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

Siblings as the Best of Friends

When Elijah arrived from his Holy Land Tour last Tuesday it was 12:30 AM so his younger siblings had to wait till the morning to see him. They had been counting the days!

(Elijah took this trip with my parents who took him for his 13th birthday)
Elijah was pretty exhausted so he slept in longer than my other kids did that morning. The cute thing is that Edan sat at the foot of Elijah’s bed, patiently waiting for him to wake up. He just watched Elijah, anticipating the moment when his eyes would open.

As soon as he did, all of my kids pounced on Elijah, hugging him repeatedly. They all started chatting in a lively manner, trying to get his attention, trying to tell him stories about things they did while he was away. At the breakfast table, they spent two hours laughing and engaging one another in conversation. It was obvious that they missed their older brother a lot. Even our two-year old, Catalina said so.

Homeschooling has played a big part in cultivating our children’s deep love and affection for one another. Edric and I almost always get the socialization question when we do Q and A portions in our seminars on homeschooling. Because I am a homeschooling mom, I don’t quite understand why people think that socialization is an issue for homeschoolers. Sure, they may not get to hang out with same-aged peers every single day, but they don’t lack opportunities to have great relationships with other children, especially their siblings.

Most of us have been conditioned to believe that the school setting is where children ought to make friends. Eyebrows of concern are raised when a parent removes a child from this environment and keeps them at home to learn. What friends will they possibly have is a question that a lot of parents worry about as they weigh the pros and cons of home education.

However, let’s be comfortingly realistic. In the Philippines it’s hard to imagine that a homeschooled child can grow up isolated, lonely, and socially awkward just because they don’t go to a school and have classmates. First of all, even without counting siblings, the number of cousins most Filipino kids have is astounding! Furthermore, Filipinos naturally congregate and get together. For example, there isn’t a week that goes by without the celebration of someone’s birthday.

Plus, homeschoolers also meet with other homeschooling families and form coops or playgroups that meet regularly. Most homeschool families I know have to tone down their social activities in order to get their academics done!

Therefore socialization really isn’t an issue at all. Sadly, I think the greater issue is that children are herded together in classrooms in a very unnatural way. After all, when a child leaves school and moves on to work or start a business or pursue a profession, they are almost never in a predicament that looks or feels like a classroom.

So, while children need relationships, let’s not make the mistake of thinking that they are better off developing these outside of the home. A study by The Family Pediatrics said that “when the family environment enables their (children’s) needs to be met, children generally turn out well, both socially and psychologically…The ability to cope with and adjust to life problems and demands is based upon psychological foundations of early family experiences.” (www.kon.org/urc/v5/mahalihali.html )

Personally, I believed that home provides the most natural context for children to grasp and enjoy the beauty of relationships…what it means to love, forgive, accept, and sacrifice for one another. Socialization has actually become a compelling reason for Edric and I to keep homeschooling. It gives our children the opportunity to practice relationships principles day in and day out.

Tonight, Edric and I went out on a date and came home early. It was 7:45 PM and we spied on our children as we snuck up the stairs to avoid announcing that we had arrived. We saw them huddle together over a game in our homeschool room, enjoying one another’s company and totally unconscious of our presence. It was a sweet sight to hear their unscripted laughter.

My kids may not have hundreds of friends. They have a good number of friends (most of them homeschooled, too), but for me what’s more important is that they have one another. Although they still squabble and work through their differences as brothers and sisters, they are embracing more and more the wonderful truth that siblings make the best of friends.

I enjoyed the same blessing growing up and today, I still call my siblings my best friends…

Fight with Gentleness

Gentle in the dictionary means considerate, kind and amiable in manner and disposition, not harsh or severe. I want to be like this, especially towards Edric and the kids. But my one big struggle is how I deal with conflict – conflict between Edric and myself when we get into an argument or don’t share the same perspective, and conflict between my children and me when challenges arise as we homeschool.

Edric and I have a great marriage, by God’s grace. However, we butt heads because we are opinionated people and oh, so different. When my opinion sounds even mildly disrespectful, he takes it personally and retaliates, which brings out the wrathful side of me in return. When we both remain prideful, the discussion gets verbally ugly. There’s no shouting or cursing, but we jump right into the crazy cycle of trying to win against each other. It doesn’t end until one of us chooses to be humble and apologize. Thankfully, our conflicts have become less and less heated over the years, but they are still present, and of course, they still hurt.

 With my kids, the challenge is remaining calm and positive while I homeschool. On days when they are all over the place because they are distracted, unmotivated, and uncooperative, it deeply frustrates me. I find myself mouthing out negative statements or giving dramatic speeches to guilt-trip them into listening to me. Neither of these methods helps us homeschool better or improves our relationship with one another.

   

  

Thankfully, I read a passage in Colossians that got me thinking about this idea of fighting with gentleness:

Have the right perspective. We need to look at circumstances with spiritual lenses. Sometimes, the earthly and material world can seem so big and important. But we are to look to the greater life we have in Christ, not the one we have died to.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

When I start to think, I’m so irritated at Edric right now, or so annoyed with my kids, I have to ask myself, What is causing this anger? What is the source, the root of the conflict I am in? Is it something that really matters in the grand scheme of eternity?

95% of the time, the issues I encounter between Edric and myself, and my children are trivial when I look upon them with heavenly lenses. The other day I reacted to my five-year old daughter, Tiana, when she kept reversing her numbers as I was teaching her math. I was upset because she repeats this mistake often. But then I stopped myself as I looked at her face and saw her sweet puppy dog eyes studying my expression. At that moment, she knew I was irritated. So, I had a choice. I could continue making her feel inadequate or I could protect her heart, which is infinitely more important than pressuring her to perfect math skills as a five year old. After I changed my tone, adding cheer and sweetness to it, her confidence revived itself and she diligently finished her work.

Put aside the old and put on the new. It’s normal to struggle with our old nature. But God reminds us that we are dead to it. We are no longer children of wrath who are enslaved to sin, unable to please God, and destined for destruction. Therefore we can’t think or behave like we still are.

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” Colossians 3:5-8

As we put aside our sinful nature, we are to put on our new nature in Christ. We are to put on Christ-likeness. Yesterday, I had a crazy schedule that turned circumstances into the perfect context for a conflict with Edric. I brought my five kids to violin, piano, ballet (for the girls), basketball (for the boys), Filipino class, conducted a talk on choosing curriculum, and went to the grocery without yayas to help me. While I managed to bounce around from one venue and activity to another, I also had to think through the menu for the couple’s bible study we were hosting that evening.

At 4:30 pm, Edric called me twice but I didn’t hear my phone ringing because it was on silent mode. I called him back and he asked where I was. He informed me we had to go home earlier than expected to meet with one of the couples before our study (a meeting he forgot to inform me about). Although I was at the tail end of my shopping, he was already outside of his office, waiting on the street with the kids to be picked up. He was hot and tired, and concerned that we would be late.

I arrived about fifteen minutes later with a vehicle stuffed full of groceries, violins, gym bags and basketballs. Edric didn’t appreciate being greeted by this chaotic mess. Since our van was color-coded we were using a smaller vehicle which meant that only two rows were usable for seven of us and a driver. I held Catalina on my lap, Elijah and Edan sat in the front together while sharing a seatbelt, Tiana positioned herself in between the two front seats facing the back seats (a very precarious position), and Edric and Titus squeezed in beside me.

We were probably breaking a number of MMDA rules. Edric challenged me with the question, “What was your plan?”

Honestly, this was my plan. It was a bad plan. I surveyed all the bodies in the vehicle and the back rows stacked to the ceiling with our belongings and groceries and thought, Okay, this was a dumb of me.

As soon as I could, I apologized and asked for Edric’s forgiveness. He was quiet. (I might have spied some steam coming out his ears as he attempted to stay cool.) I prayed that he would not be reactive and he wasn’t!

For a split second, my old self wanted to turn the tables around. I wanted to point out that Edric didn’t inform me about our meeting with our couple friends so he had no reason to fault me for being late. I also wanted to point out that he was kind of giving me the cold shoulder even after I apologized. However, if I had gone this route, I am certain that a marital version of World War III would have ensued. Thankfully, the Lord reminded me to practice gentleness by being humble and quiet. It worked!

The next part of Colossians 3 says, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians (3:9-11)

Remember you identity. God tells us that we are loved, not just loved, but beloved (a word that means cherished and treasured). Because God sees us as special, we have nothing to prove. Instead, we have everything to improve to live up to this identity.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” (Colossians 3:12)

A few months ago my good friends and family members were involved in a special needs event for children called A Night to Shine. It was sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation with the aim of making special needs children feel like kings and queens for the night. Something magical happened as these special needs children were treated like royalty. According to the volunteers, not a single one of them acted up, threw a tantrum or misbehaved. In a gathering of about 500 people, this was a miracle! They responded so positively to the value and worth attributed to them.

Similarly, when we know how much God loves us, it motivates us to be our best. In a conflict scenario, this translates to the ability to surrender our rights instead of proving that we are right. We can anchor our security and sense of worth in Christ, not in the way other people treat us or fail to love us.

Choose to forgive and to love. Two days ago I cried in the bathroom as I tried to understand one of my sons. He pushed my buttons in all the wrong ways this past week. It deeply aggravated me and I was harsh with him. I told God, “I don’t know what to do. Can you help me, Lord?”

God’s reminder to me was to continue to forgive and love my children no matter what. Being a wife and a mother is a ministry. Ministry is messy and ministry always requires God’s grace and dependence on Him.

In my parents’ 40+ years of serving the Lord, their greatest obstacles have been dealing with people. But I never saw them lose their temper or bad mouth people who slandered, criticized, or disagreed with them. Not once did they speak with bitterness about them in front of my siblings and me. They may have expressed their sadness and concern but they never gave us cause to hate the persons who hurt them. Instead they would encourage us to pray.

Although I think my parents are wonderful, I know that it is Christ in them that enabled and still enables them to forgive and love people. They understand that ministry is about living out the grace of God, the manifestation of which is forgiveness and love. Do they always feel like it? Of course not. They are human. But forgiveness and love are superhuman choices we CAN all make when we know what Christ has done for us.

“…bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:13-14)

Pursue unity. In a day and age when people are divided over so many issues, Christ-following families should have homes defined by unity and peace. People need convincing proof that Christ is real, and I believe one of the best ways to demonstrate this is to pursue unity with one another. What is the secret to unity? As the verse below reveals, it is love.

“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14)

There are times when I say that I forgive Edric or I ask for his forgiveness, but my statements are devoid of real love. I just mouth them out because I want to end the conflict. But without love, unity is not attainable. I end up harboring resentment in my heart or developing negative attitudes toward Edric.

How can my heart move towards him when there is so much standing in the way of doing so? How can there be peace when apologies and forgiveness are superficial? The application for me is to apologize in love and forgive in love in order to attain unity, and unity in turn will invite peace.

Be saturated with the Word of God. The devil specializes in filling our minds with deceitful thoughts. To counter these lies, we need to be filled with God’s truth.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell with you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual sons, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

I can’t lose my temper when I’m meditating on something like Proverbs 15:1 which advises, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

God’s Word is powerful, living and active. The more we read it, the more influence it will have over our thoughts and actions, conforming these to do what pleases God.

Be thankful. In Colossians 3:1-17, being thankful is mentioned three times so it must be important. The last part ends with this: “Whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I respect Edric. Since meetings and activities required me to be in his office a lot this week, I got to observe him closely. It made me appreciate how hard he works, the stress he has to deal with, and the difficult choices he has to make. What a guy!

I tanked up on positive thoughts about him, so when he was annoyed with me yesterday for missing his calls, being late, and stuffing the vehicle full of groceries, it was easier not to be negative in response. Furthermore, during our couple’s group, I also told him that I have great respect for the choices he makes because they reveal his deep love for God. This made him a little teary eyed and it was a tender moment. But the point is this…when I have an attitude of thankfulness to the Lord for Edric and even my kids, I am less likely to focus on the things they do that upset me, and more likely to respond with gentleness.

  
Gentleness is a great and powerful virtue. I’m discovering that it is one of the best ways to deal with conflicts and to preserve unity in our home. And here’s a great promise to inspire us, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Now it’s time to apply, apply, apply!

Junior Preneur 2016

This is our children’s first time to join the Junior Preneur event. It’s been a difficult two weeks for them because they did a project that was technical and involved many stages. They made concrete geometric forms to hold succulents.

 First, they developed templates for the molds, measuring them out meticulously. Then they created the molds using cardboard, duct tape and polycarbonate. (The polycarbonate was a pain to cut. That was my job!) Afterwards, they mixed several batches of concrete, both light and dark, with sand and without sand, depending on the desired effect. Once the concrete was ready, it was poured into the molds and left to cure for several hours. Twenty four hours was the ideal time period. At the beginning we were all so eager to see the finished products that we prematurely opened the molds. This was a disaster!

   
   
After multiple tries and fails, they finally got a cement mix formula that worked well and they followed the right curing time. The succulents were placed in the geometric planters, ready to be sold. 

   

 The final step was preparing their booth concept. Thankfully, Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas (both for the geometric designs that inspired the kids and how to create an organic look for their display). 

    
 I don’t know if this product is a repeat but the hard work and character training was certainly worth it. Furthermore, I got to know my kids’ personalities better in the process. 

My eldest, Elijah, is a perfectionist and struggled immensely each time we failed. He had to deal with disappointment and follow through even if it wasn’t easy to keep going. Edan, my second son, experienced getting dirty and uncomfortable which he usually avoids. Mixing the concrete and pouring it into the molds was a messy activity. He also got to execute his sense of orderliness when he set up an assembly line system for the finishing stages. Titus, my third son, tried his best to contribute where he could and he didn’t complain even if some of the tasks were beyond his ability level. My daughter, Tiana, was positive and cheery as usual but it made a big difference when she would sing spontaneously to lighten everyone’s mood. Catalina got in everyone’s way but her siblings decided to give her tasks to keep her productively busy.  

As for me, I had to block off the past two weeks to prioritize helping them. So there was no writing for me. Plus I smelled like concrete powder almost every day! But I thoroughly enjoyed the bonding and fellowship that transpired between the kids and me. And I never get bored doing artistic or craft-related things. 

At the end of it all, the struggle to come up with a business idea and execute it was obstacle-ridden, exhausting, and discouraging. But, as my husband, Edric, so wisely put it, “Hard work is a reward in itself.” This is so true. 

    

  
 The kids may not recover their monetary investment (or mine!) but they invested in a learning experience that taught them skills, character traits and values that will allow them to be wiser entrepreneurs in the future.

Courageous Caitie’s Legacy

I have been scrolling through messages and posts about Courageous Caitie and it’s difficult to swallow the ending that today gave us. She passed away this morning after her platelet count dropped to 1 and her oxygen levels were critical.

When I found out, an hour later, on my way to the bathroom to take a break from my homeschooling, I was in shock. Maybe a part of me expected the worst given the recent updates on Caitie’s page. But a part of me also hoped for the miracle we all did, the chapter in her story we all prayed for – supernatural, physical healing.

Wouldn’t that have been a testimony?! Wouldn’t that have brought glory to the Lord, a triumph to give the watching world cause to believe that God answers the prayers of his children, especially those who love and follow Him?

I really hoped for this. I don’t think I had as much faith as Caitie’s mom did to believe that it could actually happen, but I certainly hoped it would. Several exchanges between Tine (Feliz) Lucas and myself through Viber brought more encouragement to me than my attempts at sending verses and warm messages did for her.

She always concluded our online conversations with a firm belief that God’s promises of healing in His Word were spoken just for Caitie. But I also know she felt like giving in to the fear and the doubt many times. Doctor Joy, Caitie’s pediatrician, and Tine’s sister, Jen, are friends of mine and they told me she wasn’t always feeling strong. They would ask for prayer support. And whenever possible, I sought updates from them, not wanting to bother Tine constantly because I knew she was dealing with a lot. Yet, even Tine’s vulnerability to those closest to her and the glimpses of it she revealed online sounded like strength to me. What mom could’ve survived the months she did, in the way she did? She is a hero to me. So is Jay Jay.

They became heroes to all of us. I don’t know if I could have posted updates and prayer requests as often as they thought to. But it was their faithful chronicles of Caitie’s journey that invited people to be a part of it. Somehow, even if Caitie’s condition baffled everyone because of its complexity and rarity, we all found something familiar in her life’s story that resonated with us.

As a mom, my heart ached and broke each time I saw Tine’s posts, especially the ones that desperately sought prayer. And the photos…oh, the photos! They were honest and tender, and sometimes too difficult to look at.

This afternoon, I find myself confronted with the reality of Caitie’s passing and there’s no way to dismiss it without considering the gravity of what just happened. Courageous Caitie, the little spirited girl whom thousands cheered on and supported through prayer, giving, fundraising, and writing about, breathed her last in the arms of her loving parents. She inspired the best in all of us as we saw her fight hard till the very end.

I sat around the table at lunch, shortly after I found out she died, my children’s laughter invading the grief in an almost assaulting way. They were teasing one another. I picked up Catalina who reached up to be held and put her on my lap. This looked too pretty a picture compared to the one I just saw – Jay Jay and Tine cradling Caitie’s still body.

   
 The tears began to fall. I wanted to appreciate that my children were living, breathing, and eating their lunch, but I also wanted to be alone for a while.

“Why are you crying, mom?” Elijah asked.

I excused myself from the table and hid in the guest room, leaving the kids to their bantering and teasing. Catalina followed me, of course. She always does. I hugged her tightly. Caitie wasn’t much older than she was.

Catalina traced the line of my tears and also asked, “Why are you crying?”

“Someone’s baby died.” This was the easiest way for me to explain it to her.

“Oh, someone died?” She looked concerned. If she only understood.

Someone died, Lord. Not just anyone, too. After all that fighting, why not the gift of a miracle? It feels like a cosmic let down to everyone who was looking on.

I struggled to grasp God’s plan in all of this, for Tine and Jay Jay’s sake, especially.

As they pack up Caitie’s belongings, thumb through her art work and homeschool work, and look on the empty bed where her form once was, I know it’s going to hurt like heck. I know they believe that God has a plan because they want to trust Him, but I also know that their memories will cling to images of Caitie and their hearts will long for her. They will feel the void and the loss like no one else will, and I can’t imagine what that will be like.

At a time like this, it may seem insensitive to mouth out bible passages, but I find that it is God’s very Word that fills in the space which Caitie’s death has left behind. Right now that space looks like a dark, empty hole into which faith might collapse. It’s easy to doubt the nature of God as loving, good, and sovereign when a parent loses their child.

A few months ago, I read Philip Yancey’s book called Why? The Question that Never Goes Away. He wrote, “From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way.”

He also quoted poet Christian Wiman who, in his meditation, My Bright Abyss, made this statement. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, My God, my God, why has though forsake me?…The point is that he felt human destitution to its absolute degree; the point is that God is with us, not beyond us, in suffering.”

Yancey goes on to say, “Christ is God crying I am here. Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.” (pg. 54 – 56)

God doesn’t always give us the miracle we hope for on this earth. But it isn’t because He doesn’t care. He sent His son, Jesus Christ to enter into our pain. The book of Isaiah described Christ as “despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; It was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2-6)

Furthermore, our understanding of healing is limited to physical relief and restoration. These are earth-bound fixes. Yet God’s plan for healing finds its truest meaning in eternity. When Christ died and rose again, He conquered death. Therefore those who believe in Him will also conquer death.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immorality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immorality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Caitie loved Jesus. Even in her young age, she understood that He died for her sins and she gave her life to Him. She was courageous for Him. I have no doubts that Caitie is alive and well in heaven with the Lord. The miracle of her story was not that doctors cured her cancer but that Jesus gave her life – eternal life.

It’s not coincidental that Caitie passed away right after the week when people gave most attention to Jesus Christ and celebrated His resurrection. Even in her death, she testifies to what He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

What a sweet promise to revive our crushed hope. This is not the end of Caitie’s story, as it isn’t the end of God’s story for each of our lives. He is a redeemer and he never wastes our pain.

Yancey told the story of Jerry Sittster, author of the books A Grace Disguised and A Revealed. He was a professor of Whitworth College who lost his wife, mother, and four-year old daughter in a tragic car accident when a drunk driver hit them. In A Grace Disguised, which speaks of what happened, he composed, “The loss brought about by the accident had changed my life, setting me on a course down which I had to journey whether I wanted to or not. I was assigned both a tremendous burden and a terrible challenge. I faced the test of my life. One phase of my life had ended; another, the most difficult, was about to begin.”

Twenty years later, in A Grace Revealed, he surmised, “Eventually, we will live happily ever after, but only when the redemptive story ends, which seems a long way off. In the meantime, you and I are somewhere in the middle of the story, as if stuck in the chaos and messiness of a half-finished home improvement project. We might have one chapter left in our story, or we might have fifty. We could experience more of the same for years to come, or we could be on the verge of change so dramatic that if we knew about it we would faint with fear or wonder, or perhaps both. We could be entering the happiest phase of our lives, or the saddest. We simply don’t know and can’t know…In my mind there is only one good option: we must choose to stay in the redemptive story. However unclear it might be to us, we can trust that God is writing the story.” (Pg. 61 – 62)

We do not know the course our lives will take on this earth, nor do we know if our children will be spared from the ills that are in this fallen world. Like the Lucas family, we may face similar trials. However, we can know the Divine Architect who has a master plan for everything we go through. His redemptive story for you and for me is that we experience the love and grace He displayed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and enter into a personal relationship with Him that will continue for all eternity.

On Courageous Caitie’s timeline either Tine or Jay Jay wrote, “I miss you Caitie. But I’m glad were able to give you great family memories here on earth.” However, beyond the earthly memories of family and the precious moments they shared together, I do believe the most important gift that Tine and Jay Jay gave to Caitie was the gift of knowing Christ. Indeed, they did the one most loving thing they could ever do for her as parents – they prepared Caitie for her eternal home.

I was reminded that this is the most loving thing that we can do for the people we love, too. We do not know how long we will have to love the people God has surrounded us with. Let us make Caitie’s life count by passing on the miracle of Christ’s love to our spouses, our children, our families and friends. Caitie fought hard to teach us this and she died to remind us not to hold back, waste time, squander opportunities, or trade the lesser things for the greater things.

Thank you, Jay Jay and Tine for sharing Courageous Caitie’s journey with us. You raised a beautiful, special girl who lived for an exemplary purpose — to bring the hearts of the broken to the healing arms of Christ, where she is smiling, waiting there for you. 

  

 

Highlights of 2015

 

Before January gets really busy, I would like to thank the Lord for the year that was and thank you, my readers, for taking the time to visit this blog. Your comments, messages, and prayers have been a blessing to me, and a motivation to keep writing whenever I get lazy or tired. Many of you have come up to me in person, too, to take hold of my arm and whisper that this site has been a part of your life, and you can’t imagine how your words have brought me joy.

I slowed down a little bit this year with writing, primarily because it felt like our family lived two years in one this 2015. This was probably the most hectic year I’ve ever survived. Writing kind of took a backseat at times to give way to motherhood and wife duties, homeschooling, ministry, work, speaking, traveling, or much needed rest. But this site is still important to me and I haven’t lost the desire or drive to keep using this site as a means to reach out to people and talk about what God is doing in my life, marriage and parenting. This is what keeps me pressing on.

Indeed, He did much in 2015. I would even call it the best year I have ever lived. God is amazing in this way. Every year that I walk with Him, every year that I give to Him turns into the best year. This doesn’t mean that my family and I are free from problems or crises, but it does mean that His grace and faithfulness abound.

These were my personal highlights of 2015 and I hope that going through these will remind you that God is a loving Father who knows the needs of his children, the desires of their hearts, the purposes He has called them to, the mistakes they make, and the correcting that is painful but necessary along the way.

Our family capped off 2014 and welcomed 2015 with a trip to the U.S., where we survived a month without household help, the cold, and learned to serve each other through sleepless nights and endless chores. We came back to Manila in the second week of January recharged and ready to jump into 2015.

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One of my first challenges was running in a 21K, which I thought was going to be a killer but Edric and I got through it by God’s grace! (I actually finished ahead of him which was another surprise but I couldn’t have run it without him so he helped me “beat” him.)

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Soon after we had our family commercial for Cetaphil which was an unexpected blessing. Catalina acted up a couple of times which is why she wasn’t in the final video edit but they included her in the print materials. Edan actually had a fever that started the day of the shoot (look at the photo below and his eyes), but he was a real trooper and the team behind the production was very easy to work with. It’s been a privilege to be brand ambassadors for a product line we really believe in and use as a family.

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Shortly after, Meg Magazine featured my testimony. They asked me to talk about how God brought healing to my life.

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Our homeschooling had its highlights, too. Edan discovered an interest in botany. He grew his carnivorous plants for a season. Unfortunately they eventually died which was a lowlight but he continues to be interested in animals and plants. Looks like we will be buying more carnivorous plants again this year!

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Elijah graduated from elementary and moved on to high school! This opened a new chapter in our homeschooling, especially for me! More grace, strength, and wisdom needed from the Lord!

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Titus took his first achievement test and did well! He also excellent at math this year which I didn’t even know was a strong point for him. But praise God. He knows that I’m not the best math teacher. I also discovered that Titus has a God-given musical talent. He started harmonising at the age of 6 and taught himself to do this!

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My fourth child, Tiana, started to read which was a big milestone!

 

 Catalina, my youngest, became a real a chatterbug. She grew in her ability to express herself and comprehend, and has showed an inclination to learn and be part of our homeschooling. She got exiled many times because she was disruptive but I hope to include her as often as possible this year.

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One of the kids’ homeschool field trips was to Costales where they learned about organic farming. God saved Ethan (my nephew on the right) from drowning, too! He got sucked down a drain and it’s a miracle that he popped out the other end and my brother was able to pull him out!

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Over the summer the boys attended Coach Siot’s basketball camp, which they will be joining again at the end of this month. They learned to push themselves physically.

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They also enrolled in Ninja Academy’s Parkour course, which has been incredibly fun for them. What boy doesn’t want to learn to scale walls, jump over bars, free fall off a ledge, and swing from ropes?

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Tiana finally made it through her ballet classes without crying through them. She turned out to be quite a graceful dancer (most probably from Edric’s side of the family).

The boys improved immensely in their violin playing.

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We also got to fix our homeschool room which made a big difference in our kids’ daily learning.

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God opened up opportunities to be featured on television to talk about homeschooling. The first was on CNN’s Mommy Hacks.

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I was also interviewed about homeschooling for Mommy Mundo’s new show which should be airing soon!

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Throughout the year, the kids spoke with us during retreats, business speaking engagements, and other ministry activities. This was a great way for them to use their communication skills to bless people.

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Our homeschool Coop gave our kids the opportunity to develop some great friendships. I also enjoyed connecting with other homeschool moms and team teaching with them. By the end of the year, when we celebrated our Christmas party, we were nearly 100 people! We had to cater the party!

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Our coop covered culinary arts, art history and theory, speech, ethics, apologetics, science, social studies, history, and it culminated with a Kid’s Praise musical thanks to the talented moms who contributed their expertise for directing, teaching dance, singing, and designing the set. The kids performed for an audience of underprivileged children at Revelation Church in Sta. Mesa.

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TMA Homeschool did some much needed expanding this year. We did several roadshows to connect with homeschoolers around the Philippines…

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TMA Homeschool also moved into its new office to help serve parents better, and Learning Plus, our homeschool bookstore, opened to provide curriculum and homeschool-related materials to parents. Our guests from the U.S., Mike Donnelly of Homeschool Legal Defense Association, and Davis and Rachel Carman of Apologia Press graced the ribbon cutting.

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The portal, Homeschooling Solutions, became available for families who can’t come to the Learning Plus Bookstore because they live farther away or out of the country. Materials are delivered within 48 hours. A lot of non-TMA Homeschool families used this site for their homeschooling needs.

We had two big homeschool conferences this year. Set Them Up for Success and Ready for the World, where we partnered with Manila Workshops ,  The Learning Basket and HAPI. These events brought the homeschool community together.

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On the Family Ministry front, God provided an amazing team to mount three very special events —  The Before and After I D seminar for engaged and newly married couples, Family and Finance, and Counterflow. We intend to make these events a yearly thing for young couples and families who want to know more about biblical marriage, finance, and parenting.

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Here’s a super big one which was made possible only by God’s amazing grace! My book, When A Good God Allows Rape, got published and was launched at the Manila International Book Fair by OMF Lit Publishing. It’s now available in bookstores around the country like National Bookstore, Pages, OMF Lit, and as a online ebook via Amazon, buqo, and others.

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Writing the book opened doors for me to talk more about the Lord. On CNN Philippines’ Real Talk the hosts devoted the entire 45 minutes to asking me questions about my book and my faith in Christ! I was thrilled! My dream for this book is that it will inspire people to follow Jesus. May He get all the glory!

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We had some favourite family photoshoots over the year. The first was done by Mayad Studios, who ventured into lifestyle photography with their Mayad Beginnings. They captured our family so naturally. 

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Another one was done by Alex Adiaz, which we also appreciated very much. He shot this one in our backyard.

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Another super highlight was Elijah getting baptized. 

 Yet another personal favourite of 2015 was how God worked in our Thursday couples’ group. We grew closer to the Lord and to one another, and most of us got to attend The Executive Couple’s Retreat in Baguio Country Club, where we learned and re-learned marriage principles. Some of us also served by facilitating other couples’ groups.

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As a group, we put together a surprise wedding for the Avelinos. This really knit our hearts together in a special way.

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Our bigger discipleship group family grew, too! Unfortunately we didn’t get to see everyone as often as we wanted to because we moved far from the area where we used to meet every week. But, we got together for “trimester” fellowships. These people are our extended spiritual family for life and we love them dearly!

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The year had some sad turns. Steve, who was like family, died tragically a day before he turned 30. My grandfather, angkong to us, passed away at 96. Both knew the Lord so we shall see them again, but it was difficult to lose both of them.

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We didn’t do too well in the pet department. We lost three of our Siamese cats – one committed suicide off the top of our roof, and two got run over by crazy drivers. Our Myna bird fell over in its cage and expired, and several of our fish were found floating lifeless in their tank. We also had to give away two dogs to more deserving and caring owners. (They are still alive and much happier now.) We hope to have less tragedies with our animals in 2016.

  
Our family also lost a very loyal and hard working household help who went to work abroad. We gave her our full blessing and support but she continues to be missed.

A definite high was celebrating the wedding of Edric’s sister, Danie to Vince Valdepenas. 

(null)(null)I started sewing dresses this year. I sewed the dress I wore for the wedding and made 6 yards of mistakes in the process! Experience is the best teacher! Thankfully, the material was only P80/yard. Ssh.

Another endorsement fell into our laps when we were asked to do an online commercial for Vernel Fabric Softener as a family. We love these family endorsements! We are so thankful! It’s an undeserved bonus from God whenever we are asked to do these things.

 (null)The year ended with a number of parties and engagements (my last count was about 20) but my favourite part was being with family (Edric’s side and my side). The Mendozas were almost complete for Christmas this year. The Tan-Chis most definitely were which was extra special for all of us.

We left a spot for Edric’s sister, Nicky, who was terribly missed.

My sister, Carolyn and her husband, Joel, were MIA in this photo because she gave birth over the holidays. But we were together for opening presents on December 26th.

 

 

I am a pretty simple gal. Edric and I always have a lot going on, but my best memories of the year were the quiet ones… being at home, enjoying our house (we finally completed a year in it), exploring the outdoors as a family, getting to know our kids better and growing closer to one another, playing board games, curling up on the couch for some me-time, watching movies, going on dates with Edric, eating around our kitchen table…These are the moments that made up the best of 2015 for me.

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 When I take stock of this year, I am thoroughly amazed at God’s hand in everything. There’s no success mentioned here that can be attributed to Edric or myself. Everything that happened that was good was due to God’s grace. Everything that happened that was unfortunate was part of his grand plan. 

I’m posting this in the middle of our fasting week as a church, while I am praying for God’s direction and leading for 2016. A few days ago I began by asking Him, “Lord what is your will for me this year?” I expected answers like, “Say yes to this speaking engagement or say no to this one,” or, “Pursue this venture,” or, “Write another book,” or, “Do this for your homeschooling,” etc. Instead, this was the answer I received:

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

“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done fore. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” John 15:7-11

We all want to experience a life of joy. I certainly do. And sometimes I mistakenly think that what I do with my abilities will determine how great a year I will have. But God simplified it for me when he said, “Love Me. Abide in My Love. Obey My commandments.” This is the path to a life of joy, a year of joy!

So my new year’s resolution is not a long list of things I would like to do or avoid. Instead it is dedicating 2016 to loving God, and abiding in His love by obeying His commands. How does God want you to live your 2016?

 

 

 

Eagle Point Resort

We spent the last couple of days at Eagle Point Resort with Edric’s family. The beach is always a hit with the Mendozas. Our kids can never get enough of sand and water. 

    

This was our third time to visit Eagle Point. The food has certainly improved over the years. Buffet meals are reasonable and kids can eat at 50% off. The rooms are Spartan but they are affordable and they can accommodate large families (which works great for us). Plus, who stays in a room when the beach and sun beckon? 

Eagle point is more of a dive resort even if it has direct access to the sea. It doesn’t haven’t a decent beach front. But there’s some great snorkeling, diving and kayaking right off the “dock”.  Two sets of pools with waterfall elements keep the kids busy, plus there’s a pool with baby sharks to swim in, too. To maximize our stay, we took a boat to Sepoc Island where the beach was very wide. We rented snorkels and masks at Eagle Point (better to bring your own). 

Just a few meters from the shore we saw all kinds of fish and coral. This time of year the shoreline was pebbly because of corals, but closer to the tree line, the sand got very soft. The little kids spent an endless number of hours digging and building in the sand.        

  

    

    
My father-in-law organized a series of feats and games for us. He likes being a game master and he knows how to rally everyone together to engage in healthy competition. Some of his bible study group came along which added to the fun.
  

 

It was a tie! “W” for winners!

To end the day, Edric, Elijah and I ran to the peak of the hill where the panoramic view was spectacular.
  

    
2015 came to a close, and after 20+ get togethers/parties, this was the best way to ease into the new year…with the family I love, reveling in the beauty of God’s creation! 

 

Number Our Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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