Cozy Cabin Honesty

It’s a miracle when twenty-three people can live in a cabin together for four days and not go crazy. Soon after Christmas day, my parents along with four of us siblings and our families traveled to Tahoe Donner.

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We rented a beautiful, huge cabin that had five large rooms to house all of our families. It came with a Jacuzzi, too!

The weather was perfect – super cold so the kids could experience a “real” winter, and it snowed the day before we left.

I went sledding for the first time and threw a couple of snowballs. I didn’t realize how much a snowball could hurt! One of my nephews got a bloody lip (not by my doing!)

The highlight for me was sitting around the dinner table with my siblings and parents, and our spouses as we shared about our marriages. My parents try to do this with us periodically in Manila but we are all pretty busy so it’s not a consistent activity. This vacation we were stuck in the house together so the opportunity presented itself when the kitchen was cleaned up and the kids were busy entertaining one another.

Each one of us gave insight into our relationships. I shared that Edric and I don’t have any major issues except that I react to his impatience and irritation when these traits are manifest. It’s not often that he will get upset but I noticed that he was edgier during this trip. This was the first time he had to do chores and help me take care of all of our kids. I know he learned a lot about sacrifice and service. He would say this vacation made him a better man and I wholeheartedly agree. However, there were a few incidences when he lost his cool.

Thankfully, we resolved whatever issues we had between us, and we were able to come before my parents and siblings to openheartedly hear their perspectives on our marital issues. As the more intense person between us, Edric is more prone to irritation when he has to deal with inefficiencies and inconveniences. But my mistake is challenging his responses and correcting him when he is upset which snowballs the situation into an unnecessary argument or unhealthy discussion.

For example, Edric was stern with Elijah for playing with his baby cousin, Joshua, near the garage door. When Edric walked through the door, he accidentally knocked Joshua on the head and blamed Elijah for sitting in the way. This time I pounced back by throwing the Tupperware I was putting away into the cupboard. Edric noticed this and challenge me by asking, “What?!” To which I replied while stooped behind the kitchen island and away from Elijah’s vista, “Don’t talk to him (Elijah) like that.” He mistakenly heard, “Don’t talk to me.” So he countered, “No, you don’t talk to me,” which doubly irked me. However, I stopped inciting Edric because neither of us was in the right frame of mind to resolve our altercation at that moment.

That evening Edric and I had a date night with my sister, Candy, and her husband, Jeff. They were holding hands while strolling through the streets of Old Sacramento, unaware that Edric and I had a tiff with one another earlier that day. Edric and I were walking about two feet apart behind Jeff and Candy. I leaned over to Edric and asked, “Do you have something to say to me?” insinuating that I had received no apology for his earlier behavior. He replied, “Nope. Do you have something to say to me?”

Seriously?! I thought. He was the prime instigator of our conflict earlier! I kept silent wishing he would put his arm around me and apologize because we were walking in 7 degree Celsius weather that night. Plus, I wanted to maximize this date night since we hired babysitters who weren’t cheap!

Still, Edric didn’t budge, so I proudly held my own position, shivering inside. After a few minutes, he wandered off to buy a mistletoe from a street vendor who was raising money to help his sister travel to Washington D.C. (Edric is drawn to random attractions that other people don’t always notice.) I don’t know if Edric was planning to hold that mistletoe over my head in the hopes for a kiss but that was the last thing I wanted to do.

In the meantime, Jeff, Candy, and I were seated in the restaurant talking about our marriages. I volunteered to confess that Edric and I were kind of fighting. (Usually I won’t do this until I work it out with Edric first.) Candy’s advice was exactly what I didn’t want to hear but needed to. She suggested I apologize to Edric for reacting to his outburst. Even if he was not right for getting unnecessarily upset, she told me to humble myself because that’s what God would want me to do.

When Edric came into the restaurant (without the mistletoe because he didn’t have small change to buy it with), I immediately volunteered, “I’m sorry, hon, for earlier. Please forgive me.” He wasn’t expecting to have been the topic of conversation and looked perturbed. “So what were you guys talking about?” He asked with suspicion.

That dinner turned out to be an interesting one for all of us as Edric and I addressed the day’s dramatics right there and then, with Jeff and Candy looking on. And all was well again as we apologized to one another. For the rest of our evening, we dialogued about how our marriages were doing and I appreciated the time to be able to be honest with one another.

When we were in Tahoe we did the same thing with my other siblings and their spouses. Each one gave their own spiritual insights and solutions, which was great because Edric and I don’t get to sit down with counselors or mentors that often. Our ministry targets young families and couples so we need to grow in our own marriage, and that means receiving feedback and guidance from those who know us best.

Edric was advised that he needs to think through the pattern of behavior that leads to unwanted outbursts. I was advised that I ought to stay quiet instead of reacting to his negativity. Although I already knew this, it was a good reminder to apply being gentle and quiet when I am tempted to fight back. During moments when I’m not the first to commit the “crime” I can be like the whiplash that adds trauma to injury. The reality is, spirit-filled silence has always worked better but sometimes I intentionally forget this when I’m dealing with my own version of anger.

After Edric and I shared, each family member did the same – identifying areas of improvement in their own persons and marriages, and what aspects they appreciated about one another. It was a blessed discussion that left us all a little wiser and closer to our spouses and one another as a family.

It’s not always easy to bear our weaknesses with others or to listen attentively to the suggestions that are offered to help us better our relationships. But no marriage is an island. Sometimes we may feel like we don’t have problems or it is nobody’s business to know what our marital issues are, but every marriage can improve to become sweeter, more loving, and more Christ-like.

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I’m blessed to have family members (on my side and Edric’s side) who are committed to strengthening our marriage in Christ. We all share the same mind when it comes to biblical principles and their applications in husband and wife relationships. But the secret is each one of us has a relationship with Jesus Christ first. Therefore we can commune about our marriages openly, and digest each other’s advice without becoming embittered. I’m not saying it’s easy to do this but the context is, Hey, it’s okay to have these struggles in your marriage. All of us do. What counts is that we all want to please God in our relationships. We share the desire to change and improve because we love God, our spouses, and one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as also you are doing.”

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Forty Years From Now

I watched them embrace one another, old friends…people my dad referred to as “antique” friends, which could have been interpreted as politically incorrect. However, both parties understood what he meant. There are some friendships that stand the test of time. In their case, over forty years.

Over forty years ago, my mom was a singer for a group called Crossroads. They traveled the world bringing Christian music and the gospel of Jesus Christ to people. Chuck and Sandy were part of this group and knew my mother as a single woman – a blond-haired, blue-eyed belle that hailed from Florida.

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Burdened to give her life to serve the Lord, my mom left the comforts of America and her boyfriend to minister to people all over Southeast Asia. Naturally, at one point, this landed her on the shores of the Philippines. At a bible study, she met my father, a Chinese businessman who loved God and had a passion for the gospel. It was an unlikely but God-ordained romance that blossomed in the context of a shared desire to reach the world with the message of Christ’s love.

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Chuck and Sandy were part of my parents’ history. They were witnesses to God’s orchestration, privy to the process of discernment that my mom went through. When she received confirmation to marry my dad, she asked Sandy to hold her accountable. “God has told me to say yes to Peter and I want you to be a witness that I am supposed to.” These were my mom’s words to Sandy.

While marriage is always a life-altering decision, my mom’s choice to say yes to my dad came with other considerations. This would be a cross-cultural marriage (very uncommon back then). He was a businessman (she was a missionary), and she would have to leave her home for good. Ironically, she told herself she would NEVER marry a businessman. God has a sense of humor.

I’ve always marveled at my mother’s faith. When she married my dad, she looked to the biblical example of Ruth who declared to her mother-in-law, “Where you go, I will go. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.” Similarly, my mom was willing to follow my dad wherever he would lead her.
)

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They have been married for nearly 42 years, and by God’s grace, their love grows stronger and more beautiful still. In a world where marriages have shorter and shorter expiry dates, they might be considered a miracle. So it is always refreshing and encouraging to encounter couples who are just like them, who have chosen to keep Christ as the anchor of their relationship.

I had heard Chuck and Sandy’s names names mentioned in stories and seen the sepia and black and white pictures slipped into browned sleeves of old photo albums. But meeting them in person helped me to better understand who my parents are. After all these years, Chuck and Sandy were like a piece of a puzzle that I never knew was missing.

My parents don’t dwell on the past too much. They were never really the type to sit down and narrate every detail of their life histories, so any chance I get to see or hear more about the people they once were is really interesting and entertaining to me. As my parents enter into the winter season of their lives, I want to make sure I know everything I possibly can about them.

They hadn’t seen Chuck and Sandy in over forty years so this was a pretty historic get-together. My parents sat in their living room, which was decorated with wood carvings from the Philippines and other Asian-inspired pieces that looked comfortingly familiar. For an instant I had the same feeling I used to have when I stepped into my grandparents’ home in Pensacola, Florida. The carpeted flooring, the overstuffed sofas and lazy boys in the family room with toys set aside for the grandkids. It was reminiscent of the coziness I always loved when we visited my grandparents during the summer.

We spent a couple of hours in Chuck and Sandy’s home since my parents had decades to catch up on. All four of them have aged significantly since they last saw one another but it was like the old days as they engaged one another in conversation, trading jokes, updates, and exchanging ministry ideas.

When we left I had this sense to write about our time together because I was reminded of the friendships Edric and I share with the people in our discipleship group. Of all people in this world, we walk shoulder to shoulder with them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Forty years from now, what will we be like? What will define the decades that we live?

I pray we will all finish well — that no matter where God leads us we will cross life’s finish line still passionate about loving and serving God, with our marriages unbroken, and our children following Jesus.

Our discipleship group in the Philippines…our bigger family in Christ!

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Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9‬:‭24-27‬ NASB)

Birthday Blessings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Surrender And Wait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Dog Are You Feeding?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I love you.”

I didn’t deserve that either!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭16-17, 19-26‬ NASB)

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

Respond With Grace

It’s unusual for our driver not to pick up our calls. However, last night, after a dinner in Tao Yuan, Resorts World, he was unreachable. Edric and I must have phoned him 12 times. Desperate to contact him, we walked around each of the 7 parking floors, suspecting that he might have dozed off. After unsuccessful attempts at car-hunting, we returned to the mall. This must have been 45 minutes later.

Walking up and down and around the parking…

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Uncertain of what to do, we meandered around the shops for a bit, killing time in the hopes that our driver would at some point see our text messages or registered missed calls.

The next plan was to survey the parking building adjacent to the mall. Edric suggested that I find a coffee shop to sit comfortably in while he looked for our car. (I was in heels and my feet were beginning to throb.)

Thankfully, we ran into friends who offered to shuttle us all the way home if necessary. At least we had an option. Edric and I were seriously considering their offer when I made one last attempt to get in touch with our driver. Five rings and then he picked up! Wow, it felt like a miracle when he did!

“Ma’m, I am sorry I fell asleep,” He confessed with humility. I could tell he was embarrassed as he waited for instructions, probably expecting a scolding, too. I requested that he meet us right away at the mall’s entrance.

In a few minutes, he pulled up the car and we hopped in, relieved to be able to head home. While I appreciated our driver’s honest admittance about falling asleep, I knew he might receive a lecture from Edric for his inefficiency. But I praise God that Edric responded the opposite of what I expected.

I know Edric wasn’t happy that we had to wait when he already had a tiring day of meetings and two weeks of pre-Christmas season busyness. But he sought to understand our driver’s tiredness. After all, he chauffeured Edric everywhere and into the late evenings the days and nights prior. Instead of lashing out at him, Edric calmly asked, “What happened? interested to hear our driver’s side of the story. He also expressed concern about our driver’s well-being and added that it wasn’t like him to be unreliable.

Years ago Edric might have vocalized his disappointment in a harsher manner and I would have sat there embarrassed to be present during the conversation. But last night he provided me with a Christ-like example to emulate. I really appreciated this.

The bible says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, to “sanctify her,” “cleansing her by the washing of the word,” and “presenting her in all her glory without a spot or wrinkle, that she would be holy and blameless.”(‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭25-27‬ NASB) This sounds a lot like discipleship to me — a husband being charged with the responsibility of his wife’s spiritual well-being. A very effective way for Edric to do this is to model Christlikeness to me. His spiritual maturity encourages me to be spiritually mature, too.

Lately, I am ashamed to say that I have been snappy with the kids and Edric, and easily annoyed when inconvenienced. Edric’s understanding and kindness towards our driver blessed me with a model to follow — to respond with grace and quiet strength when circumstances are stressful and disappointing, and to speak with gentleness but honesty when correcting a person’s mistake.

Proverbs 16:32 is a great passage to meditate on when it comes to self-control: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty. And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”

I Love This Chick

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

We needed this conversation.

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

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

I feel blah. I need intellectual and spiritual feeding…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bible says, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does this church…(Ephesians 5:28-29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Assume the Best About Your Spouse

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

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

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

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

The yayas and drivers with their families after the games…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Still, I did them.” Edric said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was quiet. My thought was, YES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Life Has Detours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find purpose when life doesn’t make sense…

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Modeling Womanhood

Tiana, my four year old daughter, likes to copy everything I do. I am her reference for womanhood. The other day she was talking about her hair when she said, “Mom I need one of those airconditioners for the hair.” She meant a blow dryer, which she had seen me use at a hotel.

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I was blessed to have my mom as a role-model for womanhood. Ever since I was a little girl, I looked up to her. She epitomized who I wanted to be. When people told me I sounded just like my mom or I reminded them of her, it was a compliment I gladly received.

The most important example she mirrored for me was how to be a wife and mother, how to be a woman who seeks to honor God in her life and relationships, especially at home.

What was often remarkable to me was my mom’s willingness to submit to my dad’s authority. Was she an opinionated and strong woman? Definitely. But she displayed strength under the Holy Spirit’s control. She knew that God’s will was often disclosed through the leadership of my father so she chose to follow him.

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If they were not in agreement, she would pray that God would change my dad’s heart (if that was His will.) For example, years ago she wanted to home school my siblings and me when we were in elementary. She had this epiphany before my dad did. Excited to communicate to him her plan, she asked him if she could pull my siblings and me out of a Chinese school to teach us at home. His response was, “Deonna that’s a big responsibility and I know your personality so I want you to pray about it for one year.”

Even though my mom was disappointed, she surrendered this desire to the Lord and obeyed my dad. After one year, she asked him again before re-enrolling us for the next school year. Calling him in the office with her sing-song-y voice she said, “Honey, today is the day for the enrollment of the kids but I have been praying about homeschooling. What has God showed you? Can we?”

My dad gave her a flat, “No.”

After she put the phone down, my mom sat in the bathroom and cried. She had hoped to homeschool my siblings and me that year, but that dream seemed like it was not going to happen. So she decided to pray again.

After she got dressed, she ventured another attempt and phoned my dad. “Peter, I’m about to leave for the school, but I just want to check one more time, what’s your final decision?”

Between the first call and the next, which couldn’t have been more than an hour, God miraculously worked in the heart of my dad. When I asked him what changed, he explained to me that he was convicted to make a faith decision. So he replied, “Okay, let’s go for it.” My mom put the phone down and sat in the bathroom again and cried…this time for joy!

Stories like this one demonstrated to me how God uses a wife to minister, bless, support, and encourage her husband to pursue God’s will when she submits to his authority.

When I got married and struggled with submission (it’s not a genetically inherited trait to be submissive, right?!) I remembered my mom’s example. She was a reference for me.

For the record, I still struggle. But I praise God for the example my mom modeled to me. Her desire to obey God by obeying my dad resulted in His favor in her marriage and in our family.

Was she always perfect? Nope. When my parents were building a house, my mom’s strong personality would seep out as a reaction to my dad’s perspective of function over form. When it came to design they had conflicting views. There were moments when my mom wanted to convince him about her more enlightened aesthetic preferences. However, she did so in a manner that would come across as agitated. Tiles, windows, doors, ceiling heights, railings, stairs, balconies, and room configurations would sometimes became tense discussions. If she ever did get annoyed to the point of disrespect, what she did model was a humble apology to my dad and to us, kids. She would say things like, “Kids will you forgive me for speaking to your dad that way. I was wrong.”

It was certainly clear to me that my dad was my mom’s number one priority next to God. One simple way she would prioritize him was asking for his permission before booking schedules or making commitments. She would tell the persons who invited her, “Okay let me get back to you, I will just check with Peter.” I learned to do the same as a wife, verifying with Edric before scheduling any activity that will conflict with his schedule, take me away from the home, or involve his presence. When people want to get together with us or make an appointment, I don’t say Yes, Edric and I can make it unless I confirm with him first. This also applies to occasions when my side of the family invites us over or tries to make plans.

My mom tried her best to make sure that my dad came home to a well-managed and happy home. When she was first married, she cooked everything in the same color. She didn’t know a lot of recipes so my dad bought her a cookbook one day and asked, “Do you think you could try some of the dishes in this cookbook?” She gladly did so. In fact, she became an amazing cook. I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen watching her cook and bake, and learned to do the same with her.

She was intentional about modeling and teaching home making skills to me. When I got married, Edric was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to bake cookies, sew buttons on shirts, hem pants, make throw pillows, handwash clothing if necessary, etc. (I also knew how to clean toilets and do some minor plumbing work.) These abilities especially helped in the first year of our marriage when we didn’t have househelp. There was nothing extraordinary about what I could do. Most people who don’t grow up with househelp learn these basic home survival skills. Nevertheless, Edric greatly appreciated that I wasn’t clueless when it came to managing the home. Thanks, Mom!

Instead of pursuing a career outside the home, my mom homeschooled my siblings and me for a good number of years. Even when we went to a conventional school, she remained a stay-at-home mom. We were privileged to have her available to us 24/7. She also arranged her ministry work, appointments, and activities around us so we didn’t have to compete for her attention.

Because she was present, it was natural for us to tell her about our day and discuss what was going on in our lives. I remember an occasion when I was asked by friends to try marijuana. When I got home, I told her, “Mom, my friends said I should try marijuana. They said I can’t say it’s not for me if I’ve never tried it.”

She didn’t go ballistic. She didn’t say, “Hey you are a pastor’s kid, you better not touch that stuff!” In fact, didn’t even show signs of elevated blood pressure. Instead she listened to my reasoning. That night she prayed for me and researched about drugs. The next day, she non-threateningly presented to me a Reader’s Digest article so I could have material to read. By God’s grace I never touched marijuana or other drugs as a result of her gentle intervention and influence.

My mom handled many parenting issues with grace. I don’t ever remember her shouting at me or any of my siblings. Instead, her method of correction was the sandwich approach. Pad the meat of what you want to say with a lot of sincere praise – the bread — so a person can swallow your correction – the meat – without gagging to death from discouragement. This approach came in very handy in marriage, raising my children, or ministering to others. I would imagine my mom and think, How would she say this in a way that speaks the truth in love?

It was my mom’s relationship with Jesus that made her the mother she was, and still is. She showed me what biblical womanhood is about – that a woman must desire to please God and follow his principles for her life, especially when it comes to marriage and parenting. When she does this it gives her a quality of beauty and spirit that makes her husband and children treasure her. As a bonus, her influence and ministry will reach far beyond the home. My mom may not have been a career woman but she touched the lives of women all over the world by her example and ministry.

May God receive the glory for the woman she is!

Obeying Your Husband = God’s Bountiful Blessings

Edric and I usually don’t spend alot for birthday parties. With five children, that kind of expense can add up. However, we do like to celebrate their first year of life with a dedication ceremony that gives them back to the Lord. It’s the principle of “for God’s use only.” The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord and all it contains, the world and all who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24:1) Therefore our children, our possessions, our accomplishments all belong to Him.

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For Catalina, we waited until October to hold her birthday/dedication event so we could time it with our house dedication. We invited family, our bible study group, Edric’s best friends from high school, and a few of our neighbors. I wanted to invite more people but the headcount for our guests was somewhere around 140 (with kids and yayas) which was a sizable number to have in our home.

I wasn’t sure how we were going to feed everyone if the cooking was dependent on me. So I asked Edric what kind of budget we had to work with and he mouthed out a number that wasn’t too exciting. How in the world was I going to put together this event with such a small budget?

His reasons were valid. We just finished our home so expenses have been tighter. It’s saving mode time. But X amount for food, tables and chairs, décor, games and prizes? I racked my brain trying to figure out how to do it.

Here were my options:

1. Cook some of the food and order the rest. Borrow chaffing dishes from my mom. Rent the tables and chairs. Decorate on my own.

2. Get a more reasonable caterer that wouldn’t be able to style it but had good food. Decorate on my own.

3. Hire a caterer who could supply some of the food, bring tables and chairs and centerpieces, and I provide the rest of the menu.

4. Convince Edric to give me a bigger party fund so I could get someone who could decorate and cater for me and create the theme I wanted, and be stress-free!

Naturally, I desired option 4. It would have been the simplest way for me to hold the party. But I knew that Edric really wanted me to be frugal. So I did my part to plan and find suppliers.

I wrote a random post on Facebook asking for caterer recommendations. While I received a number of helpful responses, one of the suggestions really stood out — Passion Cooks Catering. I checked out their Facebook account and I thought, Here’s a company that will surely be able to execute the theme I wanted. 

Since I had no idea what their rates were like I sent them a message and explained my requirements. In response, I received a list of their prices. When I went through their price list, I was discouraged. Their costs weren’t within the range of my budget.

So I kept looking for suppliers and narrowed down my choices to three options. Passion Cooks was still one of them but I didn’t reply to their proposal right away. I was considering another caterer who had given me a proposal the included food, chairs and tables. In fact, I was inclined to finalize with them because the price was right, but I waited for a few more days. In the meantime, I received a Facebook message from Maja Martinez-Angeles, one of the owners of Passion Cooks Catering , asking if I reviewed their newest proposal.

She sent me another menu that was for a heavy merienda which I really liked, and she also offered to set-up chairs, tables, and decorations. But it didn’t indicate the cost. Here’s where my internal wrestling with submission to Edric came in. I knew that if I really begged him, he would allow me to increase my budget. He is sweet towards me like that. He’s often said, “You are my weakness.” However, if he did give in to me it would be due to manipulation on my part. And I didn’t want to do that. His desire to keep to a budget was a good one and I knew I should honor it.

Before I sent a reply to Maja, God convicted me very strongly to OBEY Edric. I was embarrassed to tell her the price per head that I needed but God told me, You obey Edric and tell Maja what your budget is. Be humble and honest. Be willing to settle for the other caterer because you should honor Edric. Don’t try to manipulate Edric to get your way.

Okay, okay. I replied to Maja saying that at this point in time, I only had such and such amount to work with and I would consider getting her for a future event instead. In a few minutes, Maja got back to me and said, “The menu I proposed to you is X amount.”

What?! Seriously?! I couldn’t believe it. It was even lower than what I had told her! But what about chairs and tables and décor? Maja told me she would include that in the cost.

I almost fell off my chair. In fact, I got teary-eyed. It seemed too good to be true.

She asked me to meet her so we could discuss details. We convened at a café where I also met her adorable daughter, Yuna, and to my surprise, she casually mentioned, “I forgot to tell you that I go to CCF (our church), and I’m under the discipleship group of Cindy Soriano (The wife of CCF Alabang’s head pastor, Joby Soriano). Oh, and I read your blog, too.”

By this time I knew it was definitely too good to be true! This was the Lord’s doing! Maja turned out to be such a wonderful, professional, experienced, and capable stylist/caterer/businesswoman. I was very impressed with how easy this all seemed to her. She understood exactly what I was hoping for in terms of a look for the event. For example, I wanted a rustic garden theme with folded white chairs (not the typical mono bloc covered ones or tiffany chairs), and wooden tables. Maja’s company had these. I also wanted more gourmet food which her menu options had. She even handed me packed food to taste without me asking for her to do this.

The food was delicious! Even my son, Elijah, exclaimed, “This is the best salad ever!” in reference to their Mango Salsa with Catfish Salad.

Through the course of our discussions, I also found out that Maja had six years of experience in New World Hotel after she graduated from college before starting her business. I believe this is one of the reasons why she has a keen eye for detail and sophistication. Following her work there, she partnered with her mom (who is a chef), to create Passion Cooks Catering.

She worked hard to build this business. When she was starting out, a certain venue told her that her chaffing dishes were outdated and didn’t “pass” their standards. Now, they more than welcome her business! I asked her how many people she can cater for in a day and she replied, “We can handle up to 2,500 people.” This translates to multiple events or one HUGE wedding! Today, Maja handles wedding occasions and her partners, Melissa Cabrera-Bolasco and Ivy Caparas, oversee kiddie parties and other celebrations.

After I met with Maja, I was very confident that she would be able to take care of everything. The stress I had felt as I scrambled to find caterers and brainstorm dissipated. All I had to do was complete my “assignments.” Send her photos of my inspirations, find a photographer, source a sound system, email her the dimensions of our yard, and give her the list of the kids’ games, etc.

Early Saturday morning, Maja sent her army of people to our home. Two hours before the event, Elijah came bounding up the stairs to drag me down to see all the décor. “You HAVE to come downstairs, mom!” I was in the middle of printing the game rules but he kept insisting.

The backyard was transformed into a stunning rustic garden theme…better than I imagined! Edric was thoroughly impressed. He had no idea what kind of coordination had happened behind the scenes when he was in the U.S. that week. When he saw our backyard, he couldn’t believe it! ESPECIALLY BECAUSE I STUCK TO HIS BUDGET AND OBEYED HIM.

He was so pleased that I did so, he even asked, “Do you need more money? How can I help you?” The context was this…A few hours before 3 PM (when the party was to start), I presented to him the cake that I made myself. I made this cake to save money. He forced down a chuckle because the icing had peeled off the cake on one side. It was an obvious disaster. So his heart went out to me and he told me that whatever I needed he would get for me! So we made an emergency trip to buy three rainbow cakes and other materials for the games.

In the meantime, Maja dropped by for a bit to check on the place. When I saw her I told her how amazed I was! But this wasn’t the end of the story…

She had told me to get a photographer and we knew a couple of photographer friends. Unfortunately, all of them were busy this past weekend. So Edric told Elijah to take pictures of the set-up. Well, Maja texted me that her friend, Joshua, was going to snap photos of the details before the guests arrived. It turned out that Joshua recognized Elijah from a photoshoot of our family last year, and he offered to photograph our family and send a team to cover Catalina’s party!

Joshua didn’t just take our family portrait, he also took the Tan-Chi family portrait. This was something my parents and siblings wanted to get done while my sister, Candy and her husband, Jeff , were visiting from the U.S. Initially, I asked my brother, Peter, to bring his camera to the party so we could do an informal shot of the family. He was prepared to do this but God provided a professional.

Joshua De Guzman is a 22-year old photographer who is spunky and very talented! Even though he is young, he is already a very experienced photographer. Check out his Facebook page: Little J Photography. This guy is going to go places.

During a quick lunch with him and Maja before the party, we found out that he used to be a fish vendor in Tuguegaraw before following his dream of becoming a photographer. Coming to Manila to study, his “calling card” was the blackboard/whiteboard, where he would write something like this, “If you want a free photoshoot, call me and bring a camera.” He didn’t even own his own camera but he used these opportunities to get lots of practice and train himself. Today he is living his dream at such a young age.

If I were to enumerate all the ways God blessed this day, this article would get very long. (It already is.) But, the last thing I wanted to share was how God held the weather. I checked the weather forecast for Saturday, October 4, every single day for two weeks prior to it. All the forecasts said to expect thunderstorms. Ack. Every day before Saturday, there was heavy rain in the afternoon. But October 4 was the best day to do it because my sister was leaving two days after and almost all of the people we invited were available on this day. So I just prayed really hard and asked family and friends to pray, too.

The entire morning was clear and the clouds started to darken in the early afternoon but the miracle was, we only had a light shower and no downpour. Since we had tents in the backyard, we were perfectly fine.

Let’s put this all together…

I didn’t want to follow Edric’s budget at first. But because I honored him as my husband, God gave me…

…the gift of a gorgeous party we could not afford

…styled by a brilliant artist-of-a-woman

…who happened to be a member of our same church

…who happened to be a reader of my blog

…so we could celebrate the life of a daughter and a home we do not deserve

…with friends and family who came despite the horrendous traffic

…on a day that should have had torrential rain but didn’t

…that was captured by a talented photographer

…who happened to be free to take photos of the event

…who also took our family portraits

…who volunteered his services

…who sent a team to cover the rest of the party

…who gave us amazing photos to remember an amazing day!

It’s not always easy for me to obey Edric. There are days when I don’t want to, when I want my own way. However, I remember principles like Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I need to prefer God’s will; to wholeheartedly follow His principles; to love His precepts; to want Him over my own desires.

If I had placed my desire for a beautiful, stress-free party above my obedience to Edric, I would have forfeited the extraordinary happenings of that day. Desire must follow delighting in God. In the end, obeying Edric resulted in God’s bountiful blessings. Furthermore, since Edric saw that I really tried my best, I had his favor, too.

Will this always be the case? I don’t know how God intends to reward us as wives every time we honor our husbands. However, I do know that in his perfect time and perfect way, he will bless us because he calls himself a REWARDER of those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

May you and I continually experience this truth in our lives and marriages!

MANY THANKS TO MAJA OF PASSION COOKS CATERING AND JOSHUA OF LITTLE J PHOTOGRAPHY! MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU IN INCREDIBLE WAYS FOR YOUR GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT, AND THE MANNER IN WHICH YOU CONSTANTLY GIVE GLORY TO HIM WITH YOUR ARTISTRY!

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Beware Of the Bladderwort Woman

Deceitfully beautiful yellow flowers, that’s a Bladderwort.

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(Photo source: www.fs.fed.us)

My sons and I have been reading about carnivorous plants. Edan and Titus love this part of their Botany. Venus Fly Traps, Sundews, Pitcher Plants and Bladderworts. We spent an extended time discussing Bladderworts because I made an analogy between carnivorous plants of this nature and women they should avoid in future. (When you are the teacher, you can insert all kinds of discussions that you deem important.)

These yellow flowers grow above water but devour creatures by sucking them into bladder-like cases in their roots. Like other carnivorous plants, Bladderworts don’t kill creatures to eat them. They take their nitrogen (which plants normally get from the soil). When animals get up close they are vacuumed in and digested. Most carnivorous plants also leave the exoskeleton of an animal behind.

Hmm…as I was reading this, I had a moment’s epiphany and thought about connecting this topic to a short lesson on the opposite sex. I explained to my sons that they need to avoid Bladderwort women.

This lead to an even livelier discussion which had my boys laughing aloud. But I was serious. I reminded them that in the future they need to look for women with genuine substance, who are beautiful inside and out — who love God above all. I warned them that there are women out there who will look very attractive but, like Bladderworts, these women will lead to their demise and ruin. In fact, this breed of woman can turn them into a skeletal version of the men God intends for them to be (in the spiritual sense).

“Beware the Bladderworts, boys! Someday, when you meet someone you think is pretty, I am going to ask you, ‘Is she a bladderwort?’ just to check.”

We had another round of guffaws! They liked that one. Bladderwort is such a cool name for a bad woman. It sounds so much like a wart.

My sons are young but I want them to have an internalized checklist of what to look for and avoid in a woman, way before their curiosity in girls is piqued. They are already aware of the affections that naturally develop between a man and a woman. This dynamic is evident everywhere, even in cartoons (sometimes unfortunately so.) They also observe Edric and I as we relate to one another as husband and wife. But romance hasn’t been awakened in them yet. Whew. They are too preoccupied with being boys which is wonderful because it is the best time to pass on principles on courtship (in manageable doses of course!).

Preventive is better than prescriptive. I don’t want to talk about these things when they have already given their hearts away.

So here we go…

“Carnivorous” women use men in the same way actual carnivorous plants do. They tend to be takers who knowingly or even unknowingly look to a man to fill a lack in themselves. If a woman NEEDS a man to live, to feel complete, to project a certain image of herself, or to feel happy, she becomes a life sucker. This is the opposite of what God designed women to be — lifegivers. (A term used by author John Eldredge for the Hebrew word “helpmate” in Genesis.)

In contrast to carnivorous plants, GOOD FLOWERS are life-giving to bees, butterflies, and other critters that are drawn to their nectar. But carnivorous plants ensnare hapless creatures with their sweet smell so they can trap them. They use their “attractiveness” for selfish reasons.

This sounds similar to women who put much emphasis on external appearances to feed their sense of security or worth. I can be guilty of this. Sometimes my motivations for dressing up are totally self-centered. I want to hear compliments about the way I look to butter up my ego. So I praise God for a year of feeling unattractive with braces, hormonal skin breakouts, and my post-pregnancy body!

Proverbs 31 says, “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord she shall be praised.”

It’s not wrong to be fashionable and make the effort to stay fit and healthy. However, it goes back to motivation and purpose. Are we trying to attract people to ourselves or to Christ? How much time, effort and money do we spend on our looks?

Interestingly, carnivorous plants also grow in swampy areas and places without much soil. My encouragement to the men…do your research! Check the “surroundings” — who does this woman hang out with? Who are the ladies that belong to her inner circle of friends and confidants? Are they the type that nourish her spiritually and emotionally like good soil to a plant? What’s her background? Does it smell “swampy” or do others speak highly of her virtues?

20140927-194627-71187112.jpgMoms, as we educate our sons on character traits to look for and avoid in a woman, let’s model the right ones for them, too. We are very often the benchmark for our sons’ concept of a woman. But sometimes we can be Bladderworts to our husbands and children and suck the life right out of them! So the secret is to root our identity in Jesus Christ; be nourished by his love; and reflect the glory of his light.

I like how Edan put it, “Women should be Sunflowers.” You got it, kiddo! A-sunflower-kind-of-woman has her face turned toward the Son (Christ) and she radiates Him. That’s real beauty. (‭Psalms‬ ‭34‬:‭5‬ NASB) May our sons have the wisdom to discern this!