What’s the Game Plan?

Do you have a game plan for your child this summer? Would you like them to learn a sport or hone their existing athletic skills? Do you want them to develop character traits that will impact their choices positively? 
This year, Mega Sports Camp 2015 will be holding its second run of the successful weeklong sports, fitness, and values event for children ages 6 to 13 years old. There’s no other camp in the Philippines quite like it! Organized by CCF’s NXTGen Children’s Ministry in cooperation with a team of incredible coaches like PBA’s Coach Siot Tanquincen, Plana Forma Trainer’s Gino Ong, and many others, this is one camp you won’t want your kids to miss out on! 

The theme of this year’s camp is GAME PLAN, echoing the verses in Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”
If you prefer to wait for your children during the camp days, you can attend scheduled talks for parents (topics to be announced). Even though the camp aims to accommodate 1,500 kids, slots are limited for each sport. So the earlier you sign your kids up, the more sports options you will have to choose from. My boys are all signing up for basketball!  



View this video to get an idea of what last year’s camp was like:Mega Sports Camp Highlights

A Good Run With My Good “Pusher”

Edric got me to run in a 21K “fun” run yesterday. I know there may be readers out there who have done real marathons and triathlons who think 21K is peanuts, but it was a pretty big deal for me. 

The event was Run For Financial Fitness and Edric was dead set on us entering the 21K category. Of course, as the more calculated risk taker between the two of us, I had my apprehensions.

“But you and I are athletes,” was his argument. “We can even walk part of the way if it comes down to that.” (WE WERE ATHLETES. We may be athletic. But, that’s vastly different than being in peak condition. Plus, if you really think we are athletes, would it be acceptable to walk?!) 

 Here was my thought bubble. Edric’s body hasn’t gone through five pregnancies and the multitudinous changes that I have experienced as a mom. He has pretty much maintained the same perimeter measurements since we were first married. As for me, my ligaments, muscles, joints and organs have been stretched, moved around, and re-organized inside of me. And I’m still a breastfeeding mother! Give me a year to get back into fighting form so I can do this well. Please don’t ask me now. 

I was very cognizant of my paltry physical fitness level. In my book, short distance running in our village, a mere fraction of what 21K is, didn’t count as training for a run this long. Plus, my running philosophy is do it to stay healthy, to have meaningful prayer time. I’m not the sort of person who likes joining races to get outpaced by a hundred younger and older people bouncing past me like gazelles. 

However, my ever-optimistic husband preyed on the competitive person in me. He knew there was a hopeful bone in my body that would concede to the idea, for the challenge of it. While I vacillated between chickening out and entertaining the possibility, I finally said, “Okay, I will do it. Whichever way it turns out, we will learn something about marriage. If we make it without physically injuring ourselves then it will be a good reminder on how God blesses a wife’s desire to honor her husband’s wishes. But if it turns out badly, then it will be a lesson for you, as a husband…to think through the decisions you make, because you are responsible for me as your wife.” 

 Edric smiled and retorted, “Are you threatening me?” I didn’t mean for it to come across that way but I suppose, deep down inside, I was (in a playful way). 

 We did a test run in Balanga, Bataan the previous weekend. The mayor of Balanga City, Joet Garcia, and his wife, Isabel, were gracious enough to give us two slots in the Love Run that was scheduled on Valentine’s Day. It was just a 10K run but it gave us a good diagnostic. Of course 10 is less than half of 21, but at least we were able to work on a pace that we could use during the 21K.
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On Sunday morning, we woke up at 3:15 AM to get ready for our run. We zipped over to Bonifacio Global City where we parked our vehicle in our old condominium and made our way to the starting line. The gun went off at 4:30 AM. 

 The first 15 kilometers were fine. I was starting to feel pain in some parts of my legs, but it was bearable. At least we were running in the dark, when the weather was pleasantly cool, and cars weren’t smoking up the streets. 

Personally, the best part of it all was pacing side by side with Edric. Even though I was vehemently against the run when he first broached the idea to me, the endorphins that flooded my brain as we ran kilometer after kilometer made me grateful to have a husband that pushes me to be a better version of myself. 

 Somehow, it was even kind of romantic. We were going slow enough to dialogue and pray which meant we were probably at the bottom third of all the runners due to our turtle-like pace. But this didn’t matter. There we were, inching forward together, as a team. He looked pretty handsome in his orange Adidas shirt and gray shorts. Just a week before, we outfitted ourselves. It’s like a friend used to say, “If you can’t play, then display. If you have no form, then get a cool uniform!” If all else failed, we thought, at least we can look like runners! Edric carried our water rations on an elastic waistband and offered them to me as we started back up the Buendia flyover to Bonifacio Global City.

I was expecting that we would continue like this. 

However, during the last six kilometers, Edric began to feel a great amount of pain. He had to stop and stretch a couple of times, so we slowed down even more. Honestly, his condition surprised me. I pictured the last part to end differently, with Edric telling me, “You can do it, honey. Just a little further.” Instead, it was me who was smiling while Edric’s facial expression looked like a cross between Don’t talk to me right now because I’m suffering and I can’t believe you are so chirpy. I was pretty chirpy, trying to engage him in conversation to pass the remaining moments of our run. 

 During the last 3 kilometers, Edric had to walk for part of the way, and I found myself circling back to him so I wouldn’t have to stop my jog. During the final kilometer, I asked him if it was alright if I ran ahead. He was completely fine with this so I picked up the pace and entered the finish line alone. 

 Sigh. That was the only part that I didn’t like about our run. I had this fantasy of running through the finish line together, as a team, but I couldn’t slow down to a walking pace in order to remain beside Edric. There were a couple of times when trying to do so only heightened the pain in my joints and muscles. I was better off going with the inertia of a steady jog. So I came in before he did. To put it into perspective, I beat him

 Edric ended his run a few minutes later. On the way home, he jokingly asked me not to rub it in too much that I was ahead. We laughed because of the irony. I was the reluctant one. I wasn’t as conditioned. I had never run a 21K and he had. 

 The outcome of our run demonstrated a couple of invaluable lessons to Edric and me: 

 First, I really believe God honored me for supporting Edric’s crazy idea to do this run. It was God’s special grace that allowed me to finish (even ahead of Edric). I experienced the blessings of submission. 

Second, Edric humbly admitted that he should have been more prepared…that he should have considered how difficult a run this would be, especially as the leader in our marriage. Wow! This was exactly what I hoped he would glean from all of this. 

Third, running closely epitomizes the human life. I’ve always believed this. But it’s easy to say this until you actually experience every inch of your legs and feet hurting like heck! You want to know there is an end to look forward to — a rest to redeem all the effort. For a follower of Jesus Christ, that rest is eternity with Him, a.k.a. heaven. 

Fourth, everyone crosses life’s finish line alone. I couldn’t step over the line for Edric and he couldn’t do it for me. As much as possible we remained side by side, but as the challenge escalated, we both had to make the choice to keep going until the end. 

When the Bible says, “run in such a way that you win,” I don’t think this necessarily implies that we need to finish first. But each one of us needs to finish well, which means faithfully pressing on, no matter what. 

Fifth, and this is for all the mothers out there…God made us strong in a different way from men. I’m not knocking Edric for walking or slowing down during the last few kilometers. Had he been better prepared for this race, I would have been panting after him. However, as a woman, giving birth was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, physically speaking. Since I opted for no anesthesia for all five of my births, I felt the intense pain of every contraction. Having said that, if a woman can endure labor pains, she can run 21K even when her legs feel like they are going to fall off! By God’s grace, we’ve been design to stomach a whole lot of pain. Running 21K hurts but childbirth hurts waaaay more. 

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Edric and I made it to Sunday service by 9 AM but by the afternoon, I could barely walk. So we concluded the evening with a two-hour massage. I usually don’t like full body massages but this one was necessary!

Looking back, I’m glad we did this. It wasn’t something I would have elected to do myself, but thanks to my husband, “the good pusher”, I survived a challenge that benefited me physically, spiritually, and even emotionally!

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Dealing With Meltdowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do We Really Need to Be Stressed?

My older sons were de-motivated at the beginning of the morning. When they looked over the homeschool work they had to get done, they sulked and complained about being “stressed.”

I am partially to blame for using this word lightly. When I have a lot going on, I will loosely say, “I’m stressed.” As a result, my kids have adapted it as a descriptor to explain how they feel when they see their books piled up beside them.

My example has not been profitable for them. It has caused them to misunderstand what REAL STRESS really is. So I decided to have an enlightening conversation with them once and for all to stop the misuse of this word in our home.

Stressed, I said emphatically. Do you really know what stress means? The word “stressed out” is more appropriately used by those who don’t have a home, who don’t have food, or clothing, who are deathly sick, and don’t have a family to love them. You and I don’t have stress in our lives, we are privileged…privileged to have food, clothing, shelter, to be sitting on this couch with one another, in the middle of a beautiful family room, where we are reading books we can afford to buy, and enjoying one another’s company. And most of all, we are privileged to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to know where we are going one day if we die. That’s being privileged, not stressed. I know I have used that word “stressed” and you have copied me, and I have been wrong. (Please forgive me was added later on.) But from now on, we are banned from saying that word. Everyone who says it will loose points. Even me. You can fine me for saying it.

The expressions on my children’s faces changed from frowns to smiles as they realized that God has been good to us. He is good to us. Period. There may be times when our family experiences trials but in comparison to what we have in Christ, to having eternal security, stress doesn’t have to impair us from accomplishing the tasks we have been entrusted with or steal our peace and joy.

…May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled andwill not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:2-9)

It’s so important to teach our children perspective and to remind ourselves, as parents, that we can choose to look at our circumstances positively or negatively. When we focus on the privileges we have, it encourages our children to do the same. When we bicker and complain about hardships, our children will do the same. However, this isn’t just about our attitude on present circumstances. I shared the passages in 1 Peter 1:2-9 because we are supposed to look beyond this world, to the heavenly future God has in store for us which is certain and secure in Jesus Christ. We may go through very real problems and issues that may warrant the use of the word “stress” but in light of eternity, these remain for just “a little while” as the apostle Peter states. So let us “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls.” That’s what faith is!

Growing up, my parents role-modeled putting on spiritual lenses in the face of challenges and trials. My grandfather had once upon a time been very wealthy. He had an office in the Empire State Building and owned a textile company called Riverside Mills. He was featured in Reader’s Digest’s Who’s Who In Asia. So my dad was raised with, what he called, a platinum spoon. When he graduated from college, he worked for the family business. However, due to a series of bad decisions made by the company (not my father), one of the late Ferdinand Marcos’ cronies kicked my dad out of the family business and took over. It was incredulous. (I have simplified the story.)

My dad witnessed the humiliation of his father and the entire family. At one point, he admitted that he wanted to change his last name because so much ridicule was attached to it. However, he believed God had a purpose for allowing this to happen. Since we were very young children at the time, we didn’t feel the sting too much, but my parents had to figure out how to survive. (We ate fish most of the time, which I grew to love!)

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One of the things my parents tried to do was buy a cow to sell its meat after it was butchered. After all the effort, part of the cow had rot in it, and by the time they sold what they could, they only made P500 pesos. But they gave that to the Lord as a first fruits offering. They believed that God was in control and entrusted their future and ours to him. But my dad did his part. He didn’t give up. He even went to the Asian Institute of Management business school and graduated with honors, thinking he might need to become an employee.

Years later, my dad started a real estate company. (This happened after he acted on the conviction to give up a logging business because of the compromises he was pressured to make.) God blessed his real estate company. But the best thing that happened was the Lord worked in his heart and burdened him to start a church. He never wanted to become a pastor. He enjoyed teaching bible studies but pastoring was not his desire. However, he responded to God’s prodding. In the 80’s he began a bible study to minister to his businessman friends and their spouses. Eventually, this group grew and today, Christ Commission Fellowship is a movement of over 50,000 followers of Jesus who are committed to evangelism and discipleship in order to make Christ-committed followers. All honor goes to the Lord who has done this mighty work. Today my dad is still a self-supporting pastor (with my brothers running the family business so he can give his time and attention to ministry.)

I don’t say this to boast but to add emphasis to the point that a person’s spiritual perspective on problems is important. Had my parents, especially my dad, wallowed in suffering and misery, they would have lost sight of God’s hand in their circumstances. Worst of all, they would have forfeited the privilege and blessing of ministering to people all around the world, teaching about Biblical principles on leadership, marriage and family.

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Whenever I think about my parents’ history and their faith journey, I am reminded to be a better example to my children. They need to be encouraged to hope in God and his plan for their lives no matter what they go through. Training them to embrace this perspective begins at home, with the challenges they face as children.

Sometimes, a homeschooling assignment can feel like a big challenge to my kids. Heck, sometimes homeschooling can feel like a big challenge to me! Instead of caving in because it is difficult, the better thing to do is remember that we are children of God, with uncountable privileges to be thankful and grateful for. While stress may be a valid feeling, it can’t be a valid excuse to give up and stop trying. We need to do what we can, within our control, and then entrust the results to God, believing that these are the circumstances that he has elected for us to go through in this season of our lives.

My kids and I are a work in progress. There are some days when I want to stay in bed and avoid facing the day because the responsibilities I must attend to resemble the stack of books my kids don’t like seeing. Yet, I praise God for the daily grace he supplies to keep us all going. His resources are infinite. His strength is supernatural. His joy is incomparable. And his rewards are worth whatever we may count as “stress” in this life. But, hey, do we really need to be stressed when He is our Heavenly Father?

Surrender And Wait

If there is a tech-lover and computer savant in our family, it is Elijah, our eldest. At eleven years old he understands programming and code, thanks to Khan Academy. When I am stumped by a gadget issue, I holler for him and he ably rescues me from my ignorance. He also enjoys
reading about the newest gadgets available.

Edric and I hold him back a lot. He doesn’t have his own cell phone, iPad or even a computer or laptop. When necessary, he resorts to borrowing my laptop or iPad.

However, this past year, Elijah earned more than enough money from stocks investments and speaking engagements to pay for his own IPad. So Edric thought it was time he be allowed to get one to use for his “work”. The plan was they would look for one during our vacation in the U.S. Of course, Elijah was thrilled.

A few days after we arrived, he did his research, checking online for the best deals and accompanying Edric to gadget shops. Elijah found a refurbished IPad on Apple’s online store and Edric thought it was a steal, so they decided to buy it. However, someone else beat them to it because they waited a day.

Elijah was disheartened. He had invested time looking for the deal and even chatted with the customer service personnel to clarify certain questions about shipping. We reminded him to keep praying. If it was God’s will, he would find something better. So he quickly snapped out of it and moved on.

Yesterday, he found another superb deal on EBay for an iPad Air First Generation that was close to 350 USD with shipping. He was so excited about it but another interested party outbid him! Once again he was crushed, but we reiterated that he should not lose heart but trust in God’s will.

I was so blessed by his attitude as he took to the defeat positively and processed the disappointment from a spiritual perspective. Of course I was hoping that God would reward him but I kept this to myself.

In the meantime, Edric and I went out with Catalina to shop at Bed, Bath & Beyond. During our trip away, we received a call from Elijah. He was happy to announce that he had come across an IPad Air 2 (16 GgB) for 420 USD with shipping, tax free. (It normally retails at Apple Store for 499 USD without tax.) Strangely, no one bid during the window when he gave his offer. After an hour and a half, the deal became his! My sister told me this was uncommon on EBay. But the seller checked out and the offer was guaranteed by EBay, so Edric and Elijah followed through with the purchase.

Elijah was practically jumping up and down with excitement. Apparently, he wanted the IPad Air 2 but he didn’t condition himself to expect it because it was costlier. So he had set his sights on a simpler model with acceptable specs. This new option was absolutely fantastic as it appealed to the “techiness” in him.

Elijah was going to pay the full amount but Edric said they would split. Still, Elijah asked to pay 75% instead of just 50%. I was so proud of him! This was an occasion for Elijah to “step up” as a young man.

I know his initial disappointment wasn’t easy. But God blocked those two previous selections to get him the best IPad, the one that he secretly dreamed to have.

Interestingly, the night before I attended a bible study led by my brother in law, Jeff, and he focused on James 5. In the chapter there was a portion that I highlighted again and it happened to be about the prophet Elijah!

“…The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.” (‭James‬ ‭5‬:‭16-18‬ NASB)

When my son, Elijah, was dealing with the unfavorable non-purchase, I shared with him the same line: the “prayer of the righteous man accomplishes much,” encouraging him to keep on presenting his longing to the Lord. I knew that Elijah loved God and honored him in his life so if the Lord willed for him to get an iPad deal, he would make it happen. And true enough, God answered Elijah’s prayer in his perfect way and time, even if he had to stomach the disappointment first.

When I asked him what his prayer was, he told me, “Lord, if it is your will, I know you will give it to me. If not, I will feel sad but I know it will be your will, so that’s what is best.”

As a mom, it’s hard for me to see my kids disappointed. It’s also a struggle for me to watch them go through the waiting process. Yet God uses instances like this one to demonstrate his personal involvement in the character development of my kids. Elijah got to experience first-hand what it is like to surrender a desire to the Lord and then receive the reward of his trust and patience.

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It’s Your Mess: Deal with It Darling

By the end of our homeschooling morning, our “classroom” usually looks like someone threw a grenade into it. I’ve tried to manage the mess by cleaning up as we go along, but there’s no better way to keep this room straight than to have the kids take responsibility for it.

Today they wanted to dye eggs as an art activity, but I told them, “If you want to do art, you have to clean up the room.” So they pulled out a broom from the hallway closet, picked up markers and colored pencils, and wiped the paint off the floor.

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My kids can get presumptuous about our househelp cleaning up after them so I have to remind them to straighten their own rooms, organize their toys, and mop their spills. They aren’t always motivated but a helpful trick is to tell them they can’t move on to the next activity until they straighten up their clutter.

Yesterday, they wanted to watch the Muppets movie. They were all plopped in front of the television enjoying themselves when I went upstairs to check on their rooms. Titus and Tiana had pulled out blankets and re-arranged furniture. They also had stuffed animals thrown around. Elijah and Edan had played with Citiblocks and constructed “trees”.

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I went back down, turned off the television and told them that their rooms had to be spotless if they wanted to continue watching the movie. They complied and got to work. After ten minutes, Elijah and Edan bounded back down the stairs. Titus and Tiana struggled to restore the girls’ room to what it looked like before they messed it up. I told them they were responsible for the disorder and had to fix it.

Elijah, Edan, and I finished the movie but Titus and Tiana never came down. I went looking for them, wondering what ever became of their commitment to put their mess away. And I found them lying on the couch in the study room, ASLEEP! They must have gotten tired trying to figure out what to do.

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Well, they resumed their clean up duties and got the job done after they woke up.

I want my kids to understand that they are responsible for their things. It’s easy to make a mess. In fact, it’s pretty fun to do so. But if my kids get into the habit of letting others inherit their mess, it’s going to have a negative effect on their character. They have to learn faithfulness in the small areas, like putting away toys or wiping up spills, so it will carry over to bigger areas in the future. If they “mess” up relationships, or make wrong decisions, they need to own up to the consequences and do what is honorable – deal with the mess and do their best to fix what they can.

Life Has Detours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find purpose when life doesn’t make sense…

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A Greater Purpose For Learning

I have often told my kids that language skills are important. Reading, writing, composition, and comprehension are all necessary and worth the hours of arduous study and practice required to hone them. They aren’t always eager about my pep talks. But they are beginning to experience why these are valuable beyond the discipline of learning academics.

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As often as possible, we ask our kids to speak with us when we teach at retreats or events. This gives them a venue to apply what they learn. Elijah speaks more frequently with Edric. Edan is getting his own version of speaker’s training as well. The point is to let our kids see how they can be a blessing when they develop a skill or ability that would otherwise seem insignificant to their childhood ambitions and preoccupations.

What kid likes to learn things like grammar and other tools for good communication? My children don’t naturally gravitate towards these disciplines. In fact they would prefer NOT to do their language arts subject. But nowadays they have good reason to.

A person who can read, write and speak well can be used by God to communicate his truth and bless people.

Most young children think of learning as their inescapable day to day reality. They can’t wait for semester and summer breaks. I know this because there was a season of my childhood when I was in a conventional school. I studied but I wasn’t inspired to do so. It was my duty, a responsibility that felt very much like a chore.

On the one hand, kids need to accept that they have to study well whether they like it or not. I had this conversation with Elijah this morning when he told me he wasn’t motivated to do his homeschool work. How wonderfully humbling that this surfaced right after I wrote an article on using creative ways to motivate a child to learn! He is an older child so I tread more carefully with him, trying to respect that he will soon be a young man. I don’t want to be an overbearing mother. But I did tell him that sometimes we decide with our head first and the feelings follow. We may not always feel like doing our responsibilities but we have to. So we make the choice to and God will bless the effort. By the end of the morning his mood changed. (Thank you, Lord.)

Going back to our children’s involvement in public speaking…

This is one way to get our kids to apply what they learn in a very practical manner. But the more valuable reason is we want them to see the bigger picture. Their education is profitable for the fulfillment of God’s plan. If they give their best now to train their minds, they can use their talents and abilities to make a difference for God’s glory.

The Bible tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NASB)

God invites even children to participate in the building if His Kingdom. At a young age, they can serve him and others. They can look beyond subject studies to seek a higher purpose for learning.

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“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭4‬:‭12‬ NASB)

Project Playground: Mission Accomplished

My back was killing me last night after Edric, the kids, and I finished building a playground in our backyard. One of our shared “fantasies” as parents was to give our kids a yard where they can play. And we imagined that they would have a treehouse or some semblance of a playground in it. So last Christmas, Edric and I “invested” in a wooden playground set from HMR. It was a great deal and it came with fun features we knew the kids would enjoy.

Since we moved in to our home with a grass-less yard a few months ago, we waited until the ground was leveled off to start the playground project with the boys.

I did not know my husband was such a handyman, but it was a nice discovery. In fact I think he was challenged by my ignorance of his manly building skills. This fueled his desire to put together the playground with himself as chief builder, Elijah as engineer, Edan as sorter and assistant builder, and Titus as runner. I supplied the cookies.

The first stage was the most difficult. Edric and the boys adjusted to all the manual labor. And getting the foundation right was tricky. I heard them grunting, huffing and puffing. But they got it done. That was day 1.

Edric admitted that despite his inclination to prove his manliness to me, he experienced a moment of weakness at the beginning. He was tempted to delegate the project to the workers who are still at our house. But he realized that caving in would have negated his attempts to teach our sons character traits like perseverance and the blessings of hard work.

There was no way to finish the playground in a day so Edric returned to the project a few days after and spent about 12 total hours upon completion.

I finally joined in on all the fun for the last stretch and I realized how hard it was. Those nuts, washers, bolts, and weld nuts were a pain to sort and use. So many different sizes and applications. They made me crazy. Plus there was the lifting of heavy wood pieces and the unfortunate occurrence of losing the instructions. Somehow it all came together.

We finished at nearly 8 pm, using flashlights to see what we were doing. The kids got to revel in their feelings of accomplishment and test out the accessories of the playground.

I like how Edric put it. “There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing the outcome of physical toil.”

Seeing the playground take form was worth the backache I got. This wasn’t just about building a playground. It was about building a family memory that we can all treasure, and building character in our kids. Some life lessons and experiences are truly worth the investment of physical effort, time and money!

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Motivating Children To Learn

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have positively splendid learning days every single day…where our children have voracious appetites for reading, rise to the challenge of difficult assignments, and approach life with an insatiable curiosity to discover, know, and develop new skills? Wow. Wouldn’t homeschooling be a dream?! Okay, okay, every single day may be asking for too much. But I think it’s fair to expect that the good days can outweigh the tough ones.

Every homeschooling parent will encounter days when his or her child is not thrilled about studying. It’s completely normal. If this sort of de-motivated behavior starts trending, then a parent may have to take drastic measures to fix the problem. But the occasional attitude hump and bump along the way is to be expected.

Here are some helpful questions to ask…How do we kick-start our children’s internal sparkplugs? What is within our control to change, alter and improve? Could it be aspects like our perspective on our kids, the methodology we use, the materials we have chosen, or the environment we have staged for learning to happen? Is it something outside of our control? Like our children’s physical conditions, their attitudes, or heart issues that are spiritual in nature?

Answering the above questions will allow us to isolate factors that contribute to our children’s frustration or de-motivated approach to learning. For example, author George Harris, said, “When a child is given the right degree of difficulty in his studies so that he enjoys the challenge and experiences a feeling of accomplishment, he will improve in those subjects and carry those positive feelings into other areas of his life. A bored and frustrated child, on the other hand, will feel like a failure; that feeling too, will be carried into other areas of life, causing him to be afraid to try new things or learn new subjects.”

Dr. Raymond Moore says that a home teacher is confronted with the onus to make classwork and all learning for a child both challenging and exciting so they will want to return to it again and again. Is this possible? Shouldn’t our children simply swallow the bitter pill…that learning is hard work and they must accept this as their reality and get over their negative attitudes about it?

I’ve tried that approach. “Just do your work because you have to.” On the one hand, there are moments when this is applicable. But it’s very tiring to force a child to learn when he isn’t interested in doing so. Can you imagine multiplying this sort of scenario 5 days a week x 10 months in a year x 13 years of homeschooling (if I homeschool from K to 12)?! I would give up in the first year for sure!

With a little creativity, I believe every child can be ENCOURAGED to learn and homeschooling can be a positive experience for both parent and child.

After experimenting with several approaches on my kids (they tend to be the guinea pigs for all my homeschool experimenting, especially when it comes to curriculums and methods), I came up with a simple system that has been working so far. I’m saying “so far” because seasons come and seasons go. Sometimes, what works for one year won’t do for the next. What works for one child will have zero effect on another. But I praise God that SO FAR, this system is producing desirable outcomes.

For the longest time, I have placed post-it tabs in my children’s books. These tabs mark the “stop” points for each day of work. For example, if I want Elijah to cover 5 pages of his math book, I will stick a post-it tab on the fifth page. When he sees the tab, he knows what he has to cover. I also put several tabs in each of their books so they can go past the tab and proceed to the next one if they are feeling particularly inspired and energetic about their work that day.

Using tabs as markers lets my kids know their daily goals. But this school year, I added another component to this tab system:

  1. The kids complete their assigned task(s) for a certain subject area by working until they reach a tab. (The number of pages is pre-determined by me or agreed upon with my kids.)
  2. After doing so, they pull off the tab and bring it to me.
  3. I will check their accomplished work and sign the tab, indicating the date and subject area as well.
  4. They will take the signed tab and stick it beside their name on a wall chart.
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  6. This process repeats itself with every subject.
  7. By Friday, the kids count the number of tabs they have collected during the week and they can do one of the following: get 5 pesos for every tab or accumulate at least 20 tabs so they can draw from the MYSTERY JAR. (they may combine their tabs with their siblings’ so their points are higher).
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  9. The MYSTERY JAR is filled with fun rewards that they get to pick from. (1 mystery jar draw = 20 tabs.)

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Last week we didn’t get to do more than 3 days of homeschooling, so the kids pooled together their tabs and drew from the jar. They pulled out a prize that read, “Date with Mom.”

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When Friday came along, I took all the kids to High Street for lunch and we also went to the bookstore. That was our “date.” My mother-in-law joined us, which doubled the fun.

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This week, the kids collected 60+ tabs which entitled them to 3 draws, 1 of which allowed them to have an extra draw. Here’s what they drew from the mystery jar:

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Somehow this tab thing is encouraging my children to go beyond their daily requirements. They use the tabs as a means to compete with one another (in a healthy way), and they look forward to redeeming mystery prizes for their hard work.

I hear them yell out, “I want to get more tabs!” and I see them dig into their books with eagerness. It’s a lovely sight to behold for this mother of five! I’m grateful that my kids are generally easy to teach, but witnessing their added spunk and gusto energizes me, too!

Simple ideas like this one can help to motivate your child, especially when they are younger. Ideally, however, you want to get them to the point where they really enjoy learning, no matter how hard it becomes. I’m beginning to see this happen in my eldest son, Elijah. While the tab system inspires him to get his tasks done, he likes to learn with or without this system in place. As an older child, he feels fulfilled when he grows in knowledge and wisdom, and he enjoys the challenge of learning.

Eventually, I’m hoping that his younger brothers and sisters will be the same way. Edan is showing signs of progress in this area. Nevertheless, I will keep up this tab system, until I have to come up with something else. After all, my kids aren’t the only ones who need motivating. I do, too! And getting to teach motivated children motivates me!

When Things Turn Sour, BE SWEET

Early this morning I had a doctor’s appointment for my scoliosis. Three of my kids were with me — Elijah, Edan and Titus. (My two girls have been sick).

I asked the driver to park while the kids and I headed up to the clinic. After thirty minutes my appointment was done which was great. I was in a rush to head home to my sick Catalina so I could feed her. Even though she usually has a good appetite, she hardly ate the day before due to her bronchitis. Breastfeeding was the best way to make sure she got enough in her to battle the sickness.

When I called my driver to pick us up, he didn’t answer his phone. So I sent him a text message. Still, I didn’t get a reply. I sent another one and NOTHING.

After 6 unanswered calls and failed messages, I was tempted to be annoyed. <em>What was he doing?Sleeping?! (That was my first thought.) What were my options? Take a taxi with the boys? Wait outside anyway? Was the driver okay? Did something happen to the car? </em>

The boys and I checked all levels of the basement parking trying to spot our car. We couldn’t find our driver or the vehicle.

How was I to deal with this unpleasant experience? I wanted to grumble and mumble and act entitled. But God convicted me to be thankful and use the opportunity to spend time with my boys.

So I told them, “When things don’t go our way, we need to be thankful. Perhaps God is protecting us from an accident. God is reminding us to be positive. I want to be upset because we shouldn’t have to wait like this. But let’s make the most out of our time. Let’s have fun!”

The boys were like, “Yeah!”

We found a Krispy Kreme cafe where I bought the boys shakes and we did some impromptu homeschooling. I happened to have Edan and Titus’ Botany book with me so we enjoyed a lively discussion about carnivorous plants.
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We spent an hour in Krispy Kreme before I gave our driver another call. This time he answered!

“Where are you? Did you fall asleep?” My tone had a hint of agitation in it which was perceptively detected by my very auditory son, Elijah. “Mom, don’t get angry,” he said melodically.

“Angry? I am not angry.” (Okay, I was annoyed. There’s a difference right?!) It’s amazing how Elijah can hear the slightest changes in pitch and notation. I wasn’t raising my voice but I am glad Elijah reminded me to keep it cool. My kids do a great job at keeping me accountable for my actions!

I heeded Elijah’s advice and gave our driver the opportunity to explain himself. Listen, listen, listen. It turned out his phone was acting up. My calls did not register even though I heard the ringing on my end and he received my text messages only as we were on our way home. I heard them come in and he said, “Ay ma’am, I just received your texts.”

Nevertheless our driver was so polite and apologetic for making us wait. Whew. I am glad I didn’t get angry. He is such a nice guy and he has a pre-millennium version of a cell phone (which I hope to upgrade soon with Edric’s permission!)

It’s so easy to judge people and criticize them when we don’t see the entire picture. If I had lost my temper with my driver and scolded him, I would have been a bad example to my kids and our driver. This incident taught me to make the most of a sour situation by having a SWEET ATTITUDE. (And maybe literally drinking something sweet!) That extra hour of fellowship with my sons was worth the inconvenience.

I also learned to suspend negative thoughts about others and seek to understand where they are coming from. As a result I was happy to hear Elijah tell me, “I learned to be patient and not to judge people.” Amen!

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

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.