Beware Of the Bladderwort Woman

Deceitfully beautiful yellow flowers, that’s a Bladderwort.

20140927-193933-70773455.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Photo source: www.fs.fed.us)

My sons and I have been reading about carnivorous plants. Edan and Titus love this part of their Botany. Venus Fly Traps, Sundews, Pitcher Plants and Bladderworts. We spent an extended time discussing Bladderworts because I made an analogy between carnivorous plants of this nature and women they should avoid in future. (When you are the teacher, you can insert all kinds of discussions that you deem important.)

These yellow flowers grow above water but devour creatures by sucking them into bladder-like cases in their roots. Like other carnivorous plants, Bladderworts don’t kill creatures to eat them. They take their nitrogen (which plants normally get from the soil). When animals get up close they are vacuumed in and digested. Most carnivorous plants also leave the exoskeleton of an animal behind.

Hmm…as I was reading this, I had a moment’s epiphany and thought about connecting this topic to a short lesson on the opposite sex. I explained to my sons that they need to avoid Bladderwort women.

This lead to an even livelier discussion which had my boys laughing aloud. But I was serious. I reminded them that in the future they need to look for women with genuine substance, who are beautiful inside and out — who love God above all. I warned them that there are women out there who will look very attractive but, like Bladderworts, these women will lead to their demise and ruin. In fact, this breed of woman can turn them into a skeletal version of the men God intends for them to be (in the spiritual sense).

“Beware the Bladderworts, boys! Someday, when you meet someone you think is pretty, I am going to ask you, ‘Is she a bladderwort?’ just to check.”

We had another round of guffaws! They liked that one. Bladderwort is such a cool name for a bad woman. It sounds so much like a wart.

My sons are young but I want them to have an internalized checklist of what to look for and avoid in a woman, way before their curiosity in girls is piqued. They are already aware of the affections that naturally develop between a man and a woman. This dynamic is evident everywhere, even in cartoons (sometimes unfortunately so.) They also observe Edric and I as we relate to one another as husband and wife. But romance hasn’t been awakened in them yet. Whew. They are too preoccupied with being boys which is wonderful because it is the best time to pass on principles on courtship (in manageable doses of course!).

Preventive is better than prescriptive. I don’t want to talk about these things when they have already given their hearts away.

So here we go…

“Carnivorous” women use men in the same way actual carnivorous plants do. They tend to be takers who knowingly or even unknowingly look to a man to fill a lack in themselves. If a woman NEEDS a man to live, to feel complete, to project a certain image of herself, or to feel happy, she becomes a life sucker. This is the opposite of what God designed women to be — lifegivers. (A term used by author John Eldredge for the Hebrew word “helpmate” in Genesis.)

In contrast to carnivorous plants, GOOD FLOWERS are life-giving to bees, butterflies, and other critters that are drawn to their nectar. But carnivorous plants ensnare hapless creatures with their sweet smell so they can trap them. They use their “attractiveness” for selfish reasons.

This sounds similar to women who put much emphasis on external appearances to feed their sense of security or worth. I can be guilty of this. Sometimes my motivations for dressing up are totally self-centered. I want to hear compliments about the way I look to butter up my ego. So I praise God for a year of feeling unattractive with braces, hormonal skin breakouts, and my post-pregnancy body!

Proverbs 31 says, “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord she shall be praised.”

It’s not wrong to be fashionable and make the effort to stay fit and healthy. However, it goes back to motivation and purpose. Are we trying to attract people to ourselves or to Christ? How much time, effort and money do we spend on our looks?

Interestingly, carnivorous plants also grow in swampy areas and places without much soil. My encouragement to the men…do your research! Check the “surroundings” — who does this woman hang out with? Who are the ladies that belong to her inner circle of friends and confidants? Are they the type that nourish her spiritually and emotionally like good soil to a plant? What’s her background? Does it smell “swampy” or do others speak highly of her virtues?

20140927-194627-71187112.jpgMoms, as we educate our sons on character traits to look for and avoid in a woman, let’s model the right ones for them, too. We are very often the benchmark for our sons’ concept of a woman. But sometimes we can be Bladderworts to our husbands and children and suck the life right out of them! So the secret is to root our identity in Jesus Christ; be nourished by his love; and reflect the glory of his light.

I like how Edan put it, “Women should be Sunflowers.” You got it, kiddo! A-sunflower-kind-of-woman has her face turned toward the Son (Christ) and she radiates Him. That’s real beauty. (‭Psalms‬ ‭34‬:‭5‬ NASB) May our sons have the wisdom to discern this!

When Things Turn Sour, BE SWEET!

Early this morning I had a doctor’s appointment for my scoliosis. Three of my kids were with me — Elijah, Edan and Titus. (My two girls have been sick).

I asked the driver to park while the kids and I headed up to the clinic. After thirty minutes my appointment was done which was great. I was in a rush to head home to my sick Catalina so I could feed her. Even though she usually has a good appetite, she hardly ate the day before due to her bronchitis. Breastfeeding was the best way to make sure she got enough in her to battle the sickness.

When I called my driver to pick us up, he didn’t answer his phone. So I sent him a text message. Still, I didn’t get a reply. I sent another one and NOTHING.

After 6 unanswered calls and failed messages, I was tempted to be annoyed. What was he doing?Sleeping?! (That was my first thought.) What were my options? Take a taxi with the boys? Wait outside anyway? Was the driver okay? Did something happen to the car?

The boys and I checked all levels of the basement parking trying to spot our car. We couldn’t find our driver or the vehicle.

How was I to deal with this unpleasant experience? I wanted to grumble and mumble and act entitled. But God convicted me to be thankful and use the opportunity to spend time with my boys.

So I told them, “When things don’t go our way, we need to be thankful. Perhaps God is protecting us from an accident. God is reminding us to be positive. I want to be upset because we shouldn’t have to wait like this. But let’s make the most out of our time. Let’s have fun!”

The boys were like, “Yeah!”

We found a Krispy Kreme cafe where I bought the boys shakes and we did some impromptu homeschooling. I happened to have Edan and Titus’ Botany book with me so we enjoyed a lively discussion about carnivorous plants.

20140926-083421-30861505.jpg

20140926-083422-30862464.jpg

20140926-081245-29565683.jpg

20140926-081246-29566756.jpg

20140926-081248-29568733.jpg
We spent an hour in Krispy Kreme before I gave our driver another call. This time he answered!

“Where are you? Did you fall asleep?” My tone had a hint of agitation in it which was perceptively detected by my very auditory son, Elijah. “Mom, don’t get angry,” he said melodically.

“Angry? I am not angry.” (Okay, I was annoyed. There’s a difference right?!) It’s amazing how Elijah can hear the slightest changes in pitch and notation. I wasn’t raising my voice but I am glad Elijah reminded me to keep it cool. My kids do a great job at keeping me accountable for my actions!

I heeded Elijah’s advice and gave our driver the opportunity to explain himself. Listen, listen, listen. It turned out his phone was acting up. My calls did not register even though I heard the ringing on my end and he received my text messages only as we were on our way home. I heard them come in and he said, “Ay ma’am, I just received your texts.”

Nevertheless our driver was so polite and apologetic for making us wait. Whew. I am glad I didn’t get angry. He is such a nice guy and he has a pre-millennium version of a cell phone (which I hope to upgrade soon with Edric’s permission!)

It’s so easy to judge people and criticize them when we don’t see the entire picture. If I had lost my temper with my driver and scolded him, I would have been a bad example to my kids and our driver. This incident taught me to make the most of a sour situation by having a SWEET ATTITUDE. (And maybe literally drinking something sweet!) That extra hour of fellowship with my sons was worth the inconvenience.

I also learned to suspend negative thoughts about others and seek to understand where they are coming from. As a result I was happy to hear Elijah tell me, “I learned to be patient and not to judge people.” Amen!

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (‭John‬ ‭7‬:‭24‬ NASB)

Just A Little MORE Respect

I am on a role with this respect series so I am going to go ahead and post what I just shared at a couples’ retreat in Baguio…

At the beginning of my marriage I struggled in the area of respect. (For those of you who have followed my blog, you have heard me say this a number of times.)

I thought I had married the man of my dreams. He was (still is) but in our marriage, certain realties presented themselves.

Edric had temper issues. I didn’t see this when we were dating. But my father-in-law jokingly told me once, “Edric can be a monster.” I laughed because I thought it was an exaggeration. This couldn’t possibly be true, I thought.

However, a few weeks after we got married I began to see what my father-in-law meant. Edric had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to him. When he was in good spirits he was the most fun person to be with. He was energetic, intense, and passionate. But, when he was uncomfortable due to heat, hunger, fatigue, or stress, he was the binary opposite. If his expectations were not met he tended to be critical. Furthermore, as the only son in his family, he wasn’t used to being flexible with inefficiencies and changes in plans. He admitted that he was used to being treated like a PRINCE. Naturally, in marriage, he graduated to KING and wanted to be treated that way.

I began to entertain thoughts like, “Is this the man I married? Is this how marriage is going to be?”

One of the mistakes I made was I compared Edric to my dad. Even though I didn’t vocalize this, it was like I had a mental chart in my head with two names on it..Edric versus my father. And then I went down the list of “categories” and said things like, “Why can’t Edric be more even-keeled like dad? Why doesn’t he make choices like dad in this area? Why isn’t he a better provider?”

So I made it my mission to help Edric be a better husband and leader. I thought I was doing him a favor by correcting and pinpointing areas for improvement. But this didn’t work. It only lead to more conflict.

Edric would be driving down Edsa and if someone cut him off, he would try to chase the person down and antagonize him. This would deeply annoy me, so I would say things like, “Why do you have to get angry? You shouldn’t do that. That’s not a godly response.”

He would react with greater irritation at my attempts to teach him, and tell me to back off and leave him alone, that it wasn’t the time or place to correct him. According to him, he already knew he was wrong and he didn’t need me to say it.

This sort of scenario and many others repeated themselves over and over so that I developed a resentment toward Edric. I became an expert at rolling my eyeballs, deep sighing, snide remarking, contradicting and arguing, the silent treatment, even withholding sex at times, and a host of other tactics to communicate my disappointment in his leadership and choices.

I even kept journals where I enumerated my frustrations and hoped that he would read them. He didn’t. He had no idea what kinds of ugly feelings inspired me to fill pages and pages of my notebooks. After a while, I worried that if my children or others ever read my journals in the future they would think I had such an awful marriage which wasn’t true. But since I tended to write more when I was upset at Edric, my journals reflected this!

I praise God for couples’ retreats and seminars, the advice of wise women who have gone before me, and for God’s word where I learned and relearned about my role as a wife. I had failed to respect Edric because I thought of it as conditional. My perspective was, If he was deserving I would respect him. And what about me? What about being cherished and treated with respect?

God showed me that I was neck-deep in ugly pride and bitterness, and these hidden sins of my heart were making me a contentious and unpleasant wife. I mistakenly thought I was the better half in our relationship, the one who was more spiritually mature. But I wasn’t! My attitude was turning Edric’s heart away from me and it wasn’t inspiring him to grow spiritually either.

I realized that respect was one of Edric’s needs and desires, and I wasn’t meeting it. More importantly, I was disobeying God’s command to respect Edric as the head of our marriage and family. God convicted me to look at the many ways that I needed to change. How could I be a better helpmate? Edric’s strong supporter? A life-giver along side him? What did I have to stop doing and start doing?

I determined to do four things:

The first was I PRAYED for Edric and SURRENDERED him to the Lord. Instead of nagging Edric, I began to beseech God, presenting to him very specific requests about Edric, myself and our marriage. As I came before the Lord in dependence and brokenness, I experienced God’s peace, assurance, and security. The burden to change Edric was turned over to Jesus and I relaxed as a wife.

For the first time I began to understand what it meant to be a gentle and quiet spirit. It was resting in who God is amidst circumstances, amidst the urge to manipulate or control Edric, or fight for my rights as a wife. It was knowing that I was heard — my hurts, longings and desires — by the ONE who knew me best and loved me most.

Second, I FORGAVE Edric and chose to apply the principle of a CLEAN SLATE. If Jesus had died for me and forgiven me completely, who was I not to do the same for my husband?

The Bible tells us the God’s mercies are new every morning. Similarly, I needed to let go of the compounded hurt that kept stealing my joy. Instead of thinking, “he’s never going to change”, or “see he’s going to do the same thing again,” I said to myself each day is a new opportunity to love and forgive Edric.

Third, I asked Edric “HOW CAN I BE A BETTER WIFE? This is, of course, a dangerous question to ask! I discovered I had to improve a lot! I needed to speak in a more gentle way, I needed to do what he told me right away (as often as possible), I needed to prioritize his want for companionship, attention, service, and intimacy. So I humbled myself and asked for forgiveness for my disrespect and the things I had done to hurt him. I still have to do this when I repeat the same mistakes.

Fourth, I learned to BE A MORE AFFIRMING AND ENCOURAGING WIFE. Instead of telling him how he should lead spiritually, I affirmed his love for God and desire to follow him. Instead of second-guessing and challenging his decision-making, I expressed confidence in his leadership. Instead of wishing we had more money, I thanked him for working hard and trying his best to provide for our needs. Instead of focusing on what he was doing wrong, I tried to pay closer attention to instances when he made godly choices.

When I chose to be more positive, I realized what an amazing man I was and am married to. There were so many things that I didn’t see when I was focused on the negative aspects of his person (which were really minimal in light of all his great facets). When I was zoning in on his faults and criticizing them, I had tunnel vision for the bad that blackened out his wonderful traits.

Slowly but most certainly, Edric began to transform. It wasn’t overnight but God worked in his heart and made him a more selfless, patient, and Spirit-filled man. Today I see the old Edric less and less. If I had the beta version when we got married, God has upgraded him to version 10.0 x 10.0. God keeps on upgrading him!

For example, in the mornings I get my baby from her room and breastfeed her in ours. This is early in the morning. Sometimes, I get her at 5 or 5:30 am. Afterwards, she doesn’t go back to bed again. She is fully awake. In the past, Edric would have ordered me to bring her out so he can get more sleep. But he is the one who lovingly takes her and brings her downstairs to our househelp so I can rest. It’s a sweet gesture that demonstrates how different he has become. From expecting to be treated like a KING, he is willing to serve me and inconvenience himself for me.

A few weeks ago we were enjoying our date night when he asked me, “How can I improve and change as a husband?” I had to think long and hard and I replied, “Honestly, you have been great! I can’t really think of anything.”

Photos from that date night…

20140920-203339-74019551.jpg

20140920-203339-74019202.jpg
Years ago I would have jumped at the opportunity to bullet point all the ways I wanted him to change. But by God’s grace he is a transformed person because of Christ’s continued work in his life. He is truly a godly leader, a loving and understanding husband, and a good provider. He is a man that I admire and respect with all my heart.

While I still struggle with respect and Edric still struggles with impatience from time to time, the secret to victory, romance and joy in our marriage is keeping Christ at the center of our relationship. When the motivation to keep improving wanes or when we are tempted to return to the selfish version of our Christ-less selves, Jesus becomes our superseding why, compelling us to press on in obedience and hopeful expectation.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me
. (‭Galatians‬ ‭2‬:‭20‬ NASB)

Serving together at the CCF Couples Retreat in Baguio. I love this man!

20140920-203128-73888908.jpg

NOT-Afraid-of-the-Dark-Trophies

I suppose it’s normal that all kids are afraid of the dark at some point. My kids struggle with this. They don’t like going upstairs alone. They prefer to have a buddy when they enter a dark room. I understand because I used to have the same fear. Sometimes I still do.

For the longest time I used to sleep with a bathroom light on. But Edric needed absolute darkness to get a goodnight’s rest. So we compromised with a led night light for a while. It was a pathetic source that casted more shadows around the room. Over the years I ditched the night light and got used to sleeping in the black.

Tonight we had a bible study with the kids on 1 John 4:4. “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”

The kids took turns memorizing the passage and reciting it. Edric explained to them that when they are afraid all they have to do is remember that Jesus, who is in their life, is greater than the evil one. I thought this wasn’t going to work because I know how fearful they can be. Not too long ago, Edan broke down and cried when he had to get my IPad from the bedroom all by himself. Tiana won’t go into a bathroom without company if the lights aren’t turned on.

Amazingly, there is power in God’s word. I was reminded of how living and active it is. As an application, Edric asked each of our four older kids to get an item upstairs. Edan and Titus were each asked to get a random toy from their bedroom. They went upstairs separately from one another and came back down with a toy. Elijah was tasked to get an item from their bathroom. He returned with a roll of toilet paper. As for Tiana, she resisted at first. But she too reappeared with a pillow in her arms.

I was so proud if them. I know it was difficult for them to obey Edric, but they did. As a result, they were emboldened by one another’s courage. More importantly, they recognized that Jesus is with them no matter where they go.

That’s exactly what Edan said. “I wasn’t afraid because I knew Jesus was with me.”

I hope this verse continues to give them confidence as they face their fears. Interestingly, it’s the same bible passage I memorized as a child that helped me to be brave in the dark.

Many of the bible passages I hold most dear I learned in the context of our family bible studies when I was a little girl. My dad had devotion night for my siblings and I once a week. We would go through a verse or verses and discuss their meanings, adding our insights and application commitments. As a result, I grew up with a storehouse of truth to bank on. When I encountered bigger problems and had to navigate toward the right decisions, I had references archived in my brain for promises, commands, warnings, blessings, etc.

I dealt with doubts, fearfulness, worry, pain, anger, and the like with truth from the scriptures. I want our kids to be able to do the same. Like all children, they are susceptible to spiritual attack. They need to fortify their minds with God’s word so they can withstand the attempts of the evil one to corrupt, destroy, and pollute their minds and hearts with his poisonous lies. Something as simple as being afraid of the dark is a deception that our children can counter with bible truth so they don’t live in bondage to their fears.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭12-17‬ NASB)

THE KIDS AND THEIR NOT-AFRAID-OF-THE-DARK-TROPHIES…

A slingshot:

20140909-222429-80669282.jpg

A domino:

20140909-222633-80793791.jpg

A roll of toilet paper:

20140909-222802-80882985.jpg

A pillow:

20140909-223003-81003467.jpg

When Things Turn Sour, BE SWEET

Early this morning I had a doctor’s appointment for my scoliosis. Three of my kids were with me — Elijah, Edan and Titus. (My two girls have been sick).

I asked the driver to park while the kids and I headed up to the clinic. After thirty minutes my appointment was done which was great. I was in a rush to head home to my sick Catalina so I could feed her. Even though she usually has a good appetite, she hardly ate the day before due to her bronchitis. Breastfeeding was the best way to make sure she got enough in her to battle the sickness.

When I called my driver to pick us up, he didn’t answer his phone. So I sent him a text message. Still, I didn’t get a reply. I sent another one and NOTHING.

After 6 unanswered calls and failed messages, I was tempted to be annoyed. <em>What was he doing?Sleeping?! (That was my first thought.) What were my options? Take a taxi with the boys? Wait outside anyway? Was the driver okay? Did something happen to the car? </em>

The boys and I checked all levels of the basement parking trying to spot our car. We couldn’t find our driver or the vehicle.

How was I to deal with this unpleasant experience? I wanted to grumble and mumble and act entitled. But God convicted me to be thankful and use the opportunity to spend time with my boys.

So I told them, “When things don’t go our way, we need to be thankful. Perhaps God is protecting us from an accident. God is reminding us to be positive. I want to be upset because we shouldn’t have to wait like this. But let’s make the most out of our time. Let’s have fun!”

The boys were like, “Yeah!”

We found a Krispy Kreme cafe where I bought the boys shakes and we did some impromptu homeschooling. I happened to have Edan and Titus’ Botany book with me so we enjoyed a lively discussion about carnivorous plants.
<br /><br /><a href=”http://teachwithjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20140926-081247-29567732.jpg”><img src=”http://teachwithjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20140926-081247-29567732.jpg” alt=”20140926-081247-29567732.jpg” class=”alignnone size-full” /></a><br /><br /><a href=”http://teachwithjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20140926-081245-29565683.jpg”><img src=”http://teachwithjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20140926-081245-29565683.jpg” alt=”20140926-081245-29565683.jpg” class=”alignnone size-full” /></a><br /><br /><a href=”http://teachwithjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20140926-081246-29566756.jpg”><img src=”http://teachwithjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20140926-081246-29566756.jpg” alt=”20140926-081246-29566756.jpg” class=”alignnone size-full” /></a><br /><br /><a href=”http://teachwithjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20140926-081248-29568733.jpg”><img src=”http://teachwithjoy.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/20140926-081248-29568733.jpg” alt=”20140926-081248-29568733.jpg” class=”alignnone size-full” /></a>
We spent an hour in Krispy Kreme before I gave our driver another call. This time he answered!

“Where are you? Did you fall asleep?” My tone had a hint of agitation in it which was perceptively detected by my very auditory son, Elijah. “Mom, don’t get angry,” he said melodically.

“Angry? I am not angry.” (Okay, I was annoyed. There’s a difference right?!) It’s amazing how Elijah can hear the slightest changes in pitch and notation. I wasn’t raising my voice but I am glad Elijah reminded me to keep it cool. My kids do a great job at keeping me accountable for my actions!

I heeded Elijah’s advice and gave our driver the opportunity to explain himself. Listen, listen, listen. It turned out his phone was acting up. My calls did not register even though I heard the ringing on my end and he received my text messages only as we were on our way home. I heard them come in and he said, “Ay ma’am, I just received your texts.”

Nevertheless our driver was so polite and apologetic for making us wait. Whew. I am glad I didn’t get angry. He is such a nice guy and he has a pre-millennium version of a cell phone (which I hope to upgrade soon with Edric’s permission!)

It’s so easy to judge people and criticize them when we don’t see the entire picture. If I had lost my temper with my driver and scolded him, I would have been a bad example to my kids and our driver. This incident taught me to make the most of a sour situation by having a SWEET ATTITUDE. (And maybe literally drinking something sweet!) That extra hour of fellowship with my sons was worth the inconvenience.

I also learned to suspend negative thoughts about others and seek to understand where they are coming from. As a result I was happy to hear Elijah tell me, “I learned to be patient and not to judge people.” Amen!

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (‭John‬ ‭7‬:‭24‬ NASB)

Love Beyond Poetry And Passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it just me?

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

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

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

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

IMG_3389.JPG
In a recent event for my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary, they sang an edited version of Adam Sandler’s song, “I Want to Grow Old With You.” Their rendition reminded me that marriage isn’t about growing past each other’s imperfections. Sometimes the areas that we don’t like about our spouse or ourselves still remain. But when we choose to need, want, and give to the one we married as the years go by, God provides the filter of grace. This filter distills the flaws and harsh realities, removing the impurities that would otherwise poison and corrupt our hearts with selfishness, bitterness, fear, pride or regret. And meltdown moments at 12 AM, when held as one’s beloved, wearing an ugly t-shirt and haloed by unkempt hair, bear image to the sweet irony of love. For in loving beyond the poetry and passion we find that we return again to these.

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

20140820-082907-30547468.jpg

-

The Isaac of Money

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

20140811-224250-81770105.jpg
A few weeks ago I was blessed by the resolve of my 11-year old son, Elijah, to give his hard-earned money to our church, as an offering. Elijah has money in three “instruments.” The first is his small stock portfolio. Second, he has a savings account where he has placed his salary from Edric. His job is to speak with Edric on road shows around the Philippines. Third, he has a glass jar at home where he had several thousands of pesos in cash stashed in it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is This Love?

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

IMG-20140723-WA0002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we easily give up on our family members?

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

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

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

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

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

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

DSC_0318

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

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

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

Vomit

It’s not a pretty title but it’s my descriptor for what happened this afternoon, in the car, on Edric’s leg, on his leather shoes, on his hand, and laptop bag. Of all the people to vomit on, I wish it hadn’t been Edric. No it wasn’t my throw up. It was Titus’. He gagged on the lettuce in his tuna sandwich while he was sitting on Edric’s lap.

I saw it project out of Titus’ mouth like it was happening in slow motion. All I could think of was Noooo. Stoooop. And then the jarring sound of Edric’s voice interrupted the freeze-frame scene. “TITUS!!!” He yelled his name and there was silence. The vomit was out.

Who was to be pitied? I was torn. Edric couldn’t clean himself because Titus was on his lap. But Titus was tearing because Edric had shouted his name. I felt badly for both.

I can deal with vomit. As a mother, I have conquered worse. But Edric wasn’t prepared to take on the regurgitated mess that was oozing down his handsome pair of slacks and staining his leather shoes. For one thing, he had some of it on his hand.

Yet my heart also went out to Titus. Although he had no vomit on him (let’s call him vomit-free), he was hurting inside. I wanted to start preaching to Edric about our family bible study two nights ago. Edric had asked the kids to memorize and apply 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It begins with LOVE IS PATIENT, LOVE IS KIND. Furthermore, we attended a worship service last Sunday where the preacher spoke about RESPONDING AND NOT REACTING.

The acronym he shared was P.R.A.Y. – Pause, Resist your first instinct, Ask God how you should respond, Yield to his will. During Sunday service Edric had repeatedly whispered to me that this was a perfect message for him.

I suppose expecting Edric to apply this when Titus threw up on him was a little much. But it was the shouting that really disappointed me. That part wasn’t necessary. However, correcting Edric in front of the kids would have been the worst thing to do. So I just waited for the Lord to convict him. In the meantime, I cleaned the vomit off with wet wipes, praying in my heart that Edric would say sorry.

Praise God for whoever invented wet wipes! They are a mom’s best friend.

Very shortly after, Edric asked for Titus’ forgiveness and embraced him. Titus felt the liberty to express his hurt and they were reconciled as father and son. Edric knew he had been wrong to raise his voice…vomit or no vomit.

Interestingly, that same evening while I was baking salted caramel cupcakes for our friends, I had a wonderful chat with a dear sister in the Lord. It just so happened that the topic veered towards her husband. And she shared with me an insight about marriage that ministered to me.

“When I got married my dad told me to let my husband make mistakes.”

One incident that she narrated was particularly hilarious. Many years ago her husband was in charge of a fundraising activity for their church. He successfully collected seven thousand dollars. At the time, there was no account to deposit the amount in and he didn’t want to put it into his own bank account, for integrity’s sake. So while he was responsible for holding on to the cash, he stuck the bills in a sour cream container which he put in the freezer for safe-keeping.

20140713-085943.jpg (photo source: target.com)

I know this guy. He is intelligent. So as crazy as this freezer idea was, I know it had nothing to do with his IQ. He did, however, fail to mention this very important detail about the sour cream container to his wife (my friend).

One day his mom came over and cleaned out their freezer while they were away. Like any loving mother, she thought she was doing her children a good deed. The sour cream container was thrown out! She just assumed it was trash.

When my friend found out that her husband had “deposited” the money into their freezer and lost it, she was incredulous. She couldn’t believe that he had stored it in their freezer!

But being the supportive, godly and faith-filed woman that she was, she encouraged her husband by saying, “I think your boss is going to write you a check to replace the money.”

Amazingly, her husband received a check from his boss. Furthermore, because her husband was man enough to come before their church congregation and explain what happened to the money, God redeemed the situation. Donations poured in, so much so that the church had to turn down cash at a certain point.

When my friend told me this I was encouraged. There are occasions when Edric’s decisions or actions trouble me. Because I love him deeply and recognize the impact his choices have on our family, I get nervous and worried when I feel like he isn’t applying godly wisdom or Christ-likeness.

The vomit incident was a case in point for me. I really wanted to hammer Edric down with statements about what he did wrong and why it was wrong. Why did he have to get angry at Titus? Why didn’t he consider how yelling might wound his spirit and upset the rest of us who were witnesses to his reaction? Would the kids think he was being a hypocrite for teaching one thing and then doing the opposite?

Had it not been for the prodding of the Lord to be cool and calm, I would have spewed out my own form of verbal vomit. But thankfully, Edric came to his own realization about his shouting. Surely this was the working of the Holy Spirit in his own heart.

Here is where I want my friend’s story and this vomit incident to converge. God is in control of our husbands. When we are tempted to panic and instigate a “coup” to overthrow or undermine their authority, we need to step back and remember whose authority they are under.

Edric is accountable to God. If and when he gives in to thinking and behaviors that don’t please God, I know that God is going to minister to him and discipline him if necessary, for his good. If I don’t let God deal with Edric in his own way and time, then I may become the reason for my husband’s greater failures! I may become the blockade that prevents him from experiencing God’s work and victory in his life!

As I think about what my friend’s father told her — be willing to let your husband fail — I must answer certain questions. Do I trust that God loves Edric? Do I trust that he is control? Do I trust that he can turn his failures into the best opportunities for godly instruction and growing in wisdom?

20140713-090603.jpg
It may not happen in an instant or overnight. And sometimes the changes I hope for may take years and years of prayer. Yet my confidence is in this promise “that He (God) who began a good work in his life will complete it.” (Philippians 1:6)

And might I add that Edric used to be much more hot-headed. Small inconveniences would spike a great rise in his emotional temperature. But through the years God has caused him to change remarkably in this area. He is much more patient and careful about his words and actions. In fact, our eldest son, Elijah, told him recently, “Dad you have really changed.”

This blesses me. It’s a miracle when spouses change for the better, a miracle that speaks of God’s handiwork. When people ask me if a husband or wife will change in a marriage, hoping that marrying them will be a catalyst for positive change, I tell them, “Don’t expect that YOU can change your spouse, but GOD can. That’s why he needs to be present in your marriage.”

Tonight, Titus was the last one to finish his dinner. I saw him sitting by himself looking very much alone on our balcony. The back drop of the expansive night sky made his six year old frame look especially tiny. When Edric noticed that he was in need of company, he stayed with him. I watched the two of them engage in conversation and laugh together until Titus was done. I thought of what a tender site they were as father and son.

A wife and a mother can mop up vomit with wet wipes. But only the God of the universe can mop up the vomit of our lives. He does things like turn the heart of a hurting son back to his father’s and a father’s to his son’s. He alone can redeem the stink and mess that we make. The question is are we willing to surrender our lives and the lives of those whom we love to him so he can do so?

20140713-082357.jpg

From Head to Heart

My second son, Edan, is reading through the Bible. But he has admitted to me several times that he finds it tedious to do so and he doesn’t feel like keeping up the habit of a daily quiet time with the Lord. I have tried to encourage him by talking about the importance of growing in his faith and the joys of getting to know God more intimately. However, it remains a struggle for him to cultivate the desire to read.

Yesterday, he expressed the same reluctancy to study the word of God. So I invited him to sit down beside me and we read a chapter in Malachi together. I explained to him the passages we studied — how they related to our own experiences as a family and how they could be applied as principles for living. He was very engaged in our discussion.

At one point, he began to tear and I didn’t know where this was coming from. So I asked him if it was something we read or something I said. He wasn’t ready to answer then but after we finished reading, he grabbed a couple of pillows, curled up on the floor and told me, “When you spend time explaining the Bible to me, I feel touched.”

Touched? Did my reserved and calculated son just use that word to express himself? It wasn’t a word he had used before.

He began to have tears in his eyes again.

For the first time, he saw how amazing God’s word can be. It had come alive to him. I suppose he had always wanted to feel like a daily quiet time with the Lord was worthwhile but he had gotten discouraged by his inability to understand the adult vocabulary. I assumed too much when I handed him an adult version of the Bible and expected him to magically absorb it all because he reads well.

Over breakfast, he added something like this, “I am happy because God tells you to take care of me.” His eyes turned red again and he was trying to express to me that the experience of shared time in the word was an example of this. As a young child struggling with the guilt of NOT loving God’s word, a solution was given to him. God sent me, his mother, to help him. What mattered to him was the Lord knew his heartfelt and secret need.

I asked him what he does when he reads through his Bible by himself. His reply was, “When I don’t know the words, I just ignore them. I just read to finish.”

There had been no joy in his encounters with truth because its meaning was unclear to him and its applications, a mystery. What a great disservice I had done him, by operating with a false assumption that he could navigate through the text. My eldest, Elijah, has a richer vocabulary so it is easier for him to comprehend what he reads. As for Edan, he was going through the motion of reading but there was no delight in it. It was becoming a ritual. Having those 20 minutes together, talking about how applicable the text was to everyday life was precious to him.

Author Tedd Tripp writes that parents need to see the Bible as a family album. The Bible isn’t a literary piece about a nation or people who bear no relation to us, it is a living text that tells us what God has done, can do and will do in our lives. It is the history of our faith in Jesus Christ and the future of it. Do our children know this?

As for me, I have a lot to improve on in this area. My children cannot be left alone to guide themselves in matters of the faith. They are dependent on Edric and I during these tender years, while under our care, to elucidate and illuminate the character of God, his principles, the warnings and promises, and stories as found in the Scriptures.

Furthermore, for faith to blossom in the lives of our children, it has to become personal. It is one thing to teach our kids about what we believe, to emphasize character, and to read Bible stories. It is a totally different and more important thing to teach them how to enjoy God, to find that their deepest longings and questions can be satisfied in him, and to discover the truth that sets them free in his word. When this happens, faith can move from cultural and traditional to convincingly meaningful so it can be embraced as completely acceptable. Faith can’t reside merely in the head, it must finds it’s way to our children’s hearts so that convictions and commitments can be formed.

This morning, Edan reminded me that we had to read together again and he eagerly brought me the bookmarked page of Scripture to go over with him. I may not be able to do this every single day but I pray that I can pass on to Edan a love for God’s word while he is still young.

O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. (Psalms 71:17 NASB)

20140508-021016.jpg

I love you even with your braces and bangs.

Braces and bangs…what was I thinking?! I didn’t realize how awkward I would look. And I must admit that I struggle with vanity from time to time. The comedy of it all is I had to give so many talks these past two weeks. There were blog readers who came up to me wanting photos and I wanted to run away because I am vain!!! I didn’t want to smile and pose for the camera. I know…it’s silly.

After one of my seminars, Edric confronted me in a loving way and told me to get over it. He knew I was self conscious because I was hardly moving my upper lip. I looked like an unskilled ventriloquist. Part of the problem was my lips kept snagging on my braces.

It’s been a few weeks since I first got them. Thankfully, these are fast braces so I shouldn’t have to wear them for too long. In the meantime, while I am looking like a teenager with wrinkles, I am so glad Edric told me two mornings ago, “I love you even with your braces and bangs.”

He would prefer that I didn’t have either but at this stage, 13 years into marriage, we understand that physical appearances aren’t the most important aspect of a marriage. I am not saying it’s not necessary to be attracted to your spouse and to do your best to be attractive for your spouse. But it’s certainly wonderful to know that braces and bangs aren’t going to change the way Edric feels about me. I don’t have to look perfect. I am not pressured to be flawless.

At the recent wedding of my cousin, Joseph, the officiating pastor, Jay Jackson, said, “Because love sees more it is willing to see less.”

He certainly meant more than just the physical but since I am on the topic of external appearances, permit me to say how much I appreciate a couple of things about my husband…

I am so thankful I married a guy who doesn’t compare me to the attractive women he meets. (He interviewed three gorgeous beauty queens for his TV show a few weeks ago.) I am so thankful that he doesn’t entertain attractive stalker women online. (Some women don’t care that he is a married man. They still attempt to get his attention and flirt with him.) I am so thankful he doesn’t ogle at bill boards of younger women or look up pornography. He admits that he is tempted to just like any other man, but he tries his best to guard what he sees.

Why? Because he loves God. He wants to please Him. If Edric didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord, I wouldn’t have the same sort of peace that I do about our marriage. But because he does it affords me rest from trying to KEEP him attracted to me. I try to stay fit and take care of myself so I don’t fall apart physically. However, no amount of striving in this area would make him faithful to me unless he desired to live for God.

I have seen the same conviction in my father who has stayed faithful to my mother. The other day I was showing my dad old photos of him and my mom. And he began to have tears in his eyes. My dad hardly gets emotional! But he went through each photo with me, commenting on how beautiful my mom looked. Afterwards he asked me to send the photos to him. As he made his way up the stairs to his study room, he glanced back at me with an expression of tender affection and added, “It is good for a husband to look through old photos and remember how much he loves the wife of his youth…” He seemed to be lost in a moment of sweet remembering as he smiled and climbed the remainder of the stairs.

When he said “wife of your youth,” I remembered this passage in Proverbs…Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:15, 18 NLT)

A man marries the woman he loves but a man who loves God keeps loving the woman he married.

20140428-071904.jpg

Confessions of An Imperfect Mother

I lost it with my kids yesterday. We were looking through homeschool math kits and materials and I found out that Titus, Tiana and one of their cousins had gotten into them. Parts were misplaced and items were incomplete. Everything was jumbled together and carelessly thrown into one box.

My mistake was I took the box and intentionally dumped it on the floor in front of the children. It crashed in a loud way, pieces scattering in all directions.

Titus started to cry. The others were in shock. This was the first time they saw me react this way. My cortisol levels walked out of the room.

I was so frustrated because of the irresponsibility and lack of stewardship. When we bought these things I clearly told my kids to take care of them. They agreed to do so.

After sorting and tallying, a letter “y” was missing from the lower case letters of a kindergarten assessment kit; a test tube, three test tube covers, tweezers, and a magnifying glass were missing from a pre-school science kit; and the bear counters, as well as the colored and different-sized rubber bands weren’t in their box.

It may not seem like a huge deal but these are homeschooling materials I need for teaching. They aren’t easy to replace. Still…sigh…throwing the box was uncalled for. It was such a bad example to my kids. I knew it too but I struggled with thoughts like, if I don’t get mad how will my kids learn that this sort of irresponsibility is not acceptable? How will they take me seriously if I am always so patient and forgiving?

These were ridiculous thoughts but I entertained them for a bit after I left the room. I went downstairs to grab some ziploc bags so the mess could be sorted.

Everyone was quiet when I came back into the room. I placed Catalina on the floor and sat beside them. They kept making side glances at me, expecting an apology. At first I tried to explain what made me irate.

I went on and on about stewardship and what it means to take care of what God has given us. Bad timing. Of course nothing was sinking in because my kids had not recovered from my outburst of anger.

Over lunch, I gathered them around me. “Mommy needs to talk to all of you. Mommy was angry because you were not good stewards but it was wrong of me to throw the box on the floor. I was very wrong. Will you forgive me? I was a bad example. I am so sorry.”

They nodded their heads. Titus and Tiana started to smile. But my older boys needed more time. They were still dealing with the emotional and spiritual pain I had caused them. I let them speak up and express their feelings. They teared up, especially Elijah.

“You have never done that before, mom.” His voice cracked as he tried to stay in control of his emotions. He also added, “My throat is sore from crying. I was crying while I was going around the house looking for all the things you asked us to.” (I made a list of missing items for them to find.) I hugged him and asked for forgiveness again.

At that point I felt so wretched, and I felt like a total hypocrite. Last weekend I gave a parenting talk with Edric and I boldly stated, “Our responses to our children should be redemptive, they should lead them to Christ, not away from him.”

Ayayay. Choke. Gag me. I had done just the opposite!

I spent time with the kids in the afternoon and they livened up to their usual selves. They even said, “W are okay now, mom.” But there was definitely regret on my part. I really wish I had controlled myself and not chucked the box on the floor.

God reminded me that I am an imperfect, sinful mother who needs to depend on his grace daily to love my children to Christ. The moment when I think I am most OKAY, like I am in control and cruising along, is the moment when I am most vulnerable to the sins of pride, anger, impatience, criticism and judgementalism.

During Holy Week Edric and I were busy serving God. We did two parenting seminars. Edric also spoke thrice on Sunday and I shared along side him. And my 700 Club testimony was featured on TV.

Encouragement and praise flooded my inbox and without realizing it, I was eating it all up and reveling in it, thinking that I had done something of worth for the Lord. I was “resting on my spiritual laurels.” But my outburst was a very humbling reminder that whenever I do anything of worth ALL CREDIT goes to God. There is nothing good in me apart from him. It’s not about what I do for God or what I accomplish. It’s about who he is and what he has done. The instant I start patting myself on the back and stealing even a smidgen of God’s glory, I will fall and fail like I did yesterday.

This post is a confession before God and to Him that my heart was deceived. I equated spiritual success with the doings of a person. But the muchness of service can often belie the true disposition of the heart and its devotion. What is more important is the being — the unmasked self, the exposed motives that are hidden to others but seen by God.

Why do I do what I do for His kingdom?

Is it for him or is it really for me? Is it because I really love Christ and others or is it because I love myself? Is it because I want him to get all the glory or do I want some of it? Is it an offering of worship to a God who is worthy of my praise and my best or is it obligatory preoccupation with the doings of Christianity?

God is not more pleased with displays of service as he is with the heart of the one who serves with gratitude, joy, love and truthful worship. As his word says, But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. (John 4:23 NLT)

In everything I do, whether it be as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, and servant of God, I must have the same perspective that John had in reference to Christ. May the perfect Jesus always increase in this imperfect me…

He must increase, but I must decrease. “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. (John 3:30, 31 NASB)

20140425-091124.jpg