

Our family’s experience at Dahilayan Adventure Park made me reflect on courage. In fact, just a week prior, I finished a short book by Bill Hybels, one of his older ones, called Who You Are When No One’s Looking. He listed courage as one of the endangered traits of humanity.  

We all need to grow in courage. I certainly do. Thankfully, there are many opportunities to practice courage that count way more than getting on a thrill-seeking ride. Hybels explains, “Courage is foundational to being a Christian. It takes courage to begin a walk with Christ, to reach your hand and trust him. It takes courage to lead a life of obedience to Christ. It takes courage to be moral and to build significant relationships with your spouse, your children, and with your friends. It takes courage to expand a business, change your major or start a new career. It takes courage to leave home or to go back home.”

He also outlined five kinds of courage:

Courage in the ordinary – “It takes a great deal of courage to face life’s ordinary, everyday challenges. We choose between the right thing and the convenient thing, sticking to a conviction or caving in for the sake of comfort, greed or approval.”

Courage to be vulnerable – “The Bible says that, to become a Christian, you have to own up to your sins before a holy God…If you are too chicken to repent, then please don’t ever say Christianity is for weak people.”

Courage to follow – 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, We walk by faith, not by sight. “Cowards don’t last long in their spiritual pilgrimages…It takes enormous courage to follow God’s leading in the Christian life.”

Relational courage – Many married people do not have the courage to “fight for their marriages.” Many parents don’t have the courage to “discipline their children.” Many people can’t summon the courage to “build significant relationships with people.”

Courage to be moral – “How much courage is required to stay sexually pure in a sex-crazed culture?” A lot! 

Why can we be courageous even in the face of uncertainty, doubt, pressure, and fear? Well, let me end with the apostle Paul’s charge to us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬) 

The Benefits of a Food Journal

When my stomach manifested strange symptoms like gassy pain, discomfort, bloating, burping, and loss of appetite after gorging on bread rolls with butter at a retreat, my doctor sister who is into functional medicine, encouraged me to keep a food journal. It was one of the best tips to “heal” my gutt. 

Photographing everything I ate for about a week made me intentional and conscious about my intake. Except for a few exemptions, I stuck to relatively healthy meals and I felt significant improvement in my overall well-being afterwards. Plus, there was the added bonus of a flatter tummy! Here’s what my week-long intake looked like…

Day 1:

Breakfast – mixed Berry Shake 

Lunch – corn, coconut water 

Snack – half a subway sandwich (tuna), four sampaloc

Dinner – Vietnamese salad, pho soup, fresh spring rolls


Day 2:

Breakfast


Lunch –


An organic gummy (just one!) 


Dinner –



Day 3:

Breakfast –


Lunch – 

Dinner – 


Day 4:

Breakfast –

Lunch –  (I only ate one!) 


Dinner – 

Day 5 – 

Breakfast 


Lunch – this was a cheat one! 

Dinner 
Day 6:

Breakfast 


Dinner – 

Day 7 onwards…(I tried to maintain healthy eating habits by avoiding sugar, rice, and wheat as much as possible, and going for more natural foods, fruits and vegetables. 


I don’t believe in dieting because I need and love to eat. But I do think that the stomach can be trained to prefer better food! 

“But I discipline my body and make it my slave…” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭9:27‬ ‭

Be “Into” Your Husband 

For the longest time I took it for granted that Edric and I had healthy intimacy. I always felt like we were an affectionate, PDA sort of couple that had no issues when it came to sweetness and lovey-dovey-ness. I mean, at times, we were probably annoyingly affectionate with one another, irritating people who saw us out in public. So it never really occurred to me to put in extra effort to cultivate intimacy. The chemistry between us was always so natural. 

However, in recent years, the number of children, fatigue, and busy-ness have taken its toll on me physically, and Edric has, more than once, remarked about my seeming disinterest in being intimate with him. My excuses often revolved around timing. Why did it have to happen at the last hour of the evening when I was dead tired? I am not just talking about sex, but even kissing and hugging, and holding one another before falling asleep. Many times he felt like I was just not that into him.

My dismissiveness would make him feel hurt and rejected. For a while, I thought I was in the right, that he was the selfish and inconsiderate one for pursuing invitations when I was exhausted. Yet God convicted me through this latest trip we took together in Kenya. After observing the tender exchanges between a forty-two year married couple…aka my parents, I realized I have a lot to improve on.

Edric and I had hours of bonding time together with my mom and dad during our vacation league of the trip (the first part was more ministry). During the safari, my parents occupied the row of seats in front of Edric and me, so we both noticed how sweetly they interacted with one another. Dad would frequently smile tenderly at my mom and hold her hand. Mom often said, “I find you so handsome (to my dad), and I really enjoy being with you.”

I know these moments weren’t to put on a show for us. They simply enjoyed being together. After forty years, they are still so into each other.

Although my parents were always loving, it’s been pretty special for me to see them still tender (if not more so) in this season of their lives. Even if they are senior citizens, they act like a young couple in love. They still put effort into cultivating intimacy with one another.

Whether it was appreciating each other verbally, deliberately seeking to meet each other’s emotional needs, sharing jokes, or exhibiting patience and restraint during conflicts, they both showed me how to be a better spouse during this trip. While Edric and I have a great marriage by God’s grace, I know I can still up my effort levels in the areas of tenderness and responsiveness, especially after seeing the dynamic between my parents.

Very often I encourage wives to consider that we are the only, legitimate, godly option for intimacy, for our husbands. Yet if I were to honestly assess myself, my past six months’ performance has been wanting. I haven’t tried my best to meet Edric’s need for intimacy. I would give myself a mediocre score in this area because I haven’t been as into him as I ought to be. My mom and dad were great examples of what it means to delight in each other as husband and wife.

Sometimes I forget to appreciate how special Edric is, and how blessed I am to have a husband who loves God, loves me and our kids, and who wants to be a good husband and father. I need to be more like the woman in Song of Solomon and be a more passionately in love wife! “Come, my love, let us go out to the fields and spend the night among the wildflowers. Let us get up early and go to the vineyards to see if the grapevines have budded, if the blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates have bloomed. There I will give you my love.” ‭‭Song of Songs‬ ‭7:11-12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Maasai Mara 

This is my first time to Kenya, and my first time to go on a safari in Maasai Mara. Somebody pinch me! 


Maasai Mara is a national reserve dedicated to the protection of the savannah wilderness in southwestern Kenya, along the Tanzanian border.  Once you have been to the Maasai Mara you pretty much get a feel of what Africa is like in terms of terrain. You also get to see the Big Five — Rhinocerous, Wildebeest, Lion, Elephant, and Leopard. If you are here in July through September, you get to appreciate the migration of the wildebeest and zebras.

After a week long event where Edric and I served in ministry alongside my parents at Christ is the Answer (CITAM) Family Fest 2017, we are now enjoying a few days of relaxation and bonding time in Maasai Mara, at the Mara Serena Resort. 

We were supposed to pay for this league of the trip in Kenya, but Citam sponsored our safari! God is so good! It’s always been in my bucket list to go on a safari. 

What’s in like in Maasai Mara? Well, for starters it feels like I am getting a much needed detox from city life. I rarely have internet connection. There are no TVs in the rooms. I am completely surrounded by the pure, unspoiled beauty of nature. Fresh air, wild animals, and stretches of savannah without a building in site (including people). We had a deer grazing outside our room, and my parents had a baboon commit attempted robbery by jumping into their balcony in the hopes of stealing food. 

Being here makes city living lose all its appeal. My only heartache is that my kids don’t get to experience all of this with Edric and me. They would love riding in the safari jeep for hours and hours everyday to see all the animals we have been enjoying.

Besides this, I am realizing anew that nature is a treasure trove of life lessons. It takes patience to wait for animals to present themselves, an inquisitive and curious mind to ask questions about animal instincts and behavior, attentiveness to spot subtle changes in the environment or interpret the movements and sounds the animals make, and child-like wonder to appreciate God’s creation. 

I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful it is here. So I will post photos instead…

It’s rare to be able to see the Big Five but God answered our prayers and we saw all of them in just two days! 

I am including that last bit of information just to celebrate the goodness of the Lord. Every animal that we prayed to see, we did! Today we caught sight of a rhinoceros clunking through the brush. There are only a handful of them and they tend to be shy but there he was! What a treat! 

Getting Kids to Eat the Right Food

I have witnessed many battles over food played out between parents and their kids (mine included) in almost every eating scenario one can imagine. It’s a struggle to get kids to eat well or to finish the food on their plates. Each of my five kids has gone through some sort of food strike or issue in their early childhood years that required intervention. 

According to a pediatrician who specializes in gastrointestinal health, he explained that kids form their eating habits by the age of two. Afterwards it’s a challenge to modify these. 

On the one hand I agree. I think we need to set the stage for our kids by giving them vegetables and fruits as early as possible. At the same time, I also believe we can train our kids to eat healthy food even if their palate wasn’t conditioned to like it. 

All my kids, at one point, hated vegetables. Hate is a strong word so I will go with “disliked” vegetables. However, today, if asked to, they will eat their vegetables even if they gag through the process of doing so. Thankfully, it’s just little Catalina who is still resistant at times. (She’s still in training.) Yet the rest of my kids have been taught to eat what’s on their plates. 

The only reasonable explanation for this is that they have been taught to obey. They know that obedience to Edric and myself includes the realm of eating, too. 

Obedience is the first character priority of any parent. Afterwards, getting them to eat isn’t such a struggle. When my oldest son, Elijah, was a little boy, eating was such a miserable experience for him and for me. He was so picky and spent hours chewing his food. It was maddening. Yet, he was trainable because he was obedient. Edric and I didn’t give up. Now, he is fourteen and his food preferences cover all kinds of cuisines.

After Edric and I realized that it was possible to shape the food tastes of our first child, we did the same with all our other kids. It’s a blessing that we don’t have to war with them over food choices. Titus may be a slow eater but he can be counted on to clean his plate by the end of a meal. Catalina might try to avoid her veggies, but if told to obey, she will listen. 

Although my kids are on the thin side, they are healthy. Thankfully, they don’t get sick often and they remain energetic and full of life. I believe their diet has a lot to do with this. But it’s necessary for Edric and I to be intentional about training them to be good eaters. 

Here is what worked and is working in our home so far:

Baby stage: 

I breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and then introduce solids. As early as possible, I let my babies eat food off the table. I don’t give blended and puréed baby food for too long. 

If we are eating healthy, then it’s good enough for my babies, too. The same pediatrician I cited earlier also told me that babies benefit from texture in their food. 

Toddler stage: 

Instill obedience. By two years of age, they have been disciplined to obey which extends into their eating. 
Let them feed themselves as much as possible. My sister doesn’t mind the big mess her kids make when they pick up food, smash it into their mouths, and smear it on every surface. The table looks like a war zone afterwards but her kids eat well. I had to learn this with my own kids. They used to need yayas to spoon feed them. Sometimes, Catalina still likes one of my household helps to feed her but more often than not, she’s on her own at the table and responsible for not going hungry. 


Vegetables are a must whether my kids like it or not. We start with veggies that they appreciate like carrots, beans, squash, and pechay, then move on to other veggies. Fruit is easier because it’s sweet so kids don’t need too much convincing. It’s vegetables that are often the hurdle. Every meal past breakfast, our kids are required to eat vegetables. 

Expose them to different cuisines and encourage them to at least taste what they normally wouldn’t so they expand their preferences.  Whenever Edric and I are eating something new that my kids have never tasted, I will say, “Just one bite and then you can decide whether you want to eat more. But try it first.” 
Affirm their good eating habits. Encouragement works wonders. When I say, “I am so proud of you for eating your vegetables,” my younger kids will beam. They appreciate being acknowledged for their effort. 

Young children to teens: 

Make eating times fun bonding times as a family. When meals are about connecting, the kids tend to enjoy lingering at the table to eat. 

We also teach our kids the benefits of healthy eating and we model it. They know that Edric and I try our best to avoid sugary foods and drinks as well as junk food. We aren’t legalistic about it but our kids are convinced that healthy eating is important. 

At the end of the day any bad eating habit in our children falls under our accountability as parents. If we aren’t purposeful, they will not be purposeful about food either. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older, he will not depart from it.” 

When a Husband Appreciates His Wife’s Simplicity

One of the men in our couples’ bible study group asked us to organize a surprise birthday party for his wife in lieu of getting her something expensive. For the first time, she didn’t ask for a luxury item or pricey gift to celebrate her birthday. In fact, she didn’t ask for anything at all which left him scrambling to conceptualize a special plan to execute for her. As a loving husband who actually enjoys spoiling her, he was almost taken aback by this change in her appetite for material things. But he appreciated her desire to be simple and less extravagant. 

Even though they are materially blessed, their relationship with the Lord has reordered their priorities. What’s most important to them today is following God wholeheartedly and raising their kids to do the same. Amazingly, these are the pursuits they derive greater joy from. 

The ladies in the group and I had a day and a half to put together this surprise since the request was very last minute. Yet everyone was excited to do it. Two of us went to Dangwa to source out the greenery we needed for the theme on the day of the event. Thankfully, a caterer also confirmed their availability. We pooled together items in our homes for the decor and recruited family members to participate in the preparations. One of the ladies in our group is a fantastic cake maker so she whipped up a beautiful creation. Another one tapped into her inner creativity to design a special bouquet for the husband to give his wife. Many of us spent a good four hours at the venue (volunteered by a couple in the group) to arrange all the details. By 7:30 PM, the place looked the part we envisioned it to. It was God’s grace and a labor of love. 

Don’t Be Selfish

It takes two joyful persons in the Lord to make a happy marriage and just one person to poison it with his or her selfishness. 

This past week I reacted with selfishness towards Edric because I judged him for not meeting my expectations. One of the more painful statements I made towards him was my life doesn’t revolve around you when he asked me to spend time with him and forego a previous engagement with girl friends. In my annoyance I spewed it out rather venomously. 

During the week prior Edric had been preoccupied and busy so I felt emotionally neglected. My instinct was to “do my own thing” and keep busy myself. However, when his schedule opened up on a Friday afternoon, he wanted me to spend time with him and drop everything I was doing. In fact, he sat me on the bed and asked, “Can’t you just cancel your event?” 

I interpreted this request to abandon my commitment as selfishness on his part which is why I carelessly commented, “My life doesn’t revolve around you.”

Instead, I should’ve sweetly appealed, “Hon, I really want to be with you but I made this commitment. I hope you understand. But I will make it up to you when I get back, okay?”

My cutting response, laced with pride, was meant to injure him emotionally because I entertained this it’s-not-fair mentality about my marriage. 

I thought, Why is that I am the one who has to adjust and be available to him? Sure, he is a rescuer when it comes to the big things and he will drop things for me, but on the day to day, I have to wait for him to be done with his preoccupations. In contrast, it feels like I am supposed to be “on call,” always ready to drop everything and anything for him.

My ugly, selfish and prideful self resented this. 

The rest of the week that followed I leaked out this resentment in various forms, draining the life out of my marriage and pushing Edric away. As a result he began to withdraw to avoid being hurt by my reactiveness and snappiness. 

It took the duration of a week (last week) for me to apologize sincerely to him and realize that my thoughts and actions weren’t honoring to the Lord. When I opened up to my mom about it, after Edric and I had reconciled with one another, she offered the more spiritual perspective about my marriage. She told me that I may have judged Edric as selfish but I was also selfish. She was right. I needed to hear that. (One of the things I appreciate about my mom is that she doesn’t take sides. Her advice is always about what God wants for Edric, for me, for our marriage.)

Truthfully, marriage is the most difficult relationship I have ever been in but it has been the best relationship to teach me selflessness and what it means to love and forgive unconditionally. My tendency is to think of my marriage with Edric as a barter sort of relationship. I will be grateful and sweet if you do this and that for me. Yet a marriage based on fair exchanges is self-seeking and self-centered. It is conditional and therefore bound to end up broken.

The key to rising above this is to fix my eyes on Jesus Christ, not Edric. It’s true that my life shouldn’t revolve around Edric, but I don’t have to declare this as an independent woman who prides herself in being captain of her own ship. Instead my life should revolve around Christ so I can make the right choices when my marriage is not such a happy place. I can still be sweet, grateful, and dispense grace when being married feels unpleasant and wanting. Why? Because of Christ in me, the source of my joy and strength. 

Admittedly, I have much growing to do in this regard since selfishness is so easy to succumb to when I don’t feel important or appreciated by Edric. Sometimes I fail like I did this past week, basing my responses on how Edric treated me.

However, the good news is that when I started to seek what Christ would have me think, say, and do rather than give in to the selfishness, Edric and I began to experience intimacy and healing in our marriage once again. We ended today with a heart to heart conversation about how we could both improve and we have begun to rebuild what was broken by selfishness. He fell asleep whispering “I love you,” and I will follow him to dreamland after I post this. All is well once again…

Allow me to end with this passage in James which I find to be a fitting reflection on selfishness: 

‭“For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” ‭(James‬ ‭3:15-18‬ ‭NLT‬‬)