Confessions of An Imperfect Mother

I lost it with my kids yesterday. We were looking through homeschool math kits and materials and I found out that Titus, Tiana and one of their cousins had gotten into them. Parts were misplaced and items were incomplete. Everything was jumbled together and carelessly thrown into one box.

My mistake was I took the box and intentionally dumped it on the floor in front of the children. It crashed in a loud way, pieces scattering in all directions.

Titus started to cry. The others were in shock. This was the first time they saw me react this way. My cortisol levels walked out of the room.

I was so frustrated because of the irresponsibility and lack of stewardship. When we bought these things I clearly told my kids to take care of them. They agreed to do so.

After sorting and tallying, a letter “y” was missing from the lower case letters of a kindergarten assessment kit; a test tube, three test tube covers, tweezers, and a magnifying glass were missing from a pre-school science kit; and the bear counters, as well as the colored and different-sized rubber bands weren’t in their box.

It may not seem like a huge deal but these are homeschooling materials I need for teaching. They aren’t easy to replace. Still…sigh…throwing the box was uncalled for. It was such a bad example to my kids. I knew it too but I struggled with thoughts like, if I don’t get mad how will my kids learn that this sort of irresponsibility is not acceptable? How will they take me seriously if I am always so patient and forgiving?

These were ridiculous thoughts but I entertained them for a bit after I left the room. I went downstairs to grab some ziploc bags so the mess could be sorted.

Everyone was quiet when I came back into the room. I placed Catalina on the floor and sat beside them. They kept making side glances at me, expecting an apology. At first I tried to explain what made me irate.

I went on and on about stewardship and what it means to take care of what God has given us. Bad timing. Of course nothing was sinking in because my kids had not recovered from my outburst of anger.

Over lunch, I gathered them around me. “Mommy needs to talk to all of you. Mommy was angry because you were not good stewards but it was wrong of me to throw the box on the floor. I was very wrong. Will you forgive me? I was a bad example. I am so sorry.”

They nodded their heads. Titus and Tiana started to smile. But my older boys needed more time. They were still dealing with the emotional and spiritual pain I had caused them. I let them speak up and express their feelings. They teared up, especially Elijah.

“You have never done that before, mom.” His voice cracked as he tried to stay in control of his emotions. He also added, “My throat is sore from crying. I was crying while I was going around the house looking for all the things you asked us to.” (I made a list of missing items for them to find.) I hugged him and asked for forgiveness again.

At that point I felt so wretched, and I felt like a total hypocrite. Last weekend I gave a parenting talk with Edric and I boldly stated, “Our responses to our children should be redemptive, they should lead them to Christ, not away from him.”

Ayayay. Choke. Gag me. I had done just the opposite!

I spent time with the kids in the afternoon and they livened up to their usual selves. They even said, “W are okay now, mom.” But there was definitely regret on my part. I really wish I had controlled myself and not chucked the box on the floor.

God reminded me that I am an imperfect, sinful mother who needs to depend on his grace daily to love my children to Christ. The moment when I think I am most OKAY, like I am in control and cruising along, is the moment when I am most vulnerable to the sins of pride, anger, impatience, criticism and judgementalism.

During Holy Week Edric and I were busy serving God. We did two parenting seminars. Edric also spoke thrice on Sunday and I shared along side him. And my 700 Club testimony was featured on TV.

Encouragement and praise flooded my inbox and without realizing it, I was eating it all up and reveling in it, thinking that I had done something of worth for the Lord. I was “resting on my spiritual laurels.” But my outburst was a very humbling reminder that whenever I do anything of worth ALL CREDIT goes to God. There is nothing good in me apart from him. It’s not about what I do for God or what I accomplish. It’s about who he is and what he has done. The instant I start patting myself on the back and stealing even a smidgen of God’s glory, I will fall and fail like I did yesterday.

This post is a confession before God and to Him that my heart was deceived. I equated spiritual success with the doings of a person. But the muchness of service can often belie the true disposition of the heart and its devotion. What is more important is the being — the unmasked self, the exposed motives that are hidden to others but seen by God.

Why do I do what I do for His kingdom?

Is it for him or is it really for me? Is it because I really love Christ and others or is it because I love myself? Is it because I want him to get all the glory or do I want some of it? Is it an offering of worship to a God who is worthy of my praise and my best or is it obligatory preoccupation with the doings of Christianity?

God is not more pleased with displays of service as he is with the heart of the one who serves with gratitude, joy, love and truthful worship. As his word says, But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. (John 4:23 NLT)

In everything I do, whether it be as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, and servant of God, I must have the same perspective that John had in reference to Christ. May the perfect Jesus always increase in this imperfect me…

He must increase, but I must decrease. “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. (John 3:30, 31 NASB)

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The Triumvirate of Unconditional Love

Let me begin by saying it’s absolutely impossible to survive a marriage without forgiveness. It is one of the three triplets that define unconditional love, especially in marriage — forgiveness, grace and hope. Every single day that a person is married, at least one of these (if not all) are put to the test. Without this triumvirate a marriage cannot grow in intimacy and it will certainly not overcome what threatens to break it apart. Whether it be daily annoyances, personality clashes, unmet expectations or longings, lack of priorities, or betrayal, a marital relationship is constantly under attack. It is the game plan of the evil one to break it apart and destroy the people who are in and around it — the couple, the children, the family. And naturally, when more and more families fall, society will follow.

So a marriage must be treated as sacred, and those who commit to it must understand that saying yes to one another, before God, is for better or for worse.

John Piper wrote an amazing book called “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” He says that marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. Marriage between a man and a woman was designed from the beginning to be a reflection of the relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

I used to wonder why the Bible says that there is no marriage in heaven. This question was answered when I read Piper’s book. Marriage is a mirror of the relationship between Jesus Christ (the husband) and his church (his bride). “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…”(Ephesians 5:23-26 NASB)

In heaven, there is no need for a marriage to display this relationship. But on earth, what a privilege we have to show the world how much God loves us! Christ will never leave his church, his bride, just as a man ought never to leave his wife. And the church is to be faithful and subject to Christ, as a wife ought to be to her husband.

The problem is marriage is between two imperfect people. Unlike Christ to us, we do not always love one another as he loves us. But we have a reference for the kind of love that ought to be shared by a husband and wife because of Christ’s example. There has to be forgiveness, grace and hope.

Last week Edric and I got into a serious fight. It wasn’t one of those silly ones that have to do with personality quirks or toothpaste tubes left uncovered in the bathroom. I brought up a concern about Family Ministry and his involvement in it, and he was very discouraged by the things I said. He called me Ms. Gloom and Doom for being negative and corrective about the way he was running it. I didn’t relent. My mistake was I kept pursuing the discussion, intentionally pulverizing him with my frustrations. And I knew I was being disrespectful but I didn’t care. I just wanted him to acknowledge what I was saying and validate my perspective. But he reacted with anger (not shouting but he didn’t like what I had to say at all), and he withdrew and avoided me because he was deeply hurt. So I pulled away, too.

When I apologized for my disrespect, I made the mistake of bringing up the same topic again. And it came to a point where he actually said that he didn’t want to come home if he was going to come home to a complaining, nagging wife who had no confidence in him.

In my mind I wasn’t being a nag and I wasn’t communicating that he wasn’t capable of heading the ministry. I was merely expressing a concern. But for guys, well, my husband atleast, when he responds with a statement like, “I will take care of it,” that means he’s going to take action and I need not badger him repeatedly to make sure. That was my problem. I didn’t stop talking. Even after Edric said he would take care of it, I kept going and going.

It took two and a half days before we resolved our conflict. (This is long for us.) And it was a pretty emotional discussion. We went back and forth deliberating and articulating our deep frustrations towards one another until I just broke down and he did, too. We sat in the kitchen in tears.

Neither of us wanted to be fighting. We loved each other. But there was a lot of garbage being shoveled on top of that love. All we began to see and smell was the stink.

As we humbled ourselves and acknowledged our wrongs, we applied forgiveness, grace and hope. We accepted one another’s apology without thinking, “Well, you are just going to do this again” — FORGIVENESS. And we made ourselves vulnerable by choosing to love one another still — GRACE. Afterwards, we talked about what to improve on and we were comforted by Christ’s work in each of us — HOPE.

Years ago Edric and I attended a marriage retreat where we learned about the stages of marriage — romantic, reality, reaction, retaliation, retreat, resignation, and rebuilding. Romantic is like the honey moon stage, when you are both starry-eyed, blissful, and totally clueless about how different you are from one another. Reality is the day you wake up and realize that your husband doesn’t put the toilet seat down after using it, and your husband realizes you spend 3 hours in the bathroom (I hope none of us wives really do this!) As the idiosyncrasies, attitudes and behaviors begin to bug and irritate you, you begin to react, and then conflict arises. Retaliation happens. If the conflicts remain unresolved and there is no attempt to change, then you both begin to withdraw. This is the retreat stage. When neither of you want to fix the marriage and feel a kind of hopelessness about it, this is resignation. If you can’t get past this stage, you may separate or divorce. Another possibility is you will live together but have absolutely no relationship. The good news is, in Christ, a marriage can be rebuilt. It can keep on being rebuilt.

Edric and I have experienced these stages over and over again. As much as possible, we don’t linger in the retreat stage too long, and we skip on to the rebuilding stage soon after a conflict. In order to do this, forgiveness, grace and hope are necessary. But these would be impossible to apply if God wasn’t present in our marriage.

Both of us need a reference for unconditional love that is outside of ourselves. Our human capacity to forgive, dispense grace, and hope is limited by who we are – sinful, fallen people. Honestly, I don’t always like to forgive. Most of the time it’s not the big offenses that are hard to deal with, it’s the repeated ones that are wearying. When Edric gets irritated or loses his cool, I feel very hurt. And it makes me angry when he has a problem calibrating his emotions. I praise God that his “flare-ups” have become more infrequent over the years. He tries his best to be cool, calm, and collected, as well as mindful of his tone. But, on occasion, when he gets busy or overexerts himself to the point of exhaustion, he is more vulnerable to spikes in his temperament. When this happens, I want to react and fight back, or at least correct him. My first instinct is not to forgive. I don’t feel like it. It’s not easy for Edric to keep forgiving me for my shortcomings either. But he said something really sweet to me that nearly brought me to tears. “Hon, from the moment of the offense, I forgive you.” In other words, as soon as I display a behavior, attitude or speak words that hurt him, he already chooses to forgive.

“Why?” I asked.

“Christ’s love compels me to,” was his answer.

We choose to forgive because God has forgiven us through his son, Jesus. And we know that forgiveness is the starting point. It’s like the antivenin that removes emotional toxins that poison our love for one another.

The Bible says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…” Hebrews 12:15

Recently I heard an amazing story of a couple who wanted to quit on one another. One of the spouses had kept a second family and lived a secret life. It was an offense that any normal person would struggle to forgive. For a while, it seemed like this couple was at the resignation stage. The marriage seemed impossible to fix. As a last effort, they attended a retreat where they learned about Jesus Christ and his forgiveness. The grieving spouse made a decision to forgive because of Christ’s forgiveness. Together they committed to rebuild the relationship, an act of grace. And miraculously, their marriage bounced back to the romantic stage as they were able to unearth issues, and unmet longings and expectations. Hope was restored.

Even though stories like this one may seem uncommon in a world where marriages fall apart because of infidelity and betrayal, it is a common occurrence for couples who choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of their lives and marriages. Jesus Christ doesn’t just save people. He saves marriages.

I love Edric. I want to love him always. But marriage is not an easy relationship. We will continue to disappoint one another because we are flawed people. We will continue to go through the stages of marriage. However, the great news is we can keep returning to the romantic stage. For as long as we apply the same unconditional love that Jesus Christ affords us there will always be forgiveness, grace and hope in our marriage.

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HOPE

Sunday morning I was invited to speak at CRIBS, a center for abused women. When I was praying about what to share, God impressed upon my heart to talk about hope…

It’s easy to lose hope when you go through sexual abuse, molestation, incest, or rape. I know the feeling of losing hope — hope for the future, hope for acceptance, hope for security and protection, hope that you can ever be whole and undamaged again.

When I was raped at fifteen, I felt like something was stolen from me, something that no one could ever give back.

But then I remembered verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”

So I made up my mind. I chose to believe that God was good, that he still had a plan for my life. I clung to the promise in Romans 8:28 which says, “But God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him.”

What good could ever come out of rape? I didn’t know how God would redeem this tragedy, but I made a personal choice not to allow tragedy to define or determine who I would become.

When I was speaking to the ladies at CRIBS, I told them, “God is not like the men who hurt you or who hurt me. Some of you may have been abused and betrayed by the men in your life who are supposed to take care of you and protect you — fathers, uncles, maybe even cousins, and brothers. But God is not like these men.

God is a loving, caring Father who is mindful of us. I have five children. They are all special to me. And I don’t think there will ever be a time when I will forget any of them. But here is what God says about himself:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

What a tender description of God’s love for us! He doesn’t forget any of us, no matter what we have been through.

God loves us so much, He gave us His own son, Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus was abused for our sake. He was mocked and humiliated, abandoned by those who were closest to him. He endured all this so that his death could bring us eternal life.

John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world he gave us his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Why? Why would the God of the universe do this? GOD LOVES US SO MUCH HE WANTS TO HEAL MORE THAN OUR PHYSICAL PROBLEMS. HE WANTS TO HEAL OUR BIGGER PROBLEM — OUR SPIRITUAL PROBLEM.

Those of us who have gone through sexual assault had our physical bodies hurt and damaged. But there is a greater and more serious wrong that we have to come to terms with. Before God, we are ALL sinners.

Romans 3:9 -11 “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.’”

What is our spiritual problem? Sin. We are separated from God. Our orientation is away from God.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In the past I used to think that the men who raped me were the evil ones. Yes, they were wrong and what they did was horrible. But God reminded me that I am also a sinner. I may not hurt people the same way those men hurt me. However, I stand just as guilty before God. I too fall short of his righteousness. And because He forgave me then I should do the same to the men who violated me.

The entire world groans under the weight of sin. That’s why people assault, pillage, plunder and kill. That was never God’s plan. God made a beautiful world where people were supposed to be in harmony with Him, with one another, with creation. Relationships were intended to provide security and unconditional love.

After I was raped, a kind of skepticism and distrustful point of view grew in me. I often interpreted the affections of men as malicious and perverse. The sins committed against me altered my natural inclination to trust in people.

This is what sin does. It destroys, corrupts, and disrupts God’s good design. And the consequences of sin — heartache, hardships, problems, pain, and multiplied sorrows — these are the enemies of hope.

But Jesus gave his life, to restore and heal what sin took away, to give us hope. What is the hope we have in Jesus?

1. THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE

“For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

The verse says “so that you may know.” It is a certainty, not a false promise.

Having the hope of eternal life comforted me greatly the night of the rape. I thought, “Lord they may be able to touch my body, but they cannot touch my spirit. My real life is hidden in you.”

No matter what happens to our physical bodies, we can look forward to heaven where the book of Revelations tells us, “every tear shall be wiped away.”

2. THE HOPE OF PEACE

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The reality is we live in a world that is broken, fallen. While we cannot change this (at least not until Christ comes again), we can still have the peace he offers. If Jesus is present in our lives, we do not have to be afraid, to worry or doubt that he will take care of us when trials and difficulties come. He gives us the assurance that he has already overcome the world.

3. THE HOPE OF A NEW BEGINNING

“For if anyone is in Christ he is new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I felt soiled and dirty after I was raped, but this verse reminded me that in Christ all things can be new again. I wanted new memories. I wanted to move on and move past what happened to me. Even if I was victimized, I didn’t want to live like a victim.

Today I am happily married and blessed with five children. I have the privilege of serving the Lord along-side my husband, Edric. Together we are enjoying the adventures of parenting and homeschooling our children. The dark memories of that night have been replaced by beautiful, delightful ones that speak of the wonders and faithfulness of God in my life and in my family’s.

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The Lord is a redeemer. He isn’t like the people or problems that steal and take away what is precious to us. He is a GIVER. He wants to GIVE us hope for the future — eternal life, hope for today — peace, and hope for our past — a new beginning.

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Years ago I gave my life to Jesus. He is the only reason why I was able to come away from this tragedy with hope and forgive the men who raped me. Will you let God redeem your life, too, so you can experience the hope that he has promised through his son, Jesus?

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Real Wealth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our most recent home with hardly anything left in it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Two Become One

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My parents are literally East meets West, a Chinese and an American. When they met one another in the Philippines, they were from two distinctly different cultures brought together by a common love for Jesus Christ and the desire to serve him. Now married for nearly 41 years, and still in love (more so than ever before), it is their identity in Christ — as one — that has kept them together.

While I was cleaning out old albums, I came across a published narrative of how God brought them together, and I was so blessed to read their story again. I’m hoping you will feel the same way…

“Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-24

PETER (DAD):

As I meditated on this passage one morning in December 1971, I was confident that if I asked anything in the name of Jesus, he would do it. There was great peace in my heart as  I prayed, “Lord, allow me to meet my future wife. I am tired of dating girls and wasting time.”

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20140329-180017.jpgI met Deonna in Janauary at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. She had arrived in the Philippines on November 21 as a member of the Crossroads, a musical team for Asia of the aforementioned Christian organization.

At that time, I never imaged that she was the Lord’s answer to my prayer. There were two incidents, however, which prompted me to become better acquainted with her. The first occurred when my younger sister, Beth, went shopping with her. Beth commented afterwards, “she is so simple and wise in her shopping.”

The other happened a week after our encounter. The Crossroads and I were having dinner together. As we were sharing our experiences with the Lord, I noticed that Deonna had a deep comprehension of life. She showed great spiritual discernment in what she was saying. I talked with her again at the next Friday night meeting. That evening, I asked her for a date on Sunday afternoon.

Our first date was a unique experience for me. My original plan was to show her some interesting places in the greater Manila area and get-to-know her at the same time. However, a few days before Sunday, a pastor-friend invited me to speak in his church on the same afternoon that I was to be with Deonna. I accepted the invitation. Not being well-acquainted with Deonna, I didn’t know what she would think about my acceptance of the speaking engagement. I hoped she would be willing to minister with me. I waited until Sunday to tell her. When I did, I was delighted because she welcomed the idea. She remarked that it is good to have a balance between being together and ministering together. That Sunday afternoon, she helped me by sharing her testimony at the church I spoke at.

This was how our relationship began. It was the type of relationship I prayed I would have with a girl. I had spent time with other girls but none of them had expressed a willingness to serve the Lord the way Deonna did. I was encouraged by the fact that we were closer to the Lord and to each other when we parted that evening.

After our first date, we committed the future of our relationship to the Lord. Although we saw each other frequently between the months of February and August, we had to be separated for a period of three and a half months. Deonna toured with the Crossroads in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines in March and April; then in July, I went to the U.S. for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Explo’ 72 and Lay Staff Training.

With the possibility of marriage in mind, Deonna and I thought it would be wise for me to visit her family while in the U.S. During the second week of my trip to the U.S., I spent four days in Florida with them. I discussed with her father what the Lord had been showing us in regards to our relationship. I left her family with the assurance that her parents would welcome our marriage if it were the Lord’s will.

My love for Deonna grew during the rest of my time in the U.S. For the first time in my life, I began to realize the meaning of Agape Love – an unconditional, unselfish love. I discovered within myself a freedom to love her without the fear of losing her or of becoming jealous. Regardless of her response to me, I knew I would still love her. I only desired the best for her.

In August, the Lord finally confirmed that he had chosen Deonna to be my wife. He did this through many Bible verses and through the love which He had placed within me for her. Knowing that Deonna was to be my wife, I was eager to see her. As soon as my responsibilities would allow me, I began my trip home.

I had to stop in Germany to attend to some business affairs. Although I originally intended to spend a few months in Germany to complete my business there, I was able to do everything in a week. Then, I immediately flew to the Philippines with the intention of asking Deonna to marry me.

Wasting no time, I proposed to Deonna on Sunday, the 27th of August, which was just one day after I returned to Manila. I did not know what the Lord had revealed to her concerning our future. I only knew that I loved her and that the Lord had showed me that Deonna was to be my wife. Trusting His promises me, I had the courage to ask her to marry me. But when I asked her, she did not answer me immediately. After a moment of silence, she said, “Peter, please get my Bible out of the car. I want to share with you what the Lord showed me concerning our relationship.”

I never expected her to respond this way! Nevertheless, I brought her Bible and “patiently” waited for thirty minutes while she read the many Bible verses God had shown her. When she finally finished, I asked, “Deonna, what is your answer?” Again, she surprised me by saying, “Peter, let’s pray.” Not knowing what to expect next, I bowed my head. At the end of her prayer to the Lord, I heard her say, “Father, before you and all of heaven I say ‘yes’ to Peter. I will be his wife.”

I opened my eyes and looked at her. I never though that the woman I would marry would say “yes” to me through a prayer to our heavenly Father. Yet, Deonna had done it! I was overjoyed as I thought, “I am looking at my wife to be. She is God’s gift to me.” I remember my prayer in December, “Lord, let me meet my future wife.” God faithfully fulfilled His promise to me…” Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do…” My heart was full of joy, praise, and thanksgiving to God for giving me such a wonderful woman.

I can honestly say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

God is so good. He knows what is best for His children and when it is best to give it to us. Through this experience with Deonna, I have learned that “Faith” means to trust the Lord moment by moment, one step at a time.

 

DEONNA (MOM):

A week before leaving California for Asia, my mother entered the kitchen while I was cooking my lunch. “Deonna,” she said. “I am glad that you have chosen to obey the Lord by going to Asia to minster there as a member of the Crossroads.” Then I observed tears welling up in her eyes as she continued, “But honey, you are already 25. When will you get married?”

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20140329-204257.jpgI was deeply touched by her motherly concern. However, I had already given this problem to Christ and left it for Him to solve. Because of this, I was able to encourage her by replying, “Mother, if there was only one man in the world but the Lord Jesus Christ wanted me to marry him, then Jesus would bring me to him.” Then unexpectedly I added, “Who knows, Mom, maybe I’ll marry an Asian? God might have a permanent ministry planned for me in Asia.” This last statement certainly didn’t comfort her. She burst into tears at the thought of me staying in Asia for life.

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When I left Lost Angeles airport on November 14, 1971, I did not know that Jesus was actually taking me to meet a handsome Chinese man who would be my husband. Nor did I realize that I was leaving one way of life to eventually begin a new life with him in a foreign country. Unknowingly, Jesus had given me a glimpse of my future through my statement to my mom.

The Crossroads arrived in the Philippines on November 21. Manila had been chosen as our home base since the Asian Training Center for Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) was located there. Three weeks after arriving we attended the CCC Leadership Training Institute. On the second day of the institute, the topic of marriage came up again when Becky,  a newly married Filipino staff of CCC, shared with me that months before she met Ben, her husband, she had prayed for certain qualities to be in the man she married.

The results of Becky’s prayer inspired me to do the same. After the institute, I prayerfully made the list of qualities, which I wanted to be in the man I would marry. It was my desire that each quality would be pleasing to Lord. Let me share these qualities with you. I wanted:

  1. A true Christian – a man who has trusted Christ to forgive his sins and because of this, has Christ’s Spirit living in him.
  2. One who loves God more than he loves me.
  3. A man who allows Christ’s Spirit to control him and to guide his life.
  4. One chosen by the Lord to serve Him.
  5. One who understands that the Lord’s role for a Christian husband is to be the head of his home – to lead his wife through his love and not by force.
  6. A man with leadership ability.
  7. A man who is sensitive and understanding with others and wise in human relationships.
  8. One who is intelligent, has achieved the same level of education as I have, has a positive attitude toward life, and one who enjoys sports like swimming, (something that we can do together).

Although I didn’t know where this man was, I did know that the Lord would bring me to him someday. Until that time, I was content to pray for him and to wait.

In January, just one month after I had begun praying for my future husband, I met Peter. Our first meeting was very casual, and to be honest, very ordinary. We were at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. Approaching me with a friendly smile, he said, “Hi, I’m Peter.” I smiled and returned the greeting. I remember little of the rest of our one and a half minute conversation. But, I did take note of Peter and his personality. He appeared very friendly, sure of himself, and capable of leadership.

Later the following week, Peter invited the Crossroads to dinner. It was then that I learned he was in the textile business. The next Friday night at the Crusade meeting, he asked me to go sightseeing on Sunday afternoon. I accepted his invitation. However, our date did not turn out as I had expected. Since Peter had accepted a speaking engagement during our date, we ended Sunday afternoon ministering together in a small local church.

As I listened to him preach, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to minister together like this with my husband.” At that time, I did not realize that I would be ministering with Peter for the rest of my life. Standing before me was the man I would marry and for whom I had been praying. But, I didn’t know it.

After our first date, Peter and I began dating frequently. Each time we were with each other, we were drawn closer together. God also used the two of us, a blonde American lady and a dark-haired Chinese man, to bring many people to Christ. The more I was with Peter, the more I discovered that his qualities were identical to the qualities I had prayed to have in my husband.

Then in April, Peter told me that he believed the Lord was showing him that I was to be his wife. When he told me this, I became excited, but at the same time, I felt uneasy. To be married to a man with Peter’s qualities was in my prayer. Yet, to marry Peter meant marrying outside my own race. In order to make such a decision I had to know God’s attitude towards mixed marriages. I also had to be absolutely sure that it was God’s will for me to marry Peter. So, I replied, “Peter, I believe that a marriage relationship requires a mutual confirmation from the Lord that it is his will.” He agreed.

That night I returned home and wrote a list of practical questions to the Lord Jesus. I desired to know his perspective on mixed marriages, leaving my country, the future of our children, and the type of ministry Peter and I would have. I committed these questions to Him and expected Him to answer me from the Bible.

Finally, five months later on August 24 while I was returning by ship from the Southern Philippines, the Lord directed me to passages in the Bible which specifically answered all of my questions. Although I had many questions which He answered, I will only share with you His attitude towards races. In Galatians 3:26-28, He showed me that those of us who are in Christ are children of God. The earthly classifications of individuals by race and social status are replaced by a new classification for the children of God; we are one in Christ.

After he answered all my questions positively, I was confident that it was His will for Peter and me to be married. Bowing my head, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for showing me your will and for giving me to such a wonderful man as Peter.”

Two days after this revelation, Peter unexpectedly returned from his two months trip to the U.S. The day after his return, the 27th of August, he proposed to me. I did not expect him to ask me to marry him this soon after his return. I was excited but surprised.

I wanted to first share with him all the verses the Lord had given me in regards to our relationship before I answered him. After sharing the verses, I was still uneasy about the future. Even though I loved Peter, I realized that saying “yes” to him would change the entire course of my life. That was a difficult decision for me to make. However, God had clearly shown me that this was His perfect plan; that I should be Peter’s wife. I knew that I needed to pray in order to have the courage to make such a decision. I asked Peter to pray with me. I thanked the Lord for His plan for our lives, for Christ’s power to be obedient to His will, and most of all for Peter. While still praying, I said “yes” to the Lord and then “yes” to Peter.

THIS WAS PUBLISHED ON JULY 12, 1973.

Recently, my mom gave a shortened version of her testimony before our church and I want to add what she said:

My vows to Peter were consistent to the vow I had made to God.  As Ruth had said to Naoimi  in  Ruth 1:16 “…Where you go I will go … Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”

When I first arrived in Manila, the Lord had given me a promise of blessing which I did not really understand at that time from Mark 10:29-30. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sister or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms along with persecution; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Peter and I have now been married for nearly 41 wonderful years and looking back I can see that the Lord has literally fulfilled these promises to me. He gave me a wonderful husband whom I love and respect even more then ever!  And five children and in-law children who love and serve the Lord and thirteen, going on fifteen, amazing grandchildren! Of course, I also have many spiritual brothers and sisters whom I love who are also the fulfillment of God’s promise of blessing in my life as well. Truly it is the nature of God to bless us!  And He has blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined! All by His grace!

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Facebook Issues and Marriage

This morning Edric and I had a social media issue which I blew out of proportion. I never thought Facebook would get a glorified spot in our relationship but it did.

We were biking back from the park when Edric suggested that I avoid checking the profile of a certain person. I thought he was treating me like a child and I reacted. In fact I was not looking where I was headed and I crashed my bike into the sidewalk. And then I starting blaming him for causing my fall!

What upset me was I don’t impose what he can and cannot look at or whose profiles he checks out, and here he was putting restrictions on me for something that I felt wasn’t even worth discussing.

In his words, “I am your husband and it is my duty to protect you but you also need to do your part by not putting yourself in harm’s way…”

Well, I was so annoyed, I disrespectfully stamped my foot like a bratinella and walked off into the kitchen to escape from the dialogue. My response was, “I can’t believe you are telling me this when you (do this and that)…”

I ran upstairs to take a shower and let him finish his workout alone. I began to grumble before God…”This is so unfair and exasperating!”

But the Lord reminded me, “What did you learn in your meeting last night?”

The evening before, my mom talked about humility to a small gathering of wives. Oh the timing!

She very specifically shared about listening to our husbands with a gentle and quiet spirit. This is one evidence of humility.

Amidst my irritation, I resisted for a bit. I busied myself getting ready for a seminar I had to give this morning. When I ran into Edric again at the breakfast table he was placid and calm. He didn’t even bring up my behavior or attitude.

So naturally, on the way to my seminar, I felt convicted. I knew I had to apologize. I was clearly the one at fault. Edric was sincere in wanting to protect me.

This Facebook person was someone I used to be attracted to. Even if I have ZERO x infinity feelings for him at present, Edric had every right to insist that I be mindful of my Facebook activity. I should not be so overconfident. I am not invisible. Emotional carelessness could give the evil one a “back door” entrance into my relationship with Edric.

How can I really say that feelings cannot be resurrected just because I feel nothing now? And why would I ever want to hazard that possibility at all? Marriage requires a commitment to protecting it at all costs, from all known threats, visible and invisible.

Furthermore, I ought to give Edric no reason to worry or doubt my affections for him. And if any of my actions cause him to feel otherwise, then I must be willing to change. As for his own actions, I am not his policeman or his judge so I don’t need to compare and use that as a pathetic tactic to give myself license to research, google or look up men that are attractive. (For the record, I really don’t do this as a habit!)

When I settled this in my heart, I asked for his forgiveness for being disrespectful. Stamping my foot and blurting out cutting remarks were very wrong no matter what my reasons were. His reply was, “Of course I forgive you. In fact I was waiting for you to say something.”

As a wife, I struggle with suppressing and controlling my inclination to usurp Edric’s authority over me. I want to be the one to dictate what I can and cannot do. I don’t always like it when he micromanages my life. But the root of this is pride. God gave me a husband who corrects and minds even the small things in me so I will learn to listen and grow in Christlikeness. He is the one who sees all the flaws, the ones I want to hide from everyone else. He is the one who knows me best, especially my weaknesses. God uses Edric to chisel off what mars the image of the person God is edifying me to be. So it is in my best interest to honor what Edric asks me to do…even during occasions when his suggestions seem ridiculous or his corrections aren’t given in a manner which I would prefer.

Last Sunday the message was about living in the triangle of God’s blessing: we are blessed to bless others, just like the patriarch, Abraham exemplified for us (Genesis 12). But the conditions for blessing are intimacy with God+faith+obedience.

I want God’s blessing in my life and I certainly want to bless others, too. But I need to be in the triangle of blessing first. As a wife, one of the very clear ways I can put myself in that favorable position before God is to apply faith and obedience in the context of my marriage. This isn’t about trying to manipulate a God who cannot be manipulated. This is about believing in and following the principles of a God whose nature and desire is to bless those who do so.

When I had to speak this morning I knew that God’s hand would not be upon me if I didn’t humble myself and apologize to Edric for challenging his authority. And when I did, I felt that halo of anger around my head broken, and I could minister to the families I was called to without hypocrisy.

The ridiculous Facebook issue has been resolved. Edric and I said our sweet I love yous to one another before he left for a business trip with our eldest son. As he went out the door, I thought to myself, why would I ever let something shallow and meaningless damage what is so precious to me…my relationship with the most amazing man in this world, and my relationship with the One who gave him to me?

Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly…
(Zephaniah 2:3 NLT)

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Live In the Triangle of God’s Blessing

A Father’s Priority

My husband, as amazing as I think he is, scored 0% for his auditory skills on a learning styles assessment. This has nothing to do with intelligence. It has everything to with how a person takes in and retains information.

Up until he took the test, I could not understand why he wouldn’t remember appointments and commitments we discussed or conversations we had. I would say, “But we talked about it. You said yes.”

“Nope. I don’t remember.”

“How can you not remember? You were looking right at me when you said yes.”

“Sorry hon, I really don’t remember.”

Grr.

After he took the learning styles assessment it all made sense. I became a smarter communicator by changing the delivery mode for any pertinent decisions or content we had to discuss. I switched to texting, messaging, and emailing for appointments, schedules and reminders.

It worked! He would give his confirmation and feedback via the same channels. It also gave me physical proof to show him in case he said, “I forgot.” He he.

This past week we celebrated Edan’s birthday. A week prior Edric and I discussed that his afternoon would be blocked off for Edan. I did consider the possibility that he might not remember but I was like, “Nah, this is our son. He won’t do that.”

Well, he did. The day that Edan turned 8, Edric booked five major meetings.
I found out while I was lying in Edric’s arms sharing a moment of sweet exchange about how much we missed one another. It turned pretty sour for me when I found out that Edric had left no room in his day to spend with Edan like he said he would. For Edan’s sake, I felt hurt and disappointed.

It turned out that Edan wanted to go to the pet store with his dad to buy a falcon. Okay…a falcon. Where would we find anything remotely close to a bird of prey?! Obviously the falcon was a fantasy of an idea. He was willing to settle for a bird that he could put on his finger and hold. Edric and I were pretty confident that Cartimar would have something that matched that description.

When I discovered that Edric had back to back meetings I thought Cartimar would have to be postponed. But Edric was convinced that he could find a way to get there and back and still make his meetings. I was pretty doubtful. Cartimar wasn’t around the corner. It was in Pasay. Nevertheless, I kept things optimistic at home for Edan’s sake.

He approached me several times to ask, “What time are we going, mom?” Buying that bird was like the dream of all dreams for him. But I had to wait on Edric to do some magic with his meetings.

Edric might have messed up initially (which he admitted to and apologized for), but one of the things I really appreciate about him is he will prioritize his family. No matter how busy he gets, when he knows me or the kids need him, he will make a way to meet that need. When he saw how excited Edan was and how Edan’s anticipation was hinged on his availability, he told me, “This is important to me, I will find a way to take him.”

By 11:30 AM Edric picked us up and we headed to Cartimar. And there was no traffic! We were in and out of Cartimar in about two and a half hours, and Edric even joined us for a late lunch.

Of course we didn’t get Edan a falcon like he originally wished for. He was willing to settle for two cockatiels. One he named Beady and the other, Geedy.

A side story…In Cartimar we ran into a friend of Edric’s family who was a pet store owner himself (for dogs) and he helped us negotiate the price of the cockatiels. He was God-sent. Normally, he wasn’t around but he happened to be there that day. So we knew that we weren’t getting duped as rookie bird buyers.

Edan developed an immediate attachment to his new pets. As for me, I was so impressed with my husband. First he displayed some pretty attractive bargaining skills. But more than that it was following through with his commitment to Edan that really blessed me. Edric found a way to slide his afternoon meetings upwards.

As a boy of few words, Edan is not the kind of child who will express gratitude with intense emotion. So when he does, it means a lot. In the car, he was sitting in the front seat with the bird cage on his lap, and he swung his head around to say, “You are the best parents.”

During lunch, when I explained to him that his dad moved his meetings just to take him to Cartimar, his eyes sparkled with pride, “Daddy is the best daddy!”

I know Edan was thrilled to get his two cockatiels. (As I am writing this he is with them at home, acting the part of loving parent.) But the joy he felt when he picked out those birds wouldn’t have been complete if Edric failed to be present. I know Edan. He might have taken the big let down like a toughie but it would have curdled inside him, and his countenance would have shown it.

Sometimes parenting can seem so complicated. I get all kinds of questions from friends and readers about how to deal with difficult children. And I know what it is like to be confronted with character issues in my own kids. But it’s really not that complicated. When my kids start acting up, character-wise, I know it is often a deficiency on the part of Edric and I (in the area of our parenting).

I am not saying this is always the case but our children tend to be responders. The way we raise and treat them; what we model, praise, hold dear; how we communicate that we love and cherish them, these make impressions that lead to desirable and undesirable behaviors and attitudes on their part.

Edan’s heart, like all my other children’s hearts, is delicate and fragile. It would have been deeply wounded if Edric had not prioritized him on his birthday. Edric didn’t need to spend 24 hours with him to make him feel significant. Two and a half hours to and from the pet store, and the prize of two cockatiels in a cage were enough to send Edan to the moon. He felt really special.

A father’s time and attention will do that. I see how hard it is for Edric to balance everything he does. It’s no easy juggling for him to be a husband, dad, TV host, motivational speaker, director of a homeschool program, head of family ministry, and discipler and mentor to other men. But somehow he is able to be around when it matters most. He knows that a father’s priority is his family, and his children know for certain that they are.

I pray that Edric will remain this way. It’s only by God’s grace that he is this kind of a dad to our kids. But he is going to be a dad for a very long while yet, and there will always be something competing with his priorities. The same goes for me as a mother. Edric and I have to continually ask ourselves, what must have precedence in our lives according to God’s word?

As I watched Edan delightfully engrossed in the responsibility of caring for his birds, and listened to him chatter away as he described their personalities…Geedy is “stubborn” and “wakes up early”, and Beady “eats all the food” and “likes to sleep”, I was reminded that it is always worth it to communicate to our children that they are the most important people in our lives.

pri·or·i·ty
\prī-ˈȯr-ə-tē, -ˈär-\
noun
: something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first
priorities
: the things that someone cares about and thinks are important
: the condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first

(http://i.word.com/idictionary/priority)

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Go to Heaven Together

Between Edric and I, he is perceived as the “stricter” one by our children. It’s not that I’m not strict. I also set boundaries and rules for our kids. When I use the word “strict” I mean it in a positive way. Our children know our values, and why we want them to internalize them.

At the same time, we don’t want them to honor or obey us out of compulsion. We want them to develop convictions about what is right and wrong, to be discerning about their choices because they want to please God. After all, they won’t always live at home and we won’t alway be around. Someday they will be on their own. When they are confronted with moral choices in the future, no one will be looking over their shoulder. It will be between them and God.

Some nights ago, Edric walked into the kids’ bedroom to pray with the boys and they scrambled away from the IPad. I had told them earlier that they could play for a little while before going to bed. But it was 8:27 by the time they finished taking a shower and putting on their pajamas. This was just three minutes before their bedtime, so they didn’t really have time to play.

Edric asked, “What happened?” He wanted to know why they ran away from the IPad.

“We were scared.” Edan said. He thought that Edric would say no more playing on the Ipad because it was time for bed.

“Why are you scared? You don’t have to be scared. You know that whatever you enjoy, I also enjoy. I will only be concerned if you are not growing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men.” He wanted to assure them that they didn’t have to feel unnecessary guilt or fear.

The kids looked relieved and they smiled.

They conversed for a bit about playing on the IPad and Edric went on to say, “Sometimes there are things that are not good online and that’s what I want you to be careful about. You have to guard yourselves, because sometimes the devil puts things there that you aren’t supposed to see. And you know, daddy’s not going to be here all the time…”

For some reason, Edan latched on to the line “daddy’s not going to be here all the time,” and he started to cry.

When Edric asked him why he was crying, his answer was, “I don’t like it when you talk about you dying or mommy dying.” This wasn’t really what Edric was saying, but this statement created an emotional chain reaction and all three of our boys were in tears.

Edric very comfortingly said, “I finished a book today and I learned about the principle of a dot and a line. Our life is the dot and we don’t live for the dot, we live for the line, for eternity. What we do here on earth matters in heaven. And because we all believe in Jesus, we will see each other in heaven someday.

The boys’ fears were somewhat alleviated and he tucked them all in to bed and prayed with them. Afterwards, he came into our room and told me about their conversation.

As a mom, I couldn’t help it. I went to check on them, to make sure they were okay. They were buried under their covers.

I hugged each one of them. Titus looked up at me with tears in his eyes and pleaded, “Mom, can I sleep with you in your room?”

Edan and Elijah appeared from beneath their blankets and I went to each one of them. I was laying beside Edan on the bed and he seemed to be deep in thought. When I asked him if he was alright, he didn’t divulge all the details of the conversation he and his brothers had just shared with Edric. Typical. He’s a pretty mysterious fellow. But he did admit that he cried.

When I asked him why, he started to get teary-eyed again. Elijah, on the bed across from him, told me, “Edan said his one wish in all the world is that we all go to heaven together.” And with that statement, Edan bawled again. Elijah was trying to be more mature about it and control his emotions, but he was tearing up. Titus looked pretty weepy himself.

Oh these boys! So incredibly sweet and loving. My heart melted.

To lighten the mood, I said, “That’s my prayer, too! I pray that we will all be raptured together!” (I really do pray that!)

They still seemed distraught over the reality that Edric and I will die someday, so I gave them an invitation, “Do you guys all want to sleep in our room tonight?” Their eyes lit up. Of course they did! The one thing they wanted at that moment was to be with us.

So we had a slumber party in our room. The kids dragged their bedspreads and pillows through the door and slept on the floor. Edric was all for it, too.

We both looked at one another as we took in the site of our five children all around us. (Even the girls were with us.) How incredibly blessed we felt. I whispered to Edric what Edan’s one wish was – about being together in heaven – and then it was our time to get emotional. We had this knowing look as we glanced at one another, we don’t deserve these kids!

What a privilege and responsibility to have their hearts like we do. Our children want to be with us. They are happiest when they are in our company. They feel most secure when we are around. We are the people they feel most attached to. 

I’d like it to always be this way. But the reality is this earthly togetherness will change as our children grow up and as Edric and I age. And at one point, physical death will separate us here. But if we have heaven to look forward to, we need not dwell on what we will loose in this temporal world. What we enjoy on this earth as a family — the like-mindedness and like-heartedness in Christ that is our bond — is but a foretaste of what we have to look forward to in eternity. So while it is sobering to consider the passing of what we hold dear, we must cling to the hope that the joy we share can go on forever if we love and follow Jesus Christ. Edan’s wish need not be a balm of a dream. It will be a certainty if we, as parents, teach our children to make choices that mirror that hope. 

John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

 

1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

 

 

 

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Sometimes A Husband Needs Divine Laryngitis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Family Photo Turns Into A Billboard

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.05.29 PMAfter giving birth to Catalina, I asked Edric several times if we could schedule a family photo session. We never got around to doing it. Amazingly, a month ago, the brand manager of Cetaphil, Joel Andrada, got in touch with Edric and told him about the concept for their new ad campaign. Joel asked if he could feature our family.

Edric was like, “We have five kids!” He wasn’t sure if Joel would be willing to get all of us for the shoot, but the crazy thing is, he was. Even Catalina was going to be included as a “talent.” Wee little Catalina at 5 months.

Cetaphil also needed grandparents so they asked if Edric’s parents or mine could be part of the shoot. Fortunately, my mother in law and father in law were available. (They have incredible skin so they were perfect for the campaign.)

The shoot began mid-morning and was done early afternoon. It was so easy to work with the team — Jasmine Mendiola was the make-up artist who made me look better than I actually look. Check out her work at Jasmine Mendiola Ana Kalaw did the styling. She minded every detail. The talented David Fabros was our photographer. He was incredibly patient with all our kids! Of course he was also a perfectionist. He even noticed that one of my eyebrows was not as filled in as the other one. See his photography site here: davidfabros.com

I wish I could name every person that helped out on the set. But my memory for names as of late has been horrible due to lack of sleep. There was an entire team making sure the shoot came together and they were all very accommodating, understanding of our zoo-of-a-family, and professional.

I had to feed Catalina a couple of times in between photo sessions. She only went ballistic once or twice. The other kids did very well and held out til early afternoon. Apparently, the DOLE is very protective of children who do photoshoots, commercials or appear on TV. (And they should be.) Some of their rules about child labor:

1. Only 4 hours per day/20 hours per week /2 days break in between
2. 30% of earnings must go into their savings account
3. If they earn more than 200k it must be put into a trust fund
4. They cannot be forced to do work.

Parents are required to attend a seminar that orients us on the laws protecting children. And permits need to be secured for each child.

It was such a privilege to do the shoot for Cetaphil. I have always liked their products. And I discovered more products in their line up that address specific needs for every person in our family! Oily skin, dry skin, eczema-prone skin, aging skin, baby skin. Cetaphil has something that is suitable for everyone without compromising the gentleness on the skin that has been associated with its brand.

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The added bonus for me was experiencing God’s provision. We are in the final stage of building our home and sometimes it feels like we are bleeding money. But God continues to confirm that everything we have comes from him. He gives us what we need and more in big and small ways.

I thought it was pretty miraculous that Cetaphil got every single person in our family and my parents-in-law, to do this shoot. I mean, I just wanted a family photo that I could frame but God gave us a billboard on almost every major highway! He is amazing!

Thank you Lord! Thank you Cetaphil!;)

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Everything Breaks

The house is turning out better than I imagined thanks to our architect and contractor, but I allow myself to get stressed about little details. It doesn’t help that I am artistically inclined by nature and notice every mistake…everything…tiny chips, uneven walls, paint lines that aren’t totally clean, awkward termination points. Like Sherlock Holmes said, “My curse is, I see everything.”

During the surprise Valentines dinner Edric planned for me on the balcony, I was staring at a 1 cm chip on a tile for a bit, and I started feeling the frames of the sliding glass doors because I noticed some scratches. He was like, this is supposed to be a romantic evening. Let’s not do that. We can do that during the punchlisting.

Oh right, sorry. But that 1 cm chip kept looking back at me! Even now I am still thinking about it!

There have been occasions when it’s not just about a chip. Yesterday, for instance, I heard some pretty awful news. One of the hanging light fixtures in the dining room was broken by a supplier. I was livid. I couldn’t believe it. How could the supplier have been so careless?!

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Well, God has been using incidences like these to keep me spiritually conscious of my tendency to love the things of this world.

When I start to emotionally hyperventilate and feel frustrated about the house, Edric reminds me, “hold the things of this world lightly.” He also motions with his hand for me to relax!

He is totally right, too. At the end of the day, I have to remember that this house isn’t heaven. It’s a wonderful, amazing blessing. We want to be good stewards and fix the issues that we can. But it still represents what is temporal and fading in this world. As monumental an event as it will be for our family to move into this home after living in a condo for so many years, it cannot be the essence of what makes us a family or what brings us true joy.

I saw the broken light today. It was dangling in a sad way with the bulb exposed on one side. The kids gasped when they saw it. (The good news is the supplier is going to replace it.)

Of course I felt disappointed that the accident happened in the first place, but I thought of all the other things that will eventually break, get stained, fall apart, crack, and deteriorate over time. Such is the manner of the world we live in.

So while I am totally excited about moving into our new house, I cannot forget that it’s the things of eternity that I have to hold tightly.

Will our family love one another in this home as God’s word tells us to? Will it be a place where people feel welcome and loved? Will we use it for God’s work and kingdom? Will it’s atmosphere be characterized by a happiness and peace that points people to Jesus?

I pray our home can be all these things and more…things that will not pass away.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35 NASB)

Be A Blessing

It came as a total surprise when Salve Duplito, Edric’s co-host on the show On the Money, asked me if I would be willing to do an interview about the article I wrote on To Buy Or Not To Buy A Designer Bag.

At first I hesitated. Me?! Why?! I write so I don’t have to speak! I am shy! (Kind of…in a self conscious, prideful kind of way, which is wrong!) Sigh. The irony is, the more I write, the more people want me to talk about the things I write. I wish I could just say, “please check out this link…” because it’s so much easier to be behind a computer typing my thoughts and editing them. I would much rather do that than speak. Speaking makes me breakout from stress and afterwards, I am tired for a week!

Why? Because my default mode is introversion. I like solitude and quiet activities that don’t require a lot of interaction with human beings. (I even need breaks from my own darling children sometimes, so I lock my bedroom door or breastfeed for too long.) But when an opportunity arises that seems to be a divine invitation to share God’s word or to be a blessing, then I ask Edric and let him help me make a decision.

My first instinct is to find some way to get out of a possible commitment. So I need his objectivity and insight. Plus, he is my “boss” and so I run things by him. If he says, “yes, go for it,” then I know it is something the Lord wants me to do.

When he found out that Salve asked if I could do an interview for the show, he encouraged me to do it. His perspective was “be a blessing.”

I have learned this same mindset from my mom who often goes outside of her comfort zone to reach out to people and make a difference in their lives. Whether it is sharing the gospel to a total stranger, spending time sitting beside a person she can encourage and minister to, or accepting speaking engagements where she can impart God’s word, she embraces these opportunities. She doesn’t think about herself or focus on what others will think about her. She has been a great example to me.

God didn’t put me in this world to do only what is cozy and comfortable. I have a job to do…to tell the world about him and to glorify him. If that means that I am going to have to stand on a stage, or walk into a room full of strangers and make new friends, or attend an event, or do something like an interview for TV, then I absolutely should (for as long as I do not neglect my husband and kids).

To psyche myself up for these moments, I tell myself…Be a blessing. This is not about you so stop thinking about yourself!

What does it mean to be a blessing?

1. Consider others as more important than myself
. Because my tendency is to think about my needs and my own preferences, this passage helps me alot…

Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vain glory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others. (Philippians 2:3, 4 NABRE)

When I walk into a room of people, and I am tempted to think of what kind of impression I am making, I have to mentally slap myself and ask…
How can I make a positive difference in someone’s life?
How can I make others feel special and important?
How can I engage people in conversation and be genuinely interested in who they are and what they do?
How can I encourage and minister
to the people I meet with or speak in front of?


2. Use every opportunity to glorify God and point others to Christ.
The gospel must be apparent in my life, in the things I say and do. I

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 NASB)

I need to keep in mind that I represent Christ’s agenda — saving souls — and not my own. My mom used to say, “never steal an ounce of God’s glory.”

Will people be attracted to Christ when they observe my life?

3. Pray
. I can do absolutely nothing to make a difference for the Lord if I am not spiritually equipped by the power of the Holy Spirit. He helps me to overcome my insecurities and self-consciousness. It is he who enables and goes before me. It is he who must speak through me. It is he who purifies my motives.

So, going back to the ANC interview…I met with Salve to do it. When I saw the script, I was thrilled that she was so accommodating of my spiritual perspective. In fact she asked me questions that allowed me to talk about my relationship with Jesus. This wasn’t edited out of the interview! And a wonderful bonus was I got to know Salve better and make a new friend.

When I look back on how God brought the opportunity to me, I am so glad I obeyed Edric when he said to do it. And I am so glad I forced myself to do something that was “unlike my personality.” The gospel is worth being inconvenienced for. It is worth the sacrifice of time, effort, resources. It is worth being rejected for, ridiculed for. It is worth giving my life to. It is worth dying for.

Therefore, I must not box myself in or put restrictions on what God wants to do through me by insisting that I do only what feels comfortable and natural. Rather, I must have the same conviction that Paul had…

For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. I do all things for the sake of the gospel… (1 Corinthians 9:16, 19, 23 NASB)

The best way to be a blessing is to live out, share, and proclaim the gospel whenever and however God wants us to.

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