People Are More Important Than Things

My second son, Edan, is very conscientious about his things. As an orderly and organized person, he tends to keep track of his belongings, and he likes to keep them in good condition. When his toys get broken or his plants (oh my, his plants!) don’t grow properly, he is deeply affected.

The other day, Titus, accidentally dropped Edan’s drawing art set. The cover of the set fell off and the contents of the kit tumbled out. Three of the charcoal drawing tools cracked. Uh oh. For a slightly obsessive person like Edan, this was going to be major. His set was now imperfect! Horror of horrors!

Edan wasn’t just upset, he ran off to cry on his bed in total frustration. Titus bawled too because he felt badly. This drawing kit was very new. Edan hadn’t even used it yet.

After Edan calmed down and processed his feelings, he came back out to the study room. His eyes were bloodshot and he was quiet. I empathized with him, but then I gently reminded him, “You know, Edan, I know you feel sad about what happened, but your relationship with Titus is more important than your art set.”

I decided to take advantage of the teachable moment and went on to explain that some family members fight over possessions and property. They let these issues come between them when they should love one another. Why can we love and forgive? Because Jesus has done this for us.

He nodded and acknowledged the truthfulness of what I was saying, but of course this was a difficult challenge for him. I know Edan loves Titus. However, feelings of frustration and anger lingered after he surveyed the damage done to his charcoal tools.

I didn’t force him to accept Titus’ apology. In fact, I left the situation alone first, hoping that the Lord would be the one to speak to both their hearts. Later on, I investigated to find out what happened. Edan told me, “I forgave him, mom. I told him he was more important to me than my art set.” I told Edan I was so proud of him. He had done the right thing.

Often times, as a mother, I have to wait on the sidelines of my older children’s lives when they make their choices. On the one hand, I do my best to instruct, teach, and disciple them. However, I need to leave room and space for the Holy Spirit to minister to them and convict them to make choices that please God. I can’t impose my will. I’m after heart-change in my kids and not external change.

Edan’s art set isn’t perfect anymore like he hoped it would stay. But I saw him playing with Titus this morning and all was well between them. They were enjoying one another’s company without the residual or lingering frustration that was present in Edan’s heart two days ago. It was a more beautiful scene than any art set could’ve drawn.

This situation exemplified a very minor  conflict that can arise between siblings and how love triumphed in the end. However, the sad reality is that many grown up siblings can’t stomach one another.  Very often, the issue that breaks them apart is money. I’m sure there was a point in time when these same angry family members were little children playing together and enjoying one another’s company like my kids were this morning. But along the way, the nature of the relationship changed when money problems came into the picture. This is a common story in the Philippines. Relationships are so often the casualty of fights over property and inheritance.

The Bible tells us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36) It’s never worth it to let our soul rot in bitterness over mere things…things that have no value in eternity, that we cannot take with us. What gain is monetary wealth at the expense of relationships, especially at expense of the bond between siblings? Real poverty is to have everything in the world but to live in the absence of Christ’s love – His love for us, and His love in us toward others.

My prayer for my kids is they will preserve the bond of unity they share in Christ, that they will love one another the way Christ loves them. The art set was a small thing but I want my children to recognize that it lies in them, in all of us, to make things more important than people. The antidote is to this tendency is to love.

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” Proverbs 10:12

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

How A Patient Husband Can Inspire His Wife

IMG_3268.JPGIt’s high time I wrote an entry about how wonderfully Spirit-filled my husband, Edric, has been as of late. Sometimes my posts about our marriage have something to do with his intensely spirited personality and my not too commendable reactions towards him. So I wanted to acknowledge the recent change I have seen in him, especially in the area of patience.

He would call it “being Spirit-filled.” This has been the phrase he has recited to himself repeatedly over the past week as he has met with unfavorable or challenging circumstances, sometimes in the form of yours truly!

But what does it mean to be Spirit-filled? Galatians explains it for us by affording a contrast between the flesh (our human nature) and the fruit of the Spirit.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭19-25‬ NASB)

A person who is flesh-filled thinks, speaks, and acts in a manner that is carnal and selfish. In contrast, a Spirit-filled person exhibits Christlike character traits such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. A true follower of Jesus ought to produce this kind of fruit.


Image courtesy of Pinterest

It’s not surprising that marriage is the perfect petri dish to test for evidence of the Spirit-filled life. Any honest married person would attest to the fact that a husband-and-wife-relationship can get fiery at times, which can bring out fleshy behaviors like agitation, impatience, anger, etc. Therefore I really appreciated the manner in which Edric exemplified control over his emotions this past week, particularly two Thursday mornings ago.

On that morning, I came down to the kitchen with feelings of frustration while our children and Edric chatted around the breakfast table. Normally, I enjoy mornings and I am the one greeting every child that comes bounding down the stairs. But that day, I opened my drawer and pulled out two halves of one brassiere. Yes. My bra looked like it had been torn in two by an animal.

I suspected that someone stuck it in the washing machine against my orders. So I took the two ridiculous looking halves and plopped them on the kitchen counter, calling out the name of the person responsible for this destruction. It was our sincere but sincerely wrong househelp who will remain unnamed.

In the meantime, Edric and the kids were trying to get my attention while laughing and playfully interacting around the breakfast table. Edric chirpily addressed me with a good morning but I was in the middle of correcting the mistake made by our househelp, reminding her that my under garments should be hand-washed only. She offered an apology which I really appreciated but there was no way to repair my damaged bra so I chucked the two halves into the trash and joined Edric and the kids for breakfast.

This is when Edric took it upon himself to enlighten me about the affairs of the morning, “I ordered pandesal because all we had to eat for breakfast was watered down oatmeal.” He offered this information very pleasantly, smiling at me. My disposition changed. Edric took the initiative to order pandesal instead of griping about the awful breakfast?! It was weird but oh so nice!

He aded that his bible reading for the day was about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Not so coincidentally, our water heater broke down that morning, too. Uh oh! So he stood in the shower with cold water running down his back as he chanted and breathed in deeply, “Be filled with the Spirit!” He was still smiling at me!

I began to laugh because Edric’s default mode is to at least make some sort of constructive comment about how to run the home better when things like this happen. First there was the watered-down oatmeal, and then the cold shower. And still, his countenance remained pleasant and his temper was even and controlled. I was very impressed.

He went off to the work and instructed the driver to inform me that he had to be picked up from the office by 11:30 am to be at ABS-CBN for the taping of his show at 12 noon. For some reason I absent-mindedly thought he meant that he needed the driver by 12 noon. Edric didn’t get picked up until 12:15 due to traffic. He called me a little bit upset (but not angry) when the driver was late. This was a problem because he had 7 shows to tape that afternoon with VIPs. 7 shows!

Arriving at the studio at the time he committed to was imperative. Because of me, he didn’t make it to the studio at the hour he told his producer he would. Still, he texted me, “I am sorry for not being filled with the Spirit. Will you forgive me? I love you.” (He said this because he felt like the way he spoke to me on the phone was agitated.)

Wow! Who was this amazing man that exhibited such patience with me?! I told Edric how blessed I was at his responses that day. And his attractive factor was bumped up several notches higher in my estimation!

 I know my role as a wife shouldn’t be contingent on the way Edric treats me as my husband. However, there’s a divine principle in effect when he is a Spirit-filled husband. His love toward me, manifested in the grace and kindness he applies when I make mistakes or fall short in areas where I should not, inspires that feeling of respect towards him that he also looks to receive from me as a wife.

In Ephesians 6, this principle is revealed. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless…Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭25-27, 33‬ NASB)

The manner in which Edric embraces his role as Christ to the church (me), where he loves me the way Christ does, encourages me and motivates me towards holiness. In this particular instance, his demonstration of this love was the act of patience and self-control.

It’s really a simple formula for couples although the challenges are undeniably present. Afterall, who likes to respond with happiness to watered-down oatmeal, a cold shower, and being made late to 7 tapings for a TV show?

It’s not easy and it takes being Spirit-filled versus flesh-filled. But the blessing is this…When a husband is the Spirit-filled leader of a marriage and home, God uses his example and headship to till the “soil” and make it fertile for the spiritual growth of the entire family. And this is the point I want to highlight. Yes, I can choose to be a submissive and respectful wife by focusing on the Lord and not Edric’s role as a husband, but how much more delightful and joyous it is to fulfill my role in the context of a marriage where my husband chooses to be the husband God calls him to be.

Because Edric’s attitude and actions conjured up feelings of romance too, I tried my best to serve him with better breakfast meals (still healthy). Tadah!

The Real Star of Our Mayad Beginnings Shoot

IMG_6343.JPGLast weekend, our family had a photoshoot with and for Mayad Beginnings, the photography outfit of the amazing Mayad Studios (who happened to do the videography for my sister’s wedding). Their make-up artist, Rochelle Lacuna, arrived early, probably about 6:30 AM, so I was in that chair getting prepped for the morning’s shoot before breakfast. Mayad Beginning’s team came into our living room and dining room not too long afterwards. It turned out that most of Mayad’s team goes to either our church, CCF, or Victory. But there was one lady whom I chatted with who seemed to be on a search for spiritual answers. I will call her J.P. for anonymity’s sake.

J.P. was the woman who contacted me to set up the shoot via email and it was our first time to meet face to face last Saturday. I began with small talk and eventually got to asking her about her spiritual journey, just to get a pulse for where she was at. Her honesty and openness afforded me an opening to share the gospel.

First, I asked her why she started attending CCF, to which she revealed that she had grown tired of a religion of performance and legalism. What she wanted was to have a relationship with Jesus, to be able to enjoy him and worship him and she seemed to find this in CCF. There couldn’t have been a more perfect time to insert what it really means to have a relationship with Jesus. And since my make-up wasn’t quite ready, we could continue talking.

While mascara and false eyelashes were being meticulously attached to my eyelids, I recounted my own spiritual journey, which began in my childhood. At the young age of nine, I despaired at the thought of my eternal destiny. Having no assurance that I would go to heaven, and fearing that I was most certainly bound for hell, I confessed to my preacher father that I was afraid to die. After a thorough explanation of how Jesus’ death on the cross paid for my sins and with an invitation from my dad to believe in what Jesus did for me, I prayed to receive Him into my life as Lord and Savior. My siblings and parents sat around me as witnesses since my question about eternal life came in the context of our family bible study.

This was the introduction to the Bible passage I shared with J.P.  Since her disenchantment with her previous place of worship had something to do with good works as a basis for acceptance, I showed her Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves, not as a result of works so that no one should boast.” I requested that J.P. read the verses and explain to me what each line meant to her.

“What is faith?” I asked her. And using the simple explanation I’ve often heard bible teachers use, I pointed to her chair and commented that she was exercising faith at that moment, as she sat on the chair, absolutely dependent on it to keep her from falling to the ground. In the same way, Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are not saved by our own works and good deeds. It is by grace, through faith in what God has done for us.

I proceeded to show her John 3:16 which says, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” What has God done for us? He gave us His Son, Jesus, to save us. What is our part? To believe, to have faith.

Still, J.P. said she struggled to give her life completely to the Lord because of past mistakes. She didn’t want to be presumptuous about God’s grace. So I told her the story of the thief on the cross by Jesus’ side, at the crucifixion. He had no opportunity to live a reformed life and yet when he expressed his faith in Jesus by saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

Death by crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals so we know that this thief committed a major crime. Similarly, there may be people out there who feel like they’ve done the unpardonable, the unforgivable. But God’s grace is still bigger. His blood can cover that sin or sins. God’s invitation extends to everyone.

Therefore, the onus is on us to accept his gift, his salvation, or to reject it. There are only two options. Either we embrace what Jesus has done, by faith. Or, we make excuses like, “I’m not ready” or “It’s too simple,” or “It doesn’t make sense, from a logic perspective.”

The reality is, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. How can someone love us this much?  I told J.P. that as a mother, I would never want to give up my children’s lives to save an evil person’s life. Yet God’s Word tells us, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

From the perspective of human logic, it is incomprehensible because we are more familiar with imperfect human love. But God’s love is different. He loved us (loves us) in our total and utter depravity and sinfulness, and chose to take our place so we can be reconciled to Him. And while it may not seem reasonable, we can understand the longing to be accepted this perfectly. Haven’t we all attempted to fill an emptiness in our hearts with relationships, career pursuits, habits, hobbies, accomplishments, acclaim, money and whatever else? Yet these things will never be enough to satisfy or save us, no matter what new forms they assume to make us think they will.

I am married to a wonderful man who loves God, and yet, he cannot fill the hole in my heart completely. He can love me and take care of me to the best of his ability, and I can do the same for him. And we enjoy each other in special and exclusive ways that we do not experience with other people. However, the space inside us is eternally wide and deep. Only the infinite personhood of God can occupy the void so that we cease from our striving to fill it.

One of my favorite passages is found in Colossians 1:16-17, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” 

Because we are made by God, for Him, we will not understand the fullness of joy, peace, love or purpose unless we experience these in the context of a relationship with Him. Why do orphans feel the need to know who their biological parents are? Why do they go through great lengths to seek out their real parents? We want to know where we came from so we can understand who we are supposed to be.  Thomas Aquinas summarized the essence of this by saying, “Our hearts are restless until they can find their rest in You (God).”

I told J.P. that I believed God ordained our time together for the very purpose of letting her know how much He loves her. The photoshoot was the circumstance that God provided so we could meet and have that discussion. I gave J.P. emotional space to digest what we talked about because she struggled with the next step, the closure – surrendering her life completely to the Lord. She was engaged during the entire make-up session, yet I couldn’t force her to receive God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. This is something she will have to do on her own, between her and God.

Shortly after my conversation with J.P., I had to get ready for our first shoot. The morning passed quickly as our family posed for the three concepts that Mayad Beginnings had in mind. We had a lot of fun but the best part of that day was the thirty minutes I had with J.P. while sitting on the make-up chair talking about our spiritual lives.

God has given Edric and I many opportunities to meet people from all walks of life, and I know that these moments are pre-ordained and pre-orchestrated not so much for our benefit (which a photoshoot can feel like because the attention is centered on us). Instead, I believe that he intends for us to use these occasions to deliver the gospel in whatever way or form we can. Whether this means sharing a conversation about God’s love or acting and behaving in ways that reflect Christ-likeness, we must remember that the greater privilege is putting the spotlight on Him and not on ourselves. The greater purpose is to declare the message of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

I pray we never forget that the real star of our marriage and our family is JESUS. It’s not us or our kids. He is the reason why there is joy, love, and by His grace, forgiveness in our home. He is the inspiration behind the smiles and the laughter you will see in the highlights of our shoot. Thank you to Mayad Beginnings for capturing us so naturally. But thank you most of all to the Lord for the opportunity to be representatives of His Name.

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Five Things My Mom Taught Me About Being A Wife

Of all the lessons my mom passed on to me, I am most grateful for the example and principles she taught me that prepared me to be a wife…

 1. Be Spirit-filled

Growing up I hardly ever saw my mom lose her temper or get angry. She chose to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The benefit to us as children was we had a happy, peaceful home. No shouting between our parents and no shouting directed towards us.

  

I am so thankful to the Lord for a mom who wasn’t temperamental or easily unsettled. Her example of grace under stress gave me a mental peg of how I ought to respond to Edric and my kids when I am upset. This doesn’t mean that I do so perfectly, but through her, I learned that gentleness and quietness of spirit is more powerful to communicate a message and point rather than yelling or shouting at others.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭16, 22-23‬ NASB)

  

 Being spirit-filled for my mom wasn’t merely about keeping her anger under control. She was predictably joyful, especially towards my dad. He came home to a wife who welcomed him each day with a smile. My dad didn’t have to guess what kind of mood my mom was in when he stepped into our house. He would excitedly call out, “Deonna!” and her response was one of delight as she received him.

  
2. Appreciate/Affirm More Than Criticize.

Every woman believes she marries the man of her dreams when she stands at the altar, but then she takes a list full of expectations into her marriage…all the ways her husband should love her, lead her, and provide for her. When he falls short of these expectations, she becomes disappointed, demanding, and then annoying!

When I am tempted to become like this, a good way to arrest the process  is remembering what my mom says so often, “lower expectation and raise appreciation.” It’s the expectations that trip me up a lot of times, but focusing on Edric’s many amazing traits causes me to be grateful. After all, I am married to a wonderful, godly man.

The principle of lowering expectations is not thinking less of Edric and saying, “Fine, I am not going to expect anything because you fail me.” Instead, it is choosing to emphasize and acknowledge the positive in him which results in the bonus effect of encouraging Edric to love, lead, and provide for me!

3. Follow Your Husband.

Even though my mom’s country of origin is the United States, she left it completely when she married my dad. At first, she traveled to the Philippines as a missionary. But marriage sealed the deal for her permanently. The Philippines became her new home.

My mom embraced my dad’s Chinese background and family. She intentionally made friends with Filipinos instead of hanging out with Americans from the expat or missionary community. It might have seemed like she was giving up her identity and culture when she married my father but she didn’t see it that way. She considered it a privilege to serve the Lord along side him in the Philippines and be his strong supporter.

She echoed the commitment of Ruth to Naomi, when Ruth declared, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (‭Ruth‬ ‭1‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

Before I got married, my mom told me something similar, “Follow your husband. Where he goes, you should go.” Coming from a family with such close ties to one another, this statement carried a lot of weight. She was liberating me to transfer my loyalties to Edric and to direct my commitment to him. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

This passage isn’t just for married couples, it’s for parents, too. Parents need to let their kids leave home physically and emotionally to begin their new life with their spouse. They need to applaud their child’s desire to honor their husband or wife by prioritizing them. As a mother, I can imagine how difficult it must be to release my children in this manner. But that is God’s design. No umbilical attachments to mom. Loyalties and priorities are transferred to one’s spouse.

For example, when my mom calls to invite us to a family dinner, and I say, “Sorry, mom, we can’t make it,” she doesn’t burden me with a guilt-trip. However, since we have a great relationship, I find ways to spend time with her during the week. Maybe we will go shopping together or get our nails done, or chat over lunch. But the point is she respects the boundaries of my relationship to Edric. If we have our own schedules and plans, she understands. She helps to reinforce the biblical principle of following Edric’s decisions and prioritizing him.

  
4. Be Simple.

It still amuses me how my mom, who doesn’t have to worry about money (by God’s grace), shops at tiangges and struggles to pay more than 2k for a bag. I remember one afternoon when we were shopping for a bag for her to bring on her U.S. trip. She was going to be a guest with my dad at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in D.C. So she thought of buying herself an elegant handbag. We must have gone in and out of six or seven stores and still found nothing. The styles weren’t classy for the price point she had in mind. And she felt like she already spent a lot for an outfit and shoes, which actually wasn’t that much in my opinion. (She even used gift checks for the outfit!)

Yet, this is my mom. She is not extravagant or materialistic. But she still tries her best to look put together. In fact our concern as children is that she refuses to wear flats and tends to fall or trip. No matter what we say, she remains a heels-only kind of woman even if she is in her late 60’s!

Going back to my mom’s bag story…When she and my dad got to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, she discovered that bags were not allowed into the venue. So she was thrilled that  God prevented her from finding one to buy! 

My mom remains simple when it comes to material things because she knows that “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. ” (‭1 John‬ ‭2‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

  She prefers to invest in the lives of people and is generous when it comes to helping others or using money to spread God’s Word. Buying jewelry, bags, shoes, watches…that’s not my mom and I have been blessed by her example of simplicity. To my recollection, she has never asked or pressured my dad for an expensive gift. Ever. He has applauded her for being easy to please. I hope to be the same way as a woman, especially in my marriage. I want Edric to know that he doesn’t have a high maintenance wife.    

  
5.Celebrate Femininity.

I have heard my dad say, “Your mom is such a feminine lady,” and it’s attractive to him. What is femininity anyway? Is it being weak and frail as a female? Of course not.

My mom birthed all of us naturally. When she was young, she transferred schools 18 times because my grandfather was in the navy so she learned to reach out to people and make friends everywhere. As a flight attendant, she traveled the world and warded off the advances of flirty pilots. She left the comforts of America to live in a country that was completely foreign. Marrying cross-culturing was not very common in the 70s. Homeschooling in the 80s wasn’t either. She successfully petitioned for the Department of Education to create a pilot homeschool program when she and my dad started TMA Homeschool. In her sixties, she chased a thief through the mall in high heels when her bag was snatched. And she caught up this thief and shared the gospel to her. I can numerate so many other ways my mom is a fighter and “strong in spirit,” but she is also soft-hearted, sweet, and graceful. She carries herself like a woman in the way she speaks, laughs, sits, stands, and relates to my dad.

  

The best way to describe my mom’s femininity is to highlight her inner tranquility. She is a woman who trusts in God and his plan and will for her life. Therefore she smiles at the future. She doesn’t strive or manipulative circumstances or people to get her way. Nor does she put a spotlight on herself to seek attention or glorify what she has accomplished. People are drawn to her person as they see Christ in her and she blesses them with godly wisdom and encouragement. As a wife, she respects my dad and honors the desires of his heart, seeking to please him and serve him. Therefore, he treasures her and deeply loves her, and he is still very much attracted to her.

  
Edric has told me on several occasions that he is glad I learned to be feminine from my mom. It matters to him that I put effort into embodying the same kindness, gentleness of spirit, and desire to serve him. My mom is much better at this and I continue to look to her as a standard to work towards. 

Thank you, mom, for the life lessons you passed on to me about being a wife. You are an incredible woman of God and I am so blessed to be your daughter and to have you as my example!

  “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: ‘Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.'” (Proverbs 31:25-26,29-29)

  

Can You Flex?

After the kids have their basketball trainings, they are wiped out and mad hungry. It’s been a little more expensive to feed our sons these past few weeks while their appetites have been amped up to a much higher degree than usual. The good thing is, I want them to eat a lot. All our kids have spider-like bodies because they are on the thinner side.

This afternoon, the kids wanted ice cream after their practice. I dropped by the grocery to do some shopping and my third son, Titus, expressed that he preferred to buy a yoghurt bar on our way home. In fact, he really wanted a yoghurt bar. However, it was simpler to get everyone ice cream at the supermarket, so he ended up with an ice cream cone from the grocery freezer instead.

I had forgotten about how much he desired a yoghurt bar. But on the way home, he stuck his head in between the van seats and whispered to me, “Mom, it’s okay that I didn’t get a yoghurt bar.”

Oh right. I hadn’t really given it much thought that settling for an ice cream cone fell short of his expectations. But he made sure to announce that he was fine, just in case I was wondering if he was.

I kissed Titus and told him, “I’m sooo proud of you for being flexible.”

“What does flexible mean?” He didn’t quite understand as he asked this.

“Being flexible means being able to adjust when you don’t get what you want.” After I explained this, a smile broke out on his face.

When I was little my dad repeatedly told my siblings and me, “Learn to be flexible.” I’ve never forgotten this phrase. Every time circumstances didn’t turn out as planned or expectations were unmet, disappointment was natural. However, my dad reminded us, “be flexible.”

The character trait of flexibility was rooted in something much more significant than the ability to adjust to the situation. My dad taught us to trust in God and be at peace when we didn’t get our way. This approach to fighting entitlement worked for us. We learned that we could be happy and thankful even if we didn’t receive that toy we hoped for, or the ice cream, horseback ride, movie night, beach trip, etc.

When we fail to teach our children to be flexible, their tendency is to wallow in negativity when there is a perceived roadblock to their happiness.

Some years ago, Edric’s Uncle who lives in the U.S. visited Manila with a suitcase full of gifts for our kids. He requested that I email him a few weeks prior with links to the items he could purchase for our children on Amazon. Of course he assumed that these items were our children’s preferences and he was looking forward to surprising them.

A few weeks later, he arrived and gathered the children around him. Each time he pulled out a present from his luggage, the kids would hold their breath in excitement. Elijah and Edan were thrilled with their gifts, exclaiming, “This is my favorite!” They marveled over the fact that their Great Uncle was so intuitive!

Titus’ turn came along and his Great Uncle handed him an anthology of Dr. Seuss Stories. I must admit that this was one of those Amazon items that I wanted for him more than he probably wanted for himself. Titus accepted the heavy book, looked it over, and politely expressed his gratitude. However, as he walked back to the couch where he had been sitting, he very honestly mouthed out, “This is NOT my favorite.” I didn’t know whether to laugh at his candidness or cry in embarrassment!

Of all our kids, Titus ranks high on persistence. He will find/invent a way to reach his objectives. Therefore to hear him say, “It’s okay that I didn’t get a yoghurt bar” with all sincerity was actually a big deal. He has changed a lot! I praise God that he is maturing in the area of dealing with disappointment.

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Every person needs to learn flexibility. Life is hardly predictable. As much as we would like to, there’s no way to ABSOLUTELY control people around us or the circumstances we face. And it’s easy to be pouty, moody, ungrateful, and upset when our demands and expectations aren’t met.

The definitions of flexibility according to the Free Online Dictionary are the following:

  1. Capable of being bent or flexed; pliable
  2. Readily bending or twisting the body without injury.
  3. Able to change to cope with variable circumstances.
  4. Capable of being change or adjusted to meet particular or varied needs.

On the one hand the word flexible refers to the ability of the body to bend and flex. But on an emotional level, it is the capacity to accommodate change and adjust one’s attitude and responses positively. On a spiritual plane, I believe this ability begins with an awareness that God remains in control. When things go out of control it is declaring, I will do my part to focus on what I can control – my attitude and behavior, and leave the outcome to the Lord, willingly bending in the direction he elects for me to go.

How do we know that we are becoming more flexible? We can check the aftereffects. A flexible person is a rested, grateful person who finds enjoyment in the present circumstances and makes the most out of the situation, trusting that God is at work and sovereign.

Let me close with this passage… “Cease striving and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

At the end of the day, our responses to situations are indicative of our theology. Do we really know who God is? How powerful? How awesome? How loving, good, and holy? Our knowledge of God will dictate the turmoil or the peace that follows. Here’s a statement to reflect on which my mom passed on to me, “KNOW GOD, KNOW PEACE. NO GOD, NO PEACE.”

 

 

 

As For Me and My House… 

There is no guarantee that being involved in ministry as a family will ensure that our kids turn out okay in the spiritual and moral sense, but Edric and I do believe that immersing them in experiences where they can serve the Lord alongside us is good for their spiritual health.

First, ministry doesn’t take us away from them. As often as possible, they join us when we travel out of town to speak or give seminars on marriage, parenting or homeschooling. It’s a “family thing,” not just a “mom and dad thing.” Second, our children benefit from opportunities to declare God’s goodness in their lives and share their faith journeys. Telling others about what God has done makes them purposeful and productive followers of the Lord, even at a young age. Third, when they serve with us, they have the privilege of witnessing lives changed by the power of the gospel and the Word of God as first-hand observers. Fourth, they recognize that the Christian life isn’t about hogging the blessings of peace and joy for ourselves. It’s about sharing these with others so they too will be attracted to the source of it all — Jesus Christ.

Elijah and Edan are old enough to share their faith insights and experiences. So when it is relevant to, we let them stand in front of audiences to testify to what God is teaching them and doing in their lives. Since our family had a homeschooling roadshow in Baguio City this weekend, Elijah and Edan helped me present educational apps to homeschooling parents.

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During Holy Week, the kids talked about the blessings of obedience and the importance of studying God’s Word for a family retreat that was also held in Baguio. Four of them, Elijah, Edan, Titus and Tiana, recited passages of scripture for the audience to motivate parents to have family devotions with their kids and get them to memorize verses.

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We don’t want our family to be like a traveling circus, where we put the spotlight on our children and what we are doing as a family. What we do want is for our children to realize that while they are young, they have many opportunities to be fruitful and impact others. They don’t have to wait until they are older and grown up to make a difference for Christ. As followers of Jesus, wherever we go and in whatever we do, we can use our “time, talents, and treasure” (as Edric puts it when he preaches about living for eternity) to point people to Jesus Christ and glorify Him.

Edric reminds our kids that we are on this earth “to be a blessing.” Sometimes this means standing in front of an audience to give a testimony about what God has done in their lives. Other times, this may involve visiting the sick or the needy, sharing the gospel, hosting guests in our home, or using their gifts and talents to perform at an event or occasion.

I asked Edan if he still gets nervous when he speaks in front of people, and he told me, “Yes, but I love speaking. I want to be a blessing.” He just turned nine years old, and he began his public speaking experience when he was seven. If I had asked him this question two years ago, he would have confessed to his terror. It took some practice to get him to the point where he can, by God’s grace, deliver a short speech to a large audience without being as self-conscious as he used to be.

He still struggles with self-consciousness and fear. All of us do. Whenever Edric and I give a talk or seminar we pray for God’s divine help. There’s no way to do a good job unless He enables us. The other important mindset we must have is the why behind serving the Lord together, as a family. Whenever God puts a husband, wife and children in a family, he assembles a team of people to send out as his ambassadors for the gospel and His Kingdom. It’s much more effective when the work is done together, with each person contributing their abilities and strengths.

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One candle in the dark makes a significant difference, but add two, three, four, five, or more flames and the light will overpower the darkness. Similarly, God’s design for each person in a family is to be a light and testament to who He is — that he is holy, loving, awesome, and desires for every person to have a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:16 tells us, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

Even little children have a light to shine for Jesus! When Tiana was two years old, she used to sing a song that captures the verse above: “I’m a little candle, shining in the dark, it’s the light of Jesus, shining in my heart, I will shine, I will shine…Like a candle in the dark, I will shine!”

Are we providing our children with opportunities to shine for Christ? Do they have the love of God in their hearts so they can channel this to others? How can we do this as a family, as a team?

A Trait All Gentlemen Should Have

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Having three sons offers Edric and I many opportunities to learn about what boys are like and how they develop into men. One thing is certain, they need guidance and direction when it comes to growing in their concept of manhood. Edric plays a vital role in this aspect of their development, and he has intentionally taken it upon himself to teach them what it means to be gentlemen.

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When teaching opportunities present themselves, he will pass on things like, “We need to let ladies go first. We need to hold the door open for them. We need to help ladies carry heavy bags.” Everytime he leaves the home and the boys are left with me, he reminds them, “Protect your mom and your sisters.” It’s quite adorable when my sons take this to heart and insist on accompanying me when I have to run an errand in order to “protect me.”

I recall an instance when Elijah accompanied me to 168 in Divisoria to buy toys for a birthday party. When I had to use the toilet, Elijah said, “I can go with you, mom.” I thought he was afraid. So I said, “Okay, come wait right outside so I know you are safe.” But he replied, “No, I will make sure YOU ARE SAFE.”

These are simple ways that our children are learning to be gentlemen. However, there is a more important trait that all gentlemen should have that we are trying to instill in our sons – how to be buck-stopping leaders.

For the past few days, our family was at a retreat in Baguio, where Edric and I served as speakers. Our kids attended the children’s classes, where they were grouped by various ages. Elijah and Edan shared the same class. When we asked them if they obeyed their teacher, they confessed to their rowdiness – hitting one another’s heads and playfully agitating each other so they became a distraction to others. As a result the teacher separated them. We encouraged them to apologize for their behavior and they were in full agreement of doing so, acknowledging that their actions had been wrong. The next time they saw their teacher, they asked for her forgiveness, which she readily gave.

On the one hand, being a gentleman is about treating people with respect, being considerate of others before one’s self, keeping one’s word and dealing with people honorably and truthfully. On the other hand, it is about accepting accountability and responsibility for one’s choices and mistakes, choosing to do what pleases God, and encouraging others to do the same.

As Edric likes to put it, “the buck stops with us (men).” He shares this often during seminars where he talks about the role of a man, challenging them to imitate U.S. President Harry Truman example, who popularized the statement “The buck stops here” – a sign that sat on his desk in the Oval Office. Prior to this, it was common to use the phrase, “pass the buck” when playing poker whenever the person holding the buck was tired of the responsibility.

In contrast, the “buck stops here” represents the kind of leader men are supposed to be. Edric refers to the passage in Genesis 3, the tragic choice to eat the forbidden fruit and the aftermath of this decision. Adam and Eve attempted to hide themselves, a ridiculous attempt to conceal themselves from an all-knowing and all-present God. In this chapter, God did something very intentional. He called out to the MAN. “Where are you?”

Edric asks men during seminars, “Why didn’t God single out Eve? Eve, who took the first bite and convinced her husband to sin with her?” God sent a message to Adam – as the man, you are accountable, you are responsible, I put you in charge, what happened? This tells us that a man is accountable to God first, and then responsible to take care of those entrusted to his care, to lead them in the way God would have them go. He should not “pass the buck” by pointing fingers and blaming others or circumstances.

Perhaps I can illustrate this point with a story. When I was dating Edric, we struggled in the area of purity. He was a gentleman in the sense that he took care of me and looked out for my needs. He tried his best to treat me with respect. However, our hormones at that season of our lives were difficult to bridle. I’m not excusing what we did. Furthermore, it would not be fair for me to say that it was entirely Edric’s fault. I made my own choices and I did things I’m not proud of. At some point, Edric and I became very convicted about what we were doing. We broke up in order to put God first and seek his will for us.

One of my prayers was that Edric would sit down with my parents and tell them everything we did so we could “come clean.” I was amazed when, a few months later, while we were broken up, he called me and asked to have dinner with my parents on his own initiative. During that dinner he owned up to his responsibility as a man and put the blame on himself. It was the most awkward dinner of our lives. But I learned something remarkable about Edric, which only wanted me to marry him all the more!

A real gentleman says, “the buck stops with me! I am accountable. I am responsible.” I saw this trait in Edric when he apologized to my parents saying that as the man in the relationship, he should not have allowed our relationship to become so physical. He claimed the fault was is even if I insisted that the blame shouldn’t fall entirely upon him. My admiration for him increased 10-fold.

Up to this day, he is this kind of man. Of course he makes mistakes every now and then, but he will own up to them and burden himself with the responsibility of fixing problems that arise in our marriage and family. Furthermore, he will not let issues linger to a destructive point because he knows that God has put him in charge of the kids and me.

Admittedly, sometimes the problem is me! But Edric won’t say, “See, this is all your fault!” In fact, he has never, to my recollection, ever said this to me. More often than not, he actually says, “You know what, I need to make sure that I disciple you better, to help you.” Or, “I’ve got to step up and make sure I’m leading our family spiritually. This is on me.” He will even add, “I’m back, baby! (for my sake) Have no fear, ‘daddy’ is here (for the kids’ sake),” puffing his chest out and thumping it to give the moment some comedy.

When he makes this profession, I am confident not in Edric per se, but on the source of his ability to turn a situation around for the better or repair what needs fixing. Edric is dependent on God. He walks with Him and seeks to follow His principles. Therefore his enabling comes from God. Being a faithful follower of Jesus makes him a capable, buck-stopping leader. The aim of his leadership is to help those around him, especially the kids and me, to follow Jesus, too.

As women, we have a significant role to play to encourage the emergence of the inner, God-designed, buck-stopping leaders that husbands are made to be.

First, our outlook is important. I believe all husbands have the capacity to lead. This isn’t a trait exclusive to those with dominant personality types. Interestingly, our sons show leadership in very different ways from one another. Elijah has a very big personality but he is a leader by example. Edan tends to be less vocal, but organizing people and delegating tasks comes naturally to him. Titus is a man’s man. No matter what their personalities are like, each one of them can learn to copy the kind of leadership that Jesus Christ displayed for us. John Piper describes this as a combination of lion-hearted and lamb-like. Jesus boldly taught us how to live and he died for us to solve the problem of our sins, but at the same time he was among us as a servant.

Matthew 20:25 – 28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Second, we can appreciate the instances when our husbands make difficult decisions for the family. Whether these decisions turn out well or not, we can call out the fact that it must be hard to make the choices they have to make. We can tell them that their leadership means a lot to us.

Third, we should avoid criticizing them when they fail, because they will from time to time. Let’s ban comments like, “See, I told you so!” (Oh, I know this is hard! I have to bite my lip not to do this at times!)

Fourth, let them know that we are there to support them and pray for them, communicating that we believe God will help them to solve the problem and be the kind of leader they need to be. (Pray, pray, pray!!!)

I know it’s hard to communicate these messages when we are disappointed in the leadership or lack of leadership our husbands may display. But our positive outlook, belief in their leadership by the power of Christ’s enabling, encouragement, and prayers will do wonders! Men have so much pressure on their shoulders. The last thing they need is to be pressured by us.

For single women, how do you distinguish between someone who is a gentleman only on the outside and one who has the qualities of a buck-stopping leader? Observe the way a man you are interested in handles conflict, stress, problems, mistakes, and issues. Does he recognize and embrace his responsibility and admit accountability, seeking to find solutions that may entail sacrificing his own comfort and needs? More importantly, does he walk intimately with the Lord so that his responses are aligned with God’s principles and honor Him? In the process, does he motivate others to do the same, including you?

 

 

Love Beyond Us

It is always a privilege when Edric and I are invited to speak at retreats, give seminars, counsel couples, and lead discipleship groups as a team. Of course it isn’t always easy because we have young children to attend to. But, when God gives us a green light to accept a ministry assignment and we follow through with it, we come away from the experience more in love with Him, and with one another.

Why? Because ministry commits us to a common purpose, one that enriches our marriage and causes us to look outside of it. The ceiling for love feels limitless as we receive God’s love and channel it others.

In contrast, when our attentions and energies are directed MERELY towards our relationship, marriage can start to feel like an ingrown-toenail. Sounds pretty ugly, huh?

There’s no other person I would rather be with than Edric and I know he would say the same about me. Yet we also learned, years ago, that God brought us together for something much more abundant and more fulfilling than the mere enjoyment of one another.

When God brings a man and a woman together, happily ever after is not his main goal. While this is a part of it when we follow his principles, it’s not the chief end. The greater aspect is forming an alliance of personalities, strengths and weaknesses, experiences, and capabilities to serve him and display the glories of his love through a covenant relationship.

In Genesis 1 we read: God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭1‬:‭27-28‬ NASB)

Adam and Eve were given the privilege of bearing God’s image. They were to be His image bearers in fruitfulness and multiplication, as they filled the earth and subdued it, and as they exercised dominion over it. Through Adam and Eve, the world was to reflect the glory of God and be the blessed recipient of it.

Yet we know from Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve did not cooperate with God’s plan. As a result we are all born with the same fallen nature. While we bear the likeness of God in the sense that we can feel, reason, imagine, and create in ways that animals cannot, our spiritual genetics carry the imperfection of man’s first sinful choice. We became a corrupted form of God’s original design, separated from delightful fellowship with Him because of sin.

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭18-21

In His great love for us, God offered himself through His Son as a solution to our sinful orientation. He gave us the opportunity to become His children once again.

But as many as received Him (Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭12-13‬ NASB)

In order to fulfill God’s purpose to be  fruitful, multiply, subdue and rule over the earth as image bearers of His love and glory, a man and a woman must begin their marriage reconciled to God first, as His children. This is the designated starting point, the genesis of purpose.

Years ago, I made an independent decision to repent of my sins and accept God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I asked Him to be my Lord and Savior, and I committed to live for Him. Edric did the same.

As a result, we had unity of spirit before unity of flesh. We agreed upon God’s principles for marriage, parenting, and ministry. And then we agreed to pursue these principles together, in a covenant relationship, as husband and wife.

This didn’t meant we were exempt from problems. In fact, our first year of marriage was difficult because of personality clashes. However we were committed to working it out because we knew that God brought us together in marriage. We knew he could fix our relational issues.We knew he had a plan and purpose for us to fulfill.

The Bible tells us that God “reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭18-20‬ NASB)

When I look back on the journey that our marriage has been, our highest highs and greatest joys have been shared in the context of serving the Lord’s purposes as a team. What a privilege to reconcile people to God through Jesus Christ; to invite them to be His children so they can bear His image and display His love to the world.

On the way home from one Saturday marriage seminar we spoke at, Edric turned to me in the car and reiterated how much he loves me, how much he enjoys serving the Lord together. The afternoon was coming to a close and we were headed to see our children. He asked me, “Is it possible to love you more?” Although he meant it as a rhetorical question, I will answer it here…

God multiplied whatever love we thought we had for each other when we stood at the altar on the day of our wedding. He multiplies it still. It’s not a love that surfaces or extends from our exhaustible and finite selves. It’s one that comes from Him, a love beyond us, so we can love beyond us.

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Dealing With Meltdowns

When my kids have their once-in-a-while “meltdowns” during our homeschooling, I am faced with two options. The first is to be annoyed, which is a very real temptation that may involve a response like, “Get over it and do your work. I have no time for your drama.”

Obviously, this would be counterproductive as it is unfair to expect my children to turn their emotions on and off like a switch does to a light bulb. So I usually go for option two, which is to give my children space to feel the emotion that is overwhelming them, to process what they are feeling, and then to pray about it. After all, I have several children to teach so having one absent from our homeschool room actually makes my life easier! But the more important objective is giving my kids the opportunity to hear from the Lord, and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to them more effectively than I can, especially when the meltdown is at its peak. This type of response is more effectively applied with older children who have a relationship with Jesus Christ because they are Holy-Spirit-equipped to process their circumstances.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Elijah, pushed his IPad away while muttering, “I can’t do this! I got everything wrong! I don’t like math anymore!”

“Are you okay?” I asked calmly, attempting to diffuse his frustration.

“No, I am not and you can’t help me. Nobody can help me.” (He tends to use superlatives in his sentences when he is emotionally charged.)

It wasn’t the most respectful thing to say to me, but I knew where he was coming from as a perfectionist. So I requested that he take a break from his Khan Academy work and go to his room. He got up, huffing and puffing about what a failure he was and threw himself on to the bed to cry.

When Elijah makes mistakes, his morale plummets due to the high standard he expects of himself. Even if I tell him, mistakes can be positive when we learn from them and it’s okay to make mistakes, mistakes are part of growing, that’s not what he wants to hear. More often than not, the best recourse is to back off and give him space to cool down.

After thirty minutes, I lay beside him on the bed and gave him a big hug and kiss. “I love you.” I assured him. And then I listened to his ranting about how upset he was and how he didn’t want to try because he couldn’t do his math well.

When he quieted down I asked him if his mistakes were due to an understanding issue or just carelessness. He admitted that it was the latter. I suspected it was probably so because he prefers to solve math problems mentally, without writing down the solutions.

Since it wasn’t a matter of understanding the formulas involved, I didn’t think it was a big problem. He just needed to slow down and take time to review how he arrived at the answers he did. Furthermore, I asked him if I could sit beside him and do the problems with him.

He really perked up with this suggestion! The idea of sitting side by side to tackle the work gave him renewed incentive to try again. (He is a time person.) So that’s what we did, as a team.

With each problem, we raced to see who would get the answer first. When I needed to review my math formulas I asked him to help me, which he enjoyed doing. In fact his mood changed completely. He was enthusiastic as he demonstrated how to solve the problems and as we compared our answers. I let him take the lead and he gladly did so, assuming the role of instructor as I played the part of student. In the process he answered every problem correctly. What began as a meltdown turned into a fun bonding and learning experience.

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When we finished, Elijah turned to me and said, “Thank you, mom. Thank you for listening and not lecturing me. And I really like it when you are with me.”

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19‬ NASB)

One of the sweet privileges of homeschooling is being able to ask my kids to take a pause from their “school” work in order to assess and pray about their emotions and attitudes. This gives the Holy Spirit room to convict them and minister to them. It also allows me to think through how I should respond so I avoid the default reaction of irritation when my kids say, “I don’t want to do my work, mom.” After the beneficial pause, which lasts between five to thirty minutes, I can come along side my children to walk them through the challenge of a difficult assignment.

This wouldn’t be realistic in the conventional school model, so I praise God my kids aren’t in a classroom. We aren’t rushed to finish course work during the day when it’s more necessary to stop and address a heart condition or encourage the love for learning. I also get to know my children better — what enlivens them, what demotivates them, what they need to improve on. Best of all, I see the grace of God at work as he helps them deal with their struggles and come out of them positively. God works in my own life, too, teaching me what to say and what to AVOID saying (which is my number one area of improvement in life…keeping quiet and being gentle!)

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭32‬ NASB)

I once read that parenting needs to be about long term goals rather than short-sighted ones. Short-sightedness is stressing out when my children aren’t eager to do their homeschooling work or when they don’t seem to get the material as expediently as I hope they will. I can fall into this mode of parenting which turns me into a tyrannical teacher, one who is pressured to MAKE my kids succeed academically. Or, I can set my sights on the long term goal of parenting.

My long term goal is to raise my children to love God with all that they are and to develop their gifts and abilities for his glory, so they can effectively declare the gospel. When that is my fixed mark, the kids and I can set aside the homeschooling task at hand because there is a more redemptive cause at stake — recalibrating my children’s hearts to adapt Christ-centered perspectives and attitudes. I want their minds primed for instruction rather than forced to receive it. I also want them to know that my love and acceptance will cushion their failures.

When these elements are present as we homeschool, the joy of purposeful learning and teaching returns and the atmosphere is one of peace and calm. But everyday births a new challenge or resurrects an old one so it’s only by God’s grace that we survive each year of homeschooling to pursue another one!

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The Last Twelve Months of Boyhood

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-41-07 GMT 0800

Elijah is turning twelve this month. He hasn’t experienced puberty yet but I am anticipating that it will happen soon, which kind of frightens me. When will his testosterone-driven urges emerge? Will he start getting moody? And what about all the physical changes?!

I ran into one of his friends the other day who transformed into a young man in the few months I had not seen him. His voice was husky and low, he looked a head taller, and I spied a shadowy line of hair across his upper lip.

“What happened?” I idiotically asked him. “I went through puberty,” was his matter-of-fact reply, coupled with a grin and chuckle that hinted at, Isn’t it obvious? 

And it was. Obvious, I mean. Of course he went through puberty! I suppose I asked the question to remind myself that at some point I will be staring at my oldest son, wondering the same thing. I imagine that this assault on my reality will be accompanied by crying. (I already feel like crying. Okay, I am crying a little bit.)

A few weeks ago, Edric called me to his study room and pointed to his laptop where he was going through archives of family videos. We were like two addicts, hovering over the screen. I saw several videos of Elijah as a toddler. I had forgotten how high pitched his voice was. In one video he was smiling in every scene, revealing those deep dimples on either side of his face. Edric was coaching him for my surprise music video. They connived to sing their version of Chris Brown’s With You hit for my 30th birthday. There was Elijah, dressed in a hoodie, bobbing his head up and down as he vocalized the chorus, “With you, with you, with you, with you, with you…”

In another clip, he was blowing out birthday candles and shouting out spontaneous reactions as he unwrapped presents. “Yeah!” “Wow!” I remember telling him before this that he should communicate excitement and gratitude for every present he received, and he did so with such obedience, wanting to make sure that everyone knew he appreciated their gifts.

How did he become the big-footed, long-limbed, Google-humanoid who was sitting beside me on the couch, swiping through his Evernote checklist of daily activities while I wrote this post? I looked over at him as he grabbed his Singapore Math book, propped himself back on the couch, and started whistling a classical tune in perfect pitch.

“That’s a beautiful song. What are you whistling?” I asked.

“Gavotte from Mignon. It’s Edan’s song for violin class.”

“Another Gavotte? Why do you guys play so many Gavotte songs for your violin class?”

Elijah looked up from his book, and true to his Google-like capacities, explained, “Gavotte refers to a dance, an Italian dance. So different Gavottes can be composed by different people…” He didn’t mock me for not knowing that, even if he could have.

He may sound like an encyclopedia but he is still a boy, for the next twelve months, at least! But Elijah is aware that his needs are changing.

We had an interesting conversation about this that awakened me to the reality of his passage into manhood. He spontaneously told me very recently, “I need dad, mom. I really need him. I really look up to him.”

I wasn’t trying to steal the spotlight from Edric but I couldn’t help it. So I hazarded to ask, “What about me? Do you also need me?”

“Of course, mom!” He hugged me reassuringly, but then he said with a conviction I couldn’t challenge, “But I need an example, and that is Dad.”

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-14-16 GMT 0800

“Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6

In an older book called Raising A Modern Day Knight, author Robert Lewis shares this:

Something about a father’s physical and emotional presence gives life to a boy. Masculine life. Just being around dad—watching him shave, hearing him laugh, touching his flesh—invests a son with large doses of male energy. And this emotional capital cannot be gained anywhere other than in the presence of a father. The investment becomes even more substantial when a father imparts not only emotional capital, but moral and spiritual capital as well. In this nurturing environment, a son is weighted down with a masculine anchor. He lashes his soul to masculine moorings. But this also explains why sons drift in the absence of fathers. Instead of being weighted down, they become weightless. (pg.36)

According to Scripture, every son—from an early age—must be schooled in three critical areas…a will to obey (God’s will), a work to do (according to his own unique design), and a woman to love. Lacking these elements, a son will flounder in adulthood; he will wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and restlessness. But armed with them, a son becomes equipped to succeed in his relationship with God, in his community and church, and in his marriage. (pg.67)

Mon Dec 15 2014 13-51-37 GMT 0800

When Elijah declared his need for an example in Edric, I was overjoyed. It made me immeasurably happy to know that their relationship is as it should be as father and son. Over the last couple of years, Edric has intentionally discipled Elijah, and biblically speaking, this is his role.

Father’s do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NLT)

However, I also felt a twinge of jealousy…just a tiny smidgen of envy. Elijah is departing from childhood, headed towards the path of manhood. Before the age of six, I was the apple of his eye. He wanted me more than anyone else. He needed me. But today, he knows that becoming the man God wants him to be will require the presence of his father more than anyone else.

In the past couple of days, I have thought about Elijah a lot. I’ve removed myself from the craziness of duty, training, teaching and disciplining to recall parenting days of yesteryears. There’s a wishing that beckons a sorrow, not of pain or regret, but of the sort that any mother would know…it comes like a longing to cradle my grown child as the baby he once was…to press my nose against that incomparably soft cheek that smelled both pure and sweet, scented by mild soap and mother’s milk…to watch the glinted eyes of wonderment when everything was new to exploring hands and feet…to hear once again that first laugh, first word, first “I love you”, and be the recipient of that first kiss…

What I would give to be privy once more to those moments where details have been swallowed up by time! For now they persist in parts, in feelings evoked by photographs, in memories conjured by sights and smells, as treasures in a heart that longs to linger in a season of passing childhood.

Sigh. The emotions we go through as mothers! No wonder why it says, Mary (in the Bible) treasured and pondered…ponder, ponder. I suppose that’s what this is…a post dedicated to treasuring and pondering upon the last twelve months of my son’s boyhood. This is me coming to terms with how my love for him must grow and mature. While I know he loves me deeply still and I love him more than ever, I must also step aside, not step away, but talk less and listen more, instruct less and mentor more, squander less and treasure more, react less and ponder more, hover less and pray more, so that one day Elijah can become the man God has planned for him to be.

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Sun Feb 01 2015 01-25-03 GMT 0800

Even Though Others May Forget You, God Will Not

This past December, Edric and I went to Disneyland and California Adventure with our children, my sister’s family and my mom and dad. We had a “system” for making sure we got to the best rides.

Both parks have fast passes and switch passes that make it easier for people to bypass the lines so we took advantage of these. The kids got to enjoy all the classics of the good ol’ days and the newer ones like Cars.

I didn’t get to ride on too many attractions because of Catalina but that was fine. She was my priority so I stayed with her and the stroller most of the time. Besides, the only ride that I really cared about was Small World. When I was a little girl this one was one of my favorites.

When it was decided that we would all go on this ride together, I was excited! But we had to park all the strollers first. Between my sister, Candy, my brother-in-law, Jeff, Edric and me, we had three strollers to leave behind. (One of them was a double.)

After parking the strollers we all met again at the line thinking the kids were complete. There should have been eight kids. However, unbeknown to us, Corban was missing. (Corban is my 5 year old nephew, the eldest son of Jeff and Candy.)

In this photo, Corban is the younger child with glasses…

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Jeff and Candy didn’t realize he wasn’t with them because they assumed he had run off to be with our kids. This happened often during our time in Disneyland and California Adventure. The kids would congregate together so it wasn’t extraordinary to think that Corban was among his cousins.

The Small World line was about fifteen minutes long and the ride itself took fifteen minutes. It wasn’t until we exited that Candy asked, “Where’s Corban?” We surveyed the children and counted all of them. Corban was missing! When we all realized that he never got on the ride with us, Jeff and Candy darted off in a panic. They handed off their baby, Joshua, and three year old, Levi, to me. Attempting to retrace their steps they called out, “Corban! Corban!”

I saw the terror in their faces as they ran everywhere. My parents, Edric and I, and our kids were very worried, too. We prayed and prayed that he was alright, that he would be found. I started up the street with my kids and Candy’s younger kids in tow while everyone else helped with the search.

A few moments later, two ladies approached me and asked, “Are you looking for a boy? We were following him because we were concerned about him. We are so glad to know that he’s going to be okay.” That’s all they said and they walked away. These two young women were strangers. I had no idea who they were. But when they said this I was hoping they were referring to Corban.

A few minutes later I saw Corban in his parents arms, making their way towards us. Corban’s eyes were red and swollen from all the crying but the important thing was he was saved! I can’t even begin to explain the relief that came over all of us as we took in the sight of Corban. Losing Corban felt like a nightmare, one of those parent’s-worst-fears sort of situations!

Jeff and Candy found him in the arms of an elderly man, a security guard. At first, he kind of scolded them for their neglect. He was like, “How could you not know your child was missing for thirty minutes?!” He wasn’t angry, just incredulous.

Later on in the day, I got the chance to ask Corban what happened, after the drama died down. He narrated to me how he had followed his parents to the stroller parking. When they situated the stroller among the multitude of strollers, he lost track of them and got separated. Since he didn’t see them go to the Small World line, he waited at the stroller parking thinking they would reappear at some point. He stayed put but then realized that no family member was in sight or coming back to look for him. At this point he started to panic and cry. He thought perhaps he ought to walk in one direction (which was the opposite of where we were). That’s when the elderly gentleman saw him, escorted him, and held him while he was bawling.

I don’t know how the two ladies who spoke to me came into the picture because Corban didn’t talk about them. This leads me to believe that somehow, God used them to keep an eye on him from a distance. Maybe they were even angels!

What is certain is God protected Corban while we rode the Small World attraction, completely oblivious to how scared and alone he was. In an amusement park that could have had a number of predatorial and ill-intentioned people lurking around, who could have preyed on or taken away a vulnerable five year old, it was God’s merciful dealing with our carelessness that kept Corban safe. When I replay the scene in my mind and mull over how absent-minded and caught up we were in the gaiety of the ride, watching those dancing toys in total ignorance, it makes me so thankful that God is a much better parent than we all are!

While it was an innocent mistake, there was no excuse for forgetting a child that belonged to us. All of us adults felt guilty in some way for the shared neglect and presumptuousness we exhibited.

I praise God for being Corban’s rescuer. He watched over Corban by sending those kind women to tail him and the security guard to hold him until he was found. This was a lesson on vigilance for all of us parents, but it was also an experience of God’s grace and love. God’s grace and love rescued him from our mistake. While we obviously can’t live with the mindset that our mistakes are okay because God can supersede them, it was comforting to know that God looks out for the well-being of our kids. He loves them infinitely more than we ever can or will.

Of course, after this experience, we also learned to count each of our children CONTINUALLY! No other untoward incidences met us the rest of our stay and we all made it back home together and complete! Plus, Corban soon forgot the incident and moved on without post-traumatic stress.

I am so thankful it was a painful lesson with a HAPPY ending because God elected for Corban to be found. We may have forgotten about him but God did not!

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“Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” (‭Isaiah‬ ‭49‬:‭15‬ NASB)

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A History To Pass On

Over lunch I shared with the kids how blessed I was that a reader of my blog was introduced to Jesus Christ through my site. I went on to explain that I began Teachwithjoy for the purpose of connecting people to Christ and nothing delights me more than to hear about instances when this happens. So often it astonishes me that God allows me to reach people I would never be able to sit down with and have a conversation with. When I started to tear for joy the kids had mixed reactions. They weren’t sure what was going on.

Tiana was troubled. “Why are you crying?” Her big eyes fixated on my tear-filled ones.

Titus asked with a mouthful of food, “Why are you sad?” He didn’t get the concept of “tears of joy.”

Elijah continued working on a testimony he was writing but he was listening. We jokingly call him the “all” hearing one because he can tune in to any conversation within a range of five meters. And then there was Edan, who started to exhibit tears himself.

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He empathized with the joy I felt, the joy of making Jesus Christ known to others. And he covered his face in embarrassment as his siblings looked, overwhelming him with their inquiries.

I approached him and quietly asked why he was crying. He revealed that it makes him happy when people hear about Jesus. Being the more quiet child of my five, it’s instances like these that I treasure, when I get a glimpse into his person.

I hugged him. Edan’s heart beats for evangelism. He is often the first to ask, “Do you think that person knows Jesus?” And he will suggest that we share the gospel if it seems like they don’t. Some months ago, he inquired if President Aquino believed in Jesus. When Edric asked him why this mattered to him, his response was, “If the President knows Jesus then he can tell everyone about Jesus!” (If only it was as simple as that!)

Sometimes I assume that our kids know that Edric and I love the Lord, that we desire to serve him. But we need to keep declaring the works of God to our children, to highlight his goodness in our midst, and to share the struggles and joys of living for Him. When we do so, it enables them to connect life and faith. Faith becomes tangible and personal.

The Bible actually encourages us to do this. We must give the next generation a history of faith to pass on…the mighty works of God in days of old, but also in the present. He is not a distant God of the ancients, he is intimately involved in the now. What better way for our children to encounter this truth than to hear the stories we tell — stories that will teach them to recognize his handprint in the unfolding of their own?

We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. (‭Psalms‬ ‭78‬:‭4‬ NASB)

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