Nutritious Snacks by Raw Bites

I am often on the lookout for healthy and nutritious snacks for my kids. Admittedly, my pantry isn’t always stocked with honest to goodness food for my children or Edric and me. I cheat from time to time. (I still make my chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes on my kids’ birthdays.) However, I do lean towards healthy eating for our household. 

After my gut health issues and the various skin asthma breakouts my kids have had towards certain foods, I tend to read the labels on everything I buy. If I can’t decode what’s on them then I know it’s probably not good for us. 

Although I don’t want to make healthy living an obsession (Edric has warned me repeatedly about this), my desire is to be wise and intentional about what we eat in our home. 

It’s great to know that Raw Bites has healthy, organic, natural sugar, GMO-free, and preservative-free snacks-in-a-box options that can be delivered right to your home. They sent me a sample of their premium box and it came with the following goodies:

 Check out Raw Bites’ site and Instagram for more information: 

What to Model to Our Children

Modeling who we want our children to become is one of the most effective ways to influence them positively. 


Model the Right Character – Christ-likeness

I grew up in a home where my parents loved God, served God, and taught us to do the same. They weren’t perfect, but I saw a genuine desire and faithfulness to live out the principles they preached. The best version of themselves was at home, with us. I would see my dad delivering sermons at the pulpit and I would think, I trust what he is saying because he lives it out at home. There’s no hypocrisy. 


My dad didn’t yell or shout at us. He was strict and he disciplined us (I was probably the most disciplined, he he) but like my mom, he was an encouraging person. Generally speaking, his even-temperedness kept the climate of the home positive. Although I feared him out of respect, I knew that he wasn’t going to blow up or hurt us when people in the home made mistakes.

Even towards my mom, he was very patient. My mom once joked that she spilled stuff on him during every airplane ride. (He finally decided to sit across the aisle from her rather than right beside her to avoid getting hurt by hot tea or coffee.) I saw what my mom meant when we were having a family dinner and my mom accidentally knocked over a cup of hot tea on him as she reached across the table. He didn’t raise his voice or react in irritation. Instead, he calmly wiped his arm and continued conversing with all of us. I was like, wow. If that was me…I don’t know if I would be so composed!

As for my mom, she was predictably and contagiously joyful when I was a kid. Till this day she is one of my favorite persons to hang out with. There’s something very attractive about her joy in the Lord. 

In fact, when I was struggling with my role as a wife in my early married years Edric would actually tell me, “Why don’t you spend some time with mom? I am sure being with her will make you feel better.” 

He knew that I would come away from my time with her recharged and spiritually energized. And more importantly, she imparted to me godly advice. 

Sometimes, when I am unusually positive, he still asks jokingly, “Did you spend time with mom today?! Why are you so cheerful?!”

The culture of a Christ-centered family has to begin with us, as parents. It’s a top-down thing. What my siblings and I saw in my parents, we copied (the good and the bad, but praise God there was much more good to copy). 

My parents’ positive role-modeling coupled with their intentional discipleship bore fruit in the lives of my siblings and me. Today, my siblings and I, along with our spouse, share the same core values and beliefs as my parents. Even if we have discussions and disagreements every now and then, by God’s grace, we share unity in Him.
I once told my father, “Dad, it feels a little bit like heaven when we all get together. It’s like a foretaste of what heaven might be like someday.”

We talk about what God is doing in our lives, share the victories and the struggles, and come along side one another to encourage and lovingly correct each other so we can all grow in our faith. Furthermore, there’s so much laughter and talking we sometimes get lost in all the conversation and forget what time it is. 

At the center of our family is Jesus Christ and all glory goes to Him. My parents were great parents not because they were special, but because they were committed to Christ. As the apostle Paul said, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1

Model the Right Mission – a passion for the gospel / compassion for the lost

Besides their Christ-likeness, one of the most significant things I saw in my parents’ lives was a passion to share the word of God, to share the gospel. My parents would come home from their out of town or overseas trips and tell us, “Guess what, I shared the gospel with the person beside me on the plane.” 

Or, they would finish a golf game and say, “My caddy accepted the Lord today.” 

As a younger woman, I remember going with my mom to malls and during her encounters with check-out counter clerks, salesladies, waiters, or whoever was serving her, she tried to share the gospel. These moments made such an impression on my heart about the importance of the gospel. 

One of the more dramatic gospel stories of my mom was when she ran after a thief who stole her bag in Trinoma mall. She chased after this woman in her high heels. When a guard finally apprehended the thief, my mom caught up to her and retrieved her purse. 

The guard asked if my mom wanted to file a report against the thief, but she replied, “Oh no, I just want to talk to her for a bit.”

Her more urgent priority was to tell the woman, “There must be some reason why you took my bag. There must be a greater need that you have and so I want to tell you about Jesus.”

The woman thief prayed with my mom to receive Jesus into her heart! 

I needed to see my parents model a passion for the gospel so that it would become a priority for me. The same is true for my own kids. Our second son, Edan, has asked Edric and me numerous times about the realities of heaven and hell. He has struggled with questions like, “What if someone never hears the gospel. Is if fair that they go to hell?”

So whenever he sees us sharing the gospel with people, it matters to him. A few weeks ago, I shared the gospel with one of our household help. Edan overheard me and when I got to the prayer part, I saw him tearing.

Asking if he was okay, he revealed, “Mom, I thought about the verse in the Bible, about how there is rejoicing in heaven when people come to Jesus, and I just felt happy.”

When we had a shoot the other day and he heard me explaining the gospel to one of the moms I had met, he came up to me during the break and asked, “When are you going to do the closure mom? To pray with her?”

“Oh, you were listening?”

“Of course, Mom.” 

Another one of my sons corrected me for not bringing gospel tracts to give to a student who was soliciting money from us when we were at a coffee shop. He reminded me, “I think you should always have a gospel track mom, so you can give it to people.”

“You are right, son.” 

If we don’t show a sense of urgency or compassion for the lost, why will our kids ever grow up to do the same?

Edric and I also believe in involving our children in ministry with us. We don’t want them to feel like ministry takes us away from them. Instead, we want them to witness transformed lives and develop a conviction to be a blessing to others as they accompany us.

When I still lived at home, it was a privilege to observe my parents in action, ministering to others. This is one of the reasons why the principles of God’s word made sense to me. Since my siblings and I would be invited to listen to my parents counsel other couples or singles at the dinner table, we would make the connection – when you follow God, you are blessed, when you don’t, there are painful consequences. We perceived that the people who had joy and peace were the ones who obeyed God’s word. It was also reassuring to see how God could redeem the mistakes of people.

Model the Right Values

Because we live in a world where our children are assaulted daily by values that are contradictory to ours, it’s necessary for us to model the right ones for them. Whether it is the way we deal with conflict and difficult people, how we process trying circumstances, the way we choose to spend our time, talents and money, the habits we have, or the friends we surround ourselves with, our children are watching us closely. They are taking their cues from us.  

What we put emphasis on, they will, too. Take for instance being extravagant. If we want our kids to be frugal and discerning about what they spend on, if we want them to avoid materialism, do they see these convictions lived out in us? Do we demonstrate to them what it means to be a steward of God’s resources? 

One time, I asked my kids, “What do you think mom and dad are most passionate about?”

I was hoping they would immediately volunteer the answer, “You are passionate about God!” 

Instead, I got a very innocent and honest response, “Mom, you are passionate about your phone.” 

Oh my goodness, I thought. What have I been modeling for them?

I tried to explain, “You know that I use my phone for ministry, right? And my bible is on my phone? And I reach out to people through my phone?”

However, I just looked silly trying to defend myself. What my kids were basically telling me was that I spent a lot of time on my phone. So I had to change.

Even in small things, Edric and I have to be careful. We enjoy Netflix, but we have to be mindful of what we watch, even what we listen to because our kids copy us. We can’t say to them, “Don’t watch this show, it’s only for adults.”

As much as possible, we try to watch shows that we can all enjoy as a family. If it’s defiling for our kids to watch something, then why do we think it’s okay for us? Aren’t we called to honor the same temple?  

“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? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

This passage also applies to exercise and health. Our kids need to see us being disciplined about our eating, sleeping, and diet. We can’t emphasize healthiness in the home if it’s not backed up by our examples.

At the same time, we can’t be obsessed about wellness either. When Elijah started to act like a hypochondriac, I realized it was my example feeding him with fears. 

So there has to be a balance. Taking care of our bodies is a good thing but not when it moves into the realm of idolatry. 

Model the Right Perspective – A spiritual perspective 

My family experienced a major crisis when I was fifteen. However, long before this event I had observed the manner in which my parents handled various crises in their own lives. When people wronged them, betrayed them, or maligned them, they didn’t take it personally or hold grudges. Instead they processed difficult people and circumstances with spiritual lenses. 

When something or someone was beyond their control, they did their part to fix what they could but they also prayed instead of panicked. They often reminded my siblings and me that God was in control, sovereign, and causing all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)  

Our children are bound to encounter their own set of challenges in life. Seeing how we respond with faith and trust in God during times of testing will strengthen them for the storms that will come their way. 

Model the Right Kind of Authenticity – Be humble when you make mistakes 

The reality is that we make mistakes as parents. Edric and I have hurt our kids and been bad examples at certain points, and our kids know that we have our weaknesses. But one thing that we have learned is that the best remedy is to humbly ask for their forgiveness and commit to change when we mess up.

 Last year Edric and I had a speaking engagement in Baguio on parenting young kids. On the way, we had an issue. One of our kids passed gas in the car and the smell was terrible. Edric was preparing his message and the smell bothered him so much he asked, “Who passed gas?”

A hand went up in the backseat and someone said, “I’m sorry dad, I did.”

Since Edric is sensitive to smells, he felt annoyed, and declared an ultimatum, “Kids, no one is allowed to pass gas in the car EVER.”

When I heard him say this, I felt annoyed. How can this ridiculous, exasperating rule be imposed on young children? We have a three year old!

So, my mistake was I disrespectfully challenged Edric in front of the kids, “So you mean to tell me you never pass gas in the car, hon?”

The kids were listening to us go back and forth as we dragged the verbal arguing on. Finally, we got to the venue and I didn’t want to speak about parenting. I felt like we were parenting failures at that moment.

God convicted me to apologize for my disrespect to Edric and the kids which I did. As for Edric, I just prayed that God would speak to him, especially since one of our sons whispered to my ear, “It’s kind of hypocritical of dad to tell us not to pass gas.”

I replied in faith, “I’m sure your dad will talk to you and you can share this with him.”

Thankfully, that’s exactly what Edric did. He too was convicted about what happened in the car and he apologized to me, to the kids, to everyone. Peace and joy were restored and Edric and I could truthfully stand in front of the audience with our kids sitting in the back.

Since we are imperfect parents, we will make mistakes, but the good news is that the willingness to say sorry and ask for forgiveness keeps our children’s hearts soft. 

James 5:16 reminds us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”

To encourage the parents out there, God is committed to helping us fulfill our role. He will continue to change us and mold us into the persons He wants us to be. However, we have to be willing to repent and change when we make mistakes. 

I want to end by sharing what Edric and I learned from an Easter family breakthrough retreat. Every parent has to be able to ask their children, “How have I hurt you? How can I improve? And will you forgive me for…”

We can try our best to be a model of Christlikeness but if we fail, these questions will keep our kids from developing bitterness and hard hearts towards us and towards following God.

Model the Right Roles 

This part was written by my fourteen year old, Elijah: 

Around a year ago, right before my thirteenth birthday, my Dad took me to climb Mt. Apo, as sort of a “rite-of-passage” ritual into manhood. He modeled how to be a man. Being very responsible and prepared, Dad created a checklist of things we needed to bring, and pitched a tent in our yard so we could practice for the real thing (it was actually much harder than the real thing, being in our rocky yard), then finally took out our little burner and grilled some food out in our yard, too. But we still ate some of the dinner cooked by Mom. Because we learned from our mistakes, we were able to camp more comfortably on the actual mountain. 

At one point during our climb to Mt. Apo, my Dad was so exhausted that he told me, “I’ll probably climb back down and call a helicopter to pick me up.”

However, he kept pushing and made it to the summit. He even shared the gospel with a few people at the top. 

During my time with him on the mountain he showed me how to live with very little and be content with it. Although it was difficult, we had a lot of fun. Dad pushing himself made me want to push myself too. I reached the top second! (Of course, our guide got there first.)

Another way my dad teaches me to be a man is through speaking engagements he brings me on, showing me what he does and exposing me to all kinds of people. I learn how a man should conduct himself, how one can communicate effectively, and how to have God-confidence. In his talks, he tries to insert the Gospel as much as spossible, no matter what he is speaking about. This assures me that I, too, can be confident to put verses in my sharing and not be afraid to share God’s word. 

Model the Right Priorities

Significantly, one of the most recent things Dad has taught me is the value of priorities. Through the years, Dad has showed me how to give up good things to make way for great things. 

Back in September 2015, my Dad got an offer to be an anchor for Mornings@ANC, a morning news show. He told us that he was so excited about the opportunity because it was a major show which paid good money. We also thought that it would be great as a platform for God. So, my Dad took the job after praying about it and getting advice from others. 

Initially, it was fun to have him come home after the show to catch us at breakfast and share all the goodies and freebies he would get. And my Dad seemed to enjoy it as he would share stories with my Mom. 

However, his schedule was crazy. You see, he had to wake up at 3:30am to be at the studio by 4:30am. To wake up at this time, he had to sleep by around 7:30pm. But this was just a show on top of his other work. So when he got home from the Morning Show, we would catch him for breakfast briefly, then he would leave for work and come home just in time for dinner then head off early to bed.

To be honest, after a few months of this, I felt that Dad wasn’t spending enough time with me anymore, and I am a time person. I hardly got to talk with Dad and I didn’t see him a lot because of his difficult schedule. I tried to forget about it, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it because I missed him. So one day, I told my Mom how I felt. 

“I feel like Dad has been out too often. His show is taking him away from us.” While I was talking, my eyes started to perspire (because men don’t cry; their eyes only perspire). 

Apparently, I was not the only one feeling this way as my brother Edan also shared the same thing to my Mom. Also with eyes tearing. 

Because of this, Mom told Dad about it privately. That very same night, Dad spoke to my brother and me. He started the conversation by asking us, “How can I improve?” 

Edan and I told him that he was way too busy, and that we missed him. Since I was getting emotional, I stood up for a bit and as I walked away to compose myself, I said to my Dad, “There are more important things in life than money. I will pray for you Dad.” 

My Dad then gathered us together and embraced us tightly and looked at us with a smile, and said he would do something about it.

You know what? A few days later my Dad called us to gather around him as a family, saying he had something to share. He then told us that he had resigned from the show! I know it was hard for him because I saw sadness in his eyes. After all, he was turning down such a good opportunity and he would lose income. 

When I saw this, I felt like I wanted to take back what I said. But instead, I ended up saying, “Thank you for choosing to be with us.” Then I hugged him tightly. 

My dad started to make lots of time for us. We got to spend a lot more time together. So when he didn’t win an award he was nominated for called the Oustanding Young Man award and he felt discouraged, I told him, “You don’t need that award dad. You are the most oustanding man to me.”  

Inspired by his example, I try my best to prioritize too. One way is by reading my Bible and praying first thing in the morning, which should be my greatest priority. After that, I try my best to get my responsibilities done like practicing violin and completing homeschool work. 

One of the last things I am learning about modeling is that it is not just from my parents to us children, but also from us to our siblings. For instance, I have noticed that my siblings copy me when I read my Bible and practice instruments in the morning. Even Catalina, my three-year-old sister, who cannot read, will pick up her picture Bible and pretend to read.

To be honest, I don’t always model the right things—I don’t always read my Bible like this and I don’t always prioritize my responsibilities. Sometimes, I lose my temper, get impatient, and fight with my siblings. When this happens, I realize that I need to ask for forgiveness and try to improve. That’s something I see my parents do when they too make mistakes and it encourages me to do the same.

Ultimately, their goal and my goal is to copy Christ—he is the perfect model. So please pray Please that I will copy Christ more and more, through the years, and that when I fail, I will be humble and willing to improve. Please pray the same for my parents, that they will be humble and ask for forgiveness when they mess up. I’m sure they would appreciate it. God bless you all!


 

 

I Threw a Pencil, Ripped a Page, and Slammed the Door

So today I actually lost it, like really lost it as I was teaching math to my daughter, Tiana. She couldn’t grasp regrouping for addition, and even with the use of manipulatives and lots of reviewing to help her get it, our lesson turned into a massive fail because of my outburst. 

First, I threw a pencil at the window. Every one of my kids saw this. That was after lesson # 1 with Tiana. I apologized and replaced the pencil, mumbling some excuse to justify my annoyance.
We even prayed together and asked for the Lord to fill all of us. I confessed my anger to my kids aloud and asked for their forgiveness. 

Truthfully, I wasn’t really sorry. I probably should have abandoned the work Tiana had to do for about an hour to get a grip of my emotions. But I persisted, demanding that she finish the two pages of math work assigned for the day. Therefore the worst was yet to come.

By the time we got to the practice bit of the lesson, Tiana blanked out and forgot what to do… AGAIN. By this time, she most likely sensed my irritation growing by the way I sighed loudly and convoluted my face, like I was incredulous that something so simple could be so difficult for her. So when the mounting pressure of anger reached its climax, I pressed hard with her pencil and circled one of the numbers I wanted her to pay attention to…like twenty times! Then I stood up, absolutely peeved, grabbed her book in my hands and ripped the page we were supposed to work on next, yelled out in exasperation, and stormed out of the homeschool room. When I got to my bedroom I intentionally, as well as forcefully, slammed my bedroom door to emphasize how mad I was.

Throwing myself onto my bed, I cried out, “I can’t do this, Lord! I have had it! I give up! I can’t homeschool her! I don’t know what to do!”

After some minutes of my face plastered against my pillow, sobbing over my failure, and my body lying prostrate on the bed, reality jolted me out of my delirium. I knew that I had to get back to the kids. Hello! I was their teacher! I couldn’t leave them in our “classroom” and abandon my responsibilities. More importantly, they needed to hear an apology from me. Another one. A real one. I behaved like an emotionally immature adult and without a doubt, deeply wounded them. This moment needed repairing.

So I collected myself, and walked back to the homeschool room. Tiana was curled up beside Catalina, who broke the silence. “Mommy, will you forgive Tiana?” 

Forgive Tiana?! She had it all mixed up.

“Catalina, mommy was the wrong one. Will you forgive me?” 

I had to ask for forgiveness from all of them, especially when Tiana tearfully explained, “Mom, I-I-I felt bad because you were frustrated and ran to your room. I cried.”

Pulling her to myself, unable to give any sort of defense for my actions, I hugged and kissed her tightly. 

“I was so wrong, Tiana. Will you please forgive me. I am so sorry. I was a bad example.” 

Tiana nodded kindly and managed to smile. I didn’t deserve that smile. It was generous, forgiving, trusting. I know she meant it. 
We resumed with extra math practice, but I was guilt-ridden. The rest of the morning, I didn’t want to homeschool.

At some point, the kids, bless their hearts, sought to assist me. They took over the base ten rods and blocks and proceeded to explain the concept of adding to Tiana, encouraging her and patiently going over each problem she had to solve. 

I grabbed my phone to call Edric. He listened as I quietly begged, “Please come home early today. I need you. I lost it.” 

He knew what I meant and chuckled. This wasn’t the first time. I have marched into his study room in the past ranting in exasperation about how hard it is to teach math to Tiana. 

“Okay,” He replied reassuringly, promising to head home as soon as he could. 

I felt him smiling at the other end of the phone. He didn’t mean to belittle my emotions. But in the midst of a major decision he needed to make about the business today, my issue probably seemed almost cute to him. 

Yet it wasn’t. There wasn’t anything cute about my outburst.

Truthfully, I hated myself this morning. I hated homeschooling. I hated Tiana’s math book and the inconvenience of having to teach something over and over again in futility.  I felt like I was a total failure as a mom and wondered if homeschooling is worth it. 

Why do I have to agonize over teaching when I can send my kids to school and let their education be an institution’s problem…not mine?

In fact, moments after I spoke to Edric on the phone, I messaged him, proposing that I should send Tiana to school so that I can avoid getting angry because I don’t want to hurt her emotionally. I have never suggested this about any of my kids. Sure, I have felt irritated at each one of my children for various reasons, but I have never felt such an intense frustration to the point that I want to throw objects, bang my head against the wall, jump up and down, break a pencil, tear a book in half, or scream at the top of my lungs just to let all the internal pressure out! It’s like those moments in the movies when a character is seated across another person, staring at them expressionlessly, seemingly calm on the outside, but then you get to peer inside the character’s mind and see them role-playing all kinds of violent scenes! 

The Bible says, “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

My anger didn’t inspire Tiana to try harder. It just made her feel insecure and incapable. Letting out all that pent up anger didn’t make me feel the relief I wanted to feel, either. And now the kids have a bad memory about mommy that they may well remember into their adulthood. 

In fact, Edan remarked, “Now, you have two things you’ve done in anger that we will remember.” (He was referring to one other incident some years ago when I threw a box of math manipulatives onto the floor, which terrified all of them.)

Edan also admitted as the hour was approaching noon, “Mom, when you are not happy, none of us feel happy.” 

Titus said, “Mom, I prayed for you, and I cried a little when you got mad.” 

Elijah added, “I was actually scared. And I was sad, and I knew you had a problem.”

When I got the chance to speak with Edric over dinner, he listened very understandingly to my narrative, but his take on the matter was this, “This is God’s way of humbling you. This is an opportunity to be dependent on Him.”

He’s right. Home schooling is hard work. It is miserably difficult sometimes, and mostly because parenting and homeschooling are interconnected and you have to be intentional about the former to be good at the latter. Home schooling magnifies your flaws and makes you realize how much you need the Lord, that you can never do it well for each child, through every season and for all the years that you do it apart from Him. The best homeschooling days are the ones when I remember this. The worst ones, like today, are the ones when I try to force my kids to learn and push them for the wrong reasons, mostly selfish ones.  

However, I will end by talking about how beautiful God’s grace is. Tiana returned to her cheerful self the rest of the day, almost like she forgot what happened. I’m sure she didn’t, she hasn’t, but I praise God for the opportunity to repair my mistake later on in the day. This is one of the reasons why home schooling has made such a positive difference in our family – the kids and I have so much time together, to build and rebuild our relationship. I had the rest of the day to hug, kiss, and affirm Tiana. By the evening, we prayed together and she fell asleep peacefully, knowing she was loved and treasured by me.

As for my four other kids (especially my two older ones), they were strangely comforted by my display of weakness. After I asked for forgiveness, one of them confessed, “You know, mom, I also feel mad at times and I can relate with how you felt.”

In other words, we get it, mom, none of us are perfect, we struggle with the same things.

Edric also came to my rescue (and Tiana’s), offering to help teach Tiana addition and subtraction. He knows how to add the element of fun in his instruction and not take the obstacles too seriously. Yeah!

I have to believe that God can still use a bad incident like this and use it for good in our homeschool journey. I’m ashamed about what happened, but I thought to share it as a reminder to myself that home schooling on my own power isn’t enough. On a practical level, I also need to walk away, maybe get a glass of water, say a quick prayer, breathe in deeply, or hum a happy tune when I feel the frustration rising in me so I don’t get to the point where I lose it on my kids. 

Is it just me? Can you all relate somehow? 
 

A Simple Family Habit That Can Make a Big Difference

Growing up, it was part of my family’s culture to ask, “How can I improve?” to one another. My parents encouraged open communication and honesty. To this day, family get-togethers include a time of accountability and sharing, where we can talk about our marriages, our parenting, our struggles and triumphs. As a result, my parents, my siblings and I, as well as our spouses and kids remain close to one another. We are each other’s confidants and friends. It may not always be easy to swallow each other’s correction and suggestions on how to improve, but we know that words are exchanged and offered in love and with the best intentions. 

I am so glad that Edric has embraced this same culture in our home. In fact, he is a good example to me of humility (something I continually need to improve on). When he messes up and makes mistakes as a husband or father, he will ask for forgiveness and repair whatever relational damage was inflicted by his wrongs. 

Lately, his schedule has been packed with meetings and activities. The busy-ness and stress have made him more susceptible to impatience. He has changed so much in this area that these moments of losing his cool have become infrequent. However, a few days ago, during a conversation with Elijah, our oldest son, Edric cut him off and didn’t let him explain himself. They were having a discussion over semantics. Elijah tried to make his point and give his rebuttal, but Edric told him to stop talking. This silenced Elijah who quietly conceded to Edric’s point in the discussion. 

Some days after I invited Elijah to an afternoon run. As we jogged over and around the hilly roads of our community, I thought to ask him, “How can I improve?” 

Elijah welcomes these invitations to speak about what’s on his heart. Since he is fourteen, he’s also very vocal. He told me I needed to be more consistent about schedules. True, true, true. Our recent travels threw off our routines which Elijah didn’t appreciate. (He likes predictability.)
After apologizing to Elijah, he opened up to me about how he felt his dad (Edric) could improve. I hadn’t asked him this, but he volunteered this information anyway. 

“Dad needs to listen to me more. I feel like I can’t always express myself, like he cuts me off.” 

I knew this statement was in reference to their recent conversation which left Elijah feeling hurt and impotent. As I quietly listened, I also thought through how I would bring up this issue to Edric later. 

When an opportunity presented itself (meaning Edric was in a relaxed mood and not stressed out about work), I pulled him aside and mentioned what Elijah expressed to me about him.

Edric immediately internalized what I shared. He wasn’t defensive. “Okay, I will talk to him.” 

As predicted, Edric found a moment during one breakfast to ask for Elijah’s forgiveness in front of our other kids. 

He looked Elijah in the eye, saying something like this, “Mom told me that you felt hurt. She said you feel like I cut you off, like the other day.” 

Elijah nodded and Edric followed up with, “Will you forgive me?” 

Elijah replied, “Of course, dad.” 

Breakfast continued pleasantly for everyone as the dialogue shifted to other matters. But I know that Edric’s willingness to change and improve impacted the heart of Elijah and our other kids in a very positive way. They have witnessed this sort of exchange before and it matters to them that the “loop is closed” on an issue affecting one or more of us. 

Furthermore, of all the people in our home, it is Edric’s example that imprints upon our kids what values are important to our family, what principles they too will live by. I am not discrediting my own participation in the formation of my kids’ sense of right and wrong. I too have a responsibility to model and teach my kids Christ-likeness. However, I do believe that the humility of a father is like a special key that unlocks the hearts of children. There’s something about a father, the head, the leader, the respected one, stepping down from his honored position to admit fault and weakness that thaws and softens a child’s cold and hardened heart. 

Of course, this doesn’t excuse us, as moms, from having to do the same thing!

Like any habit, it takes a while to get used to asking one another how we can improve. It may feel awkward at first. I remember one of the first times Edric and I asked each other how we can improve during a date night and the romantic event turned sour by the end. Defensively, I countered Edric’s statements about how I needed to change with excuses instead of just saying, “I am so sorry. Will you forgive me?”

So the question, “how can I improve?” ought to be followed by a sincere apology when it is answered. Otherwise, it won’t work. The moment will turn into a massive fail. 

Let me conclude by giving some reasons why we should ask the question, how can I improve?:

1. If our relationship with our family members is already in the danger zone, then this could be an opportunity to rescue it. Because a move like this would appear so unprecedented and unexpected, it could be the sort of jolt that awakens hope. 

2. If we are convinced that we have nothing to improve on, then we hazard nothing by daring to ask the question, right? 

3. But, hey, the chance are, our kids are well-aware of our flaws. We can’t fool them! They will definitely have something to say about how we can improve that will be honest and beneficial to our character growth. 

4. Our children long to feel treasured by us and anything that we do to threaten this need wounds them deeply. One of the best ways to communicate that we care about this need is to ask how we can be better parents, how we can act and speak in ways that tell them they are special to us. When our kids recognize that we are intentional about pursuing a loving and close relationship with them, they will be inspired to reciprocate. 

5. Transparency and openness in the home has to begin with us, as parents. We can’t expect our children to embrace open communication if they don’t see the sincerity in us first. We can’t expect them to humble themselves if we don’t do so.

“But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” Luke‬ ‭22:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬

All of us have made mistakes as parents, but the good news is, it’s never too late to initiate a culture that ushers in healthy communication, healing, and restoration. Our children want to forgive us, they want to have better relationships us, but many times we don’t give them the opportunity to do these things. Maybe it’s because we are prideful, oblivious, or busy. Perhaps we are wounded oersons ourselves and haven’t experienced God’s grace to forgive our own parents or other family members who have injured us emotionally. Therefore, we don’t know how to ask the question or how to say sorry. 

Here’s a word of encouragement: “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is also time to break the cycle. We cannot alter events of the past but we can be catalysts for positive change in our own families, something that is within our control. And this can begin with a very simple habit, that of asking, “How can I improve?” 

Let’s try doing this once a week, working on the areas of change that are pointed out to us, and then let’s see how profoundly it affects the relationships and climates of our families. 

We Don’t Need to Have it All this 2017

It’s probably a cliche to say that women want to have it all. But the truth remains that this is often our perspective which is why many of us end up frustrated and unhappy. Just look at the first woman, Eve, who had the perfect guy and the perfect garden, and yet she failed to deny herself the ONE thing that she was told she couldn’t have.

We haven’t changed much since then. We still subscribe to the idea that happiness and fulfillment will be ours when we have that dream guy, beautiful children, a Pinterest-worthy home, successful career or business, and loads of money to spend on our every material desire. The list is more exhaustive than this…I could add to it a vibrant social life, popularity, flawless and ageless beauty, a thriving ministry or worthy charity, etc.

Let’s get real. There’s no way to “have it all.” As my father used to wisely advise my siblings and me, “Life is about choices.” 

Many times the choice is about whether we will live for ourselves and our worldly accomplishments or heed the Lord’s plan for us. In Matthew 16:25-26, Jesus tells his disciples, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  ‭

I have often been asked, is it possible to homeschool my child and be a working mom? It isn’t an easy question to answer because everyone’s circumstance must be taken into consideration. Some moms are single parents while others play an integral role in the financial stability of their families. As much as I would like to promote homeschooling and reply, “Yes, it’s possible!,” I would be setting them up for future heartache and frustration if I failed to include this reality: It’s not sustainable for moms to give their 100% to a 9 to 5 job and 100% to homeschooling. At some point it will come down to a matter of priorities rather than trying to “have it all.”

BUT…here’s a spiritual perspective to consider. God has a surprising way of rewarding the faith decisions we make. I know moms who stepped down from their corporate jobs to be consultants from the home or even quit working entirely in obedience to God’s calling so they can focus on homeschooling. As a result, their husbands received surprise promotions or their businesses experienced financial successes to cover their family’s’ needs. Or, they learned to make do with less. In other words, provision wasn’t a problem for the Lord when they aligned their priorities wit God’s will for their lives.

I thought this was a fitting article to write at the beginning of 2017. What choices did we make in the past year? Will we continue to make these? Are these choices in line with the priorities that God wants us to have?

To be honest, I started the year with my ducks in a row but somewhere at the half way mark, I became preoccupied with doings that veered me away from my priorities. I took on projects that ate into my time with the kids. This meant that I made more money but I sacrificed quality homeschooling. More spending capacity didn’t equal greater peace or happiness for me because I knew that I was trading something more important — my day job as a homeschool mom — for activities that would not matter much ten years from now. Edric and I convened to evaluate how to protect my schedule in 2017 and I am looking forward to a less frenetic pace of life so that he and the kids have the best of me.

Over and over again in my life, I have found that focusing on the right priorities is costly. For example, when I got married to Edric I knew he wasn’t a wealthy guy. He worked hard and had a stable job, but financially speaking, we wouldn’t be swimming in cash or enter into marriage with the ability to afford luxury. But I was okay with that. The more important consideration for me (besides Edric’s love for the Lord and for me) was that he desired to provide for us to the best of his ability, and that he committed to rise up to the challenge of being a provider. So between the option of waiting to be financially comfortable before getting married or getting married young, I chose the latter. 

Some people commented that we were too young to be getting married. But our parents had given us their blessing and we both received confirmation from the Lord through His word, mentors, and specific answers to prayers that the timing was right. 

Did we have financial challenges? Definitely. But I wouldn’t trade the year we got married and the history we’ve shared for the material wealth we could have possessed had we postponed our marriage in favor of earning more money. 

Furthermore, we didn’t think it was healthy for us to stay in a serious relationship and struggle through the temptations of purity for an extended period of time. And yes, sex in the context of marriage was something we were looking forward to. So why delay being able to enjoy this aspect of marriage for too long?! 

In our society today, young men and women are getting married later and later, and it’s more and more uncommon to find a 20+ or 30+ virgin — male or female. My hats off to the few, gloriously standing men and women who have vowed to preserve their purity no matter what. However, it’s extremely difficult to navigate through the sexually charged environment that surrounds us without becoming a casualty of immorality. 

Therefore, Edric and I prioritized getting married early because we knew we wouldn’t last, purity-wise. We were too attracted to one another! Think of how exhausting it would be to continually resist the pull of gravity! I am sure you understand what I am saying because we are all the same. When we love someone, it’s God’s design for us to desire sexual intimacy with them. But it’s not God’s design for us to experience this outside of marriage. (If you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you already know that it’s only by God’s grace that Edric and I broke up at one point in our dating stage to run away from this struggle.)

When Edric and I got engaged, we opted for a short four months to plan our wedding. The short engagement was a form of protection for us as well. We kept our plans for the wedding simple, practical, and inexpensive. Fortunately, we got married before the dawn of the age of Bride and Breakfast (Janna and Ian Simpao are my friends so I can say this without disrespecting their website.) Those images of perfect weddings and gorgeous ideas would have driven me crazy with envy. 

So what did our wedding look like? Did I “have it all” as a bride? Most certainly not. Our original venue and dream for a beach wedding changed two weeks before the day of the ceremony. My entourage probably suffered through the cold of the Tagaytay air as they walked down the aisle in their chiffon dresses designed for the beach. 

They carried two wilted roses stabbed through the center of an orange stuck for lack of an expensive bouquet to hold. Our table arrangements had hardly any flowers on them. And my dress had no ornate beading or dramatic flare to it. I designed it myself, bought the fabric with my mom and mom-in-law in Divisoria, and paid 15,000 pesos for a seamstress to execute my drape-everything-to-one-side (my good side) asymmetrical vision of a dress. 

Our giveaways were fifteen peso 3×5 wooden frames with the verse, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

Oh, and by the way, Edric and I forgot to have those frames handed out. So for years, we had boxes full of these frames and no clue what to do with them until my mother in law creatively used them as Christmas decor. 

My good friend, Jennie, did a superb job on my make up (as a favor) and it looked fantastic at the beginning but as the night progressed, photos will prove that my face turned greasy-looking with the unwanted bonus of a pimple surfacing when the concealer wore off. Plus, I had strands of hair falling across my forehead and sticking to it. 


A number of other mishaps occurred but I would rather tell you that I was the happiest bride in the world. To be honest, the fails didn’t matter to me. I was marrying Edric before God, family, and friends. Every untoward incident and substandard aspect of my wedding day paled in comparison to the commitment he and I were making to one another and the joy of sharing that moment with those whom we loved. 

Could our wedding day and reception have turned out to be flawless had we prolonged our engagement period? Could the affair have sparkled with all the impressive trimmings and trappings that came with a hefty sum? Most probably. However, we valued getting married sooner than later, and looked forward to the marriage rather than the actual event of the wedding. 

Today, my priorities are…

1. to please, honor, know, love, and obey God 

2. to be the wife and mom He has called me to be.

3. to minister to others and declare the gospel message by using my talents, abilities, and resources 

4.Take care of myself so I can do all of the above 

I know it doesn’t sound like a magnificent list that will earn me worldly accolades. However, after half a year of striving in some ways to “have it all” I am convinced that these are and will continue to be the most valuable things to me. 

So how will this translate into practical goals:

– Finish reading my Bible again

– Pray more consistently – Colossians 4:2

– Make room for quietness and stillness (without depending on my phone for entertainment)

– Read more books that are spiritually edifying, that give me a storehouse of truth to draw from and bless others with

– Make Edric feel important by completing the list of things he wants me to get done 

– Respect Edric’s authority and submit to his leadership — be his strong supporter. 

– Improve in the area of serving him by having a positive attitude when he asks me to do something 

– Be more responsive when he initiates sexual intimacy (He told me to add this! Ha ha!)

– Be more affirming and encouraging to Edric and the kids

– Protect my homeschooling schedule by keeping my mornings and afternoons free as much as possible, except for days when the kids have classes

– Give each of my kids lots of personalized time so I can meet their needs more intentionally 

– Try to do the things that my kids enjoy. Be more playful 

– Read to them more often 

– Continue to use my blog and social media platforms to reach out to people 

– Be more involved in the lives of the women I disciple 

– Drink veggie and fruit shakes consistently

– Sleep early in the evenings 

– Exercise at least three times a week 

– Say no to speaking engagements and projects when they conflict with my priorities.

I know most of us will think through our resolutions as the 2017 begins, but I hope we will prayerfully ask the Lord what our priorities ought to be before making our lists.  We don’t need to have it all in 2017, but we can let God have all of us so that our priorities are aligned with His will and design for our lives. In so doing we receive the blessing of having the most important things! 

I have used this before but I will end with it again because it’s so encouraging… 

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew‬ ‭6:26-33‬ ‭

Happy New Year! 

It Takes a Village

Edric, the kids and I usually head up to Baguio shortly before Christmas to be with family on my side. During our stay this week, my dad decided to resume the tradition of family bible studies. He led us through the Christmas story as the kids listened wide-eyed and curious, interjecting their questions and comments. 
What a delight to observe my kids and their cousins as they gathered around their “angkong” (grandpa). It reminded me of a scene from my own childhood, when my dad would open the Bible on quiet Sunday evenings to teach us Scriptural truth. 

In Baguio, he explained Matthew chapter 1 verse by verse, focusing on how the birth of Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, and how the mention of women like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheeba in the lineage of Christ revealed the grace of God. 

Tamar committed incest with her father in law, Judah; Rahab prostituted herself; Ruth was a Moabite; and King David slept with the very married Bathsheeba. My dad’s point was that God used imperfect and unlikely candidates to make up the genealogy of Jesus Christ. 

This tells us that God’s plan of salvation is greater than our past mistakes. He redeems what is broken in us, and He offers grace through His Son to all people. 

Since God keeps His promises and offers us His grace in the most unprejudiced way possible, Christmas is a time of great joy! Yet this joy isn’t fully realized until we trust and obey Him as Joseph and Mary did. My dad proceeded to explain that Joseph and Mary had to believe and cooperate with God’s plan for their lives. He challenged the grandkids to do the same. It was a wonderful two-part series Bible study for the grandkids. 

These are moments when I especially appreciate the blessing of family. Edric and I need a “village” to help us raise our kids, and this means the involvement of our greater family — grandparents, uncles and aunts. Even though we intentionally teach and train our kids, there remain to be many areas where the input and wisdom from others whom we trust is of great benefit.

The other day, when we were in the Ben Cab museum, Catalina rudely challenged my brother, Paul. He explicitly told her not to touch a work of art that she wasn’t supposed to and she defiantly did so. Reporting the incident to me immediately, Paul gave me the opportunity to deal with her appropriately. 


I pulled Catalina aside and she cried knowing that discipline was to follow. I didn’t spank her during this instance because we were at the gallery but a very serious talk about how she is to obey authorities ensued. She apologized to her Uncle Paul. Very much aware of her mistake, she remained penitent the rest of the afternoon. 

This morning, she voluntarily approached my brother to tell him, “I am obeying now, Uncle Paul,” and he commended her. 

Had Paul not bothered to tell me what happened or had I sided with Catalina defensively, I would have missed out on a moment to instill the concept of obedience to authority as something that extends past the context of parent and child.

I recall another occasion when my dad called out a character issue in Tiana, who ungratefully received a gift from him last December. She cried in disappointment, neglecting to say thank you for being given a gift at all. So my dad suggested that this year, our focus ought to be encouraging the kids to think about the needs of others. He tasked us to take the children to minister in underprivileged areas. 


It turned out to be a great recommendation. We brought the kids to Payatas where they got to look into actual homes and visually experience how little people have. Afterwards, one of our kids commented, “We need to do more for the poor! We need to find more ways to help them!” 

Early this year, my father in law lovingly corrected my mothering of Elijah. He cautioned me against doting on him too much. As a young man, Elijah didn’t need me to hover over him, micromanage his life or cripple him by doing for him what he can do for himself. Furthermore, I had to give him room to gravitate towards Edric, who could better mentor him during this transition into young manhood. This made a lot of sense but it wasn’t an easy reality to swallow. 

Edric and I continue to appreciate the correction and advice of the “village” people who surround our family. Sometimes it hurts to hear them point out flaws in our parenting or character areas our children need to improve on. Yet, their counsel is, more often the not, of great value to us as we grow through the different seasons and challenges of being parents to five kids. 


As the Bible so wisely puts it, “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” Proverbs‬ ‭11:14

At the same time, it’s important and necessary to filter through the counsel people give us so that it conforms to Biblical principles. Furthermore, recommendations from others that require major changes in the way we parent our kids have to be discussed by Edric and me so that we are in agreement that the change is necessary.

No parent has motherhood or fatherhood all figured out. So if you and I have people in our lives that can make up a village of godly counsellors to help raise our children then praise God! If we don’t, let’s pray for people to come along side us who can spur us on toward better parenting. There is gain to be had from the willingness to listen to the perspectives and insights of others. 

Here Comes the Knight 

After a hectic and action-packed two months, I crashed, emotionally and spiritually. All the speaking engagements, events, projects, ministry activities, and social gatherings ate into my homeschooling hours with the kids. As a result, the quality of our homeschool mornings was compromised. 

My relationship with Edric also suffered. Although we spent a lot of time together, our interactions weren’t tender or meaningful. Both of us had to focus on the tasks we were committed to. Like soldiers, we dutifully worked along side each other and accomplished our projects. However, we missed eight consecutive date nights which was a big deal for us! These had to be set aside to accommodate our busy-ness. 

I praise God for Edric’s intuitiveness when it comes to my personality. Since I am a closet introvert, no one really knows the internal struggle I deal with when I don’t have breaks in between activities. However, Edric can often tell when I am not exactly my self. He is sensitive to the slightest changes in my disposition. 

One afternoon when I was lying on our bed, listlessly fixated on the nondescript white paint of our bedroom ceiling, Edric opportunely sat down beside me. He turned my face to his and invited me into a conversation, attempting to gauge how I was doing emotionally and spiritually. After I articulated that I wouldn’t be able to survive another quarter like the one we were in, he reassuringly uttered the words, “Don’t worry, honey, I will take care of you.” 

With his full attention on me, coupled with his sincere attempt to offer comfort, I caved in to the strength he offered and let myself be weak in his arms. It felt like a safe place to display vulnerability, so I let the pressure spill out of me and the tears came freely. For the first time in weeks I enjoyed relief, as I remembered that God placed Edric in my life to watch over me. Afterwards, Edric stayed by my side until he was certain that I understood how committed he was to my well-being. 

His conclusion: I will protect your schedule. He agreed that the last two months were impossible to sustain in 2017 — the multiple conferences, out of town and out of country trips almost every week to speak and serve others, plus counseling, ministry, homeschooling, and parenting in between were too many good things crammed into an unrealistic time frame. When preoccupations shift the scale in the opposite direction of family, Edric is the first to recognize that something has to change. 

I am so thankful to the Lord that he gave me a husband who has risen up to the role of protector. Even though I didn’t think I needed him to be this for me when I got married, I have appreciated the way he has looked out for me (and our kids). It’s an undeserved blessing from the Lord. Plus, I have to admit that there’s a romantic bone in me that is attracted to Edric’s chivalry. 


Protectiveness comes in many forms. Here are some of the ways that Edric has protected me (and the kids.):

He exerts strength to shield the kids and me from physical harm. Sometimes this is as simple as putting us on the safe side of the pedestrian lane when we are on it. Or, it’s bringing a night stick when we go walking so he can use it to ward off aggressive dogs or intimidate rude bystanders. He is perpetually on the look out for us when we are in public places, mindful of where we are so he doesn’t lose any of us. If we were in an actual battle, I don’t doubt that he would sacrifice himself on the front lines to fight for us, too.

Meeting my need for emotional security is also an act of protection. This alleviates any fears I may have about losing his love or his attraction to me. It liberates me to give herself freely to him, especially in the area of intimacy. 

Edric also takes charge of our finances so that I don’t have to worry about playing the role of provider. When I do earn money, it becomes a bonus. Another wise thing he did was to invest in insurance options that would meet our monetary needs should something untoward happen to him. 

There’s protection in the form of spiritual leadership as well. This is what I value most. When Edric is gatekeeper of the home and stands as its guardian, he keeps out demonic and negative influences that can seduce the hearts and minds of our family. He does this by establishing guidelines about what we watch, see, and listen to. 

Sometimes Edric also needs to filter through the activities that I participate in to help me discern whether these are aligned with God’s purpose and will for my life. (He does this with our kids, too.)

Since Edric intentionally disciples the kids and me, this preserves our unity in the faith and places us in a position to receive the blessing of the Lord. His prayers to the Lord on our behalf are a means to spiritually cover against harm. Furthermore, his example of godliness and love for the Lord establishes the credibility of his authority, and inspires us to deny sin and follow God’s will. When we make wrong choices, Edric helps us to review what we could have done better to safeguard us from the pain of future mistakes. 
There’s a special blessing upon the family of a man who honors God. Psalms 128:1-4 declares, “How blessed is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy and it will be well with you. your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table. Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed who fears the LORD.” 

While no husband is perfect, and this includes Edric, there is a wonderful atmosphere of calm and peace in our home because we know that there’s a godly and trustworthy man in charge of our welfare. (Ephesians 5:23)

If you are married and want a great article on the protective role of husbands, here’s one written from a man’s perspective, by Tim Challieshttp://www.challies.com/christian-living/leadership-in-the-home-a-godly-man-protects

In This Brokeness There Is Hope

The school house stood three stories tall, an edifice that appeared out of place in a residential community. It was at the end of the street, tucked away but too conspicuous to miss. Beth Potter said it was a big, red house, and it certainly was.

Tiana and I pulled up beside it this morning. She gasped when she saw the place. “It’s so nice!” She said excitedly. 

We walked through the gate and into the grand doors of the entrance. To the left and the right of us were classrooms with children of all ages, grouped together and busily at work. What a delightful sight to see these orphaned children engaged in their studies, speaking very good English and writing so proficiently! I was impressed! 

I must confess that it wasn’t what I expected to see. These were well-educated children, under the tutelage of committed volunteer teachers, missionary ladies who were a wonderful mix of loving and purposefully stern.

Beth Potter briefly described their educational philosophy and the strides that many of the students had made over the years. They came in below their academic level and caught up quickly. In other instances they surpassed expectations. 

I wasn’t there to observe the classrooms but it was a nice bonus. I came to give a talk on Life’s Healing Choices. Beth informed me that a number of the children suffered from previous sexual abuse and she asked if I could encourage them. Thankfully, they spoke such good English, so I didn’t have to struggle through my imperfect Tagalog. 

We gathered together in one of the rooms a few moments later, with many of the kids sitting on the floor right in front of me. It felt like a safe and intimate space to be vulnerable. 

I proceeded to introduce myself and go into the details of my story. As I did so I studied the faces of the children and noticed that a few of them were wrestling with their own hurt. The gist of what I shared revolved around three choices I made that helped me to heal as a rape victim: 

1. To believe that God loves me, that He is good and sovereign, and has a plan for my life. Romans 8:28

2. To forgive the men who violated me because I too am a recipient of God’s grace and forgiveness. Matthew 6:14 / Ephesians 2:8

3. To declare God’s goodness in my life and not hide behind the shame. Psalms‬ ‭40:5‬ 

In the end I invited them to come to Christ, emphasizing that there is no guarantee that our lives will be free from pain and affliction. However Jesus promises us His peace. “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”” (John‬ ‭16:33‬) I also assured them that God has a purpose for each of their life stories, and they can bring His hope to others. 

This was the easy part of my morning. What followed next crushed me emotionally and spiritually. Beth asked if anyone wanted to meet with me afterwards. It was like blitzkrieg crisis counseling because I couldn’t spend prolonged time with each boy and girl. I listened to heart-breaking stories of teens who were raped by fathers or relatives. They recounted the atrocities committed against them, each story no less a nightmare than the other. 

As I sat on my mononobloc chair, just inches away from these kids, I wondered if there was any solace I could offer. After all, their tragedies were far greater than what I experienced at their age. Who gets raped by their father?! These things should never happen! I felt the rage kicking into a boil as I thought about the betrayals and confusion these children suffered through. 

It’s worst than death it seems, to have to fight off your own father and beg for his mercy, and yet he feels no pity, devilishly responding to your pleas with a blow to your gutt to silence you so he can proceed to assault and defile you in his lust. How do you comfort a child who has endured this and lived to tell it, crying in their shame like it’s their fault to bear the guilt of such perversion?

I am not naive. I know this sort of disturbing and sickening thing happens today, but I tend to be far removed from actual incest cases of young children. Most of the people I counsel are abused, taken advantage of, or raped by peers or strangers. When it’s palpable and up close like this…when each child’s face has a name and I am looking into their eyes as the tears pool and streak down their cheeks, it’s tempting to wonder, Where is God? Is there a God who cares? 

Yet, I heard something I shouldn’t have during those sessions, at least not from children who recounted such horrors. Two of the kids told me, “I have forgiven my father.” When I asked the first one why, she said with conviction, “I read it in my Bible.” 

She told me that she found Christ in the home she was sent to, a place for abused girls. She came to understand the love of God there. 

Another child, a young boy who lost both his parents when they died in their sickness, smiled as he shared, “At night, I look up at the stars and I think about God and how He is with me, and I don’t feel scared or alone.” 

As I marveled at their insights, I was reminded that in this broken world there is hope. There is peace. In Christ people are healed. They become victorious and don’t remain victims.

“For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John‬ ‭5:4-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Although the stories of tragedy won’t cease till Jesus comes again to restore all things, the healing can begin if we care enough to tell people about Him. 

I hugged Beth before I left. She became a hero to me. I told her, “What you are doing here is the hard part. I came in to tell my story, but you will stay on to minister to kids who have been cast aside and forgotten.” 

Tiana and I headed back to Ortigas area and I pulled her close to whisper, “I am so happy to be your mom. I am so thankful you are my daughter.”

I went on to explain, “The kids in that school have fathers who hurt them because their fathers don’t know Jesus.”

She looked up innocently and remarked, “But not daddy, right? Daddy doesn’t hurt me because he knows Jesus.” 


As she fell asleep on my lap, I wept. On the one hand I was so grateful to the Lord that Edric and I get to love our kids, and that our kids have been spared from sexual violence. On the other hand, I felt renewed conviction to talk about Christ.  Jesus Christ is still relevant and always will be, especially to those who ache for hope, peace, and joy. When the broken come to Him, the veil is taken away, and they find purpose, meaning and the grace to forgive their offenders. 

“…But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭3:16‬ 

We may not be able to alter a person’s past experiences, but we can change the course of their histories by telling them that there is a God who loves them and inviting them into a relationship with Him. He gave His life for them so they can have new life! To someone who has lost everything a new life means everything! 

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬ ‭

From Arch Enemy to Friend

My daughter, Tiana, and her cousin, Teegan, are only months apart. Teegan is the big American version and Tiana is the petite Filipina one. There is something about those Arian bones! The difference in height and size between them is significant.

But I don’t really want to talk about genetics. I wanted to write about their journey to friendship.

Three years ago when Teegan came to the Philippines to live, she was excited to be with all her cousins, the majority of whom are based in Manila. Tiana was looking forward to Teegan coming too but when they encountered each other, things didn’t turn out the way we hoped.

Teegan came across very strong and dominant and Tiana was totally frightened by her imposing nature. Unfortunately, Tiana backed away and Teegan was bent on asserting herself all the more in the face of weakness. She semi- terrorized Tiana by scaring her with growling sounds that made Tiana cry. It was her attempt to play but she also knew it wasn’t the kindest thing to do. She intentionally terrorised Tiana to get a reaction out of her.

Thankfully my brother, Peter, and sister-in-law, Jennifer, tried their best to tell Teegan to stop bullying Tiana and they disciplined her when she did. Teegan began to improve.
Tiana also gained greater confidence as we let them play with one another more frequently.

The fighting between became more and more infrequent. It was good for both of them to learn how to adjust to one another. As for me, I had to relax as a parent and refrain from developing a critical attitude towards my niece or her parents. I love my brother, Peter, and sister in law, Jennifer. I didn’t want this issue to come between us. After all, Teegan was only 3 at the time and had a lot of maturing to do. So did Tiana.

For as long as Teegan wasn’t pushing her or hurting her I figured that they would both grow out of this and get along eventually. It was a team effort on the part of all the parents involved, too.

We used positive reinforcement. I would say things to Teegan like, “Tiana likes it when you share with her. That is very nice of you.” Or I would tell Tiana, “Don’t be scared of Teegan. She wants to play with you and be your friend.”

We also implored positive training. We demonstrated to both Teegan and Tiana how to relate to one another and play together.

It took about a year for them to get one another. And lo and behold, the two have become such good friends. They are together as often as possible and they have loads of fun! Teegan is such a sweetheart today. She embraces Tiana every time she sees her and makes her cards for her birthdays. They have make believe games and cute little conversations about girl stuff.

It’s a joy to see them relate to each other so well, especially because I remember the season when they were like arch enemies. I remember my mom sharing a principle to me that has always encouraged me about people and the capacity to change. She said, “Don’t see people for who they are today. See them for who they can become in the Lord.”

Whenever we encounter difficult, trying people, it’s tempting to reject them right away or avoid them to safeguard ourselves. Who wants to willingly make themselves susceptible to getting hurt?! However, not all difficult, trying people are beyond hope. And we may miss out on the opportunity to discover just how amazing these people can actually be, especially when the Lord gets a hold of their hearts.

Teegan changed significantly in terms of gentleness and Tiana changed significantly in terms of confidence because they are two young children who have a relationship with Jesus. He continues to transform them daily just as He will transform every person we know, including ourselves to become the persons he wants us all to be. But we have to believe that with Him in our lives and in the hearts of others there is hope for positive change.

Philippians 1:6 tell us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” If the work is started by Christ we can be CONFIDENT that He is committed to making our kids, other people and ourselves more and more like Himself. So let’s be encouraged, and let’s not be ones who zone in on the things we don’t like about those around us. Let’s be the ones who recognize that Jesus transforms people!

Trusting God by Trusting Your Husband

Having my sister, Candy, here for the last year and a half was like a dream come true for the Tan-Chi clan. When my bother, Peter, moved back to the Philippines with his family four years ago, we hoped that Jeff and Candy would do the same so we could all be together. 

Candy lived in the US for a good number of years after graduating from University of the Pacific in San Francisco as a dentist. (And being honored as Valedictorian, too. So proud of her! I just had to add that). She married Jeff Mc Comb shortly after, a great guy who loves the Lord. Then they settled in Sacramento, practicing dentistry and raising their three sons.

Since we are all incredibly close, it was difficult to have Candy so far away. Often, she would express to the family how she longed to come back to Manila. We would tease Jeff and attempt to convince him to move out here (but it’s not easy to leave a dental practice). 

Jeff actually invested in trips to Manila, making sure to visit with Candy and the boys. So it wasn’t like Candy vanished for the last twelve years. Jeff very generously provided for these trips which we all appreciated.

Although Candy struggled in the beginning of her marriage, wishing she was back in Manila, she surrendered this desire to the Lord. She stopped bugging Jeff about it and came to a point of contentment and peace. 

Surprisingly, three years ago, Jeff talked to her about the idea of living in the Philippines for two years. After praying about it, Jeff was convinced that spending extended time with the family in Manila and learning from the leadership of CCF (our church) was something he felt called to do. We were all shocked in a good way! 

So they planned and saved enough income to last them two years. A few months before coming to Manila, they also sold their belongings in faith, with the possibility that they may not return to Sacramento if God should lead them in that direction. 

When Jeff and Candy arrived May 2015 with their suitcase and boxes, our family was ecstatic! Since they pretty much sold all their stuff prior to coming, we hoped and prayed that their two year plan would extend to forever! 

Candy and I spent countless hours catching up and hanging out. Our kids played together whenever possible, and family dinners on Sunday night were chaotically fun. Finally, we were a complete 29. These gatherings often happened in my parents’ place, where us siblings and our spouses sat around a huge table, conversing, eating, laughing, telling stories, sharing struggles and victories, and praying together. It felt a little bit like heaven to see each person in attendance. 

Throughout the rest of Candy’s time in the Philippines, it was like I had a new friend, buddy, and confidant. We had similar perspectives on marriage, raising kids, homeschooling, ministry, etc. Where we differed we sharpened one another.

Even if she is younger, I learned a lot from her and rediscovered what a special person she is — kind, thoughtful, generous, friendly, and loving. I could be honest and vulnerable with her knowing she would set me straight if my perspective or actions were wrong. I also knew she would understand when I shared my feelings, even if they were sometimes stupid and childish. Most important of all she encouraged me to love God more. 

However, my happy bubble burst about six months ago when Candy told me that their plans had changed. After much prayer once again, Jeff decided they should return to the U.S. by August 2016, cutting short their original two year plan. He was eager to resume his practice and take back what he learned from the discipleship ministry of our church. 

Waaah!!! Why?! My heart was crushed. To be honest, this turn of events was a big disappointment. Jeff is American so I totally get that he feels called to a culture that he can better identify with. And I respect him for the way he has sought the Lord through every major decision he has made for himself and his family. He is a man who walks intimately with the Lord so I don’t doubt that God impressed this on his heart. 

But…as much as I love Jeff as a brother, a part of me felt like he was taking Candy away again, and I felt troubled. (I already confessed this to him.) Candy’s perspective silenced my negative thoughts quickly.

She said something like this, “I really want to stay but I trust Jeff. I know God speaks through Him so I will follow. If God wants us to come back in the future, it will happen.” 

Candy is an opinionated and accomplished woman. She has no problems speaking her mind or airing her thoughts. But in marriage, she has learned to speak her mind to the Lord instead of forcing her way upon Jeff. She has learned to have a spiritual perspective on circumstances rather than rely on her own logic. 

Even if I am heartbroken, I am proud of her for having the faith to declare that she trusts God by trusting in Jeff. She lived her dream for the last 18 months — being complete as a family, her kids playing and homeschooling with their cousins and building memories, vacationing, bonding, and doing ministry along side one another as siblings and with our parents, and even having the bonus of house help! Now, she must release this dream once more, and probably more tearfully too because she lived it. 

It’s easy to say we trust God when we submit to our husbands because they aren’t asking us to give up something we really want, or to do something that is difficult. But Candy taught me anew that real faith is evidenced when we can say, “Lord, not my will but yours be done. Lord, I have longings and desires but I will look to you as I obey my husband and support his leadership.” 

In a week Jeff and Candy leave. I teared several times today just thinking about it, whispering to Edric during various moments, “I feel sad…” 

I am going to miss Candy’s cheery voice at the end of the line when we phone each other during the day, the random visits and sleepovers, her big smile when she comes through a door, her beautiful spirit and ever amusing quirkiness, the joy of seeing our children play together, and sigh…just being able to be sisters and do things as sisters like I always wished we could. 

I had a piece of that these past 18 months and it hurts to let that go. Yet Candy’s faith consoles me. She is a woman who trusts God by trusting in Jeff’s leadership. Therefore I too trust that she will be blessed, that her marriage and family will be blessed.

And perhaps someday, if God should will it, we will be together like this again, and there will be no more saying goodbye because the dream will have no end. For now, I too must say, “Lord, not my will be done. I want my sister and her family to stay but you have called them back to the U.S. So I will thank you and trust you even if it pains my heart to because you are loving and good, and your will is always better…better than any dream or hope that I have.”

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence.” Jeremiah‬ ‭17:7‬ ‭NLT‬

Big Rocks, Small Rocks – Time Management for Busy Moms

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I wear many hats as a woman. There’s being a wife, a mother, a homeschooling parent, a discipler to women, a counselor, speaker, writer, and every now and then I have “jobs” or projects that I accept for added income. Recently, I’ve been asked by other moms, “How do you manage your time?”

I’m not writing this because I’m the best time-manager. But I have learned, through the years and with the help of my husband, to be more intentional about the activities that I commit to. My mom gave me great advice, too. She said, “Think of your activities as rocks – big ones and small ones. If you were to fill a jar with rocks, you would put in the big rocks first and then fit in the small rocks around the bigger ones. If you do the small ones first, then you won’t have space for the big ones.”

The reality is we are all in various seasons of our lives as women. Some of us are newly married, young mothers, raising older kids, or we are empty-nesters. Each stage comes with certain priorities and stresses. I am somewhere in between one end of the spectrum and the other. My fifth child is nearly 3 years old. She is no longer breastfeeding which means life is starting to feel easier and more “manageable.” Whew!

Whatever stage I find myself in, I have to identify the big rocks in my life (The things that only I can do, that I’m responsible for, that I can’t delegate to others):

  1. My walk with the Lord
  2. My husband
  3. My kids
  4. Homeschooling
  5. Home-management
  6. Exercise
  7. Discipleship / Ministry
  8. Writing
  9. Relationships with family – parents, brothers, and sisters
  10. Helping out with Homeschool Global

What are my small rocks? (The order doesn’t matter for these)

  • Speaking
  • Counseling
  • Jobs and projects that earn income
  • Relationships with friends
  • Hobbies

When my big rocks don’t come first (and in the order I wrote them above), I experience anxiety and stress. There may be occasions when certain needs are urgent – a crying infant who has pooped in her diaper vs. bringing my husband his butong pakwan because he asked for it. This is where both of us have to be flexible and understanding of one another.

I praise God that Edric was supportive through all my pregnant and breastfeeding years. He knew these stages weren’t easy for me, so he adjusted his expectations, too. The other blessing I want to praise God for is that I got to be a stay-at-home mom by the time our third son came along. I had to wait eight years, but it happened nonetheless, which alleviated me of the burden to contribute monetarily to our family. Whatever season I have found myself in, I’ve tried, as soon as possible, to revert to the order of priorities I listed above for my big rocks.

What are your big rocks? Every woman’s are different, but my strong suggestion is that you’ve got God, your husband and kids as first, second, and third. Some weeks ago, Edric and I were counseling a couple that was in bad shape because the husband was caught in infidelity. Although the woman is not to blame for her husband’s sinfulness, they both acknowledged that the demands of her work kept her from prioritizing his needs. Up till this day it’s a struggle for her to quit her job in order to look for one that is less hectic for herself and less damaging to her relationship with her husband. She is perpetually stressed out and exhausted but believes that her job is a “bigger rock” than her marriage. My heart goes out to her. 

I’m not saying that women have to quit their jobs. That’s not the point. The point is that we need to evaluate whether our jobs are worth sacrificing the priorities of spouse and children for. Is the corporate route the best option, for example? I’ve witnessed so many talented women direct their abilities and creativity towards income-generating businesses that allow them the flexibility and time to meet the needs of their husband and children. Therefore it’s not impossible to find something worthwhile to do that doesn’t take the place of our more important relationships.

After settling which rocks in our lives are the heavy-weights, we have to think through how we schedule our days and weeks around those rocks. It took me years to actually come up with a schedule that I could commit to. Thankfully, my husband, Edric, is a stickler for scheduling everything. So, his good influence on me finally rubbed off and I came up with a weekly routine that has been sensible and sustainable. I can’t share my exact schedule here for safety reasons, but I will give you an example of what my schedule generally looks like (the days may not match the actual):

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This schedule is my template for the week. Since homeschooling is like my day job, I safeguard my weekday mornings to get this done (except for the day when they have classes). I used to have my kids in music and pe classes on two different days, plus they attended a morning coop during a separate day of the week. Hardly any quality homeschooling got done as a result. My new schedule gives them one day out of the home for their classes. While they are busy, I take advantage of this day by doing errands (like going to the grocery) and meeting with people.

Some variations in my schedule may happen when there are urgent needs that must be attended to, when I have projects to complete, or when we have social events. But generally, this is it. Interestingly, when I don’t follow my weekly routine and have too many activities outside of the home (especially ones that end late at night), I tend to get sick. So having a schedule that isn’t too hectic keeps my body from breaking down, too. It’s actually necessary for me to keep to predictable cycles. Maybe it’s my age!

Edric and I also share one calendar that is updated everyday. His very able assistant intelligently manages this calendar for us. She is amazing! Keeping one calendar on our phones and devices has improved our communication as husband and wife. I used to get frustrated when he would book engagements and tell me about them the day of! Now I know what to expect and how to prepare myself. Furthermore, I also don’t confirm speaking engagements or appointments that eat into things like family time, meals together, evenings, or Sundays unless I refer to our calendar and run them by Edric first.

If you are involved in ministry, you may want to read on about the other tips that have helped me with time management:

  1. MINISTER ACCORDING TO YOUR LIFESTAGE.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are called to evangelize and disciple others no matter what our lifestage as women. The question for moms, especially those with younger children, is how do I obey God’s purpose for me without compromising my priorities? How can I creatively integrate my lifestage with the call to minister to other women?

From the very beginning of our marriage, Edric and I had a discipleship group. We belonged to one and we started one, too. At one point the group we were handling got too big and people began to get married and have children. This is when their priorities started to change. As for me, I was often pregnant and/or breastfeeding, working part-time, and homeschooling.

At some point, I remember having a conversation with my mom where I said, “I don’t agree with the discipleship model of CCF (our church). It’s not right that young mothers are expected to disciple others when they are caught up with raising young children. Isn’t our primary ministry our kids?”

My mom, in her very gentle manner, listened and offered the best advice. She said, “Why don’t you disciple women in a way that incorporates your lifestage?” Brilliant, mom!

So I started a playgroup with the young mothers in my group. Since the moms could bring their children, they prioritized these playgroups. We would meet in the park and our kids would play while we had accountability and encouraged one another in the faith. This playgroup eventually evolved into a more formal cooperative of moms who now support each other’s homeschool journey. At present, we are on a break but will resume again in September. It has been a great way for me to reach out to the moms in our discipleship group and I’ve been so blessed by the moms who have stepped up to teach and handle classes for the kids.

Another challenge came when Edric and I moved into our new home. This geographic change affected the dynamic of our original discipleship group of men and women. Many of them found it difficult to trek all the way to our side of the metropolis. I felt very discouraged when this happened because our desire was to open up our home for ministry. But the traffic made it impossible to get people to our place in the evenings. Thankfully, I still got to see most of the women during our Homeschool Coop, but I did miss the old days, too, when we could gather as couples and cram together in our apartment.

Not wanting our new home to go to waste, Edric and I started another couples group for neighbors in our subdivision. We may have moved home locations but this didn’t mean that serving God by discipling others had to stop. Getting together with neighbors made it easy to stick to weekly meetings.

It has been almost two years since this group began. We rotate houses to give couples the opportunity to host and facilitate the sessions. The kids are welcome as well which means we don’t have to leave them behind every week.

  1. DO MINISTRY AS A TEAM

Another way to integrate lifestage and ministry is to mount events or speak at gatherings where Edric and I can serve as a team along with our kids. Edric and I share the burden of preparing singles for marriage, reaching out to young couples and families, and talking about homeschooling. Edric also feels called to educate people on financial literacy. So we help out with three big events in the year that are mounted by the Family Ministry of our church – Before and After I Do, Family and Finance, and Parenting — and other events that are related to these topics.

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Whenever our kids can be included in our talks, we let them prepare their own testimonies so they can experience ministering along side us. This simplifies our lives by allowing us to be together while we serve and direct our efforts toward the same things.

  1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO (IF YOU SAY NO FOR THE RIGHT REASONS)

Sometimes, saying “No” is necessary, even at the expense of disappointing others. I learned this from my father who has laser focus for what he does. As a result he has been very effective at time management and accomplishing much for the Lord. Although it’s hard to turn invitations down, Edric and I realized that there are many people out there whom God can raise up to do a better job that we can as speakers. Even though people may ask us to speak doesn’t always mean we are the most qualified or most prepared to do so. God’s work will never lack His resources, people being one of them. So turning down an invitation doesn’t mean that an organization will be disadvantaged just because we can’t say yes. On the contrary, God will supply the best person(s) for the task.

What’s the criteria for saying, No? Edric has a template with specific questions that his assistant asks the person or organization inviting him or us. Then this data is inputted into a spreadsheet which calculates a percentage rating. Anything below 65 or 70% is low priority. I know it sounds pretty nerdy but it helps to assess whether an invitation is aligned with his (our) goals and focus.

  1. SYNC YOUR PASSIONS AND YOUR PURPOSE

I shared earlier that all of us are called to evangelize and disciple others. However, life stages pose a challenge to this call because some of us are newly married, pregnant or breastfeeding, or raising young kids (and some of us are doing this without any household help). These seasons demand a lot from us.

After I gave birth to my fourth child, Edric encouraged me to start a blog. When Edric proposed the idea he also asked his dad to help me set up my site. Papa (my father in law) came up with the name, “Teach with Joy.” I thought the blog was a great idea! After all, I was feeling more homebound than ever and I wondered how I would be able to reach out to women to minister to them (outside of my discipleship group).

I decided to make this site a venue to connect with the hearts of women all over the world with the gospel of Christ. My desire was to give people a glimpse of what it is like to be a wife, mother, and family that follows Christ. My prayer was that women would respond positively and with openness to the honesty (my mistakes and failures) and to the joy they read about.

Ever since I was young, writing was a passion of mine. My old writings were dark and emotional. However, as I matured in my faith, I wanted to write about what God is doing in our family and share practical insights and tips that can help women be the best version of themselves. As I merged my passion to write with the purpose of ministry, God blessed the effort. I’m humbled to be able to receive countless private emails and messages from women all over the world who want to know more about Jesus, thank me, or connect with me and tell me about themselves. Each email and message is a delight to read and respond to.

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The great thing about blogging is that I’m still accessible to my husband and kids. Furthermore, it has opened doors that I never would have anticipated – to endorse products that celebrate family and to be given the privilege of greater influence.

Recently, Lifestyle TV taped a series of interstitial shows to be aired in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. It’s a show called Joy of Living where I get to interview women about their life journeys. The project came as a surprise. I never expected to receive this opportunity!

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When the producer pitched the idea to me I had two requests. One was that I get to tape at home for most or all of the shows. I didn’t know if they would say yes. But I was willing to let the project go if they refused because I didn’t want to compromise my time with the kids. Well, they approved this request! I was overjoyed! The second request was that I be given the voice to speak about my faith. They let me do so for as long as I didn’t come across as preachy. That was fine with me.

God has given each one of us women abilities and capacities that are unique to us. Some of you have talents that are out of this world amazing! You may wonder if these are going to waste as you prioritize your spouse and children. My encouragement to you is to trust in God’s timetable. Put Him first, your spouse and kids next, and then let Him reveal to you what other aspects of your life need to count as “big rocks.” That’s where good time management begins – by asking the Lord what really matters, seeking to know what His will is, and then obeying it. As you do so He will not waste the gifts or dreams He has given you. They come from Him after all. In His beautiful time and way He will welcome and encourage their emergence for His glory!

If you feel lost because good time management eludes you at present, don’t be discouraged. Don’t lose hope. You are probably a young mom whose got one hand attending to a toddler, another arm breastfeeding a newborn, and you’ve got to cook a meal for your family tonight, and maybe you have a job that you are juggling, too. I’ve been there…It gets easier…Trust me.

Isn’t it a relief to know that God doesn’t expect perfection from us? Instead, He wants us. A deep, intimate relationship with us where we experience His presence, grace, enabling and peace.

In the meantime, let’s do what we can to identify our big and small rocks, exert our best effort, and trust that God will multiply our capacities. He will supply us with the resources and abilities we need to accomplish what He wants us to at this stage in our lives. We need to believe that He wants us to succeed at being good time managers and He will surely help us!

 

Fight for Your Marriage

In the past weeks, Edric and I have been counseling different couples about issues in their marriages, ranging from minimal to major. From our vantage point as counselors, the one thing that has been a consistent predictor of successful outcome in these relationships has been the individual choices of the persons involved to fight for their marriages by obeying God’s Word. 

Last night we spent time with a husband and wife who are emerging from a dark time in their marriage. Edric and I sat beside them in wonderment as we listened to the strides they have made since we first heard of a betrayal that could have (and should have) destroyed their relationship. As they spoke honestly about the challenges and the victories they have experienced in the last month it was like listening to two entirely different people – people who have been radically transformed by the grace of God.

We knew them to be great people before this difficult point in their history, but today there is 360 degree healing taking place in them that is clearly the handiwork of the Holy Spirit. Only God can search out the hidden wounds and cure the unseen hurts that have left us unable to know the abundant life that is described in John 10:10. In our discussion with this couple last night, I was reminded as the woman spoke of completeness, that it is God’s intention to mend and fix EVERYTHING that is broken in us. He’s not a God of partial healing. He is a God who specializes in COMPLETE HEALING. 

However, we cannot taste of this healing if we do not invite the grace of God into our hearts and minds by humbling ourselves to the point of repentance. About two months ago, I was dealing with anger issues towards Edric. Everytime he would do some thing that reminded me of our personality differences, I would feel agitated and think to myself, “Here he goes again. Why is like that?!” 

These thoughts would invade my consciousness often, and they were accompanied by discreet eye-ball rolling and snarly looking faces from me. It wasn’t until I had an outburst where I threw a toilet paper roll at him that I realized I had a serious problem. I was angry with Edric.

Yes, I loved him and I was committed to our marriage, but I also entertained negative thoughts, prideful comparisons, and bitter judgments about him. This made me susceptible to the influence of the evil one.

During one afternoon, I sat in on a bondage breaker session, which is basically a time when you identify areas in your life that have made you susceptible to demonic influences or oppression. The session wasn’t actually scheduled for me but for a friend who asked me to sit in with her to pray with her.

The list of areas to reflect on and revisit historically during a bondage breaker session is quite comprehensive. It includes things like sensuality, immoral relationships, pagan practices, witchcraft, sexual abuse, addictions, and emotional sins (as categories). Underneath each category are detailed experiences that a person may have knowingly or unknowingly participated in or been impacted by because of their ancestors. In the process of going through the list, a person is encouraged to name each of the sins, confess them in Jesus’ Name and renounce any demonic oppression that they may be suffering from due to these sins. It’s about acknowledging past and present sins and claiming victory in Christ over darkness. But it’s effective only if a person is truly repentant.

Even if the session wasn’t for me, I got really convicted when we crossed the part about anger. Edric’s name came to my mind. As we ended that time together, I prayed for the women who were with me and I also prayed for myself, confessing my anger aloud. 

Afterwards I had a discomfort in my stomach that stayed with me through the evening and into the morning of the next day. I kept feeling the need to burp. I don’t like to make a big deal out of demonic manifestations but I have seen some that were stomach-related. 

I also know that spiritual oppression can surface in physical ways and that spirits can terrorize us physically, even as followers of Jesus. If Jesus Christ is in us, an evil spirit cannot occupy the seat of our hearts because it belongs to Christ, but we are susceptible to demonic harassment due to sin. For some reason, my gutt was affected after I prayed with my two friends. Does this mean I was demonized or had been demonized somehow? Only God really knows. 

As for me, I did what was in my control. The next day, when I got up to run by myself, I declared out loud, “If there are any evil spirits oppressing me because of my anger, I cast you out in Jesus’ Name. If there are any spirits of anger in me, be gone in Jesus’ Name and do not return.” The uneasy feeling in my stomach went away. But the more important effect of the power of Jesus’ Name to liberate me from this anger was to be seen in the days and weeks to come.

Instead of feeling deeply aggravated at Edric each time he did something that bothered me, I felt unusually calm and unaffected. I’m not saying that I wasn’t tempted to react in irritation, but the incense that would typically inhabit me wasn’t there anymore.

In fact, instead of rage I actually felt sweet feelings toward Edric! This was the handiwork of the Lord. Surely the evil one couldn’t have placed those positive feelings in my heart for Edric since Edric was still doing the same sort of things that usually irked me.

Let me get to the point. This part isn’t so much about demonic oppression as it is about opening our eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare. We need to see what’s really going on. The evil one is hell bent on destroying our marriages. That’s been his game plan since God presented Adam and Even as husband and wife. He hates marriages. Marriage between a husband and wife is God’s showcase of His love. It’s intended to be a parallel to the relationship we have with him. As author and speaker John Piper so beautifully stated it, “marriage is the doing of God and the display of God.”

As Christ is to the church, so ought the man to love his wife and as the church is to Christ, so the woman is to submit to her husband. The evil one doesn’t want us to understand any of that. And once he breaks up a marriage, he is able to “kill several birds with one stone” very effectively – the couple, the children, and society. Think of all the lost and wounded people inhabiting this earth who are also hurting others because they have been victims of broken homes. It’s an epidemic. 

As Edric and I ended our conversation with the couple I referred to at the beginning of this post, my heart was overwhelmed with joy and hope. Sometimes we focus on the vast number of unhappy and unhealthy marriages out there and we tend to feel discouraged. But God is doing amazing things in marriages today.

Is it really possible to have a loving marriage that lasts a lifetime? Or are we going to resign ourselves to the common marriage story that begins as a fairy tale, plays out like a drama in the middle, and ends like a horror film?

By God’s grace, it doesn’t have to be that way. God’s grace is there. It is powerful. It is present. 

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The couple we were counseling should have become a statistic…another failed marriage, another broken home. But against all human reason, they are more happily married than they ever were. They have a renewed love for one another. Communication with their kids has improved significantly. And their sex life is unexplainably amazing! What?! How is this possible?!

It’s possible because they both chose to respond to God’s grace. Very specifically, they chose to:

  • Humbly confess and acknowledge their sins against God, against one another, and others. 
  • Repent and renounce any addiction or sin that was standing in the way of their relationship with Christ and each other.  

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret to that kind of sorrow. But the worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

  • Identify the history of hurt and problems in their individual lives and marriage. They were completely honest with one another and with us.
  • Forgive each other unconditionally and forgive themselves.
  • Commit to change the areas that they needed (and need) to.
  • Pursue intimacy with God by reading His Word, praying fervently, and meeting with other couples for accountability.
  • Hope in God’s good plan for their lives, marriage, and family.
  • Seek to minister to other couples in order to help them have Christ-centered marriages, too.

I wrote this to encourage everyone of us to do whatever it takes to fight for our marriages. Some us may think we cannot do this. Perhaps this is because our threshold for enduring a difficult marriage is adjusted to our own preferences, what we want for ourselves. And perhaps it’s because we have misunderstood what marriage is all about when we first committed to it. But our situation, as unique as it may seem, is not more painful than what every other couple is going through at this very moment. 

Marriage is HARD. It’s hard for everybody. There will always be irreconcilable differences and things we just don’t like about our spouses. They will do things that make us want to quit. And no matter how wonderful our spouses are there will be times when we want to decapitate them (and probably have the right to.) 

Yet, instead of sulking and pitying ourselves when it gets tough, and thinking we ought to be happy and deserve someone better, let’s not look for or imagine the nearest exit. What we want for ourselves will not be beyond those exit doors. Temporarily maybe. But it’s not going to cure what’s inherently wrong with us or our marriages. 

What’s inherently wrong is our hearts. We don’t know God well enough or seek Him intimately enough to understand that He loves us, that He is for us, that He wants to bless us, that our marriage is not about us but about Him. 

The question is are we willing to do whatever it takes to fight for our marriages? Are we willing to wait patiently on Him and obey Him UNTIL we see the blessings of doing so? 

Fighying for our marriages is saying that I will no longer live for myself but for Christ

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

It is saying…

I will stay in my marriage not for myself but for Christ.

I will love my spouse because I love Christ.

I will reject the habits, desires, and selfish and sinful actions I do that hurt my marriage because I don’t want to hurt Christ.

I will obey God’s design for my life and marriage because I want to obey Christ.

I will fulfill my role as a husband or wife because Christ asks me to.

I will be and I CAN BE a better husband or wife because Christ is in me.

To those of us who are married, we must DO EVERYTHING IT TAKES FIGHT FOR OUR MARRIAGES not for pride’s sake but because the name of the Lord is at stake and the lives of people around us are at stake. We are responsible to our spouse, to our children, to a lost and dying world. (If you don’t want this responsibility then don’t get married in the first place.) But if you are married like me and you profess to be a follower of Jesus then you and I must be committed to having Christ-centered, Christ-glorifying marriages, NO MATTER WHAT! And the amazing thing is, when we follow God and obey Him, His glory in our lives becomes our greatest happiness! 

Let me end this what what John Piper said…

The greatest joy is joy in God. This is plain from Psalm 16:11: “You [God] will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Fullness of joy and eternal joy cannot be improved. Nothing is fuller than full, and nothing is longer than eternal. And this joy is owing to the presence of God, not the accomplishments of man. Therefore, if God wants to love us infinitely and delight us fully and eternally, he must preserve for us the one thing that will satisfy us totally and eternally; namely, the presence and worth of his own glory. He alone is the source of full and lasting pleasure. Therefore, his commitment to uphold and display his glory is not vain, but virtuous. God is the one being for whom self-exaltation is an infinitely loving act. 

John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God