Elijah Shares About Gratefulness 

In Singapore, Edric and I got our kids to share testimonies with us. This is the one Elijah gave to illustrate the passage in Ephesians about gratitude:

“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”‭‭ Ephesians‬ ‭5:17-20‬

Elijah: 

I am growing up in a world where everything is so easily accessible and instant. As an example, my Dad wore his braces for eight years because he did traditional braces (but also because he never went to his appointments). In contrast, my braces are called turbo braces and they only take six months to straighten teeth…but it still feels like a very long time to me.

To be honest, I struggle with being patient and not getting what I want when I want it, but I praise God for my parents who are intentional about teaching my siblings and me how to be content and grateful.

Here are some practical ways they try to teach us this value (please forgive me if this is stuff you have heard before).


Typically, we receive several gifts from our relatives and friends during Christmas and birthdays. Because our parents do not want us to get tired of all our gifts quickly, they only allow us to open one gift at a time.

They want us to learn to wait. For the last two years, Catalina my sister was not allowed to chew gum because my Dad wanted her to wait. She would ask almost everyday and my parents would tell her, “when you turn four.” When she was finally allowed to eat gum just this month on her birthday, she was so happy and grateful, but the downside was she ate almost twenty pieces on the day of her birthday. Thankfully, gum is illegal in Singapore so this will be good for her.

Growing up, if we wanted something and we were fussy about it, our parents would tell us to stop fussing or else we wouldn’t get it. Continued fussing meant we would be disciplined. Instead of fussing, we were encouraged to say okay mommy or okay daddy with a good attitude. When we didn’t get to go to Kinukoniya bookstore the other day and one of my brothers was so disappointed because he researched how to get there and we had walked halfway. But my dad said we would be late to our meeting with the Ccf organizers of the retreat so we had to walk back. My brother started to tear but then he chose to change his attitude and chose to smile despite his bad mood. I know it was hard for him and I was blessed by his good example.

We were also taught by my parents not to be entitled about things like gadgets. When we want to have a gadget, our parents will either give us an old, half-broken hand-me-down or they will make us pay for it ourselves. Once, I asked my parents if I could get an iPad. They said that I would have to use my saved money and money from jobs I did with my Dad, like speaking engagements. After several months of hard work and hard research, I finally saved enough money to pay for 75% of the total price because Dad was gracious. Paying hard earned money for the device taught me that money doesn’t grow on trees. It helped me to learn to appreciate the things I have.

To further teach me about hard work and responsibility, and how to be grateful, Dad took me mountain climbing for four days out in the wild. I had to live with little and life was hard. We climbed over different terrains, like farms, forests, boulder trails, and 87 degree cliffs up the tallest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo. No showers, toilets, and I even learned how to kill a chicken so I could have something to eat. These experiences taught me how to be thankful for everything, even the roof over our heads. After three days of climbing, some kind villagers offered their home for us to sleep in. It felt so nice to have a real roof over our heads and a little more leg room. When I got home it felt like coming back to a five star hotel!

My personal conviction is that gratitude is a byproduct of our perspective on God. If we trust that he loves us and wants what is best for us then we won’t complain if we don’t get what we want.

When I was six, riding in the car with my Mom, I pressed my face against the window because I had a hard time reading the billboards. My mom and dad took me to the doctor and my eyesight was 250. I felt so discouraged. But my parents reminded me of the passage in Jeremiah 29:11, which I also had read in my quiet time. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.

This really comforted me because I knew that even if God didn’t bring healing to my eyes, he had a good plan for me. Today my eyesight has gotten even worse. It’s like 500. Sometimes I get anxious that I may go blind and I feel bad because I keep praying for my eyes and God doesn’t answer with a yes to heal them. But God does remind me to rejoice. Someday I will see clearly in heaven.

If we are followers of Christ, our best life is in eternity and our lives here are so short. So I am looking forward to having perfect eyes in heaven! (And Lord willing, laser surgery when I am old enough.)

I am still learning gratitude and how to be thankful in all things. So please pray for me to always have the right perspective and not be entitled or a complainer.

It’s Possible 2 Be 1 

Every husband and wife-to-be with their glinting eyes, standing at the altar on their wedding day, believes their love is special.  

I felt that way. I felt like a princess in a fairytale sashaying down the aisle to my prince charming with my billowing gown (I wanted a poufy one just to feel like royalty). My wedding was magical and dreamy, better than I had imagined it to be, and I bet most brides would say the same about the day they got married.  

However, in time, all of us married people will have to wrestle with the annoying personality quirks of our spouse, poor communication leading to poor intimacy, mismatched priorities, busyness and pragmatism that ease out the romance, neglected roles, and unmet longings that chafe at the desire to stay faithful to the promises that we made. 

Those of us who have been married for at least five years know what I am talking about. Edric and I recently celebrated sixteen years of marriage. To this day, it’s still a challenge to love and forgive one another unconditionally. While each year gets better in many ways, other aspects of our relationship get harder. In other words, there has never been a year of marriage when it’s felt like twelve months of pure bliss.

However, I would tell you in a heart beat that Edric is the only man I would ever want to be married to, and yes, there it still plenty of cheesy romance and intimacy between us. Despite the imperfections of married life, we stand in awe of God every year as he preserves us and upholds us so that we are able to declare, “This was our best year ever!”


Early on, Edric and I were blessed to have mentors who taught us biblical principles on marriage and how to pursue God’s design for it. We attended numerous seminars and retreats, and read helpful books. Furthermore, we tried our best to apply what we learned. When and where we failed, we asked for forgiveness and changed for the better. However, the principles, positive role models and life pegs, as well as the seminars, retreats and books would have made little difference had Edric and I not begun our relationship by confronting our spiritual brokenness. 

Tim Keller, in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, writes, “If our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life. If they are pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage’s divine origin. If we somehow manage, as our modern culture has, to do both at once, we are doubly burdened by a distorted vision. The trouble is not within the institution of marriage but within ourselves.” 

 I wholly agree with Keller that the problem lies within us. Each person, single or married, is sinful and spiritually broken. Neither the state of being without a spouse or being with one makes us any better off inside. In fact, those of us who have never acknowledged our spiritual desperation and need for saving are likely to experience greater misery married rather than single. As one pastor in our church aptly put it, “Marriage magnifies what is in our hearts.” Unresolved heart issues get uglier in marriage. 

Therefore, we need to experience the grace and love of our Savior first. As John Piper explained, “Since Christ’s new covenant with this church is created by and sustained by blood-bought grace, therefore, human marriages are meant to showcase that new-covenant grace. And the way they showcase it is by resting in the experience of God’s grace and bending it out from a vertical experience with God into a horizontal experience with their spouse. In other words, in marriage you live hour by hour in glad dependence on God’s forgiveness and justification and promised future grace, and you bend it out toward your spouse hour by hour — as an extension of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help.”

Let me put this simply…Our horizontal relationship with our spouse is dependent upon our vertical relationship with God. If we have not embraced our need for His grace and forgiveness, there’s no way we can be gracious and forgiving towards our spouse. Why? Our default mode as human beings is self-centered and selfish.

In the beginning of our marriages, we are sustained and exhilarated by the pleasures of young love, sweet love. We keep the rose-colored glasses on. Yet, weeks, months, and years into the relationship, when the novelty wanes and issues arise, the predisposition to selfishness emerges. The glasses come off and our tendency is to prioritize and preserve “me, myself, and I”.

“Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become whole and happy.” (Duke University Ethics Professor, Stanley Hauerwas) 

How did this play out in my own marriage? When I began to notice that Edric wasn’t always the prince charming I hoped he would be, then I retaliated and became very un-princess-like. My self-centered thoughts were, “If you aren’t going to treat me the way I think you should then I am not going to put up with it. I am not going to be a doormat in this relationship. No way!”

Where did that get me? Edric and I had lots of fights in the first year of our marriage. Sometimes it was over the most inane, insubstantial things like not covering the toothpaste tube properly or leaving clothes on the floor. Other times it escalated to conflicts over priorities and sinful behaviors. Because we were both self-centered, also known as prideful, we wanted to win every argument over preserving the relationship. One of us ended up wounded and hurt more than the other.  

At the end of the first year, Edric and I were emotionally exhausted. We wanted our marriage to work, we knew we loved one another, but the gushy, tender feelings that once pulled us together had dissipated. Our differences polarized us. Since we were followers of Christ, annulment and divorce weren’t something we would ever consider. However, we wondered why we got married in the first place.

Thankfully, and by the grace of God, He spoke to both of us apart from the other. He whispered hope that our relationship could be redeemed and restored according to His beautiful design. Yet the challenge we had to wholeheartedly accept was this: Were we willing to surrender ourselves completely, along with our desires, expectations, dreams, and longings to the Lord? Were we willing to say, “Lord whatever you want me to do in my own life, whatever it takes to really follow you, I will do. I will focus on you and not my spouse. I surrender my spouse to you.”

The Bible gives us hope that all marriages can be rebuilt and restored no matter what state they are in. I firmly believe this, not because people can fix their relationships on their own but because God makes all things possible. 

When Christ used the statement, “With God all things are possible,” it was in the context of a conversation with a religious leader who asked him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer to the religious leader culminated with the challenge to sell all he owned, give everything to the poor, then follow Him. The rich man’s countenance fell, unable to surrender his earthly possessions to do so. He thought he had been pious enough to earn eternal life, but Jesus knew his heart best and targeted his question to address the one thing that he couldn’t let go of. Sadly, the religious leader walked away disappointed, and Christ remarked, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 

Those who heard this reacted, “Then who in the world can be saved?” 

He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” (Luke 18:22-27)

Although the rich man’s question was not about marriage, many of us married, soon to be married, or hoping to be married people have a similar question. “What we can do to have that happily-ever kind of marriage?”

Ephesians 5:21-30 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 gives us the formula — wives honor, submit to, and respect your husbands, and husbands, love, nourish, and cherish your wives, and seek to understand them. However, many women have criticized me for highlighting what we need to do to enjoy God’s design, scoffing at these principles like it’s anti-feminist to come under the authority of a husband and to be his helpmate. 

The resistance to our roles points to the deeper issue of selfishness and pride that plagues all of us. We don’t want anyone dictating what we should do or how we should live or love. Therefore, we throw out the Bible and call it outdated and irrelevant to our times because it’s inconvenient to follow it. We draw the line when we have to give up something precious, when we have to change. So, we walk away just like the rich man did, shaking our heads and thinking to ourselves, “What God is asking for is not plausible! I can’t do that!”

Truthfully, no one can. No one can abide by the biblical principles for marriage without supernatural help. That’s why Christ’s encouragement to us was, “With God all things are possible.”

Edric and I have witnessed miraculous healings of marriages by Christ — the seemingly irreparable and irreconcilable transformed into loving, joy-filled, and God-honoring relationships when individuals were willing to humble themselves. They set their “selves” aside in order to receive Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives and marriages. Whether it’s was an issue of adultery or other sexual sins, exasperation over personality differences, never-ending conflict over priorities, and bitterness and un-forgiveness, God’s grace covered all and abounds in their marriages today.

Some of these very persons are in our present discipleship groups. The smiles on their faces and the affectionate exchanges with their spouses today are a testament to the power of God to do the impossible. Our deep joy is seeing them help other hurting marriages, too!

If you are at the point where your marriage feels impossible or you know a couple who is desperate about the state of their marriage, please consider the 2Be1 retreat on September 28 to October 1, 2017. It’s an Executive Couple’s Retreat in Baguio Country Club facilitated by my parents, Peter and Deonna Tan-Chi. The retreat isn’t a cure-all for marriages but it’s very often a catalyst for healing. It’s also an eye-opening experience that results in life-changing decisions for those who are suffering from personal brokenness or those who have abandoned God’s design for marriage. For Edric and myself, as well as our couple friends, it is a time to renew our commitment to the Lord, and to one another and get fresh perspective on our relationships with our spouses.

We hope to see you there!

Registration Link: 2Be1 Registration

Contact Information:

Ellen Lopez
Christ’s Commission Fellowship
E-mail: ccf2be1@gmail.com
Telephone: +632 866-9911

Retreat organizer: Kelly Liuson – 0918-990-5577

I Have a Son Who Is Bigger Than Me 

It’s official. Elijah is nearly two inches taller than I am. I don’t know when it happened but he’s been shooting up since February of this year, the month he turned fourteen. He’s still looking like Gumby with his lanky arms and legs, and twelve pounds lighter than my weight. However, I strain my arms trying to cut his hair now since I hold the clippers up to his head. I think he’s growing an inch every month?! 

Does it make me feel old to have a young adult in my home? I don’t know. Sometimes, maybe. But then I have a four year old running all over the place, too, who convinces me that I can’t be that old because I need to keep up with her. 

A part of me thought that this transition into a different stage of motherhood was going to be more emotional for me. However, Elijah’s handled his physical and emotional changes pretty well. When I asked him how he processed his entrance into young adulthood, he replied, “Well I have you and dad and I am around adults so I see how they behave, which gives me a reference.” 

He also added that we equipped him to anticipate the changes by having many dialogues with him about what it means to be a young man. “There’s no such thing as the teenage years”, we would tell him. (The word “teenager” was a term coined by the Reader’s Digest, Life Magazine and Popular Mechanics post Depression-era, during the 1940s.)
“When you turn 13 you are officially a young man.” 

Edric also took him on a rite of passage and initiated a gathering with godly men in his life who offered their sound advice on what it means to be a man. 

Now I look at Elijah and feel a deep joy knowing that he is navigating these supposedly turbulent years with the grace I prayed he would have. Here are some of the things I appreciate about the age he is at:

1. He sets a wonderful example for his siblings when it comes to being disciplined with his quiet time with the Lord, responsibilities, and work. 

2. He is my in-house tech support. He understands computers like I never will. Whenever there is a tech issue in the home, Elijah can usually fix it. 

3. He keeps me accountable, in a polite way. Whether it is watching what I eat, like avoiding sweets, or minding my spending, he reminds me to be wise. 

4. He is still open with me and shares his concerns, feelings, and joys with me. I still get to peek into his heart.

5. He assists me with the younger girls and even his brothers. When I need a babysitter, he ably and patiently watches and attends to his sisters. He also keeps everyone in line when I am not around. 


6. He still gives me hugs and welcomes hugs from me. He isn’t embarrassed to be affectionate towards me, even in public. 

7. He’s my bodyguard and my young gentleman. When I need someone to be with me to complete my list at the grocery, carry my bags when they are too heavy, or keep me company at the hardware store, he gladly agrees to come along and help me out. 

Elijah has his moments when he gets agitated, loud, and emotional about blocked goals and failure. Yet, for the most part, he’s turning out to be a wise young man who loves the Lord, as well as his family and friends. He also seeks to make choices that honor God and his parents. 

I am sure every year will have its unique challenges for our kids and our parenting, but my encouragement is that God’s principles for raising children are sound and effective. His Word is dependable. When He declares, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is older he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6),” it is both a charge and a promise. 

If we do our part as parents, modeling the right values and character traits we want our children to espouse, and discipling them to become men and women who love God with all that they are, I know that we can bank on the Lord’s promise. He will produce the fruit we long to see in the lives of our kids. Our efforts will not be in vain, not because we are doing such a fantastic job as parents, but because the Lord is FAITHFUL. Although I cannot see the future or anticipate all the trying life situations my kids will go through, my fears are overridden by the hope I have in God’s faithfulness. 

1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” In the preceding verses Paul tells God’s people to examine everything carefully, to avoid evil, to cling to what is good, and the God of peace will sanctify us and preserve us till the end.  

As we invest in the lives of our children, teaching them to be discerning, to run away from sin, and to hold on to what is good, may God sanctify and preserve them! Let’s claim this by faith! 

My Speechless Husband

Our home has been more quiet than usual since the ENT banned Edric from speaking for a week. He has nodules in his larynx that may require surgery if he doesn’t rest his voice completely. So he writes the kids and I notes or communicates through sign language. Thankfully, he is a man of many talents and knows how to sign the alphabet. Consequently, I have been forced to learn it as well. I am still very slow.

It’s strange to be married to such a silent husband. Between the two of us, Edric is the talker. Meals are always more exciting when he is present because he engages everyone and likes to joke around with the kids and me. We usually spend our evenings chatting about his day and telling each other the highlights and lowlights. 

Now, I must avoid overwhelming him with questions that require him to answer through tedious writing. So our relationship has been about being together physically and paying attention to each other’s body languages, as well as appreciating shared stillness. 
His forced silence has also been such a great example of what it means to control the tongue. On Saturday when the movers destroyed part of the piano we had delivered to our home and chipped the new tiles we had installed last week, I knew that Edric was fuming inside. Yet, he couldn’t vocalize his anger. I mean, he could have, technically speaking, used his voice but he chose not to. His eyes did enlarge to twice their size and he breathed in very heavily to control himself. I thought he might combust from the internal pressure of so much restraint! 

Amazingly, his frustration subsided which allowed me to keep my cool, too. Needless to say I was so upset at the movers’ horrible service because their damages will be costly. Beyond this, I found it incredulous that they had nothing to say for themselves and didn’t think it a big deal that they were so unprofessional in their handling of the piano, besides chipping our tiles. When I eventually explained to them how disappointed I was at their service they did apologize but they were obviously in no position to remedy their mistake as hired hands. Thankfully, we have a wonderful friend, Architect Michael Doria, who is helping us do renovation works and he will send his guys to fix the tiles again. 

Yet another incident happened this evening to annoy Edric but he kept quiet. Our neighbor’s guest blocked the road with their cars thereby preventing us from getting home. Edric was tired from a two hour drive but he couldn’t voice out his frustration as we waited for at least ten minutes for the vehicle to be moved out of the way. 

Normally, Edric would have lots to say about the two incidences that I just shared. He would have spoken his mind with liberality and included heightened emotion in his tone. However, the need to preserve his vocal chords triumphed his desire to express irritation. 

I find his unusual situation to be a fitting illustration for how we should all guard our tongues. If we internalize how important it is to preserve our testimony and honor God with the words we speak, then I am sure we wouldn’t be so careless about the things we say. 

The book of James expounds on the difficulty of controlling our speech and I can completely relate to this because I often err with my tongue. 

“Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way…And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” James‬ ‭3:2, 6-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here’s are three insights I have gotten from Edric’s speaking haitus:

1. Even though taming the tongue is so difficult Edric’s self-control tells me it is possible to guard the tongue when the motivation is strong enough. The question is what should our motivation(s) be

Personally, the motivation is two-fold. God has redeemed my tongue for his glory, to be used as a blessing, to praise Him, to declare His gospel message, and not to hurt, curse, slander, or injure others. 

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 19:14)

Secondly, I fear God and I am accountable to him for the words I speak.

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew‬ ‭12:36-37‬)

This verse always comes to mind when I speak ill about someone. It deeply convicts me because I know that I will be held accountable. Someday, everything that I thought was whispered in private will be announced and brought to light.

When I was in high school I remember talking about someone behind her back and she was actually behind my back, sitting on a seat just inches away from me!  I was mortified! Had I realized that the person was there I wouldn’t have spoken the words I did. 

Well, since I know that God hears everything I say in public and private then shouldn’t that make me extremely cautious about speaking negatively about anyone, even if he or she isn’t around? 

2. Since signing and writing are much slower for Edric, and acting to communicate take so much more energy, he evaluates what is worth saying and not saying. Similarly, if I just took a thoughtful pause before I let words out of my mouth, especially when they have to do with another person or in reaction to a person, I bet I would avoid a lot of inappropriate and un-Christlike statements. 

Often, it is the unbridled tongue that lights a fire. Whenever Edric thinks I am crossing the line by divulging too much information or complaining about something or someone, he looks over at me and chimes, “Loose lips sink ships.” Or, he simply warns, “Hon, be careful.” Then I get the picture and stop myself. 

“Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” (Proverbs 21:23)

The passage talks about guarding our mouths which means that our tongues have criminal potential! It’s one of those body parts that can quickly go out of control if we aren’t checking on it regularly. Before letting it lose, we need to ask ourselves, “Do I have any junk in my heart that’s going to come out in an ugly way when I speak?”

Heart junk is stuff like anger, bitterness, insecurity, fear, anxiety, and the like, which we need to deal with and speak to the Lord about first before speaking to others. 

3. Edric can’t even whisper. It’s actually worse than speaking. Since he cannot vocalize any sort of sound, there is no agitated tone coming out of his mouth at any moment of the day. I am so sensitive to tone and this is an area where we have conflict. When his tone is abrasive I get hurt easily. For the past few days, however, I have heard no such tone! Our marriage has been very peaceful! 

It just got me thinking about how big a difference tone makes when we are communicating with one another. Guarding our tongues isn’t just about the words we speak or don’t speak. It’s also about how we say what we say. 

The secret to guarding our tongues is of course spiritual in nature and not a vocal chord injury. It’s being filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are controlled by the Spirit then we can “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:19-20‬)

I miss having conversations with Edric and we have a few more days to go before they stick a strobe into his throat to check his larynx. Lord willing, the nodules will shrink and nothing alarming will be found. In the meantime, I have to stay by his side as much as possible everywhere we go in order to translate for him and be his mouth piece. 

As much as I enjoy his sweet messages through his phone or the way he signs statements like, “I love you,” and as much as I appreciate the insights that his silence is teaching me, I can’t wait to hear his voice again! I don’t think I can get used to a speechless husband! 

Strict but Sweet. Firm but Friendly 

I’m dealing with a snacking-in-between-meals issue with my youngest daughter, Catalina. She recently turned four and her opinionated-ness has also escalated in the last year. Thankfully, she’s learning to balance it with politeness, but this morning, she actually challenged me in the car. 

When she clamored for snacks from Tiana, I told her, “You can’t have any because you didn’t finish your breakfast.”

Very quickly she retorted, “Well you didn’t eat anything for breakfast.” 

Oh my. First, disrespectful. Second, how did she learn to deflect issues at such a young age?!

I addressed the disrespect by correcting her for speaking to me that way. Breakfast isn’t something I commonly skip out on but today, Tiana needed help getting ready for her achievement test and I only had thirty minutes to shower and change as well as pack her bag.

Furthermore, I explained to Catalina that she was still growing bigger and taller and mommy wasn’t growing anymore. She got this.
 
However, the issue of her snacking wasn’t to be dismissed.
 
“You cannot snack in between meals if you don’t eat your breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” My statement was matter of fact and non-negotiable.

“Snacks,” I continued, “are allowed for children who eat their meals properly.”
 
I know this didn’t sit well with her and she tried numerous times this morning to negotiate and persist in her asking. 

It is totally annoying when my children pester me to death. I’m sure you can relate! And there are certain personality types among my kids that gravitate towards this method of wearing me down. 

Catalina, is at this stage of her character development. Yet, her personality should never intimidate me so that I give in at the expense of standing my ground on an important issue.
 
Over the years I’ve dealt with numerous eating problems in my kids – pickiness, distractedness, snacking, a sweet tooth, taking painfully long to finish a meal, detesting veggies, etc. With Catalina, it’s eating yoghurt, Yakult, milk chocolate drinks, Haw Flakes, gummy bears once in a while, and the like (okay, not super bad stuff) that make her disinterested in finishing her meals. So now the law is, NO SNACKING IF YOU DON’T EAT ALL THE FOOD ON YOUR PLATE FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH OR DINNER.

The entire morning Catalina complained of starvation, hunger pangs, and the like. She even threatened, “I’m so hungry, I’m going to vomit,” complimenting her statement with dramatic body language. 

A part of me felt pity but the better part of me recognized that she would surely not starve for a few hours in between breakfast and lunch. If she did vomit, we would clean it up together, but I wasn’t going to budge. Sure enough, when she realized how immovable I was, she declared, “I can’t wait to go home…to eat!”
 
Well now, that sounds like the voice of wisdom to me! And she ate her lunch heartily. 
 
When I asked her, “Why does mommy want you to eat properly?”

She answered, “Because you love me.”

Exactly.


It’s easy to be manipulated by a dominant child like Catalina. Yet if I know what is best for her, especially in the area of something like eating, then I can’t let her dictate how and what she will eat as a four year old. She doesn’t quite grasp the food pyramid yet or the effect of junk food and bad nutrition on the body, so I have got to set the rules. 

Time and time again the food problems Edric and I encounter with our kids boils down to an issue of obedience. If we train our kids to obey us, then they ought to obey in all areas. To leave one area as an exemption is to communicate to them that it’s okay to defy us when they don’t like what we tell them to do. Hmm…This sounds like an effective way to teach our kids how to have selective obedience (which is really known as disobedience.) 

Therefore, willful children need strong-willed parents to exercise strictness and firmness that is balanced out by genuine sweetness and friendliness. Kids don’t need to be yelled at to understand that we mean business as their parents. Screaming at them may terrorize them into compliance but it’s going to lead to resentment and rebellion in the future. 

Therefore we need God’s wisdom to deal with the tension between strict and sweet, firm and friendly. Strict means that we dictate clear rules and boundaries. Firm implies consistent follow through to enforce these and to discipline when they aren’t followed. Sweetness and friendliness appeal to the hearts of our kids. 

I am not talking about being buddy-buddy with them — a form of unhealthy parenting. We are authoritative parents first, which needs to be obvious. But, we can certainly be warm and kind, and provide them with the security of knowing they are special and loved by us. 

When I told Catalina she couldn’t eat snacks, my tone was calm and placid as I explained the consequences to her. Nevertheless, I was resolute. In the end she conceded and very well remembered her lesson. 

Last night my third son, Titus, nearly gagged as he dutifully swallowed each bite of an avocado salad he didn’t like. He even held his nose while he ate it to make the experience more tolerable. It was a comedic sight to behold as he squeezed his nostrils with the tips of his fingers and spooned each bite to shovel into his mouth. He is an older child so he obeyed because Edric and I told him he had to eat his vegetables. Afterwards, I commended him for his perseverance. 

The premise is that every child can be taught and trained for their good, even when it comes to eating. The question is are we willing to wrestle through the process of teaching and training them even when it’s inconvenient, exhausting, and difficult for us to do so? 

Here’s some encouragement for us from Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” (Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬) 

The paraphrased version for us, as parents: Let us not grow tired of doing what is good for our kids (discipleship in all areas and discipline to produce obedience). At just the right time we will experience the blessing of our efforts if we don’t give up!

 

I Want A Three Kiss Wife

Edric whispered the statement, “I want a three-kiss-wife,” after he asked me to rate his preaching last week with three kisses on the cheek as proof that I really liked it, and I gave him just one. 

It was a wonderful message on de-materializing our lives and I know he prepared long and hard to deliver it. Still, instead of encouraging him by saying, “It was a great message!,” and smothering him with kisses, I blurted out matter-of-factly, “You went overtime.” 

To this he quipped, “I want a three-kiss-wife.” (In other words, where was my lavish praise and appreciation?) He went on to insinuate that he felt pressured to perform for me because I wasn’t “pleased” with him as of late. 

Hmm…why wasn’t I more encouraging? 

I will get to that.

Edric and I shared the exchange about three kisses right before my dad preached on a topic called, “entitle-litis,” or the prevailing “entitlement mentality” that most of us wrestle with. 

My dad explained that “Entitle-litis is a spiritual disease in which an individual believes that privileges are rights, and benefits are to be expected as a matter of rights.”

At first I thought, This is a great message for Edric! Something he needs to work on in our marriage! Yes! 

Yet, as I listened to my father speak, I realized I was acting like the entitled one, holding Edric to a set of unreasonable expectations such as, “You BETTER treat me with respect ALL THE TIME,” “You OWE IT TO ME to be considerate and less demanding,” “You OUGHT TO be mindful of your tone with me,” or “You SHOULD BE more positive.” 

On the one hand, these were honest longings from me as a wife. But entitlement gave birth to demands and expectations, sucking the joy out of our marriage. Since I felt like Edric wasn’t meeting up to my expectations, I was so ill-tempered and waspish towards him this past week. I simply couldn’t enjoy being with him since I was on the lookout for his negatives, like I had my radar set to identify each of his mistakes so I could point them out just to prove that he was the problem and not me. 

Here were some examples of how nit-picky I was…

I contended with Him about accuracy when he mouthed out supposed facts from the stage or with the kids, asking him to verify his sources. I contradicted his opinions at the dinner table. When someone on Facebook insinuated that I was like a dog to my husband (master) after I wrote the article on how I needed to improve on my homemaking, the observation poisoned my thoughts for a few days. Even though I initially shrugged it off as a point made my someone who had an inherently different worldview, I began to question whether Edric’s treatment of me could be likened to a master-slave relationship, which resulted in my attempts to resist being told what to do. The entertainment of such thoughts turned me critical of Edric, so that I questioned his motives and assumed many times that he was acting selfishly and not in my best interest. 

What an ugly road to walk down, resulting in offensive mannerisms and words on my part. I grew contentious and difficult, easily finding fault with him. It’s no surprise that within the short span of a week, I managed to hurt Edric terribly, forcing him to withdraw emotionally and distance himself to avoid my tempestuousness. 

We managed to have a break from this unhealthy atmosphere when we went on a date on Saturday night, using our GCs to enjoy a sumptuous and borderline gluttonous buffet at Shang-rila’s High Street Cafe, followed by the use of another set of GCs to indulge in Swedish massages at Villa 5 in The Spa. (All in all we only spent only P350 for our date!) 

The date somewhat repaired our problematic communication, giving me an opportunity to apologize for my behavior. However, it wasn’t until the next morning while sitting in church that I was able to identify the root cause of my antagonism towards Edric. It boiled down to Entitle-litis. 

My dad shared that the effective antidote for this spiritual problem is gratitude. Expounding on gratitude, he shared that we need to count our blessings versus complaining, have a positive perspective, and recognize that we are recipients of grace so we can surrender our rights to the Lord. While listening to him, I knew I was 0 for 3 from this list. Edric may have had his areas to change, but the more obvious offender had been me. (And to think that I just wrote about what it means to be content and thankful! Ay!)

When we had family accountability with my parents and siblings last night (something we do weekly when my parents are in Manila), my dad asked us how we would apply the message on entitlement. As we went around answering this question, I admitted that I needed to improve on being more positive towards Edric, and raising my appreciation of him. Edric smiled at me knowingly. The wonderful bonus was that he also shared that he wanted to be less critical of others, especially me. So it turned out to be a win-win for our marriage last night! 

After being convicted about what an ungrateful person I had been towards Edric, I also started reflecting on all his resoundingly positive traits — his godliness, wisdom, faithful love for the children and me, humility and the willingness to change, generosity, leadership, integrity, hard work, and being loads of fun. (I could go on and on.) 

During his message, my dad challenged every married person to think of 10 things to appreciate about their spouse. This practical exercise in gratitude changes one’s perspective on their spouse very quickly! 

When I focus on what an amazing husband, father, and person Edric is I don’t want to be a three-kisses-kind-of-wife to him, I want to be a ten-thousand-kisses-kind-of-wife! And I want to be sweeter and more smiley around him, and someone whom he thoroughly enjoys being around! 


“It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife.” Proverbs‬ ‭21:19‬ ‭

A Culture of Contentment at Home


For this past Sunday’s message, Edric was tasked to speak on the pitfall of materialism, so he asked me to share some practical ideas on how we try to instil contentment in the hearts of our children. I have to say that we are a work in progress as a family and we keep learning what it means to be content in the Lord, but here are some tips that have working so far…

WAIT.

There’s no surprise here, but wait, there’s more!

Waiting is something children ABSOLUTELY NEED to learn early. We have this symbol that we do with our kids, especially for our younger ones. It’s called “the hand.” We calmly say, “Wait,” when they want something and want it now, and we give them the hand symbol, palm facing towards them.

If anyone of our kids doesn’t receive this positively or they act up, like our youngest daughter used to do (and sometimes still does), then we tell them, “If you fuss, you will not get it at all.”


She now knows that the correct response is a respectful and cheerful, “Okay, mommy” Or, “Okay, daddy.”

It could be a snack, a toy, a gadget, anything that our kids feel they are entitled to at that moment, but if their attitude is demanding or we sense that it can be a training opportunity, we encourage them to wait.

One way we have done this is by practicing delayed gratification with Christmas presents and birthday presents. Since we have five kids, they get a ton of presents from relatives and friends. Although we let them unwrap each one, they don’t get to play with all of them. They can choose one or two and then the rest get put away for the next week or the weeks after.

Since I homeschool, it also works to my advantage because I use their gifts as motivational prizes. I say, “If you get your work done, you can play with a new toy!”

For our older kids, we challenge them to save up to buy a gadget or earn an app (virtual possession) that’s important to them instead of handing them the latest device or paying for a game that they want.


When our oldest son, Elijah, was eyeing an IPad some years ago, Edric gave him jobs to do like speaking in public during road shows or seminars. So he earned and saved up enough money to pay for 75% of his Ipad Air. He also had to canvas for the IPad and find the best deal himself. By the time he bought the IPad, it was after months and months of hard work, saving up, and researching.

Our second son, Edan, is one of those people who can obsess about something he likes. Last year he had his eyes set on a certain board game called Sushi Go Party. We made him wait for many weeks, maybe even months because the game wasn’t available locally. He wrestled with the waiting, but God knew he needed the lesson. Edan admitted that the desire for the game was so intense in a bad way that it was healthy for him NOT to get it right away. The protracted amount of time it took for him to wait for the board game taught him that he could be perfectly happy without it.

Because our older kids don’t like toys anymore and gravitate towards educational apps, books, and strategy board games, we have created guidelines such as, “Will this help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men?” (This is based on the passage in Luke 2:52 that describes how Jesus Christ matured.)

This verse enables our children to filter through their emotions and excitement so they can discern whether a game (a virtual possession) will be profitable for them intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

STEWARDSHIP.

To weed out the tendency of our kids to be selfish, we remind them that God owns everything. We are entrusted with blessings as His stewards. So when they are given a material possession, we tell them, “You are a steward of this. You are assigned to take care of it. You don’t own it.”

As they get older, this reality sinks in and they are more likely to share and not utter statements such as, “No, this is mine!”

If our kids fight over an object, toy, book, or food and refuse to share, we take it away and explain, “Since you are fighting over this, no one gets to have it.”

Most of the time, they will apologize to one another when the source of their conflict is removed and they come to their senses. Suddenly, their capacity to share kicks in and they say to one another, “Okay, you can have it.”

Since the Lord owns everything, we also encourage our kids to give by tithing. Our kids don’t get an allowance as homeschoolers so they have to tithe from jobs we give them, garage sales, or gifts. It’s not always easy. In fact, I remember an instance when they barely made money from a business idea they had, but they still chose to tithe. Their faithfulness ministered to me because they struggled to make the money they did. He wonderful bonus was that God allowed to sell all of the stocks that remained after their event so they ended up making much more! (And they tithed from that amount, too.)

GIVE TO OTHERS.

Besides tithing, we do periodic clean-ups at home where we ask our kids to comb through their belongings and give away or garage-sale their stuff for dirt cheap. Edric and I do the same. It’s like a massive exodus of items from the home that go out in boxes and large bags. The purging experience always has a positive effect on our entire family. We realize that we can be content with less and be a blessing to others, too. Plus, it keeps us from accumulating and hoarding, as well as getting overly attached to material things.

Tiana and me…going through my side of the closet.


When there are opportunities to participate in ministry outreaches to the less fortunate, we also get our kids involved so that their focus and giving can be directed outside of themselves. When they recognize how destitute other people are, it encourages them to contribute to the lives of others rather than mere takers.

“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” (1 Timothy‬ ‭6:17-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

VALUE SIMPLICITY.

I grew up with parents who didn’t buy luxury brand clothes, shoes, or watches which protected my siblings and I from developing an appetite for these things. They also taught us not to develop a sense of identity or worth from what we had or owned. Observing their spending decisions encouraged me to be conscious of mine as well, and challenged me to find my identity in Christ, not in what I possessed.

I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy shopping or buying things. However, I learned, from their example that clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, make-up, while fun to have, don’t bring lasting joy. Neither do they define who I am.

“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Since I have two girls, I have to be mindful about the way I spend on myself or even for them. With my three boys, it’s easy. They aren’t into fashion and they could care less about pretty things. However, with my girls, it’s a little more challenging.

In the car ride the other day, my daughter asked me when we were going to decorate her room and I answered, “Tiana, let’s wait, okay.”

I also added something like, “Why? Are you excited?” to which she replied with a big grin on her face, “Yes, because girls like things, right!?”

At first I laughed because she said this so honestly and innocently, but I realized that I need to be especially careful with her because, she DOES LIKE THINGS. When she sees sparkly, beautiful or cutesy thing, she gushes and exclaims, “Ooohhh, that’s so nice! Can I get it mommy?”

If she witnesses me being extravagant, it would be difficult for me to say, “No, or not right now..” However, I try my best to curb my own appetite so that I can exemplify simplicity for her and for my youngest daughter.


When I talk of simplicity I don’t mean neglect, or not trying, or being a plain Jane, or abandoning all forms of adornment. Simple in the beauty sense can mean elegant and tasteful, celebrating natural beauty versus the contrived, overly made-up, and flashy. Simple in the attitude sense can be about being appreciative rather than demanding, the ability to be content with a little rather than perpetually looking to stuff and material upgrades for happiness. 

While fashion and beauty, as well as pretty things aren’t sinful in and of themselves (for example, we should try our best to look our best at whatever season we find ourselves in), it’s the focus and emphasis on these above the more important aspects of a person such as character and love for the Lord that can be spiritually dangerous.

1 John 2:15-17 very clearly states, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

It is also the motivations that drive our purchases and the acquiring, such as lust of the eyes (the incessant coveting) or the boastful pride of life (the desire to prove oneself and promote oneself), that we ought to guard our hearts against. The issue isn’t about whether we are lavish spenders or do bargain shopping, rather the weightier question is what is our purpose for the material things we spend our money on?

Working hard and striving for excellence are part of being stewards of the talents, opportunities, and abilities God has given us, and Proverbs tells us that God makes rich and adds no sorrow to it, but it’s also necessary to consider the reasons behind our lifestyle choices. 

“For the covetous heart, stuff always comes first. In a consumer culture, the obtaining and maintenance of stuff can determine our job choice, our leisure pursuits, our friendships, our house size, our local church. It can actually dictate the course of our lives…Covetousness chains the heart to things that are passing away.”  (God, My Heart, and Stuff by Dave Harvey)

WISELY EVALUATE INFLUENCES.

Edric and I find that being selective about whom we follow on social media, as well as paying attention to what we watch and listen to helps with cultivating a contentment culture at home.

Since we don’t want our children to have sub-cultures that compete with the values we are trying to instill in them, we don’t expose them to the social media phenomenon at early ages, too.

Till this day, our older sons don’t have social media accounts, and they don’t feel like they are missing out on an essential part of their youth. Eventually, they may need to connect with people online, but for now, they prefer to spend time with people face-to-face. Since they are homeschooled, we know most of their friends (and their friend’s families) very personally, and we know that they share similar values to us. Therefore it isn’t as difficult for us, as a family, to stick to our convictions on matters such as money and spending. We are on the same team. 

Many parents tell me that the pressures their children feel to acquire more and have the latest of everything are partly due to the peer exposure they have. Whether it’s online peer pressure or relationships with classmates and friends, we need to instruct our kids to filter through these influences wisely, and help them choose the friends they want to surround themselves with as close confidants. 

Let’s not discredit the fact that the TV shows, online programs, and music they watch and listen to also become a source of “peer pressure.” Young people glorifying materialism through their music videos, lyrics, and shows will inevitably influence our children and program their value system.

The same goes for us, as parents. If we are constantly watching, listening to, and filling our minds with images and/or having frequent interactions with people who tempt us to keep grabbing for more, then how can we expect to have the courage and conviction to live simply and model this to our kids?

When I was regularly entertaining myself with visits to fashion sites, or following people who promote physical beauty and the latest trends, I started to feel like my wardrobe was outdated and that it needed continual upgrades. This is one of the reasons why I subscribe to very few people and organizations on Instagram. I don’t want my account flooded with images that make me feel like I need more material things to be happy and fulfilled. (Edric only follows one person on Instagram. Oh, that’s me! Yey!)

I would caution restraint when we do online shopping, too. Amazon is my Waterloo. If I am scrolling through deals everyday, chances are I will buy most of the stuff I keep adding to my cart! Online shopping is amazing but there’s no end to what we can buy. Plus, there is such minimal effort involved in clicking the checkout symbol! So I have to flee the urge to window shop on Amazon by keeping myself from having too much idle time on my phone. 

I don’t want all of this to sound legalistic. The point is that we need to positively challenge ourselves and our kids to be discerning about what we continually expose ourselves to, whether it be through media or friends, because they will profoundly impact our value system. 

PRAY WITH THANKSGIVING.

Last year, our family was approached by an ad agency that proposed an endorsement deal guaranteeing we would be flown to Europe as a family. We signed with the company they represented in good faith. However, as the months progressed, we discovered that the trip, though approved by the local company, wasn’t approved regionally. As a result, the trip didn’t push through. Of course, the kids were disappointed.

Yet, I told the kids, “If God wants us to go, we will still get to go. If not, He has something better and we can trust Him.”

After all, just getting the endorsement deal was wonderful and something to be grateful for. Therefore, the trip, though implied throughout the preliminary discussions, would be a bonus if it ever happened.

Well, we didn’t get to go on the Europe trip in the month that we hoped to, however, it was a blessed year still. As we prayed for God’s will and trusted Him, we learned to be thankful and grateful for the many other opportunities and experiences He allowed us to share as a family.

God doesn’t always reward us with an amazing material blessing when we choose to trust Him. What He does reward us with is the gift of His presence, His joy, and His peace…infinitely better things. God’s greater will for us as found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is that we would experience what it means to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks all the time!

There are still instances when it’s tempting to compare what we don’t have with what others do. I struggle with this and I’m sure Edric and the kids do, too. However, we are all growing in area of trusting that God’s will is always what’s best for us. 

This also means that God’s will is what is best for others, too. When our kids notice that their cousins or friends have more possessions than we do because they have greater financial flexibility, we tell them, “Let’s rejoice for them!”

After all, God loves each person so much and so personally that He knows exactly when to give and when to withhold. This perspective liberates us to quit comparing and to rejoice when others are blessed.

When we choose to be content in the Lord, less becomes more! We grow MORE in our character, in our faith, in our dependence upon the Lord, and in our capacity to empathize and relate to other people’s struggles. We also have MORE opportunities to experience God’s abounding faithfulness and grace!

“When covetousness seeks to chain our hearts to things passing away, grace empowers us to enjoy the One who is not only necessary, but enough.” (God, My Heart, and My Stuff by Dave Harvey)
 

 

 

 

 

 

Kiddo TV

Do you have kids who enjoy music, art, science, and magic? I can’t think of a child who doesn’t like at least one of these things. My kids like all four!

 

When I was asked to review Kiddo TV, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they have episodes for a range of ages and shows that appeal to different learning needs and interests.

 

Younger children will enjoy the nursery rhymes and the Fitzy Monster show, where a lovable character named Fitzy teaches toddlers and early elementary-aged kids skills like how to brush their teeth, table manners, exercising, and much more.

 

Catalina sat on my lap and watched a couple of these. These videos were super short, and they were easy to watch.

 

Older kids (aged 6 to 10) might gravitate towards Easy Magic, where Max demonstrates how to dissect tricks that kids can wow their family and friends with.

 

There are also Art Lessons by Teacher Miki who is an energetic artist! She explains to a group of kids how to do simple but fun artwork with easy to find materials.

Then there’s Stroosh, who came from another planet and needs to be educated about the earth and how humans relate with one another. During each video, his friend Luca explains concepts to Stroosh that can scientific in nature or historical in nature, or he talks about values.

 

The only red flag I saw in the Stroosh shows was the one episode where Luca promoted meditation (not as a religious activity) but as a means to focus and relax. Luca was well-meaning and wanted to help Stroosh get a grip of his emotions. However, I did spy a miniature Buddha on his table as a prop. It was subtle and would probably miss this.

The great thing about Stroosh is that he is very teachable, proving to be a good example to kids. He is mild-mannered and wants to learn, receiving correction humbly.

There's also a cartoon Halloween video that might have some scary images for little kids but other than that, KIDDO TV is one of those channels that promotes safe edutainment for children and it is appropriate for their developmental ages. Easy Magic and Art Lessons take about fifteen minutes per episode since they cater to older kids and they are instructional, but the rest of the shows are short to keep little kids engaged. (Catalina is watching one of the nursery rhymes right now and thoroughly enjoying it!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hon, You Have to Be a Better Homemaker”

When my husband, Edric, told me I had to be more involved in the home as a “homemaker,” meaning, “to put my whole heart into it,” I felt offended. He didn’t intend to put me down, but I reacted to his correction, primarily due to pride.

By my estimation, I was doing a decent job. Although I wasn’t a Martha Stewart or the kind of wife that put a whole lot of effort into making her home look Pinterest-worthy, our home was clean and our household help had a schedule that they followed, I had a meal plan, the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator were stocked with food, and there was a system in place for the day to day affairs. Plus, much of my personal time was consumed by home schooling, child-rearing, ministry, my writing, and projects/work commitments, so it wasn’t like I was lazing about as a woman.

However, Edric’s expectation for my homemaking went beyond the practical management. He hoped that I would put effort into beautifying our walls, making it feel “homey” by giving it a more lived-in look and adding personal touches, plants, paying more attention to details and upkeep issues, and finishing projects like my paintings and woodworking with the kids.

Although I didn’t agree with his perspective when he first made the comment, God convicted me that there was A LOT of room for improvement in this area of my life.

Edric is my leader. If he sees an area that I ought to better myself in then why not gladly receive it? I lose nothing by responding positively to what he asks me to do, especially since becoming a good homemaker is a means for me to be a greater blessing to him and my kids, as well as people who enter our home. I remember an insight I got from my very wise mother, “God uses our husbands to mold our character and prepare us for heaven.” Her spiritual perspective often ministers to me.

Edric and my dad are similar in the sense that they are teachers and like to help people be their best by pointing out areas they can improve in. Well, when I react to Edric’s teaching personality it’s usually because I’m proud and don’t like him telling me how I should change. However, he is almost always right. The issue is, when it comes to his correction (and only his for some reason), I get defensive. Yet, if God is using him to prepare me for heaven, then hallelujah, I should listen! After all, Proverbs 26:12 warns, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Furthermore, mediocrity isn’t becoming of a follower of Christ. I should be faithful at everything I do, everything that falls under my scope of responsibilities, which includes home-managing and home-making. Not every wife has the opportunity to stay at home so I understand that some of us have time constraints. Yet in my case, there really is no excuse. God has gifted Edric and me with a wonderful home to steward. How can I expect the Lord to entrust me with more important responsibilities if I’m not being faithful with what he has laid in front of me?

Truthfully, my home can use some attention, MY attention. (It’s different when a wife and mom personally sees to the details of her home rather than delegating these to household help.)

I can start by taking care of the small issues that I’ve been ignoring…left-over construction materials hidden in the backyard…a disorganized storage room…a broken kitchen clock (just fixed this)…lightbulbs that need replacing…family photos that need to be hung (did this yesterday! Woohoo!)… (As I make this list, I’m realizing how pathetic it is that I’m not attending to these things!)

Lastly and most importantly, I’m supposed to be my husband’s strong supporter, his Ezer Kenegdo, his “helper” as Genesis 2:18 puts it. By not embracing what he is asking me to do as a homemaker wholeheartedly, I’m not fulfilling my role as God has called me to.

Three months ago I borrowed a book from my mom, Becoming, which had an amazing chapter in it about a woman’s role written by Chrystie Cole, titled We Are Ezer. The word, Ezer, as found in the Genesis text was used a descriptor for Eve and Chrystie Cole explains that it meant "ally, aid, someone who brings support and relief" (the same word used to describe the Lord twenty-one times in the Old Testament).

It is adjoined to the word, Kenegdo, which means "corresponding to or suitable to." The two words together reveal that women are supposed to be the essential counterpart, indispensable companion, or corresponding strength to the people in our lives. Whether single or married, this is a God-given identity to us as women, fully realized in the context of our relationships with others. We were designed to strengthen and support the people in our lives with our talents, gifts, abilities, and encouragement. Since I am a wife and a mom, I am to be an Ezer to Edric and my kids.

According to Chrystie Cole, “A good illustration of this strength can be drawn from a 12th-century architectural innovation known as the flying buttress. Commonly used in Gothic architecture, a flying buttress provides essential support hat preserves the architectural soundness and integrity of a building. These buttresses bear weight and relieve pressure from the walls, allowing for higher ceilings, ornate latticing, and extra windows. Like these powerful structures, a woman provides an undergirding strength within the context of relationship that empowers others to become and achieve things that might have otherwise been impossible. She is an essential counterpart providing necessary, load-bearing support.”

Is that a beautiful example or what?! I nearly teared when I first read this! Thank you Chrystie Cole!

When I asked my husband earlier this year, “How can I support you as a wife?” (Be warned…this is a dangerous question to ask your husband if you aren’t ready and willing to humbly receive the answer!) His response was, “Take care of the home and do the things I ask you to.”

Even back then I knew that he wanted me to delight in being at home and managing our home wholeheartedly, but I would get distracted and fill up my calendar with other things to do, and simply delegate the homemaking to my household help. Now I better understand that he notices the difference between my full engagement and presence as a homemanager, and my convenient detachment from it.

I started this article a few days ago, but yesterday, when Edric came home, he found me using a power tool (oh yeah), a drill, to make holes in our wall to hang our family photos in the hallway upstairs. I also hung up one of my paintings, which had been stored in the linen closet for over a year. Elijah ably assisted me with the drill, too.

Together with the kids, I started a garden project in the yard, which is something Edric wanted me to be on top of. The kids and I also kickstarted their story-book writing for the seven character books that Edric’s been asking us to do for the last two years, Plus, I spent about an hour trimming all the bamboo that was overgrown and looking hideously neglected instead of waiting on Edric to do the gardening. During my mad-bamboo-cutting-spree, I got bitten at least twenty times by red ants. Yet after a day of wholehearted homemaking, I felt very fulfilled! The kids enjoyed helping me as well, which was a wonderful bonus, since it got them outdoors and encouraged them to be productive and learn new skills.

I didn’t mean to brag in the last part by talking about everything I did yesterday, but I didn’t want to end this article by “preaching” about things that I need to apply myself. So I got crackin’ on my home-making!

There remains a list of things to do that will probably never end, and I’m still not a Martha Stewart by any measure, but I’m thankful that God is using my teacher-husband to refine me in the very best way. Without his corrections and suggestions about how to be better I would stagnate as a person and never achieve my fullest potential as an Ezer to him, my kids, and to others.

If you have a husband like me or persons in your life who challenge you to grow and improve, let’s praise the Lord together! This is going to be good for us! We need this!

 

 

 

 

 

Does Your Child Know You Like Her?

Most kids know that their parents love them, but they may not always feel like their parents LIKE them or LIKE being with them. This is an area of my own parenting that I have tried to work on, especially with my daughter, Tiana, who really looks up to me.

We just came from Niqua's Factory where both of us attended their bag making workshop with other friends and relatives and their daughters. What a fun activity!

Tiana did the wristlet bag (leather) for P950 and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience! It wasn't very easy but she persevered and she was very focused. I was so proud of her.

Edric has activities that he does with our three sons to bond with them and I am finding it necessary to be intentional with Tiana, too. Catalina is only four, and she naturally demands my attention, but Tiana is more soft-spoken. With her, I need to initiate building a relationship with her by engaging her through activities she enjoys.

Recently she expressed that she would like to do more arts and crafts which is why I jumped on the opportunity to go to Niqua with her after learning about their workshop from my friend, Mich. On the way to the workshop, Tiana spontaneously revealed, "I like being with you, mom."

She said this while sitting beside me in the car, with her legs crossed like a little lady. What a sweetheart!

Many years ago I learned about the principle of magic moments — spontaneous, unplanned moments when your child opens up his or her heart to you. These occasions happen when kids know that you find joy in being with them, participating in the activities that are important to them. During magic moments, kids believe their parents genuinely like them so they respond with trust and the willingness to be open and vulnerable.

Tiana feels liked by me when we do art together. That's when she comes alive and let's me into her world. Today, she worked diligently to finish her bag, which I thought she made for herself. Yet in the car, after the morning ended, she handed it to me. "I made this for you, mom."

I know how hard she labored to assemble the bag and hammer in the studs. Her fingers got sore at one point so it was very special when she offered the bag to me. When I asked her why she insisted on me having it, her response was, "Because I love you."

The older my kids get, the more convinced I become that raising kids isn't that complicated. Oh, I get how kids can get very complicated. When my children's needs aren't met, when they don't feel loved, important, or cherished, and when there isn't consistent discipline and discipleship from Edric and me, they act up, disobey, have bad attitudes, and antagonize each other. They are also susceptible to negative peer influence and ungodly media influences (which is also why we homeschool.) However, when Edric and I spend quality time with our children so we can invest in teaching, training, and building relationships with them, they are such a delight! They act very differently, in a positive way, when they experience what it means to be liked by us.

We can take a cue from Christ. When the disciples were preventing the parents from bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus, he stopped the disciples. Instead of seeing the children as an interruption or a bother, he gladly received them into his arms. (Mark 10:13-16) He honored them and gave them significance.

This is one of those tender passages about Christ that demonstrates how we, as parents, should treat our own kids. No matter how busy or hectic our lives may get, our kids need us to bless them. They need us to LIKE them and LIKE being with them.

Grade 9 Materials

My balikbayan box finally arrived and it was like Christmas in July for our homeschooling! There were specific materials that I couldn't get locally so I sourced them from the U.S. for my kids. Plus, they are so often my guinea pigs for experimental material so that I can also give recommendations to others.

Here's what Elijah's 9th grade homeschool year is going to look like:

Bible: Continue daily bible reading. Use I Don't Have Faith to Be an Atheist Curriculum three times a week.

Language Arts: Fundamentals of Literature by Bob Jones University Press for reading three times a week, and Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course Level C by Institute for Excellence in Writing for writing and grammar twice a week.

Math: Algebra 2 with Khan Academy four times a week.

Science: Exploring Creation with Chemistry by Apologia three times a week.

History/Geography: World History Observations and Assessments from Creation to Today by Master Books four times a week.

Electives:

Computer Technology Node.Js by Udemy for building servers and AI Deep Learning by Udemy for creating artificial intelligence and exploring its applications. We got these courses for just 10 USD each! They were majorly discounted.

Sports – Swimming and Tennis

Art – Painting with Teacher Camille Ver through Learning Plus

Music – Violin classes through Learning Plus

Others: Local social studies using books I sourced on my own and Filipino using Rosetta Stone.

Books to read: Fantasy novels with Christian themes for Elijah's leisure reading time. He really enjoys this genre.




It's going to be a full year! I will post about my other kids' materials soon!

Don’t Judge Your Spouse

Before the weekend of our 16th wedding anniversary, it was fasting week for our church. As a result I was in a totally different zone mentally, emotionally, and physically. Having slowed down my activities significantly to quiet my soul and spend time with the Lord, I actually forgot about our anniversary!

The day of our anniversary, Edric and I had ended our fast, and we got ready to go to a homeschool event — Family Fun Day, not greeting one another that morning. It slipped my mind. (I assumed it slipped his, too, when I whispered to him in the later part of the morning, "Happy Anniversary.")

Honestly, the day didn't start out right for us. Edric nagged the kids and I to leave by 7 AM to make it to Family Fun Day by 8 AM. Note that this was supposed to be a FAMILY event and we were supposed to go TOGETHER. However, I left my phone and realized it three hundred meters away from our home, so we did a u-turn to go back and Edric was visibly annoyed.

After speeding home to retrieve it, I jumped out of the car and Edric insisted that the kids and me all ride in another vehicle with the driver. He quickly left us without saying goodbye and without giving me to time to comment about this plan. The kids and I stood in the driveway in shock as he took off hurriedly on his own.

FAMILY FUN DAY wasn't staring out to as a family thing or fun!

Inside I was peeved. I didn't want to mouth this out in front of the kids to disrespect Edric behind his back. So I messaged him instead…

"I don't know why you did that. The kids don't understand either. Do you think it was necessary? ESP since they wanted to ride with you?"

No reply.

When the kids and I arrived at the venue, I semi-ignored him until I realized that it was our anniversary! That's when I whispered, "Happy Anniversary" when I finally locked eyes with him. But I mouthed it out with a sarcastic look on my face.

I felt hurt by the way he dismissed us that morning, so I was nursing it, entertaining all kinds of thoughts like, "Why couldn't he have been more patient? Why does it seem like he can't be inconvenienced? If I had been in his shoes, I would have wanted the family to be together, on the way to a FAMILY fun day." (Let it be said that the reason why he was running late in the first place was because of the kids and me, so we weren't exactly innocent. And he made a commitment to the team to be at the event early so he could pray with them and check on things.)

Anyway, there I was, with Catalina on my lap at the venue, feeling like the "righteous," good mother of our five children…the one who was dutifully taking care of them while he attended to business concerns.

Well, it turns out I was the unrighteous, judgmental one.

When Edric sensed that there was tension between us, he pulled me close and said, "Fine, since you are being so difficult, I am going to tell you that I have a surprise for you, for our anniversary. That's why I have been so preoccupied. That's why I left you guys earlier. Don't ask anymore questions. Just know that I love you."

"Really?!!!" Big smile on my face, followed by an apology for being so reactive. Boy, did I feel stupid and childish for misinterpreting his actions.

Later in the afternoon, Edric got home ahead of the kids and me and set up this sweet surprise which involved me walking down the stairs with my eyes covered to the end of the hall beside the living room. He decorated the massive wall with all our kissing photos, scenes from various places of the world that we traveled to.

He also included a timeline of photos from courtship to marriage to one, two, three, four, five children, and the present. Of course I teared as I took in the sight of it all, and I was humbled, ashamed, feeling very small and unworthy, and just amazed at how thoughtful his gift was. Edric is an extremely busy man but he painstakingly sorted through thousands of photos, coordinated with our friends, Jessie and Mags David to print out the photos on canvas, he solicited the help of our older sons to edit and caption the photos, he rearranged furniture to create a wall space for the photos, and had someone drill holes into our wall so he could arrange all the photos.

As for me, what did I have to offer him for our anniversary…nothing. I hadn't prepared a single gift, not even a card, because I had been so wrapped up in being "spiritual" that I forgot all about the most important person in my life, next to the Lord — my husband. Nearly one week later, I ended up buying him an exercise program that he wanted. Yet it was a pitiful offering in comparison to his gift for me. The contrast certainly revealed the disparity between our heart conditions. He was thinking of me, and I was thinking only of myself.

When I reviewed the video that my son took of Edric and me I teared again. And when I asked Edric, "Why did you do this?", his reply was, "God reminded me during this fasting week, that I must love you like Christ loved the church, be 'all-in' as a husband, and keep the 'husband bar' high for myself."

He also added, "Christ has a lavish love for His church, I want to have a lavish love for you."

(Gulp. Oh, someone stab me now for being such an emotional criminal!)

I messed up. I judged him and assumed the worst about him! The Lord dealt with me and my pride, and taught me through this magical anniversary surprise that I have a lot to work on as a wife, as a person. Deep inside, I can be this vicious person who entertains such negative thoughts about my husband and imagines these flame-throwing scenes where I scorch him with my words!

It's just wrong. So wrong. I desperately need God's grace to change me so I can be a better wife.

DO NOT JUDGE YOUR SPOUSE. That's what I learned. Do not judge people, for that matter.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2)

Some weeks ago my husband made a statement after counseling a couple who seemed to misinterpret each other's words and actions which led to much conflict in their relationship. Edric surmised, "Out of the heart, the ears hear," and, I will add, "out of the heart, the eyes perceive."

In other words, if you and I have spiritual and emotional junk in our hearts, be it fear, anger, insecurity, and the like, we are going to manifest this in the way we interpret what people say and do. We will hear and see others negatively.

One of the tests of a heart that is pure-hearted and right with the Lord when we can choose to think well of others instead of judging them.

Well, I stand guilty!

The good news is that there is a remedy, and it is found in the rest of the verses after Matthew 7:2, "Don't look at the speck in someone else's eye. Pay attention to the log in your own! Don't be a hypocrite! Judge yourself first so you can perceive others properly." (That's my paraphrase of the next verses.)

Before coming to conclusions about Edric or any other person so rashly, I ought to examine myself to determine if my thoughts, my words, and my actions are innocent of selfishness and pride. Are they Christ-like, or are they self-centered? If Christ is my focus, then I can choose to believe the best about my husband and others.

What if people are so obviously awful and don't want to admit it. Here's something comforting to hold on to: God sees every person's heart, and as an all-knowing and all-powerful God, He can expose people for who they really are. Therefore, let's leave the judging to Him.

"For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all." (Luke 8:17)

"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)