Tell Your Story

When my parents asked me to divulge how I was sexually assaulted as a fifteen year old, I felt very embarrassed. It was hard enough to say the word “rape” to them, how much more uncomfortable it was to reveal the details of each incident with the men who violated me. However, my parents insisted on excavating every memory so that I didn’t have to wrestle with the repulsive images alone.

Trusting their judgment, I expressed to them everything I could remember. Till this day I cringe at the various ways in which I was defiled. I know it pained my parents more than it probably pained me physically to hear about every act perpetrated against me. Yet looking back, it was a necessary part of my healing to be able to expose these deeds. They were no longer my sole burden to carry.

                Me as a fifteen year old

It was a blessing to have parents who were spiritually equipped to deal with the realities of what happened to me. I understand that not everyone can trust another person with this level of vulnerability. However, there are family and friends out there who will genuinely listen, counsel, and support victims of tragedy.

Furthermore, there are instances when seeking protection is an urgent need. If a victim is subjected to repeated abuse he or she is living in proximity to his or her perpetrator, then I suggest going to a church organization, a shelter, contacting Bantay Bata, the Department of Social Welfare and Development or the local police so the victim can be physically removed from the situation.

While I recommend that children go to parents as a first resort, there are cases when parents are not in the condition to offer protection. I counseled a woman who told her mother about her father’s sexual abuse only to be met with hostility. The mother could not accept the truth and this caused her to resent her own daughter. In turn, the daughter felt abandoned by the very person she thought she could trust.

If a victim senses that his or her parents don’t have the emotional, physical, or spiritual capacity to help him or her get out of their predicament then it may be wise to also tell someone who actually can. However, I would still advice children who live at home to consider turning to their parents or relatives first. In many instances, parents and relatives can and will come to the rescue. At the very least, they can refer a victim to an institution, organization, or person who can offer practical assistance.

Many churches also have counseling services that victims can avail of. Our church, Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF), has many counselors who make themselves available for free on Sundays to anyone who needs counseling. They willingly meet with counselees over coffee and cookies and help them get plugged into small groups where they will continue to receive spiritual and emotional support.

In CCF, we call this a D-group system, where people meet together on a weekly basis to encourage one another, keep each other accountable, and study God’s Word together. These groups become like families to people who are hurting and looking for meaningful relationships with others, or those who simply want to grow in their faith. Furthermore, they provide a safe context for people to open up and receive sound advice from others who sincerely care about them.

On the one hand, we can share our story in order to seek counsel and advice, but there is a more profound reason to share our stories. We have the unique opportunity to give God the glory and reconcile the broken to Himself.

When the disciples asked Jesus as they passed by a blind man from birth, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”, Jesus insightfully replied, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:2-3) In other words, God intended for this blind man’s life story to point people to Him, just as He purposes for our life stories to draw people to Himself.

When my book got published I didn’t anticipate the impact it would have on people who came across it. I’ve received countless messages from readers through Facebook, Instagram, my website, email, and even handwritten notes, from all over the world, that spoke of how this book blessed their lives. The receptiveness of people has been overwhelming and encouraging. As a result, my healing continues to this day as I see the good that God promised to me in Romans 8:28, extending far beyond my own life as He allows me the privilege of ministering to others.

Truthfully, when I was younger, I had fears about being open, namely being judged and swimming in a fishbowl while people scrutinized and curiously observed me. (This may not be the case for every person who experiences rape or abuse, but this was my personal struggle.) I did not want to convey need or to invite pity. I also wanted to spare people from having to grieve or fret over me, especially in the first few years after the rape. Many times I tried to be strong in order to protect the people I loved from feeling my pain. However, I learned that it was okay to be vulnerable. Vulnerability ushered in the blessings of prayers and words of comfort from family, friends, and church communities, something that my family and I desperately needed to get through that trying season.

Honesty is not weakness. Jesus wept when Lazarus died. He made his feelings manifest. King David wrote the Psalms with candidness. He purposefully broadcasted his feelings to the Lord. “But I am afflicted and in pain; may your salvation, O God, set me securely on high.” (Psalm 69:29)

I had to learn to acknowledge my pain, to embrace it, and grow through it. It wasn’t a sin to struggle with confusion, loss, or to ache deep inside and be vocal about it. The question was, how would I respond? My initial methods for coping with the memories and feelings were to write, paint, and listen to music. Eventually, I learned to be purposeful about sharing my testimony to others, and to ask myself, “How can this story bless others?”

The receptiveness of people to our life stories is often dependent on our motivations for why we share what we do. Whether it is before a large gathering of persons or a handful, if our purpose is to bring attention to ourselves, to slander those who have hurt us, to recruit allies to defend our perspective, or to use others for personal gain, then we will be disappointed by the responses of people.

Just a few years after I was raped, I opened up to a guy I had a crush on, hoping that my honesty would inspire him to cherish me and protect me. It was an attempt to heal myself, perhaps to replace what was taken away, or to feel valued. Yet, the plan backfired because the guy began to withdraw from me. In fact, he insinuated that I should avoid telling people what happened to me. He wasn’t a follower of Christ and he didn’t know how to process the narrative. From then on I realized that my reasons for sharing my story had to be for God’s purposes and not my own.

I didn’t own my story. It wasn’t something to be put on public display self-servingly. God allowed the tragic occurrence to point people to Him. Answering the question of intent clarified my place and purpose in the story – to be a messenger. Therefore, my three-fold message became simple and clear.

First, God is good, loving, and sovereign. Unfortunate and tragic circumstances don’t alter His character. Second, everyone is sinful and falls short of His glory. Therefore forgiveness is possible because all of us have received His forgiveness. Finally, our stories are meant to bring honor to the Lord, to bless and impact others positively, for the cause of the Gospel.

Once I recognized that I was elected to proclaim God’s goodness and faithfulness I shared my story whenever He prodded me to. I carefully evaluated when the circumstances were appropriate to bring my past to light, and conferred with my husband to get his approval before doing so. As my spiritual authority, I trusted that God would speak through him.

Whether in the thousands, a few persons, or even one-on-one, I’ve used this story to connect with others with the intent of introducing them to Christ or passing on to them a biblical perspective on tragedy. Emotionally painful as it is for me to relive the experience by telling it over and over again, I focus on how it will benefit someone else who is hurting, someone who needs encouragement.  It is 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 that comes to mind: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for our comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort…”

Ironically I hoped that this book would spare me from having to give my testimony in public, but where God has opened more doors to declare the gospel, I’ve submitted to His leading. Like I said, this story belongs to Him.

In the first part of 2017 I was at a gathering for families in Nairobi, Kenya, where I spoke about the rape as a culmination to my father’s message on leaving a legacy. He spoke on why it’s important to teach our children who God is. Edric and I were with my parents on this trip, and he was all for me giving my testimony to illustrate my dad’s points on anchoring children with truth.

So many Kenyan women suffer from sexual abuse and many families are broken because of sexual sin. Therefore, the choices that I made to trust God, forgive, and use my story to bring glory to the Lord resonated with the audience. It was a beautiful opportunity to speak to the hearts of the men and women who were gathered at this event. Many people came up to me afterwards to thank me or to tell me how God spoke to them through my story. What a privilege it was for me!

It doesn’t matter what culture we hail from or what race we are when it comes to suffering. Brokenness is an equalizer. All people have a collective understanding of pain. It has visited and will visit all of us, which is why each of our stories can be a powerful tool for the gospel if we are willing to see what happened to us with spiritual lenses and ask the Lord how we can use it for His purposes.

I can tell you first hand that the benefits of sharing the experience with others made a tremendous difference in my healing journey. God did not design us to shoulder our burdens alone. Instead He put us in community with others so we can emotionally and spiritually walk along side each other. Furthermore, there is something about bringing dark things into the light. When we expose the devices of the devil to destroy God’s people, his plans loose their power.

It was pretty obvious that Satan acted with the intent to destroy the work of God in the budding ministry of our church, of which my father was the founding pastor. He aimed to discourage my parents from following Christ. However, the evil one did not succeed because of the supernatural grace of God that my family and I received through the prayers, support, and presence of people whom He sent our way. Had we chosen the route of secrecy, refusing to talk about what happened, I believe we would have missed out on His grace.

Therefore my encouragement to the hurting who are reading this is not to hide. That’s exactly what the evil one wants you to do, to deal with your loss and your pain alone. He wants you to believe that no one will understand, no one will accept you, listen to you, or benefit from what you have been through or what you are going through. However, you need to believe there is at least one person out there who loves God, who is strongly anchored in Him who can be a comforter to you. Pray that you find that person and seek them out. On the flipside, there is at least one person out there who will be blessed by your courage to speak up, who will resonate with your story and identify with what you went through. One day, as God brings healing to your life, you will “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion; (and) declare among the people His deeds.” (Psalm 9:11)

Life’s Divine Interruptions

Our family was on its way to a speaking engagement when the door of our van jammed open (not shut). The kids and I dropped by Edric’s office to pick him up and when he opened the sliding door of our van, it wouldn’t budge back into place. Ordinarily, we could have waited for the driver to bring the van to the nearest dealer to have it serviced and hung out in Edric’s office. However, we had forty minutes to get to the venue of our speaking engagement so the best recourse was to get an Uber ride. 

By God’s grace, Edric remained calm and composed although I knew he was stressed by the untimeliness of the problem. He asked the kids and I to stay in a cafe while he sorted out what to do next. In about ten minutes he made arrangements to have the van brought to the dealer and coordinated for our uber vehicle. Our ride came shortly after and the kids and I piled into the back seats. (It was actually my first time to take Uber and I was amazed at how convenient it was!)

On the way to our event, Edric and I began chatting with the driver, who was a very nice gentleman. He opened up about his history and family, and told us that he nearly lost his life in a motor cycle accident. Edric and I both felt prodded to share the gospel with him. As we proceeded to do so, telling him that there are no coincidences in life and that God wanted him to know that he is loved and there’s a plan and purpose for his life, Edric segued to the importance of trusting in Christ alone for our salvation. 

The driver listened and interacted with us, answering our questions honestly and responding positively to the gospel message. By the end of the thirty minute ride, Edric prayed with him and he willingly accepted Christ to be his Lord and Savior. 

This occasion was a reminder that God interrupts our plans in order to fulfill His. At first, I was anxious about how we would honor our commitment to speak and get our family to the venue on time. Plus, I felt frustrated that the van surfaced such a ridiculous issue when we were in a hurry. (It turned it to be a fluke, too, after it was inspected at the dealer.) 

Our agendas, no matter how important we may think them to be, do not take precedence over the Lord’s agendas. And one of His desires is that the lost be found and that people are reconciled to Himself. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:20‬ ‭

It was actually a privilege to sit in that Uber vehicle with that driver and tell him about God’s grace and love, but Edric and I had to be mindful of the fact that God allowed the inconvenient circumstance of our van door jamming so we could spend time with this man. 

More and more I am learning that it is our spiritual perspective and response to problems and issues that determines whether or not God will get the glory in our lives, and whether or not we will enjoy the honor of participating in His work. He certainly doesn’t need us to make a difference, but He allows us to, and it is tragic that we can overlook the opportunities He sends our way because we focus on the frustration over disappointments we face instead of perceiving them as life’s divine interruptions. Maybe the interruption is an invitation to tell another person about the Lord, to be a blessing, to be grateful, or to give God glory. Whatever the divine purpose God has elected the interruption for, may we receive His grace, wisdom, and courage to respond the way He wants us to! 

“Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow.” (Psalms‬ ‭25:4‬)

“The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.‭‭” Proverbs‬ ‭16:9

 

Breaking Down the Proverbs 31 Woman 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giving Birth and Why the Context Matters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Beauty Regimens and True Beauty

Someone asked me what my beauty regimen is and I didn’t know what to say. When I told Edric and the kids about the question, they busted out laughing like it was hilarious to assume that I had one. They know me to be a fuss-free person and wondered, “Why would anyone want to know her beauty regimen?! What beauty regimen?!”

Well, their jesting was partly reasonable. I cut my own hair. I don’t wear make-up often. 


If I do wear make up, it’s minimal, like when I speak or have engagements that require me to look credible and put together. 

However, this doesn’t mean I am not vain. I actually struggle with vanity, mostly in the area of being body conscious. When I sink into insecurity about my mom-bod, it can lead to depressive and anti-social behavior. And when I say “mom-bod”, I mean the changes that gravity and child-bearing have inflicted upon my once-upon-a-time athletic build. 

As a soccer player in college, I had a concave abdomen. That thing was beyond flat. My rib cage stuck out above my belly because I had no belly. Today it leans towards the convex, so I have to work doubly hard to keep the fat from collecting around my mid-section (where my body very efficiently stores fat). 

Plus, I constantly have to care for my facial skin. I am prone to breakouts because my skin is sensitive and oily (two horrid combinations which I pray my kids don’t acquire from me). So far they seem to have Edric’s genetics when it comes to their skin, so praise God! 

Between exercising and facial care, I have a semblance of a “regimen” that I can share to benefit anyone out there who resonates with my personal approach and philosophy to beauty. But for me, beauty goes way beyond the physical and I will get to that part in a bit. 

Let’s take it one body part and element at a time…

Face – During one of the shoots I was in, I asked the make up artist what her best make up tip was and she said, “Women should take care of their skin.”

My good friend, Raissa, a beautiful dermatologist with impeccable skin, harps about sunblock all the time. Her constant teaching on shielding skin against the aging effects of the sun have finally sank in. My sunblock of choice is Cetaphil — the adults and kids’ version. Their sunblock doesn’t make me breakout like some other ones do. Cetaphil has 50 SPF, so I don’t have to reapply it multiple times in a day. It’s good for the most punishing hours of sunlight. 


(Every time I mention Cetaphil it may sound like I am hugely biased because our family is their brand endorser. However, we also agreed to be brand ambassadors because we believe in Cetaphil products.) All of us need to find a sunblock that works for our skin type and does the job. The point is we all need to wear sunblock. 

Cleanser – I use Cetaphil’s Oily Skin Wash. It’s gentle enough to prevent drying even when used frequently, but it cleans well. 

Toner – At present, I am pleased with Neutrogena’s Alcohol Free Toner. It works for me. And it is reasonable! 


Moisturizer – Since my skin tends to get oily, I actually don’t need moisturizer during the day, especially if I put on sunblock. If I put moisturizer and sunblock I will look like I greased my face with oil! 

Before I go to bed, I use Human Heart Nature’s Sunflower Oil and Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream. The next day, my skin feels baby soft. I also use Bee Venom from New Zealand for the skin around my eyes and lips.


Once in a while, I visit my dermatologist, Dr. Raissa Pasion, at the Spa. I really ought to go more frequently but the distance from my house is prohibitive. It’s like a field trip to go all the way to BGC from where I live. 

Hair – I have two brands that I use — Pure Beauté’s Shampoo and Conditioner courtesy of my friend, Jean Javier, who created these products as a home-based business. It’s coconut oil-based with no harmful ingredients. I also use Moringa-O2 Malunggay Herbal Shampoo with Argan Oil. 


(Photo courtesy of @simplemama)


My hair is pretty manageable because it’s fine and thin, and just lays straight. I wish I had voluminous, wavy hair that was gorgeously out of control, but I have learned to appreciate the limp hair God gave me. (This is also why I can cut my own hair. There isn’t much to cut!) 

Since my hair isn’t thick, I don’t even use a blow dryer. I don’t own one, but I probably should buy one soon (and a curling iron). 

Teeth –  Thanks to a friend of mine, Anna Escaro, who introduced me to Crest Whitening Strips, I began using them. These strips are amazing! I order them from Amazon. They effectively remove 14 years of stains!


Make-up – When I do wear make up, the most important aspects of enhancing my face are concealer around the eyes, t-zone and lips, and then mascara, lip balm/tint, and some eye brow shaping. If I don’t use mascara, I just curl my eyelashes. That’s all I really like to do with my face unless I have to be dressed up, which isn’t too often. 

Occasionally, I will wear lipstick. But I prefer tints or balms. My preferences are Lollitint by Benefit, Burts Bees or Human Heart Nature lipbalms.




Clothes – Know what color palette looks best on you. If you and I can master the art of being discerning about the colors and shades we wear, we won’t have to wear much make-up. The right colors make the skin and eyes come alive. The wrong colors make us look haggard and tired. 

Years ago I discovered that I am an autumn during a seminar called, Color Me Beautiful. The autumn spectrum of colors look best on me. Think sunset colors. I can also wear spring colors from time to time. But I have to stay away from winter and summer colors. These are too “cool” for my skin tone and eyes.  


Since I am an autumn, I can’t wear pure white and black either. If I do wear black and white, which are essential to any wardrobe, I have to add gold and other accessories to warm up my look. Some people look stunning in black or stark whites. I don’t. I have to cheat with make-up and accessories. 

Besides color, the fit of clothing obviously matters. I used to be able to wear body-hugging knit fabrics that clung to my midsection because I didn’t have fat there. Having humbly recognized that babies and age changed this, I have to creatively hide that part of me. 

My clothing style is, wear what compliments your body type. And dress in a way that celebrates your personality and form, but still honors God. Don’t get so caught up in trends which make you spend money often and outdate your wardrobe quickly when the fashion season changes. I also ask Edric what kinds of clothes he likes me to wear. He often responds, “Dresses. I like it when you wear dresses.” So dresses it is, as often as possible.

I included the part where we need to honor God with our fashion, because it’s very tempting to be enslaved by what fashion dictates. When I put clothes on, I stand in front of the mirror and ask myself, “What will I communicate to people when they see me wearing this?” If I can’t honestly say that God will be glorified then I have to go back to my closet and change. 

Wellness – A strong, healthy body, and sound mind are also part of my beauty philosophy. When I don’t exercise, I tend to feel less confident and less attractive. When I do exercise, I am more energized. I feel better about myself, too. 


Although I wish I had rock hard abs and that every muscle in my body was tight, I don’t have the time to dedicate hours of exercise in order to achieve that sort of physique. However there’s no excuse for living a sedentary lifestyle either. 

As women, we ought to push ourselves to exercise and be fit. We don’t have to be triathletes, but we can work towards being toned and maintaining a weight that is optimum for our age. 

When I turned 35, my metabolism slowed down, I got the gift of cellulite, and I had to fight hard to keep my stomach flat. Now it’s doubly challenging to replace the fat on my belly with muscle. I have to eliminate sugary foods and too many carbs. Sugar and wheat are two of the foods that cause me to gain weight faster than I can burn these. Since I discovered that my body reacts to wheat, I have tried to avoid it. Although I don’t have wheat allergies, I have symptoms of intolerance like bloating and gas (not attractive). 

My mornings almost always begin with a heavy shake mixed with Unicity’s Chlorophyll Powder.

 Afterwards, I take Skinny Mint’s tea. I also mix in Manuka Honey into my tea to sweeten it or I take a teaspoonful afterwards. I don’t believe in skipping breakfast which is very bad for a person’s metabolism. 


What I do avoid is useless snacking in between meals, and I minimize the intake of carbs from  white rice, bread and pasta, especially at night. 

Dinner for our family is early, too. By 5:30 or 6 PM we have our dinner together (7 PM is late and we are starving by then!) Edric adjusted his work schedule so he is in the office by 7 am and then he’s done by 4 or 4:30 pm so he gets home by 5:30 for dinner.

An early dinner allows me to go to bed early, which is a beauty secret, too. As much as possible, I am in bed by 9:30 (unless we have dinners out, events, or bible studies). Sleep keeps me healthy and looking like the better version of myself. When I don’t get ample sleep, my skin suffers and so does my health. As a homeschooling mom, it’s problematic when I get sick because I can’t teach my kids. So I value a good night’s sleep. 

Water is an essential part of my daily beauty regimen as well. I have to hydrate often or my skin looks sad, and I tend to feel tired. At home I have a super sized glass that I carry around to make sure I drink a lot of water. 

On the one hand, beauty is about how we care for our physical selves. After all, the Bible tells us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit. “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭6:19‬) So it does matter that we treat our bodies as honorable vessels. But the most important aspect of beauty comes from within. It’s a state of contentedness, peace, and joy. It’s also about our outlook on life. 

The most beautiful women I know, my mom being one of them, radiate contentedness, peace, and joy from their relationship with Christ. They have a glow. It’s true beauty that doesn’t fade with age. 


1 Peter 2:3-5 says: “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.” 1 Peter‬ ‭3:3-5‬ ‭

It’s interesting that Moses’ faced glowed when he came down from Mt. Sinai after 40 days of one-on-one time with God. Can you imagine a holy facial? That’s what happens when our beauty regimen includes intimate moments with God to be renewed and refreshed in His presence. 

Whenever I receive compliments about my looks, I try to respond with, “Praise God, that’s His grace.” I have instructed my daughter, Tiana, to do the same and she very cutely says, “By God’s grace,” when people tell her she’s pretty. It’s essential for her to understand, just as it is for me and eventually her little sister, Catalina, that we must cultivate the kind of beauty that reflects who God is. 

Even though it is so tempting to, we shouldn’t have a self-serving kind of beauty that hungers for attention and affirmation from others to build up our self-worth. With the uncountable number of gorgeous women who populate this world with their perfect faces and bodies, we will continually fall short and feel inferior when our constant aspiration is to be beautiful only on the outside. Instead, the starting point of true beauty is discovering how much God loves us. It is finding our completeness in Him and meditating on the worth He ascribes to us, as demonstrated by the death Christ suffered on our behalf. When we were ugly and wretched because of sin, Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for us, so we can be renewed on the inside and display His glory on the outside. 

When I wrestle with feelings of insecurity about the way I look, I go back to God’s love for me. This keeps me from comparing myself to others, envying what I do not have, or striving to be more than I have been created to be. I can elect to be content and grateful for the features and the body that God gave me. He considers me precious to Him, therefore why should I diminish my value by burdening myself with chasing after elusive standards of beauty? 

The reality is my face and form will deteriorate with time. Even if I botoxed, lasered, and enhanced myself multiple times to fight aging, everything physical is destined for decay as 2 Corinthians 4:16 truthfully declares. What I can do instead is preserve my inner person, which the passage goes on to reveal, “is being renewed day by day.” This is the kind of beauty that matters to God, to the One who loves me — the continual transformation of my heart to reflect who He is and what He has done for me. I hope that if people ever call me beautiful, they would see Christ in me…His grace.

Lastly, my beauty philosophy includes seeing the world with spiritual lenses and not with physical eyes. I am prone to worry and feel stressed by difficult circumstances and difficult people. Worry and stress are like shortcuts that put us on the road to ugliness. 

However, when I process what disturbs me from a spiritual perspective, God often leads me to conclude that I can rest in Him. This usually happens when I surrender my troubles to Him in prayer. He alleviates the fear and remedies the unsettledness with His calm, assuring me that He is present and in control. But I have to do what is within my control, too, namely, to trust in Him, obey Him, and pray to Him. 

Sometimes trusting and obeying Him entails forgiving those who have wronged me. (That’s a very important beauty tip!) Sometimes it means I must think less of myself and more of others. At other times it involves forsaking a habit that is harmful to me and others even if it is pleasurable. Or maybe it’s about ministering to people around me like Edric, my kids, and those whom the Lord has called me to serve even when the inspiration isn’t there. 



Whatever it may be, I know that a joyful life is one that revolves around God’s will and priorities. There is no lasting joy when I live only for myself. 

A person who is joyful is a delight to behold. 

I once asked my son, Edan, “What makes a woman beautiful?” 

The question came after I commented on the poster of a very pretty model whom he described as “not pretty.” When I requested that he clarify why he didn’t agree with me, he answered with conviction, “A pretty person is someone who is happy…someone who smiles. She’s not smiling.” (The model was captured looking flawlessly vogue to me but sans a smile, Edan didn’t think she ought to be labeled as pretty.) 

How insightful of him to understand that beauty is a quality that emanates from inside a woman. The truth is, a beautiful woman, someone really, truly, astonishingly beautiful reflects the contentment, peace, and joy she possesses inside. And this enables her to smile at the future and bless those around her. (Proverbs 31) 

I began with the superficial aspects of my beauty regimen because there’s nothing wrong with trying to look our best at whatever season we are in as women. In fact, our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit like I shared earlier. Yet, I wanted to conclude with a greater emphasis on true beauty, which is of eternal worth. Let’s not settle for worldly definitions of beauty that so often discourage, pressure, and cause us to focus on our outer selves when our physical forms are temporal. Instead, let us cultivate the inward person, the timeless quality of Christlikeness which manifests itself in a face that smiles in a way that is so contagiously beautiful, it makes the world smile, too! 

God Finds Our Children

Our children have their own timetables when it comes to their faith journeys. We can do our best to raise them in the ways of the Lord and to teach them God’s word, but at the end of the day they have to make the choice to follow God themselves. Sometimes this reality frightens me. I have to fight the fear and the worry that plague my thoughts with questions like, What if they don’t follow God? What if they fall away from the faith?

Even if Edric and I do our best to model Christianity to our children and teach them biblical truth, it’s no guarantee that they will walk the same path. We can’t force them to, either. Choosing to make Jesus their Lord and Savior is a personal thing. It’s between them and the Lord.

We share the gospel with them as soon as they can understand it, which is usually about 3 or 4 years old. However, we don’t know EVERYTHING that is going on in each of their hearts. Even though we spend loads of time with them because we are homeschooling parents, there’s a lot to them that remains unseen.

This is one of the reasons why we started taking one kid at a time on trips out of the country. Earlier in the year, we brought Elijah with us to Dubai. During our last trip to Australia and New Zealand, we took our second son, Edan. Titus will be traveling with us soon as well.

Elijah and Edan appreciated having our undivided attention when they had their turns traveling with us. In fact, Edan admitted that he enjoyed feeling like an only child! Over the two weeks that we were away with Edan, we got to know him better…

  • The way he thinks – very methodical and concerned about time and details. He always wants to know what the plan is.
  • His favorite things – ice cream, plants, animals, games, good books, playing the piano
  • His fears – the dark, what others think of him
  • What makes him feel special – time with us, words of affirmation
  • His gifts – leadership, charm, bringing people together, responsibility, taking care of others
  • His weaknesses – pride, impatience, easily hurt, harboring grudges
  • What makes him frustrated – conflict with his siblings and blocked goals.

My favorite discovery about Edan happened in Australia, during the Hillsong Conference. Edan joined the kids’ events so he was away from us for most of the conference days. I wondered how he would cope since he was alone and outside of his comfort zone. Well, he did just fine. He made new friends and he enjoyed the services, games, and activities.

I asked him, “What did you learn during Kidsong?”

He was quiet at first (typical Edan) as he processed what he was about to say, and then he replied, “I realized I shouldn’t be ashamed to praise God…like raising my hands when I sing to him and singing with all my heart. I shouldn’t worry about what people think because I should be focused on worshiping God.”

Of coursed I teared as he told me this. Anytime my kids talk about their spiritual lives, I get emotional. It’s the most important aspect of who they are, and I feel so happy every time they trust me enough to tell me about their triumphs and struggles in the faith.

A few weeks after our trip, Edan also told me that he encountered Jesus in a special way during one of our Sunday services. He began by stammering, “I don’t know how to explain it, mom. Something happened. I was sitting in church and I felt God’s presence. I gave my life to Him again. It’s like I really understood what it meant to be a sinner, and that Jesus died on the cross for me, to save me.”

I was so excited, I grabbed him and pulled him close holding him in my arms as we both cried tears of joy. I said several times, “I am so happy, Edan!”

My greatest joy as a mother is knowing that my children love God and want to please God. Someday they will be on their own to make choices without Edric and I around. My prayer is that they will find God and discover how much He loves them, that they will give their lives to Him not because we ask them to, but because they wholeheartedly desire to.

The comforting news is this: God is the one who finds our kids. He seeks them out one by one and reveals Himself to them. As parents, we need to do our part to condition our children’s hearts to be receptive to God when this encounter happens. This involves modeling a love for the Lord, being intentional about discipling them, and providing an environment that encourages them to seek after Him. However, it gives me peace knowing that God loves them more than I ever will. He is more concerned about their relationship with Him that I will ever be.

Therefore, I need to relax as His divine work takes place in their hearts. I can’t control my kids decisions when it comes to choosing to give their lives to Him, but God is in control. He is faithful. He is present. He is moving. He is speaking to our children.

Let’s pray that they will hear Him. Let’s pray they will see Him. Let’s pray that they will choose Him!

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” 3 John‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭

Lessons from the Hillsong Conference in Sydney

Rarely do Edric and I get to attend a conference where we aren’t serving in some capacity. So it was wonderful to be at the Hillsong Conference in Sydney as a participant. There was no worrying about what to say on stage, no thinking through logistic details or program flows, or having to create committees and trouble shoot issues.

A lot of time when you put on the here-to-serve-mindset, you anticipate the challenges and the struggles that come before or during an event. You are spiritually armed and ready because you have been in prayer and have come to the Lord with an attitude of dependence. In contrast, when you are an attendee in a huge conference where you can hide among the multitudes, it’s very easy to let your carnality take over.

My heart was put the test as a participant this past week. I encountered a series of inconveniences and annoyances throughout the duration of the conference that were God-ordained, for my character growth.

On the second day, we lined up early to enter the space assigned to our group. But we had to wait for twenty minutes only to be told that we had to leave to go elsewhere because there were no more seats. This didn’t make sense because each seating area was reserved for a specific number of people who had marked IDs that allowed them entry. Plus we got there way before it was about to start.

An agitated organizer came up to our group to announce, “There are no more seats in this area.”

In a nice way I commented, “We have been waiting for a long time.”

He replied with sarcasm, “That comment is not even helpful!”

My blood curdled at his rudeness and Edric told me later he wanted to land a fist on his face. But I stopped myself from making an issue out of it and Edric held his composure. It was the perfect application for the message that evening by Steven Furtick.

He said, “If your perspective is connected to your pain you lose your praise. But if your perspective is connected to your purpose in Christ, you will be able to say all things work together for the good of those who love him! Paul had to spend the night in prison so the gospel could be set free on a continent. Make praise your way of life.”

Make praise your way of life! Not negative words, not complaining or grumbling. God always has a plan. God uses every circumstance for character-training reasons.

Instead of fighting back I remained quiet and told myself, “Lord you are teaching me something here and I am going to choose to be thankful.”

Right after, however, we were prevented from entering the entrance we were herded to. We were told we weren’t allowed to use that entrance because it was designated for another group.

Thankfully, Edric used his godly charm to appeal to one of the marshals. He explained what happened and because of his politeness, the marshall helped us out. A few minutes into the program he even sat beside Edric and told him, “You are such a nice guy. Where are you from? I like people like you guys.”

They had a conversation about how Filipinos, Indonesians and Malaysians are so easy to deal with and so wonderful to have as guests at their conference. Well, praise God! I could have ruined that good reputation had I lost my cool!

Other things happened outside of the conference that were upsetting…like having to leave our hotel room early in the morning on the last day of conference because we were asked to transfer to another room. But the hotel assigned us to a room that was occupied!

I opened the door to the sound of a woman’s voice. She must have been startled by my entry and called out from the bed, “Mark?”

Who was Mark? I don’t know! But It was embarrassing. I closed the door in a panic and Edric and I looked at one another dumbfounded. The hotel apologized for their big mistake and gave us another room key.

On the same morning, as we made our way to the event, an elderly man yelled at us for unintentionally blocking the 7/11 convenient store. We were having a conversation in front of the entrance and he got so angry he started mouthing out profanity and directed it toward us. (This was shocking because the majority of my encounters with Australians had been so positive!)

The climax in all of this was loosing my wallet with all my credit cards and IDs in it. It’s not in my personality to lose something so valuable! I felt terrible about it. But at the same time I was reminded that it’s just a wallet. God must have allowed me to make this ridiculous mistake for a reason.

When my son, Edan, felt stressed for my sake, I told him, “It’s okay. I would rather lose my wallet than lose you. There’s no need to be stressed. Don’t worry. Daddy will be my money.” I added that last bit as a joke to lighten his spirits.

Edric was especially calm. He tried his best NOT to be annoyed with me. He even took it upon myself to call Manila in order to report my lost credit cards.

Then he said, “Did you notice that I am not reacting?”

He wanted some affirmation, so of course I indulged him. “Yes, babe! I am so impressed!”

I am absolutely certain God allowed each inconvenience to encourage the application of His truth in my life.  As speaker Edmund Chan said, “Truth doesn’t change people. It is truth applied that changes people.”

The conference was amazing and inspiring but it would have meant nothing if I disconnected what I learned from real life. Real life was everything that happened to me outside of the sessions — being disrespected, treated as unimportant, being yelled at, losing things…

Its only by God’s grace that I didn’t respond with anger or stress to any of the above even if I was very tempted to. Why? I focused on the comforting and sobering truth that I am a follower of Jesus. It’s not the circumstances around me that should dictate who I am or who I become. It’s who I am in Christ that determines how I should process and respond to the circumstances around me. So when people don’t treat me the way I hope they will and when events don’t happen the way I hope they will, my hope is in Christ and my destiny is to be more like Christ.

 

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” ‭Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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

I Am Glad I Married a Man Who Didn’t Sleep Around

Edric and I will be fifteen years married in July. That’s not a milestone by some standards, but in a day and age when many marriages don’t make it past the five year mark, I’m deeply grateful. First, I’m grateful to the Lord because he’s the reason why we are still together. Second, I’m grateful to Edric who chooses to love me everyday, even when I’m not always lovable.

 Since it is the “love month” I decided to write a piece to thank my husband for being the kind of man that didn’t sleep around before marriage. It sounds very unromantic for me to put it this way, but if you read through this, you might begin to believe, as I have, that this is one of the most romantic gifts a husband can ever give his wife (and vice versa). How I wish I could have offered virginity to Edric, but as many of you readers know, I was once upon a time a victim of rape. (Read about my story in my book: When A Good God Allows Rape)

When I met Edric in college, I thought he was a good-looking guy. He told me to say “handsome” when he read this part over my shoulder. It was his unpretentiousness that kept me interested, second to the fact that we connected on a spiritual level. He didn’t mask his person behind a façade. He was sincere, honest, and easy to trust. 

As we got to know each other, he opened up about his past relationships, and I found out he was still a virgin. A virgin? Even in our day they were becoming a rare breed, especially for guys. Although he admitted to me that he struggled with pornography, he didn’t ever sleep with any of his girlfriends or other women. (Edric shared about his pornography struggle in my book so I’m being open about something he has already been open about.)

I knew it was important to preserve one’s purity. Events in my life took that away from me, but I still committed NOT to have consensual sex with anyone until I got married. I hoped to meet a guy who valued the same standards, too, so it mattered a lot that Edric had stayed pure. It told me something about his character as a man. I know he wrestled with the realities of what happened to me but I praise God it didn’t turn his heart away from me. Very much a rescuer, it inspired him to be my protector.

Our courtship wasn’t perfect, however. I have confessed this in other articles I have written about us and in my book. We got physical and stumbled along the way, but I praise God we didn’t experience sexual union until we were married. Prior to marriage, Edric and I also told our parents about the physical struggles in our relationship. We admitted to the wrong choices we made that brought us very close to the edge of what would have been the greatest mistake of our history. This was part of coming clean. 

The Bible says, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Hebrews‬ ‭13:4‬ ‭

We wanted to begin our relationship anew, with everything out in the open to honor the marriage bed. We also kept our engagement short — 4 months — to avoid further temptation. 

I was blessed to be able to look forward to our honeymoon because it the first time for me to experience sexual intimacy as God designed it. (My encounter with abuse didn’t count, of course!) Edric whisked me away from our reception at a very early 9 PM. He concocted an elaborate plan to escape through the funicular that connected Tagaytay Midlands to the Highlands. This is where we got married. I don’t even think we said goodbye to people, which seemed like the socially inappropriate thing to do but he could not wait for our “celebration” to begin. 

We spent our first night together as husband and wife in Tagaytay Highland’s Spa & Lodge. In keeping with tradition, he insisted on carrying me over the threshold of the doorway of our room. Attendants and onlookers smiled in a congratulatory way. All this while I found Edric’s energy amusing as he acted like someone on an adrenaline high. But it made me feel special, treasured, and wanted. 

The next day we headed to Baguio where we had a cabin all to ourselves. We didn’t need a grand trip to Europe or a foreign country to look forward to. All we cared about was a nice room somewhere cold. Think about the olden days when all that was necessary was a tent. Since we didn’t have a lot of money when we started out, Baguio provided the perfect setting for lots of cuddling.

During our honeymoon, I didn’t have insecurities about how it would go. I trusted Edric. I knew he had saved himself for marriage and didn’t have multiple partners to compare me to. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t nervous. And I am not going to inappropriately divulge the details of our first night. It was not “perfect” because we weren’t experts in the bedroom, but that’s what made it so perfect! We had nothing to prove to one another. There were no benchmarks to measure ourselves against. I remember feeling like it was the beginning of a beautiful journey of discovery, just between us — sacred, tender, profound. Edric gave me the privilege of being the first and the promise of being the last, till death do us part. 

The sex act in marriage is a pledge and a seal. It is the becoming of one flesh before God — the real ceremony of matrimony. In the Genesis account of Adam and Eve’s marriage the word marriage was not used at all. When Eve was presented to Adam by God, it reads, “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’ For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Genesis‬ ‭2:23-25‬) The ceremony was simple and uncomplicated. Adam was joined to Eve and they became one. Similarly, the person God has made for you is the only one you are supposed to be joined to as one flesh — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

God, in his wisdom, didn’t make many versions of Eve for Adam to choose from, either. (He wouldn’t have any ribs left. Just kidding!) God made just one. And he knew exactly what she should be like and what Adam would like. I think it’s important to say this because sometimes we don’t trust God to give us what we really want in a spouse. 

However these passages of scripture tell me that God always knows better. He knows the desires and longings of our hearts. He is mindful of our needs and He provides the best answer to them, better than we can ever imagine or hope for. Adam didn’t know what he was missing out on. He didn’t declare himself alone. It was God who said it wasn’t good for him to be alone. 

Amazingly, when Adam saw Eve he felt a bond and connectedness to her that was unlike any other that he felt with God’s creatures. As he beheld her she appeared to him comfortingly familiar and yet mysteriously and wonderfully different. Can you imagine for a moment what the Lord must have been thinking as He saw Adam’s eyes lock onto Eve’s with delight? I am sure He reveled in their joy, as he does in our joy when we get married.

As designer of marriage, God is also the best matchmaker. But we struggle with waiting on Him to bring this person to us. As a result we rush into relationships that feel right and many times end up broken inside when we have to leave them. God demonstrated from the very beginning that this was not his design. Marriage was between one man and one woman that he made for each other. He didn’t intend for us to suffer through the break ups and heartaches that come when we commit ourselves to many other people before marriage. And He most certainly didn’t purpose for us to bring those hurts into our marriages. 

We don’t often have the foresight to anticipate how past sexual experiences will affect our relationship to our spouse. Enjoying the intensity of sexual union and achieving oneness becomes complicated. Firstly, we program ourselves to view sex as a tool to achieve something that is self-serving. Some women control their boyfriends by using sex to keep them interested, others thrive on the attention men give them for their sexiness. Some men pressure women to sleep with them under the pretense of expressing love when what they really want is to enjoy the pleasures of sex. Still others like the conquest involved in being able to bed a woman — the more, the better. Sadly this self-seeking paradigm is brought into marriage and a spouse looks at sex as something that is for their benefit. It’s not about giving but about taking. 

Secondly, sex before marriage stimulates a desire for the illicit. And when it becomes monogamous, couples ache for the excitement that once came with the forbidden. 

Thirdly, it’s hard to remove images of sex with others or feelings about past relationships when a person engages in sex with their spouse. They don’t want to remember the things they did with others but it invades their minds anyway. Guilt overcomes them which results in the inability to perform with liberty and freedom.

Lastly, one’s sexual history can cause trust issues in marriage. It’s not so far fetched to think, “If my husband slept with women before, what’s to keep him from doing so when we are married?” If he didn’t internalize the sacredness of sex in marriage when he was single, there’s no guarantee that he won’t explore the same behavior when he is married. 

Interestingly, people think it’s okay to have sex with others before they get married but not afterwards. But sleeping around before marriage is like conditioning oneself for unfaithfulness and adultery (of the body and mind) when sex is viewed so casually prior to the committed and permanent relationship of marriage. 

Marriage won’t guarantee faithfulness. I am not saying Edric and I are impervious to adultery because we didn’t have casual sex with people when we were single. It’s only by God’s grace that we stay faithful to one another, and we will only finish well by God’s grace. But moral purity is a discipline. And Edric often tells me, look at track record. That matters. If a guy sleeps around before marriage, it doesn’t matter whom they marry. She can be the most beautiful woman in the world but she will not be good enough to keep him pure. I am not discounting the grace and power of God to deliver someone from their past but there are real problems that we carry into our future when we violate God’s commands. Galatians 6:7 tells us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” 

1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, 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 also for the life to come.”

A person who has disciplined himself to say no to sex before marriage will find it easier to say no to sex outside of marriage when he becomes a husband. He has made it a habit to please God. His default is to run away from sin rather than towards it. Certainly other factors play a role, too, like having good communication as husband and wife, meeting each other’s heartfelt needs, exerting effort to upgrade your marital sex life, being willing to improve to better satisfy one another, being connected to people who can hold you accountable for sexual purity, etc. The truth remains that sex outside of marriage is not something you can do and walk away from without consequence to your entire person or your future spouse. 

Some years ago I was speaking to a friend who confessed to me that she would think about her sexual experiences with her ex-boyfriend when she had sex with her husband. And her experience with her ex was better! Another friend told me that her husband felt rage every time he saw her ex-boyfriend. This ex-boyfriend was the first person my friend had lost her virginity to, and he couldn’t get over it. Yet another friend admitted to me that her martial sex life was not exciting because they explored everything before marriage. In marriage they hardly had sex. Some other friends had issues with faithfulness because their spouse programmed their appetites to enjoy elicit sex. Having slept with multiple people before marriage, monogamous sex wasn’t as desirable. 

Sex isn’t the only thing to enjoy in marriage but it is a big part of what makes marriage a special relationship. And we need to do everything we can to protect it. I praise God that I am reaping the benefits of being married to a man who didn’t sleep around. But at the end of the day it’s not his love for me that saved him from promiscuity. It was and is his love for God. 

As I age physically, he remains committed to honoring his purity for me and guarding his eyes and heart. This conviction comes from his relationship with God and not necessarily his undying devotion to me. Love for God is evidenced in the choices we make, whether single or married, and the history of a man’s choices will tell you whether he truly loves God, especially in the area where he is prone to weakness and great temptation — the area of sexual purity. 

Therefore if you aren’t married, take a good and honest look at the man you are with in a dating relationship or the man you want to marry. The man he is today will not miraculously change into a holy, righteous person who will be committed to pursuing purity as a husband if he is not making it his current priority to please God. Furthermore, the same weaknesses he struggles with at present will become the same chink in his armor when he is married.

So don’t settle for a man who hasn’t valued his purity, yours, or other womens’. And don’t give your purity to a man who claims he loves you who isn’t your spouse. Sexual promiscuity and experimentation may be portrayed as pleasurable and normal in this world but they are not God’s design for us. He purposed for a man and woman to present themselves to one another “naked and unashamed” as Adam and Eve did, husband and wife, without the guilt, sorrow, or fear that many people deal with today. At the same time, God is a redeemer. If you have failed to value purity the way He wants you to, it’s not too late to repent and start committing to it. You can still honor God with your mind and body. You can still flee immorality and receive the grace and power of God to live a life that pleases him. 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John‬ ‭1:9‬

Whom Do You Love More?

For all my young readers out there, this post is for you. I shared it during this morning’s church service and I hope it will bless and encourage you! 


Ever since I was a child I cared about what people thought about me. I was a self-conscious person and a people-pleaser. This character weakness was tested especially in college, when I was no longer homeschooled or in a Christian school.

After graduating from an American school for missionaries called Faith Academy, most of my friends left for the US or Europe after high school, and I had to make friends from scratch. I didn’t know people in college like most students did. 

Eventually, however, I had a group of friends I started hanging out with who kind of took me “under their wing.” They were a great bunch of friends – intelligent, beautiful, kind-hearted, and fun to be with. However, they also belonged to a crowd who enjoyed going out to bars and clubs on Wednesday nights and the weekends.

When I first started frequenting bars with my college friends I thought I would never drink alcohol. It didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t grow up in a home where alcohol or cigarettes were common. And the high school I went to didn’t allow students to have either. So I would sit around and watch everybody with some sort of booze in their one hand, most often beer, while they checked each other out and chatted each other up. A lot of it was flirting between guys and girls, or sitting around with your group of friends while some guy treated you all to drinks.

At the beginning, I thought, What am I doing here?! This is a slow way to die, inhaling all this second hand smoke! It was almost intolerable, but I would go anyway, to be with my girl friends. Almost always, I would feel out of place, uncomfortable about connecting with people in an environment that seemed to be the worst place to engage in genuine conversation.

Nevertheless, I wanted to fit in somehow. So I thought, Why not try just a little alcohol? It’s not like the Bible says that drinking is sinful. To be honest I didn’t like the taste at all at first, but participating in the same things my friends did made me feel closer to them, more accepted, and this mattered to me.

The tipping point for me was going on an out of town trip for a football match. Our team went to a bar afterwards to celebrate, and getting a buzz from my cocktails gave me an exhilarating sense of freedom. I felt more confident, more gregarious. I do recall receiving surprised and concerned looks from people who knew me to be the conservative Christian. But I rationalized, “Hey, I can do this. I am still in control and I’m not doing anything stupid.”

I would rarely drink to the point of tipsiness, but there were a few times that I got carried away and did some ridiculous things.  One time I kissed a friend in public (someone I would never ever have kissed) while wearing my angel outfit and halo at a halloween party. The irony. My girl friends rushed over to pry me away, scolding our friend when it wasn’t even his fault. Another time, I got drunk and threw up out of a window of a moving vehicle. Yet another time, I danced like an idiot on the ledge of a club that had a lot of lecherous looking old men in it. In Europe, on a month-long trip with my friends (which was a blast), we would be out every night we could dancing with strangers and going out with people we hardly knew.

Thankfully, this season of my life was short-lived. After a while, I thought to myself, Why am I doing these things? Do I really want to be this person? I don’t even like alcohol! Furthermore, I recognized that my root problem was not the actual drinking or nights out, but the desire to have people’s approval.

Amazingly, when I told my parents about my night time adventures and the places I went go to they were NOT reactive. They didn’t scold me or condemn my friends. They didn’t pressure me to live up to the expectations of a pastor’s kid (which would have probably incited me to rebellion). Instead, their style was to spend time with me and ask me questions like, “So why do you like to drink?” They tried to understand my motivations so they could better disciple me. After all, it wasn’t my behavior that was the issue to them. It was my heart. So they prayed faithfully for me. They prayed a lot! And they reminded me that I was accountable to God.

Since they weren’t the kind of parents who were suffocatingly strict and unreasonable, or the kind of parents who micromanaged every choice their kids made, I appreciated and respected their input. More importantly, their talk-less, listen-and-dialogue-more method of mentoring me gave the Holy Spirit the space to speak to me and convict me.

I began to be deeply disturbed about the trajectory I was headed in. I knew I was a follower of Jesus. Yet my motivations revealed that I valued what people thought about me more than God’s opinion of me. Did I really love Jesus with all my heart?

Furthermore if I really loved Jesus then I would live to please him above all else. My goal would be to glorify Him, and to pursue Christ likeness and righteousness. But at that point I couldn’t confidently say that my life inspired others to follow Christ. Living with this dichotomy — professing to love God yet having little fruit to show as evidence, troubled me. I didn’t have peace.

So I went back to the convictions that my parents passed on to me when I was younger — truths that hooked me back into the will of God before I wandered too far off course. I made the decision to honour God and glorify Him. If I truly loved Him, this would be a priority to me.  It wouldn’t even be about whether drinking was okay or not. (Sometimes we can be so legalistic and judgmental as followers of Christ, equating spirituality with this image of someone who doesn’t drink, smoke, dance, go to clubs or maybe even movie theaters! Nevertheless, I do believe that everyone who likes to do things like drink or smoke should assess why they do. And if their reasons signal red flags like addiction, dependence, peer acceptance, or remedies for stress, etc…then it may very well benefit them to ask the same questions I had to.)

For me the more important questions were, “How do I live in such a way that people will be attracted to Jesus Christ in me? What does God see when He looks into my heart?” In response, I changed my Wednesday and weekend habits. I stopped going to bars and clubs in order to “fit in.” 

This didn’t mean that I lost all my friends either. I loved these girls. I still do. And when we can, we get together for meals or coffee, occasions when we can really connect and talk.

Another, more serious test came when I had my second boyfriend, the same boyfriend who eventually became my husband whom you know as my one and only, Edric Mendoza. We struggled in the area of physical purity. We didn’t have sex but we pushed things to the absolute limit. I knew that I was making compromises that were not pleasing to God, but a part of me also wanted to hold on to Edric’s affections for me. There were moments when I would deceivingly think, this isn’t so bad. It’s not like we are having sex. But I had lowered my standards for holiness and purity by comparing my actions to what “other people are doing.”

Once again, I had to ask myself the same question, Do I really love Jesus more than I love Edric? 

Because the struggle with purity continued no matter what tricks we tried to avoid temptation, we were compelled to consider breaking up. Edric also loved God and wanted to do what was right. So we broke off the relationship without any timetable for getting back together. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do and Edric would say the same thing, but it was also one of the best decisions we ever made.

Edric was an idol in my life whom I had to surrender to God. When I did so, my passion for the Lord was rekindled. Prior to this, my struggle with purity had put a wedge and cap on my ability to grow spiritually. Edric also grew deeper in His faith.

Eventually, God allowed us to get married with the approval and blessing of our parents, and after full disclosure to them. By this time our hearts were prepared to love each other the way God called us to. We understood that in any relationship, Christ must be the center. A husband and wife must love Jesus first to love each other the way they should.

Not all love stories may end this same way, but I do believe that when we love God with all that we are He gives us His best in return, which is first and foremost Himself. Everything else is a bonus!

Mendoza_119Today I am happily married to Edric. We have five children. And we are serving the Lord as a team and teaching our children to love Him. The stories that I shared are almost twenty years old, but they remain significant because they were turning points in my life, when I made a conscious choice to love God and obey Him over something else or someone else that was important to me.

John 14:21 says, He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

We may have to sacrifice and experience challenges as we love God with all that we are, but He promises fullness of joy!

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” ‭‭John‬ ‭15:9-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

By God’s grace, the best and sweetest years of my life so far have been those that I have given wholeheartedly to loving, following, obeying, and serving God. When I am tempted to replace this love for God with something else (because struggles still exist), I tell myself, Nothing is better than Christ. And nothing will ever satisfy me more than to seek Him and obey His will! 

Number Our Days

Edric spoke on numbering our days during the Sunday Service two days ago. It was an inspiring message that challenged the audience to consider how we use the time we have.

Psalm 90:12 says, So teach us to number our days that we may present to You (God) a heart of wisdom.

Life is short. Our friend, Steve Reed, passed away at 30. Another friend of the family, Jay Lucas, died of cancer shortly after it relapsed. And my grandfather (Angkong) departed at 96. None of us know the length of our days on this earth. It can be a few years or many, but in the end, it’s merely a dash between the year we are born and the year we die. 

Therefore, Edric challenged us to adopt the perspective of Kerry and Chris Shook in their book, “One Month to Live.” Edric read this back in 2008, but it tied in perfectly with his New Year’s challenge for us. 

If each of us had only one month to live, what would we do differently? Why aren’t we doing these things now? 

He pulled out three points from their book: Live passionately, love completely, and learn humbly. 

Live passionately for the Lord. This is about building God’s kingdom and not our own. Do we look to meet the spiritual needs of those around us and minister to them? Or, are we too busy pursuing the temporal things — money, fame, power?

Personally, I need to improve on sharing the gospel with people in a one-on-one context. I talk about Jesus on my site, the gospel story is in my book, and I insert the gospel message when I speak in front of audiences, but sometimes, I am too preoccupied to strike up a conversation with a sales lady, clerk, beautician, massage therapist, etc, and I forget that these are missed opportunities to tell them that they are infinitely loved by God, that He wants to have a personal relationship with them. Instead, I am thinking about whether they are serving me the way they ought to, or if I am getting my goals accomplished. People become a means to an end. But God wants me to consider their end. My mom, who talks about Jesus as often as she can, says, “When we don’t share the gospel, it’s like telling people to go to hell.” 

Very recently, I read Ezekiel again, and I highlighted the passage that speaks about how we are accountable to tell people the truth. Whether they receive it isn’t our problem, but if we don’t declare God’s Word He will hold us responsible as His “watchmen.”

“”Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” Ezekiel‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭

Living passionately for the Lord is also about being contagious Christians. Do we do our best at work, home, ministry? Do we use our talents, gifts and abilities to glorify God? If people were to examine our lives closely, would they be able to conclude with absolute certainty that we are followers of Christ? Would they be attracted to the joy, peace and love they see, and desire the same for themselves? 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭

Love completely is about forgiving and unconditionally accepting the people in our lives. If we were to number our days, knowing that life is too short to squander on anger and bitterness, would we choose to end our days with unresolved conflicts or issues in our marriages, with our children, siblings or others? 
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.‭‭” Colossians‬ ‭3:12-14‬ ‭

Learn humbly involves the willingness to change, to listen and receive correction and criticism, or to seek to grow and mature in areas of weakness. 

  God gave Edric and me the perfect opportunity to apply all three aspects of numbering our days. We traveled to the beach with the kids without yayas. Catalina is two so I am trying to help her become more independent. But it’s never simple to travel with five kids. It’s a lot of fun but it requires Edric and me to be hands-on at all times. Thankfully, our older sons are a big blessing. They give us breaks and take over when they can. Yet like I said, family vacations can be a good test of living passionately, loving completely and learning humbly. 

  Just today, on the way home from the beach, we nearly lost Catalina who walked off to go exploring in the hotel. Edric panicked and raised his voice at Elijah, whom he assumed was tasked to babysit her because she was last seen with him. Elijah darted off in tears, looking for Catalina, feeling terrible. The other kids said, “Why did dad shout?”

I glared at Edric for losing his cool in front of the children and went hunting for Catalina. She wasn’t lost at all. I found her playing with her cousin in the dining area, unaware of the distress her momentary disappearance had caused everyone. 

In the car, there was an icy silence as Edric and I anticipated who would apologize first. He began by identifying who was to blame and commanded me to say sorry to everyone for being the main person responsible for Catalina. After I did, I retorted, “You need to apologize, too, for shouting at Elijah. Shouting doesn’t help anyone solve a problem. You simply agitated everyone with your response. It wasn’t right.” 

I usually keep quiet and let the Holy Spirit convict him, but I was so annoyed that I let the words roll off my tongue without restraint. He didn’t appreciate this at all, but he did ask for our forgiveness to be a good example. Neither of us were satisfied with each other’s apology. We sense the lingering frustration and anger between us. (It’s only by God’s grace that we are able to recover from these situations.)
When both ended up re-doing our apologies with sincerity and we also chose to forgive one another and let go of the resentment. We applied the principle of “numbering our days.”

First, we were un-Christlike examples to our kids. And living passionately for the Lord must be evident to our most sensitive audience first — our children. Edric spoke to Elijah and really humbled himself before all of us. I also asked for forgiveness for being disrespectful towards Edric. 

Second, loving completely means I needed to forgive Edric as he needed to forgive me. We didn’t feel like it. AT ALL. We were thoroughly aggravated with one another for the mistakes we made. But God asks us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. After we did so, the anger dissipated. 

Third, we learned humbly by acknowledging our wrongs to one another. When Edric was correcting me and criticizing me for neglecting Catalina, I wanted to defend myself and list down the many ways I took care of her during the trip. I felt like he took that one moment and gave me a rating of “F” for my mother skills. But I apologized because it only takes one accident or careless instance to lose a child and I did mess up. I did not keep a diligent eye on her and assumed that Elijah was entertaining her with an educational game. Furthermore, I made Edric look badly in front of the kids with my tone and words when I could have spoke to him in private about raising his voice. This was wrong. 

I praise God that by the end of our journey all was resolved and our relationships were restored.
We all need to number our days, to consider how we want to spend the time God has gifted us with. Are we living passionately for Him, loving others completely (especially our spouse and children), and learning humbly by choosing to become more like Christ? 

God will hold us accountable for the manner in which we invest each moment, each hour, each day, each year, and each lifetime. May He find us faithful and wise, people who understand the brevity of life and make choices that please Him! 

  
““The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’” Matthew‬ ‭25:21‬ ‭