The Isaac of Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Broken Hour Glass

“Where’s Edan?” I asked Elijah and Titus, who were checking out the toys in the bookstore. They shrugged their shoulders and tilted their heads in a clueless manner. Usually my three boys stick together when we are in public places. I even dress them alike so it’s easier to spot them. But Edan was nowhere in sight.

I probably would have panicked had I not ventured toward the paper section and caught sight of his very recognizable red shoe. It was sticking out on one side of a shelf. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Relieved, I maneuvered my shopping cart up to him. Why was he hiding behind the bookshelf? He told me soon enough.

“Mom I broke something.” His countenance revealed embarrassment and fear.

“Really? What happened?”

He stuck his hand behind a stack of papers and pulled out a miniature hour glass that was bent out of shape. Its glass was cracked open, too. I suppose he had tried to conceal the thing because it had no business camping out in that dark corner where no one could see it.

“You have to tell the sales lady,” was my response. Then I turned it over. 79 pesos. Whew. I could cover for this if the store charged us.

I encouraged him to confess to the sales lady and explain to her what happened. He didn’t want to at first because he was scared. But this was necessary for his character growth — owning up to his mistake. And I added that he could ask for “mercy.”

He requested that I accompany him, which I did. We found a sweet looking sales lady to admit the accident to. She looked at Edan who held up the broken hour glass with his small hands. (I was hoping she was thinking he was so adorable.)

She went to her manager and came back a few minutes later saying, “It’s okay.” We didn’t need to buy it! Yeah! I was so happy. Edan was certainly relieved!

I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be when he made his confession. But I was glad that Edan experienced mercy. Ultimately I attributed this to God’s mercy. Edan did the right thing by being honest. Thankfully this was affirmed by the forgiveness he experienced.

The Bible says, He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalms 24:3-5 NASB)

I am not saying that a person will always be exempted from the consequences of their mistakes, but at the very least, when that person admits to them openly, he makes himself right before God. And that is the best thing that can happen to him or her.

When parents tell me that their children have problems with lying, I encourage them to consider whether their child has an authentic relationship with the Lord.

The Bible reveals this, “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10 NASB)

Children of God will bear the fruit goodness, righteousness, and truth. While it’s possible to struggle with truthfulness even if a person knows God, at some point the Holy Spirit’s conviction to confess will be too strong to ignore.

In the Bible, King David wrestled with confessing his immorality with Bathsheeba and his murder of Uzziah, but eventually he acknowledged his sin before the Lord and Nathan, the prophet. He lost his son as a consequence but he experienced spiritual and physical restoration.

How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD “; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. (Psalms 32:2-5, 10, 11 NASB)

When I was a kid I would lie, cheat and steal. I knew it was wrong but I wasn’t as remorseful as I should have been. When I turned 9 years old, I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, and I developed the desire to live with integrity. Even if I was still tempted to cover up or dodge the consequences of my wrongs, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow me to rest or have peace in my heart.

For example, when Edric and I were struggling with purity in our dating relationship I wanted us to tell my parents. It was a mortifying thought but Edric felt the same need to do so as well. When we did tell them it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life (and possibly his), but God was able to take our failure and use it for good. There was the reality of shame to deal with, but we received mercy and forgiveness by coming into the light.

Did we have to tell them? I mean what kind of 23 year olds talk to their parents about something like this?! We were adults. But God made it clear that if we wanted their blessing for our future marriage, then they had to know that we struggled with purity in our relationship. When they gave the blessing for us to get married, it was with insight and knowledge of all the “facts.”

We all need to respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit when he puts a conviction in our hearts. What he asks us to do may not be easy. Often times it is the harder road to take. But we must commit to obey first and then entrust the results to God, including the consequences that may ensue.

I asked Edan why he told me that he broke the hour glass. I imagine that he was pretty nervous while he sat in the shadowed shelter of the bookshelf, contemplating what to do. His response was, “I wanted to do the right thing.”

When I followed up with “But why did you want to do the right thing?”, he answered “Because I wanted to obey God.”

Edan didn’t have to tell me. No one would have known. But because he has a relationship with the Lord, he was compelled to obey him.

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Someday Edric and I won’t be around to tell him what is right and wrong. This is true for all of our children. They must all develop the habit of being sensitive to God’s prodding now. In the future, should they commit bigger and more serious mistakes, I hope they will all have the courage to own up to them as well.

This is a value Edric and I need to teach our children and remember to practice ourselves. It’s about integrity and righteousness –the conviction to please God — in public and private, knowing that we stand accountable before him. We need to fear him more than men.

And the bonus is…God bestows amazing favor upon those who walk up rightly!

O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalms 34:9-17 NASB)

This Is What It’s About

When people ask me how I homeschool several children, I tell them the secret is to teach my kids obedience. Character is key.

If a child has learned obedience, he or she can be taught attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and the importance of having the right attitude. These traits can make or break the homeschooling experience for any parent.

There’s no way I can teach my five energetic, gregarious, and very curious children if these character traits are not present or, at the very least, developing in their hearts.

Yesterday, I was homeschooling seven children. My niece and two nephews were over to homeschool with us. They did great! But my two older boys, Elijah and Edan, didn’t start out too well. They had a conflict that resulted in Elijah throwing his hands up in exasperation and Edan chucking a pencil on the floor. They were going over Filipino together and Elijah was frustrated that Edan didn’t seem to be listening. Edan was annoyed that Elijah was forcing him to do his work.

We couldn’t continue our homeschooling without dealing with this. So, I called the two of them aside and we transferred to a room where we could have some privacy.

“Auntie Joy! I need help!” I had to ignore the calls of my nephew at the door and request that he wait till we were done.

In the room, I asked the boys to sit close to me. Both of them were fighting off the tears.

“Let me ask you something, boys…we’ve been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. Which of the aspects of love have you NOT been practicing?”

There was an awkward silence but they looked up at me and began to speak voluntarily…

“Love is kind. Love is not rude,” was Edan’s response.

“Love does not keep a record of wrong,” admitted Elijah.

How I love the word of God and its power to convict the hearts of my children! I asked them a simple question but they were convicted.

We recited 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 together again. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices when the truth wins…”

Their faces softened which told me that their hearts did, too. They knew that they had not honored God’s word, which was the greater issue.

“I know you guys love the Lord, you love one another and you don’t want to hurt each other. How can you improve?”

They proceeded to share their feelings and frustrations. I let them talk freely so I could find out why they were being so reactive towards one another. Elijah was deeply upset that Edan apologies for unkindness didn’t seem sincere. He felt that the same offense was bound to happen because there was no “real repentance.” Edan, on the other hand, didn’t like being ordered around by Elijah.

I helped Edan to see that he was not practicing “Love is not proud,” too. To both I said, “We are an imperfect family. Mommy and daddy are imperfect. All of you are imperfect. That’s why we need Jesus. We need to keep applying God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our relationships.” I went on to admit my own struggles. “Honestly, when I was teaching Titus about rhyming earlier and I asked him ‘what rhymes with pin and he said cup’ I felt like smacking him. But I didn’t because that would be very wrong. But I want you to know that I understand the frustrations you feel towards one another.”

They began to laugh because they heard me teaching Titus earlier and it was kind of a comedy!

We must have spent ten more minutes talking about how to change and apply God’s word in our lives. We ended by praying together.

I said, “I want each of us to pray and confess to the Lord our sins.”

At first the boys resisted. “I don’t know what to pray, mom,” quipped Elijah.

“Don’t worry. I will start, and then you can listen to what I say.”

So I prayed to give them a template of how to acknowledge and confess our sins before one another and to the Lord. Afterwards I invited the boys to do the same. Why did I want them to pray aloud? I wanted them to humble themselves. The best way to do that was to pray.

It’s one thing to say sorry and then walk away from the situation. It’s another thing to come before the Lord and say, “Father will you forgive me for my wrong attitude. Please forgive me for the way I treated my brother. Please help to me to change and improve so that I can become more like you…”

They didn’t pray using those exact words, but in their kid-version way, they said the same thing. I listened to them pray and they started to tear. There was a brokenness that took place that was necessary. I got teary-eyed, too. They were honest and sincere as they spoke to the Lord.

We all embraced and I told them how much I love them. Afterwards, we returned to our homeschooling. Their hearts were ready and we had an amazing day with their cousins.

I’m sharing this story because this is the key to homeschooling. We need to prepare our children’s hearts before we can instruct their minds. Godly character is the bedrock. We must pause to address what’s going on in their hearts – especially when their spiritual compass is off. In fact, we need to drop everything if necessary, and minister to our children spiritually when their attitudes and behaviors are displeasing to the Lord.

How could I possibly continue teaching Elijah and Edan, forcing them to do their Filipino just because they had to, and ignore or postpone the more important matter of their heart condition? Would God bless the work of their hands if they were continuing in sin? How would he allow me to teach well if I wasn’t faithful in prioritizing what really counts in his eyes?

I must always seek to understand where the real “battle” lies. Of all the teaching challenges that may confront me as a homeschooling mother — dealing with the academics, equipping my kids with the practical skills to succeed when they enter into a university, and passing on godly character traits — the latter must precede the others. It’s imperative to instill character traits upon which a successful education can be built.

For my younger kids, obedience is the first priority. The optimum window to establish my authority (and Edric’s) has always been between the ages of 0 – 2. Catalina is at that point where she is exhibiting brattiness. At 10 months old, she intentionally throws her head back, bounces up and down while crying, or she flings her body on to her bed for dramatic effect. Edric and I recognise that it’s time to address these things. After two years old, we know it gets harder. Once a child has experienced what it is like to get his or her own way, there is greater resistance to submission.

I know a child whose parents started implementing effective and consistent disciplinary action later rather than earlier. The child had already grown accustomed to getting her whims accommodated by those around her. Her parents also tended to be child-centric in their childrearing. As a result, she was difficult to teach and train. It was complicated to get her to do simple things like eat vegetables or keep silent when appropriate. She tended not to listen to other authority figures, too. Because the parents are now course-correcting their parenting, she is improving. But like anything in life, prevention rather than intervention is the way to go.

We have to start teaching obedience before a child gets into the habit of defiance. Once obedience is established, we can turn our attention towards other character traits like attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and having a positive attitude. As I said earlier, a child who has these traits will be much easier to homeschool. It won’t be a flawless experience. However, when unpleasant, ungodly behaviors and attitudes surface during a homeschooling day, our children can be REMINDED to revert back to what they know is correct and pleasing to God.

Let me end this with a story about Titus that personally blessed me as a mother. Titus is my youngest “official” homeschooled child. Tiana, who is just 3 years old, is not yet enrolled with a program. And my baby girl is too young for formal instruction. As a kindergartener, I don’t expect the same sort of self-directed learning that I encourage my older sons to have.

However, a few weeks back I had to leave the house in the morning. So I assigned the kids their work and told them I would check on them when I got back. I wasn’t too sure if Titus would be able to do his Filipino on his own, but when I got home, he showed me his notebook. His finished work was inside it. I was very pleased!

In the evening, when I was feeding Catalina, he peered into my bedroom. “Come in,” I motioned to him. He smiled and skipped over to my side, snuggling under the covers. I told him I was very proud of him for doing his homeschool work. And I asked him, “Why did you finish it?” He said, “Because I wanted to obey you.”

I loved that answer.

Titus can be a highly distracted child because he is so curious. For him to finish his assigned task without someone peering over his shoulder to remind him to do it made my day! I was happier about his motivations rather than the actual output. He valued obedience.

My prayer is that my children will internalize godly character and experience the blessings of doing so. Our family is a work in progress. God deals with my heart daily as a homeschooling mother and he is molding the hearts of my kids, too. We make mistakes and struggle with our weaknesses but I can’t think of doing anything else with this season of my life. As a mother to young children, I want to be where the more important battle is. For me, the battle is at home…winning my kids for the Lord by teaching them what really counts. This is what homeschooling is about.

From enemies to best buds again…
 

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Real Wealth

We checked on the status of our house a few days ago. It was exciting to see all the bedroom furniture being assembled in the rooms. Once the bedrooms are done, we can move in even if the rest of the house isn’t completely finished yet. Well, that’s the plan. Edric’s plan. Most people have said this is the best way to move things along when you are in the finishing stages.

When we were at the site, the kids ran up the stairs to look into the rooms, eager to see their personal spaces taking form. In the boy’s room, we assigned areas.

“Elijah this will be your bed, Edan this is yours and Titus this is for you.”

The boys started cheering and Titus pointed to the floor and asked, “On the floor?” There was no disappointment in his tone. He identified a spot in between two beds and waited for me to confirm it.

I took his face in my hands and said, “Oh no honey, you will have your own bed!” And I started to tear. It probably sounds silly that I did. But if you know Titus, how candid and unpretentious he can be, then my reaction would make sense. He has never complained about sleeping on a mat, on the floor. For him this has been the manner of his place as the youngest son. He didn’t have a “real” bed because there was no room for one in our condo. But at that moment I was showing him a new bed frame and he didn’t see it. He just assumed he would be getting the floor as always.

When I corrected him, he was like, “Really? Yeah! I will have my own bed!”

And he went on to say, “You know,
Mom, I never liked sleeping on the floor…”

I went to the bathroom and composed myself because I was VERY teary-eyed by then. Edric saw me and took me in his arms. Both of us stood there in gratefulness and amazement for the house that God has given to us. It’s a big upgrade for our entire family. Previously, we lived in 137 square meters shared between 9 people (our family and two househelps).

That is still larger than 90% of what the world’s population probably lives in. So I am not saying that we had a bad deal. But I grew up in a large house and when I got married, our first home — a one bedroom condo — was relatively small.

God taught me through the years to look forward to his provision and not to worry about when it would come. Besides, I didn’t need our first home to be larger. I had to do all the cleaning so I was okay with small! More importantly, Edric was in it and that’s what mattered to me. There was love, joy, and peace…things that expanded infinitely beyond the four walls of our home.

We had friends who started off with generously sized houses when they were newly married. That was not our beginning. We did not have much, financially speaking, so our initial home was simple. In fact, when we had our eldest, Elijah, he didn’t even have a crib for a while. He slept on a mattress on the floor. When I needed to feed him at night, I would go down to the floor and sleep beside him.

It’s amazing that he didn’t crawl off! The floor was carpeted so he wasn’t in danger of hitting himself. I think we put all kinds of pillows around him to keep him safe. Well…I probably would’ve been chided by sleep safe advocates, but back then, it was our best option.

God increased the size of our home as children were added. When Edan was born, we moved to a three bedroom condo. It suited us just fine until our fifth, Catalina, came along. Thankfully, by then, we were building our house.

In September 2013, we said goodbye to our condo and had it renovated shortly after. We had most of our belongings boxed up and stored in a warehouse. In the interim we stayed at my parents, and Edric’s for a bit, too. (We are still in this nomadic state until our final move.)

Our most recent home with hardly anything left in it…

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After we finished renovating the condo, I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I was excited that we had moved out and moved on. But on the other hand, we spent 8 years in that place. It was hard for me to say goodbye. Even if it was emptied out, retouched and repainted, I still had visions of our children in the rooms, playing, laughing, growing up.

I will miss every inch of that three bedroom condo. It was cozy. It had the smells and sounds of us.

When Titus made the comment about the floor, I thought of how
God has been our faithful provider. I know others may get their house and lot dreams fulfilled much earlier. And maybe others are still waiting on theirs, but for us this is neither too early or too late.

If it had happened sooner we wouldn’t have been ready. Edric and I needed to learn simplicity, humility, gratitude, and so did our children. We are still learning these virtues. But had we skipped to the house and lot bit of our history without going through condo living and tighter spaces, we might have become casualties of too much comfort. It’s always easier to upgrade than to downgrade, to upsize than to downsize.

I like our Heavenly Father’s manner of blessing, too. He is and always will be the source of infinite resources and abundance, but he tempers and minds the valve that releases these to his children. Material things have a way of replacing our spiritual hunger for the eternal. And, there is nothing more impoverishing to the human soul than to be stuffed full of prosperity and thereby emptied of the want for God.

Edric used to tell me that this passage was one of his favorites. “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord ?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT)

I have to admit that when he told me this was one of his “prayers” I thought, “Oh great, that’s it. We are never going to be rich.” But my mindset was all wrong. I was thinking that money would bring me security and happiness. It’s not that I wanted loads of it to spend on myself. I just wanted to know we had it, that we didn’t have to worry about where it would come from.

Well, God allowed Edric and I to begin simply to teach me not to anchor my faith on money but on Him. When I learned to live with less — less money, less space, less possessions — I found that I always had more than enough to be happy and thankful for. I like what English clergyman and writer Thomas Fuller said, “Riches enlarge rather than satisfy appetites.”

I am not saying that I have graduated from contentment. Not at all! This is a lesson that needs to be learned and re-learned depending on the circumstances that test it. Neither am I saying that money is unimportant. Edric and I have five kids! Money is necessary and very much welcome whenever it comes. What I am saying is that starting off with a small home and having a very limited budget to work with when we were newly married was a blessing. It was God’s master plan for our character development.

From this genesis Edric and I grew to understand that God always takes care of his children. We also learned that abundance is not the condition for true joy. True joy is to know God and his love for us, to be certain that his plans for our welfare are always for our good.

What is a big house without God in the hearts of those who live in it? And conversely, the tiniest of spaces can be home to the richest people on earth — people who abound with the joy of the Lord, who can laugh, cry, and love without fear, who extend forgiveness and grace to one another, who can sleep peacefully at night, and wake up with hopeful expectation and the gift of new mercies.

With just a few weeks left till we are finally in our “dream home”, a house that only God could’ve built and provided for, I want to remember that real wealth is the treasure of Jesus Christ. It is not the absence of struggle or the fulfillment of desire. It is the recognition and enjoyment of His presence with the ones we cherish the most, and finding that we can be fully satisfied during seasons of want and seasons of plenty because he is with us, in our home, and in our hearts.

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Sometimes A Husband Needs Divine Laryngitis

(Based on a testimony Edric asked me to share for CCF Cebu…)

Last year, Edric was challeneged by the leadership of CCF (our church) to spearhead the Family Ministry. When he told me about it, I was thrilled. This was something that we have always been passionate about – marriage and parenting, leading families to Christ.

However, Edric wanted to pray about it first. He was very busy hosting his daily show, running a homeschool program, a small business, and he started to do speaking engagements for companies and organizations in and out of Metro Manila. His reasons for taking on all these commitments seemed very valid. We were in the middle of building our house so he was working hard to provide for it.

By the end of 2013, after giving it much thought, praying about it, and seeking the counsel of mentors and confidants, he made the decision to accept the responsibility to lead Family Ministry. This meant that he had to synchronize the activities of Life Academy (the new school that is based in CCF Tiendesitas) and NextGen (Sunday School), and create a plan and quarterly campaigns to reach out to soon-to-be married couples, married couples, and parents.

When he said yes to the role, I was excited. And our D12 (bible study group) was looking forward to how God would mobilize all of us to serve in Family Ministry.

Most of the activities were going to be launched in April 2014. However, as February and March rolled out, I noticed that Edric’s schedule was crazier than ever. He didn’t seem to be cutting down on his other activities. On certain weeks, he would have three out of town speaking engagements, sometimes more. (He would always bring Elijah, who speaks with him, for accountability and protection.)

These events were over and above all the other responsibilities he was in charge of. Plus, he had me and our 5 kids to take care of emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I became concerned. I didn’t know how he was going to manage everything without neglecting his more important priorities and without causing the needs of the ministry to suffer.

Sure enough, he went from one week to another harried. His days were packed with meetings. He was exhausted. I really missed him as a husband. But my bigger question was how is he going to give his 100% to God’s work? Is his mind even focused on God’s work?

When Edric is spiritually off, it is manifest in his temperament. He has the tendency to be irritable when he’s so focused on his doings and neglecting the being, being spirit-led and spirit-filled. As a result, his tone can get abrasive and he can be reactive when circumstances don’t pan out according to his expectations.

On Tuesday this past week, Edric and I experienced some tension. He complained about breakfast and I felt hurt by his tone and attitude. When he realized that he was wrong, he apologized for being agitated. Of course I forgave him but when I was alone, I really cried and prayed to God.

I was honest about my feelings of loneliness, fear, anxiety, and frustration. Lord, I don’t want my husband to be this way. I feel like his spirit is not right. And I’m so worried about family ministry. How can he head it if he is so busy? If his heart seems distracted? And how can I follow him? I don’t want to follow him if he is like this. Can you speak to him?

That afternoon, he flew with Elijah to Davao and strangely, he came back the next day with his vocal chords shot. It was so bizarre.

He had to get checked up and the doctor told him he had laryngitis and pharyngitis! The doctor said, “You have to rest your voice and take steroids.”

I couldn’t believe it. I had prayed but this was over the top! I felt bad for him but at the same time, I had this guilty excitement that perhaps this was a message from the Lord for him.

Some time later, I tried to ask him nonchalantly, “So what do you think God is trying to tell you?” Edric was very humble as he narrated what happened to him (with a very hushed sounding, frog-like voice.)

On the flight to Davao, he told me he was on the airplane seated beside what he described as “a sweaty guy who looked like a terrorist.” He admitted that this was a total judgment call on his part. God prodded him to share the gospel. Instead of saying yes I will, he ignored God’s leading. Preoccupied by what he had to do that evening, and affected by his stereotyping of the fellow, he didn’t want to do it.

It wasn’t until the end of the flight that he started chatting with the guy. The man turned out to be a very kind seaman who was looking forward to being with his family. By then it was too late to share the gospel. Edric had to rush off to the speaking venue and regrettably, he had missed out on the opportunity.

So that night, God took away his voice! Edric told me that God spoke to him, “If you are not going to use your voice for my purposes, then you will not get to use your voice for your purposes.” It was a loud and clear message!

The next day, his tapings had to be cancelled and his speaking engagement out of town had to be cancelled, too.

I need to add here that years ago Edric and I had a conversation about what kind of torture he wouldn’t want to have. (The useless conversations you sometimes have when you are married.) He said an unimaginable torture for him would be the inability to talk. And lo and behold, this is exactly what happened!

On a humorous note, Edric was very patient and cautious with the things he said in the last three days. When our eldest son spilled water on him at the restaurant, he was very calm.
Why? He had no voice! He had to be very selective and choosy about every word that came out of his mouth. In fact, I kidded him, “Hon, it’s been so peaceful between us lately. You have been so ‘gentle and quiet.’” Ha ha ha.

More significantly, losing his voice made him evaluate his priorities. God got his attention and re-calibrated his heart. Instead of being concerned about his cancelled tapings and speaking engagements, all of which bring him extra income, his mind was set on this weekend.

Both of us had to give a parenting seminar. And he had to orient parents on homeschooling and deliver a financial stewardship talk for families in Cebu. On top of that, he had to preach at CCF Cebu on Sunday.

His message was about “Living for the Line” as inspired by Bruce Wilkinson’s book called “A Life God Rewards.” Edric was to preach about what it means to live for eternity. Well, there was no way God was going to let him give that message without an authentic experience to back it up. So the laryngitis and pharyngitis were divinely appointed experiences to make sure he was living for the line himself.

At first, he was worried that his voice wouldn’t come back by the weekend. But I encouraged him. “Don’t worry, hon. God will give you your voice back. This will be his work.” By faith, I believed that God would do a miracle.

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We prayed and everyone around us prayed. On Friday, we arrived in Cebu and spent time with the kids at Imperial Palace. (It is a world-class water park in the Philippines. Totally awesome.) His voice was recovering but it was still raspy and strained. But amazingly, by Saturday, he was able to talk all day and he was able to speak in Sunday Service yesterday!

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Edric has a renewed fire to align all the doings of his life to match God’s agenda — to build God’s kingdom. The initial anxiety I felt is gone, not because Edric won’t ever get side-tracked or spiritually distracted again. He and I are both prone to this pitfall for as long as we are on this earth. My real comfort is knowing that the ministry we will commit our lives to is not one we bear alone. This is God’s work. It will be done with God’s power. And he will raise up the people and prepare their hearts for it in the way he deems necessary. If that means throwing in a laryngitis/pharyngitis moment to catch someone’s attention (like my husband’s), he will use it for good.

As for me, as a wife, my encouragement is to keep praying for Edric. My most valuable role is to support him this way — to pray that he will keep loving God and serving him with all that he is.

When I am tempted to nag Edric because I don’t like what he is doing, I don’t agree with his perspective, or I am hurt by something he did, I want to remember that God is Lord of my marriage, intimately involved and all-knowing about our weaknesses, character flaws and issues. He is committed to helping us grow and change to become more like Him. He is committed to making us spiritually fit for his work. I need not panic, manipulate or attempt to control Edric or circumstances. Instead, I must focus on fulfilling my role as a wife and keeping fervent in prayer.

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Men Need Men to Become Men

Boys benefit from man-building activities that encourage the development of their manhood. When I say man-building activities I mean experiences that are like “man-versus-wild” kind of stuff – camping, mountain-climbing, scouting – and sports.

When Edric was growing up, my father-in-law, Eddie (Papa to me), invested time teaching him how to fly kites, scuba dive, climb mountains, boogie board, fish, sail, repel, bike, play ball, and swim…among other things. This is how they bonded, in the context of activity. Edric has always remembered these father and son occasions with fondness. And I have appreciated the attractive masculine traits that Edric acquired because of them.

Men need a good adventure and challenge, but they also need a man who has gone before them to pass on survival skills and know-how.

Our sons had the opportunity to take on a good adventure and challenge when Papa invited Edric, Elijah and Edan to climb Mt. Batulao last Saturday. Edric and the boys were thrilled. I was jealous because I wanted to go, too. But this was an experience that Edric wanted to share with the boys – just the guys. I had the other three kids to take care of anyway.

Early Saturday morning, Elijah and Edan had their hiking shoes on and were set to go at 5 AM. They packed their energy food – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, hard boiled eggs with salt on the side, granola bars, and water. Elijah was in charge of carrying the water and Edric carried the food. They got to Batulao 2 hours later and met up with Papa.

Initially, as they began their climb, Edan complained about the prickly tall grass and fatigue. But he wasn’t being a soiled brat. This was no tiny mountain! It was two and a half hours up one way with 12 peaks!

Edric admitted that he was concerned as he watched the boys scale some of the steep inclines. They could’ve rolled off to their deaths! Sadly, some time ago there was a woman who fell off one of the peaks while trying to take a picture. She died!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t know about that story before they went on the climb. The protective mother in me might have tried to dissuade Edric from taking Edan. But he did great! He was the only 7 year old on the trail and he persevered. Even though he was bickering at the beginning, he thoroughly enjoyed the hike as he went along.

Edric called me at one point during their climb (amazingly, there was a Globe signal), and he gave me an update on how the kids were doing and how much fun they were all having. What I would have given to have been there! I wanted to see their expressions and be a part of this special moment in their lives. But without me around they were better off. There was no nurturing mother figure to turn to for sympathy when they got tired or tripped and skinned their knees. The boys had to stick it out, suck it in, and push themselves under the guidance of Edric and Papa.

When they got home, they were exhausted, bruised and cut up, but they were smiling like they just had the time of their lives. They also had a certain satisfaction in their tone when they spoke about their trek. Thanks to Papa and Edric, the boys learned to overcome their fears, weaknesses, and put in the hard work and effort necessary to achieve a goal they were proud of.

How valuable it is when fathers and grandfathers mentor their sons and set aside time to help them become men. Climbing a mountain together is not the only way to do this but it sure worked for my boys. They went up Mt. Batulao as two clueless boys but they came down as wiser, stronger, more confident young men!
 

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City Kids on Strawberry Fields


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Our kids are city-bred. Unfortunately this means that they aren’t used to getting muddy and dirty. But on my birthday we brought them to Trinidad Valley (just 20 minutes from Baguio City) to go strawberry picking.

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For just P300 pesos per kilo harvested, the kids could go out into the fields and pick strawberries. They were given boots and baskets. The boots were a great help, especially when they had to walk in the muddied pathways between rows of strawberries. Initially, they were squeamish and complaining about the dirt.  However, once they started finding strawberries and sticking them into their baskets, they kept going and going!

Strawberry-picking became an educational experience for our kids. We all saw the different ways strawberries were used, too – wine, taho, pastillas, jam, etc. I thought it was hilarious when the taho vendor was like, “M’am, take a photo for Instagram!”

The kids had so much fun being little farmers, we actually had to stop them at one point from over-picking. Of course, they were ravenously hungry by the end, too, which was great. There was no need to remind them to “eat their food” when we were back in Baguio City. It was gobble, gobble, gobble.

 

The Return of the Ganglion

I have this ganglion cyst right under the skin near my knee. Due to cosmetic reasons, I saw a doctor twice in the last month to get it removed. My skin has been sliced open on two occasions just to drain it and cut it up so it will dissolve into my body. Well, it keeps filling up with fluid again. It’s totally annoying. The last time, the cut was deep and long enough to need stitches so I am definitely going to have a scar and unfortunately, for nothing!

Well, there was one satisfying element about getting my skin sliced. I got to watch the procedure and take a video of it for my kids because we are doing Human Anatomy for science. I showed it to them and they were like “Ew! It looks like a jelly!” Well, I hate that jelly thing. I want it out, out of my body. I’ve dreamt about cutting it out myself and seeing what it looks like as a whole piece. I know, I sound like a crazy person! It just keeps coming back so I will probably see an orthopedic surgeon to get his opinion if it really gets bigger.

Whenever I mention this cyst to Edric, he seems totally disinterested. He thinks I’m fixating on it too much.

“Hey babe, my cyst came back. Look, look. Do you want to feel it?”

“No, I don’t want to feel it!”

He was concerned when the surgical procedures were being done and he called to check on me. But since they were both fails, he thinks I should just let the darn thing be. Sigh.

As I was thinking about this cyst problem, trying to get rid of it in an obsessive sort of way has revealed how controlling I can be. I can’t relax until I get what I want done to this cyst. And because it has not happened it troubles me everyday!

I didn’t listen to the advice of my orthopedic surgeon friend and another dermatologist friend who said I should leave the cyst alone. They said it would scar. But I was stubborn and tried to have it removed anyway. So now I have it still and an unsightly line that marks the spot where it is.

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This ganglion has been a good character lesson for me. God uses these life experiences to teach me something worth writing about. So here it is…the return of the ganglion, a reflection on the unchangeables in our lives.

We all have things that trouble us, things that we want to change, get rid of, or get away from. It may not be something shallow like my ganglion. It could be a physical attribute that is a source of insecurity…a past experience that continues to affect our identity and self-worth…a difficult circumstance that seems to rob us of our joy and peace…an actual person whose presence in our lives causes us pain…or someone who is just plain annoying!

Whatever it is, Christ exemplified the remedy in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:36 NASB)

Jesus demonstrated what it means to trust in God’s wisdom. He acceded to God’s purpose — that salvation of mankind made possible through his sacrifice. He made a choice to submit to the will of his Father.

There will never be a sacrifice as important as the one Christ made. But, we are all elected to bear certain undesirables that we would rather not. What comforts me is that God’s plans factor in the grand scheme of eternity. Our finite understanding does not. We see but a glimpse when we string together the past, present, and future. And unless we have the grace to look beyond the veil of this material world, we may mistakenly believe that we live for it — it’s pleasures, it’s demands, it’s trophies, it’s philosophies, it’s values and standards. And we may also believe that we are crippled, shackled and defined by the hardships that are found in it. How pitiful indeed if this is the measure of our glory and end. But it isn’t!

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17 NASB)

We are destined for a higher joy made full in the presence of our Creator and King. And when we can say, Lord your will be done (for the big and small troubles we would otherwise wish away), we are living with a recognition that this earthly existence is not the best of what is and will be. In light of this, the temporal and passing things that cause us so much stress do not seem to be worthy of the attention and energy we give to them. If God has willed these unchangeables in our lives, like ganglions that will not go away, let us be thankful. For the time being, they are permitted to be but our assurance is that God’s will is EVER in our favor. It is not a gamble to hope in Him or to look forward to the way he will use these things for our eternal good.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10 NASB)

First “Work” Shoes

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My 10 year old, Elijah, is now “working.” Edric is paying him to speak with him whenever he gives financial seminars or talks. It’s part of mentoring Elijah into manhood. For every seminar Elijah gives with his dad, he earns 1,000 pesos. It is not much but it’s a good first job. He plans to put that money into his stocks.

Every time he is supposed to get paid, he also gives Edric a billing statement. It summarizes how much Edric owes him.

I just made a deal with him, too. He can make 200 pesos a week for tutoring Edan in Grade 2 Filipino. Since I want to reinforce his own grasp of the subject and need help teaching it, he sits beside Edan while Edan does his work on Genyo. (Genyo is an online program for English, Math, Science, Social Studies and Filipino. I got it for the kid’s Filipino because I can’t teach them well enough with a book. This program makes it interactive and fun.) Elijah was excited about the idea of being able to earn money for his services as a tutor.

Since he is receiving income now, I took him out to buy him a work outfit. He went with me to pick out his shirt, pants and belt. My kids are homeschooled so they don’t have too many dressy clothes. They don’t need them. But now that Elijah has to be on stage with his dad, a more presentable outfit was necessary.

The most challenging part was the shoes. Elijah’s feet are huge. He wears a 5 to 6 men’s as a 10 year old. So we could not find anything at the children’s section. We took about two hours to find something and it was pricey.

He kept going through the aisles trying to find the best deal because he didn’t want me to spend a lot. But I knew he was hoping to get a style that resembled Edric’s. In fact, all the ones he would look at were like Edric’s shoes. And then he would turn them over and not want me to buy them because they were expensive.

When we finally found a leather pair that fit him well and looked very handsome on him, he voluntarily said, “Mom, I will pay you back with my own money.”

Aww. I felt like crying. Of course he didn’t have to pay me back! I really wanted to buy him a pair of “work” shoes. I was even more happy to buy them because he is beginning to understand the value of money as he works to earn it. What are mothers for anyway? It was my privilege to get him ready for his first job.
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Catalina’s Name

Edric and I have jokingly said that it’s ironic how Catalina’s name means “pure” when she has been bacteria-ridden since the day she was born. She has been zapped with a total of 6 different antibiotics in a span of 40 days just to clean out her system. Thankfully, she is now recovering at home from her pneumonia and no longer needs oxygen or the IV. She still has to take oral antibiotics and use a nebulizer, but there has been significant improvement in her breathing and eating.

The meaning of Catalina’s name may seem ironic given the circumstances but I think it is symbolic of what God has been doing in our lives as of late.

For a good long while Edric and I were kind of floating around in this happy bubble. Apart from the challenges that came with his work and the challenges of being a homeschooler and homemaker, we did not have any major problems. I am not saying this to boast. It was God who allowed us this season of protection from trials.

When Catalina was hospitalized a day after she was born this bubble popped. And it was just the beginning. Edric and I had multiple sources of stress (big and small) that occurred during the month. From delays in the house construction, car trouble, unprecedented expenses, two cell phones getting water-logged, having just one yaya for a period of time, dealing with a newborn and sleepless nights, losing a part of my breast pump so I had to buy a new one, and then our kids getting sick and being orphaned by us while we were at the hospital, and Catalina ending up with serious infections, not once, but twice…well, let’s just say these things took their toll on us physically, emotionally and spiritually.

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I don’t think this was some cosmic experiment to test our breaking point. I know that God is not this kind of father. He doesn’t delight in the afflictions of his children. But I do believe he orchestrated and allowed every single unpleasantry that took place this past month. He used these trying experiences to refine us.

In the Bible God is referred to as a refiner. His word says, “… For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2, 3 NASB)

According to gold traders on how to refine gold, “refining with flame is one of the oldest methods of refining metals. Mentioned even in the bible, refining by fire is the preferable method for larger quantities of gold. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a hot fire with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal.”

As the master craftsman, God puts us through the same process of discomfort to remove the impurities in our lives. Sometimes these impurities may be blatant sins but other times they may be hindrances, habits, behaviors, attitudes or perspectives that do not meet God’s standard for Christ-likeness.

Taking out these impurities hurts. Who likes 1,000 degrees of heat?! Who likes trial after trial? No one. But just as the heating process is necessary to perfect gold, so also the fiery furnace of life is necessary to cleanse the soul.

Of the many lessons I learned during this past month, I will highlight one. God knew I had to grow in the area of compassion. For example, I used to think that moms who claimed to have difficult babies and were weighed down by the responsibilities of parenting were just making excuses for not showing up at a ministry activity or bible study. I would think, why do you let your baby dictate what you can and cannot do?

I had no idea! For the most part, God allowed my previous pregnancies, births, and the taking-care-of-a-newborn-stage to be relatively easy. And then came Catalina — always wanting to be held, emotionally sensitive and needy. Most difficult of all was her confinement in the hospital, not once, but twice. For the first time I understood what it meant when a mom says, “I can’t be there, I can’t make it,” or “I can’t volunteer” or “I am always tired because of my baby.” Oh honey you bet I understand now!

My compassion meter started working again! (Moms out there, forgive me…)

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Sick but smiling with her oxygen tube

More importantly, this compassion extended to sharing the gospel. Previously occupied with my own comfortable world, I was not as tuned in to the spiritual needs of people around me. Sure, I was involved in ministry and I was vocal about Christ in my blog, but I was complacent about sharing the gospel one-on-one.

After experiencing brokenness before God — the kind that left me down on my knees crying out to him — the attentiveness towards the hurts of others was peaked. It was like unclogging a fat-lined artery that should have been working better.

Being in a hospital full of sick people, some of whom were dying, all of whom were hurting and hoping for relief, made me think about how short and fragile life is. I was compelled to reevaluate what my priorities are. I began to recognize how many opportunities I had missed out on in the past to tell others about Jesus. But God gave me new ones — the nurses in the hospital, a street vendor, a woman at the parlor, and a new yaya, among others.

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Leaving the hospital

A few days ago, after we were discharged from the hospital, I had a conversation with my dad. He was seated on his lazy boy in the bedroom reading a book. When I came in, he asked how I was doing. I shared with him the doubts I had when Catalina was hospitalized for pneumonia.

“Dad, it was hard for me. I wondered if God loved me…if I was doing something in my life that was displeasing to him, that removed his favor.” And he said, “I felt like that in Europe when we lost our suitcases.” (My parents’ bags weren’t recovered until they got back to Manila.) He explained that when God gives us problems it is to build our faith and character. I suppose I already knew this but it was comforting to hear it again.

The wounds that God allows in our lives are calibrated to be purposeful. He may use big or small events to awaken our spiritual consciousness. Everything happens according to his time table and plan. There are no accidents or miscalculations.

This is so reassuring to me. It is easy to be afraid when you are holding a sickly baby in your arms, wondering if she is going to be okay, aching to take her place so she doesn’t have to suffer. The helplessness feels very real from that microscopic vantage point. But when you step back and see the bigger picture, the hidden hand of God becomes visible. You realize he was holding you, never removing his gaze, cradling the entire circumstance with his love so that nothing happened that was outside of his knowledge, protection, or reach.

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Like a watchful master craftsman who knows just how much heat is necessary to purify gold, he minds the temperature of each event in our lives. And when the impurities that poison the integrity he desires in us come to the surface he removes them so we can shine with authenticity for him, so we can better tell of his gospel of love. The process is, more often than not, uncomfortable and even painful. But the end is beautiful — Christlike behavior and character, refined by fire, set apart to do God’s will.

Catalina’s name will forever tell me that it is God who makes pure the vessels he intends to use to proclaim his name. He is committed to purifying us again and again for as long as necessary. Although we may fear what this could entail …sickness, financial trouble, business failure, the loss of a family member or friend…we can be comforted that what follows is an encounter with a father who always rescues, strengthens, redeems, and restores those who call upon his name.

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. (Psalms 51:6-13 NASB)

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Back in the Hospital

My daughter, Tiana, curiously asked me one morning, “Where is God? How come I can’t see him?” This was a follow up question to a discussion we were having about Jesus’ death and resurrection. She had watched a clip of The Passion that showed Christ on the cross. Concerned and troubled, she wondered if Jesus was still there and dead. I explained to her that he came back to life and didn’t stay dead because he is God. But she wanted evidence…physical evidence.

It is not easy to convince a 3 year old that God is present even if we cannot see him. Her grasp of what is real is the tangible world she sees, feels and hears. So a description of the spiritual world left her perplexed and baffled.

“But WHERE is he?”

She couldn’t grasp the concept. I had to look up another clip of the movie that showed the resurrection part so she could be appeased. I found something on YouTube and that seemed to pacify her for a bit, but whew, what a discussion.

Interestingly, I had the same discussion with the Lord last night as I looked over at my baby, Catalina. She was lying in a plastic crib with a tube in her nose for oxygen, a second tube in her hand for IV and antibiotics, and a third chord attached to an oxygen, pulse and breathing monitor. Her breathing was slightly labored but she was sleeping. It must have been close to 3 am.
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Admitted yesterday morning for pneumonia, Catalina is back in the hospital again. We brought her in to the ER of Cardinal Santos as advised by our pediatrician after I communicated to her that Catalina was lethargic, not eating, and her cough had worsened. It sounded tight and deeply obstructed.
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I’ve gone through some major crises in my life but none has ever compared to the pain of seeing my children suffer. If I knew what it was like to get my heart torn out of my chest, well, that would be it. Apart from the loss of a loved one, I cannot imagine a greater hurt in this world than seeing the afflictions of my children and feeling helpless to save them.
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The hope I had for Catalina’s recovery grew dim as she struggled through Monday night to find comfort. I could provide no remedy. I had suggested to Edric that he sleep in the kids’ room because the AC was turned off in ours. (He had already dealt with so much interrupted sleep in the past month. Getting to sleep on the floor of the kids’ room was a luxury!)

Of course this meant that I was alone in our room. I cried and cried out to God that he would heal Catalina, pleading with a desperation I had not felt before. Edric came in to check on me and he saw me bawling. His words of assurance were sweet and tender but I was lost in my grief.

Is this what it was like to be Hannah in the Bible? She was consumed with the desire for a child and no one could comfort her for being denied one, not even her husband. And I felt the same kind of obsessive desire, wailing for help, asking to have my child back. I wanted her back to being demanding and needy if that’s what it would take to have her healthy again.

God gives an instinct to mothers that makes her keen at interpreting tell-tale signs of distress and peculiar behavior in her children.

I recognized that something was gravely wrong when Catalina became uncharacteristically quiet and disinterested in feeding. Having grown accustomed to her demands to be carried and nursed frequently, I knew her cough and cold took a turn for the worse.

When our pediatrician confirmed that we should bring her to the hospital the next day, I felt both anxious and relieved. I suppose I knew what was ailing her but I suspended my thoughts until Dr. Joy checked her. The prospect of getting a confirmation was almost comforting. I wanted to know what we could do to cure her.

Edric cleared his schedule so we could do this together. I always say that Edric is my knight in shining armor because he is consistently present when I need him most. He will take charge and do whatever he can, sacrificing his own time, comfort, and needs to be there for me or the kids.

On the way to the hospital, I asked him if Catalina’s lips appeared bluish but he said it was probably the lighting inside our van. I didn’t think so. I had looked at those lips for the last 36 days of her life and knew what color they ought to have been.

We got to Cardinal Santos pretty quickly, avoiding the traffic because we left after school started. Since our pediatrician, Dr. Joy, is a friend, she made sure we were well attended to as soon as we got to the ER. Her residents were on standby and she came almost immediately after we arrived. At her instruction, Catalina was given a tube for oxygen. She was not getting enough air into her lungs. If the normal reading is 95 above, she was only at 81%. The oxygen helped to bring back the pink in her lips and cheeks.

I observed Dr. Joy’s expressions as she placed the stethoscope on Catalina’s chest. She didn’t seem pleased with what she heard. She had this way of coupling objectivity with deep concern that softened the blow of her initial diagnosis. When she said there was phlegm in Catalina’s lungs and that it was most likely pneumonia, I broke down. She hugged me and said, “Don’t worry. I will be here. This is treatable.”

I knew what this would entail for Catalina. We had been through this when she was born…tubes, needle pricking, blood tests, antibiotics, living in the hospital. Edric and I did not like that part, but knowing that her pneumonia would be arrested and treated was good news. It was caught in the early stages, occupying just the inner lungs.

Where is God when these things happen? When crisis seems to negate the promise of his blessing upon those who follow and obey him, what is the impact? I seemed to have found myself asking the very question that my 3 year old Tiana was, “But where is he, how come we cannot see him?”

In faith I believed that God would heal Catalina while we were at home. I didn’t expect to be in the hospital again. Yet here we are. And I have been honest with God. I expressed that I was hurt and grieved that he allowed this. There was a dark moment when I felt unloved and unconsidered. But last night while I watched Catalina sleeping, I believed with all certainty that God was present. He had not abandoned us or forgotten his promises.

He made his presence felt in a number of ways:

- He caused my maternal instinct to kick in, to respond with a sense of urgency when I realized something was wrong. Had I waited too long, Catalina would have been deprived of oxygen.

- Dr. Joy’s commitment to care for our daughter was and has been of great assurance.

- We happen to be staying with my parents as we transition to finish our new house, so our four other children are not alone. They are with their grandparents and with their cousins.

- God has also embraced us and covered us with the prayers of family and friends, their well wishes, and kind words.

- When the doctors needed to find a vein for Catalina’s IV and it seemed impossible because many of her veins were unusable due to her previous confinement, Dr. Joy asked her friend, Dr. Apples (an anesthesiologist) to find one and she did…on her first try!

- Had she been sick soon after her stay in St. Lukes, giving her antibiotics would have been complicated because the bacteria might have developed a resistance.

- The stage of her pneumonia is early and treatable. Some people have big spots of the bacteria in their lungs, Catalina’s occupies just 1/3 of hers.

- So far, her first blood culture has showed nothing, and her CBC has no elevated white blood cells.

- Last night, she slept peacefully in intervals of about two hours which allowed me to rest, too.

- We are in a room right beside the nurses’ station so they respond quickly to our needs.

- Personally, I have been very blessed by Edric. He has repeatedly communicated to me that he will take care of me and be here for Catalina and I.

What an eventful first month of motherhood I have had! So much pain, joy, fatigue, faith, worry, frustration, hope, darkness, and deliverance personally packaged to help me grow in character. I do not know what else is in store for me, for Catalina, for our family. I sent a text message to Edric this morning because he has been out today for work:

“I miss you but it’s good to be alone to process all of this. I feel very broken — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I know God is present through all this and this comforts me but it still hurts that he allowed this to happen. It’s like the weariness of being in a war where the victory is certain but the fighting is necessary.”

His response…”I love you babes. I will take care of you.” (Awww)

I read this passage in Psalms today and I know it was for me — to declare and praise God. Whatever is happening now doesn’t change what I know to be true about God’s character. He is good. And I will praise him whether smiling or in tears, whether joyful or afflicted.

But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; For I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? You who have shown me many troubles and distresses Will revive me again, And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. (Psalms 71:14-17, 19, 20 NASB)20130918-154629.jpg20130918-154647.jpg20130918-154703.jpg20130918-154654.jpg20130918-154709.jpg20130918-154715.jpg

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Here We Go Again! Round 2…

I have always been stubborn about bringing my babies out earlier than they ought to be. I just figured it wasn’t realistic to have them isolated at home for the first three months of their lives like my pediatrician and friends would always recommend. With every other child I’ve had, they were out and about within the first few weeks and they remained perfectly healthy.

Elijah attended his first birthday party at 9 days old. Tiana had her first photo shoot at 9 days old. All my other babies were in church with me by the second week, hidden in a sling. So I figured it was no big deal to do the same with Catalina. She’s been to several groceries, meetings, our house construction site, the Manila International Book Fair, a seminar I gave last week, restaurants, church, bible study group, and anywhere else I have had to go because I am her bottle. 20130916-231713.jpg

Well, now I am kicking myself for being so carefree. She picked up a cold and cough in the last three days that has been miserable for her (and for me!). I’m not 100% sure the bug came from outside the home because her siblings and cousins were coughing and sniffling this past week. They could have been the source. I would put Tiana up there as number one on the list of suspects, too. She came pretty near Catalina’s face a number of times.

I learned too late that everyone who is sick in the house must wear a gauze mask to avoid infecting an infant. By the time our pediatrician told me this, the virus was already incubating. All the while I assumed that babies who get breast milk have a superior immune system. Apparently this isn’t always the case. My doctor said they are better protected from gastrointestinal infections but not necessarily the respiratory kind.

Taking care of Catalina has been such a journey for me as a mom. She is just a month old but she has introduced me to many firsts. For instance, she was the first of my babies to ever be confined in a hospital. She was the first to adamantly refuse being put down. And now she is the first one to ever battle a virus at just a few weeks old.

I was tempted to worry, especially since pneumonia cases are on the rise. However, yesterday morning, I was encouraged as I watched the live stream video of our church’s Sunday message. In Isaiah 6:1-3, it says “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ’Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts,
the whole earth is full of His glory.’”

No matter what is going on my life, God remains on the throne. He is the majestic and holy one who sits as King over all the world. And he is present with me, right here, right now, even as a write this. When I start to feel stressed I think of how big, awesome, powerful, and perfectly holy God is, and my problems diminish in their gravity.

I don’t know why he allowed Catalina to get sick again after all she went through during her first two weeks of life. When I ask the why question, I am inclined to draw all kinds of inconclusive reasons. Is it to humble me? Is God not pleased with me? Is it to teach me faith? Is it to make me more dependent? Is it a lesson on choice and consequence (I took her out of the house and compromised her immunity)? I have no idea.

It can be unsettling to live with unanswered questions and to keep speculating. So I will not dwell on the why. Instead I will cling to what I do know. God loves Catalina and God loves me. He is a good father. When he allows affliction, he doesn’t abandon his children while they struggle through it. He knows how hard it is for Catalina to be sick. He knows that it pains me to see her this way. He knows that I am getting even less sleep at night. He knows that I want her to be well. It is of great comfort to me that he sees all and knows all. Nothing escapes his notice.

My part is to keep seeking God and move towards him, instead of withdrawing or questioning his ways. He gives and he takes away as Job says, but He is blessed still. So this is an opportunity to praise him for who he is and to remember that all things belong to him — my children, my life, my comfort, my wants and desires…

On the practical side, I am doing what I can to help Catalina get better (most of these things were advised by Dr. Joy Ty-Sy, our paediatrician):

1. Use a Nebulizer 3x a day. Titus needed this when he was very sick two years ago. So we invested in one for our home. It has been put to good use since then. Whenever my kids have bad coughs, nebulizing allows them to recover more quickly. 20130915-221723.jpg

2. Spray saline solution into nostrils. To keep the mucus soft, I use a saline spray called salinese. I have used it for my other kids too. Of course it’s uncomfortable but it does decongest their nostrils.

3. Give plenty of time to rest in a quiet room. I was busy last week so Catalina was out with me. This affected her sleeping patterns which probably lowered her immunity also.

4. Keep the head propped up so it’s easier to breathe. When she lets me put her down (which is becoming more frequent, hurrah!) I use a pillow. But I don’t let her sleep without someone watching her. (It’s not ideal to have pillows around the crib for babies. They can suffocate if they roll over. So someone has to be with them.)

5. Avoid the use of air conditioning. The cold, dry air aggravates the throat and makes her more prone to coughing. Without the ac turned on, she slept more soundly.

6. Suck out snot using Nose Frida. Thankfully, Mothercare sells Nose Frida, the snot sucker. It is the best! I was planning to order one online and have it sent to Manila for future use but my sister-in-law, Jennifer, told me that it is available at Mothercare in Global City. So after dinner last night, Edric and I drove over there and got one for P660. We used it right away and it cleared Catalina’s nostrils very efficiently. 20130915-221704.jpg61FEKPXUIfL

Nose Frida works well for babies and young children who cannot blow their noses themselves. All you have to do is place the tip of the syringe at the opening of each nostril and then you suck out the snot using a mouthpiece that is attached to a tube which is connected to the syringe. It sounds disgusting but the snot never reaches your own mouth. There is a filter that blocks this from happening. Plus the syringe is pretty sizable to contain the snot so it doesn’t travel up the tube. I actually found it fun to get all that gook out of her nose. My, how unglamorous I have become!

It’s not easy having an infant who is sick. I am being stretched in a new way as a mom. Catalina has thrown up several times because of her cough. And she is not nursing as much. I tried to mix breastfeeding with breastmilk through a syringe to feed her this evening just to make sure she is getting enough. 20130916-220459.jpgOn the up side, Catalina seems to be sleeping longer in between feeds. And she has been lying down in her crib or on our bed! It doesn’t always work but what a relief when it does! Wonder of wonders!  I have also been able to leave her at home with our househelp several times in the past few days to run errands.

Catalina is not yet well. Dr. Joy says I still need to observe her and watch out for certain danger signs — high fever, changes in her cough and breathing. This feels like round 2 of our hospital experience except that it’s all happening at home.

Well, when I start feeling down about Catalina being sick again, I think about passages in the Bible like this one… Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)   20130916-231632.jpg