The Real Star of Our Mayad Beginnings Shoot

IMG_6343.JPGLast weekend, our family had a photoshoot with and for Mayad Beginnings, the photography outfit of the amazing Mayad Studios (who happened to do the videography for my sister’s wedding). Their make-up artist, Rochelle Lacuna, arrived early, probably about 6:30 AM, so I was in that chair getting prepped for the morning’s shoot before breakfast. Mayad Beginning’s team came into our living room and dining room not too long afterwards. It turned out that most of Mayad’s team goes to either our church, CCF, or Victory. But there was one lady whom I chatted with who seemed to be on a search for spiritual answers. I will call her J.P. for anonymity’s sake.

J.P. was the woman who contacted me to set up the shoot via email and it was our first time to meet face to face last Saturday. I began with small talk and eventually got to asking her about her spiritual journey, just to get a pulse for where she was at. Her honesty and openness afforded me an opening to share the gospel.

First, I asked her why she started attending CCF, to which she revealed that she had grown tired of a religion of performance and legalism. What she wanted was to have a relationship with Jesus, to be able to enjoy him and worship him and she seemed to find this in CCF. There couldn’t have been a more perfect time to insert what it really means to have a relationship with Jesus. And since my make-up wasn’t quite ready, we could continue talking.

While mascara and false eyelashes were being meticulously attached to my eyelids, I recounted my own spiritual journey, which began in my childhood. At the young age of nine, I despaired at the thought of my eternal destiny. Having no assurance that I would go to heaven, and fearing that I was most certainly bound for hell, I confessed to my preacher father that I was afraid to die. After a thorough explanation of how Jesus’ death on the cross paid for my sins and with an invitation from my dad to believe in what Jesus did for me, I prayed to receive Him into my life as Lord and Savior. My siblings and parents sat around me as witnesses since my question about eternal life came in the context of our family bible study.

This was the introduction to the Bible passage I shared with J.P.  Since her disenchantment with her previous place of worship had something to do with good works as a basis for acceptance, I showed her Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves, not as a result of works so that no one should boast.” I requested that J.P. read the verses and explain to me what each line meant to her.

“What is faith?” I asked her. And using the simple explanation I’ve often heard bible teachers use, I pointed to her chair and commented that she was exercising faith at that moment, as she sat on the chair, absolutely dependent on it to keep her from falling to the ground. In the same way, Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are not saved by our own works and good deeds. It is by grace, through faith in what God has done for us.

I proceeded to show her John 3:16 which says, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” What has God done for us? He gave us His Son, Jesus, to save us. What is our part? To believe, to have faith.

Still, J.P. said she struggled to give her life completely to the Lord because of past mistakes. She didn’t want to be presumptuous about God’s grace. So I told her the story of the thief on the cross by Jesus’ side, at the crucifixion. He had no opportunity to live a reformed life and yet when he expressed his faith in Jesus by saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

Death by crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals so we know that this thief committed a major crime. Similarly, there may be people out there who feel like they’ve done the unpardonable, the unforgivable. But God’s grace is still bigger. His blood can cover that sin or sins. God’s invitation extends to everyone.

Therefore, the onus is on us to accept his gift, his salvation, or to reject it. There are only two options. Either we embrace what Jesus has done, by faith. Or, we make excuses like, “I’m not ready” or “It’s too simple,” or “It doesn’t make sense, from a logic perspective.”

The reality is, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. How can someone love us this much?  I told J.P. that as a mother, I would never want to give up my children’s lives to save an evil person’s life. Yet God’s Word tells us, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

From the perspective of human logic, it is incomprehensible because we are more familiar with imperfect human love. But God’s love is different. He loved us (loves us) in our total and utter depravity and sinfulness, and chose to take our place so we can be reconciled to Him. And while it may not seem reasonable, we can understand the longing to be accepted this perfectly. Haven’t we all attempted to fill an emptiness in our hearts with relationships, career pursuits, habits, hobbies, accomplishments, acclaim, money and whatever else? Yet these things will never be enough to satisfy or save us, no matter what new forms they assume to make us think they will.

I am married to a wonderful man who loves God, and yet, he cannot fill the hole in my heart completely. He can love me and take care of me to the best of his ability, and I can do the same for him. And we enjoy each other in special and exclusive ways that we do not experience with other people. However, the space inside us is eternally wide and deep. Only the infinite personhood of God can occupy the void so that we cease from our striving to fill it.

One of my favorite passages is found in Colossians 1:16-17, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” 

Because we are made by God, for Him, we will not understand the fullness of joy, peace, love or purpose unless we experience these in the context of a relationship with Him. Why do orphans feel the need to know who their biological parents are? Why do they go through great lengths to seek out their real parents? We want to know where we came from so we can understand who we are supposed to be.  Thomas Aquinas summarized the essence of this by saying, “Our hearts are restless until they can find their rest in You (God).”

I told J.P. that I believed God ordained our time together for the very purpose of letting her know how much He loves her. The photoshoot was the circumstance that God provided so we could meet and have that discussion. I gave J.P. emotional space to digest what we talked about because she struggled with the next step, the closure – surrendering her life completely to the Lord. She was engaged during the entire make-up session, yet I couldn’t force her to receive God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. This is something she will have to do on her own, between her and God.

Shortly after my conversation with J.P., I had to get ready for our first shoot. The morning passed quickly as our family posed for the three concepts that Mayad Beginnings had in mind. We had a lot of fun but the best part of that day was the thirty minutes I had with J.P. while sitting on the make-up chair talking about our spiritual lives.

God has given Edric and I many opportunities to meet people from all walks of life, and I know that these moments are pre-ordained and pre-orchestrated not so much for our benefit (which a photoshoot can feel like because the attention is centered on us). Instead, I believe that he intends for us to use these occasions to deliver the gospel in whatever way or form we can. Whether this means sharing a conversation about God’s love or acting and behaving in ways that reflect Christ-likeness, we must remember that the greater privilege is putting the spotlight on Him and not on ourselves. The greater purpose is to declare the message of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

I pray we never forget that the real star of our marriage and our family is JESUS. It’s not us or our kids. He is the reason why there is joy, love, and by His grace, forgiveness in our home. He is the inspiration behind the smiles and the laughter you will see in the highlights of our shoot. Thank you to Mayad Beginnings for capturing us so naturally. But thank you most of all to the Lord for the opportunity to be representatives of His Name.

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Four Days with Nine

When children are obedient it is possible to raise nine of them! This was my realization over the weekend when both my brothers entrusted their children to us. Our 5 + Paul’s 3 + Peter’s 1.

We homeschooled them, fed them, put them to bed, read stories to them, played games, asked them to clean up after themselves, and requested that they follow our rules.

   
There was one occasion when Teegan (my older brother, Peter’s daughter) didn’t eat her breakfast so I explained to her that she could not eat Krispy Kreme donuts with everyone else at High Street. She had to wait until after she finished lunch. In the past, she would have fussed and given me a pout, maybe even cried. But since her parents have been diligent about disciplining her and teaching her to control her emotions, she nodded her head with understanding when I presented her with this consequence. At lunch, she cleaned her plate and got her donut after.
   

Another incident involved our own Titus getting upset about seating arrangements. He had a mini-meltdown but after Edric had a chat with him, he apologized to everyone for losing his temper.
   

Other than these occasions, having nine kids wasn’t burdensome at all. We did have househelp to assist us which made a difference. But I have seen one too many naughty kids needing several persons to manage them. This wasn’t the case with our nephews and nieces. They were a delight.

After every meal, they politely thanked Edric and me, even if they didn’t always like what we fed them. When we corrected them for leaving a mess, they immediately cleaned it up. There were no major fights to settle or cry-babies to appease. At night they complied with sleeping time and didn’t bother one another.

These pleasant behaviors brought me to the conclusion that it’s not so much the number of children one has that spells the difference between order and chaos. It’s the intentional training in obedience and respect that is the key.

   

I appreciated my siblings and their wives all the more after our baby-sitting experience. Since our kids interact with their kids alot it matters that all our children share the same values and attitudes about authority, treating one another with kindness, gratitude, and being well-mannered. Most important of all, my nieces and nephews love the Lord. Their hearts are tender and their desire to please God is evident. My kids are blessed to have their cousins as friends. I am thankful that for the good influence they are on our own children. Sometimes they can all get wild and crazy together, in the context of having fun, but they affirm the same biblical principles we teach our children.

Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭29‬:‭17‬ NASB)

 

One of the reasons why our children share similarities is due to the kind of relationship my siblings and I have (in-laws included). We hold one another accountable and LOVINGLY correct each other’s parenting styles when necessary. My parents still mentor us, too, which is a wonderful blessing.

For example, two years ago, my brother, Peter, and his family, came back to the Philippines after living in New York for over a decade. We all noticed that he and his wife, Jennifer, tended to be more child-centric with their three year old daughter, Teegan. They didn’t realize it as she had been the center of attention among all their couple friends, too. She was accustomed to getting her way or pitching a fit if she didn’t. When we all pointed this out to them, in a speak-the-truth-in-love sort of way, they received it well and responded to everyone’s suggestions. Today, Teegan is a transformed child! She used to chase Tiana and scare her, bullying her for the first few months that she was in Manila. Now, she and Tiana love one another so much!

The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” seems to apply to our family. We share “best practices” with one another and treat each other’s kids as our own. But my own version is “It takes a family of Christ-centered parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to raise Christ-centered children. The perspective of my siblings and parents (and even from Edric’s side of the family) helps guide our parenting goals and methodologies.

 
By God’s grace, Edric and I got through four days with a house full of kids by. When the weekend came to a close, we sat around the breakfast table with nine children thinking, hmm…this is fun, we could actually do this, we could have more! But for now we will borrow our nieces and nephews…I am not quite ready to be pregnant for the 6th time and I’ve got my hands full with five.

 

Dear Dad and Mom

For his graduation from elementary, our son, Elijah, wrote letters to Edric and me. I just received copies of the letters which were forwarded to me by the graduation program coordinator, Alyssa. These made my day! All glory to God for the privilege of raising our kids and the enabling his gives us!

  

Dear Dad,

I want to thank you for being an example. You are where I draw my example for being a man from, second to Jesus. One of the things you teach about being a man is how to love God. I see it in the way you act. You love Mom and take care of her, even when it’s not easy. You also ask for forgiveness and you improve when you make mistakes. You go out of your way to do ministry. I really appreciate that. Thank you, Dad, for being there for me when I need you. Thank you for teaching me and training me to be a man. I look forward to all the upcoming years we will have together. Love you Dad! 

Your Son, Elijah

   

            

Dear Mom,

Thank you for homeschooling me. I have seen that it’s very hard for you, but still you stay patient and persist. I don’t know any other person that is that patient with me. Through this I can really see that you love me. Even though sometimes you don’t really teach me anymore, what you do teach me is how to love God. Your example (of course, along with Dad’s) has guided me to make the right decisions in my life. You are the best Mom ever (to me). I don’t know what I could do without you. Love you so much and once again, thank you for guiding me along thus far. 

Love, Elijah

   

First round of elementary graduates

  

Elijah with his lola and lolo   

So proud of you, son! I treasure these homeschooling years we have together!

We’ve Never Gone Hungry

God continues to provide for us through the many seasons of our lives. At the beginning of this year, our reserves were running low because we finished building our home September 2014 and we traveled to the U.S., staying there for a month in December. (There’s no way to make a trip cheap when you have five kids!)

During the first quarter of 2015, we also had some pretty hefty bills to pay and taxes for Edric’s independent speaking contracts to settle. Plus there were some unprecedented doodads that were piled on to the money we had to part with. The stress mounted for Edric, yet God calmed him down with the assurance that He will always take care of us.

When you marry a man who loves God and chooses to live righteously, a great amount of fear is removed from you as a wife. You know that God will provide through your husband. It may not mean you have loads of money all the time, but you can be confident that God will bless the work of his hands and you won’t go hungry. And should you go hungry, God won’t abandon you. He promises this.

I am always encouraged by the passage in Psalm 34:10 which reads, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.”

Amazingly, when Edric surrendered our finances once again to the Lord, choosing NOT to panic or be worried, God gave us a wonderful bonus to whisper that he is mindful of us. Galderma renewed our contract as Cetaphil ambassadors. Last year we were featured on billboards and in stores, but this year Galderma expanded their marketing efforts to television. It was a pleasant surprise and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

Our family thoroughly enjoyed participating in Cetaphil Philippines’ Campaign. Cetaphil is a brand we actually use and need. As a matter of principle, we prefer to take on projects that we can be authentic about. Furthermore, our family has a range of skin care needs – from oily, dry, sunburn-prone, aging to eczema. It’s great to represent a brand that meets these needs effectively.

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For example, we have all benefited from Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Wash, which never dries out our skin. Even my husband, Edric, who doesn’t like to fuss about his skin is a believer in this cleanser. When we were taping the commercial, one of the lines he gave had to do with Cetaphil’s fragrance free characteristic. It was truthful of him to act out the part where he said, “fragrance free!” with a smile because this is sooo him! His very intelligent nose (he can smell cockroaches) dislikes strong smelling soaps, lotions, or perfumes.

 

The other day while spraying myself with perfume, Edan remarked, “Does Dad know you do that?!” The tone of his questioning insinuated that this wasn’t something Edric would like. (I wasn’t going to see Edric for a good number of hours so the scent would have mellowed by the time we were together!)

My own skin care routine is very simple but thankfully, Cetaphil has a product for every step of my routine. After washing my face at night, I use Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream.

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Since my skin reacts to chemicals and products, this moisturizer calms it down at night and the next day it feels renewed. Due to my mom’s Caucasian genetics, my skin is on the “thin” side so this moisturizer makes it suppler. To protect my skin during the day I use Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15.

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During days when my skin is oilier than usual, I will wash with Cetaphil’s Dermacontrol Wash and use Dermacontrol Moisturizer, which also has sunblock in it. There are periods when my face is prone to breakouts so the Dermacontrol line rescues it.


009_CET_Foam_Wash_Bottle1 010_CET_OilControlMoisturizer_Bottle1If I’m at the beach, I need stronger protection, so I pile on Cetaphil’s UVA/UVB SPF 50+. It keeps me from getting burnt since I’m very prone to sun damage (due to, well, once again, being half-caucasian.)

As for my children, especially my youngest daughter, Catalina, Restoraderm has been wonderful. She has very dry skin on her legs and stomach. Restoraderm, which is also prescribed by our pediatrician for our kids’ Eczema, keeps the patchy, scaly spots from spreading to the rest of her body. It smoothens out her skin, too. Titus tends to have pretty bad Eczema when his outbreaks happen. So there are occasions when I will have to use a hydrocortisone cream and then Restoraderm on top. Of course, I’m also careful about what my kids eat which is why we avoid food with MSG, preservatives, and artificial ingredients as much as possible.

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Beyond being talents for Cetaphil’s commercial and the fact that their products do work for our family, the greater blessing for me was experiencing God’s provision. As our Heavenly Father, he knows what we need and when we need it. If He deems it for our good to open His storehouse, he will do so. He delights to take care of us. And if he should allow us to be in uncomfortable financial situations so we learn to trust him and work on our character, then we can still hold on to the truth about His person – He will never leave us or forsake us.

I elected to use the title, “We’ve Never Gone Hungry” in order to communicate a spiritual truth. The Cetaphil commercial was an amazing earthly blessing with positive financial implications, however, when we have Jesus, He satisfies something much greater than our physical needs. In John 6:35, he tells us, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me WILL NOT hunger, and he who believes in Me WILL NEVER thirst.”

I pray that the joy people see in our faces as portrayed on television will highlight something beyond a good product or grand. I pray it will reveal the joy that is in our family because of Jesus! Here’s a behind the scenes look at how much fun we had…

 

 

 

 

 

God Can Make the Most Out of Scrambled Eggs

I still have vivid memories of the evening I met Monique over ten years ago. She waltzed into our bible study, on the invitation of her twin sister, Michelle, with her voluminous hair the perfect complement to her charisma and spirited personality. She opened up to me with honesty, unabashedly talking about the condition and nature of her relationship to John, a married man she was living in with, with whom she had a one year old daughter.

At some point in the evening, there arose in me a strong impression to present to Monique the biblical viewpoint on her relationship. Looking back, there may have been a gentler way to put it. But as a young bible study leader, a rookie at dealing with colorful and complicated counseling situations, I showed her a passage in Scripture that exposed her adultery. I also admonished her to stop living in with John. Monique didn’t defend herself. In fact she sincerely pondered upon the exchange we had. I wasn’t sure if I would see her again after I showed her the bible verses and made that statement about adultery.

However, Monique continued to attend our meetings even while she remained in a relationship with John. On the one hand, she sincerely expressed interest in spiritual matters. Yet she found herself bound to John in a manner that was almost too complex to walk away from overnight. Not only did they share a child and a home, they were business partners. Furthermore, she was friends with John’s wife and acted like a mom to his first child.

In her attempt to find convergence, she brought John to one of the bible studies that Edric was leading. John interpreted this move as a big set-up. He locked himself in the bathroom with his laptop for two hours! Back then, we knew John pretty much disdained us for encouraging Monique to stop sleeping with him.

Not too long after, Monique had a second child with John. With tears she confessed to our bible study group that she was pregnant. Yet the most heartbreaking part was Monique’s discovery of John’s betrayal. He had been cheating on her with multiple women.

In pain and completely lost, Monique finally understood that Jesus Christ was the only one who could save her from her brokenness. The love and security she sought in her relationships with men could not be satiated by anyone except Christ. With complete surrender, she gave her life to the Lord.

As difficult as it was, she moved out of John’s home and committed to guard her sexual purity. It wasn’t a perfect journey but her decision to give up John had a profound impact on her spiritual life.

At the same time, the Lord began to move in John’s heart. Tired of his lifestyle and sexual addiction (he professed to have slept with over 50 women), and jolted back to reality when he lost Monique’s trust, John earnestly sought to reform his ways. He told Monique that she shouldn’t be with him because he was a sick person — spiritually and emotionally. Monique’s response to him was you need to seek Jesus.

As Monique took steps to avoid immorality and grow in her faith, she chose to forgive John, which was compelling evidence for her spiritual transformation. Furthermore, she forgave the women whom John cheated on her with. As a result, John chose to give his life to Jesus Christ, surrendering to His grace. He began growing spiritually in a discipleship group with other men under Roli Sabado.

Eventually, John also started coming to our bible studies faithfully. A genuine desire to grow in his faith marked his conversion. There were a lot of periphery issues that both he and Monique had to sort through but God plucked ungodly behaviors, attitudes, and perspectives out of them like straight pins being pulled off a pin cushion. Then he filled the holes with renewed thinking and the pursuit of holiness and wholeness in Christ.

However, the reality of their scrambled egg situation remained. At this point, John and his first wife were annulled and she was in a serious relationship with another man whom she intended to marry. He had two kids with Monique but he wasn’t married to her, and they couldn’t live in together. The most honorable recourse was to marry Monique so they could be a family.

 
We encouraged John and Monique to have a civil marriage first, and shortly after, they had a recommitment ceremony in Boracay. They asked us to be their Ninong and Ninang even if we felt underaged as 31 year olds but it was an honor as they were our “spiritual” children. During this event, Monique invited the women whom John had cheated on! Since she knew them as friends before the affairs happened, she also desired that they come into a relationship with Jesus. I don’t know too many people who would think to do this but Monique didn’t harbor any bitterness towards them. Her greater concern was for their spiritual healing.
 

Serving together in Before and After I Do

Today, John and Monique Ong  actively serve as an integral part of the CCF Family Ministry Team, contributing their expertise as business people in events, photography, and videography. They are homeschooling parents with a brood of five. They also hold weekly community worship services in their company building every Wednesday night. More importantly, their journey to Christ and the broken road that God fixed to get them there is an amazing testimony of His grace.

Some years ago I narrow-mindedly told Monique that there may be limitations to the scope of their ministry. Since John came from an annulled marriage, I thought this would be a contradiction to their desire to help people stay committed to their marriages. However, as I listened to them testify during the Before and After I Do Seminar, I realized my perceptions of their ministry’s reach had put God in a box.

 

The reality is John and Monique represent the truth about all of us. We are lost and scrambled apart from Christ — a mix of wrong choices, worldly thinking and philosophies, weary from the pain, the addictions to sin, the drive for success, money, or fame, burdened by the façades we try to manage and the chasing after the ever-elusive joy and peace that cannot be had apart from Him. John and Monique’s story also tells us that God meets us where we are at, as the messy scrambled eggs that we are, and He wants to make us whole. He CAN make us whole! He has a plan for us that is beyond what we can ever dream or imagine…

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (‭1 Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭9-12‬ NASB)

People rarely identify with those who look like perfect eggs which is why John and Monique are especially effective as portraits of God’s love and forgiveness. As John and Monique stood before the crowd with honesty and humility about the mess they used to be, they overflowed with God’s amazing grace. I knew about their faith journey before hearing them talk so openly about it in front of the 800 men and women who attended the seminar. But to recall the people they once were when we met them, and to see the fruit of their lives that day was just WOW! Wow to the God who does the impossible and the inconceivable, who takes a sexual addict and makes him a holy, committed husband…who takes an adulterous woman and makes her honorable, healing her broken heart, and making her more beautiful inside and out!

No life, no scrambled egg is beyond the reach or redeeming power of God’s grace. When we receive His forgiveness and come into a relationship with Him through Jesus, His Son, repenting from our sins and surrendering ourselves to Him, He gives us a new beginning. We receive peace and joy in the present, hope for the future, and a story to tell about our past that brings glory to His name.

 

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”(‭Psalms‬ ‭103‬:‭2-4, 10-12‬ NASB)

Tomorrow, John and Monique will share their story at our church, CCF, at the 9am and 12 noon services. If you have friends or family who need hope and encouragement, invite them and come along, too! You will be blessed!

CCF: Frontera Verde, Ortigas avenue corner C5, Pasig City
POST SCRIPT:
Due to the difficult questions that people have asked as a result of this post I am including more details about John and Monique’s situation before they got married.
John filed for annulment as early as 2002 when he didn’t know the Lord. He got denied. He was not a believer then. Yes, there were attempts to restore their marriage. Initially, when they parted ways, John’s wife was in another relationship, so the mother of his wife asked John to help fix the situation. John tried. He even lived in their in laws house to try to make it work. But still the outcome was still the same. John’s wife did not give him any hope of reconciling. She filed for an annulment in 2006. She was pregnant with her present husband’s child. In 2007, John came to the Lord. The court approved his wife’s annulment in March 2008 and she got married in 2009. John and Monique also got married in 2009. 
No matter what is said here, people will still question the decisions made by John and Monique, and even myself for posting this article, and Edric and I for being the couple that mentored them. Re-marriage is such a hotly debated topic and there is no way to avoid reactions to a story like this, and so I understand why I have come under fire for this post.
For those who have thought my words to be ill-chosen and the story to be an example of how divorce and remarriage is okay, that was not my intention. Please forgive me. At the same time, I have seen John and Monique’s lives since the mess they were in. And I know that they have born fruit.
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16 – 20
As I shared, but perhaps not clearly enough, we told them they were in sin from the very beginning. I also expressed that there may be limitations to the scope of their ministry if they get married because of their back ground. However, I can think of so many people in God’s word who didn’t make the best choices even after they already knew the Lord — David? Solomon? Moses? Peter? But we are still blessed by what God has done in their lives. We read about their stories in God’s Word. Do we say to ourselves, let’s copy the bad choices they made and rely on God’s grace after? I hope not!
Did David, Solomon, Moses, and Peter end well despite their bad choices? By God’s grace, yes. Sure, they should have done a lot of things better. John and Monique could’ve done a lot of things better, too. I could have done a lot of things better in my own life as well. And I’m still a work in progress.
This post isn’t about saying copy John and Monique’s wrong choices because they are turning out okay. But to say that John and Monique’s lives should NOT be used as an example of grace just because John was a divorcee and Monique used to live in with him…Shouldn’t the focus be the fruit that they are bearing now despite where they came from? Isn’t that a story that God can use to encourage those who have made their own set of bad choices verses being interpreted as a story that gives us license to make bad choices?
Nevertheless…I will be more careful in the future when I publish posts because this is a very public site and I need to be very discerning about the content I write about. And I praise God that this is a blog where clarifications and apologies can be made, and people can give their honest opinions, too. So thank you to my readers who have called out the inconsistencies and voiced their convictions. It’s very humbling to come under fire like this (and discouraging. sigh.) but I will gladly accept the criticism because writing on this site is a big responsibility and God wants me to be accountable. I shouldn’t take it lightly or ignore opinions when they are very valid. So thank you to the brave ones who commented and corrected me! And I now I’m going to move on to write other posts. You may continue the dialoguing among yourselves of course but I will now excuse myself from the commenting back and forth. :)

As For Me and My House… 

There is no guarantee that being involved in ministry as a family will ensure that our kids turn out okay in the spiritual and moral sense, but Edric and I do believe that immersing them in experiences where they can serve the Lord alongside us is good for their spiritual health.

First, ministry doesn’t take us away from them. As often as possible, they join us when we travel out of town to speak or give seminars on marriage, parenting or homeschooling. It’s a “family thing,” not just a “mom and dad thing.” Second, our children benefit from opportunities to declare God’s goodness in their lives and share their faith journeys. Telling others about what God has done makes them purposeful and productive followers of the Lord, even at a young age. Third, when they serve with us, they have the privilege of witnessing lives changed by the power of the gospel and the Word of God as first-hand observers. Fourth, they recognize that the Christian life isn’t about hogging the blessings of peace and joy for ourselves. It’s about sharing these with others so they too will be attracted to the source of it all — Jesus Christ.

Elijah and Edan are old enough to share their faith insights and experiences. So when it is relevant to, we let them stand in front of audiences to testify to what God is teaching them and doing in their lives. Since our family had a homeschooling roadshow in Baguio City this weekend, Elijah and Edan helped me present educational apps to homeschooling parents.

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During Holy Week, the kids talked about the blessings of obedience and the importance of studying God’s Word for a family retreat that was also held in Baguio. Four of them, Elijah, Edan, Titus and Tiana, recited passages of scripture for the audience to motivate parents to have family devotions with their kids and get them to memorize verses.

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We don’t want our family to be like a traveling circus, where we put the spotlight on our children and what we are doing as a family. What we do want is for our children to realize that while they are young, they have many opportunities to be fruitful and impact others. They don’t have to wait until they are older and grown up to make a difference for Christ. As followers of Jesus, wherever we go and in whatever we do, we can use our “time, talents, and treasure” (as Edric puts it when he preaches about living for eternity) to point people to Jesus Christ and glorify Him.

Edric reminds our kids that we are on this earth “to be a blessing.” Sometimes this means standing in front of an audience to give a testimony about what God has done in their lives. Other times, this may involve visiting the sick or the needy, sharing the gospel, hosting guests in our home, or using their gifts and talents to perform at an event or occasion.

I asked Edan if he still gets nervous when he speaks in front of people, and he told me, “Yes, but I love speaking. I want to be a blessing.” He just turned nine years old, and he began his public speaking experience when he was seven. If I had asked him this question two years ago, he would have confessed to his terror. It took some practice to get him to the point where he can, by God’s grace, deliver a short speech to a large audience without being as self-conscious as he used to be.

He still struggles with self-consciousness and fear. All of us do. Whenever Edric and I give a talk or seminar we pray for God’s divine help. There’s no way to do a good job unless He enables us. The other important mindset we must have is the why behind serving the Lord together, as a family. Whenever God puts a husband, wife and children in a family, he assembles a team of people to send out as his ambassadors for the gospel and His Kingdom. It’s much more effective when the work is done together, with each person contributing their abilities and strengths.

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One candle in the dark makes a significant difference, but add two, three, four, five, or more flames and the light will overpower the darkness. Similarly, God’s design for each person in a family is to be a light and testament to who He is — that he is holy, loving, awesome, and desires for every person to have a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:16 tells us, “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.”

Even little children have a light to shine for Jesus! When Tiana was two years old, she used to sing a song that captures the verse above: “I’m a little candle, shining in the dark, it’s the light of Jesus, shining in my heart, I will shine, I will shine…Like a candle in the dark, I will shine!”

Are we providing our children with opportunities to shine for Christ? Do they have the love of God in their hearts so they can channel this to others? How can we do this as a family, as a team?

Backyard Summer Fun

Sometimes all you need is an inflatable pool and lots of kids, and you have a party! Someday I will miss these precious years of childhood and building family memories…                    

  

 

A Trait All Gentlemen Should Have

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Having three sons offers Edric and I many opportunities to learn about what boys are like and how they develop into men. One thing is certain, they need guidance and direction when it comes to growing in their concept of manhood. Edric plays a vital role in this aspect of their development, and he has intentionally taken it upon himself to teach them what it means to be gentlemen.

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When teaching opportunities present themselves, he will pass on things like, “We need to let ladies go first. We need to hold the door open for them. We need to help ladies carry heavy bags.” Everytime he leaves the home and the boys are left with me, he reminds them, “Protect your mom and your sisters.” It’s quite adorable when my sons take this to heart and insist on accompanying me when I have to run an errand in order to “protect me.”

I recall an instance when Elijah accompanied me to 168 in Divisoria to buy toys for a birthday party. When I had to use the toilet, Elijah said, “I can go with you, mom.” I thought he was afraid. So I said, “Okay, come wait right outside so I know you are safe.” But he replied, “No, I will make sure YOU ARE SAFE.”

These are simple ways that our children are learning to be gentlemen. However, there is a more important trait that all gentlemen should have that we are trying to instill in our sons – how to be buck-stopping leaders.

For the past few days, our family was at a retreat in Baguio, where Edric and I served as speakers. Our kids attended the children’s classes, where they were grouped by various ages. Elijah and Edan shared the same class. When we asked them if they obeyed their teacher, they confessed to their rowdiness – hitting one another’s heads and playfully agitating each other so they became a distraction to others. As a result the teacher separated them. We encouraged them to apologize for their behavior and they were in full agreement of doing so, acknowledging that their actions had been wrong. The next time they saw their teacher, they asked for her forgiveness, which she readily gave.

On the one hand, being a gentleman is about treating people with respect, being considerate of others before one’s self, keeping one’s word and dealing with people honorably and truthfully. On the other hand, it is about accepting accountability and responsibility for one’s choices and mistakes, choosing to do what pleases God, and encouraging others to do the same.

As Edric likes to put it, “the buck stops with us (men).” He shares this often during seminars where he talks about the role of a man, challenging them to imitate U.S. President Harry Truman example, who popularized the statement “The buck stops here” – a sign that sat on his desk in the Oval Office. Prior to this, it was common to use the phrase, “pass the buck” when playing poker whenever the person holding the buck was tired of the responsibility.

In contrast, the “buck stops here” represents the kind of leader men are supposed to be. Edric refers to the passage in Genesis 3, the tragic choice to eat the forbidden fruit and the aftermath of this decision. Adam and Eve attempted to hide themselves, a ridiculous attempt to conceal themselves from an all-knowing and all-present God. In this chapter, God did something very intentional. He called out to the MAN. “Where are you?”

Edric asks men during seminars, “Why didn’t God single out Eve? Eve, who took the first bite and convinced her husband to sin with her?” God sent a message to Adam – as the man, you are accountable, you are responsible, I put you in charge, what happened? This tells us that a man is accountable to God first, and then responsible to take care of those entrusted to his care, to lead them in the way God would have them go. He should not “pass the buck” by pointing fingers and blaming others or circumstances.

Perhaps I can illustrate this point with a story. When I was dating Edric, we struggled in the area of purity. He was a gentleman in the sense that he took care of me and looked out for my needs. He tried his best to treat me with respect. However, our hormones at that season of our lives were difficult to bridle. I’m not excusing what we did. Furthermore, it would not be fair for me to say that it was entirely Edric’s fault. I made my own choices and I did things I’m not proud of. At some point, Edric and I became very convicted about what we were doing. We broke up in order to put God first and seek his will for us.

One of my prayers was that Edric would sit down with my parents and tell them everything we did so we could “come clean.” I was amazed when, a few months later, while we were broken up, he called me and asked to have dinner with my parents on his own initiative. During that dinner he owned up to his responsibility as a man and put the blame on himself. It was the most awkward dinner of our lives. But I learned something remarkable about Edric, which only wanted me to marry him all the more!

A real gentleman says, “the buck stops with me! I am accountable. I am responsible.” I saw this trait in Edric when he apologized to my parents saying that as the man in the relationship, he should not have allowed our relationship to become so physical. He claimed the fault was is even if I insisted that the blame shouldn’t fall entirely upon him. My admiration for him increased 10-fold.

Up to this day, he is this kind of man. Of course he makes mistakes every now and then, but he will own up to them and burden himself with the responsibility of fixing problems that arise in our marriage and family. Furthermore, he will not let issues linger to a destructive point because he knows that God has put him in charge of the kids and me.

Admittedly, sometimes the problem is me! But Edric won’t say, “See, this is all your fault!” In fact, he has never, to my recollection, ever said this to me. More often than not, he actually says, “You know what, I need to make sure that I disciple you better, to help you.” Or, “I’ve got to step up and make sure I’m leading our family spiritually. This is on me.” He will even add, “I’m back, baby! (for my sake) Have no fear, ‘daddy’ is here (for the kids’ sake),” puffing his chest out and thumping it to give the moment some comedy.

When he makes this profession, I am confident not in Edric per se, but on the source of his ability to turn a situation around for the better or repair what needs fixing. Edric is dependent on God. He walks with Him and seeks to follow His principles. Therefore his enabling comes from God. Being a faithful follower of Jesus makes him a capable, buck-stopping leader. The aim of his leadership is to help those around him, especially the kids and me, to follow Jesus, too.

As women, we have a significant role to play to encourage the emergence of the inner, God-designed, buck-stopping leaders that husbands are made to be.

First, our outlook is important. I believe all husbands have the capacity to lead. This isn’t a trait exclusive to those with dominant personality types. Interestingly, our sons show leadership in very different ways from one another. Elijah has a very big personality but he is a leader by example. Edan tends to be less vocal, but organizing people and delegating tasks comes naturally to him. Titus is a man’s man. No matter what their personalities are like, each one of them can learn to copy the kind of leadership that Jesus Christ displayed for us. John Piper describes this as a combination of lion-hearted and lamb-like. Jesus boldly taught us how to live and he died for us to solve the problem of our sins, but at the same time he was among us as a servant.

Matthew 20:25 – 28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Second, we can appreciate the instances when our husbands make difficult decisions for the family. Whether these decisions turn out well or not, we can call out the fact that it must be hard to make the choices they have to make. We can tell them that their leadership means a lot to us.

Third, we should avoid criticizing them when they fail, because they will from time to time. Let’s ban comments like, “See, I told you so!” (Oh, I know this is hard! I have to bite my lip not to do this at times!)

Fourth, let them know that we are there to support them and pray for them, communicating that we believe God will help them to solve the problem and be the kind of leader they need to be. (Pray, pray, pray!!!)

I know it’s hard to communicate these messages when we are disappointed in the leadership or lack of leadership our husbands may display. But our positive outlook, belief in their leadership by the power of Christ’s enabling, encouragement, and prayers will do wonders! Men have so much pressure on their shoulders. The last thing they need is to be pressured by us.

For single women, how do you distinguish between someone who is a gentleman only on the outside and one who has the qualities of a buck-stopping leader? Observe the way a man you are interested in handles conflict, stress, problems, mistakes, and issues. Does he recognize and embrace his responsibility and admit accountability, seeking to find solutions that may entail sacrificing his own comfort and needs? More importantly, does he walk intimately with the Lord so that his responses are aligned with God’s principles and honor Him? In the process, does he motivate others to do the same, including you?

 

 

Fathers and Children

Wed Jul 31 2013 03-39-36 GMT 0800

A long while ago I wrote an article called “The Lost Boys,” in reference to men who have grown up without the guidance of their fathers…No one to tell them what it means to be a man. No one to model this path for them. Many times these men navigate through life on a trial-and-error basis or they attempt to fill the void carved out by their father’s absence or lack of affirmation.

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There is a female version to the lost boy syndrome…Women who never had their fathers tell them they were treasured, special, beautiful inside and out, or stand as protector to them. Interestingly (and sadly), a study of women whose fathers were absent showed that these women tend to seek after the affections and attentions of men in a negative way.

“During the interviews, participants expressed difficulties forming healthy relationships with men and they associated these difficulties with their experiences of father absence. The interviewees also revealed a strong need for attention and affection from men which was also associated by the participants with the lack of affection received from their fathers. The desire for affection made these females more vulnerable to male attention which put them at higher risk of being exploited by any male who expressed any positive interest in them. Some of their poor relationship decisions were attributed to this vulnerability. One of the participants, when describing her first sexual relationship, stated that the sexual encounter with a friend’s father occurred because of her desire for affection and attention from a father figure.” Source: East, L., Jackson, D., & O’Brien, L. (2007). ‘I don’t want to hate him forever’: Understanding daughter’s experiences of father absence. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 24, 14-18.

Whether boy or girl, a child needs a healthy emotional relationship with their father. While I believe that women and men can, by God’s grace, rise above the effects of their unfavorable childhood experiences, the point is this: what a father says and does bear significant weight when it comes to building up the sense of security and identity of a child.

I am a wife and mother but it still matters to me that my dad thinks about me and expresses concern about my well-being. It matters that he still passes on spiritual truth to me. It matters that I can still hop on over to my parents’ house, run up to my dad’s study room and interrupt whatever he is doing. I know he will set everything aside and give me his undivided attention. He doesn’t have to talk to me for an hour. Just the sight of his big smile and his melodic, “Hey!” as I bounce through the door tell me that I am welcome.

Over and over again, I have witnessed the same dynamic between Edric and our children, too. When he gives our children purposeful attention, they are built up. Their sense of worth and value soars.

A week ago, we were celebrating Elijah’s birthday with family. Everyone around the table shared something they appreciated about Elijah. But it was Edric’s letter that made a big difference. The letter was personal, filled with spiritual encouragement, praise, and positive expectation. Half way through it, Edric started to tear and so did Elijah. By the end, Elijah threw himself into Edric’s arms to hug him — a tender display between father and son. He lingered there and looked oversized as a big, grown boy of twelve years old sitting on his dad’s lap.

 

 

 

Why did Edric’s letter seem to matter more than my litany of words similarly directed towards encouragement, praise, and positive expectation?  It has nothing to do with how much Elijah loves me or his dad. Rather it has everything to do with the fact that a father’s words bear a special kind of weight. When Edric tells our children, “I am proud of you…I am blessed by you…God has given you amazing talents that you can use for His glory…I enjoy spending time with you…” they really latch on to these statements. Of course mothers need to affirm their children, too! But it’s much more powerful when the affirmation comes from dad.

This is especially true for sons. In Robert Lewis’ book, Raising A Modern Day Night, he writes, “Every dad begins fatherhood clothed in garments of praise. It usually happens naturally and effortlessly. He possesses an authority that is both inexplicable and awesome. For this reason, few things are more important to a boy — or a man — than a touch, or a smile, or a word of encouragement from Dad.” (p. 34)

He goes on to use Bo Jackson, the former baseball and football star as an example, quoting Bo’s statements in an issue of Sports Illustrated. “Jackson made this painful admission: My father has never seen me play professional baseball or football…I tried to have a relationship with him, gave him my number, said, “Dad, call me. I’ll fly you in.” Can you imagine? I’m Bo Jackson, one of the so-called premier athletes in the country, and I’m sitting in the locker room and envying every one of my teammates whose dad would come in and talk with them after the game. I never experienced that.” (p. 35)

All of us long to know we are precious to dad even as adults (and mom, of course! But this is a post about dads.) So here are some thoughts I want to end with:

For single ladies, do your future children a favor by marrying someone who has an authentic love for God and desires to lead his family to do the same. If he loves God, he will, at some point, choose to be involved and present in your childrens’ lives. If he loves God and follows his principles, your children will be blessed, too! Proverbs 20:7 tells us, A righteous man who walks in his integrity- How blessed are his sons after him.

For us married women who may nag our husbands to spend more time with the kids, let’s pray for their hearts to be turned towards our children. Only God can do this — restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers… (‭Malachi‬ ‭4‬:‭6‬ NASB)

For the rest of us who may feel like we are lost in some way as a result of our father’s absence, lack of encouragement, attentiveness to our needs, or even the abuse they inflicted upon us, there is hope for us to have the best father of all…a Heavenly Father.

“For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” (Isaiah 63:16 ESV)

No matter how forgotten or wounded we may feel, no matter what choices we have made that were wrong and miserable because we didn’t know how loved we ARE, God wants to have a personal relationship with you and me, as Father to child. He wants to redeem us for Himself. Think of how amazing it must be when an orphan is hand-picked and chosen by a family who has committed to love them. (According to Roman law of biblical times, orphans could never be disowned.)

God loves us so much, He made it possible for us to become His children through Jesus Christ His son. Although we were once separated from Him because of sin (lost), Christ gave His life to set us free, to give us new lives as His adopted sons and daughters.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father.’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

Robert H. Stein explains that “Abba was a term not only that small children used to address their fathers; it was also a term that older children and adults used to address their faithers…It is through the finished work of Christ that God invites us to call him ‘Abba, Father.’ It is thorugh Christ that grace and peace have resulted and we have become God’s children.” (Source: The Fatherhood of God from biblestudytools.com)

One of my favorite songs which I play often on my Spotify account was written by Stuart Townend, and may it bless you today! Listen to the modernized version of this song by Nichole Nordeman:How Deep the Father’s Love For Us

We Need An Everyday Husband/Dad

Edric and I were seated at the dinner table the other evening when I asked, “What was the highlight of your day?” to which he replied, “You are.”

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Edric has ten million things going on in his life and I am sure five million of those things are probably more exciting than I am, and yet he often insists that being with me is far more delightful than anything else he does in the day. I can’t even begin to share how a statement like that makes me feel but special and treasured are adjectives that come to mind.

Edric has conditioned himself to think of me and the kids as the most important people in his life so he blurts out statements like that often, not just to me but to the kids as well.

He says to them, “Who are my favorite people in the whole world?!” And they jump on him, confidently acknowledging that they are the answer to his question. Like me, they know he cherishes them.

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Fri Jan 09 2015 06-16-39 GMT 0800

My dad used to say that when a man comes home, he meets with the most important people in his life. He must park everything else at the door and treat his home as sacred. His wife and his children deserve his undivided attention and the best version of himself.

I think this is a great ideal. But the reality is most husbands/fathers are busy, especially during weekdays when work preoccupies their time and uses up their energies. So how can they make their families feel prioritized even if they can’t give them hours and hours of their attention when they come home?

I would like to share with you a couple of strategies that Edric employs to do this. He learned these simple “tricks” and principles over the years and they have done wonders for his relationship with me and the kids.

1. The first five-minutes. When Edric steps into the house, no matter what kind of a day he has had, he announces his arrival so the kids can run to him, one by one. He takes them in his arms, especially our little ones. They will ask him to flip them around and he obliges. “Flip, flip!”

The point is he makes sure he hugs each one of our children and asks them how their day was. It takes just five minutes to communicate to them that this is his favorite part of the day…coming home. Afterwards they run off to their various activities, happy to know that daddy is in the house.

2. Answering my questions. When the kids disperse and Edric and I have alone time as he settles in, I usually ask, “How was your day? Any highlights?” He is sweet enough to give me a summary of his day even if talking is probably the last thing he wants to do. Like most men, he is exhausted by the time he walks through the door. This interaction doesn’t take more than fifteen minutes (usually) but it keeps me updated on what’s going on with him so I don’t feel like he’s a stranger.

3. Share many meals together, WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS.

Edric tries to have breakfast and dinner with us. Dinners are more consistent because he rushes off in the mornings.

We congregate around the table and Edric wants everyone sitting down, first to pray and thank the Lord for our food, and then to share the meal and conversation together. None of us can have a gadget on the table even if it is turned off!

The kids have all been trained by Edric to speak up and say, “No gadgets at the table!” if one is in sight. In fact, it doesn’t matter if it is an urgent message or call. This is sacred family time where interruptions are not welcome. Obviously there are exceptions but since the strictly implemented rule is no gadgets at the table, we don’t see our messages or hear the phones ringing anyway!

4. Ending the day with a daddy prayer. Edric prays for our children every night that he can. It’s his tradition with them. Before they go to bed, they will peek into our bedroom and say, “Will you come and pray for us, dad?” Or “Time to pray!”

I know other dads who read to their kids or tell their kids stories before bedtime. This is a great idea, too!

5. No kids sleeping in our room, except on weekends. Having our bedroom to ourselves during weekdays allows Edric and I to have our own space as a couple. We can end the evening without our children jumping all over us. We can have pillow talks and cuddle time without worrying about our decibel levels or maneuvering ourselves around little bodies. Plus, we sleep better! (Even Catalina sleeps in the girl’s room. She started doing so at 10 months.)

6. Untouchable evenings. As much as possible Edric won’t schedule activities or meetings on Monday and Tuesday nights. He reserves these nights for the kids and me. One evening is our date night and the other is our family devotion night. When he opens his calendar, Monday nights and Tuesday nights are blocked off. Even his personal assistant knows this.

7. Early morning exercise. We try to run every other day and do our ab workouts. Since Edric has to leave home pretty early we try and start by 6 AM. If we aren’t able to sleep at 9:30 or 10 PM the night before, getting up can be a problem. However we do our best to keep up the habit of early morning exercise because it is one of the ways we bond together and pray.

8. Picking up our random phone calls. Except for taping sessions or speaking engagements when he can’t be at his phone, Edric will pick up when we call him. If he misses a call, he phones us back. He wants to be accessible to us and we have the license to disturb him.

These eight simple routines and habits during the weekdays make it feel like Edric is very present in our lives even if his daily work schedule is hectic and taping for his shows keeps him very busy. He didn’t use to be as intentional about spending time with the kids and me when our children were younger. But as he learned about what it means to be a godly husband and father, he conditioned himself with the perspective that we are his priority. In fact he gave up certain activities like computer games and basketball leagues. These were not easy sacrifices and once in a while, he may indulge in a game or two, but his default mode is to prefer the company of his family. I am so grateful to the Lord that Edric’s heart is turned towards us. The kids and I need him in our lives, as an everyday husband and father, and not just a Saturday and Sunday one!

Christmas 2014

 

The Last Twelve Months of Boyhood

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-41-07 GMT 0800

Elijah is turning twelve this month. He hasn’t experienced puberty yet but I am anticipating that it will happen soon, which kind of frightens me. When will his testosterone-driven urges emerge? Will he start getting moody? And what about all the physical changes?!

I ran into one of his friends the other day who transformed into a young man in the few months I had not seen him. His voice was husky and low, he looked a head taller, and I spied a shadowy line of hair across his upper lip.

“What happened?” I idiotically asked him. “I went through puberty,” was his matter-of-fact reply, coupled with a grin and chuckle that hinted at, Isn’t it obvious? 

And it was. Obvious, I mean. Of course he went through puberty! I suppose I asked the question to remind myself that at some point I will be staring at my oldest son, wondering the same thing. I imagine that this assault on my reality will be accompanied by crying. (I already feel like crying. Okay, I am crying a little bit.)

A few weeks ago, Edric called me to his study room and pointed to his laptop where he was going through archives of family videos. We were like two addicts, hovering over the screen. I saw several videos of Elijah as a toddler. I had forgotten how high pitched his voice was. In one video he was smiling in every scene, revealing those deep dimples on either side of his face. Edric was coaching him for my surprise music video. They connived to sing their version of Chris Brown’s With You hit for my 30th birthday. There was Elijah, dressed in a hoodie, bobbing his head up and down as he vocalized the chorus, “With you, with you, with you, with you, with you…”

In another clip, he was blowing out birthday candles and shouting out spontaneous reactions as he unwrapped presents. “Yeah!” “Wow!” I remember telling him before this that he should communicate excitement and gratitude for every present he received, and he did so with such obedience, wanting to make sure that everyone knew he appreciated their gifts.

How did he become the big-footed, long-limbed, Google-humanoid who was sitting beside me on the couch, swiping through his Evernote checklist of daily activities while I wrote this post? I looked over at him as he grabbed his Singapore Math book, propped himself back on the couch, and started whistling a classical tune in perfect pitch.

“That’s a beautiful song. What are you whistling?” I asked.

“Gavotte from Mignon. It’s Edan’s song for violin class.”

“Another Gavotte? Why do you guys play so many Gavotte songs for your violin class?”

Elijah looked up from his book, and true to his Google-like capacities, explained, “Gavotte refers to a dance, an Italian dance. So different Gavottes can be composed by different people…” He didn’t mock me for not knowing that, even if he could have.

He may sound like an encyclopedia but he is still a boy, for the next twelve months, at least! But Elijah is aware that his needs are changing.

We had an interesting conversation about this that awakened me to the reality of his passage into manhood. He spontaneously told me very recently, “I need dad, mom. I really need him. I really look up to him.”

I wasn’t trying to steal the spotlight from Edric but I couldn’t help it. So I hazarded to ask, “What about me? Do you also need me?”

“Of course, mom!” He hugged me reassuringly, but then he said with a conviction I couldn’t challenge, “But I need an example, and that is Dad.”

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-14-16 GMT 0800

“Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6

In an older book called Raising A Modern Day Knight, author Robert Lewis shares this:

Something about a father’s physical and emotional presence gives life to a boy. Masculine life. Just being around dad—watching him shave, hearing him laugh, touching his flesh—invests a son with large doses of male energy. And this emotional capital cannot be gained anywhere other than in the presence of a father. The investment becomes even more substantial when a father imparts not only emotional capital, but moral and spiritual capital as well. In this nurturing environment, a son is weighted down with a masculine anchor. He lashes his soul to masculine moorings. But this also explains why sons drift in the absence of fathers. Instead of being weighted down, they become weightless. (pg.36)

According to Scripture, every son—from an early age—must be schooled in three critical areas…a will to obey (God’s will), a work to do (according to his own unique design), and a woman to love. Lacking these elements, a son will flounder in adulthood; he will wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and restlessness. But armed with them, a son becomes equipped to succeed in his relationship with God, in his community and church, and in his marriage. (pg.67)

Mon Dec 15 2014 13-51-37 GMT 0800

When Elijah declared his need for an example in Edric, I was overjoyed. It made me immeasurably happy to know that their relationship is as it should be as father and son. Over the last couple of years, Edric has intentionally discipled Elijah, and biblically speaking, this is his role.

Father’s do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NLT)

However, I also felt a twinge of jealousy…just a tiny smidgen of envy. Elijah is departing from childhood, headed towards the path of manhood. Before the age of six, I was the apple of his eye. He wanted me more than anyone else. He needed me. But today, he knows that becoming the man God wants him to be will require the presence of his father more than anyone else.

In the past couple of days, I have thought about Elijah a lot. I’ve removed myself from the craziness of duty, training, teaching and disciplining to recall parenting days of yesteryears. There’s a wishing that beckons a sorrow, not of pain or regret, but of the sort that any mother would know…it comes like a longing to cradle my grown child as the baby he once was…to press my nose against that incomparably soft cheek that smelled both pure and sweet, scented by mild soap and mother’s milk…to watch the glinted eyes of wonderment when everything was new to exploring hands and feet…to hear once again that first laugh, first word, first “I love you”, and be the recipient of that first kiss…

What I would give to be privy once more to those moments where details have been swallowed up by time! For now they persist in parts, in feelings evoked by photographs, in memories conjured by sights and smells, as treasures in a heart that longs to linger in a season of passing childhood.

Sigh. The emotions we go through as mothers! No wonder why it says, Mary (in the Bible) treasured and pondered…ponder, ponder. I suppose that’s what this is…a post dedicated to treasuring and pondering upon the last twelve months of my son’s boyhood. This is me coming to terms with how my love for him must grow and mature. While I know he loves me deeply still and I love him more than ever, I must also step aside, not step away, but talk less and listen more, instruct less and mentor more, squander less and treasure more, react less and ponder more, hover less and pray more, so that one day Elijah can become the man God has planned for him to be.

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Sun Feb 01 2015 01-25-03 GMT 0800

Cozy Cabin Honesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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