The Gifts of Pain

For the last six months I have dealt with excruciating monthly periods, something I never experienced in my teenage years or adulthood. When it first happened, I had to be brought to the hospital, fearing that appendicitis was the cause. Edric took me to the ER at about 3 AM only discover that there was nothing wrong with me apart from the fact that I was probably dealing with extreme dysmenorrhea. After that month, the pain recurred and my personal research pointed to endometriosis. This was confirmed by doctors as well after two ultrasounds.

For those of you who suffer from the same, you know what it’s like to be bedridden and on painkillers to alleviate the feeling of one, never-ending contraction. The pain heightened to such severity last month that I threw up and felt like I might collapse.

As I have wrestled with this new reality, praying countless times for relief and healing, and being prayed over by others, God has taught me many lessons as the symptoms persists. I would like to call these the gifts of pain in my attempts to see its divine purpose. Of course, I still pray and hope for healing, but in the meantime, here are my reflections…

The gift of empathy. Since I was healthy for most of my life, there was only so much I could grasp about people’s physical pains or their dealings with debilitating conditions or sicknesses. Even today, my physical struggle isn’t likened to those who agonize on a daily basis in their fight against cancer or a life-threatening disease. (What strength these people must have to battle their pain day in and day out!) Yet my pain issues, the monthly ones and the random ones, do give me greater comprehension of how difficult it must be for those who suffer without relief. Now, I can sincerely tell people, “It must be so difficult for you. My heart goes out to you,” and really mean it!

The gift of humility. I consider myself to have a pretty high tolerance for pain. I birthed five children with no anesthesia. However, the discomfort I feel every month is so debilitating that I can’t attend to Edric or my kids, and fighting the pain exhausts me. Homeschooling happens on my bed, as the kids bring their books to my room and do their work around me. Eating and exercise have to be foregone, especially on my second and third days of menstruation. It’s humbling to know that I am not that strong after all. Whatever health, wellness, and physical abilities I have are the grace of God and nothing I can take credit for.

Last month, while groaning on my bed, trying to maneuver to a comfortable position without success, I eventually prayed out loud and said, “Thank you, Lord. You are my strength, you are here with me.”

When pain weakens me, it’s an opportunity to remember just how dependent I am on the Lord.

The gift of joy. Amazingly, God gives joy in the midst of pain. Although I get deeply frustrated about not being in control, and at times worry that there could be more serious things wrong with me, I fix my eyes on the Lord and the fears and discouragement dissipate. I do not have to make my joy dependent on my pain. As author and pastor Stephen Furtick said, “Will your chains break your praise or will your praise break your chains?”

This past week I was anxious because my daughter, Catalina, had five days of strange, fluctuating fever. It was gone in the mornings and returned in the afternoons and evenings. However, God spoke to my heart with this word, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)

I started to tear as I read this passage because my thoughts were clouded with fear, and I was restless with worry. Yet, the Lord assured me that He is ever in control and ever on His throne, and there was joy.

I don’t rejoice in my problems because I like them, I rejoice because I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and has a plan for every circumstance in my life, as well as the lives of those whom I love. He may not always cure a disease but this doesn’t change His character or downgrade His power.

The gift of gratitude. When I first found out that I had adhesions in my pelvis as well as a suspected cyst-like structure in my right ovary due to Endometriosis, I felt discouraged and down. I try to be healthy, eat right, and exercise. I never had operations in my abdominal area to cause the adhesions. Furthermore, I really wanted to have another child, but the Endometriosis contributed to fertility issues. In the past, one try and it was like, boom, baby! Not this year for me…

Well, of course one of the obvious answers was age. The other, more medical reason was that I may have hormone imbalances (to be confirmed soon by a test I’m doing with Life Science). I will do another post about all the natural ways I am trying to “fix” my Endometriosis, but let me see if they work first!

Initially, I battled self-pity and a victim-mentality but then I was like, hey! There’s so much to be thankful for! I still get to walk, run, read, write, sing, eat, teach my children, spend time with my loved ones and friends, serve the Lord, appreciate and explore the world He made, and delight in knowing and loving Him. That’s a lot to celebrate!

The gift of perspective. In the midst of the pain I tell myself, this body will be replaced by a new and perfect one someday. I think of what heaven will be like when all agony and crying will be gone. This promise makes me look forward to eternity. It also prevents me from getting too comfortable on this earth. My body’s health problems point me to the hope of my eternal life with the Lord. They lesson the grip of this world on my heart as I remember that it is passing away.

“We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life…Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:2-4, 8

As I close, allow me to end with this insight…I did not choose my pain, but Jesus Christ willingly entered into your pain and my pain when He gave His life for us so that we might be healed of our greatest problem – the problem of sin. That’s our real disease. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)

When people ask me if I believe that God heals, my question is what is the healing that we seek? Is it merely to be liberated from physical pain? If that is the case, then isn’t that failing to understand the more important reason for Christ’s wounds? He gave His life “so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” as the passage explains above. Since our earthly existence is a dot in comparison to eternity, His priority is to heal our relationship with Him first. Mark 8:36, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

If we read verse 25, following 1 Peter 2:24, it says that we were straying like sheep (our real problem…turning away from our Creator) but now we have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (a picture of our spiritual healing, being reconciled to God).

So while I believe that God has the power to heal us from ailments and diseases and we should pray in faith for physical healing, I also believe that He may not always alleviate our physical suffering if it accomplishes a greater purpose in our lives and the lives of others, namely our spiritual healing and the spiritual healing of others. So here in lies the greatest gift of pain…when it reconciles us to God or draws us into a profoundly deeper relationship with Him.

I am still claiming healing in Jesus’ name for my Endometriosis and doing my part to make lifestyle changes. But even if God doesn’t make my life problem or pain-free, I still consider it a blessed life because He is my sustainer and provider. His grace and love never fail. His heart is for me and for my good. He is and will be with me through all the seasons of my life!

God-Confidence in Kids

I am not an advocate of getting kids into modeling at a young age because it can make them focused on their external appearance as well as derive their sense of identity and worth from the way they look and how others perceive them.  However, I also believe that carefully chosen modeling or acting opportunities can be beneficial for kids, to break them out of their shells so they can shine for the Lord. 

From time to time our family gets offered endorsement opportunities and I praise God that these normally involve all of our kids and Edric and me, or some of our kids and Edric or me. In other words, it’s usually a family endorsement and more importantly, a product or service that is aligned with our values and principles. 

The milk brand, Friso Four, which is for kids above the age of three years old (past the breastfeeding age) is one such product. Their cows are hormone and antibiotic free, and they are cared for by farmers who are personally invested in their farms. Farmers basically own Friesland Campina, the mother company behind Friso. So they love their cows! 

Our family’s contract with Friso involved our daughters and me engaging one another through outdoor activities and play, and promoting the importance of nature in the lives of our kids — eating healthy, good sunlight, exercise, and exploration. 

For the shoot today, Tiana was tasked to memorize many lines. When she first saw the script she felt nervous and concerned about her ability to memorize and execute what was required of her. However, we prayed together and dedicated the shoot to the Lord, and her courage increased. She got through each part so well, and without compromising her personality as a sweet and demure girl. 

I was so proud of her! As a younger girl, Tiana struggled with self-consciousness and she worried about what people’s opinion of her. Sometimes she still does. However through the years I have encouraged her to consider the needs of others and bravely attempt to make friends and reach out to people instead of focusing on herself. It’s taken some time but in the last few months, I have seen her grow and mature in this area. She is friendlier towards kids, like her ballet classmates and art class friends, and she has a better understanding of God-confidence. 

God-confidence, as opposed to self-confidence or self-esteem, is knowing that God is the one who gives us the ability and capacity to do things that are difficult or out of our comfort zones. Self-confidence or self-esteem is believing in one’s strengths and who they are to accomplish what they want and need to. A God-confident person relies on Him to meet the challenges He calls him or her to. 

For example, I don’t like speaking in public. It’s still stressful for me to prepare a talk and muster up the courage to stand before an audience even if I have been involved in public speaking for years. Yet this is something I do as unto to the Lord, giving seminars and talks alongside my husband on relationships, marriage, parenting, and homeschooling. I have to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about being a blessing to others, a vessel to communicate God’s principles on these topics in order to help people. But I have to depend on the Lord and not myself if I am to be effective. 

Therefore, I am also teaching Tiana how to exhibit God-confidence when she is asked to do something that is beyond what’s comfortable for her. There were several instances when she teared today, primarily because she didn’t like it when she couldn’t do an excellent job with her lines or with the acting. Catalina assisted by wiping her forehead and handing her tissues when she would tear. The crew and I assured her that she was doing a wonderful job and that it was okay to fail. That’s what retakes were for. Plus, I told her I loved her no matter what and I was there for her. We prayed together several times. 


When she finished the difficult takes, she felt a sense of accomplishment, which is also why I encouraged her to complete her job even if it wasn’t easy. I didn’t force her. I just gave her a pep talk to calm her nerves. We also chatted about how I used to get scared and cry and we had a good laugh about it. 

Kids need to be conditioned to do hard things. For as long as these “things” aren’t abusive, against God’s Word, or imposed upon them because a parent is trying to live out their dreams through them, then kids can benefit from positive pressure, healthy competition, real world challenges, and difficult character-building tasks. However, it matters how we process the experiences with them, reminding them that motivations, purposes out to be for the Lord, and empowering ought to come from the Lord. 

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”‭‭ 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭

When I asked Tiana, “How were you able to do all your lines and acting?”, her sweet response was, “I have Jesus in me…” 


Teaching Bodily Discipline to Kids 

Growing up, I appreciated the weight my parents put on physical fitness and healthy eating. They encouraged my siblings and me to play outdoors everyday and they got us into sports. As a result, all of us excelled in our sport of choice in college. I played UAAP soccer (football) and my other siblings were on the UAAP basketball teams.

Some of the benefits that athleticism produced in my life were the ability to tolerate pain and to push myself to the limit. I believe this is one of the reasons why I was able to have five Lamaze births despite the death-like pain I had to endure. Of course, I ultimately credit the grace of God for making it through each birth. I would call out to him at the height of the excruciation and he would always come through for me. However, I also believe that I had to do my part, and being a sporty person made me physically, mentally, and emotionally strong.

This morning, as I was running on the treadmill, the passage in 1 Corinthians 9:27 came to mind, “But I buffet (discipline) my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.”

I kept chanting in my head as the pace of the treadmill increased, “Buffet my body! Buffet my body!”

It’s not just about physical fitness which can be an idol in the lives of so many people, including mine, if I am not careful about its proper place. The real reason why it’s necessary to discipline the body is because we train ourselves to accommodate pain, to wait for results, to say no to the wrong things, and to persevere. In our spiritual lives these abilities are very important which is why Paul told his disciple Timothy, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness…for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7-8) Since I don’t have loads of time to dedicate to exercise, I stick to a regimen that keeps me healthy and able-bodied.

However, I want to focus on the higher purpose for fitness, which is something that all of us need to pass on to our kids as well. Admittedly, Edric and I have been less intentional with our own kids when it comes to their athletics. We agreed that the academic side of the homeschooling would be handled by me and Edric would take over the kids’ sports’ programs. However, Edric’s busy-ness has prevented him from giving their physical development the focus that he would like to give it (apart from the kids playing outdoors and signing them up for random PE classes).

This was an area of our parenting that we discussed recently because it disappointed me that our sons’ athleticism wasn’t his priority. Edric was also a varsity athlete in his highschool and college years. Given that we were both athletes, having kids who weren’t into competitive sports concerned me. We experienced the amazing benefits of working with teams, pushing our bodies, and dealing with the failures and successes of the games and tournaments we participated in. I wanted our sons to experience the same things to help them grow in character.

However, I couldn’t keep nagging Edric about this. After all the kids were excelling in other areas and they did have exercise time. Plus, they tried a number of sports – basketball, swimming, tennis, football, etc. They did pretty well in tennis and swimming, but over the summer they took a break and we haven’t re-enrolled them. Well, I figured that as they got into the high school years, Edric would direct our sons to sports that they could focus on (since that’s when it will matter in preparation for college.)

Thankfully, my parents spent a good two weeks with our kids while Edric and I were in Australia. Being the very purposeful grandparents that they are, they had our kids swim every morning and they signed up our two older sons for a basketball camp. The best thing that came out of this was that my dad spoke to Edric after we got back and emphasized that he should prioritize the boys’ training in sports. Hallelujah!

Edric really respects my dad and has a great relationship with him. So he received the suggestion positively. Just a few days before we got back to Manila Edric also showed me his revised yearly plan for our kids, which included him being more hands-on with the boys in the area of their physical development. So God was already speaking to Edric’s heart about this.

This is one of the things I appreciate about my husband. When he recognizes an area that he needs to improve on, he will do something about it. It may not always be right at the moment when the issue is brought up to him, but he will eventually take action.

Since we arrived home, he has lovingly forced our sons to exercise and he intends to involve them in his daily workouts. The boys are excited and so am I! This will provide our sons with great bonding time with their dad, and they will acquire traits like perseverance, hard work, as well as mental and physical toughness. He’s also thinking through what sports to enrol them in again.

I get our kids to go running with me but it’s different when Edric pushes them. He is able to connect with their masculinity and draw it out as well.

As for our girls, they do ballet pretty consistently. I’ve already seen the benefits in their own lives. They’ve become more confident with making friends and performing in front of others during their recitals, and they are more graceful and coordinated. Should they choose to do a more competitive sport then that would be wonderful, too. In fact, I’ve told my girls, “We need to be fit and strong as women. God has called us to care for the needs of our families. And someday, you may become moms, too. Moms need to be strong!” (Of course, women have to be physically strong for many other reasons!)

Tiana, my fourth child, echoes this to me now. When we are running around the village and I begin to see signs of fatigue in her, I ask her if she wants to rest but she will usually reply, “It’s okay, I want to become strong!”


That’s my girl!

I’m really praying that this year Edric and I will be much better at instilling bodily discipline in our kids. And beyond this, I also hope that Edric will consistently come along side our sons and guide them in the area of athletics. There are so many present and future benefits to be had, especially in the areas of their emotional, mental, and spiritual development that we have to give it importance as parents.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Courage

We had the opportunity to go to Bukidnon yesterday where we enjoyed family tiem at Dahilayan Adventure Park. World-class ziplines, ropes courses, a luge ride, a drop zone and a base jump make up for an incredible fun place to take the family.  

Since not many people were keen on traveling to the Mindanao region, the park wasn’t crowded. In fact, it was the best time to go! And, it felt very safe to be in Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro City, where we also stayed. (The military was extremely cautious and the peace and order was commendable.)

At the park, Edric challenged the boys to do some pretty difficult activities, one of which was the Base Jump. This meant they would leap from a high tower like a paratrooper (without the parachute) until the resistance from the harness kicked in. Elijah, who tends to be the adventurous one was incredibly excited. Titus, our laid back and easy going fellow, felt slightly terrified but jumped right off the platform easily. Edan, on the other hand, who is very calculated and risk-averse, actually got teary eyed when it was his turn. He was scared out of his mind. 

Some days prior, Edric encouraged our family to memorize Philippians 4:7 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The Base Jump proved to be the best application of courage for Edan who was very tempted to escape from the challenge. With the encouragement of Edric and his brothers, as well as onlookers, he inched towards the end of the platform and leaped off, tears and all! 

It was a man-building moment for him. Afterwards, Edric affirmed all the boys, especially Edan, and processed the definition of courage with them. “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is embracing the fear and overcoming it.” 

As for me, I had my own moment of terror when Edric asked me to do the Drop Zone, which involved being cradled in a swing that launched from a 120 foot point. I hate heights! But Edric convinced and suckered me to tandem-ride with him. 

I got through the ordeal without peeing in my pants so I am grateful. The first part, as usual, was the worst of it…when I felt like I was plunging to certain death. 

It looked crazy high from on top, at the launching point…Edric had to pull the chord to release us. I couldn’t have done it. 


This was the happier part…


It takes a father and husband like Edric to get our family to do these things. Even if personalities like Edan and myself would prefer to avoid vomit-inducing rides and experiences, Edric is able to pep talk us into doing them anyway. I must say that I appreciate his pushiness afterwards but when I’m in the moment I’m resistant and difficult and I say things like, “I can’t believe you are making me do this!”

Since I have three boys I can’t act like a sissy. I’ve got to keep my cool when faced with challenges so they aren’t infected by my fear. And since courage is a trait Edric is trying to instill in our kids, especially our boys, I need to help him model this for them. 

There were a bunch of other activities to enjoy in Dahilayan Adventure Park and the prices were very affordable (even for a big family). Our younger kids got to ride on the shorter ziplines and everyone had a blast! We could have spent the entire day there but we had to head back to Cagayan de Oro City to conduct a seminar.


I want to thank CCF CDO and our friends, Mel and Melanie Santos, who introduced us to this place! It was a great discovery, something the kids hope we can come back to in the future! 

Our family’s experience at Dahilayan Adventure Park made me reflect on courage. In fact, just a week prior, I finished a short book by Bill Hybels, one of his older ones, called Who You Are When No One’s Looking. He listed courage as one of the endangered traits of humanity.  

We all need to grow in courage. I certainly do. Thankfully, there are many opportunities to practice courage that count way more than getting on a thrill-seeking ride. Hybels explains, “Courage is foundational to being a Christian. It takes courage to begin a walk with Christ, to reach your hand and trust him. It takes courage to lead a life of obedience to Christ. It takes courage to be moral and to build significant relationships with your spouse, your children, and with your friends. It takes courage to expand a business, change your major or start a new career. It takes courage to leave home or to go back home.”

He also outlined five kinds of courage:

Courage in the ordinary – “It takes a great deal of courage to face life’s ordinary, everyday challenges. We choose between the right thing and the convenient thing, sticking to a conviction or caving in for the sake of comfort, greed or approval.”

Courage to be vulnerable – “The Bible says that, to become a Christian, you have to own up to your sins before a holy God…If you are too chicken to repent, then please don’t ever say Christianity is for weak people.”

Courage to follow – 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, We walk by faith, not by sight. “Cowards don’t last long in their spiritual pilgrimages…It takes enormous courage to follow God’s leading in the Christian life.”

Relational courage – Many married people do not have the courage to “fight for their marriages.” Many parents don’t have the courage to “discipline their children.” Many people can’t summon the courage to “build significant relationships with people.”

Courage to be moral – “How much courage is required to stay sexually pure in a sex-crazed culture?” A lot! 

Why can we be courageous even in the face of uncertainty, doubt, pressure, and fear? Well, let me end with the apostle Paul’s charge to us, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” (‭2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬) 

Teaching Kids to Organize Their Things

As much as possible, I try to instill in my kids the value and discipline of picking up after themselves. Even little Catalina, at three years old, is learning this habit. I need to repeat instructions with her more often than my older kids. However, they all know that in our home, your mess is your responsibility. When they forget, I remind them.

The homeschool room gets the messiest, especially at the end of the morning when cut and torn paper, writing instruments, craft materials, books and notebooks, as well as a few toys pepper the room. Catalina probably contributes to seventy percent of the disarray. 

Tiana, who doesn’t like disorder, will grab a broom and begin sweeping. Edan takes the initiative to return his books to their proper location. As for Titus and Elijah, they need some gentle pushing to motivate them to clean up as well. Everyone is supposed to put their own books away, on their designated shelves. It’s part of their learning experience, and something that I am pretty sure my future daughters and sons-in-law will thank me for. Wink. 

I have also instructed the household help to reinforce the cleaning-up-after-themselves habit for my kids. It’s so easy to be lazy and delegate tidying up to others, but my kids won’t learn about stewardship, responsibility, or organization this way.

I am not at the level of tidiness that my sister-in-law, Jenny, is…someone who is a neat freak in a good way. She’s my peg for orderliness. Yet, I would like to think that I have improved over the years of being married to a wonderful husband whose idea of a cathartic experience is to clean out his closet and de-clutter. He is strong and masculine, but I find it adorable when I see him standing in front of his side of the walk-in closet, humming a tune while taking stock of what to throw out or give away, how to re-arrange his shoes, or thoughtfully line up his shirts and pants. 

Living with someone who abhors clutter, who feels ruffled when his things are moved an inch from their original location, has caused a little bit of his OCD behavior to rub off on me. I am still messy in comparison. But we do share a common liking for keeping the home tidy. 

Very simply put…we prefer to avoid stacks of objects, books, and papers on desks or cabinets, and we throw away, donate or garage-sale surplus and unused possessions that needlessly collect dust. As I share this, I actually feel guilty about three areas in the home that require sorting yet again — the linen closet with two bins that I haven’t opened in a number of months, the guest room closet which the househelp recently stuffed with miscellaneous items, and the storage room, which is, well, collecting more storage. 

Going back to training the kids…

Recently, I was asked to write about Simply Modular: “the first modular storage system designed for those who like to constantly change interior layout and move around through the use of simple connectable planks. Planks come in different colors are self-assembled into different styles to meet the individual needs of the furniture.” 


My boys jumped on the opportunity to assemble the planks. The experience served as an application for geometry and logic. They had to configure the planks according to their design. And when they made mistakes, it was easy to take the planks apart again. 


Naturally, Titus, my mechanical son, was very eager to participate in this. Elijah, too, took charge of the building. He even instructed me what to do. 



Since the planks were made of lightweight and durable plastic, they could be assembled and transferred to any place in the house. So my kids designed the furniture pieces in the living room and then we carried them to the girls’ room. 

Tiana and Catalina were thrilled! Tiana, as I said, gets really excited about organizing her things. I know, it’s kind of weird, but nice. 

She went to work right away and begged me to help her. Since I had to leave for an appointment, I requested that we resume the task another time. Her response, “You promise, okay?” 

My goodness. This girl likes to be clean and to organize!


The only objective feedback I have on the planks is that the doors don’t close completely. I am trying to figure out a fix for this. But other than that, Simply Modular has provided me with a quick and easy solution for the girls’ storage needs. Plus, we can always redesign and remodel the planks to serve another purpose. 

Other ideas from Simply Modular:

Simply Modular Furniture System, which started in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, is quickly earning popularity among millenials with fast-paced and ever-changing lifestyles, as well as condo investors. It is fun, flexible, practical, durable and affordable, as it combines function, quality, design and value – with sustainability in mind. It is the first of its kind in the country.

Simply Modular are connectable panels that are self-assembled to form different types of furniture – a shelf, cabinet, console table, closet, bed, desk, bench, etc. They may be reused and morphed into different styles and sizes as needed. Storing the panels takes up minimal space as they are flatly stacked in a box, easily transportable. All parts, made from high quality ABS plastic, are 100% waterproof, termite-proof, rust-proof, and can hold up to 200 kilos.
More info on Simply Modular:

G/F SMDC M Place Panay Avenue Quezon City 

Tel No: 0917-637-4152 

Store Hours: 10AM – 8PM Mon – Sun

E-mail: hello@simplymodular.ph

The Friends You Choose

Even into adulthood it mattters that I surround myself with like-minded friends, women who share the same convictions, who anchor me, hold me accountable, and encourage me to love God and keep Him front and center. 

I have always believed that you can tell a lot about a person by the company he or she keeps. And I have been blessed to know women who have been there through the many seasons of change in my life — from singlehood, to becoming a wife and mom. 


Some years back, a number of these women sat me down to confront me about how I had hurt them. In shock, I listened to their grievances, unaware that I had made so many mistakes as a friend. It was humbling. 

However, the good news is that today we remain friends. I am so glad our friendship was tested the way it was. Conflict, after all, can make relationships stronger when they are dealt with positively. We are still committed to being truthful and honest with one another because we love each other. Furthermore, we are focused on growing in our relationship with God, and whatever correction or advice we receive from one another has this goal in mind. 

Every friendship I have with people at my age must be purposeful. I have to ask myself, what kind of person do I want to become and who are the people I want to surround myself with so that I become that person? When I was younger, I didn’t give this much thought. But now the stakes are higher. I don’t want to mess up as a wife or a mom, and I want to finish well as a follower of Christ. 

Therefore, peers are important. As my father has often emphasized, it is easier to be influenced negatively than to influence someone positively. He uses the illustration of a supposed “good” person standing on a chair, trying to pull up a supposed “bad” person who is standing on the ground. Gravity makes it difficult to do so. If both were to exert force on the other, the one standing on the ground would with the tug of war. In friendships, it is the same way. The impact of negative influences is so strong that you and I are likely to be swayed by the perspectives and behaviors of friends who oppose our values. Sometimes there’s a time-release effect. The corruption is gradual. 

If, for example, I frequently spent time with women who cheat on their husbands or take pleasure in illicit relationships, who enjoy gossiping about others, and get their sense of self worth from material possessions then it’s likely that I will eventually subscribe to their value system. Although the effect on my convictions may not happen right away, over months and years, I am certain that my thinking will be conformed to their way of thinking. 

I am not saying we shouldn’t reach out to people who are different than we are. This doesn’t change our mission to share the gospel and invite people into God’s kingdom. However, we have to think carefully about the persons we select as part of our inner circles. These are the persons whom we open up to, confide in, look to for counsel, and trust with our lives. 

Proverbs 13:20 puts it very practically, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

I would struggle to grow in wisdom if the close friendships I kept encouraged me towards foolishness. Since one of my weaknesses tends to be the desire to please people, I am all the more vulnerable to peer influence. So on the one hand, I do my part to saturate my mind with truth, but I also seek out people who affirm the truths I ought to live by. 

“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭

So when it comes to the friends we choose, do they push us towards love and good deeds? And are we doing the same for them? 

 

What to do About the Entitlement Mentality

The phrase “entitlement mentality” gets thrown around a lot as emblematic of today’s younger generation. Merriam Webster defines entitlement as:

  • the fact of having a right to something. “full entitlement to fees and maintenance should be offered”
  • the amount to which a person has a right. “annual leave benefits.”
  • the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. “no wonder your kids have a sense of entitlement”

I don’t see a problem with the first two definitions. Kids, for example, have the right to feel loved, secure, important, and special. God created them with these needs and He designed the family to fulfill them.

What we want to avoid, as parents, is raising kids who think they deserve privileges and preferential treatment because they have a me-centered view of reality. This is where training of their heart-attitudes has to come in.

Here are some practical ways Edric and I are trying to weed out the negative sense of entitlement in our kids:

Learn to Wait

Between Edric and me, I tend to give in more to the kids’ wants so I am thankful that Edric insists on being firm about training our kids to wait.

Last Christmas, Cetaphil, a brand that we endorse as a family, gave the kids GCs for Toys R Us. The kids were thrilled since we didn’t buy them expensive gifts for Christmas. We asked them to purchase presents for each other and gave them a fairly small budget per person to do so. When they received their GCs, the kids shrieked with joy, expecting to be able to troop to the toy store soon after. However, Edric encouraged them to postpone their urge to do so until such time as he deemed favorable.

At first, I felt badly for the kids. During Christmas we told them we would focus on serving an underprivileged community rather than make our celebration about presents. They didn’t complain when they received simple gifts. Therefore, my impulse was to reward their good attitudes.

Yet, I trusted Edric’s leading on the matter and he was wise to mandate that the kids wait once more. A few weeks ago, he finally allowed each of our kids to pick out something at the toy store. We had another photoshoot for Cetaphil where they obeyed and listened to instructions very well so Edric wanted to bless them for their positive character.


In keeping with our emphasis on learning to wait, I asked the kids not to open their purchases till the day after. Once again they complied. There was some resistance from our younger two who came up to me grasping their new toys hoping that they could persuade me to change my mind by batting their pretty eyelashes. But I didn’t cave in and insisted that tomorrow wasn’t very far away. They understood and eagerly anticipated waking up the next morning. Exercising self-control allowed them to thoroughly enjoy the moment when they opened their toys.

Whenever parents express concern about their kids being entitled, Edric and I ask them to think through what sort of environment and values they are perpetuating at home. It’s not our children’s faults when they grow up feeling like the “world owes them.” Most likely, it’s due to the way we are raising them.

One problem may be too much too soon. For example, many parents feel upset about their kids’ addiction to gadgets but they supply their children with devices to begin with. Furthermore, these gadgets are usually given when their children are too young to self-regulate the amount of time they spend on these.

We made this mistake with Catalina when she was younger. Needing to appease her and keep her preoccupied, we would hand my phone to her. However, this had a detrimental affect on her personality. She began to resort to whining when she couldn’t use my phone, thinking it was her right to have it as a form of entertainment. So we had a season of “unplugging” for her.

Now, when I tell her, “Catalina, you can’t play with that or you can’t have that,” more often than not her reply is, “Okay, mommy.” Before, she would arch her head back and cry, sulk, or roll around on the couch or bed to emphasize her disappointment. By God’s grace, she has improved a lot!

Humility and Service

Philippians 2:5-7 reads, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”

Jesus was God but did not insist on being treated like God, nor did he demand the privileges that belonged to Him. He did not appear in His glorious form but in the form of man whom He created. As if this wasn’t humbling enough, He regarded Himself as a servant, not just any servant, but the lowliest of all — a bond servant.

The word for bondservant in Greek is Doulos which implies slave, one who gives himself up to another’s will, or to be devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. (Source:http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/doulos.html)

“The King of the Universe, the Lord of glory, voluntarily became a pauper for our sake. He had to borrow a place to be born, a boat to preach from, a place to sleep, a donkey to ride upon, an upper room to use for the last supper, and a tomb in which to be buried. He created the world but the world did not know Him. He was insulted, humiliated, and rejected by the people He made. (Source: Ken Boa, Reflections Newsletter, May 1988.)

Our children have inherent worth as people created in the image of God, but like Christ, they don’t have to insist or demand to be treated as special. Neither should they expect the “world to revolve around their needs and wants.”

Instead, they can copy Christ’s example. He set aside His privileges and position to serve our needs. This act of humility didn’t diminish His worth, instead it allowed Him to accomplish the purpose for which He came to earth — the sacrifice of His life on the cross to pay for our sins which met our greatest need — forgiveness. Similarly, are we teaching our children to seek the highest good of others? Are we exemplifying this ourselves?

Edric and I have five kids with five different personalities, and all of them manifested a self-centered perspective early on in their lives. By two years old it was usually full blown in its ugliness and without intervention and consistent training, all of our kids would have been out of control by now. While they continue to struggle with selfishness (who doesn’t?), they understand that as a family we are committed to serving the Lord and others. We are on this earth to be a blessing.

In order to emphasize this, we expose our children to ministry activities where they must serve and think of the needs of others. When our kids minister alongside Edric and me, they experience what it is like to go outside of their comfort zones and channel their God-given talents towards caring for others. In the process they realize that they can live purposefully, beyond the pursuit of self-gratification.


This usually happens when our kids are at the age when they can express their personal reflections and insights. At about nine or ten years of age, we give them opportunities to stand in front of audiences to share what God is teaching them.

Elijah was more natural at this but we asked Edan to participate as well about three years ago. We avoided forcing him. But when he finally got to experience speaking along side us his heart attitude changed. He now says, “I want to be a blessing!”

Edric and I have also learned from my brother and sister-in-law who are part of the sports ministry of our church. They include my nephews and niece in their outreaches whenever possible. At present, their kids also disciple other children and lead bible studies for them. Edric and I asked our kids to do this as well but they got discouraged when their first few attempts didn’t produce desired results. The kids they were teaching preferred to play! However, we have challenged our older children to get these studies started again.

Contribute

Our desire is to instill in our kids what it means to be contributors rather than takers. Whether it is serving in ministry or helping out at home, we want our kids to take initiative to meet the needs they see and learn the value of work. 

Edric recently required the boys to take care of the yard with him.  At first our kids resisted, especially Edan who prefers to be indoors. However, after our kids experienced mowing the grass, taking out the big shears to trim plants, shrubs and branches, sweeping and collecting dead leaves (and then burning them to roast marshmallows), they realized that doing chores together can be a lot of fun! Our yard is still in dismal shape and needs a lot of beautifying! 

Since we have household help we don’t want our kids to feel like someone is always there to pick up after them, straighten their rooms, and respond to their every request. They are able-bodied enough to fix their beds, clean their mess, and be responsible for their toys and belongings.



During our trip to Dubai, Edric had the boys sort through all their clothing and pack their own luggage. I usually prepare all their clothes and shoes, but Edric forbade me from doing so this time around. He reminded me that the boys are old enough to exercise independence in this area, that it was necessary for them to do so, too. At first, I hesitated to agree with him for fear that our sons would forget important articles of clothing.

However, I praise God that I listened to Edric because I haven’t had to micromanage how they pair their outfits or keep track of what goes into their suitcases. They have taken the initiative to put away their clothes and select what they will wear every day which makes it a lot easier for me since I only have to worry about the girls’ luggages. 

Stewardship

Even if our kids technically have material possessions that belong to them, we tell them they don’t own anything. God owns everything we have as a family. We are just stewards of these blessings, therefore our response needs to be one of appreciation and conscientiousness about taking care of what is the Lord’s. Since we don’t own anything, it becomes easier for our kids to share as well. No one is allowed to say, “This is mine!” 

Frugality and Thriftiness

While we don’t want our children to worry about money, we don’t want them to think it comes easily either. It starts with us, as parents, modeling simplicity. When our kids observe us demonstrate restraint it motivates them to do the same. When we don’t exercise discretion they tend to think they can spend indiscriminately, too.

My older boys hold me accountable now. Elijah will challenge me in a polite way by asking, “Mom, do you really need that? Mom, that’s kind of expensive…”

Since Elijah and Edan earn money when they do jobs for Edric, they understand that a lot of effort is entailed in saving and accumulating wealth. It probably helps that we don’t give them allowances since they are homeschooled. Instead, they get paid when they do actual work. As a result, they exercise caution when spending their money, too. They prefer to invest their funds in stocks in order to grow it for future use.

Elijah and Edan both have individual stock portfolios. Their investment philosophy is invest in companies with a healthy track record, give good value for money, and are aligned with their personal convictions. For example, they prefer not to put their earnings into companies that sell junk food. Good call, boys!

Giving children a vision for what they can accomplish if they can save and invest money also keeps their impulses at bay. For example, when Elijah was eleven years old, he bought himself an IPad to increase his productivity. His rationale was, it was a “business investment.” He paid seventy-five percent of the cost of an IPad Air after researching and bidding for the best deal. We didn’t just hand him a new device even though he was old enough to responsibly handle one. We let him save up for it and go through the trouble of finding the best deal. As a result, he has taken very good care of his IPad and he uses it to learn about coding, program, track his stocks, and communicate with. 

Gratefulness

One of the best cures for entitlement is gratitude. This past week Edric had the kids memorize, “In everything give thanks.” (1 Timothy 5:17) Since we are in the Middle East, meeting with old and new friends, visiting different sites and learning about a unique culture, our kids may not always appreciate every experience we have. Furthermore, they may forget to express their sincere thanks when people treat us or take us to places. Church friends have been so hospitable and accommodating towards us that our kids can become spoiled, too! (We feel spoiled!) So we have repeatedly reminded them to be grateful, to avoid being demanding or upset when their expectations are not met. After all, we don’t deserve the kindness being  showered upon us.

Gratitude also helps to guard our hearts from greed, one of the symptoms of entitlement. I don’t know how many of you are from Chinese families but here’s something that I appreciated about what my father did in ours. (I am half Chinese, my father being the Chinese parent and my mother being the American one.) Growing up, my father didn’t raise my siblings and me to bank on inheritance. So my siblings and I avoided planning our lives based on the expectation that our dad’s businesses, investments, and properties would be handed down to us. Instead, my dad assessed whatever needs we had through the years and blessed us when he saw it fit to do so.

He decided what was fair and still decides what is fair because he is still alive. In the process, he also gets to enjoy whatever “gifts” he gives us.

More importantly, my parents emphasized and continue to emphasize faith in the Lord as the unifying identity of our family. They still disciple us as their grown up children (as well as our spouses and children). As a result, we share the same values and perspectives on family, ministry, work, and wealth, and have a deep love and loyalty towards one another.


Nevertheless, I continue to pray that money will never come between us. I know it happens to the best of families and ours isn’t immune so it is by God’s grace alone that we desire what is best for one another and rejoice when we see each other prosper. Some of us have more than others and even though there may be times when it’s tempting to compare lifestyles and privileges, what safeguards our hearts and minds is the truth that all things come from the Lord’s hand. Whom he chooses to bless materially is in accordance with his pleasing and perfect will. 

“Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19
At the end of the day, I believe that a negative sense of entitlement boils down to a theological issue. It may be hard for kids to grasp this when they are young, but as they grow up, we need to remind them that every person is a recipient of grace. All of us are un-deserving of God’s grace, yet He forgave us and gave us the right to become His children.

“Yet to all who did receive him (Jesus Christ), to those who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”John 1:12

If we understand grace then we will be gracious when we aren’t treated the way we hope to be, when we don’t get our way, or when we fail to receive what we think we deserve to have. Why? Jesus Christ has met our desperate need for forgiveness. Our Heavenly Father has satisfied our deepest longings for love and acceptance. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to break away from the pain and bondage of sin. And our best life is yet to be, in heaven. Therefore, any good thing bestowed upon us today is a bonus! So we, and our children, can learn to wait, be humble and servant-like, contribute (work hard), be good stewards, practice thriftiness and frugality, and remember to say thank you! 


  

 

Extreme Patience Required (EPR)

I have a son, who will remain unnamed in case he reads this someday, who likes to take his time…all the time. He has little sense of urgency. This becomes a source of frustration for each family member when we are rushing to an event or have to honor a commitment and are pressed for time. 
Whether it’s eating, dressing up, homeschooling, or finishing responsibilities, his tendency is to delay, be distracted, and lose focus. Over the years, Edric and I have disciplined and trained him to be otherwise but it continues to be a challenge. Edric even got him a watch so he could use it to track his time but he lost it! 

Extreme patience is often required of us as we teach and train our son. Furthermore, we have to carefully consider the positive side of his personality type. Because he is such a chill person and so easy going, he isn’t a reactive, easily angered person. He doesn’t make demands on others, harbor bitterness, and his default disposition is joyfulness. So Edric and I have to manage the tension between training him and encouraging his God-given uniqueness. 

These past few days we have been in Dubai. Edric and I are here for a series of talks and business activities and we took the kids with us. Almost every meal, our son who likes to take his time is the last to finish. Before we head out the door, he is putting a shoe on, using the toilet, looking for a jacket, or in the middle of something he should have completed thirty minutes earlier. 

During one of these occasions when everyone was out the door and he hobbled out of it with one shoe on and a sock and a shoe in his hand, I asked him what he was doing for the last hour and his reply was, “Umm…I was swiveling around in the chair of the room.” 

Seriously, he can do absolutely nothing for stretches of time and find this deeply gratifying. He’s a stop-to-smell-the-roses kind of person…”stopping” being the key word. 

Like I said, this personality type comes with its strengths. However, Edric and I move about so quickly that it’s tiring to wait for this son of ours to mobilize. This trip has magnified his character flaw, so it has been a real lesson in patience for both of us. 

I nearly failed as a parent when this son lost a piece of his expanders (it’s like a retainer for the mouth to open up the jaw). The accident happened after he forgot to be ready at the hour we agreed upon and Edric and I had to get to the venue of a seminar we were speaking at. Edric couldn’t be delayed so he went ahead to set up his laptop while I tried to hurry our son along.

Unfortunately, a very important piece of his expanders flew out of its container and landed on a tiled floor that had patterns which completely camouflaged the piece. So I nearly cried in aggravation as this accident required me to get down on my hands and knees while in my heels to comb through each surface area of the tiled floor to feel for the piece. 

This is ridiculous!, I thought to myself. Why does __________________ do these things?! Ahhhh!!!! 

Meanwhile my son showed no distress whatsoever which kind of irked me! I reminded him, “You can’t do this…make everyone wait for you. It’s inconsiderate. It’s something you have to change and improve on, okay?”

I am glad the annoyance came out of me in that way rather than shouting at him like I felt compelled to do. My patience had reached its limit and it took the grace of God to contain my irritation! Thankfully, I was about to do a ministry activity with Edric which kept me mindful of my responses. But if I hadn’t been in prayer that day, or spent a good chunk of it preparing for my talk and being in the Word of God, I am sure my emotions would have taken over in a very ugly manner. 

We didn’t find the piece after about ten minutes of searching which was all I could spare before my seminar. So the kids and I left the hotel room and hung a DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door knob so we could resume our search later on in the evening. At the end of our day, our son did his best to find the piece and recover it which was good news. (These expanders are pricey!) 

Edric and I have considered how to help him after our speaking engagement. I believe the root problem for him is discipline. He has to train his mind to plan wisely and resist the impulses he feels to move on to something else when there is a task at hand. He also needs to discipline his body so that it follows the dictates of his mind. 

Here are some solutions that Edric and I intend to apply:

1. Don’t stop training him until he develops a sense of urgency, proactive-ness, and responsibility. As tiring as it may be to keep telling him the same thing over and over again, the burden is on us to do so until he internalizes and applies these things on his own. 

2. Stay beside him when he homeschools and eats his meals so we can monitor him. Yesterday evening, I sat beside him and he downed his soup and pasta in a fraction of the time it usually takes him. This is because I got to remind him constantly and reach over to rub his back every time he got distracted. 

3. Commend him when he puts effort into quickening his pace. Because he gets corrected a lot, we don’t want him to grow up with insecurities or feel like he is compared to his siblings who don’t have the same issue. So we have to balance out our training with affirmation, too. This also means communicating to him that he is unconditionally loved and accepted, too. 

4. Correct him in private. His siblings tend to feel the same annoyance that we do towards his mannerisms and personality, so it’s unhealthy for them to hear us correct him in front of them. This will only fuel their aggravation. 

5. Edric intends to spend more focused time with him. After all, he’s a boy and there’s nothing like the attention and mentoring of a father to a son. 

6. Extend grace. This son of ours makes mistakes quite often and as tempting as it is to lose our tempers with him, we absolutely cannot as it will destroy the seeds of faith that have been planted in his heart. Our greater desire for him is that he loves and obeys the Lord. If we do not respond to him in ways that are spirit-filled, and if we do not ask for forgiveness when we fail in this area, we will push him farther away from us and this goal. 

7. Thank the Lord for Him. His personality is a blessing and his life is a beautiful gift. Does he need to keep improving in certain areas? Of course. But it doesn’t make him less special or important to us or the Lord. So we need to thank the Lord for being intentional about giving us a son with his unique traits.

8. Pray. Edric and I need to remember that we can’t control our kids. We may be able to train them and discipline them, but their hearts are another matter. This is God’s department. He is the one who causes real transformation of the heart so that the behavior follows. Prayer acknowledges our dependence on Him to make this happen. 

I don’t know if this son of ours sounds like one of your kids. But if he does, be encouraged. Faithful discipleship always produces fruit. 

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:11‬ ‭


 

Hedgehog & Gameboard Issues & God’s Love 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I waited. He took a moment.

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

Edan began to sob. 

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

He pointed it out to me…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

When Disappointment is a Good Thing

I like to rescue my kids from consequences and problems, and this probably echoes the sentiment of most parents who are well-meaning. Who wants their child to suffer or experience pain? None of us.

Yet, children grow through disappointments. As my father used to tell me, “Disappointments are good for children.” He meant this in the context of not giving in to what they always want, and letting them experience failure, too.

A few weeks ago, the kids and I were at the bookstore. Tiana begged me for a certain toy. It was a stuffed animal, one that resembled other ones she already had. I denied her request and she met this refusal with a sad, pouty face. I left her alone to stew in her emotions. The boys picked out books but she came away with nothing. 


It was clear from her posture and the manner in which she hunched her shoulders forward and bowed her head down that she felt upset with me. She’s six now and I gave her time to think through her feelings before correcting her.

After several hundred meters of walking around the mall, she reverted to her chirpy self. It didn’t kill her not to have that toy. The disappointment enlarged her capacity to deny herself material things. 

At home, I commended her for changing her attitude and choosing to be positive even if she didn’t get what she wanted. She beamed as I told her, “I am proud of you.” 

Two Saturdays ago, I let the boys “fail forward.” They were supposed to join a science fair for homeschoolers. But they didn’t prioritize conceptualizing a worthwhile idea and seeing it through to the end. Although they tried two or three experiments, they surrendered when these didn’t pan out according to their expectations. Instead of pushing themselves to try again, they procrastinated and got distracted by other activities. As a result, they refused to join the science fair for lack of a mind-blowing project that they could be proud of. 

Initially, I felt annoyed with them. Why were they whimping out so easily?! Why didn’t they display more resolve to do their science project, ANY science project?! 

My next instinct was to rescue them and come up with something so they could participate and redeem themselves. But that would have interfered with a life lesson they needed to learn. 

When we got to the fair, Elijah was especially frustrated with himself. I talked to him privately and he admitted to me, “It was wrong that we gave up so easily. We should have pushed ourselves and tried harder.”

This realization proved to be a valuable lesson on how opportunities are squandered due to wrong attitudes and perspectives. The kids wanted to make something impressive but since they couldn’t in their first few attempts, they simply gave up and complained. 

Our kids may get a lot of affirmation and encouragement at home but they have to be prepared for the eventuality that not everyone is going to applaud their work, give them a medal, or thank them. They aren’t going to be appreciated for their efforts all the time. Therefore it’s beneficial for their character growth to experience disappointment and failure without Edric or myself running to save them every time they don’t get what they want or when they make mistakes. If their lives are in danger then of course this emergency would warrant their rescuing. Otherwise, there are a great many lessons to be learned that will toughen them up as they deal with the frustration that comes from blocked goals, unrealized dreams and wants, conflict, and unfavorable circumstances. 

Growing up, I appreciated the emphasis my parents put on perspective. Perspective is so important because what we think determines how we act and move forward in life. Here are some truths that our children need to have as anchors that will hook them back to right thinking and wise decision making when they go through life’s disappointments:

1. Relax. God is in control. My mom used to encourage me by saying, there’s always a God-ordained reason for the things that happen. We can trust that God is sovereign and at work. As a result, my mom wasn’t ever a stressed out person. Similarly, children need to relax when their plans don’t come to fruition and when they mess up. As Romans 8:28 says, God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

2. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. There’s a difference between self-esteem (thinking you are so awesome) and God-confidence (knowing that your abilities come from the Lord.) Our children will face seemingly impossible situations that will overwhelm them physically, emotionally and spiritually. They have to remember that their strength comes from the One who is all-almighty. If He should will their success, then He can accomplish this through them. Nothing is impossible with Him! 

3. Success doesn’t come without trial, discipline, and struggle, so don’t give up! There’s no such thing as overnight success. Whatever is worth doing entails hard work and loads of effort. Keep going. My dad used to harp on this principle: Never say it can’t be done. Find a way. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭9:10‬

4. Don’t be entitled. Be grateful and content. When my kids told me one day, “Even our friends in Sunday School have cell phones,” my response was, “Well, isn’t it great that you guys are home schooled? You don’t need cell phones.” End of discussion.

As a parent there are occasions when I am tempted to give my kids what they want because I don’t want them to feel like they are “deprived.” But that is dangerous thinking. It’s called parent peer pressure! 

A wise parent must know when to withhold blessing even if it’s in their capacity to bestow it. God exemplifies this for us. He has infinite capacity yet he tempers material blessings according to our good. Similarly, we have to evaluate whether our kids really NEED something (in which case we should try our best to provide it), or if it’s merely a WANT that feeds self-centered thinking. Furthermore, just because other kids out there have toys, gadgets or privileges that our kids may not have doesn’t mean our kids are disadvantaged. Their happiness doesn’t have to be tied to material things. 

Entitlement in children is usually handed down by entitlement in us as parents. It’s a mentality that declares, I deserve this and that. I owe it to myself. People owe it to me. I can’t be happy unless I get what I want or what others have. If our kids don’t see us exercising restraint and self control when it comes to material things, or when they see us complain when we are inconvenienced, we pass on this same entitlement attitude to our kids. So we need to model gratitude and contentment. Otherwise, our kids will be derailed by disappointment when they are denied comforts, pleasures or material things that they want. 


When our kids have the right perspective on disappointment it can be a positive experience that prepares them for the challenging environments that they will enter into. Someday (and even now), when they aren’t always catered to, when circumstances are unfavorable or when they fail, they will be able to rise up with courage and resolve to pursue God’s plan for them and achieve the kind of success that glorifies Him. 

As the apostle Paul said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” ‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:8-10, 16-18‬ 
 

When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

Edric and I were awoken at 3 AM to the sound of what we thought to be thunder. It wasn’t until the morning that we were informed by our house help that the wall of our rip-rap fell into the street below.

Shocking! It looked like rubble after a bombing – rocks piled on one another and the earth exposed.

My two thoughts were, Thank goodness this didn’t happen when our kids were playing in our backyard! God is merciful. God protected us. We had a houseful of children because my nephews and nieces spent the night, too. Praise God they weren’t harmed either.

But my second thought was, Oh my goodness! What a disaster! 

I was tempted to blame the people behind our wall’s construction, but where would that have gotten me? As I began to mouth out my frustration, Edric reminded me that this wasn’t going to be productive. He was right.

We took a morning jog and I decided to pray and thank the Lord that he kept us safe. In the grand scheme of things, it was just a wall. Sure, there was major damage to it and it’s going to be costly to repair it. But this Is something fixable. It’s not a person’s life, and praise God, it’s not one our children’s lives we are talking about here.

As I surveyed the rubble and looked at the mess it left on the street, I meditated on several spiritual observations:

First, there’s always something to be grateful for. Our wall may be a tragic mess but we still have our lives and our home. Much of the world can’t enjoy a comfortable home. At least we have one. And by God’s grace, it’s comfortable. Therefore my heart is thankful.

Second, the wall that fell represents what is physical. The earth underneath represents what is within all of us — the spiritual person. Our wall tumbled down but the soil remained compact and stable.

We will go through circumstances in our lives where the walls around us will crumble. Maybe we will experience sickness, financial struggles, relationship issues, or we will enter into a season of obscurity after the high of a success. Whatever it is, will our inner persons survive? What will hold us together?

Years ago when everything I understood about the world was torn apart because I was a victim of rape, I came to a cross road where I had to choose what I would believe in. What would I cling to as truth? Would I choose the path of hatred, unforgiveness, anger, fear, and doubt? I knew these emotions would lead me down a dark path…the wrong one. So I determined to hope in who God is and to interpret what happened through spiritual lenses. He gave me the grace to forgive the men who violated me, which put me on the road to healing.

Colossians 1:17 tells us, “He (Jesus) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This has been true in my life and in the lives of countless people who have embraced this reality. Jesus will hold us together during times of crises.

Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Have you ever met people who have gone through incredibly difficult circumstances and yet the Lord transformed them into more beautiful versions of the persons they once were? I have! I have met amazing people who were victims of tragedy and yet they have blessed the world with their testimonies. They have declared what God has done and pointed others to Him.

In tough times, it is the inner person who is revealed. We may be able to hide behind pretenses and mask who we really are, but when we encounter obstacles; when people wrong us; when we lose something or someone important to us; and when we fall on desperate times, our true selves will be made manifest. That’s when we will recognize what anchors us, and what defines us. And this is what others will see, too!

Third, it isn’t the walls of our home that keep us safe at night. We can build a fortress to protect ourselves from intruders, natural disasters, and other calamities. However it is the Lord who makes us “dwell in safety.” “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) True security is to know that God is sovereign and in control.

Fourth, this world is not my home. Last Sunday, Edric preached a wonderful message in CCF Baguio entitled, “Act Like a Citizen of Heaven.” He challenged the audience to adapt attitudes and behaviors that glorify God and to set our mind on heavenly things. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)

Well, I believe that God wanted Edric and I to apply this message! So He gave us an opportunity to do so through this unprecedented disaster. Indeed, the broken things of this world remind us that we are destined for a better one.

On this earth we witness decay, death, and destruction. Therefore, let us NOT hope in what is temporal and passing. Let us not live like this is as good as it gets. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) May God open our eyes to recognise what He is doing as He molds our character through earthly struggles by way of people or circumstances, and may we look to Him for the life and peace that He gives and promises.

This has been a tough two weeks for me emotionally, and the wall falling was like an exclamation point in the midst of it all. Yet God has been my comfort. He has been my ROCK. “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” Psalms‬ ‭62:6‬

Maybe something is happening in your life right now and the walls are tumbling down, or maybe you are standing in the heap of the rubble, in the aftermath of a tragedy. I pray that you will find your sure footing on the rock that is Christ. He will uphold you. He will help you rebuild what has been broken.

Are You in the Wilderness? 

One Christmas, my daughter received a set of Dora the Explorer clips, hairpins, and slippers from my mom. Instead of thanking her grandma, she flipped out and burst into tears. I don’t want Dora!

I couldn’t believe it! This was my sweet Tiana. How could she respond with such ingratitude? Of course I was deeply embarrassed and apologized profusely to my mom who was very positive about the whole thing, but I was more concerned about Tiana’s attitude and perspective.

When her emotions settled, I took her aside and had a conversation with her. I discovered that she was afraid her cousins would make fun of her Dora things and she wanted something else. In short, she forgot all about her grandma personally picking out the Dora present for her and she focused only on herself.

It became an opportunity to instruct her heart, but it also revealed the very human tendency that all my children have (myself included) to be ungrateful.

Beyond the bad attitude, ungratefulness, on a more serious level, is a rejection of God’s will and plan for us. To grumble is to doubt His character, specifically His goodness, loving kindness and sovereignty.

It equivalent to saying, “I don’t believe you really care about me, Lord, or that you want what is good for me. I don’t deserve what is happening to me. If you really love me, you would take this away or improve my circumstances.”

This is what the Israelites did when they grumbled many times in the wilderness, forgetting how God manifested His power and faithfulness in their midst and choosing to focus on what they missed about Egypt. In my quiet time today, I read about the Israelites complaining that they didn’t have any meat to eat. They were tired of the manna.

Wait a second! Who gets to eat sweet flakes that fall from heaven and settle on the ground like dew?! God provided for them in a miraculous way every day!

“It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (Exodus 16:31)

Yet I am far removed from the physical conditions that the Israelites had to weather. I can’t imagine living in tents from one sandy place to another, with five children in tow, bearing the extremes of hot days and cold nights, wondering how I will feed and clothe my family, and listening to instructions from an old man who used to be a Egyptian prince, who became a murderer and then a shepherd and now a prophet.

Whut?! This is messed up. No home, no steady job, no time table for when the experience will end, and no concept of where we are going except that I need to trust that God is speaking to and through Moses because he’s God’s mouthpiece. He’s the prophet who performed all the miracles to rescue my family. Maybe I am crazy for going along with this plan and hazarding the lives of my family. Maybe Egypt was still better. Work was tremendously hard but at least I could count on shelter and food. This, however, is not what I signed up for! I am not discounting the miracles, but I can’t help thinking that I miss my old life.

When I count the realities of what the Israelites endured, especially through the eyes of a mother, I can understand that it must have been challenging to believe that they were better off in the desert.

Some years ago a good friend of mine lost her husband in her early thirties and was left to care for three young childern. She was in a position of real need, physically and emotionally. I didn’t even know what to say to comfort her.

Like the Israelites, I wasn’t sure what God’s plan was all about. And I was tempted to think that God made a mistake in this instance. But it also dawned on me very recently that we can be so consumed with the difficulty of our circumstances that it eclipses the faithfulness of God entirely. We fail to appreciate every thing He has done and is doing.

I felt convicted about my own ingratitude for the many ways that God provides, protects and prospers us on a daily basis. For example, our house is three stories high. Besides that, it sits on a hill. So it towers above the ground of our backyard at about 20 meters. If any of our children were to fall off the highest floor of our house, they would die. Last year, during one of the occasions when their cousins came over to play, my daughter, Tiana, and my niece, Teegan, climbed over the railing of the third floor and stepped onto the two and a half foot wide glass ledge that hangs over the backyard.

They attempted to get a discarded milk carton that one of the cousins tossed onto the ledge. Thankfully and only by God’s divine protection, they did not fall or slip! When I found out about it, it was after-the-fact, as the other children reported the incident to me. I nearly cried from the horror of thinking they could have died!

God watches over our children all the time. However, we tend to make a bigger deal about the instances when He allows them to get sick, injured, or hurt and wonder if He really cares about us. Or, maybe it’s not about our kids. Maybe we look at the problems in our own relationships and circumstances, and feel like life is unfair, that we deserve better.

Similarly, the Israelites scorned the manna God sustained them with instead of appreciating what it was and what it symbolized. They perceived it as a curse rather than a blessing as they cried out for meat, wishing to return to Egypt. They looked at what they didn’t have. But, hello, short-term memory! Egypt = slavery!

“Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.’ Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?”‘ Numbers‬ ‭11:18-20

In Egypt they groaned under severe bondage, and God rescued them with a full feature show of His incredible power through the 10 plagues, and the parting of the sea. But in the desert, they still called out, give us Egypt! Despite the many instances that God displayed His ability to take care of them, they did not trust Him.

This is so emblematic of our tendency to forget what God has done for us. We don’t recognize what He has saved us from and continues to save us from. Sure, the desert wasn’t Disneyland. It was unpredictable, uncomfortable and perilous, but God gave the Israelites everything they needed.

We read this in Nehemiah 9:19-21, “You (God), in Your great compassion, did not forsake them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, to guide them on their way, nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go. You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, and You gave them water for their thirst. Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.” Nehemiah‬ ‭9:2, 19-21‬ ‭

As I sit here, pondering the heart condition of the Israelites, I can’t judge them for their better off-as-a-slave-in-Egypt-than-in-the-desert-with-God mindset. The Israelites were indoctrinated by a culture and belief system of a nation whose people worshipped counterfeit versions of God, whose Pharaoh exalted himself as god and treated them as possessions to abuse and control. So the Israelites needed a soul detox experience to flush out wrong perspectives, appetites, and values that were not just anti-God, but anti-freedom…anti-fullness of life.

This leads me to believe that God’s methods for rescuing us haven’t changed. Perhaps the meaning of “desert” has. We go through different versions of the wilderness in our own lifetimes. And it’s tempting to express discontentment and to grumble, to lose faith in who God is and in His promises.

But God’s purpose remains the same. First, He aims to bring us to the point of recognizing that He is what we need and want — that Egypt represents our state of slavery to sin and a life bound for destruction and He represents our salvation. (By the way, we all come from Egypt.)

Second, the discontentment and discomfort we experience that lead us to compare or cry out, not fair, I don’t deserve this, or why me, is very often God taking us through the wilderness to liberate us from a culture and belief system that has enslaved us to counterfeit pleasure, freedom, and happiness. Sometimes this means that time in the desert will take longer than we hope it will. And sometimes this means that we will be at very desperate points when we are thirsty, hungry and tired of the wilderness living.

However, I do believe that God means for us to see beyond the water, manna and the meat. God knows we need physical solutions and He can easily provide these. But He sees our greater spiritual need and seeks to be the answer to it.

Furthermore, to be hungry is not the most tragic thing. It is the poverty mindset — thinking we are stuck in a desert, abandoned and forgotten, and in need of more (be it money, popularity, control, relationships or maybe even physical well-being) in order to be satisfied. But until our hunger is directed towards God, we will never be content with the little or the much that we have. Our cravings will not cease when we alleviate them with temporal, immediate, earth-centered fixes. Life will feel like a perpetual wilderness even if it may look like paradise to others.

In his book, Life Without Limits, limbless but amazing Nick Vujicic poignantly stated,”Life isn’t about having, it’s about being. You could surround yourself with all that money can buy, and you’d still be as miserable as a human can be. I know people with perfect bodies who don’t have the happiness I’ve found. On my journeys I’ve seen more joy in the slums of Mumbai and the orphanages of Africa than in wealthy gated communities and on sprawling estates worth millions.”

No matter where we go to seek for satisfaction in the world, the answer isn’t going to come from the world. Every person and place that looks like the answer can very soon turn into a wilderness that leaves us wanting and aching for more. In contrast, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John‬ ‭6:35‬ ‭

God knows when we are hungry. He knows when we thirst. He made us. But these physical yearnings are meant to open our eyes to the spiritual reality of what we truly hunger and thirst for. Until we learn the lessons intended for us in the wilderness, we cannot be ready for the Promised Land. Our cravings and inclinations will remain earth-centered when they ought to be Christ-centered. Only He can develop in us a hunger and thirst for what pleases Him.

As I end this reflection of my time in the Word, I better understand why contentment is a condition of the heart more than anything else. When I was newly married, Edric and I didn’t have much money. We got married young. But since I came from a family with means, I felt embarrassed at times that I couldn’t afford the same luxuries my parents or siblings had. And somehow I felt like money afforded me a sense of security and self worth. In its absence or the lack of it, I began to feel discontent. God had to teach me that money is not what will make me happy.

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Instead, contentment was being able to say, Lord, I thank you and trust you through every season and circumstance. You are my bread, the sustainer of my soul. You have given me everything I need to accomplish your purposes and to know you. Thank you for providing for my needs. But more importantly, thank you for saving me from a life of sin and destruction. As long as you are with me, I can go through the deserts of life. Let me learn the principles you intend for me to embrace, so I will be prepared for your promised land. 

I have to remind myself of the same things even today. There will always be wants that I wrestle with. I pray you and I will be encouraged by the words of Paul: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13