WHO AM I?

Although I grew up in a home where my parents affirmed me and taught me what it means to have God-confidence, I wrestled with deep-seated insecurity.

As a third-culture kid who was half-American and half-Chinese but living in the Philippines, I didn’t quite feel like I fit in, racially speaking, anywhere. I was too Asian looking to be called American, and I was too foreign looking to be called Filipino. A street kid once yelled into our car window, “Pekeng kano (fake American)!”, and  it actually troubled me.

When I got older, I entertained thoughts such as, Dad is prouder of my siblings more than he is of me because they are smarter, more accomplished, and less “sinful.” Although my parents always assured each one of us that we were equally loved, I compared myself to my brothers and sisters.

Since childhood I also struggled with body insecurities, which plague me to this very day. Anytime I weigh myself and see that I’m more than 118 pounds, I panic and feel like I’m fat and should punish myself by eating less or exercising. Since I have never been completely happy with how my body looks, I sometimes think of a hundred things I wish I could change.

Furthermore, I continue to have skin that is prone to break outs, which began in my teens, and blemishes tend to steal my peace as well. (How ironic that I became an endorser for Cetaphil! That’s God’s grace. Their products have helped me a lot.)

Edric, on the other hand, has smaller pores than I do. He doesn’t have skin problems which sometimes makes me so envious. About ten years ago he had a mole on his face that kept growing and I was really concerned about it, so I suggested that he get it checked. Since he wasn’t the kind of guy who fussed over his skin, he ignored it. Miraculously, the mole fell off! No scar. Nothing. Like the mole was never there. I thought, Wow, that’s not fair. Lord, how come he’s the guy in our marriage and he has the nicer skin. Why not me?!

One of the more serious symptoms of my insecurity was seeking the approval of people. For example, as an eight year old child, I wanted all my classmates to like me so I lied about having a variety of animals in our house. I made it sound like we had a zoo! Unfortunately this bloated narrative prevented me from inviting my classmates over because no such zoo existed in our home. Thank God my parents homeschooled me the year after so I never had to show proof of this zoo!

When it came to friends, I got into drinking just to feel like I belonged. While drinking isn’t wrong per se, it was my motivations for doing it. One year I went on a long trip to Europe with some of my girl friends and almost every night we would go to clubs. Though wildly fun, I never felt at peace each morning after.

At one point, we were hanging out with all kinds of guys and the guys would flirt with us, and one of the guys asked if he could take me home to his place. I knew what this meant, and I told him, “No, I’m not interested.” 

After rejecting his proposal, he made me feel like a loser for turning him down. This was one of the moments that got me thinking, If I continue down this path, if I do things to earn people’s favor because I want them to think I’m cool or fun then I’m going to destroy my life. Furthermore, and most importantly, I called myself a Christian, yet I didn’t honor Christ with my life. Plus, behind the exterior of my good girl façade, I knew there was something spiritually wrong with me.

Because I was always looking for affirmation, this carried over into the way I related with guys. I liked the attention I received from guys. It made me feel important and special, and I attached my self-worth to this.

So in high school I dated a guy who was popular, athletic, intelligent, and funny, even if my parents discouraged me from doing so. Our relationship became very physical. I let him manipulate me emotionally. If I wasn’t physical with him, he would ignore me, give me a hard time, or make me feel guilty, like I was a bad person. I allowed myself be treated this way for at least two years. After we broke up, he visited from the U.S. a couple of times and our encounters would turn physical again.

Ultimately, it was my choice to do the things I did because I desired my boyfriend’s approval more than obeying God. So I compromised to keep him interested in me, even if it was a very unhealthy relationship.

I struggled with purity again when I got into my second serious relationship. This time it was with Edric in college. However, this time I wasn’t forced into it. I willingly committed immorality and at times, initiated it. Although Edric and I didn’t have actual intercourse, the Holy Spirit kept convicting us of our sin. Both of us knew we weren’t pleasing God. 

Due to the series of unwise and sinful choices I made, I felt like a spiritually broken person after my college years. The disconnect between my private life and whom I claimed to be, bred fear and robbed me of peace. I didn’t want my parents, family, or friends to know my secret sins, so I hid for many years, by avoiding conversations about my relationships, or I lied to preserve my image. But this charade grew tiring, even for Edric. We could no longer stomach the spiritual fatigue of a sin-confess-sin-confess lifestyle. In order to honor God and seek after His will for us, we finally broke off our relationship two years into it.

When a friend of our family approached my mom and said, “I had a dream about your kids, all of them had a candle, except for Joy,” I secretly panicked. Deep down I knew that having NO candle basically meant that I had not been a light for Christ. So I wanted to change, but I felt like such a failure. 

Still battling this demon of insecurity, another unhealthy perspective began to surface in my life – that I was the worst of the “Tan-Chi” kids. My siblings were all better than me. I would never be as good as they were. They qualified as blessed but not me. Once again, it was all about comparing myself to others. So, I had to come to a point in my life where I saw myself as God saw me, not as I saw myself in comparison with others, or how I felt others saw me.

First, I was a sinner. There was nothing good in me apart from Him. But He loved me and died for me. Even if I had made the mistakes I had as a professed follower of Christ, even if I had been so displeasing to Him, He would love me still and He would forgive me if I truly repented. So my sense of security wasn’t in what I could do to perform or earn back God’s love, God’s grace. It was in what Jesus had done for me. I felt like the prodigal coming back to Him. But dealing with my wrong thinking was a process for me.

Second, I had to remember that I was a child of God, therefore my purpose was to represent Him, glorify Him, and lead others to Him. After Edric and I broke up, I recognized how directionless my my life was. My choices revolved around what made me feel good about myself, what made me feel significant or important. 

Therefore, it was time to make my own decision to follow God, not based on my family’s convictions, but my own. I had to accept God’s plan and purpose for my life– whom He created me to be and what He created me for. This conviction had to be birthed out of a true understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Although I had been raised in a Christian home, did I really believe that following Christ was the best life to live? Did I really believe that I was set apart as 1 Peter 2:9 says? “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God for He called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”

Today, I still struggle with my insecurities.  At the root of it is pride, being self-focused. I once told someone, I think the struggles that we have as children, the weaknesses and character flaws that we dealt with when we were kids will continue to be the things we wrestle with even into our adulthood. Therefore, we have to remain dependent on the Holy Spirit to be victorious until God calls us home.

More recently, when I married my husband, Edric, my insecurities revolved around money. I knew that we weren’t starting off with a lot of money. As a starry-eyed bride caught up in the romance of our relationship, I wasn’t that worried. Maybe we wouldn’t be rich but I was certain we would have enough. 

Well, reality set in within the first year of our marriage. It wasn’t easy having just enough. Admittedly, coming from a family with means felt like a big contrast to what we had. Enough didn’t quite feel enough. I couldn’t travel. I had to stick to a tight budget. Even if I didn’t grow up seeing my parents spend on luxury goods because that wasn’t a value of theirs, we lived very comfortably because my dad was a successful businessman.

When I compared my state in life to my siblings and parents, jealousy and disappointment would settle in. Not having a lot of money actually made me feel insecure once again. 

God had to remind me repeatedly, I am your provider. I will take care of you and Edric, your family. You focus on honoring me and obeying me. 

After nearly sixteen years of marriage, I have seen his faithfulness in the area of provision.

Yet it’s no surprise that to this very day, I have to combat insecurity. Here are some practical measures that help me to embrace my identity in Christ and focus on living for Him:

Confess my struggle. When comparing, jealousy, approval-seeking, and fear of people begin to take root in my heart, I have to weed these out by coming before the Lord and admitting my weakness and negative thinking. Then I ask for His forgiveness, for my mind to be renewed. 

“if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:21-24‬ ‭

Detox from social media and other media. I intentionally avoid looking at things that fill my heart with discontent, that put in my heart an appetite for pursuits that aren’t aligned with God’s will for me. This past Holy Week, I took a break from checking social media. How liberating it was to leave my Instagram and Facebook accounts alone! 

Be grateful. “Thank you, Lord, for who I am, whom you made me to be, for the life you have given to me, and for empowering me to do the things you want me to.”

Someone once told me, “God has given you everything you need to do what He wants you to.”

I’ve never forgotten that statement. The family I was born in to, my genetics, racial background, appearance, resources, the talents and abilities that God has given me, as well as my inabilities, are everything I need to fulfill His calling and plan for my life. Most important of all, I have the Holy Spirit to empower me. As Philippians 4:13 states, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” 

Look to the needs of those around me, instead of focusing on myself. How can I be a blessing to others? How can I be a messenger of the gospel? How can I point people to Christ?

My mom has often encouraged me, “When you are with others, think of how you can bless them, how you can reach out to them.” 

It’s a great cure for self-centeredness! 

Evaluate my choices and motives by asking the questions, Am I doing this for God’s glory or for my own glory? Is there anything I am doing that is dishonoring to God’s name?

For example, whenever I read negative comments from readers that target me personally, I have to think through how I will respond because the tendency is to react and be defensive. Therefore I have to mentally review…Why am I doing what am I doing? Whom am I trying to draw attention to?

When I started this blog, my desire was to point people to Christ. So when people make an obvious attack on my biblical worldview, then I try not to take it personally.  However, if it is an accusation that addresses a character issue I need to fix, then I have to apologize and change.

It’s very easy to be cruel and vengeful on social media or on the Internet, so I remind myself that I represent Christ. Everything I do online and offline has to glorify Him. My persona online has to be consistent with my identity in Christ. Whatever platform I use and whatever platform God has given to me, the intention must be to glorify God.

Maybe you grew up in a good Christian home like I did. You were exposed to ministry experiences where you saw your parents wholeheartedly serve God. Or maybe you witnessed hypocrisy, with your parents preaching and teaching one thing and modeling the opposite at home.

Whichever category you fall under, I hope you will understand that you and I can’t make our choice to follow God dependent on our parents’ faith. Their passion for the Lord isn’t a genetically inherited trait. And their lack of passion isn’t an excuse for us to deny who we are and what we were made for. Each one of us has to ask the question, “Who am I?”

Colossians 1:16 tells us, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him.”‭‭‭

Every one of us was created by God and for Him. So it boils down to a personal decision – Will I embrace the identity that God made me to have? And will this identity define how I think, speak, and act? Or will I continue trying to find my identity apart from God? 

As for those of you who are parents like me, let’s not give up praying for our kids and affirming who they are in Christ. Although our children are accountable to God to make their personal faith decisions, we are also accountable to do our part to raise our children to know, love, serve, and obey God. 

My parents loved me unconditionally and walked along side me during my wayward years. They continued to pour into my heart and mind spiritual truth. Yet I am convinced that it was their faithful praying that saved me from the course I was on. By God’s grace, their prayers worked, too! There is hope in Christ! 

Breaking Down the Proverbs 31 Woman 

Anyone who has read about the Proverbs 31 woman, knows that, Biblically speaking, women can by all means work and earn money. In fact, they can be successful businesswomen and very enterprising. However, the text sets the bar even higher for all of us as women. It doesn’t merely focus on how to be financially successful, it highlights excellence in every area of a woman’s life. Therefore, we would do well to emulate the traits of this extraordinary Proverbs 31 woman. 

I really like the NLT version of this passage because it’s easier to understand. It begins with, “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” 

First off, she is virtuous and reputable. Her godly character defines her, followed by her competence and accomplishments, chief of which is that her husband has absolute confidence and trust in her. 

All of us have specific responsibilities and expectations that our husbands hold us to. The question is, do they feel like we prioritize what they want us to focus on and get done? We may evaluate ourselves as “good wives,” but it’s our husbands who can say whether this is true or not.

Edric and I had a date last night and when I asked him how I can improve as a wife, he replied that he appreciated my attempts to plan each day’s menu and manage the home, but I can still do better. Whew. I am glad I got a passing mark this time but the fact remains that there is room for further improvement. Since delicious food and an efficiently-running home matter to Edric, then these ought to matter to me, too. 

I have listed the rest of the Proverbs 31 woman’s traits here for us to study together:

1. Proactive and hardworking. “She finds wool and flax and busily spins it.” 

I don’t know how long it takes to spin something wearable, but this woman obviously learned a valuable skill. Wool clothing for colder days and flax as raw material to make linen for hotter weather. Whuuut?! Amazing! 

Perhaps today’s equivalent would be developing a talent and hobby that benefits the family. Sewing? Cooking? Baking? Woodworking? Interior Design? Whatever it is, we see a woman who stretches her capacities and doesn’t burden her husband with problems and needs that she can solve. 

She’s like, We don’t have clothes? I will go out and shear a sheep, and harvest some of the flax growing in my backyard and make some clothing! I am not going to be a complainer. I am going to be a doer! 

2. Tasteful and cultured. “She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.” 

Merchant ships conjure images of the finest produce and exquisite things. This woman’s intention in sourcing the extraordinary to feed her family speaks of her desire to offer them the best.

I am reminded of my mother-in-law, Daisy, who decorates her table every time she entertains guests. She delights in hosting dinners and gatherings and her food is superb. It’s no wonder Edric likes his meals to be prepared and presented with thoughtfulness. My mom-in-law set the standard high, in a good way. 

3. Organized and on top of things. “She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.” 

This sounds like one disciplined lady. She’s establishes healthy routines for herself and family. Even though she oversees servant girls, she is personally involved in the management of her home. And she is a woman after my own heart — she knows the importance of breakfast! 

4. Business and investment sense. “She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard…She makes sure her dealings are profitable.” 

Instead of spending on frivolous, material goods for herself, she is future-wise and puts money into real estate and a profitable business. 

Very often, my temptation is to spend when I have money. Since my income is a bonus on top of what Edric makes, I think, yey, I have money, I can get something for the kids, buy more groceries, or treat myself. So this is a great reminder to build wealth and steward it faithfully. 

Edric, who has done over a thousand interviews about personal finance for the show, On the Money, often tells the kids and me that leaving money in a savings account is poor investing. Instead, look for opportunities to generate income. Since this isn’t really my area of expertise, I let Edric decide on these things. We pool our earnings into a shared account to use for business purposes. 

5. Physically fit and able-bodied. “She is energetic and strong, a hard worker…” 

There’s no excuse for us, ladies! If we want to have the energy to serve our families, then we can’t compromise on our health and wellness. 

This woman obviously didn’t go to the gym, but she built up her strength naturally, perhaps by doing chores, working with her hands, exercising through gardening, walking, or tending to her field or animals. She didn’t laze about and eat potato chips. 

6. Excellent worth ethic. “…her lamp burns late into the night. Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.” 

At the end of the day, with her extra time, she goes back to spinning. It reads like spinning was a hobby of hers. The point is, she found a craft and preoccupation that she enjoyed that was useful. Similarly, do we make time for healthy hobbies and activities? (Being on social media late at night when everyone is asleep doesn’t count.) 

7. Involved in community outreach and ministry to the poor. “She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy.” 

Big-hearted and kind, this woman isn’t too busy or wrapped up in being a superwife and mom to see the greater needs around her. 

One of the women I admire most is my mom. Giving defines her. She set up a good works foundation, which is the physical aspect of meeting needs, but her more urgent mission is to address people’s spiritual needs. During one instance when a thief snatched her bag at a mall,  my mom ran after the lady. When the snatcher was apprehended by a guard and my mom was asked if she wanted to file a report, my mom’s unexpected response was, “I just want to talk to the lady.” 

She took the thief aside and shared the gospel message to her! Retrieving her bag was important but my mom’s greater priority was to talk about God’s love to someone who was spiritually lost. 

Throughout her life as a follower of Christ, my mom has had a contagious zeal for the gospel. Even if she is busier than most women I know, she understands that people are precious to God. I hope to imitate her example in this regard but I have a long way to go. 

8. Preparedness and planning. “She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes.” 

All that spinning of wool pays off! Having anticipated a future-need and planned accordingly, this woman is not stressed out or caught off-guard by changing circumstances. She has readied herself and everyone in her home for life’s difficult seasons. 

9. Multi-talented. “She makes her own bedspreads.” 

Okay, whew, I can actually do this. This makes me feel a little better…Anything where you sew straight lines, I can do. Just don’t include zippers. 

10. Dresses well and takes care of herself. “She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.” 

As women, we ought to put effort into looking our best. After having kids the tendency is to focus on child-rearing and forget that our husband’s are hoping we will still glam ourselves up for them once in a while. We may also want to avoid wearing ill-fitting house clothes that basically say to him, “I stopped being a sexual being for you.”

Edric has called me out on this on several occasions about the comfortable baggy t-shirts and shorts I wear at home. “Hon, that outfit is like totally unattractive.” 

We already know this Proverbs 31 woman is wise about spending money so I don’t think she is extravagant about shopping for herself, but she has an eye for elegance and knows how to put herself together. 

Beyond dressing up for our husbands, we also represent our Creator, God. Do we give Him glory and celebrate how fearfully and wonderfully we are made by dressing well? I don’t mean showing off our bodies or buying expensive clothes that draw attention to ourselves. I mean, do we try to look our best at whatever season or age we are in? 
11. Empowers her husband to lead. “Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders.” 

Interestingly, the passage inserts this bit about the husband and his standing in society to inform us that the Proverbs 31 woman inspires leadership in him. Rulers gave counsel and made decisions at the city gates so we know that her husband is someone important and respected. A positive reputation and a high office attest to the Proverbs 31 woman’s ability to manage affairs, liberating him to focus on his responsibilities and fulfill them with excellence. 

12. Enterprising. “She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants.” 
Since she is skilled at spinning flax to make linen, she monetizes her hobby. I have many women friends who have turned their passions into profitable businesses. There are many ways to start enterprises from the home, instead of working in corporations that take us away from our children. This is one creative way to help out with the family’s needs without sacrificing being available to them. 

For example, I use social media to earn income. This was never my intention when I started writing and posting, but when people approached me with endorsement proposals that were aligned with my values and didn’t take me away from my priorities, then I gladly accepted them. Edric appreciated this, too. Although he didn’t expect me to earn money or contribute monetarily, since he chose to make this his burden so I could home educate our kids, he liked the bonus of extra money which increased our capacity to give and invest.  

13. Positive outlook and inner strength. “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.”

This Proverbs 31 lady is undoubtedly a woman of substance. Behind her successes lies her character. While she fears not the uncertainties of what lies ahead, we will see later on in the passage that she fears the Lord. This is the secret to her strength, wisdom, and positive outlook. I would love to have this woman as a friend! 

14. Full of wisdom, and one who teaches with wisdom. “When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. 

Have you ever spent time with women who walk with God and asked for their advice on an issue or problem? If you have you will understand what I mean when I say that they will most probably give you an answer that you don’t want to hear but need to. 

My mom is a wise woman. I have opened up to her on many occasions and each time she has filled my heart with truths I need to hear. She is never the type of person to side with me just because I am her daughter. Instead she points me in the direction that she knows God intends for me to go. She does this so effectively because she has an intimate relationship with God and spends time reading and meditating on His Word. Plus, she knows how to speak the truth in love, with kindness. 


We can all be women who are full of wisdom. What a blessing we will be to the people in our lives! But we have to do our part to saturate our minds with truth. On a practical level this may mean avoiding literature, sites, shows or music that conform our thinking to worldly values. 

15. A good home manager. “She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.”

This is convicting me to stop putting off changing the broken light bulbs in several rooms of the house! 

16. Highly spoken of by her children and husband. “Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: ‘There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!'”

If there is any group of persons whose applause I want to hear (apart from my Heavenly Father’s), it would be that of Edric and my children. They see my life up close and know all my flaws and shortcomings. I pray that at the end of my time on earth, I would, by God’s grace, hear them say that I was the best wife and mother to them. 

17. Fears the Lord. “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.”

Since I am an older woman now, having turned 40 at the end of 2016, I feel, for the first time in my life the fear of aging. Edric has reminded me not to make health and wellness an idol. I want to do my part to be healthy, but I also know that my physical self isn’t what it used to be. There are moments when I struggle with envy and jealousy, comparing myself to worldly standards of beauty. Yet as a follower of Jesus, I know that the pursuit of eternal youth isn’t God’s plan for my life. It is to know, love, obey, serve, and worship Him…to live for His glory. 

Someday, I will leave this form behind. Therefore my focus ought to be living with eternity in mind. Are my life choices, the thoughts I entertain, and the words I speak beautiful in God’s eyes? 

18. Well known by her deeds. “Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.”

A woman who has pursued what is most important in this life will be recognized for it, not because she has praised herself and presented her doings to receive affirmation and attention from others, but because she has left a lasting legacy behind.  

Proverbs‬ ‭31:10-31‬ ‭portrays a standard of excellence. It’s not the 10 commandments. But it certainly gives us insight into the capabilities and possibilities that we have available to us as women. God has given each one of us unique gifts and circumstances. We need not compare ourselves to one another or perform to earn His love and the approval of others. What counts is that we are faithful with the time, treasures, and talents He has entrusted to us. 

Why Your Renewal of Vows Can Mean More Than the Day You Said Yes

It’s always a joy to share in the celebration of a wedding. The starry-eyed bride, blooming, and radiant, standing beside her dashing groom is a scene I will never grow tired of witnessing. There’s something magical about the day a person commits to marriage, and it’s hard to imagine any other celebration in one’s lifetime dethroning it as queen of all events. Plus, there’s the amount of effort, thoughtful planning, and spending that goes into it that elevates it to a different level of stress and glory. 

Last night, however, I got to be a part of a renewal of vows ceremony that represented a much more beautiful truth about God’s design for marriage. Ruth 1:16-17 declares, “…Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 


Even if the passage was directed towards Ruth’s mother-in-law, it powerfully epitomizes what it means when a couple pledges to one another, “I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”

It’s easy and romantic to profess this at the beginning. But when you’ve been through hell on earth with your spouse (to put it as bluntly as possible), the more intuitive choice seems to be the renouncement of that vow in favor of self-preservation. 

Yet there are couples who stay on the harder path, the one that requires them to walk together when feelings of love have withered and hurt has deeply rooted itself within their hearts. Although animosity has killed whatever hope for love they might have clung to, and they can no longer stomach a reason to honor a commitment that has drained and wearied them to utter exhaustion, they do the counterintuitive thing. They keep going even without being able to see, with human eyes, the restoration and redemption they seek. This is the power of faith in God to do the impossible, what the book of Hebrews calls, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews‬ ‭11:1‬)‬‬

Edric and I first met Tye and Elaine (the couple who renewed their vows) at a juncture in their marriage when quitting was the humanly sensible recourse. Theirs was a relationship broken by infidelity and continuing deceit. They sat before us, as part of the breakout group we were accidentally assigned to facilitate during a couples’ retreat, and the despair of disappointment and hurt visibly darkened their countenances. I thought to myself, there’s only one person who can save this relationship and resuscitate it back to life, and that person is Jesus Christ. 

I didn’t know how Christ would work His miracle in them. But they came to the conclusion, after the retreat, that He presented an alternative to leaving one another. This was the genesis of a long, arduous two-year climb to rebuild a marriage that onlookers might have regarded as a hopeless case. 

It takes one prayerful and relentless person in a marriage who believes that Jesus transforms to turn on the light of hope back on in a marriage. A committed husband or wife who is willing to change, to humble himself or herself for the Lord becomes a channel of God’s forgiveness, love, peace, and joy to awaken the unbelieving spouse from the point of resignation to the point of recognition. Edric and I saw this in Elaine, and eventually we also saw it in Tye.

When a wife or husband consistently manifests Christ-like behavior amidst the turbulence of a troubled marriage, the other begins to wonder whether the person they once fell in love with might still be there…the wife who used to honor, submit to, and prioritize him…the husband who used to patiently understand, care for, and cherish her. 

Surely it is as 1 Peter 3:1-2, and 7-9 have iterated it: Wives who are submissive to husbands who don’t deserve such submission (because they are themselves disobedient to the Lord) win their husbands over to Christ by actions that display chaste and respect. Husbands who seek to understand their wives and their weaknesses, as well as honor their wives, receive God’s favor by means of answers to their heartfelt prayers. And if both wives and husbands seek to be harmonious, sympathetic, humble, loving, kind, and refrain from vengeful actions in words or deeds, then they place themselves in a position to inherit blessing from the Lord. 

It’s very hard to ignore the grace of Christ in a person’s life, especially in a spouse whom you encounter daily. “Why is my spouse responding so differently? Why is my spouse still here? Why is my spouse choosing to love me and forgive even when I have hurt him or her and continue to do so?  How is this possible?!” Questions such as these will naturally pique a spouse’s curiosity and fertilize his or her heart with seeds of the gospel. 

The one beautiful truth that Tye and Elaine’s renewal of vow ceremony taught me was that a dead marriage cannot kill the resurrected Christ! He is at work and alive in each person who loves and follows Him, and in each marriage that He is welcomed into. 

My father used to say, “A big problem is big when you focus on the problem. But when you focus on a big God then the problem becomes a small one.” 

Our focus on and trust in a limitless God invites His power into our problem and His solution into the impossible circumstances of our lives. This includes our marriages.

Tye and Elaine are now enjoying a grace-filled marriage, where Christ reigns at its center, and their testimony beckons those in broken relationships to hope against hope that theirs can be restored, too. They openly share what they have been through to encourage others. 

It has been a privilege for Edric and I to be a part of Tye and Elaine’s journey, to be first-hand witnesses to how God changes people. First, He changes us as individuals, healing us and making us complete in Him, and then He changes the people and circumstances around us in accordance with His will. He specializes in 360 degree healing, not bandaid fixes to the wounds in our lives. 

Elaine, in her impromptu renewal of vows speech, made a remark that brought many of us women to tears. “I would not change anything we went through.” For her to pronounce this when two years ago she battled anger and bitterness is a testament to God’s healing! 

A wedding day will always be special, but a renewal of vows can be even more meaningful when you say I DO AGAIN to a person whose wretchedness and flaws you have lived with, and vice versa. This is what Tye and Elaine demonstrated last night. This is what we should all do as married couples. 

A renewal of vows is coming to that point of understanding what saying yes to marriage really means, what love really means — a commitment to an imperfect person for their highest good, which often requires sacrifice. It is to understand that two imperfect people can return to the honeymoon stage of their marriage and keep rebuilding it daily because of Jesus Christ. 

The unique thing about Tye and Elaine’s renewal of vows was that Tye connived with our discipleship group to plan a surprise ceremony for Elaine. I can’t go into how elaborate the plan was and the maneuvering that was involved to hide this secret from Elaine. But the process was priceless for all of the ladies in our couples’ group who banded together to produce a DIY event for Tye and Elaine. Our husbands were pretty game to wear the outfits we asked them to as well. 

Dapitan, Dangwa, Kamuning, each other’s household items, time, talents, and lots of prayer…this is what it took to make the event happen. 


I was so blessed by the ladies (and the kids) in our discipleship group who tirelessly decorated, baked, coordinated, offered their expertise, and labored to make the evening memorable. God gave us the capacity to function like a professional team of event planners! Everyone was willing to do this for free and to sacrifice because we have supported one another and been there for each other during the highs and lows of our lives. We know what it means to fight for and fight together (with the Lord’s help) for our marriages.


Ambassador Gregory Slayton once said, “You need to surround yourself with battle buddies in life.” 

Edric and I are so thankful to the Lord to have several groups of battle buddies whom we meet with for accountability, fellowship, prayer, spiritual feeding, and encouragement. 

Last night was a celebration of Christ’ love and goodness in all of our lives, a time to remember that God can revive dead marriages and resurrect them to something even more beautiful than they once were! Our part is to cling to Him and embrace the Ruth 1:16 by saying to our spouses, “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay.”

When the Driver Runs Over Your Child’s Foot

One of the things our kids have “lovingly” corrected Edric for is his reactive-ness when situations are highly stressful. He’s changed so much through the years because of Christ in Him that the kids have noticed a remarkable difference in his capacity to restrain his emotions.

Today our driver accidentally ran over Elijah’s foot as we left the Conrad Hotel in Pasay. Our family gave a parenting seminar and as we exited the hotel, our kids piled into the vehicle one by one. 


Our driver absentmindedly released the breaks and Elijah’s toes were helplessly pinned under the rear wheel. 

Aghast, Elijah hollered out, “My foot!!! My foot!!!”

In his bewilderment, our driver panicked and didn’t know what to do, which created even more of a scene in front of the hotel. Elijah couldn’t move as he panicked, and we didn’t know which part of his foot was trapped. Edric jumped out of the vehicle to rescue him and then finally, our driver’s wits returned and he adjusted the car so Elijah’s foot was set free. 

Thankfully, Elijah wore sturdy shoes which protected his toes. The tire left a mark across the top of Elijah’s shoe, but upon checking his feet, no permanent damage happened. He could still wiggle them with ease. Whew. 

Nonetheless, the incident roiled us up into a frenzy and we were all emotionally charged. No one yelled, except for Elijah, who of course had every right to announce his pain. 

What impressed me most during the commotion was that Edric remained calm.  I know he wanted to castigate our driver. Yet, he assessed the situation, discerned a course of action and instructed our driver so he could back up to free Elijah’s foot. He also remained unusually tranquil after he returned to sit in the front seat. Afterwards, I asked him in private what he had been thinking and he planned to speak to our driver at a later time to address what happened.

Edric’s emotional self-control mattered a lot to our kids (and to me) who anticipated a possible outburst from him. What father wouldn’t want to yell and scream at a driver who foolishly put his child at risk like this?! 

My father used to say, and I have mentioned this before, “People are like toothpaste tubes. When they are squeezed during stressful moments, their honest person comes out. If a person is spirit-filled then it ought to be ‘minty toothpaste’ that comes out (something pleasant). And if he isn’t, then it’s dirt that surfaces.”

This illustration is a parallel to Luke 6:45 which says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

When our driver ran over Elijah’s foot, our human tendency would have been to get angry. And I am not saying that Edric and I didn’t feel that anger surging inside of us. Yet at the same time, I am so grateful to the Lord for allowing the moment to be a display of His grace for the sake of our kids, our yaya and our driver. They witnessed Christ-likeness in action, especially in their dad, who affirmed for them that a person can be self-controlled in stressful situations because of Christ. Anger management is possible when we let Christ take over our hearts, minds, and lips!  

Now our challenge is what do to about our driver! We are praying for wisdom. He apologized profusely but this mistake was also a serious one. I am praying that Edric will make the right call on this. Our driver is a nice guy and he has a good heart, but absentmindedness can be a costly thing, especially in a driver. 

Giving Birth and Why the Context Matters

I saw this photo in my files. This was the night I gave birth to Catalina in St. Luke’s Medical Center in BGC. It reminds me of the pain I went through and the joy that came after.

I appreciated that my doctor let me walk around, stretch, even jog a little on the floor where I gave birth so that I could “help” Catalina descend. This was actually my longest labor but God sustained me and I was still able to give birth Lamaze.

It’s so important that you find a doctor who understands your birth preferences but who will also tell you when science must intervene. My doctor, Dr. Regina Capistrano, has always respected my desire to give birth without anesthesia, and she’s allowed me flexibility when I am in labor, but she’s managed my expectations, too. When needed, she applied her expertise as a doctor and prescribed procedures to ensure that my babies and I were healthy.

I praise God that I gave birth Lamaze to all five kids but this isn’t to my credit. I prayed hard when the pain made me feel like I was going to die! God rescued me each time! But I was also thankful that my doctor was present to go through the experience with me and see it through to the end.

Of course, Edric provided emotional and spiritual support which I badly needed. He played music for me, attended to me, and stayed right by my side. And many times, my mom would show up to be there for me and family members and friends would visit shortly after to offer congratulations.

As I reflect back on my pregnancies and births, I have come to realize all the more that birth was meant to be experienced in the context of relationships — a husband and wife, family, people whom you trust. It doesn’t make it any easier to have a baby, but it certainly magnifies the joy!

People often quote the passage that says, “Children are a gift from the Lord,” and I agree with this. At the same time, I also believe that we need to consider the gift we will give to the children born to us. They need a mother, a father, a family, and a community who will love them and raise them up to understand their worth and value…how loved they are by God…that He has a wonderful plan for their lives.

If you come from a broken home and can’t provide this, do not lose heart. God says He is father to the fatherless. You can also find mentors who will come along side your child to meet his or her different needs.

But my appeal is to the single, yet to be married person out there. Seek God’s plan and design for family, for children, which He intended for our joy and our good.

Recently I struggled in my heart with a revelation that someone I know intentionally got pregnant outside of marriage. My heart ached for the realities that she and this child will be up against.

Pregnancy and post pregnancy bring with it a hailstorm of emotions because of hormones. The struggle to parent a child feels much more uphill when you are alone, without a spouse. A boyfriend who acts the part of biological parent does not provide the same security of a father figure. And the truth is, many children born out of wedlock experience abandonment by their biological father and grow up with father wounds.

There are no short cuts to true happiness. Sin is not the route to joy. Maybe there’s the appeal of temporal pleasure and euphoria, but not real joy. Real joy comes when we pursue God’s will, even if it’s hard to wait on His timing for unfulfilled longings and desires. It comes when we obey Him and abide in His love, preferring His statues and His presence in our lives to our own wants and substitutes for Him.

As I write this, I may sound impassioned and my tone may sound like rebuke. But my intention is not to point a finger at the guilty to penalize them with shame. I believe in God’s redemptive grace to all who repent and seek Him. And I have seen God repair people’s mistakes. However, the journey often robs us of peace and the casualties along the way are many.

My real intent is to encourage all of us to renew our thinking. I appreciate how the New Living Testament of the Bible says it so overtly, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:2

The Apostle Paul specified this because he knows our vulnerability. We all prefer the route of self-gratification and following our own will, especially when we are immersed in cultures where it seems so corny and irrelevant to practice righteousness. Yet, God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. Children aren’t supposed to be born to unwed women. (Sadly, it’s a growing statistic all around the world.)

Until we stop rationalizing and basing our convictions on the moral trends of the world, we will not prefer God’s will. And the fact remains that God’s will is best for us. It’s true for our children, too. So let’s not do them a disservice by allowing their conception to happen outside the bounds of God’s will, which sets them up for future heartache. They may not have a choice in the matter, but we do. Our choice to practice purity and the pursuit of God’s will is our precious gift to them. 

Cultivate a Culture of Grace 

Edric and I come under spiritual attack before almost every major ministry event we are involved in. One can argue that all life ought to be a ministry when you are a follower of Christ. However, the reality is there are certain activities that we participate in that make us more vulnerable than others.

For example, last weekend we had a huge homeschooling conference that we were both involved in. We were speakers for this conference at different points in the program. My topic was on laying a foundation for children’s future success. I spoke alongside my mom. Edric played an integral role as one of the core team members spearheading the event.

Any time we are part of an activity that focuses on marriage or parenting we tend to have an argument or an issue related to these areas during the week preceding it. There weren’t any hitches until Thursday when Edric and I had a conflict about mismanaged expectations and poor communication. One of our speakers was to arrive from the U.S. that evening. So we had to send our vehicle back to the office so the driver could pick him up.

After a meeting during lunch, Edric and I agreed to leave soon after so we could make it home early enough to give the driver a gracious window to deal with the traffic. For some reason, Edric heard the wrong information from me and expected me to get him at the office. I thought we discussed that I would wait for him with the kids at my parents’ house.

My big mistake was leaving my phone on silent mode so I couldn’t hear the four calls that Edric made to me as he panicked to determine my location. (I must confess that this has been a need-to-improve-on area for me.) Since I was so focused on finishing the slides of my presentation for the conference, I missed all of Edric’s calls.

He arrived at my parents’ house flustered because we were running late. He rushed the kids out the door so we could speedily head home. The children scurried to put their shoes and socks on, and that moment of frenzy heightened the tense atmosphere that we entered into as we all piled into our vehicle. Edric, anxious to avoid making our foreign guest wait at the airport, was emotionally charged. He corrected me in front of the kids which is something he usually avoids doing.

Naturally, my instinct was to counter his statements to favor my own position. However the kids were in the car, taking in the scene unfolding before them, and I worried that they would learn to be combative in a disrespectful way if I challenged Edric at that moment. Thankfully, God quietly and gently brought me back to the passage I read that morning: “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks out.” (Proverbs‬ ‭17:14) In other words, Joy, keep your mouth shut.

This verse spared me today! Instead of answering back and raising my voice, a scene that I played out in my head several times, I resorted to prayer and apologizing for not answering my phone. Then I just prayed that Edric would realize that he sounded angry in front of the kids.

It’s amazing how much quicker the Holy Spirit is able to speak to Edric than I am! My yakking rarely penetrates his heart in a positive way. But when it’s the Holy Spirit at work, real transformation takes place.

After a while, Edric quieted down. He must have remembered that the kids were watching and listening intently to every word and movement he made in the front seat. So he humbly and sincerely apologized to the kids and to me. I praise God that he is so often this way — willing to say sorry.

In a matter of twenty or so minutes, the conflict had begun and died down without engagement. In a strangely abrupt sort of way, Edric caught himself before his ire escalated into a more impassioned and fiery speech about inefficiency, bad planning, and not picking up phone calls.

One of our sons remarked, “Wow, that was fast, dad!”, alluding to his humble apology.

Two more times afterwards and while we were at home, Edric gently pulled me aside to talk about what went wrong and how we could both improve. He wanted to make sure I was alright, too. I really appreciated that. Edric has always been sincere about his apologies which dissipates whatever hurt I have.

After Edric and I resolved our conflict, I also processed the incident with the kids, explaining to them, “In marriage husbands and wives are not perfect. We make mistakes sometimes, and we do things that hurt each other. But when you have Christ in your marriage, He helps you to forgive one another and love one another.”

I used to have this unrealistic expectation about my marriage and family, that Edric and I wouldn’t make mistakes in front of our children that they could potentially imitate. My great fear as a parent was that our failures, if visible to them, would give them an excuse to follow our wrong choices, rendering us ineffective at teaching and training them to love and follow God. However, I witnessed today, as I have many times, that grace is more powerful than our failures. This doesn’t mean we should trample upon it and take sin lightly. However, it does give me hope and peace to know that when Edric and I fall short of God’s standards for righteousness, we receive God’s grace to heal and repair what is broken. And our kids see this in action.

The bonus is we also receive grace from our children by way of their understanding and forgiveness when we come before them to admit our wrong and acknowledge our need for Christ. Somehow this assures our children that they can be “in process” as well, not impossibly perfect, but on the way to becoming more like Christ.

No family can survive without God’s grace. And it’s foolish and prideful to think that human perfection is what will convince our children that Jesus Christ is worth following. The reality is, we will fail each other as husband, wife, parent or child. We will do things that hurt one another. So it’s really not a question of whether this will happen but how we will respond.

As the offender will we humble ourselves and seek to repair our relationship with those we have wounded, and commit to improve? As the offended will we accept the apology without making the person “suffer” for their mistake? As a witness will we suspend judgment and avoid taking offense for the wronged?

Humanly speaking, it’s counterintuitive to answer these questions in the affirmative. Our carnal instincts would persuade us to do the opposite. However when a family cultivates a culture of grace, where the pursuit of Christ-likeness is encouraged and prioritized but people aren’t rejected for their failures, then each member is compelled to choose humility, forgiveness, and love instead. Although I used to think that perfection would motivate our kids to love and follow God, I am realizing over and over again that it’s seeing and experiencing the power of His grace is more compelling to them.

On a sweet note, Edric hugged me last night after our crazy October schedule simmered down a bit and he said, “I want to be a better husband and father. And I am sorry for being on edge this past week.” He didn’t need to say that because Thursday’s incident had been resolved, but it was a nice plus.

Let me leave you with 2 Corinthians 13:11,14, which we can pray for our families: “Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you…The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

Let’s pray this for our families! We all need grace! 

Hedgehog & Gameboard Issues & God’s Love 

Since three days ago Edan has obsessed about a game called Sushi Go! Party, hunting for it on Internet board game sights, Amazon, and even local stores. If Elijah is into technology and computer programming, Edan’s equivalent is strategy board games. He is a game lover. His idea of a great day is to gather friends and family around a fun board game that he can facilitate for them.

Since the game is difficult to source and order, it came down to one place — gamewright.com. Unfortunately, my many attempts to purchase it were inhibited by my address. The site didn’t allow purchases from the Philippines through Pay Pal or credit card. I could have moved on and forgotten all about the game, but not Edan. He pushed himself so hard this week, studying to earn tabs (a system I use to motivate my kids). As a result, he collected 60+ tabs, enough to merit the reward of Sushi Go! Party.

Edan isn’t an extravagant person, nor is he demanding when he makes a request for a toy or book. But when he really likes something, he will find a way to get it. I think this is a good trait when the desire is channeled to something positive.

For example, two years ago, he had a fascination for carnivorous plants and took the initiative to research about them online and source a supplier based out of Bukidnon.

This year, strategy board games have been his new interest. He has been researching about strategy games. I thought it was an interest that could be encouraged because it required him to apply, logic, math, communication, and social skills. 

So I put in a lot of effort to find the game, to support Edan, and the best solution was to ask my sister, Candy, to buy it for me since she lives in the US. The plan was to have it brought to Manila through my youngest sister, Carolyn, who is visiting her. Edan hoped to get the game by Tuesday when his Aunt Carolyn arrived. He dreamed and imagined what that day would be like, so much so that he couldn’t rest. All he could think about was Sushi Go! Party

His single-mindedness was both fascinating and concerning. On the one hand, I was excited for him to have the game. On the other hand, I wondered if there was a bigger character lesson he needed to learn…specifically related to waiting and patience. I would remind him, “Edan, if we can’t buy the game then take that as an opportunity to practice waiting.” 

He agreed with me. But since he knew that I asked his Aunt Candy to purchase it on my behalf, he felt pretty certain that waiting wouldn’t be something he had to do. 

Well, today, when he woke up, two unpleasant incidents occurred to produce what he called, “The worst day of his life.” 

First, one of our hedgehogs, named Eve, went missing. She left a trail of dung down the steps to our lower ground storage area, so logically, she must have hidden herself behind one of the boxes. The kids searched everywhere and returned to the kitchen table for breakfast worried and baffled by her mysterious exodus. She had disappeared. 
Edric gave them an impromptu lesson on the importance of good stewardship and responsibility. The hedgehogs fell under Edan’s care so he felt the most distressed. He didn’t get to go with his brothers to play a game called Praxis with Edric because he was tasked to find Eve. 

The second and bigger disappointment for Edan came when I relayed to him the message I received from my sister, Candy, informing me that Sushi Go! Party wouldn’t arrive on time for Carolyn to bring to Manila. Edan began to cry. He hid behind one of the cereal boxes to conceal himself but everyone knew that he was upset about the game. 

I reminded Edan that he ought to be grateful that the game was purchased in the first place since that was a blessing in itself. Furthermore, his Aunt Candy had inconvenienced herself to do this for him. Third, the game would arrive eventually, just not next week. He mustered a thank you but I know he remained troubled. 

Most of the early morning was spent searching for missing Eve. She was found a few hours later, huddled quietly behind some old tiles, clueless about the panic she caused. I praise God that cats didn’t get her! She was returned to her husband, Adam. Problem #1 solved. 

Even so, Edan lounged lazily around on the couch in our bedroom, uninspired to do anything today. He isn’t the type to voluntarily express his feelings so I had to command him to sit beside me so we could talk.

I hugged him while he explained how disappointed he was and how awful the day was as the tears kept falling down his cheeks. He admitted to me that the Sushi Go! Party game had become a sort of “idol” to him, when I explained to him what idolatry is. And I also shared that things can’t replace the joy we find in Christ. Material things, people, and circumstances can offer a measure of happiness but these are temporal and passing. In the end, there’s no one and nothing that can fully satisfy us but Christ. A part of me wondered if I was delivering too heavy message to such a young boy, but Edan listened. 

I went on to say that he can open up to me about anything, that he shouldn’t be afraid to tell me his feelings. It was okay that he felt sad about today. I was going to judge him.

He seemed to relax and then he added, “Actually there’s something that I wanted to say…”

I waited. He took a moment.

“When I read my Bible today, I came across a Psalm that talked about the loving kindness of God.”

Edan began to sob. 

“You know, mom, I felt like God didn’t love me. This was the worst day ever because of Eve getting lost and then the news about the game. So I felt really bad and then when I went to read my Bible, the first passage I read was this.”

He pointed it out to me…

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” Psalms‬ ‭103:8‬ ‭

“When I read that, I felt like God was speaking to me, telling me that He really loves me.” 

Edan was really crying at this point. He felt like God was against him today but God dispelled that thought by assuring him that He loved Him, that circumstances aren’t to be the basis for interpreting God’s love. 

So Edan and I continued our conversation, this time focusing on what God’s love is really like. We talked about how God’s love need not be proven by the things He gives us. These are all a bonus compared to the gift of His Son, Jesus. When He gave us Christ, He gave us everything. We are His children, His resources are infinite, and heaven is our home. So when He withholds something we really long to have or when circumstances don’t seem to go well for us, we need to trust that this is what is best for us, according to the One who loves us. 

By the end of our dialogue, Edan was smiling through his tears. He realized that today’s disappointments gifted him with an opportunity to encounter the Lord in a personal way today. 

We spent the rest of the morning doing art instead of pouring over books. Edan described it as therapeutic. He drew and painted a dragonfly among other drawing skills. His gloom and doom disposition was replaced with joy. 


I am so thankful to the Lord that He is at work in the lives of each of my kids. He knows exactly what is going on in their hearts, and He intends to meet them and minister to them. But Edric and I have to keep encouraging our kids to read His Word. The truth is what gave Edan the right perspective today. 


“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:12‬ 

In the midst of what felt like turmoil for him, he went to the word of God and received the assurance he needed most…Not that his hedgehog would be found or that his desired Sushi Go! Party game would come on time, but that God loves him. Thank you, Lord! 

On a sweet note, he also told me that he felt much better after talking to me. Let’s all be good listeners to our kids, my mommy friends! 

Confessions of a Momentary Netflix Addict 

I felt like an addict last week, watching episode after episode of House of Cards. After each Netflix marathon, uselessness and emptiness troubled me. The entertainment value of this series wasn’t worth the hours I sacrificed. Although I hoped for something redemptive, each episode didn’t get better in the spiritually edifying sort of way. More untruth, compromise, and immorality were woven into the plot as the series progressed. 
At some point, I asked myself, “What am I doing?! I am wasting precious time, time that I am accountable to the Lord for.”

Psalm 24:1-2 and Psalm 50:10-12 tell us that God owns all things. According to authors, John Hay and David Webb, “God holds the patent on you, your neighbors, the animals, the seas, the earth, and the rest of creation…Most of us go through life thinking we hold the title to our lives and our possessions.” However, we are merely stewards

“A steward is a person who rules over, or is in charge of, property that belongs to someone else. The word steward comes to us from a pair of Old English words meaning ‘household’ and ‘keeper.’ A steward acts on behalf of the owner of a large estate…You see, the steward does not own the estate just as we do not own the money, the time, the talents, and all the other things that God, the Owner of all, has entrusted to our care.” (John Hay and David Webb. What On Earth Can I Do? Apologia Press. Pg. 68, 70 – 71) 

It’s not that I was engaging in anything “sinful,” by watching the series. However the Bible encourages us, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Psalms‬ ‭90:12‬) 

In other words, I am to steward my time, endeavoring to grow in wisdom. Wisdom is valuable and pleasing to God. Yet how can I acquire wisdom if I am polluting my mind with content that chips away at foundational Biblical principles that I believe in? Do I really want to keep watching scenes of people lying, cheating, and engaging in sexual promiscuity? How does this repeated exposure encourage me to love God and obey Him? The answer is, it doesn’t. 

Thankfully, Edric came to the same conclusions as we sat through our Sunday service. He turned over to me and said, “I am going to quit watching Breaking Bad and House of Cards. I was convicted by the passage I read in Deuteronomy.” 

His conviction came from a different place, but it’s essence was the same. These are the verses he read: “Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God:” Deuteronomy‬ ‭28:1-2‬ ‭

Edric explained that diligent obedience to the Lord is the intentional pursuit of a life that pleases God. It may sound like such a sacrifice to hold ourselves to God’s standard of goodness and holiness. And yet the amazing thing is that living to please God affords us with a lasting kind of joy, the quality of which is never reached through senseless fun and reckless abandon. Therefore it really isn’t a sacrifice to let go of activities that aren’t spiritually beneficial because the satisfaction they promise is temporal and fleeting. 

Was it fun to watch episode after episode of House of Cards? Of course! I enjoyed the plot. I sympathized with the characters and I appreciated the dialogue. However, after each show, I felt like I had injected myself with toxins that did more harm than good to my spirit. And I subjected myself to this for a ridiculous number of hours because it was so interesting! After a while, I actually felt depressed and sick. No real fruit came out of those wasted hours.

Years ago I may not have been compelled to stop watching a series like House of Cards. Yet the more I seek to know God, the more sensitive I become to what is edifying and what is garbage packaged to look enticing. Furthermore, if I can’t imagine watching a movie or program with my kids sitting beside me, then I know it’s got content in it that isn’t healthy for me to habitually watch either. Do I go around telling people that Netflix is a portal of the devil? No. That’s the sort of the legalism that turns people off. We are still Netflix subscribers.

But, I would much rather focus on the more important questions. Is it healthy for any one of us to invite anti-God philosophies, images and ideas into our hearts and minds by indiscriminately watching unedifying shows? What can we do with the precious time we have been given to steward so that we are purposeful and pleasing to God? 

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have fun and be entertained. God delights in our enjoyment and pleasure. However, there is something wrong when the fun and entertainment stimulate in us an appetite for sinful pleasures. Furthermore, there is something wrong when we squander our time (even if it’s discretionary or “free” time), indulging in activities that do not honor God. But like I said, this perspective has to stem from a personal conviction. To most people these sort of reflections can sound like unattractive legalism. So I am going to quote what my dad said to me and my siblings when we were younger, “It’s good to have a high standard for yourself but don’t impose it on others.” If something is wrong for me, then I should follow the Holy Spirit’s prodding about it. But I am not to take the Holy Spirit’s role in another person’s life. 

It’s been several days since I abandoned nighttime series watching, and I actually feel liberated and happy about giving up my House of Cards drama. I am discovering all the better things to do in life then watch Frank Underwood manipulate, use people, deceive, and murder to get to the top and stay on top of the political food chain! 

Rest is a God Thing

In our fast-paced, performance-driven, results-oriented, and pressure-filled world, many of us neglect to rest. During our trip to New Zealand (which was amazing!), I conversed with a lady in her 50s who confessed to feelings of guilt every time she takes a break from her work.

She struggles to give herself time to be still and activity-less. As a business owner of a catering and food company she is doing very well financially, but she is also addicted to her work. First, she loves what she does. Second, she is an activity-driven person (she likes to be busy). Third, she’s got a big heart to serve others. Put all those elements together and you have a person who doesn’t know how to switch to “off” mode even when she should.

In a very comedic way, she even admitted that one of the causes for the absence of sexual intimacy in her marriage was that she habitually rushed her husband through the act! Why? Because she was always thinking about the next task she had to get done instead of enjoying their special times together. They remain committed to one another to this day but it’s a marriage sordidly lacking in the affection area.

So I told her, “Rest is not a sin. Rest allows you to be a better wife, mother, and a more productive worker. Even God rested!”

She smiled. As a long-time follower of Christ, she knows this, but I suppose it assured her to hear it again. Will she actually apply what I told her to? I don’t know. At the end of the day, she has to look deep inside to assess why activity is so important to her that she feels the compulsion to keep going to the point of absolute exhaustion.

None of us are built like the Energizer Bunny that I used to see in commercials as a child. This bunny demonstrated the longevity of the Energizer brand. As human beings we aren’t wired the same way. We can’t keep going, going, and going like a mindless battery. We have a body, a soul, and a spirit that benefits from rest. 

There at three kinds of rest that I would like to talk about. The first is the Sabbath. On the 7th day of creation, God rested. “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:3)

There are several things that stand out to me in this passage: 

  1. Rest came after God’s creative work was done. It was not an act of laziness.
  2. God blessed the 7th day. It was His idea. He made it special and important.
  3. He sanctified it. It is a holy day, set apart.
  4. He exemplified what it means to rest. He did not take a break because he couldn’t continue working. He’s God! He’s all-powerful. The Hebrew word for rest in this passage is shabat which means “to cease or stop.” (gotquestions.org) In Exodus 31:17, it even says that God was refreshed by His rest. 
  5. Another insight I gleaned from the Genesis passage is that God must have spent time with Adam and Eve on the 7th day when He rested. They were created on the 6th day. On the 7th day, God set aside the work to give them His full attention. What an amazing father God is! He delights to be with us. He wants us to know that we are His priority. I can imagine God conversing with Adam and Eve as they walked through the garden, as they reveled in the wonder of His creation. Similarly, the 7th day is a time for us to be in God’s presence, to reflect on His goodness, provision, and to cease from our striving and doing.

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. Genesis 20:8-11

Besides the 7th day, I believe there’s a second kind of rest that we ought to consider. It’s the mindset of rested-ness in the Lord

When I was in the U.S. with my family for a month, I saw how difficult it was for moms who do everything (love your husband and your kids, teach and train the little ones, breastfeed an infant, work, clean, cook, and do laundry). I didn’t even have to work! I was on vacation, but the daily chores were absolutely maddening!

Since I couldn’t stomach the mess, I found myself exhausted every night trying to tidy up after my five children. I refused to take breaks because I felt guilty ending the day without the laundry done, the kitchen impeccable, and everything put away.

At the same time, I thought to myself, this is horrid. I am not cut out for this, but I can’t stop myself from going in and out of every room like a policewoman/obsessive compulsive-house-keeping-attendant. As a result, I was too tired to wholeheartedly enjoy Edric or the kids. I saw them as the cause for my fatigue and I felt irritated when they weren’t considerate about their mess. What about time with the Lord? That suffered too. The first thing I thought about in the morning was cooking breakfast.

When I revisit the motivations that were driving me at the time, they were actually rooted in pride. I felt like I needed to prove that I could do everything, that I was somehow “super” as a mom. I pushed myself to maintain order for my own sake, because it mattered to me to be able to say that I had it all under control. I liked the control.

Did my husband care that I fluffed the last pillow and arranged it neatly on the couch after smoothing out the creases that made it look bunchy? Did my kids care that I picked up their shoes and lined them up beside the doorway before the day came to a close? Of course not. What they cared about was having me engaged and all-present in the moments we shared together.

To be honest, I wasn’t. My mind drifted towards each crumb that littered the kitchen floor, each stain that smeared the upholstery, and each unwashed item of clothing that had to be sorted and thrown into the washing machine. I had relaxation issues. Perhaps, given enough time I would have learned to chill and be realistic about how much of the mess is tolerable…what can be left to clean up the next day in favor of the more important relationships that need me.

However, I never quite got to that point because the vacation ended after a month, and we all returned to Manila where I once again delegated these sort of duties to our househelp.

Somehow, when our househelp is tasked with the cooking, cleaning, and the laundry, I pay less attention to the details of managing our home. But when it’s all on me, I notice every wrong thing in the home and feel like a failure when I don’t do something about it. And that’s why I know it’s a pride thing. When I’m in charge of something, I tend to get my sense of self-worth from what I do. And I am robbed of peace when my performance is mediocre, and I feel annoyed or disappointed when it’s not appreciated.

During the plane ride to New Zealand, I read a book by Becky Harling entitled Freedom from Performing: Grade in an Applause-Driven World. A performance driven person is someone who…

  • Is a slave to the expectations and demands of others
  • Compares herself with others, measuring her success against theirs
  • Exhausts herself trying to keep up
  • Defines her identity in terms of accomplishments
  • Lives to please others and becomes disillusioned when the affirmation isn’t there

What a refreshing read this book was for me! It allowed me to recognize that I can be a performance-driven person, forgetting that life is not a rat-race, it’s a grace-race. It’s not about trying to beat everyone to prove that I’m the best at what I do. It’s not about pursuing perfection for the sake of my self-esteem. Neither is it about comparing my worth to others. Rather it’s about…

…growing more and more like Christ in the way I think, act and speak everyday.

…recognizing that my strength and capacity come from the Lord, therefore all glory for any good that I do goes to Him.

…focusing on what really matters – loving God and loving others (starting with Edric and the kids).

…sticking to a routine that is a healthy kind of busy. For example, avoiding too many nights out of the home away from the kids, or planning meetings or activities that are in conflict with my priorities of being a wife and mom during the week (also known as learning to say, “No, I am sorry but I’m not available,” or “I can’t commit to that.”)

…being purposeful about time spent on things like social media and the Internet.

…carving out time for myself during the day or week (besides Sunday for me) to feed my mind with wisdom and truth, fill my emotional tank, strengthen my body, and listen to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this means writing an article, reading a book, connecting with girl friends, exercising, being still and reflective, or taking naps! Even Jesus encouraged rest! “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.'” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)” Mark‬ ‭6:30-31‬ ‭NASB‬‬

…surrendering what I cannot control to the Lord and embracing His plans with an attitude of thankfulness and praise.

Daily rested-ness matters because it reveals our perspective on who God is and who we are in relation to Him. Are we striving and struggling emotionally, physically, and spiritually because our priorities are off and our focus is on worldly success rather than pleasing God? Are we stressed and anxious as we work because we do not trust that God is in control? 

Jesus says, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy-ladden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) True rest is found in Him. It’s not about laziness. It’s not about the absence of work or hardship. We have to work and do our best. That’s a given. There will be days when the work feels bitter and difficult, and the outcome of our labor is imperfect and disappointing. But we can rest in the reality that our success is in the hands of the Lord, and our success is dependent on whether we are WITH the Lord.

“For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity…For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him (God)?” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23,25

“And He (God) said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.“” Exodus‬ ‭33:14‬ ‭

The third kind of rest is eternal. “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭14:12-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Whether it is rest on a Sabbath, daily rested-ness, or rest in heaven, I believe God designed rest to remind us that life isn’t about endless work, performance, or toil on earth to earn money, enjoy luxuries, gain fame or power or derive our sense of self-worth from our accomplishments. Striving after these things doesn’t give us real rest. They can give us a false sense of it at times. But they cannot replace the rest found in knowing we are loved by God, that His presence is with us, and that we can trust in His plans for us. 

So take a break from whatever you are doing right now (even reading this) and just bask in that reality. Give the Lord your stress and your worry, and let His peace wash over you. He loves you dear friend. 

 

Don’t Sweat the People Stuff

My parents come under fire for things every now and then as church leaders. People criticize them and scrutinize what they do which comes with the challenge of leading others.


I have often wondered how they handle the people stress in their lives with such grace. Certain things that would send me into an emotional tailspin hardly phase them. It’s not because they are immune to hurt or stress, rather it’s the way they process hurt and stress. They remain joyful and hopeful in the Lord.

Over the many years of watching their lives up close and learning from their examples, I have come to observe that there are three effective perspectives for “the people stuff” (aka difficult people in your life) that we can adapt:

You can’t please everyone. Not everyone is going to applaud you and give you a handshake for what you do. There will always be those who find something about you to complain about or pick on. As one person said, “‘Pharisees’ are still alive today.” Sometimes you and I are the Pharisees, too!

We can’t rid the world of judgmental people. (Let’s not contribute to the pool by being one of them, either). However, living our lives to please people isn’t going to solve the problem of disappointing them or failing to meet up to their expectations.

There have been occasions when my blog entries weren’t digestible to everyone. People simply didn’t agree with the biblical perspectives I wrote about, particularly on marriage and parenting. Sometimes, their comments were an all-out personal assault. The prideful me wanted to retort with scathing remarks. However, I realized that there was no point in fighting battles against people with completely opposite world-views. That wasn’t the route to take to win them over to the Lord.

Instead, I was reminded to hold to my convictions, and to focus on pleasing God…not people. I like how Galatians 1:10 puts it, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

It’s impossible to please everyone. That’s a universal truth if we haven’t figured it out yet. The good news is, it’s possible to make choices that honor God. In the process my hope is that people will see the logic behind choosing to follow God, not because I argue them to death to prove my point, but because they see actual evidence in my life that ministers to their hearts.

While I think that apologists are badly needed in this day and age for the defense of faith in God, I also believe that the most convincing argument for the truth of God’s Word is transformed lives. Do we testify to the love, joy, peace, and grace that are found in Jesus Christ? Do we exhibit a contagious faith?

Listen with humility. God uses people to refine our rough edges or do massive work-ups on our hearts. Sometimes the very people who correct us, as well as those whom are difficult to get along with, are the very people we need in our lives to develop Christ-like character.

Are we willing to listen to what they have to say? We don’t have to make them our closest confidants or best friends, but is our default response to run away and shut them out of our lives or is it to love them still and be grateful for the way God is using them?

Furthermore, not all of what they say may be accurate or true, but is our disposition to be humble or is it to be combative and defensive? God reminds us that the humble have his favor. Psalm 25:9 tells us, “He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.”

In my years of ministry, I’ve made many mistakes with people. I’ve hurt people along the way because of my personality or lack of sensitivity. After I gave birth to my fourth child, Tiana, a group of ladies I had known for a very long time confronted me and told me the areas I needed to change and improve on. It was deeply humbling as I sat there with a panel of women in front of me expressing their frustrations towards me. Some were in tears, some were less emotional, but all of them had something to say about how I had wounded them.

It wasn’t easy to listen to them because some of it sounded like it had been blown out of proportion. However, I did my best to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. The fact that their feelings were pretty unanimous meant there was definitely something I could change to be a better person.

Still, some of them lingered in the hurt I had caused and pulled away from me. At that point, I didn’t want to pursue them relationally. I wanted to back off and give up. Yet, God taught me through this trying season of ministry that I must pursue people with His love. Even if I don’t feel like it, His love compels me to.

The rebuilding part was a challenge because I had to win back their hearts. It didn’t happen right away. For some, it took a number of months and even years. However, today, it is by God’s grace alone that I can say that my relationships with those women have been healed. I love them more today than ever. Furthermore, I know that God used them (and still uses them) to teach me how to be more loving, more giving, and more selfless.

People aren’t the real enemy. The evil one plants seeds of divisiveness in our relationships all the time. He likes to tear marriages, families, and organizations apart. So we need to recognize his handiwork and modus operandi. He turns our focus towards people and their offenses against us rather than towards the Lord and our walk with Him.

Instead of seeking out God-honoring resolutions, we end up being pawns in the evil one’s chess game. His ploy is to make us casualties by planting resentment and bitterness in our hearts, which keeps us from following and obeying God, and ultimately destroys us and those around us. Bitterness occupies the place of grace when we invite it into our hearts.

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Hebrews 12:15

Sometimes, when Edric and I help to facilitate reconciliation between people, we hear them make statements that are incongruent with their profession of faith. They will say, “Yes, I’ve forgiven them,” yet in the same breath will continue with, “but I’m not ready to meet with them or to be with them.”

For followers of Christ, we can’t have this attitude. Hebrews 12:14 commands us to, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

Living at peace with others is paired with living a holy life. Our relationships with people impact our intimacy with God and vice versa. If we are not walking intimately with the Lord, we will not process people problems properly. Peace with others will not be a priority. Rather, our responses will favor things like self-preservation and/or revenge.

I know this temptation all too well as a wife! There are times when Edric is the source of my people stress (thankfully, it’s not often). When he is, I plot out ways to get back at him in my head. However, I have to resist this urge as a child of God.

Matthew 5:9 says, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” A true child of God “works for peace.” A true child of God doesn’t burn bridges, leave issues unresolved without doing their best to restore their broken relationships, neither do they gossip and slander others, or nurse bitterness and distrust.

I know it’s hard to commit to peacemaking, especially when betrayal is involved. It almost seems stupid to allow ourselves to be vulnerable when there’s a very high possibility that we can get burned by doing so. So my encouragement to myself and to others is to trust in God and entrust people to God.

Realistically speaking, we can’t control people and force them to act and behave in ways we want them to. Instead we must remember that God is sovereign and in control. For example, He can bring wrongdoers, offenders, and those with mal-intent to justice. In Deuteronomy 32:35 God says, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.”

Another comfort is that God exposes the secrets of a man’s heart. Luke 8:17 tells us, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

God is not blind to the ills and sins of people. But sometimes we act like he is when we panic and take justice into our own hands. Are we greater than God’s hand? Do we know more than He does? Of course not. These are rhetorical questions. Our best resource when it comes to difficult people is to acknowledge the capacity of God to do something by praying! People can fool us with their pretenses but they can’t fool God.

Best of all, God can change the people who wound us the most and transform them completely. When the apostle Paul encountered God, he was radically changed. From a murderer of Christ-followers, he became a torchbearer of Christianity.

My parents have repeatedly told me, “See people for who they can become in Christ. Don’t focus on who they are now with all their issues and shortcomings.”

In the meantime, when it comes to problematic people stuff, let’s be accountable to the Lord for what’s in our own hearts. As Psalm 139:23-24 puts it, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

The other day I had a conversation with my dad about some people issues that he has been facing at the moment. When I asked him how he handles everything, he told me (paraphrased), “I sleep very well at night. When people say negative things about me, it makes me evaluate what areas I have to change. If there is something there, then I work on it. If there is no merit to what is being said, then I leave it up to the Lord to handle.”

He also added that his energies are directed towards seeking God and serving people which protects him from being consumed by people issues.

In conclusion, let’s not sweat the people stuff! We can’t please everyone so let’s focus on pleasing God. Let’s learn to listen and be humble because there’s always room for improvement. God uses people to refine us. Remember, people aren’t the real enemy so let’s not become a puppet of the evil one by participating in his divisive schemes or adapting divisive mindsets. Instead, let’s surrender difficult people to the Lord and trust that He is in control. He possesses the power to effect change in their hearts and our own. Our part is to be reconciled to others as much as possible by seeking to be  peacemakers, and to walk in obedience and faithfulness to the Lord.

Sometimes this will mean feeding our enemies and clothing them, or extending a handshake or a hug, or writing a letter that expresses an apology or reaches out to a person, or choosing to forgive even without receiving a sincere sorry from an offender, or showing acts of kindness, withholding words that will provoke someone to anger, or praying for those who have hurt us, or sharing the gospel with them.

___

Matthew 5: 43 – 48

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

 

 

 

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 ‭