Just You & Me, Baby!

No kids. Just Edric and I. I miss them but this is a lot of fun! We needed this time away.

The perks of childless traveling…

1. People think we are boyfriend and girlfriend (kind of cute but I would NEVER have been allowed to travel with Edric when I was still dating him. He he)
2. We are so efficient! It’s like leaving planet Krypton and having super powers on earth, except we left Manila and we are now in Brazil. Without the kids, we move faster and think clearer.
3. I don’t have to fill out 7 immigration cards! Yeah! Just two!
4. We only need ONE taxi. We only need ONE hotel room.
5. We take ONE suitcase each. That’s it. We don’t have to pack the whole house.
6. I am not worried about losing any of my kids. There’s no need to count them off to check that they are complete.
7. The whining and crying sounds on a plane aren’t coming from my kids. Whew.
8. Long plane rides become a time to rest and relax.
9. We can go anywhere, eat anywhere, shop anywhere we like to without anyone complaining that they are tired.
10. Edric takes such good care of me because I am the only one he needs to concern himself with.
11. We get to talk and reconnect on a much more intimate level.
12. The romance meter starts going up.

Today we arrived in São Paulo and we had dinner at a grill called Galeto’s. As we enjoyed the privacy of a corner and delicious food, we reviewed how our marriage was doing. Edric told me that he missed me paying attention to him. I didn’t know this. He said that I haven’t been asking him about his day and cuddling with him at night. These are simple things which I have taken for-granted.

Back in Manila I tend to be very pragmatic. We have so many commitments that keep us in kinetic mode. I hardly have time to sit through a meal with him without rushing off to attend to Catalina, getting ready for an event or activity, or checking my phone. This affects our relationship, sometimes more than I realize it. What a timely break God has given us to be alone and revisit our marriage.

On the plane, Edric told me, “I like traveling with you because I get to learn about you all over again. I get to see new facets of who you are.”

I think he made an important point. No matter how long a couple is married, it’s necessary to keep getting to know one another. Plus, the more you learn about your spouse the more honestly you can love them.

I like getting to know Edric, too. Every time we travel certain quirks surface…All of his things need to be in one section of the hotel room. Most of the time he under packs and runs out of clothes. He gets very introspective and reflective about life. When he is in the Duty Free of an airport, he will most probably visit the gadget store. When he does, he gets this childlike excitement when he is in there. His idea of touring is taking in the sights and culture of a city in an unhurried sort of way. Even though he gets hungry often, he would rather spend on shopping than on food. He is a sucker for souvenirs. He holds my hand more. (I like that part!)

It’s been difficult to be gone from our five little darlings at home. However, Edric and I do need these just-you-and-me-baby kind of trips to “study” one another so we can get an A+ on our relationship!

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Vomit

It’s not a pretty title but it’s my descriptor for what happened this afternoon, in the car, on Edric’s leg, on his leather shoes, on his hand, and laptop bag. Of all the people to vomit on, I wish it hadn’t been Edric. No it wasn’t my throw up. It was Titus’. He gagged on the lettuce in his tuna sandwich while he was sitting on Edric’s lap.

I saw it project out of Titus’ mouth like it was happening in slow motion. All I could think of was Noooo. Stoooop. And then the jarring sound of Edric’s voice interrupted the freeze-frame scene. “TITUS!!!” He yelled his name and there was silence. The vomit was out.

Who was to be pitied? I was torn. Edric couldn’t clean himself because Titus was on his lap. But Titus was tearing because Edric had shouted his name. I felt badly for both.

I can deal with vomit. As a mother, I have conquered worse. But Edric wasn’t prepared to take on the regurgitated mess that was oozing down his handsome pair of slacks and staining his leather shoes. For one thing, he had some of it on his hand.

Yet my heart also went out to Titus. Although he had no vomit on him (let’s call him vomit-free), he was hurting inside. I wanted to start preaching to Edric about our family bible study two nights ago. Edric had asked the kids to memorize and apply 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It begins with LOVE IS PATIENT, LOVE IS KIND. Furthermore, we attended a worship service last Sunday where the preacher spoke about RESPONDING AND NOT REACTING.

The acronym he shared was P.R.A.Y. – Pause, Resist your first instinct, Ask God how you should respond, Yield to his will. During Sunday service Edric had repeatedly whispered to me that this was a perfect message for him.

I suppose expecting Edric to apply this when Titus threw up on him was a little much. But it was the shouting that really disappointed me. That part wasn’t necessary. However, correcting Edric in front of the kids would have been the worst thing to do. So I just waited for the Lord to convict him. In the meantime, I cleaned the vomit off with wet wipes, praying in my heart that Edric would say sorry.

Praise God for whoever invented wet wipes! They are a mom’s best friend.

Very shortly after, Edric asked for Titus’ forgiveness and embraced him. Titus felt the liberty to express his hurt and they were reconciled as father and son. Edric knew he had been wrong to raise his voice…vomit or no vomit.

Interestingly, that same evening while I was baking salted caramel cupcakes for our friends, I had a wonderful chat with a dear sister in the Lord. It just so happened that the topic veered towards her husband. And she shared with me an insight about marriage that ministered to me.

“When I got married my dad told me to let my husband make mistakes.”

One incident that she narrated was particularly hilarious. Many years ago her husband was in charge of a fundraising activity for their church. He successfully collected seven thousand dollars. At the time, there was no account to deposit the amount in and he didn’t want to put it into his own bank account, for integrity’s sake. So while he was responsible for holding on to the cash, he stuck the bills in a sour cream container which he put in the freezer for safe-keeping.

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I know this guy. He is intelligent. So as crazy as this freezer idea was, I know it had nothing to do with his IQ. He did, however, fail to mention this very important detail about the sour cream container to his wife (my friend).

One day his mom came over and cleaned out their freezer while they were away. Like any loving mother, she thought she was doing her children a good deed. The sour cream container was thrown out! She just assumed it was trash.

When my friend found out that her husband had “deposited” the money into their freezer and lost it, she was incredulous. She couldn’t believe that he had stored it in their freezer!

But being the supportive, godly and faith-filed woman that she was, she encouraged her husband by saying, “I think your boss is going to write you a check to replace the money.”

Amazingly, her husband received a check from his boss. Furthermore, because her husband was man enough to come before their church congregation and explain what happened to the money, God redeemed the situation. Donations poured in, so much so that the church had to turn down cash at a certain point.

When my friend told me this I was encouraged. There are occasions when Edric’s decisions or actions trouble me. Because I love him deeply and recognize the impact his choices have on our family, I get nervous and worried when I feel like he isn’t applying godly wisdom or Christ-likeness.

The vomit incident was a case in point for me. I really wanted to hammer Edric down with statements about what he did wrong and why it was wrong. Why did he have to get angry at Titus? Why didn’t he consider how yelling might wound his spirit and upset the rest of us who were witnesses to his reaction? Would the kids think he was being a hypocrite for teaching one thing and then doing the opposite?

Had it not been for the prodding of the Lord to be cool and calm, I would have spewed out my own form of verbal vomit. But thankfully, Edric came to his own realization about his shouting. Surely this was the working of the Holy Spirit in his own heart.

Here is where I want my friend’s story and this vomit incident to converge. God is in control of our husbands. When we are tempted to panic and instigate a “coup” to overthrow or undermine their authority, we need to step back and remember whose authority they are under.

Edric is accountable to God. If and when he gives in to thinking and behaviors that don’t please God, I know that God is going to minister to him and discipline him if necessary, for his good. If I don’t let God deal with Edric in his own way and time, then I may become the reason for my husband’s greater failures! I may become the blockade that prevents him from experiencing God’s work and victory in his life!

As I think about what my friend’s father told her — be willing to let your husband fail — I must answer certain questions. Do I trust that God loves Edric? Do I trust that he is control? Do I trust that he can turn his failures into the best opportunities for godly instruction and growing in wisdom?

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It may not happen in an instant or overnight. And sometimes the changes I hope for may take years and years of prayer. Yet my confidence is in this promise “that He (God) who began a good work in his life will complete it.” (Philippians 1:6)

And might I add that Edric used to be much more hot-headed. Small inconveniences would spike a great rise in his emotional temperature. But through the years God has caused him to change remarkably in this area. He is much more patient and careful about his words and actions. In fact, our eldest son, Elijah, told him recently, “Dad you have really changed.”

This blesses me. It’s a miracle when spouses change for the better, a miracle that speaks of God’s handiwork. When people ask me if a husband or wife will change in a marriage, hoping that marrying them will be a catalyst for positive change, I tell them, “Don’t expect that YOU can change your spouse, but GOD can. That’s why he needs to be present in your marriage.”

Tonight, Titus was the last one to finish his dinner. I saw him sitting by himself looking very much alone on our balcony. The back drop of the expansive night sky made his six year old frame look especially tiny. When Edric noticed that he was in need of company, he stayed with him. I watched the two of them engage in conversation and laugh together until Titus was done. I thought of what a tender site they were as father and son.

A wife and a mother can mop up vomit with wet wipes. But only the God of the universe can mop up the vomit of our lives. He does things like turn the heart of a hurting son back to his father’s and a father’s to his son’s. He alone can redeem the stink and mess that we make. The question is are we willing to surrender our lives and the lives of those whom we love to him so he can do so?

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At 11 months

Catalina is nearly 1 year old. Has it passed that quickly? It’s been 11 months of loving my baby through sleepless nights and soiled diapers.

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At the same time last year I was stressing out about the realities of giving birth to a fifth child. I got through that and then came the challenge of her first month. Confined twice, once for an unknown bacterial infection and then for pneumonia a month later. But now look at her. I am amazed at how God makes all things beautiful in his time. For all the heartaches and pains he allows in our lives, there is a season of rejoicing that follows when we hope in him.

It was this hope that kept me afloat when I was lost in the darkness of uncertainty, when I was a mother gripped by anguish at the sight of her sickly child. Had it not been for hope’s warm light illuminating the tunnel of my consciousness, I would have given in to the blackening despair.

I was the saddest I had ever been, looking listlessly at white walls, past the point of tears. Edric feared that I was disappearing, emotionally speaking. But my Savior, my harbinger of hope, in a hospital room where I thought myself alone in sorrow, broke through my night with the affirmation of his presence.

It happened in an instant, while I watched my baby wearing her tubes and monitors lying quietly in her plastic crib. I said in my heart, “Surely now you are here with me as you have promised that you would always be. I believe it and I claim it.” And then I knew he was. There was no apparition. But I was convinced that he was watching it all unfold, his eyes upon me through the tempest. They were upon my sleeping child. We were the fixed mark of his love.

Then a peace and a calm that only he could bring entered into the arena with me. I had a fighting chance against the oppressive grief. In time, those dark days ebbed away. On the hope of his presence, I survived. As the weeks became months, the joy returned. His joy.

Sometimes on the path to joy, we must pass through the pain, the loneliness, and the darkness. It is during those shadowed moments when humanity’s weighted sorrows feel larger than us that we tend to reach for God. And finding Him we find the answer to our questions, the calm to our fears, the balm to our wounds, the satisfaction to our longings, the hope to our despair, the heaven to our hell.

I do not know the rest of my child’s story. But I am enjoying where it’s at right now. This page of her history declares that God is good and faithful. His doings are often mysterious to my finite mind but they are directed towards the same end — that I should know him, obey him, love him, and serve him, and lead others to do the same.

For all its turns, valleys and precipices, its narrow ways and indiscernible paths, I would not trade this life for any other as long as God is with me. He is the Lover of my soul, my all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present Savior, Redeemer and Friend. To know him is to know joy, and in him is a life of joy!

O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts
… (‭Psalms‬ ‭95‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

The Broken Hour Glass

“Where’s Edan?” I asked Elijah and Titus, who were checking out the toys in the bookstore. They shrugged their shoulders and tilted their heads in a clueless manner. Usually my three boys stick together when we are in public places. I even dress them alike so it’s easier to spot them. But Edan was nowhere in sight.

I probably would have panicked had I not ventured toward the paper section and caught sight of his very recognizable red shoe. It was sticking out on one side of a shelf. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Relieved, I maneuvered my shopping cart up to him. Why was he hiding behind the bookshelf? He told me soon enough.

“Mom I broke something.” His countenance revealed embarrassment and fear.

“Really? What happened?”

He stuck his hand behind a stack of papers and pulled out a miniature hour glass that was bent out of shape. Its glass was cracked open, too. I suppose he had tried to conceal the thing because it had no business camping out in that dark corner where no one could see it.

“You have to tell the sales lady,” was my response. Then I turned it over. 79 pesos. Whew. I could cover for this if the store charged us.

I encouraged him to confess to the sales lady and explain to her what happened. He didn’t want to at first because he was scared. But this was necessary for his character growth — owning up to his mistake. And I added that he could ask for “mercy.”

He requested that I accompany him, which I did. We found a sweet looking sales lady to admit the accident to. She looked at Edan who held up the broken hour glass with his small hands. (I was hoping she was thinking he was so adorable.)

She went to her manager and came back a few minutes later saying, “It’s okay.” We didn’t need to buy it! Yeah! I was so happy. Edan was certainly relieved!

I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be when he made his confession. But I was glad that Edan experienced mercy. Ultimately I attributed this to God’s mercy. Edan did the right thing by being honest. Thankfully this was affirmed by the forgiveness he experienced.

The Bible says, He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalms 24:3-5 NASB)

I am not saying that a person will always be exempted from the consequences of their mistakes, but at the very least, when that person admits to them openly, he makes himself right before God. And that is the best thing that can happen to him or her.

When parents tell me that their children have problems with lying, I encourage them to consider whether their child has an authentic relationship with the Lord.

The Bible reveals this, “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10 NASB)

Children of God will bear the fruit goodness, righteousness, and truth. While it’s possible to struggle with truthfulness even if a person knows God, at some point the Holy Spirit’s conviction to confess will be too strong to ignore.

In the Bible, King David wrestled with confessing his immorality with Bathsheeba and his murder of Uzziah, but eventually he acknowledged his sin before the Lord and Nathan, the prophet. He lost his son as a consequence but he experienced spiritual and physical restoration.

How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD “; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. (Psalms 32:2-5, 10, 11 NASB)

When I was a kid I would lie, cheat and steal. I knew it was wrong but I wasn’t as remorseful as I should have been. When I turned 9 years old, I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, and I developed the desire to live with integrity. Even if I was still tempted to cover up or dodge the consequences of my wrongs, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow me to rest or have peace in my heart.

For example, when Edric and I were struggling with purity in our dating relationship I wanted us to tell my parents. It was a mortifying thought but Edric felt the same need to do so as well. When we did tell them it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life (and possibly his), but God was able to take our failure and use it for good. There was the reality of shame to deal with, but we received mercy and forgiveness by coming into the light.

Did we have to tell them? I mean what kind of 23 year olds talk to their parents about something like this?! We were adults. But God made it clear that if we wanted their blessing for our future marriage, then they had to know that we struggled with purity in our relationship. When they gave the blessing for us to get married, it was with insight and knowledge of all the “facts.”

We all need to respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit when he puts a conviction in our hearts. What he asks us to do may not be easy. Often times it is the harder road to take. But we must commit to obey first and then entrust the results to God, including the consequences that may ensue.

I asked Edan why he told me that he broke the hour glass. I imagine that he was pretty nervous while he sat in the shadowed shelter of the bookshelf, contemplating what to do. His response was, “I wanted to do the right thing.”

When I followed up with “But why did you want to do the right thing?”, he answered “Because I wanted to obey God.”

Edan didn’t have to tell me. No one would have known. But because he has a relationship with the Lord, he was compelled to obey him.

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Someday Edric and I won’t be around to tell him what is right and wrong. This is true for all of our children. They must all develop the habit of being sensitive to God’s prodding now. In the future, should they commit bigger and more serious mistakes, I hope they will all have the courage to own up to them as well.

This is a value Edric and I need to teach our children and remember to practice ourselves. It’s about integrity and righteousness –the conviction to please God — in public and private, knowing that we stand accountable before him. We need to fear him more than men.

And the bonus is…God bestows amazing favor upon those who walk up rightly!

O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalms 34:9-17 NASB)

You Are My Kryptonite

Edric threw his work bag into the back of the car, and plopped himself beside me. “You are my Kryptonite,” he said, throwing his arms over his head with a smirk on his face.

“Huh?! Me?!”

“Yes, my Krypton.”

I inched over to him and hugged him. I love being Kryptonite…his “weakness,” as he calls it.

We had come from a lunch and I should’ve gone home by myself, but I turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you just come home with me?!” He didn’t have much going on at work so I hoped he would take the invitation. (Plus, if he had stayed at the office, he would have been home really late because his car was color-coded.)

“I think I will do that,” was his response, and I could hardly suppress my giddy excitement. The idea of having him around for the afternoon was such a treat!

Shortly after, he semi-ruined the romantic moment when he jokingly presented what looked like a booger to me and said, “Come on, I dropped everything for you this afternoon…take it. We are one person anyway.”

“Yes we are, but we don’t have the same boogers.”

He just wanted a reaction from me, a scream of girlish horror (which he received).

I’m glad we still have fun. We play silly games. We tease. We laugh. We exchange ideas and opinions. We argue and discuss our differences. We finish each other’s sentences.  We serve the Lord together. We cry because God is good…because it’s so amazing to raise children and watch them grow up…because we don’t deserve anything that we have…because it’s all grace.

This is grace. Right here. Right now. Having a husband who is tender and sweet towards me even after 13 years of knowing everything ugly, sinful, and complicated about me, and then calling me his Kryptonite. It’s flattering. It’s comforting. It’s scary!

If I don’t walk with the Lord I can be a stumbling block in his life. I can be a thorn in his side. I can be the devious whisperer who hisses negative thoughts and ideas into his ear…about people, circumstances, the present, the future…

So I have to guard my own heart. I must walk faithfully with the Lord and make sure that I encourage him to do the same. While he is my leader and the head of our home, he has given me the privilege of his trust. And with this comes a responsibility.

He said, “I must whisper well.”

A woman whispers into the ear of her husband and she can influence him towards or away from Christ-likeness. Take for example, Jezebel to Ahab.

1 Kings 21:25 tells us, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him.”

That’s not who I want to be to Edric! But I can certainly become this way if I’m not careful. I can have a Jezebel-spirit if I’m not filled with the Holy Spirit. A Jezebel-spirit is one who seeks to control and manipulate her husband to do what is wrong in God’s eyes, for her own gain and purposes.

Recently, I have wanted to buy more furniture for the house. But Edric has told me that we have to “tighten the belt” now. We have spent a lot for our new home so we have to temper our purchases, spread them out. My impulse is to finish decorating everything right away. But I have to mind what I say when I express this desire to him. If I pressure him, he will find a way to make more money. However, he is trying to turn down offers for added income so he can streamline his activities and be more focused. As crazy as it may sound, this is a good thing. It’s what I have prayed for.

The last six months have been tough with him traveling to so many different parts of the Philippines. God convicted him to be very selective about what he commits to. Of course this means less money. However, it also means more time for family, ministry, and spearheading the homeschooling movement. These are God-honoring preoccupations that matter in eternity.

As for the house, it’s here. It’s pretty much done. The sprucing and decorating can happen as we go along. In the meantime, I have to practice contentment and thankfulness. I’ve got to support Edric’s desire to give more time to the Lord’s work and not push him to make more money for me to spend on our house. In other words, I have to mind my whisperings as his Kyrptonite because he listens to what I have to say and values it, because my happiness matters to him, and because he loves me. Therefore, my heart has to be wholly devoted to the Lord so that I speak words that encourage Edric to make choices and decisions that honor God. I want to be a GOOD Kryptonite!

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37 NASB)

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Courtship and Dating

I was going through my old files and I found this talk on Courtship and Dating. For my single readers out there…this is for you…

Edric and I would like to share with you how our relationship started so that you can copy the good about it and avoid the mistakes we made. Some things we learned the hard way and we want to be honest with you. But we pray that at the end of this, you will be blessed and encouraged to follow God’s principles for courtship and dating.

Edric: Joy and I have been happily married for 13 years. We have three boys, Elijah, Edan and Titus, and two girls, Tiana and Catalina. We first met in college at Ateneo. I was a very religious person and one of the things that got me interested in Joy was our first conversation. Since we had psychology class together, we sometimes had group projects. And during one of these occasions we were seated beside each other and had a very deep conversation about God. Before then, I had crushes on many different girls and Joy was never one of them because even though I thought she was beautiful, she struck me as someone foreign—not someone I would click with. But after getting to talk to her, I was completely intrigued.

Things to note –

  • Don’t rule out someone who is not your initial type because God they could turn out to be God’s best type for you. Be willing to look further than just your comfort zone.
  • Men appreciate being able to have a meaningful conversation with a woman. And women, if you can practice the art of good conversation (asking thoughtful questions and acknowledging and responding to our answers), that makes us feel very connected with you.

Joy: When I first got to talk to Edric, I immediately noticed that he was different than most of the guys in college. He was a principled person. He was straightforward, honest, and easy to talk to. We were both blessed to have been raised with a godly set of values, so we had a lot in common. But, we had different religious beliefs. So initially, I guarded my heart because I did not want to get involved with someone who did not share the same faith. That was the most important criteria for me in dating anyone. But, it was very difficult not to like Edric. He was very gentlemanly, sweet, kind, and charming.

Things to note –

  • As women, we appreciate transparency and unpretentiousness (like the guy isn’t trying to prove anything or put up a front). It makes us feel like we can trust the man. Values mean a lot to us. A guy can be super goodlooking, carry himself well, and be very confident, but if he doesn’t have a good set of values, he becomes unattractive very fast (to women who are looking for a serious relationship).
  • Try to find out if the person shares the same belief that you do even before you start to fall for a person. Once you get married, you need to be spiritually aligned because you will be making decisions and establishing values as ONE, especially when it comes to convictions about faithfulness, finances and parenting.

Edric started to pursue a relationship with me sometime after that and I remember that he came to my house one evening during our Junior year of college with 36 roses to ask me out to dinner. My parents realized that he was seriously interested in me. They said to me that evening, “Why don’t you invite him in to have dinner with the family instead of going out?” They wanted to get to know him. Edric was a very good sport and agreed.

Things to note –

  • When a guy is open to getting to know your family it is a very positive sign. It means that he has nothing to hide, that he wants to get to know more about you through the people that you care about. And, it makes a very remarkable impression on your parents and siblings!
  • And of course, being blatantly romantic is very charming. Almost every woman I know appreciates it when a guy goes the extra mile just to communicate that you are important to him. Thirty-six flowers was very sweet.

Edric: I remember during this dinner that Joy’s dad asked me a very famous question that he asks all dinner guests. “Edric, have you ever come to a point in your spiritual life wherein you are sure that if you die you will go to heaven?” All of Joy’s four siblings turned to face me as I answered, “Yes, I think so, because I try to be a good person.” Joy’s father said, “That’s interesting, well maybe one of these days I can share with you what it means to really have that assurance.” And as if on queue, Joy’s siblings said, “Why don’t you share with him now?!” In a matter of seconds, one of them had run to get a bible and plopped it right in front of Joy’s dad. Then, Joy’s siblings politely vacated the table to give us privacy. That night, I came to understand salvation and place my trust in Jesus Christ. Before this time, I had always thought that I could earn my way into heaven by being a good person. But that night, something changed. I accepted Jesus into my heart and I began to have a personal relationship with him. A different kind of peace came over me. I had the assurance that if I died that very day, I would be with Jesus, not because of my good works, but because he died for me and paid for my sins. But I still had a lot of spiritual growing that I needed to experience.

Things to note -

  • Spiritual leadership is one of the key roles of a man, especially in marriage. Whenever we conduct premarital counseling for couples, I always tell the guy, the buck stops with you. As a man, you are going to be the head of your marriage relationship, and the most important aspect of being the head is that you have to take charge spiritually. You don’t have to “dominate” spiritually but you are going to be held accountable for the spiritual health of your wife and kids. When Adam and Even sinned in the garden of Eden, God looked for Adam. He held Adam responsible even if Eve took the first bite. When I was in college, I didn’t know how critical it was that for me to be a spiritual leader as man, and that is why I want to share this with you, as early as now, before some of you make any major decision in the area of relationships. Are you ready to lead, take the helm?

Joy: After this evening, I got very excited. I thought, yippee! Edric understands what I believe, we can actually start dating! Well that was a wrong perspective. I should have waited on God’s perfect timing. My parents liked Edric very much but they also wanted me to focus on my studies more. Unfortunately, Edric and I started to became a distraction to each others’ studies, to developing our abilities and other relationships, and to maximizing our time to do ministry and serve others. Why? Because it was not yet the right time. The reality was that we were still in college, so even if we really thought we loved each other, we couldn’t get married, yet.

Things to note –

  • Sometimes it can be the right person but not the right time. Or the right time but the wrong person. Both of those have to be right before you commit to a relationship.
  • A very practical way to discern if you are ready to get into a serious relationship is this guideline: Each person needs to answer three major questions in their life –The 3 M’s — Master, Mission, and the Mate. If you already know who your master is – meaning who you will commit your life to (the spiritual question), then you can answer the second question, what will I do with my life, how will I best serve and glorify God with the abilities and strengths he has given me? And if you have answered that second question because you are already doing what you believe God wants you to be doing, then you can ask yourself the third question. What kind of person will enable me to pursue a life that is pleasing and glorifying to God?

Here some other practical considerations:

  1. Have you made a list of what you are looking for in a person you would like to marry?
  2. For the men – are you able to be financially independent from your parents and provide for a family?
  3. Have you established your personal standards for purity (that you are not willing to compromise on)?
  4. Do you have your parents’ full blessing and approval to get into a relationship with this person?

Edric: When Joy and I started to get serious about our relationship, we also began to compromise in the area of physical purity. We really believed that we loved each other and we were very attracted to each other. Because we spent a lot of alone time together, it was very hard to resist being physical with each other. Praise God we didn’t go all the way but we came way too close, too many times. This was a source of tension in our relationship because we both felt frustrated that we were not pleasing God.

After college, Joy and I began to think more objectively about our relationship. We both wanted to get married but we knew that we were not practicing purity before God. We said, “How can we expect God to bless our relationship if we are not completely obeying him?” We both decided to do something drastic — to break up and spend time discerning God’s direction for us as individuals. God convicted us to ask, “Whom do you love more, this person or me?” We had made each other more important than our relationship with God.

Things to note –

  • Because being physical outside of marriage is not God’s design, you cannot expect God’s blessing or hand to be upon your life or the relationship. Both Joy and I wanted God’s blessing. We did not have peace about staying together if we could not control the physical aspect of our relationship. Some of you might be in the same predicament or you might have experienced this same issue in the past. And let me assure you that if you put God first, he will work things out for good in your life. For those of you who don’t think it is such a big deal to be physical before marriage, let me caution you. We are all free to make decisions but not free to escape the consequences. Joy and I have counseled a lot of couples who do not experience a fulfilling sex life in marriage because they exhausted that aspect long before they ever God married. And when you mess with God’s design, there will always be consequences. God’s grace can turn things around, but if you want God’s best plan for your future marriage, then make the hard decisions now – decisions that are based on God’s word and truth and not what the world is saying or doing.

1 Corinthians 6:18-19 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Joy: Edric and I believed that if we put God first in our lives and seek him first, then he would bring us back together if that was his will. But we needed to want him above all things, above even our love for one another. When we broke up, we sought God independently and put him first. But it was extremely painful and difficult. The terms were: no communicating, no text messaging, no emailing unless absolutely necessary. God allowed this period of separation to be a time of delving in God’s word, reviving my prayer life, focusing on my job, and getting involved in ministry work. The same happened for Edric. Our lives became fruitful again.

Things to note –

  • When you are waiting on God for a person or answer about a relationship, don’t be passive. Busy yourself doing ministry, go all out in your job, enjoy your friendships and loved ones, and most of all, find your completeness in Christ. One of the most dangerous things you can think about relationships is “This person is going to make me happy.” That’s not true. You need to take two happy, contented people to make one happy relationship. Find your joy and satisfaction in Christ and you can love your future spouse out of this joy and satisfaction.

Edric: This was a very difficult period for me. No one had ever broken up with me. In the past, I was the one that did the breaking up with my ex-girlfriends. But God used this period of separation to work in my heart and prepare me to be a husband.

God was amazingly faithful. I continued to pray for Joy and Joy continued to pray for me. I knew in my heart that Joy was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But the Lord had to confirm this. My practical concerns were: I would have to be the spiritual leader, be able to make enough money to provide for a wedding, family, and home. And most importantly, get the full blessing of both Joy’s parents and my parents if I was ever to ask her for her hand in marriage.

I set up a secret meeting with Joy’s mom and dad for their blessing to marry her. They said yes. Whew. After half a year of praying, preparing and discerning, I was ready to ask Joy to marry me. Finally, I asked God, is it time? And he led me to this verse in Exodus 3:33, “I myself, the Lord answered, will go along to give you rest.” And I had complete peace. I set up an elaborate plan to orchestrate the proposal and I put the ring inside an old Bible and wrote out the question, “Will You Marry Me?” Everyone was in on the plan, except for Joy. Praise God she said, “Yes!”

Things to note –

  • God knows the desires of your heart. If these desires are for your greater good, he will give them to you. If they are wrong desires, he will give you something better. The key is to discern when you are in the center of his will – so he can speak to you clearly. The same thing applies to relationships. You might be interested in someone and think, this person is it! If only God will allow us to be together! If you pray about it and God says a clear no, then be excited that God has someone better. Joy and I had to have this mindsight even if it was difficult. But praise God, he wanted us to get married.

I also did something a little bit unorthodox before proposing marriage to Joy. I called up my two ex-girlfriends to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. God convicted me to make sure that I cut ties in an honorable way, and avoid bringing any emotional baggage into my marriage. So I asked them if there was anything I did to hurt or offend them by the choices I made while dating them. And I said sorry. This liberated me to move on with a clean conscience.

Things to note –

  • If you have not settled issues with past relationships and you want God’s blessing for your marriage, consider this passage: Matthew 5:23 – 24 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” The principle is put your affairs in order in the area of relationships, so that you can come before God and honor him at the marriage altar.

Joy: Hebrews 11:6 says, And without faith, it is impossible to please him (God) for He who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. When we sought to put God first, God rewarded us. By God’s grace, Edric and I are happily married. We love being married, having a family, and serving God together.

family 2

 

Things to note –

  • God has a plan for each one of you. It is the best plan. If he decides to bring a special someone to your life then rejoice and if he doesn’t, well, you can rejoice also because he wants you especially for himself. But do your part – if you want to find the best person, then be the best person first. Focus on what you can control – plan out your singlehood by living it out to the fullest, in a way that glorifies God – but be open to the possibility that God may change and interrupt those plans by bringing someone into your life.

Be blessed and encouraged my dear single readers! While you wait and pray, may you experience God’s best even now – GOD HIMSELF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Head to Heart

My second son, Edan, is reading through the Bible. But he has admitted to me several times that he finds it tedious to do so and he doesn’t feel like keeping up the habit of a daily quiet time with the Lord. I have tried to encourage him by talking about the importance of growing in his faith and the joys of getting to know God more intimately. However, it remains a struggle for him to cultivate the desire to read.

Yesterday, he expressed the same reluctancy to study the word of God. So I invited him to sit down beside me and we read a chapter in Malachi together. I explained to him the passages we studied — how they related to our own experiences as a family and how they could be applied as principles for living. He was very engaged in our discussion.

At one point, he began to tear and I didn’t know where this was coming from. So I asked him if it was something we read or something I said. He wasn’t ready to answer then but after we finished reading, he grabbed a couple of pillows, curled up on the floor and told me, “When you spend time explaining the Bible to me, I feel touched.”

Touched? Did my reserved and calculated son just use that word to express himself? It wasn’t a word he had used before.

He began to have tears in his eyes again.

For the first time, he saw how amazing God’s word can be. It had come alive to him. I suppose he had always wanted to feel like a daily quiet time with the Lord was worthwhile but he had gotten discouraged by his inability to understand the adult vocabulary. I assumed too much when I handed him an adult version of the Bible and expected him to magically absorb it all because he reads well.

Over breakfast, he added something like this, “I am happy because God tells you to take care of me.” His eyes turned red again and he was trying to express to me that the experience of shared time in the word was an example of this. As a young child struggling with the guilt of NOT loving God’s word, a solution was given to him. God sent me, his mother, to help him. What mattered to him was the Lord knew his heartfelt and secret need.

I asked him what he does when he reads through his Bible by himself. His reply was, “When I don’t know the words, I just ignore them. I just read to finish.”

There had been no joy in his encounters with truth because its meaning was unclear to him and its applications, a mystery. What a great disservice I had done him, by operating with a false assumption that he could navigate through the text. My eldest, Elijah, has a richer vocabulary so it is easier for him to comprehend what he reads. As for Edan, he was going through the motion of reading but there was no delight in it. It was becoming a ritual. Having those 20 minutes together, talking about how applicable the text was to everyday life was precious to him.

Author Tedd Tripp writes that parents need to see the Bible as a family album. The Bible isn’t a literary piece about a nation or people who bear no relation to us, it is a living text that tells us what God has done, can do and will do in our lives. It is the history of our faith in Jesus Christ and the future of it. Do our children know this?

As for me, I have a lot to improve on in this area. My children cannot be left alone to guide themselves in matters of the faith. They are dependent on Edric and I during these tender years, while under our care, to elucidate and illuminate the character of God, his principles, the warnings and promises, and stories as found in the Scriptures.

Furthermore, for faith to blossom in the lives of our children, it has to become personal. It is one thing to teach our kids about what we believe, to emphasize character, and to read Bible stories. It is a totally different and more important thing to teach them how to enjoy God, to find that their deepest longings and questions can be satisfied in him, and to discover the truth that sets them free in his word. When this happens, faith can move from cultural and traditional to convincingly meaningful so it can be embraced as completely acceptable. Faith can’t reside merely in the head, it must finds it’s way to our children’s hearts so that convictions and commitments can be formed.

This morning, Edan reminded me that we had to read together again and he eagerly brought me the bookmarked page of Scripture to go over with him. I may not be able to do this every single day but I pray that I can pass on to Edan a love for God’s word while he is still young.

O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. (Psalms 71:17 NASB)

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When It Rains Inside Your House

We spent the day moving boxes into our new home and everything was going great until there was a downpour outside. And then the downpour happened inside! The water started coming through the hanging chandelier in the entrance and out of the lights in the hallway on the second floor. It was like a waterfall from the top of our second floor ceiling to the ground floor below. I couldn’t believe it!

Thankfully, the architect assigned to our site (representing the contractor) was around to address the problem. Everyone else on his team was scrambling around looking lost and overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of the situation but eventually, they figured out what to do. Someone got up to the roof and found a piece of wood blocking the downspouts. (How the wood got stuck there in the first place is a mystery.) Others found containers to catch the water and throw it outside. The electrician borrowed my Iphone flashlight so he could go into the ceiling and spot the water’s point of entry.

When it rained this afternoon, the water began to pond and seep into the ceiling. Without any other outlet but the lights in the hallway, the water started to flow downwards. First it came down in trickles and then in a stream. It was almost beautiful seeing the water drop down two stories right in front of our main door. We have a lot of glass in our entry way so it was like a water feature! The only problem of course was this was happening inside. Had our four older children been with us, they would have been splashing around in the water and dancing for joy. My baby, Catalina, was with me and she was very fascinated by the spectacle.

Because it was such a crazy, unexpected disaster, I knew it wasn’t just a freak accident. This was a divine message for Edric and I. We went out onto the balcony and thanked God for reminding us that this world is not our home, and we should not love the things of this world.

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On a positive note, it was a blessing that this mess happened at the hour it did. First, the workers were still at the house to address the issue. Had it happened in the evening, when they had all gone home, we would have been in big trouble! Second, it was a good “test” shower before actual rainy season. We got to see how the house faired against lots of rain. Third, we hadn’t completely moved in yet so we weren’t put in physical jeopardy.

But the best reason of all was I believe God wanted us to share the gospel with the on-site architect. When I saw the water falling through the ceiling I wanted to freak out and blame someone, but God gave Edric and I the calmness to consider that there was a spiritual perspective to be had in all of this.

The architect was so apologetic and promised that his team would clear out the downspouts so it wouldn’t happen again. Of course, he also told us the ceiling and whatever else was affected would be rectified. At this juncture…when we are about to move in, the timing of this rectification is unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of eternity, the damage was “worth it.” Let me explain…

Ever since this architect came on board for the finishing stage of our housebuilding, I have been burdened for him to come to Christ. He is a very nice guy who has worked hard and well to manage the final phase of our house project. Two weeks ago, he told me he saw my feature on GMA, but we didn’t get to talk about it. I asked Edric if he could be the one to process the feature with him since it would be awkward for me to discuss something so personal with a man.

He wasn’t able to do so then because we were headed home but after the indoor downpour happened, it
was the perfect opportunity to tell him about Jesus. When he came up to me to apologize once again, I assured him, “This is a reminder that we should not love this world. This world is not our home, heaven is.” When Edric and I were in private, I was like, “Hon, you should share the gospel with him. This is the best time to do so!” Edric completely agreed and some moments later took the architect aside.

On the balcony, Edric introduced him to Jesus Christ and what it means to have a personal relationship with him. Given that the incident made people in the house consider how temporal the things of this world are, it was a great segue for Edric to get into the topic of eternity. Edric also referred to the Tanikala episode of 700 Club which the architect got to watch. At the end of their dialogue, Edric asked him if he wanted to pray with him to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and he said, “Yes! Gusto ko yan (I want that).”

I was so thrilled. I couldn’t help but take a photo of the two of them.

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Edric and I have been praying that God will use this house for his glory and his purposes, and that’s what happened today in the most unprecedented sort of way. This is HIS house, not ours.

Even if it meant getting rain inside our house, the ceiling being partially destroyed, our lights and chandelier possibly getting wrecked, and the floor warping because it flooded on the second floor, I was happy. Those things can be repaired and redone. But a soul…what is the price of soul?

God loves all of us so much. He wants to get our attention and make our hearts receptive to the gospel. If it means making rain fall inside a house in a disastrous way so that one person will come to know him, their soul is worth it!

Luke 15:10 “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

I love you even with your braces and bangs.

Braces and bangs…what was I thinking?! I didn’t realize how awkward I would look. And I must admit that I struggle with vanity from time to time. The comedy of it all is I had to give so many talks these past two weeks. There were blog readers who came up to me wanting photos and I wanted to run away because I am vain!!! I didn’t want to smile and pose for the camera. I know…it’s silly.

After one of my seminars, Edric confronted me in a loving way and told me to get over it. He knew I was self conscious because I was hardly moving my upper lip. I looked like an unskilled ventriloquist. Part of the problem was my lips kept snagging on my braces.

It’s been a few weeks since I first got them. Thankfully, these are fast braces so I shouldn’t have to wear them for too long. In the meantime, while I am looking like a teenager with wrinkles, I am so glad Edric told me two mornings ago, “I love you even with your braces and bangs.”

He would prefer that I didn’t have either but at this stage, 13 years into marriage, we understand that physical appearances aren’t the most important aspect of a marriage. I am not saying it’s not necessary to be attracted to your spouse and to do your best to be attractive for your spouse. But it’s certainly wonderful to know that braces and bangs aren’t going to change the way Edric feels about me. I don’t have to look perfect. I am not pressured to be flawless.

At the recent wedding of my cousin, Joseph, the officiating pastor, Jay Jackson, said, “Because love sees more it is willing to see less.”

He certainly meant more than just the physical but since I am on the topic of external appearances, permit me to say how much I appreciate a couple of things about my husband…

I am so thankful I married a guy who doesn’t compare me to the attractive women he meets. (He interviewed three gorgeous beauty queens for his TV show a few weeks ago.) I am so thankful that he doesn’t entertain attractive stalker women online. (Some women don’t care that he is a married man. They still attempt to get his attention and flirt with him.) I am so thankful he doesn’t ogle at bill boards of younger women or look up pornography. He admits that he is tempted to just like any other man, but he tries his best to guard what he sees.

Why? Because he loves God. He wants to please Him. If Edric didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord, I wouldn’t have the same sort of peace that I do about our marriage. But because he does it affords me rest from trying to KEEP him attracted to me. I try to stay fit and take care of myself so I don’t fall apart physically. However, no amount of striving in this area would make him faithful to me unless he desired to live for God.

I have seen the same conviction in my father who has stayed faithful to my mother. The other day I was showing my dad old photos of him and my mom. And he began to have tears in his eyes. My dad hardly gets emotional! But he went through each photo with me, commenting on how beautiful my mom looked. Afterwards he asked me to send the photos to him. As he made his way up the stairs to his study room, he glanced back at me with an expression of tender affection and added, “It is good for a husband to look through old photos and remember how much he loves the wife of his youth…” He seemed to be lost in a moment of sweet remembering as he smiled and climbed the remainder of the stairs.

When he said “wife of your youth,” I remembered this passage in Proverbs…Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:15, 18 NLT)

A man marries the woman he loves but a man who loves God keeps loving the woman he married.

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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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