Love Beyond Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dealing With Meltdowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Last Twelve Months of Boyhood

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-41-07 GMT 0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-14-16 GMT 0800

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

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

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

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

Mon Dec 15 2014 13-51-37 GMT 0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun Feb 01 2015 01-25-03 GMT 0800

Even Though Others May Forget You, God Will Not

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A History To Pass On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Birthday Blessings

I turn 38 this week. Hoowee. That sounds old. It’s hard to believe I am almost 40!

Edric asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told him I already have everything my heart desires. By God’s grace, that’s the truth. Sure, there are things I WANT — Catalina NOT to have asthma, a baby grand piano, six pack abs, zero cellulite, anti-gravity solutions for my body, an unlimited house-decorating budget, more homeschooling resources… But 2014 was an incredible year and I am grateful.

On the one hand, it was one of the hardest seasons of my life in terms of parenting, homeschooling and ministry. But on the other hand, God blessed me with so many opportunities to enjoy my family, experience his provision, and serve Him. Here are my top 10 highlights…

1. Catalina turned 1 year old and we dedicated her to the Lord, celebrating her life with family and friends.

2. God gave me multiple occasions to share my testimony about tragedy and His healing. (It was televised on Tanikala during Holy Week; I got to speak to abused women at C.R.I.B.S.; I shared it for the first time in another country — at a conference in Brazil; and it was featured in Good Housekeeping in October.)

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3. We finished our home and moved in! This was a miracle! God provided the funds and the suppliers to complete this project when we came to him with our “five loaves and two fish.”

4. I started a playgroup with other homeschooling moms in our bible study which has multiplied to accommodate over 30 kids. It’s still growing!

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5. We opened up our home to a weekly bible study group with couples who are our neighbors. )

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6. Throughout the year, Edric and I spoke on marriage and parenting (topics our hearts really beat for) at events like Before I Do, UECP Family Retreat, TMA Homeschool Roadshows, ACCF Family Retreat, Executive Couples Retreat, Counterflow Parenting Conference, Jubilee Couples Retreat, Saturdates, CCF outreach churches, etc.)

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7. Almost every month we got to go on out of town trips as a family to places like Cebu, Palawan, Montemar, Boracay, Tagaytay, Baguio, Pico de Loro, etc.

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8. I got to continue writing for my site and counseling online as much as possible despite a hectic year.

9. The kids and I finished our homeschool year! We hobbled through the end line but praise God we were done by September. Tiana is now starting Pre-school, Titus transitioned to Grade 1, Edan to Grade 3, Elijah to Grade 6, and, well, Catalina still disrupts us whenever she can.

10. I am still happily married to Edric and privileges to be mom to our five children.

IMG_1089.JPGAnd at this very moment I am enjoying an extended vacation with them in the U.S.

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This year was very challenging for me emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but God was faithful. Even though I stumbled through a lot of 2014, I am amazed at all God did for me and my family. All glory goes to Him as He is the reason I am turning 38 with a smile on my face!

As I end this entry, I want to thank all of you readers for the joy you bring with your emails, messages, and words of encouragement. In many of my low moments this past year I have opened my gmail, Facebook messages or visited comments on my blog and been refreshed by your insights and positivity. Please forgive me if I am not able to respond immediately to all your questions but I want you to know that God has blessed me through your friendship from afar. May He be the light of your heart and home, and the hope that keeps you pressing on. Most of all, may you experience His everlasting love for you!

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting; To Him who made the heavens with skill,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting; To Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting; To Him who made the great lights, For His lovingkindness is everlasting: The sun to rule by day,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting, The moon and stars to rule by night, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(‭Psalms‬ ‭136‬:‭1-9‬ NASB)

What Dog Are You Feeding?

I blew it in the car, on the way to a Christmas dinner with friends. Edric didn’t remember a discussion and agreement we had and it irked me. So I threw my phone against the back of the driver’s seat, and it fell to the floor with a thud. Even though I didn’t get the drama I intended because the padded seat cushioned the phone, the gesture broadcasted my anger, coupled by a statement I made that actually included a bad word!

Edric asked me if I had gifts for a group of people we were going to meet with and I reminded him that we were skipping the gift-giving this Christmas because we were going to be out of the country. Then he questioned my logic since I prepared presents for his office and ANC colleagues. My defense was, “You told me to have gifts ready for these groups.” Then came his famous line, “I don’t remember.”

“How can you not remember? This is how the dialogue went…” And I attempted to give the context and the phrases we exchanged. According to him bits and pieces were coming back to him but he still wasn’t sure that we had the conversation.

Edric and I are aging. Of course. That goes without saying. But sometimes this means we don’t have the best memories. He forgets our conversations and I forget people’s names. In this instance he didn’t recall our discussion about Christmas gifts. It really shouldn’t have been a big deal but I mountained it into a serious issue because he was disappointed with me for not having Christmas presents ready to give to the group of friends we were having dinner with. I was very upset with him for claiming he had no recollection of our dialogue and then refusing to believe me.

I don’t say bad words! But under my breath I blurted, “This —— annoys me!”

As soon as the sentence escaped from my lips I felt the remorse. There it was in bold letters, capitalized and italicized, lingering in the air — the noxious evidence of my angry heart.

Edric was quiet. He didn’t fight with me which escalated the guilt I was feeling. My outburst was very wrong and childish. I had lost my temper.

After apologizing for my attitude and behavior, Edric took my hand and held it. “Why are you doing that?” I asked, feeling undeserving.

“I love you.”

I didn’t deserve that either!

The rest of the way I spoke very little. After our dinner I asked for an apology again for my disrespectful and un-Christlike response to him. Edric forgave me.

Just a week before I had stood before thousands of people and shared about my life testimony, talking about what God had done in my life. Many people came up to me to encourage me and tell me that they were blessed.

How is it that just days later I said something profane? From the very same mouth that glorified God, came a vile utterance intended to hurt Edric.

On the one hand I could make excuses. We had an engagement every night that week and multiple activities during the day that exhausted me. I was pushing the kids to finish their homeschool work before our vacation. Catalina fell ill. There were many last minute errands that needed my attention, and so on. However the reality was I simply gave in to my carnal self.

I chose to hurl my phone and give in to the rising anger that had cooked up a tempestuous storm inside of me. And then I chose to punctuate it with a curse word for emphasis. I made those choices. Wrong choices that revealed the more pertinent problem of my heart.

My dad and mom used to tell me, if you want to be spirit filled, then “feed the white dog and starve the black one,” in reference to the two antithetical natures that co-exist in all of us. The white dog represents who we are in Christ, the black one symbolizes the flesh — ever lurking, ready to pounce and take over.

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(Photo courtesy of car-memes.com)
The “white dog” version of myself had been starved as of late. In all my doings, I made little time to fill myself with truth and to pray. My spiritual reserves were depleted.

Thankfully, I have a long vacation to rest, relax, and recharge…to “feed” the white dog. In the meantime, let me leave you with this passage of scripture that convicted me and ministered to me…

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

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. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭16-17, 19-26‬ NASB)

Some ideas on how to feed the white dog:
– Meditate on God’s Word daily
– Develop the habit of conversing with God
– Listen and watch what is edifying / what encourages righteousness and holiness
– Surround yourself with people who will keep you accountable and help you grow spiritually
– Declare God’s goodness and gospel to others
– Get adequate sleep and rest
– Develop the areas God has gifted you in and use these skills, hobbies, or resources to bless others and minister to them

I Love This Chick

Edric and I locked ourselves in the bedroom this morning to share a private conversation. He sat on one end of the bed and I sat on the other. The kids attempted to knock their way in and Titus spied on us from the balcony. (He peered through the blinds, grinning mischievously. Typical Titus.) But Edric was adamant, “Mommy and Daddy have to talk,” shooing them away gently.

We needed this conversation.

Lately, our relationship felt functional and our intimacy waned. Concerned about my unresponsiveness and general indifference, Edric insisted that we identify why I was emotionally distant. He invited me to psychoanalyze myself as he propped himself against a pillow and folded his hands, looking very much like an attentive psychologist.

I mouthed out all kinds of superficial issues that skirted the deeper longings of my heart…

I feel blah. I need intellectual and spiritual feeding…

You and I have been so pragmatic with one another. We are together often but I haven’t felt connected to you…

Sometimes I feel tired of following God’s principles for marriage. Like I’m trying to imagine how I can keep on submitting as a wife and resisting the tendencies of my personality and it’s tiring to think of what the next years will be like…

I also feel like I am disappointing you as a wife and homemaker, like there’s always a detail that I miss and fail at…

Edric was silent. Unusual for my intense and talkative husband. He motioned to me to come lay on his chest. “Come here, I know what you need…” His voice trailed off.

At first I didn’t want to be vulnerable, but Edric was persistent, so I relented and inched toward him, resting my head against his arm.

It was his turn. “I want you to know how much I appreciate you, as a wife, as a mother to our kids. Lately, I have been so self-absorbed and selfish. Will you forgive me? Of all the people in the world, you are the most important to me. And I think you are feeling a lot of the things you are because I haven’t affirmed you enough. I could counteract every statement you made but all you need to know right now is that I love you so much. I don’t know what I would do without you.” He held me closer.

“Do you really mean that?” I asked, latching on to every word and hungry for more of this tender interchange.

“Of course!” He cradled part of my face and smiled. “I love this Chick!”

And just like that I felt a renewed inspiration to be Mrs. Edric Mendoza. Before this day, I evaded Mr. Mendoza, announcing excuses each time he wanted to be alone with me. I would say, “Okay but I have to take care of such and such first.”

I am pretty easy. Just give me a concentrated dose of positive words and I perk up immediately. It’s like Edan’s bean plant experience. When he noticed it languishing, with its withered leaves drooping low and sad, he transferred it to a place where it could receive a softer version of the sun. The next day he declared with pride, “Mom! My bean plant is okay now! Look at the leaves! Come see!” Sure enough, it was standing up tall.

Like the bean plant I deteriorate without encouragement from Edric. This past week, I felt like he was nitpicky and easily agitated. Admittedly, I did have my shortcomings. On Thursday, I packed him lunch so he could eat on the way to his ANC taping because he was running late, but I forgot to put cutlery in the bag. I apologized profusely when he called me befuddled by my forgetfulness. The poor guy had to find a spoon and fork at a gasoline station, which delayed him further. So yes, I will not make false claims about myself and say that I am always on top of things. But, everyday this last week, there seemed to be a failure to highlight and after a while, I retreated to activities and busyness so I could avoid interacting with Edric.

In contrast, when Edric affirmed me this morning, it was like being injected with an adrenaline shot of love. I stood tall once again!

The Bible 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 this church…(Ephesians 5:28-29)

Previously, the passage of Ephesians highlights that a man is to be the head of his marriage. Verses 28 and 29 expound on what it means to love his wife. I interviewed Edric so he can teach about this part (in case you wives hand this article to your husbands!)…

To nourish, he began, is enabling a wife to maximize her potential. It is placing her in an environment where she can bloom into the woman God wants her to be. This means equipping and enabling her with the tools and opportunities to develop her gifts and abilities.

In our marriage, Edric studied me well. (He still does.) He knew I gravitated towards writing and enjoyed it, so three years ago he provided the means to start a blog site. When we moved into our home, he kept prodding me to do acrylic painting again. He bought me large canvases to paint on so I could resurrect this hobby.

Edric has reiterated on many occasions that one of his responsibilities is to help me grow and mature as a person. (He actually has a spreadsheet where he indicates yearly, 5-year, and 10-year goals for each person in the family!)

The word, cherish, he expounded, is to make a wife feel convincingly loved and valued. Does my wife feel secure in my love and affections? Does she believe that her concerns are important to me? Do I treat her with kindness and patience, seeking to understand her?

Interestingly, Edric and I were at an event today where we were one of the guest speakers. At the end of our talk, we were asked, “How can a husband prioritize his wife when he is so busy?”

Here are some tips that we shared (and more)…

  • Block off date nights where you can talk heart-to-heart, address issues in your relationship, and enjoy one another.
  • Put the gadgets away when you are spending time together, especially at the dinner table.
  • Learn your wife’s language of love. Edric knows that words of affirmation matter to me. Gary Chapman names four others – time, touch, gifts, and service. A woman whose language of love is met by her husband is an inspired woman eager to fulfill her role as wife and mother!
  • Remember special events – birthdays, anniversaries, mother’s day, etc. Edric writes me long letters that I’ve kept through the years. He doesn’t always give me extravagant gifts, but his gestures are extravagant and these matter more to me.
  • Be a gentleman. More often than not, Edric opens the door for me, pulls out my chair before I sit down, makes me walk on the safe side of the road, and carries my shopping bags. I hope he does these things forever!
  • Make sacrifices that communicate concern and thoughtfulness. Early in the morning, when Catalina wakes up, Edric takes her down to our househelp so I can rest. I know other husbands who give bottles to babies and change diapers in the middle of the night so their wives don’t shoulder the burden of caring for an infant. These small acts of kindness are exclamatory statements of love.
  • Compliment your wife in public. My dad is a businessman but he also preaches the Bible. During worship services when he is giving a message, he singles out my mom if the context makes sense and declares how much he loves her and appreciates her. Edric does the same when we are with others. He will compliment me when we are with friends and family. He will say things like, “My wife is the best…My wife is amazing…” I don’t want it to seem like I’m tooting my own horn here. The point is that he finds ways to make me feel special.
  • Be generous. I don’t shop that much because I really don’t need to. I’m at home most of the time. However, when I want to get something and it is out of my budget, Edric will usually say, “Sure. I want to bless you.” (I think the key for the wife is not to be extravagant either! My sister rarely shops for clothes so her husband actually tells her to go shopping!)
  • Listen to and acknowledge your wife’s feelings. This is a challenging one. Women can be dramatic and emotional. Edric listening to my morning rant about nonsensical issues was not pleasant for him but he made me feel like I could tell him anything.
  • Say I love you everyday. I once heard a speaker say “Tell your wife you love her before someone else does!”
  • Pray for your wife. Wives need prayer! We can’t manage everything we have to without supernatural enabling by the Lord. When Edric prays for me, I feel empowered by the Holy Spirit.

It may take time for a husband to change and learn what it means to nourish and cherish his wife. But take heart. The Bible says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it whoever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1 NASB) A husband’s heart is not so out of reach that God cannot minister to it or direct it. Edric and I have counselled many couples and seen God transform husbands from insensitive, selfish, and unloving to the complete opposite!

“And Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” (Matthew 19:26) This passage was given right after Jesus’ disciples asked how anyone can possibly be saved. If we look to people only, change seems implausible. Therefore we must hope in Christ to do the unimaginable work in our hearts and the hearts of others!

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Assume the Best About Your Spouse

I ran over my littlest toe with a grocery cart Sunday afternoon while I was in a mad rush to prepare for a party in our home. We were hosting the yayas and drivers Christmas event for the Tan-Chi side of the family. Nearly forty people were coming over in three hours and I hadn’t prepared my part of the food contribution, finalized all the game mechanics, or finished decorating. My toe was the unfortunate causality of my flurry.

During the party, I was the game master by default. Naturally, after two hours of standing on my feet yelling out instructions, my toe swelled uncomfortably. I actually thought I might have broken it when I began to feel the pain and it turned black and blue.

Edric came down to check on the party, and I showed him my toe. He was very sympathetic and concerned, asking if I was alright. Even though I appreciated his pity, there was no time to baby my toe because I had to head to the kitchen. We had another set of guests arriving for dinner, around thirty people, and I didn’t want to take my househelp away from their party.

While Edric shared a short bible study with the yayas and drivers, I cooked a pasta dish, put a salad together, and made dip for the chips with my mom. (My sisters-in-law and my mom helped with food as well so it wasn’t like I had to do everything.)

The yayas and drivers with their families after the games…

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By 7 PM, the guests were settled in and dinner was served. The party had come to a close downstairs and our househelp could finally assist me in the dining room. My toe had been throbbing so I resorted to limping to alleviate the pain. It felt great to be able to sit down after so many hours and relax with our company. Finally, I can enjoy myself, I thought.

However, shortly after I was engaged in an interesting discussion with the women at the table, Edric asked me to serve him. This really annoyed me. Even though I didn’t manifest it, I emphasized my displeasure by hobbling more obviously. He didn’t notice because he was equally engrossed in a conversation with the men, at the other end of the table. Our table is fairly huge so he was a significant number of feet away. But still…I grumbled to myself…I told him earlier that my toe was in bad shape, and he knew I had been on my feet for a good number of hours hosting the party and getting dinner ready. How could he be insensitive like this?! If he was really mindful of me, he would serve himself.

My mom was at the “buffet” table and I made the mistake of whispering, “I’m annoyed because Edric asked me to get him something when my toe is in bad shape.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. Edric and I tell couples not to do this! It’s a good thing my mom isn’t the type to take sides just because I am her daughter. She will set me straight by offering another perspective. In fact she said, “It’s okay. He works hard all day.”

I knew that she was trying to be encouraging, but the judgemental thoughts began to percolate in my head and I felt hurt by Edric. I didn’t bring it up that evening because I was dead tired and crashed when the guests left. But last night, over an unimpressive slice of carrot cake at an unnamed coffee shop, while Edric and I killed some time before a dinner engagement, I commented, “I think if I contributed income to our family, you will be more reasonable about me serving you.”

Edric had no idea what I was talking about. He gave me a scowl that translated into the statement, “Whoa, whoa, what do you mean by that? We need to talk about this.”

I don’t know why I drew the conclusion I did but I suppose my main point was I wanted to be treated with more respect and courtesy. And as illogical a connection as I had made, I thought there might have been some merit to saying if he knew that I worked hard everyday because I had a desk job that he esteemed instead of housework, homeschooling, parenting, and hosting dinner parties, then perhaps it would increase his mindfulness of me. Perhaps he wouldn’t ask me to get up during dinner when my toe is hurting to bring him a bowl and spoon for his ice-cream!

So it was just a bowl and spoon but the timing of his request made me feel like he was totally inconsiderate of me. Of course, Edric requested that I clarify my ill-stated observation. I finally blurted out, “You asked me to serve you when you knew my toe was hurting me.”

With sincerity, Edric replied, “I’m so sorry hon, I totally forgot. I was so caught up in the conversation that I didn’t think about it when I asked you. You should have signaled me somehow or reminded me about your toe and I would have gotten the bowl myself. I hope you realize that I am not that much of jerk…that I would not knowingly ask you to serve me if you were in pain. You don’t think that about me, do you?”

My reply was, “I guess you left me no choice because I had just informed you about my toe and then you still asked me to serve you. So to me, even the forgetfulness was hurtful.”

“Okay, there’s no excuse for my forgetfulness either. Will you forgive me for that?”

This was part one of our dialogue. I’ve rephrased some of the statements but this was the gist of it. The next part continued while we were running this morning…

I began with, “So let’s just be clear…What if I was very tired because you knew that I was busy with preparations for a dinner event or activity in our home, would you still expect me to serve you? This question was posited as we ran up a hill.

His reply was, “Yes. I’ve equipped you with an army of household help and a driver so the answer is yes. It’s not like we are living in the U.S. where you and I have to do everything. Our circumstances are very different. Managing the home is your department, so you need to be on top of these things.”

“Wow, it’s like there’s no margin of error with you. Isn’t marriage also about teamwork? Like we are a team and we help one another out?” I countered.

“Give me some credit. When we were first married and didn’t have househelp I was in charge of the dishes.”

“You would leave the dishes for days in the sink.” I snickered.

“Still, I did them.” Edric said.

It’s amazing how much physical fuel you get from a marital discussion. I felt like each exchange pumped energy into my muscles to run!

“I suppose I just want to know that you will respond positively if there is an exemption. Like that night when the yayas and driver were enjoying a party? What about those instances?” I was looking for some reassurance.

“Well then tell me ahead of time so I can adjust my expectations, because in my mind, this is your department. So you need to manage parties we host in our home. But yes, I will rescue you.”

“I’m not sure I believe you.” I was skeptical.

“Well if you are going to think that way, we aren’t going to make any progress.” He began to sound annoyed. (I was being kind of annoying.)

“How come it seems like your tone is antagonistic?” This was unnecessary but I’m allergic to harsh decibel levels. We were now headed back home.

“So I have to say this in a sweeter tone for your to believe me?”

I was quiet. My thought was, YES.

In a sweeter manner Edric announced, “I-WILL-RESCUE-YOU.”

We smile at each other and he raced me home. He beat me.

At home, the third part of our dialogue ensued while working out our abdominals on the floor.

He was lying on his gray yoga mat and I was sprawled out on my purple one when he proposed, “We have to practice what we preach. What do we teach other couples about roles?”

“Do your part.” I must confess that I said this without too much enthusiasm!

“That’s right. So don’t worry about my responses. You do your part. I will worry about my role.”

I’m going to cut the story here because I’ve covered the most essential parts of it. My preconceived notion was HE KNEW about my toe. His honest confession was HE FORGOT. My interpretation of his forgetfulness was HE WASN’T MINDFUL OF ME. His sincere explanation was HE WAS DISTRACTED. My argument was WHAT IF I AM REALLY TIRED will you be reasonable about your expectations for service? His response was, generally, NO BECAUSE WE’VE DELINEATED ROLES AND I’VE EQUIPPED YOU WITH THE PERSONNEL TO HANDLE THE DIFFICULT WORK SO YOU CAN FOCUS ON ME. However, he did add that if I really needed him to be flexible, of course HE WOULD UNDERSTAND AND RESCUE ME, especially if I managed his expectations by communicating my need before hand.

So that was the end of the tale of my injured toe and the ice cream bowl and spoon, and here is what I learned/re-learned about marriage:

My initial inability to receive Edric’s confessions as true – that he had simply forgotten about my toe and he was distracted — told me that I had pent-up notions about Edric that assumed the worst rather than the best of him. I had judged him without hearing his perspective. Overnight, I cooked up some pretty destructive emotions.

Yes, Edric can have a bad memory. Yes, he can be insensitive. However, I’m accountable to the Lord for the thoughts I entertain. Edric’s uncommendable behavior (which isn’t frequent by God’s grace!) cannot be an excuse for me to harbor resentment towards him, leading me to forgo my desire to serve him and meet his needs as a wife. In the future I must be careful of poisonous presuppositions that begin with, “If Edric loves me he won’t…If he loves me he will…”

Edric loves me. Period. There’s no need to fill in the blanks.

Is it always a perfect love? Certainly not. I can’t promise him a perfect love either. But in marriage, he and I must begin with the assumption that we love one another and we mean well. To assume the best and not the worst is to hope in the heart transforming work that God is doing in Edric’s life and in mine. Christ is causing us to love one another the way we should.

Furthermore, I would like Edric to believe that when I make a mistake as a wife and he is the unpremeditated victim, I don’t will-fully want to injure his heart. Similarly, Edric would like to believe that when he messes up as a husband and I get hurt in the process, it’s not because he wants to be unloving towards me. It’s when he or I formulate judgmental conclusions based on appearances that we develop hostile feelings which eclipse our love and trust for one another.

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

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” Luke 6:37

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What if a spouse makes wounding choices consistently? Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that this spouse doesn’t love her husband or his wife? Might I propose a different perspective? When a spouse thinks, acts, or speaks in habitually hurtful ways it’s not because they don’t love their husband or wife. It’s because they haven’t experienced the love of Christ, nor do they love him in return. Love’s starting point is not Christ but the self. A love whose source is the self will miss the mark — the higher standard of Christ-like love.
A husband and wife must therefore strive to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength first (Matthew 22:37), after which they can love their neighbor (Matthew 6:38), also known as one another!

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Life Has Detours

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That’s what we were taught in school, isn’t it? In any geometric problem, you can count on this unchanging fact…That’s an important principle in the world of science and math…But in our spiritual life? Hardly anyone has found it to be true…There are invisible variables, hidden goals, purposeful processes that can’t be measured by human means. So on our journey with God through this life, we rarely walk a straight line.” Phil Tuttle, Author and Speaker

On the path towards where and whom God would have us be, he often includes character-building experiences and circumstances which Tuttle calls “DETOURS.” All of us would prefer the straight line. We want the blessed and abundant life that God promises without the unpleasant twists and turns that he may include along the way. Who wants to experience financial distress, business or work problems, relationship issues, abuse, sicknesses, loss, or betrayal? Any normal person would say, “Not me!”

In his book, Detour, Tuttle focuses on the the historical figure of Joseph. Young Joseph had vivid dreams of power and leadership, of people bowing down to him. This was his point B. Yet the line between his childhood (point A) and that fixed mark was bent in and out of shape. On many occasions, Joseph’s circumstances made his dreams about rulership seem completely ridiculous and implausible. From favored son, he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, framed for sexual assault, thrown into prison, and forgotten. This didn’t look or feel like the path he was supposed to be on.

“We see in the life of Joseph, as well as many other biblical characters, that this process is not the exception, it’s the norm. This is how God works. It may be excruciating at times, but there is purpose in it. He is writing a bigger story and fitting us into it in ways we cannot yet see.” (Introduction, Detour)

Sometimes it can be confusing to reconcile God’s love with the pain he allows. I know God is good and I know that he is in control, but why does he have to use difficult circumstances as part of the process? Isn’t there a gentler way to produce the same desired effect in us?

The reality is God permits the consequences of a fallen world to impact us. We experience suffering because of the wrong choices of others or our own sinfulness and disobedience. As a result, our dreams are broken and stolen. Yet we can take comfort in the unseen but greater reality that God’s plans are not derailed by man’s failings.

I like what Tuttle said about Joseph. “Nothing from Joseph’s past disqualified him from reaching the place God had called him. Nothing that came against him could thwart what God was doing…Detours, no matter what the cause, will ulrimately serve God’s purposes.” (Detour, pg. 41)

Joseph provides us with an example of how we should respond to the detours in our lives. To get to point B from point A when the line zigzags, curves, or warps, we need to have faith that there’s a bigger picture. How do we manifest this faith? We cling to God’s promises. We hope in what he will do. We choose to love and forgive. We obey him and glorify him. We press on.

Our own family went through a major tragedy when I was 15. To the outside world it may have seemed like God was caught by surprise, that something so terrible couldn’t have possibly been part of his plan for our family. My parents were teaching a bible study the night our home was robbed, when my friends and I were raped. Yet we all chose to believe this wasn’t an accident but part of God’s divine purpose.

The Bible tells us, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

God intends for all of us to live an extraordinary life – to be extraordinary for his extraordinary work. He wants each one of us to be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” When Joseph was instated as ruler of the land, second only in rank to Pharoah himself, he was emotionally, physically, and spiritually prepared for the task. Everything he had been through made him the best candidate for the job. He was put in that position of influence by God himself. How else could a forgotten, condemned man be tasked to run the affairs of the most powerful nation at that time? When the moment was ripe, God honored Joseph for his faith and obedience. God used Joseph to save Jacob, Joseph’s father, and the same brothers who betrayed him. Through Joseph, the nation of Israel was preserved during the seven year famine.

Inspired by Joseph’s life, Edric and I named our second son Edan Joseph. The name Joseph means “God will increase.” When Edan was born to Edric and me, we were at a juncture in our young marriage when finances were really tight. It was an especially difficult time for Edric who wrestled with feelings of insecurity as the provider of our family. He liked his job and he put in his best effort, but he was frustrated with certain aspects of it. Sometimes he wondered if money wasn’t overflowing because God wasn’t happy with him. As a wife, it pained me to see Edric so discouraged. I would remind him that God isn’t that kind of a father. He delights to bless us and there is a bigger picture that isn’t always visible to us.

Despite our monetary status, I believed that Edric had God’s favor. We didn’t have luxuries that our peers or other family members had. However, I knew Edric loved the Lord. He was a faithful husband and a good father. Therefore I was confident that if he and I kept following God and honoring him, he would surely take care of our needs. I knew that he would provide for our family through Edric.

When I look back on the early years of our marriage, I am glad the journey wasn’t a predictable, straight line. Edric and I learned how to trust God with our finances instead of anchoring our security on money. God taught us not to look to wealth to define who we are. Had we been spared from the challenges that marked the earlier years of our marriage, we would have missed out on the more important growth and maturity that we both needed. We would have been ill-prepared to steward the material blessings or positions of influence that God has given us today.

My dad told me, “None of us can live a storm free life but we can learn to be storm proof.” The storms of life are inevitable. We can become better or bitter. We can become a curse or a blessing to others.

Earlier I said it can be confusing to contemplate why a loving God allows pain. If I didn’t know who Jesus was and what he has done, the detours and storms in my life would be senseless. But God gave you and me his Son, Jesus, who entered into this world to be ridiculed, persecuted, betrayed, forsaken and then nailed to the cross for our sins. Isaiah 53:5 tells us “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” Because of Him, we have the power to break free from the past, we can live victoriously despite our mistakes or tragedies, and we can fulfil the greater purpose of reconciling the lost to Himself.

You and I may not know the future turns He has in store us. Or we may be at a season in our lives that feels like a detour we shouldn’t be in. Let us be encouraged by Joseph’s example, but better yet, let’s look to Jesus who gives us reason to hope against hope that there is a point B to look forward to!

I’m putting this photo taken by Sheila Juan-Catilo for Mommy Matters. This was shortly after Catalina had been confined in the hospital twice which felt like a major detour to me. But I’m genuinely smiling here because God used one of the most difficult experiences of my life as a mother to teach me more about himself and to help me grow in my faith.

For every detour in life, we must believe God gives us a story to tell that will minister to others.

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Let me end with this quote: The cost of your journey may be high; the detour may seem meaningless. But regardless of the pain, the challenges, and the adversity, the glory of your story will be worth it in the end.” (Detour, pg. 163)

Find purpose when life doesn’t make sense…

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You Are Treasured

I was counseling a young woman over the weekend who confessed that all her life she was trying to prove her worth and value to herself and others. She was so exhausted, emotionally and spiritually that she tried to commit suicide. God ordained for us to meet through a series of circumstances and I sat down with her to share the gospel.

When she realized that she is perfectly loved, despite each and every tragic experience; completely accepted, despite her many godless choices; valued beyond measure, despite the ill-treatment she has received from undeserving men, her face changed and she began to tear. I asked her to read this passage:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28, 31-32, 38-39 NASB)

The love and acceptance she had spent years searching for and failed to find, she found in Jesus Christ.

God’s unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.  ~ Jerry Bridges

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Women want to be TREASURED. Married or single, underneath our choices, perspectives, fears and frustrations, there is a current of desire. We want to be treated as special and affirmed for who we are. The problem is we often look to people and accomplishments to fill this longing.

Most of the time, when I get upset with Edric, it’s usually because I feel like he is not considering me or weighing what’s important to me. My judgmental thoughts are, “I don’t DESERVE to be treated this way. Of all people and preoccupations in his life, I should be número uno.” Why? I want to be cherished by him. It makes me feel important and special. But as amazing I think Edric is, there’s no way he can meet 100% of my expectations 100% of the time.

A few months ago, we were discussing my five-time-affected-post-baby-body. I was worried that I had fallen short of his “standard” because he told me that he found some (unnamed) women attractive. Edric and I are very open with one another. I can put on the best-friend hat. But at that point in time, I was looking at my body in the mirror (without him around) and I was like, man…the heights from which I’ve fallen! Why, gravity?! Why?! I used to be this and that, etc. etc.

Well, we had a long, drawn-out conversation that had me in tears and he felt powerless to comfort me. Edric tried everything to reassure me that I was still the most beautiful woman to him, that he had eyes only for me, and on and on. I was past that point of rationality, where there was nothing Edric could say to make me believe him.

On the one hand, I had to embrace contentment with who I am today. On the other hand, when I stepped back to pay attention to what was really going on inside of me, I realized that I was looking to Edric to make me feel special, happy and good about myself. Even though Edric is a great husband…the best, in my opinion, he cannot COMPLETELY meet, what I would like to call, a black-hole-need…this longing to be treasured.

If I make my self-worth dependent on Edric, I might as well be a yoyo. Up and down, up and down…emotionally unstable and volatile. Edric will feel suffocated, incapable of pleasing me, unable to enjoy our marriage, and very tired!

There’s only one person who can COMPLETELY meet the longing to be treasured – Jesus Christ.

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Christ is the one who loves you and me perfectly, completely, wholly, unchangingly, and eternally. He treasures us, as we want to be treasured. When we struggle with feelings of insecurity, when we feel alone, unappreciated, unimportant, inadequate, cast aside, rejected, betrayed, or forgotten, the solution is not to expect people to heal what is hurting in us or preoccupy ourselves with doings that mask the hollow in us. The answer is to run into the arms of Christ, to abide there, to dwell in his love and be full of it.

You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Psalm 16:11

Kari Jobe sings a beautiful song called “My Beloved,” and I’ve included her lyrics here, but it’s much better listened to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqr-Q1U87fY

 

You’re my beloved, you’re my bride

To sing over you is my delight

Come away with me my love

 

Under my mercy come and wait

Till we are standing face to face

I see no stain on you my child

 

You’re beautiful to me

So beautiful to me

 

I sing over you my song of peace

Cast all your care down at my feet

Come and find your rest in me

 

I’ll breathe my life inside of you

I’ll bear you up on eagle’s wings

And hide you in the shadow of my strength

 

I’ll take you to my quiet waters

I’ll restore your soul

Come rest in me and be made whole

 

You’re my beloved, you’re my bride

To sing over you is my delight

Come away with me my love

 

1 John 4:9 “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.”

 

 

 

Halloween Hullabaloo

“Mom…don’t fight. You tell us not to fight, right? You and daddy shouldn’t fight.” Titus Mendoza.

We weren’t really fighting, but we were engaged in a debate over Halloween. Should the kids go around and get candy or should we ignore this festivity all together?

For the first time, Edric was open to the idea of our children participating in our village’s Halloween activities. Every house that is decorated signifies that they give out candy. We didn’t decorate because our family has never celebrated Halloween. So I assumed that Edric and I were on the same page. However, he had a recent encounter with someone who said, “So you don’t do Halloween because you are Christians, right?” It got him thinking about the real reasons why our family doesn’t get dressed up and traipse from door to door like most families do on this day.

Over breakfast, Edric invited the children to join our discussion and share their thoughts. The intention was good but the process was a little bit tense. Sure, we were having a “discussion,” but I must admit that it was fueled by irritation on my part. What had tripped the wires in my husband’s brain so that we suddenly didn’t see eye to eye?

He asked the kids, “Do you want to go around and get candy from the neighbors?” I didn’t think the question was worded accurately. So I interjected with my own version. “Kids, do you want to go begging for candy in silly outfits on a day that was born out of demonic origins?” (Kids representing 6 and below didn’t understand what I was talking about.)

“Okay, if that’s your perspective then why celebrate Christmas either?” Edric’s counter-statement was “it’s also pagan in origin.”

I didn’t have a credible defense. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I didn’t want to give that up. Plus, in my mind, celebrating Christ’s birth (even if it isn’t the exact date) seemed vastly different than joining in on a day that patronizes ghouls, ghosts, gore, and ghastly things. It wasn’t a sound argument by any measure, but I was getting increasingly annoyed so I added that into the discussion.

This began to look and sound like a fight to our kids. Titus even added, “You should be kind to your husband.” Edric got all excited when Titus said this and thought he had an ally. Then he discovered that “wife” was what Titus meant by “husband.”

“Who is the husband?” Edric asked. Titus chimed in, “Mommy!” The other kids cracked up and suggested that be kind to your wife was what he wanted to say.

I need to add that Titus had the sweetest way of correcting us. When he made the first comment about “not fighting,” there was a melody to his tone of voice and a big smile on his face. It was the same with his appeal for us to be kind to one another. Who could resist him? It certainly made Edric and I more conscious of our passionate dialoguing. So Edric said, “Mommy and I will continue this later,” assuring the children that we would resolve it in private.

While it isn’t morally wrong to collect candy on Halloween, we finally decided that it wasn’t of eternal benefit to our children or to us to perpetuate the celebration of a day that represented what is dark, evil, and ugly. Just look at the décor. Is it uplifting and edifying?

The other day I was at the toy store and they were selling decapitated heads, bloody arms and bodies, and hideous looking masks and faces. My daughter’s reaction, which was to run away, is exactly what I’m trying to emphasize. There’s something macabre about this day.

If a family wants to get dressed up in more wholesome outfits instead of witches and dead people…if they want to decorate their homes’ facades with cute pumpkins, that’s their call. Edric’s mom dressed him up like a carrot when he was little. I would have loved to see that! My friends came up with a good alternative. They planned a candy night at one of their houses so a bunch of families can still do the costumes and get their candy. We would have joined them except that we had other plans.

Fortunately, my kids don’t care too much about costumes or candy. They don’t feel like they are missing out on some glorious part of their childhood by not participating in Halloween. Since they don’t go to school, they aren’t aware of how big a deal it is either.

Here’s what they did today…

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I don’t want to go around making a doctrinal issue out of Halloween and judging families who allow their children to dress up, play make-believe, and fill their pumpkins with candy. I know a lot of people who enjoy the costume aspect of Halloween and they don’t cast spells or drink blood. Some are friends, others are family. Like my dad used to say, “There are things worth debating and there are things worth dying for.” I won’t die for the Halloween issue. I will die for the gospel.

However, I do think that we should all evaluate why we participate in certain festivities. It wasn’t until we started having kids that Edric and I began to rethink why we do what we do. What sort of values and precedents are we inculcating in our children? Just because an occasion is cultural and fun doesn’t mean our family has to give hearty approval to it. We can choose to celebrate the activities that are meaningful and profitable to us.

At the same time, we don’t want to raise little legalists. We don’t want our children to have this “holier than thou” image of themselves that turns people off to Christ. So we processed the conclusion with them. The kids were like, “Great! We didn’t want to get candy anyway!” (I also apologized for my tone of voice and irritation towards Edric.  Titus ran up to me and gave me a big hug.) Edric explained that this was a family decision and not a doctrine stated in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say, “Don’t dress up in costumes and collect candy from nice neighbors on Halloween.”

However, for those who won’t be popping in those vampire fangs for their costume tonight, here’s something you might like to chew on…

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭8-17‬ NLT)

Here is a well-written piece from John MacArthur’s ministry that is worth reading. I like the idea of using this popular holiday to give out gospel tracks!: Christians and Halloween