Fight with Gentleness

Gentle in the dictionary means considerate, kind and amiable in manner and disposition, not harsh or severe. I want to be like this, especially towards Edric and the kids. But my one big struggle is how I deal with conflict – conflict between Edric and myself when we get into an argument or don’t share the same perspective, and conflict between my children and me when challenges arise as we homeschool.

Edric and I have a great marriage, by God’s grace. However, we butt heads because we are opinionated people and oh, so different. When my opinion sounds even mildly disrespectful, he takes it personally and retaliates, which brings out the wrathful side of me in return. When we both remain prideful, the discussion gets verbally ugly. There’s no shouting or cursing, but we jump right into the crazy cycle of trying to win against each other. It doesn’t end until one of us chooses to be humble and apologize. Thankfully, our conflicts have become less and less heated over the years, but they are still present, and of course, they still hurt.

 With my kids, the challenge is remaining calm and positive while I homeschool. On days when they are all over the place because they are distracted, unmotivated, and uncooperative, it deeply frustrates me. I find myself mouthing out negative statements or giving dramatic speeches to guilt-trip them into listening to me. Neither of these methods helps us homeschool better or improves our relationship with one another.

   

  

Thankfully, I read a passage in Colossians that got me thinking about this idea of fighting with gentleness:

Have the right perspective. We need to look at circumstances with spiritual lenses. Sometimes, the earthly and material world can seem so big and important. But we are to look to the greater life we have in Christ, not the one we have died to.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

When I start to think, I’m so irritated at Edric right now, or so annoyed with my kids, I have to ask myself, What is causing this anger? What is the source, the root of the conflict I am in? Is it something that really matters in the grand scheme of eternity?

95% of the time, the issues I encounter between Edric and myself, and my children are trivial when I look upon them with heavenly lenses. The other day I reacted to my five-year old daughter, Tiana, when she kept reversing her numbers as I was teaching her math. I was upset because she repeats this mistake often. But then I stopped myself as I looked at her face and saw her sweet puppy dog eyes studying my expression. At that moment, she knew I was irritated. So, I had a choice. I could continue making her feel inadequate or I could protect her heart, which is infinitely more important than pressuring her to perfect math skills as a five year old. After I changed my tone, adding cheer and sweetness to it, her confidence revived itself and she diligently finished her work.

Put aside the old and put on the new. It’s normal to struggle with our old nature. But God reminds us that we are dead to it. We are no longer children of wrath who are enslaved to sin, unable to please God, and destined for destruction. Therefore we can’t think or behave like we still are.

“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, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” Colossians 3:5-8

As we put aside our sinful nature, we are to put on our new nature in Christ. We are to put on Christ-likeness. Yesterday, I had a crazy schedule that turned circumstances into the perfect context for a conflict with Edric. I brought my five kids to violin, piano, ballet (for the girls), basketball (for the boys), Filipino class, conducted a talk on choosing curriculum, and went to the grocery without yayas to help me. While I managed to bounce around from one venue and activity to another, I also had to think through the menu for the couple’s bible study we were hosting that evening.

At 4:30 pm, Edric called me twice but I didn’t hear my phone ringing because it was on silent mode. I called him back and he asked where I was. He informed me we had to go home earlier than expected to meet with one of the couples before our study (a meeting he forgot to inform me about). Although I was at the tail end of my shopping, he was already outside of his office, waiting on the street with the kids to be picked up. He was hot and tired, and concerned that we would be late.

I arrived about fifteen minutes later with a vehicle stuffed full of groceries, violins, gym bags and basketballs. Edric didn’t appreciate being greeted by this chaotic mess. Since our van was color-coded we were using a smaller vehicle which meant that only two rows were usable for seven of us and a driver. I held Catalina on my lap, Elijah and Edan sat in the front together while sharing a seatbelt, Tiana positioned herself in between the two front seats facing the back seats (a very precarious position), and Edric and Titus squeezed in beside me.

We were probably breaking a number of MMDA rules. Edric challenged me with the question, “What was your plan?”

Honestly, this was my plan. It was a bad plan. I surveyed all the bodies in the vehicle and the back rows stacked to the ceiling with our belongings and groceries and thought, Okay, this was a dumb of me.

As soon as I could, I apologized and asked for Edric’s forgiveness. He was quiet. (I might have spied some steam coming out his ears as he attempted to stay cool.) I prayed that he would not be reactive and he wasn’t!

For a split second, my old self wanted to turn the tables around. I wanted to point out that Edric didn’t inform me about our meeting with our couple friends so he had no reason to fault me for being late. I also wanted to point out that he was kind of giving me the cold shoulder even after I apologized. However, if I had gone this route, I am certain that a marital version of World War III would have ensued. Thankfully, the Lord reminded me to practice gentleness by being humble and quiet. It worked!

The next part of Colossians 3 says, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians (3:9-11)

Remember you identity. God tells us that we are loved, not just loved, but beloved (a word that means cherished and treasured). Because God sees us as special, we have nothing to prove. Instead, we have everything to improve to live up to this identity.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” (Colossians 3:12)

A few months ago my good friends and family members were involved in a special needs event for children called A Night to Shine. It was sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation with the aim of making special needs children feel like kings and queens for the night. Something magical happened as these special needs children were treated like royalty. According to the volunteers, not a single one of them acted up, threw a tantrum or misbehaved. In a gathering of about 500 people, this was a miracle! They responded so positively to the value and worth attributed to them.

Similarly, when we know how much God loves us, it motivates us to be our best. In a conflict scenario, this translates to the ability to surrender our rights instead of proving that we are right. We can anchor our security and sense of worth in Christ, not in the way other people treat us or fail to love us.

Choose to forgive and to love. Two days ago I cried in the bathroom as I tried to understand one of my sons. He pushed my buttons in all the wrong ways this past week. It deeply aggravated me and I was harsh with him. I told God, “I don’t know what to do. Can you help me, Lord?”

God’s reminder to me was to continue to forgive and love my children no matter what. Being a wife and a mother is a ministry. Ministry is messy and ministry always requires God’s grace and dependence on Him.

In my parents’ 40+ years of serving the Lord, their greatest obstacles have been dealing with people. But I never saw them lose their temper or bad mouth people who slandered, criticized, or disagreed with them. Not once did they speak with bitterness about them in front of my siblings and me. They may have expressed their sadness and concern but they never gave us cause to hate the persons who hurt them. Instead they would encourage us to pray.

Although I think my parents are wonderful, I know that it is Christ in them that enabled and still enables them to forgive and love people. They understand that ministry is about living out the grace of God, the manifestation of which is forgiveness and love. Do they always feel like it? Of course not. They are human. But forgiveness and love are superhuman choices we CAN all make when we know what Christ has done for us.

“…bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:13-14)

Pursue unity. In a day and age when people are divided over so many issues, Christ-following families should have homes defined by unity and peace. People need convincing proof that Christ is real, and I believe one of the best ways to demonstrate this is to pursue unity with one another. What is the secret to unity? As the verse below reveals, it is love.

“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14)

There are times when I say that I forgive Edric or I ask for his forgiveness, but my statements are devoid of real love. I just mouth them out because I want to end the conflict. But without love, unity is not attainable. I end up harboring resentment in my heart or developing negative attitudes toward Edric.

How can my heart move towards him when there is so much standing in the way of doing so? How can there be peace when apologies and forgiveness are superficial? The application for me is to apologize in love and forgive in love in order to attain unity, and unity in turn will invite peace.

Be saturated with the Word of God. The devil specializes in filling our minds with deceitful thoughts. To counter these lies, we need to be filled with God’s truth.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell with you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual sons, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

I can’t lose my temper when I’m meditating on something like Proverbs 15:1 which advises, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

God’s Word is powerful, living and active. The more we read it, the more influence it will have over our thoughts and actions, conforming these to do what pleases God.

Be thankful. In Colossians 3:1-17, being thankful is mentioned three times so it must be important. The last part ends with this: “Whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I respect Edric. Since meetings and activities required me to be in his office a lot this week, I got to observe him closely. It made me appreciate how hard he works, the stress he has to deal with, and the difficult choices he has to make. What a guy!

I tanked up on positive thoughts about him, so when he was annoyed with me yesterday for missing his calls, being late, and stuffing the vehicle full of groceries, it was easier not to be negative in response. Furthermore, during our couple’s group, I also told him that I have great respect for the choices he makes because they reveal his deep love for God. This made him a little teary eyed and it was a tender moment. But the point is this…when I have an attitude of thankfulness to the Lord for Edric and even my kids, I am less likely to focus on the things they do that upset me, and more likely to respond with gentleness.

  
Gentleness is a great and powerful virtue. I’m discovering that it is one of the best ways to deal with conflicts and to preserve unity in our home. And here’s a great promise to inspire us, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Now it’s time to apply, apply, apply!

Keep Praying for Your Kids

Spending time with my kids is always a highlight of my day, especially when I have one on one time with them. Today I focused on Elijah. It’s fun to engage him in dialogue because he is expressive and enjoys talking. Plus, he is my eldest so we can discuss things like “adults.”

  After homeschool coop this morning, I took him to the American Eye Center in Shangrila Mall to see a pediatric ophthalmologist. (Thank you to everyone who gave me recommendations on Facebook!)

   

 We chatted on the way, and he shared with me how his fasting week went. Last week, our church had a week-long prayer and fasting event which our family and kids participated in. Elijah chose to fast from gadgets, sweets, and snacking. According to him, avoiding gadgets liberated him from a secret addiction he was beginning to have.

He confessed that using computers and iPads to educate himself on how to program and do coding pulled him into a world that cut him off from reality. In his own words he said, “I knew it was becoming unhealthy for me to be on my devices but I made two excuses. The first was ‘dad is busy working so I don’t have anything fun to do.’ Second, ‘it’s not bad because I don’t play games.'”

He explained that participating in the fast allowed him to use his time in different ways — reading books again, playing with his siblings, praying for others, and having quality bible reading time. The first few days were challenging but as the week progressed, he felt like a bondage was broken. And to think that his experience with gadgets was more educational in nature!

Yet, he admitted to me that there’s something about computers that entices him so much he can think of little else when his usage of them increases. As an older child, I check on him once in a while but I also know he has to come to his own conclusions about computers. Thankfully, the fast afforded him perspective. He was able to think objectively about being on gadgets. He even said, “My brain was releasing serotonin every time I got on a device!”

I laughed when he said this but I can believe it. Our brain naturally does this whenever we derive pleasure and joy from any experience. For my son, Elijah, it happens to be his interest in technology. He is deeply fascinated by the world of computers which can be a good thing. But I praise God for speaking to him about its potential dangers, too. He is not interested in gaming or Internet surfing or social media but he knows that the issue is about the time he dedicates to experimenting on computers. He likes learning about how computers work, how to jailbreak devices, build websites and apps…that sort of thing.

His proposal, therefore, is to avoid being on a computer or gadget as much as possible during the week. Originally, this was our house rule. But last year, during the latter months, I was more relaxed. The kids would use devices for educational purposes only. However, Elijah was susceptible and more vulnerable to gadget-addiction than my younger kids were. So this hidden struggle developed in his heart.

Thankfully, a big change has been Edric’s availability. Since he stopped his morning show on ANC, he has dedicated more quality moments to share with our sons — playing games, doing puzzles, and getting them outdoors. Elijah told me this made a significant difference in subduing his desire to fiddle with gadgets. (The presence of a father does wonders!)

  Elijah will be 13 next month and I have been praying that He will develop positive habits and use his time wisely. I do believe that fasting week made Elijah more concerned and aware of his spiritual struggles. But his revelation also affirmed the need to keep praying for my kids.
Our greatest work, as parents, is on our knees, interceding for our kids. Someone once told me that parenting must be done on our knees. It’s so true! The battle for our children’s hearts is a spiritual one.

I spend a lot of my time with my kids because they are homeschooled. Edric and I are intentional about disciplining, training, and teaching our kids. Yet all these efforts will fall short if we do not beseech God for his enabling and wisdom, if we do not pray for our children’s protection and for God’s love to grow in their hearts so that it transforms them from within. Therefore the encouragement I received from my afternoon with Elijah was to pray for him and all my children. Only God can effectively bring to light the concealed parts of their hearts and convict them to choose attitudes, behaviors, perspectives, friends, habits, and activities that are good and pleasing to Him.

Here’s an example of how I pray for my kids (not including the specifics for each of them.) Feel free to personalize it and improve on it for your own kids:

“Lord, I pray for each of my kids to love you with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Help them to seek after you and desire to know you. Put in them a passion for your Word. Open their eyes to understand spiritual truth and shield them from the lies of the evil one. Let them develop God-honoring convictions about the friends they should choose, habits they should form, and the use of their time. Prepare their future spouses to be God-fearing and committed Christ-followers. Safeguard their innocence and purity. Keep them from unhealthy addictions. Instill in them Christ-like character and teach them to be spirit-filled. Make them bold and courageous for what is true and right. Give them a compassion for the lost. Let them love one another and look out for each other. Help them to love and respect us and to submit to authority. Let them know they are equally loved and special to us. Allow them to develop their gifts and talents for your glory. Equip them to be influencers and leaders who will make a difference for you in this world. Let their hearts be teachable and humble. Give them a love for learning. May our daughters be beautiful inside and out, and our sons handsome and masculine — men and women of stature. Bless them with musical and artistic talent, and let your favor be upon them. Make them mighty in spirit and wise. Protect them from Satan, his demons and evil spirits, malicious people, robbers, kidnappers, abusers, natural calamities, accidents, sicknesses, and sin. Do not let them fall away from you. Let them be faithful to you till the end of their days. May they live for you and glorify you with all that they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

I want to keep praying for my kids this way and even more intentionally as they grow older. Each one of them, like Elijah, has their weaknesses, and these become more apparent as they mature. Sometimes it’s such a temptation to be anxious. However, when I start to feel worried, it is prayer that allays my fears. I remember WHO I am entrusting my children to. Let me end this with an amazing description of who God is. We can replace each “you” and “your” with the names of our kids:

“He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:3-8‬ ‭

The Problem With My Tongue

If there is one SPECIFIC thing I need to improve on this year, it is to guard my tongue. As a person who takes pleasure in the use of language as a means of expression, I have come to realize what a sacred responsibility it is. This gift of communication is from the Lord but when infected with selfishness, it can be used to curse and hurt others.

For example, over the holidays I took the kids to buy presents for one another. The kids earned their own money to buy gifts and they were thoroughly excited to pick out Christmas presents for each others and their cousins. But since their budgets were small, they couldn’t purchase very expensive toys for each person. Instead they had to be thoughtful and creative. However, since four out of my five were in the store with me, in the end, l paid the cashier a significant amount of money on their behalf. 

  I took the kids’ presents to the wrapping counter and asked if the attendants could wrap each of their gifts. One of my sons bought three cars for their cousin, the total amount of which was 300+ pesos. But the lady at the counter said, “I am sorry but we can’t wrap items that are less than P300.” And I appealed, “But I am combining the items so they are equal to at least P300.” The lady’s non-sense reply was, “Sorry, ma’am but that’s our policy.” 

I retorted with irritation, “It doesn’t make any sense. You mean to tell me that even if I spent seven thousand pesos in your store, you will not wrap items that I bought that are less than 300 pesos?” 

“Yes, ma’am. The minimum for wrapping everything is 10k.” 

By this time I was thoroughly annoyed and visibly so. There was no real logic to what she was saying. One of my sons was beside me, peering over the table, innocently hoping that he could have all his gifts for his siblings and cousins wrapped. The site of his anticipation heightened my aggravation for the attendant.

Maybe the attendant saw all the small items in his shopping bag and thought about how she didn’t want to have to wrap every single small item in it. I don’t know what exactly was going through her head but she seemed to be unaccommodating and inflexible. This was a classic case of rote thinking at the expense of the customer’s convenience. 

My pride kicked in when she offered to wrap some of the items with a higher price tag on them. Instead of cheerfully receiving this proposal, I said, “Forget it. Never mind. We will just do everything ourselves.” My tone was curt and cutting. 

I didn’t want to have to sort through all the kids’ gifts for each other — 20 something items to check each of their price tags before giving them to the attendant to wrap for us. So I walked off. My son saw that I was upset. 

My heart wasn’t right and I wasn’t a good example. This was one of those moments when I wished I could have restrained my emotions and chosen to be humble and compliant. I let bad customer service determine the way I verbally responded. 

This is where I often err. I had to apologize to my kids and ask for their forgiveness. Looking back, I should have returned to the salesperson and also asked for her forgiveness, but I was too proud. I didn’t redeem the situation or honor God’s name. 

Therefore, it’s no surprise that during this fasting week and time of prayer, God revealed to me that I need to improve in this area. I came across this passage…

“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice deeds of wickedness with men who do iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭141:3-4

Even though I gave an example of speaking unkindly to a sales attendant, most of the time it isn’t with strangers that I let my tongue loose. Rather it is with my husband, Edric, who has also told me on numerous occasions that I have to be careful with my words and tone. When I don’t like a decision he has made or the way he treats me, my tendency is to lash out with statements that provoke him to debate and argue with me. 

 During a seminar I attended last year, the speaker said, “When you are about to say something to your spouse think about whether it will really benefit them to hear you say what you want to say or if it is merely to benefit yourself.” 

I thought this was a great principle to keep in mind as I guard my mouth. God made our tongues to bless and not to curse, to give life and build up, not to tear down. Furthermore, we are to use our mouths to exalt God and declare His goodness. During the same day I read about guarding my tongue Psalm 145 said, “All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.” ‭Psalms‬ ‭145:10-12, 21‬ ‭

Please pray that I will be more thoughtful about the words I speak. What comes out is a good clue to what’s inside my heart. I have tried to find a remedy for this disease of the tongue that I am susceptible to. And so far the best fix is what Psalm 119:11 says: “Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you.” 

What Does My Heart Look Like This Christmas?

Edan, my second son, is the kind of child whose expressions and actions have to be observed closely because he isn’t a talker. When I ask him what he’s thinking or feeling, he needs time to reflect before churning out an answer.

His two brothers are very different. Elijah likes to dialogue about his thoughts and feelings. Titus will simply say, “I’m not thinking anything.” (He’s a very uncomplicated fellow.) Edan, on the other hand, needs to be pried open cautiously. He doesn’t respond to confrontation, nor does he appreciate being badgered into giving an answer to people’s queries about himself. So I’ve learned to be patient as a mother and wait for him to unfold in his own way.

Every once in a while, however, I will catch him doing something that speaks loudly about the kind of person he is. And I latch on to these occasions and treasure them because they reveal what’s going on inside his heart.

Today, at church, a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a while handed each of my kids money for Christmas. (She is ninang to my daughter, Tiana, but she generously gave my other kids money, too.) All of them were thrilled. Naturally, I expected them to think of buying something for themselves.

As the service went on, I noticed that Edan pulled out a tithing envelope. He carefully tucked his bills inside them. He held on to the envelope for a while and then turned around to whisper to me, “Mom, can you put this in the tithing box for me?

Surprised, I asked him why he wanted to tithe the money he just received. True to his nature, he didn’t give me an immediate answer. But shortly after, he managed to explain, “I want to give my money to Jesus.” When I prodded him further, he added, “I can’t explain it, I just like giving to Jesus.”

At first I thought, Whose kid is this?! Is this my 9 year old, Edan?!

Edan is better known in our family as a keeper of money rather than a giver of it. When we play board games, he likes to hoard the cash and pile it up. That’s his default strategy to beat everyone. It doesn’t always work but he, of all our kids, seems to have this bent towards business-mindedness. I suppose this is why it surprised me to see how willingly he parted with his money. His actions appeared incongruent with his personality and he got my attention. God used Edan’s example of a giving heart to teach me three important Christmas lessons.

First, Edric and I have come to recognize that anytime our children make the right choices it isn’t because we are such great parents or because our children are extra special. We can only go so far and do so much as parents to influence our kids towards Christ-centeredness. We are fallen persons, a mix of flaws that must be surrendered to the Lord daily. Furthermore, each of our kids is unique and fragile in their own way, with weaknesses and character issues that need supernatural fixing. So the miraculous transformation that we witness in them is a testament to the way God makes something beautiful out of our mess-ups, mistakes, and missed opportunities. While I would like to take credit and say, “Yep, that’s my kid,” I am more convicted to say, “He’s your child, Lord. That’s your handprint in his heart and life. That’s Christ in him. Please complete the work you have begun in him and make him into the man you want him to grow up to be, not for me, not for Edric, but for you and your glory.”

Second, everything we have been given is grace. Edan wasn’t an “official godchild” of my friend. Yet she handed him some money anyway, because she loves him as she does all my other kids. Similarly, God loves you and He loves me. He bestows upon us certain gifts, talents and abilities that speak more of who he is as a loving heavenly Father rather than how deserving we are. All of my kids had the opportunity to do something with their monetary presents, but they didn’t make the same choice Edan did. In the same way, all of us have the liberty to spend our gifts, talents and abilities as we choose. Will we keep these for ourselves or will we say, as Edan did, “Lord I give what I have to you?”

Third, the ability and desire to give what we have to God comes when we realize what He has given to us. Beyond the gifts, talents, and abilities, God sent us His Son, Jesus. Years ago, as a younger boy, Edan received Jesus into his life by faith. He understood that he was sinful and needed a Savior, and he believed in what Jesus did on the cross for him. Shortly after, it felt like Edric and I had a new child. Edan was vastly different from the previous version of himself, whom we knew to be grumpy, uncooperative, and temperamental. He became kind and tender-hearted and he developed a genuine love for the Lord.

At about the same time five years ago, Edan sang the song “Mary, did you know” before he went to bed one evening, with my younger sister, Carolyn, as his witness. They shared a room during our Christmas vacation because we were a growing family and couldn’t fit in one room with all our kids. Carolyn told me the song came to Edan spontaneously, as she turned off the lights so he could go to sleep. As she tucked him in, he said, “You know, Aunty Carolyn, I really love Jesus. He is my best friend.”

 I remembered this story as I thought about Edan holding on to the tithing envelope with his little hands. When he said he wanted to give everything that he had to Jesus it came from a deep gratitude he could not articulate, one which overflowed from experiencing the gift that is Jesus Christ.

This Christmas I pray we will spend time pondering upon God’s generosity to us. May the gift of His Son compel us to present to Him the gift of a giving heart – a heart transformed by Jesus that delights to offer everything to Him in return for who He is and what He has done.

 

 

Stop. Look and Listen.

 

I don’t have enough quiet in my life, enough silence for meditation and drinking deep from the living water that is Christ.  I get so caught up in the busy-ness of being a wife, mother, homeschooler, speaker, writer, daughter, discipler, endorser, etc and etc, so that I lose the desire to pursue intimacy with the Lord. There are seasons when my life feels very public and yet I grow hollow inside because the busyness drains me spiritually. Without intentional moments set aside for reflection, I operate on autopilot, in an almost robotic way. The doings, which are good things, replace the best things, namely the appetite to seek after God.

  This morning, God ordained circumstances so that a meeting I thought I would have did not push through. And since I left the children at home with their “assignments,” I was alone, in Edric’s office when everyone (including Edric) was out. For someone who is used to children of different ages clamoring for her attention or moving about all around me, the stillness was wonderful!

Amidst all the Christmas hullabaloo that makes this favorite season one of the most stressful and crazy, I needed a pause like this one. I picked up Christopher Klicka’s book, “The Heart of Homeschooling,” and read the section his wife, Tracy, wrote on The Homeschooling Mother. She said, “I was and still am quite ordinary. I have no special talents that equip me to be a good mom, much less a supermom. All I have is God. But that is enough.”

All I have is God. All I need is God. This spoke to me loud and clear.

Being a wife and mother can be so complicated sometimes. When the checklist of things to do lengthens, I start peddling through each responsibility on my own power. And then I reach a point when I’m exhausted and physically sick. I need to remember that being a woman isn’t about what I can do and get done. The list of things to do will never end. And I will never reach that point of rested-ness if I keep chasing after that list…

On any given day, here are some of the thoughts assaulting me…

Have I prepared good, healthy meals for my husband and kids today? Did I make sure bills were paid and home repairs were completed? Did I manage the household well and check on their dynamic with one another? Did I get through at least 3 or 4 homeschooling books for each of my children? Did I spend time with my toddler and make sure she got enough attention from me? Did I write that blog entry I have been meaning to? Have I stocked the refrigerator and kitchen pantry? Did I read my Bible? Are my notes and presentation materials prepared for the speaking engagements I have this week? When am I going to Instagram that endorsement I’ve been asked to make? Did I exercise this morning? Do I have outfits for the multiple events I have to attend? When can I clean out my email account or archive photos? Whom do I need to meet with this week to counsel or minister to? Have I had one-on-one talk time with each of my kids? Who among them needs special attention this week? Am I giving Edric enough time? Have I completed the tasks he assigned to me?

These questions are maddening and they flood my head with all kinds of anxious thoughts. Very often, peace evades me until I can check off each of these items. (So this means my peace is very short-lived!) Realistically speaking, there is no REAL rest for a wife or a mom in terms of our duties. There are seasons when our duties pile up really high and other times when they are only inches deep. But they remain nonetheless.

1 Corinthians 7:34 puts it so well when it says, “The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”

So to my single readers…give the best years of your singlehood to the Lord. Marriage becomes a game-changer. The liberties you experience now are something you will never quite have again when you settled down and have kids. I’m not regretting being a married woman and mother, but my ministry has been elected for me – to serve my husband and my kids. There isn’t a day when I can say I resign. My decisions must always be filtered through the priorities of wife and mother.

To my married readers, might I encourage you to stop, look and listen. Set aside that anxiety, turn off the burners, and take a few moments right now to come to the feet of our loving, heavenly Father.

Today, I was reminded once again that there is nothing that should define me more than my relationship with God. He must be the reason I follow the Bible’s principles on marriage and parenting. He must be the reason why I homeschool and keep homeschooling my kids. He must be the reason why I speak, write, and minister to other women. He must be the source, the sustainer, and the end of everything I do.

Sometimes I mistakenly assume that to do more is to be more important, more special, more deserving of praise and attention. But Jesus corrected this perspective (which I am to prone to have as a woman) when He told Martha in Luke 10:41-42, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord, the God of this Universe, her Creator, listening intently to Him speak. As I fulfil my responsibilities may I never forget that what I really need is God’s presence and to receive what can never be taken away – the peace, the joy, the grace, and the rest that He gives to all who come to His feet.

When Children Doubt That Jesus is Real

Even if my kids are growing up in a home where they hear about God’s word and Edric and I try our best to role-model what it means to follow God, our children aren’t exempted from the spiritual battle for their hearts and minds.

Some weeks ago I sat down with my second son, Edan, because Elijah, my eldest, said, “Mom, Edan has doubts that Jesus is real.”

 For those who have followed Edan’s history on this blog, you might remember that Edan was about three years old when he favored the word NO and tended to be withdrawn, disinterested, and habitually “un-smiley.” Edric and I decided it was time for him to hear the gospel. When Edric shared God’s story of salvation through Jesus Christ, Edan readily acknowledged that he needed Jesus and earnestly desired to go to heaven someday. Soon after he made this decision, he changed, too.

   

 From Mr. No he transformed into a sweet, tender-hearted, and kind son who was thoughtful and friendly. This was the Holy Spirit’s work in his life and I marveled at how vastly different he was from his originally negative self.

When I discovered that he struggled with doubts about the personhood of Christ it surprised me but I accepted it as a reasonable response to spiritual matters. Elijah came to that point, too, and over the years I’ve encouraged him to keep digging into Scripture and examining the claims of the Bible. The last thing I want is for my kids to adopt a belief system that they do not understand. I don’t want Christianity to be cultural for them.

Statistics show that in America, most children who grow up in Christian homes (about 89%) abandon their faith by the time they reach college. Shocking, isn’t it? Why do good Christian parents fail to pass on their spiritual heritage?

Given the human-centered philosophies that pervade the present generation, the anti-God influences that saturate the media and the amoral celebrities and popular people whom our children look up to, we have to acknowledge that our kids are growing up in a spiritually-hostile world. Without a solid faith foundation and bible-based convictions, we can’t expect them to navigate through the hostility without becoming causalities.

I sat down with Edan to explain why faith in Jesus is reasonable. It took up a chunk of our homeschool morning, but as we lingered in our discussion as mother and son, I thought to myself, This is why I homeschool my kids…for moments like this one, when I have the privilege of influencing their hearts towards Christ and His plan and purpose for their lives.

Whenever my kids have faith questions, I welcome them. Questions are a good thing! During a recent retreat, a woman who was very skeptical about the Bible, made a joke about herself. She said something like this, “If I were to attend Bible studies, I may get kicked out for asking too many questions.” My response to her was, “It’s okay to have questions. God doesn’t want us to have blind faith in Him. He wants us to seek after Him.”

When I think about my children’s doubts and their desire for evidence as they grow in their understanding of God, who He is, who they are and His plan for their lives, I am glad they are asking their questions now, while they are at home, while Edric and I can lead them to the answers. Furthermore, they challenge us to review the basis of our own belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior of our own lives.

What can we know about Jesus Christ?

Jesus was a real person, a historical figure. There are many secular and non-secular evidences that confirm that Jesus Christ was an actual person. Here are some of the more notable ones:

In his Antiquities, the famous Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, refers to James as “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ.”

The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) confirms Jesus’ crucifixion on the eve of Passover and the accusations against Christ of practicing sorcery and encouraging Jewish apostasy.

The first-century Roman Tacitus, who is considered one of the more accurate historians of the ancient world, mentioned superstitious “Christians” (from Christus, which is Latin for Christ), who suffered under Pontius Pilate during the reign of Tiberius. (Source: gotquestions.org)

Furthermore, why would Jesus’ supposed disciples die for him if his existence were a lie? Many of these martyrs suffered gruesome deaths!

“There is more evidence that Jesus of Nazareth certainly lived than for most famous figures of the ancient past” Paul L. Maier, The Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University

Because Jesus was a real person, we must consider his claims, which were unlike any other made by religious teachers we know of today.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (Mere Christianity)

Jesus claimed to be God and He said that He would die for the sins of man and be raised on the third day. It would be very easy to deny his deity if we can prove that He never rose again from the dead. However, no person who has tried to make a case against the resurrection has ever succeeded in doing so. In fact, skeptics who have attempted to disprove the resurrection (brilliant ones like the knighted Sir Lionel Luckhoo and investigative journalist, Lee Strobel) came to the conclusion that evidence supports the resurrection of Jesus Christ. So if Jesus claimed to be God and He rose again from the dead as proof, then His claim to be God was true. He is God.

“The scientific data point powerfully toward the existence of a Creator and that the historical evidence for the resurrection establishes convincingly that Jesus is divine.” Lee Strobel, Finding the Real Jesus: A Guide for Curious Christians and Skeptical Seekers.

 

Since Jesus is God, we can believe His other claims, such as, “I came that you might have life and might have it more abundantly,” and “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” and “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” We can stake our lives on His promises. We can live and die for them.

People who come to Jesus experience changed lives. I’m talking about people who are prideful, angry, lost in sin, and enslaved to destructive choices that hurt themselves and those around them. Just the other evening we were having dinner with a couple who nearly gave up on their marriage because the husband had an affair. Their marriage was in shambles but after coming to Jesus and surrendering their lives to Him, they decided to rebuild their marriage. Today they are completely different people from the persons Edric and I first met. There is peace, joy, and the desire to live a holy life. How do these miracles happen? The Bible tells us, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed, behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Their story is similar to countless others who have been set free by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, having witnessed and heard stories about people delivered from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus gives compelling evidence that Jesus is real to the spirit world, too!

When Edan and I ended our conversation, he was in tears and we embraced each other. My children hunger for truth. They need to have an anchor that keeps them grounded when doubts flood their minds. The doubts will come. When they do, will they cling to what they know about God? Will they entertain the lies they are fed by the evil one or will they be able to counter him with truth? As my father used to tell me, “the greatest battlefield is in the mind.” My children are engaged in the same battle. It is my job and Edric’s to prepare and equip them.

 Finally, my prayer is that they will all finish well. I can’t believe for them. They must determine for themselves whether Jesus is real, and whether they can entrust their lives to Him. But it starts with Edric and me establishing our own faith convictions and teaching our children what these are. We can’t assume that they will “get it” by osmosis. There has to be intentional effort on our part to model, encourage, teach, and help them answer their faith questions.

  “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10 – 17

 

When A Husband Nourishes His Wife

 
 
It’s rare that Edric plays a support role along side me. Usually it’s the other way around. However, these past two weeks he has blocked off his schedule for every event relating to the launch of my book — the contract signing, digital book press event, and the book signing this Sunday. Because I know he is an incredibly busy person, his commitment to see this project through with me has meant a lot. 

   

  

  

  

  

 Last night, during the digital book press event, he took pictures, tailed me everywhere like a PA, held my things, and waited patiently as I signed books. Since he’s a TV host, it’s more common that people recognize him and give him attention, but he was content to serve me and remain in the background. It was very sweet of him.

What most people do not know is that Edric ought to get a whole lot of credit for unleashing my love for writing. Some years ago, when I stopped reporting to an office, I became a stay at home mom so I could prioritize our children and homeschool them without having to juggle a part time job. Edric gladly took it upon himself to be the provider so my energy could be directed towards our children, homeschooling and our home. This liberated me to pursue hobbies, interests and skills that I wanted to. It was wonderful to be freed from the pressure of making money to augment our financial needs. 

Since Edric knew I deeply enjoyed writing, he pushed me to use this ability purposefully. He was the one who challenged me to get my blog started. He made sure I had every resource available to me to set up TeachwithJoy and keep it going. 

When he found out that I was putting together a book, he was thrilled and encouraged me in every way he could. In fact, he was willing to fund the publishing himself but God opened the door to connect with OMF Literature which turned out to be the better path to take.

In Ephesians 5:28-29 it says, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,”‭‭

The word “nourish” means to “grow” and I want to honor Edric for being intentional about helping me to grow as a person. While I embrace my daily preoccupation as a stay-at-home mom and there’s nothing boring or diminishing about it, Edric continues to provide me with opportunities to develop my passions, interests and skills. I know other women whose husbands do the same and they are blooming, fulfilled, and energized wives. 

I deeply enjoy being a wife and mom and if that’s what I was called to entirely focused on then I trust that God would make my heart and bands content, but there are revelations that come from both these roles that naturally lead to other avenues — writing about my adventures, speaking to younger women about being a wife and mother, enhancing my home management skills or having hobbies that beautify the home, connecting with and learning from other women, working hard to stay fit and healthy so I can take care of my family, and having outlets to deal with the realistic stress of raising kids, and so much more! For as long as these do not compromise my priorities of husband, kids, homeschooling and home, Edric wholeheartedly supports my desire to keep growing as a person in this season of my life. 

Furthermore, he identifies areas of character weakness in me so he can also disciple me as my spiritual leader and he prays for me, too. Whether it is emotional, physical, intellectual, or spiritual growth, he is the one person most committed to making sure that I don’t stagnate as an individual. 

Sometimes it is in the small ways…The other day he made me join him and the kids during their Ninja Academy trial session. We had to do Parkour moves which left me immensely sore the next day. (Me?! Doing Parkour?! Whuuut?!) And Edric challenged me to jump off the “pride wall”, one of the obstacles that I refused to do at first because I am afraid of heights. 

   

  

It really wasn’t super high and four of my kids did it, including Edric who jumped off the wall first. But for me, anything higher than 10 feet feels like a building. Afterwards I felt a real sense of accomplishment for pushing myself physically. Jumping over walls and running up them…it’s really not me, but Edric got me to do it! 

So I praise God for my husband, who nourishes me as his wife. I know there are times when he wants me all to himself like Rapunzel in a tower, but at the end of the day, he has my best interests at heart and wants me to be all that I can be for the Lord, which makes me into a better wife and mother in the end! So we both win when Edric fulfills his role to help me grow! 

Draw the Line Far Away From Adultery

“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 5:14

Let me begin by saying that adultery is emblematic of our heart condition above all else. When Jesus said, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he was elevating our understanding of unfaithfulness to our spouse to include the impurity we think and entertain in our hearts. (Matthew 5:28)

This higher standard is needed today more than ever, when marriage between a man and a woman is under attack from all sides. Whether it is a government’s attempt to redefine what marriage is, Internet sites like ashleymadison which blatantly advertise having an affair, the rising addiction to pornography, or the erosion of our own moral consciences due to the lack of healthy role models at home and around us (especially as glorified in the media), the game plan of the evil one is the same…corrupt God’s design for marriage by enticing a husband and wife with sin.

A sin like adultery doesn’t always begin as a bold declaration of defiance against God’s will and purpose for us. Many times we are hooked in ever so gently and deceptively ensnared. James 1:14 – 15 tells us, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.” I like how James reveals to us a very important antidote for resisting sin, especially sexual sin…Do not awaken desire.

A few weeks ago, one of my sons was in a hardware store with me. We got to the check-out where a magazine rack displayed all kinds of magazines with covers of skimpily clad and partially nude women. My son was deeply upset. “I can’t believe this!” He said, huffing and puffing. He turned his head away and started to pull off each of the magazines and flip them over! Because he wasn’t looking at them as he did so, it was hard for him to get them back into their slots on the rack.

I watched him, a little bit embarrassed, as it seemed like a rather extreme reaction when he could’ve just turned his eyes away. Did he really have to rearrange the magazines in front of everyone?! But then I realized, this was a good thing. He was acting on a conviction. For him, seeing a picture of a sexy woman makes him vulnerable to thoughts of impurity. So he did what he had to do to protect his eyes and turned all of the covers around.

Of all the sins in the Bible, we are told to FLEE sexual immorality. “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:18) Don’t venture near it, don’t hover around it, don’t dip your finger in it. RUN AWAY!

Last Sunday, Edric asked me to share practical tips on how to avoid adultery. Interestingly, someone wrote our church and was very upset, saying that we were imposing OUR values on the congregation which were not biblical and that we were a deeply insecure couple. The other accusation was that we were telling married persons that they cannot have meaningful relationships with the opposite sex.

   
 To the first criticisim, that we were passing on unbiblical values, my response is this: Since the Bible tells us to flee immorality, what is unbiblical about saying we must do whatever it takes to safeguard our marriages? 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” The evil one is a crafty opportunist. If we don’t have our guards up, anyone of us is susceptible to infidelity. 

To the second criticism, here’s the reality…illicit relationships very often began as harmless, well-intentioned relationships with the opposite sex. Furthermore, affairs tend to happen in the workplace more so than in any other setting. Since women and men work closely with one another and spend alot of time together, it is unwise to have “meaningful” relationships with the opposite sex as a married person. To clarify, the word meaningful is different from being friendly, courteous, respectful, and kind (which we ought to be to all people). Meaningful connotes a deeper kind of friendship that crosses over to personal.

Dr. Liz Curin writes, “Over the past half century, women have entered the workforce in increasing numbers. In today’s economy, it is almost a luxury for a woman (or a man) to remain full time in the home and raise children. And so women and men have become accustomed to working closely with each other, particularly as the feminist agenda has continued to push for full and equal participation in the workplace. The reality is that many men and women spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their spouses. They engage in more conversation about both work and non-work-related matters. The emotional intensity of workplace demands can contribute to the forging of strong emotional bonds.” (Source:Atlanta Psych)

85% of affairs begin in the workplace. Think about the amount of time you spend with your spouse vs. the amount of time you spend with co-workers. Day after day, maybe 40+ hours a week, you and your colleagues share the ups and downs of work; you bond over projects, successes and difficulties at work. The close interaction, travel, and unavoidable closeness may lead to strong friendships and emotional attachments outside your marriage. The workplace provides opportunity and proximity to people outside your family. Women’s increasing entry into the workforce has correlated with a rise in the number of affairs women are having. It’s no wonder the workplace is the most common place affairs start. (Source:Good Therapy)

No one connives to tear apart their marriage by having an affair unless their conscience has been blackened by years of compromise and sinful choices. Usually a person begins to develop a “meaningful” relationship with someone who isn’t their spouse and a connection and attraction begins to form between them.

This is precisely why Edric asked me to emphasize the need to draw the line in marriage. Draw the line to protect it against adultery way before the choice becomes about sleeping with someone who isn’t your spouse.

Our own personal boundaries may have seemed extreme as I shared them with the audience, but they were meant to be examples of how one can avoid adultery rather than personal values we were trying to force upon people. Everyone has to determine what extent is necessary for them to guard against infidelity. As for Edric and me, one thing we have found necessary is to avoid being ALONE with the opposite sex.

When Edric was in the corporate world, he did not have coffee or share a meal with a colleague who was a woman. He wouldn’t ride with a woman colleague in a vehicle to meetings either. If he really couldn’t get out of a situation, he would invite another officemate to join him or call me first to let me know.

Edric also applied being cautious when it came to hiring an secretary or assistant. He would ask me to meet any woman he planned to hire so that I could help him make a discerning choice.

Furthermore, when he designed his current office, he used glass walls so everyone can see what’s going on inside. All his private meetings with any woman who works for him are actually public.

As we began to be more involved in ministry, we also followed the CCF policy of “Do not counsel the opposite sex alone.” For example, when a woman asks for Edric’s advice, whether it is in person, via text, email, or social media, Edric will invite me into the discussion and ask me to be the one to minister to the woman, or we do it as a team. When a man gets in touch with me to ask for advice, I connect him to Edric.

No one is impervious to an affair. In fact, speaker and author, Francis Kong says that if you want to protect yourself, “avoid the ambush of overconfidence.” The devil uses all kinds of avenues to tempt us or make us fall in the area of purity. So Edric and I also draw the line when it comes to Facebook and other forms of social media and digital communication, too.

I used to dream about a certain person from my past, someone I used to have a crush on. I had no more feelings for him but one day he tried to get in touch with me through social media. I remember feeling a twinge of excitement. When I asked Edric if I could respond to him he was like, “No way! Don’t communicate with him at all!”

At first I reacted, but since this person was someone I used to be attracted to, I followed his advice. An article published in Psychology Today reveals that “Social networks are clearly another factor (for extramarital affairs) – if only to expand the pool of possibility. Emotional friendships that turn physical are the traditional point of entry for female affairs. Now, it’s very easy for those friendships to take root online. Some argue that social networks are merely an expediter; and that cheaters will always find a way. Still, if you’ve never quite gotten over your prom date, chances are you can find him.” (Source: psychologytoday.com)

Statistics from illicitencounters.com (yes that’s the name of the site!) and other legal studies show that divorce and Facebook are significantly correlated with increased flirting and illicit online affairs. In a study conducted by a law firm, out of 5,436 divorce cases a total of up to 1,087 cases cited that illicit affairs started with the social networking site Facebook. (Source: facebookcheating.com)

 

Edric and I aren’t paranoid about every person who reaches out to us on social media. We do give them the courtesy of a response. But we are careful about not carrying on casual chats or frequent friendly exchanges with the opposite sex on social media channels.

When Edric started to become a TV personality, he had a lot of women trying to get his attention through social media. One time there was a woman on Facebook who kept flirting with Edric. She would send him random messages to strike up a conversation or dialogue. She was very attractive and young, too. In other words, danger, danger, danger. I praise God that Edric ignored her even when she accused him of being a snob. And when she kept persisting, he finally “unfriended” her so she would get the picture.

Sometimes a person is obvious about their intentions, other times the invitation to dialogue is malice-free. The point is we all need to apply cautiousness, and be transparent with our spouses. Both Edric and I include one another in exchanges with the opposite sex if the conversation involves more than a few back and forth responses. Other couples actually have a shared social media account.

Another challenge surfaced for us when Edric started doing corporate speaking engagements around the country. This began right after I gave birth to my fifth child so I couldn’t go with him. To protect himself, Edric found a way to include Elijah in all his talks. He made it a point not to travel alone. The added blessing is Edric and Elijah have bond together as father and son, and they can maximise the nice hotel rooms by enjoying them together!

Author Ted Haggard writes, “So many times, I’ve seen men and women get into trouble when they travel away from home because they believe that no one will ever know what they do when away. This is a lie, and it will always come back to haunt you. In Genesis 38, the Bible tells the story of Judah, who went on a business trip. When he arrived at a distant town, he saw a prostitute and approached her to sleep with her. But he didn’t have any money to pay her, so he had to give her some personal items as a down payment. Of course, everyone knew those items belonged to him, and soon what he had done in secret, far away from home, was a public matter. And, again, we’re reading about his hypocrisy thousands of years later. His actions have brought shame to his entire family for many generations. It’s just not worth it. I remember an old tent preacher saying, sin will take you further than you want to go; cost you more than you want to pay; and keep you longer than you want to stay. (Source: Letters from Home. p. 20)

The reality is even if Edric and I have all these lines drawn around our marriage there have been instances where we had to deal with “issues.” I remember years and years ago he confessed to me that he was attracted to someone at work. He had to perform with this woman in a corporate show for his company and dance with her, acting like she was the woman he loved. As a result, the feelings spilled over into real life!

When he opened up to me about his feelings of attraction, I was hurt but I also realized that he was trying to be honest. Praise God he told me when the feelings were just beginning to bloom. So we talked about it, and by God’s grace, it was as if a spell was broken, as Edric put it. Whatever infatuation he was feeling went away when he brought it to the light.

This became a template for us. Today, we talk openly about purity so that hidden struggles don’t fester or grow into bigger problems in our marriage. But I also realized that it helps to put on the “best friend hat” so we can talk about our struggles without feeling like we will be judged or rejected for our honesty. It’s not easy to lay aside pride to do this! But as issues surface, we work through them and pray to overcome them, only by God’s grace.

I also have to add that meeting each other’s need for sexual intimacy is important for safeguarding against adultery. Edric has told me that it’s very hard for a man to keep his heart and mind pure when he is deprived of sex. We counsel a lot of couples and this is a common problem, even among young couples. As wives, we can have all kinds of excuses – pregnancy, breastfeeding, the kids, I don’t enjoy it, I can live without it, etc…But I will never forget what a pastor’s wife once said from the stage, “Have sex with your husband at least once every three days. Scientifically, that’s as long as they can go without it or they become vulnerable to temptation.” If this number doesn’t work, then perhaps a husband and wife can discuss how often is healthy for them. And be creative. Don’t let your sex life become boring. Talk about how you can better meet each other’s sexual needs and desires.

Sometimes the problem is that our concept of sex has been programmed by wrong role models, past relationships or the media which can have a negative effect on our sexual intimacy. So as added protection, Edric and I avoid movies, tv shows, music, or other forms of media that give us the wrong kinds of sexual appetites. And Edric tries his best to keep himself “porn-free.” (Before we got married this was a big problem in his life, which he openly shared when he spoke last Sunday.) 

In an article published by GQ Magazine, author Scott Christian of the NoFap commnunity site argued that porn can lead to physical addiction, a decline in sexual satisfaction with one’s mate, and decreased sexual performance. This conclusion was based on surveys of 75,000 people committed to quitting porn and masturbation. For those addicted to porn, arousal actually declined with the same mate, while those who regularly found different mates were able to continual their arousal, Christian wrote. It’s known as the Coolidge Effect, or novelty-seeking behavior. Porn, after all, trains the viewer to expect constant newness. (We don’t want this to happen to our marriages!) However, he also pointed out that the survey showed that there is hope for the addicted, with 60% of those who embraced the “nofap” (no masturbation/porn) challenge saying that they saw an increase in their sexual functions…

Since women are wired a little differently, one of the ways that Edric protects me from adultery is he meets my emotional needs. He makes me feel loved, cherished, appreciated, prioritized and important. To do this, we have weekly date nights where we can enjoy each other’s company. And he will ask me, how can I improve as a husband? This keeps my emtional tank full and makes me less likely to seek out the affections or attentions of a man.

God created sex to be a powerful and amazing way to cultivate intimacy between a husband and wife. It’s supposed to be something we want to share with our spouse in marriage. Sexual desires are intended for our spouse. When we experience sex outside the context of marriage it is destructive to us as individuals, to our marriages (or future marriages if you are still single.)

When God gave the command “Do not commit adultery,” he had our best interests at heart. And when Jesus explained what adultery is, he clarified our understanding of this sin so that we will draw the line far away from it. Why? As the next two verses will attest, God is after our greatest good. His commands are meant to bless us…

“The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭19:7‬ ‭

“For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:3‬

So never ever think it is normal to do it (outside of marriage) because everyone else is doing it. Let’s not lower our standards and rob ourselves of the wonderful intimacy God designed for marriage. Normal as God intended is a husband and wife enjoying trust, security, open communication, oneness of purpose and identity in Christ, and sexual pleasure. That’s God’s normal for all of us; that’s what Edric and I pray to have; and that’s why we try to draw the line far away from adultery.

  

 

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)