The Respectable Husband/Father

With permission from my husband, Edric, I am writing this entry.

“If I want my family to respect me, I need to be respectable.” His exact quote.

He said this in reference to an activity that he believed he needed to give up. It was a hobby that was neither wrong or sinful, however he felt like it wasn’t a profitable use of his time. Furthermore, he was concerned about being a good example to our kids, especially our sons.

Since two years ago, I intentionally kept silent about my own perspective on this hobby because I didn’t want to be a nag about it or force him to change. I tried that approach and it usually ended up in some sort of marital version of world war. So I prayed about it. Finally, I accepted it as one of those unchangeable aspects of his person that I would be positive about. In fact, I asked him every once in a while, “When are you going to hang out with the guys again?”

However, he had his own epiphany about it. He discerned that he needed to spend “every centavo and hour for the cause of Christ.” Furthermore, he communicated to me that there are more meaningful ways to use his time.

Praise God! Incidences like this one are proof that God is continually at work in the lives of those whom I love. When I surrender them and trust that God will do the changing and transforming, he certainly works in ways that amaze me.

My husband has loved this pastime for many years. It was a source of conflict between us in the early part of our marriage because I thought it was juvenile and a waste of valuable time. But my attempts to convince him were futile. His arguments were more valid than mine.

First, it wasn’t anything immoral. Second, guys need “healthy” outlets for their pent up testosterone and for their stress. Third, he enjoyed hanging out with his like-minded guy friends — GOOD family guys who shared the same values and perspectives on marriage and parenting. So I stopped talking.

When he came to his own conclusions about this hobby I knew that the activity had run its course and proven to lack the draw it once had on Edric. He had changed and matured spiritually and emotionally. The pastime was no longer congruent with the greater sense of purpose that gripped him. This didn’t mean he would never revisit it. But he did not justify it the same way he used to.

Edric’s change of heart convicted me. (This is what happens when a husband/father demonstrates spiritual leadership in the home. Even though I respected him before this, I respected him even more for being an example to emulate in the area of time management.)

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Over the past year, I have been indulging in my own form of unprofitable hobby-ing. Watching TV series. I don’t even like to watch television! But a friend of ours gave us a hardrive with TV series like Elementary, Nikita, Arrow, Men Who Built America, and so on. This began after I have birth.

Some of these shows were a convenient and entertaining way for me to pass the time while breastfeeding in the evenings. I would watch several episodes in one sitting. This pushed my early sleeping hour to near midnight and sometimes later.

With the disruption in my normal sleeping habits, I woke up tired. To recuperate, I needed a few more hours to rest. As a result, early morning runs were sacrificed, bible reading became less consistent, and my homeshooling began later than usual. It was like a snowball effect. I wanted to stop but I was hooked on the story threads.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭3‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

These verses tell me I can’t engage in habits that make my body unsuitable, unhealthy, and unfit for God’s work and purposes. In the Old Testament, the temple was treated as holy and sacred because God’s presence dwelt in it. 1 Corinthians makes this analogy because we are to treat our bodies the same way.

It is a deception to think that I can participate in activities that seem neutral because they don’t have a DIRECT effect on my spiritual walk. Edric and I have discovered that this is a fallacy. All our choices set us on a course toward a destiny. All our choices have spiritual implications.

The Bible tells us, “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”(‭Psalms‬ ‭90‬:‭12‬ NASB)

What am I able to present to the Lord after hours and hours of watching these TV series? They did not make me wiser, not in the godly sense. If I were to be very honest, they made me tired, unhealthy, foggy headed, distracted, addicted to entertainment, more self-centered, more materialistic, less effective at teaching my kids, and a bad model of how to use my time.

So goodbye TV series watching!

I began this entry with Edric’s quote about “being respectable” because I hope it encourages husbands to be mindful of their choices, even when it comes to the area of hobbies and pastimes. The way a husband/father chooses to spend his discretionary time sets an example for his wife and children to follow. What he enjoys and takes pleasure in communicates to them what is valuable and important — what is deserving of the investment of his time, talent, and treasure. I praise God that Edric recognizes that having the respect of his family is more than a position. It is a privilege and a trust given by God to husbands/fathers.

With this privilege and trust comes a responsibility to distinguish between good things, better things, and the best things so that wives and children are encouraged to do the same. Pursuing the best things is God’s will. Jesus came to give people the “abundant life.” Anything less than this is settling for a substandard experience of joy, peace, fulfillment and fruitfulness. If a husband/father wants his family to have an appetite for what is best, he must consider this…

The best things will…

…make him a more effective witness for the gospel of Christ.
…make him more like Christ.
…qualify him to say to his wife and children, “Copy this in me.”

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A Greater Purpose For Learning

I have often told my kids that language skills are important. Reading, writing, composition, and comprehension are all necessary and worth the hours of arduous study and practice required to hone them. They aren’t always eager about my pep talks. But they are beginning to experience why these are valuable beyond the discipline of learning academics.

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As often as possible, we ask our kids to speak with us when we teach at retreats or events. This gives them a venue to apply what they learn. Elijah speaks more frequently with Edric. Edan is getting his own version of speaker’s training as well. The point is to let our kids see how they can be a blessing when they develop a skill or ability that would otherwise seem insignificant to their childhood ambitions and preoccupations.

What kid likes to learn things like grammar and other tools for good communication? My children don’t naturally gravitate towards these disciplines. In fact they would prefer NOT to do their language arts subject. But nowadays they have good reason to.

A person who can read, write and speak well can be used by God to communicate his truth and bless people.

Most young children think of learning as their inescapable day to day reality. They can’t wait for semester and summer breaks. I know this because there was a season of my childhood when I was in a conventional school. I studied but I wasn’t inspired to do so. It was my duty, a responsibility that felt very much like a chore.

On the one hand, kids need to accept that they have to study well whether they like it or not. I had this conversation with Elijah this morning when he told me he wasn’t motivated to do his homeschool work. How wonderfully humbling that this surfaced right after I wrote an article on using creative ways to motivate a child to learn! He is an older child so I tread more carefully with him, trying to respect that he will soon be a young man. I don’t want to be an overbearing mother. But I did tell him that sometimes we decide with our head first and the feelings follow. We may not always feel like doing our responsibilities but we have to. So we make the choice to and God will bless the effort. By the end of the morning his mood changed. (Thank you, Lord.)

Going back to our children’s involvement in public speaking…

This is one way to get our kids to apply what they learn in a very practical manner. But the more valuable reason is we want them to see the bigger picture. Their education is profitable for the fulfillment of God’s plan. If they give their best now to train their minds, they can use their talents and abilities to make a difference for God’s glory.

The Bible tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NASB)

God invites even children to participate in the building if His Kingdom. At a young age, they can serve him and others. They can look beyond subject studies to seek a higher purpose for learning.

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“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭4‬:‭12‬ NASB)

Project Playground: Mission Accomplished

My back was killing me last night after Edric, the kids, and I finished building a playground in our backyard. One of our shared “fantasies” as parents was to give our kids a yard where they can play. And we imagined that they would have a treehouse or some semblance of a playground in it. So last Christmas, Edric and I “invested” in a wooden playground set from HMR. It was a great deal and it came with fun features we knew the kids would enjoy.

Since we moved in to our home with a grass-less yard a few months ago, we waited until the ground was leveled off to start the playground project with the boys.

I did not know my husband was such a handyman, but it was a nice discovery. In fact I think he was challenged by my ignorance of his manly building skills. This fueled his desire to put together the playground with himself as chief builder, Elijah as engineer, Edan as sorter and assistant builder, and Titus as runner. I supplied the cookies.

The first stage was the most difficult. Edric and the boys adjusted to all the manual labor. And getting the foundation right was tricky. I heard them grunting, huffing and puffing. But they got it done. That was day 1.

Edric admitted that despite his inclination to prove his manliness to me, he experienced a moment of weakness at the beginning. He was tempted to delegate the project to the workers who are still at our house. But he realized that caving in would have negated his attempts to teach our sons character traits like perseverance and the blessings of hard work.

There was no way to finish the playground in a day so Edric returned to the project a few days after and spent about 12 total hours upon completion.

I finally joined in on all the fun for the last stretch and I realized how hard it was. Those nuts, washers, bolts, and weld nuts were a pain to sort and use. So many different sizes and applications. They made me crazy. Plus there was the lifting of heavy wood pieces and the unfortunate occurrence of losing the instructions. Somehow it all came together.

We finished at nearly 8 pm, using flashlights to see what we were doing. The kids got to revel in their feelings of accomplishment and test out the accessories of the playground.

I like how Edric put it. “There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing the outcome of physical toil.”

Seeing the playground take form was worth the backache I got. This wasn’t just about building a playground. It was about building a family memory that we can all treasure, and building character in our kids. Some life lessons and experiences are truly worth the investment of physical effort, time and money!

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Not In Front of the Kids

For the most part Edric and I avoid “SHAMING” one another in front of our children. We don’t make each other look bad so that our kids are forced to pick a side when an argument or conflict ensues between the two of us. In fact, we avoid contradicting each other when our kids are around. I said, “for the most part.” There are occasions when we don’t follow this rule because we forget to be more prudent. Unfortunately, our kids end up being spectators to our back and forth dialoguing about who’s perspective is right.

Some weeks ago, the kids joined the Biz Kidz event of TMA Homeschool. Edric encouraged the kids to participate, so the boys and I conceptualized a business idea for their origami hobby. Prior to the Saturday event, the boys and I slaved away. We put together the book they authored and illustrated, had it printed, and worked on the origami products they were planning to sell.

When Saturday came around, we were exhausted. I was frazzled as I finished topping their cupcakes with their origami designs. About two hours before we had to pack up the van, Edric started interrogating me with questions like, “Did you calculate your profit?” “What was the kids’ business proposal?” “Are you guys going to make ANY money?” He went on to criticise my planning skills.

While he thought he was being helpful, his timing couldn’t have been worse. We were about to load the van. I was dead tired from lack of sleep the night before. The kids were excited about the effort they had put into their projects and products. But at that moment, they looked on with discouragement as Edric made his inquisitions and negative comments.

I felt hurt. I couldn’t believe he was cutting me down in front of the kids! Plus, if it mattered to him so much that the kids do a good job on this, then why was he coming in at this point, when we couldn’t do anything about his suggestions? I was discouraged and irritated. His very valuable business perspective could have helped us a lot…two weeks before! These were some of the thoughts raging through my head as I distracted myself with packing our products.

Edric got the inkling that I wasn’t too thrilled about the things he said. I praise God that he has a sensitive gene built in to him that knows when I’m hurt. So he came up to me. I quietly expressed to him how I was feeling…that he had shamed me in front of the kids and that he was discouraging all of us. I praise God that he was humble enough to respond with a public apology. Immediately, he turned 180 degrees around to say sorry to our children.

He repaired his mistake by saying something like this, “Kids will you forgive daddy for saying those things to mommy? I am so proud of you guys and mommy for working so hard!”

That changed the tone of the morning and we went off to Biz Kidz together. He also promised to assist us with the set-up of our booth during the event.

Although, the kids didn’t make a ton of money, they bagged the MOST PROMISING BUSINESS IDEA award. Edric and I were very proud of them.

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I wanted to write this article because I’ve counseled people in the past who feel like they are caught IN-BETWEEN the conflict of their parents. It is very difficult for children to feel pitted against one parent by the other, or forced to take a side. I’ve also witnessed spouses cut-down, embarrass, and criticize their husband or wife with their children present. This sort of family culture breeds contempt, hurt, and stress. It also increases the likelihood that sons and daughters will grow up to do the same to one another, and to their future spouses (and children).

I’m reminded that we need to create a climate of respect for one another in our homes, where we treat our spouses with dignity and honour, and do the same to our children. We may not always favour our spouses’ methods, perspectives, and personality quirks, but we can address these sort of differences privately. And if it isn’t an emergency to get our point across, we can sort out the issues during a more appropriate time.

Yesterday, I came across a poster on Pinterest which read: THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. It proposed very thoughtful questions about the things we say and how we say it.

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Is it inspiring?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

1 Peter 5:5 “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

 

 

 

What Is This Love?

Brazilians are very much like Filipinos — warm, relational, and sincere. It’s been such a joy to interact with them and get to know their culture better. I have to gesticulate to communicate because most Brazilians don’t speak a smidgen of English. I’ve learned a few Portuguese words — obrigada (thank you), todo (total), Deus (God), minha (my), agua (water), bom (good), boa noite (good evening), oferta (special discount), saida (exit), entrada (enter)…

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Over the past week of sitting through the family conference sessions at First Baptist Church of Curutiba, I picked up a couple of insights that have been especially meaningful to me. Two days ago, Pastor Paschoal Pirigine talked about the idea of love as found in Ephesians 5:25.

The text reads, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

What is this love that Christ demonstrated? How can we love our spouses and children in the same way? 

He shared two insights: Love must give itself completely, without limits. Love must reinvent and resurrect itself.

Interestingly, it was observed that people in concentration camps during World War II were of two kinds. The ones who were perceived to be strong, who were most likely to survive, did not. It was those who where weak but cared for others that tended to survive. Why? Because they had something to live for. They loved beyond their own capacities.

We tend to lose perspective about the fact that the God of the universe came to earth in human flesh. The endless had to “fit” into the finite. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

When Jesus sacrificed himself, he died for the sins of the world. He could’ve stopped it all and come off the cross to end his suffering. Yet he gave his life with complete abandon. We may think it was easy to do because he was also divine. However, we know that he struggled with the realities of his limitations when he said, “Father if possible, remove this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done.”

We too are confronted by our limitations so often, especially in the context of a marriage and family. How does a person keep loving a spouse who is unfaithful? How does a mother keep loving a child who is impaired by a disability? How does a child keep loving a parent who is consistently angry and unreasonable?

Some of these limitations seem insurmountable. Yet true love sees beyond the impossible. Against all odds it seeks to exceed its limits for the sake of the person it chooses to love. Christ didn’t come off the cross because he loves us. He came to finish his mission — to die in our place so we might receive forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God.

Do we easily give up on our family members?

Pastor Paschoal told the story of a son who was addicted to drugs. This person was jailed thirty times! When he asked the parents if they felt like giving up, they replied, “We will never give up on our son.”

I don’t know what I would do if my son was this way! The reality is we are used to replacing and forsaking what pushes us to our limits. It’s the easier way out. But the solution to overcoming these limits is to focus on what Christ did on the cross for us.

We must seek to do as Christ did. Love must “raise and reinvent” itself. After Jesus died, he raised himself and “reinvented” his body. He was raised with a new body. We know this because his friends didn’t recognise him right away. Similarly, we must resurrect our love and reinvent it in new forms, expressing it in new ways.

Pastor Paschoal went on to share that at 15, his love for his wife (his girlfriend at the time) was to show up at the seashore to meet her. When there was a flood in their city, his love compelled him to walk through the waters to go to her. At 21, love was to sit down with his young wife and say, “no matter how much we have, we will find a way to go through life together.” Today, loving his wife is to care for her as she struggles through the pain and challenges of an autoimmune disease that is affecting her nervous system. The disease is causing her brain to shrink.

According to Pastor Paschoal love must be reinvented for every phase of life. As each year passes, it should change according to the need of the other. It must be expressed in new ways to communicate itself. It must be resurrected newly, daily, through the seasons and phases of life, through the history of a marriage and a family.

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

I know of a couple who survived the crisis of multiple infidelities on the part of the husband. Because the wife understood Christ-like love, she chose to forgive her husband unconditionally. This resurrected their love. Today, they have a beautiful marriage and they are impacting multitudes for the Lord. Although it didn’t happen overnight, the choice to forgive gave their marriage a fighting chance.

Only love that is amplified by the grace of God allows us to experience what is humanly impossible. Until we recognise what Christ did for us, “how he loved the church and gave himself up for her,” as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, we will not be able to love beyond our limitations or resurrect and reinvent love to meet the needs of our beloved. We need to abide in this love to give of this love.

When we embrace Christ’s love and mirror it in our marriage something amazing happens. A man and a woman who are so different, who come from dissimilar contexts become one person. This is the miracle of love. God creates one person, one life, one family, one dream, one culture.

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

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When I read this, it really ministered to me. It renewed my resolve and commitment to love Edric for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. Why? Because marriage was designed to showcase the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church. Christ will never leave his church, his bride. Christ will never betray or forsake his church, his bride.

Do our marriages display the same truth for our children? For the world? It is this truth that makes a marriage sacred. To love without limitations, to resurrect and reinvent love in our marriages is to declare the gospel — that God is a good and loving God. When this happens society will pay attention and notice. This love will spread from our marriages, to our children, and to the world.

If you want to read a book on marriage that will radically change your perception and understanding of it, click this link:
This Momentary Marriage

Father To Son-In-Law

This is something I should have posted last week, but here it is anyway…

We celebrated a belated Father’s Day with my dad two Tuesday nights ago. Of course we went to his favorite restaurant — Summer Palace in Shang-rila.

There are only four top hits for my dad when it comes to Chinese food…Lugang, Choi Garden, Summer Palace, and Gloria Maris.

He got his Peking Duck and steamed Lapu-Lapu fix so he was very happy. Everyone wrote him letters and cards and he read through each one aloud.

My dad has always appreciated home made cards that tell him what he means to each of us. It’s not a narcissistic thing. Like any good father, he wants to know that he made and is making a positive difference in our lives.

During the dinner, the grand kids hovered around him as he gladly received their written gifts. He was delighted to read everyone’s cards and letters, smiling and adding drama to his voice as he went through each one.

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As the night came to a close, we all asked him to give the fathers at the table his words of wisdom. This was his 3-point, very simple sharing:

1. Assume responsibility for your family’s well being – God has entrusted to you your wife and children. You are to provide physically and spiritually and you are to give direction to your family. You are responsible. Your role cannot be delegated.

2. You have to be intentional. This is about modeling Christ-likeness and spending time with your children to teach them the habits, attitudes, and life principles that will prepare them for true success.

3. Have a positive home environment. Be fun. Do not complain and grumble or focus on the small things. In other words, don’t be reactive or easily irritated.

As I listened to him I appreciated how consistent he was at applying those same things when we were kids. He has truly been an amazing father. It was because of him that all of my siblings and I became committed followers of Jesus. His example, discipline, encouragement, godly leadership, and love for the Lord made us desire to serve and follow Christ, too.

But there is something else I am really thankful for. My dad discipled his sons-in-law. (He continues to do so.) In fact, I teared up when he read Edric’s personal letter to him. Edric shared about how important my dad’s affirmation and positivity have meant to him over the years. He said he learned God-confidence from my dad.

As confident as my husband may seem, he struggled a lot with insecurity when he was younger. For example, one relative told him he was “very ugly,” which kind of scarred him. Another one made him feel like he wasn’t good enough. So he grew up with certain emotional pains that made him feel like he had to continually prove his worth. My dad helped him to understand who he is in Christ.

During a recent retreat, I heard Edric say that his life has been a story of three fathers. His first father (my wonderful father-in-law) raised him and taught him about manhood. His second father, my dad, healed him of childhood insecurities, and led him to the father of all — God the father. Edric’s third father — God — saved his life and brought meaning and purpose to it beyond his own selfish goals and ambitions.

Many years ago, my dad sat down with Edric and told him about Jesus Christ and how to have a personal relationship with him. This changed his life forever.

Before Edric married me, my dad had a “talk” with him about God’s design for sex in marriage. Sounds pretty crazy and awkward but Edric actually appreciated it.

When we got married, my dad mentored and discipled Edric. He invited Edric to join the group of men he met with weekly for accountability and the study of God’s word. And he would ask Edric regularly, “How are you doing, son?” which allowed Edric to share what was on his heart. He also gave Edric opportunities to serve along side him in ministry. My dad would affirm Edric’s gift for speaking which encouraged Edric to preach and teach God’s word to others.

My dad’s presence as a father to Edric made such a difference in Edric’s life, which ultimately, turned out to be beneficial for me and our kids! I got a husband who was mentored by two great dads — his own and mine.

In Edric’s letter to my father he wrote…Inscribed in the British pound is a quotation by Sir Isaac Newton, which reads, “If I have seen farther it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. I want to thank you, dad, for being a giant in my life.”

What a blessing a father can be to his son-in-law when he takes it upon himself to mentor and guide him in love! Thank you, dad!

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Daddy Flashcards

Our family gift to Edric for Father’s Day was a set of “Daddy Flashcards”. I asked the kids to give descriptive words or phrases about Edric as a dad, and they came up with sentences to support their descriptions. Then we laminated the cards to make them look more “official.” (I love my laminator!) Edan helped me with this part. And presto…
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The kids wrote their cards for him, too.
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I was especially moved by Elijah’s letter.

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Edric’s favorite sort of presents are home-made ones. If we just got him a gift and didn’t write a card he would feel really sad. So this time no purchased gift but he was all smiles! Yeah!

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Consider Wearing and Using “Belly Armor”

I wish I had known about Belly Armor by RadiaShield while I was pregnant, especially since I was on electronic devices quite often, using my IPad and IPhone to write entries. Thankfully Catalina can still use the Belly Armor blanket and I can cover myself when “working” on my gadgets too. But it’s most beneficial for pregnant women who don’t need to give their babies unnecessary radiation exposure. The biggest plus is having peace of mind that you did your best to protect your unborn child from radiation. Why do I find out about cool stuff like this after the fact?!

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RadiaShield carries light-weight and luxe blankets for mommies and babies:

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Tees:

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Belly bands:

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For more information check out: Belly Armor Learn about the hazards of exposing your family to radiation from electronic devices and how you can protect those who are most susceptible — babies and children.

Here’s my little Catalina playing around in her Belly Armor blanket. Thanks Jem Perez for this very thoughtful gift! Love it!

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The Magic of Unconditional Love

The kids and I spent the morning at Splash Island with my siblings and their kids a few days ago. We were having a belated celebration for one of my nieces who turned 7. It was my first time to visit Splash Island and I would give it a 6 out of 10 for cleanliness and upkeep, an 9 out of 10 for fun.

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From a parent’s perspective the hygiene and sanitation factor is important to me, especially since I have little kids who often put their fingers in their mouths and swallow pool water all the time. But my kids could care less about these things. They were laughing about the frog that was swimming in the water, which the lifeguard nonchalantly picked up and chucked out of the pool, and the dark mold which made creepy patterns in the water tube slide (according to Titus).

Regardless of how Splash Island has aged over the years, the kids had a blast. Some of them even liked it better than Imperial Palace (a beautiful, world-class water park in Cebu).

Unfortunately, two unpleasant things happened during our water park morning. Elijah lost his very expensive prescription glasses, and Edan’s old and ugly crocs were stolen. (I find it hard to believe that anyone would have wanted those shoes!)

The day began with the kids bouncing around in the huge wave pool. Since I had gone to the park with 5 kids, no yaya, and no Edric, I wasn’t very “on the ball” about certain details. One very crucial detail was telling Elijah to give me his glasses before he got into the wave pool. Initially he wanted me to keep them in the locker but I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to see anything if he got lost in the park. So I told him to keep them with him. Bad idea.

While I was preoccupied with watching my three younger children, Elijah and Edan took on the biggest waves right away. A few minutes later, Elijah’s glasses were knocked off his face by a wave. Unable to see clearly, he had no idea where they were in the water. I was at the opposite end holding Catalina so I couldn’t rush over to help him find them either.

Some moments later, my siblings and I tried to look for them, hoping they would be washed “ashore.” Nothing turned up. I prayed and prayed. I also asked Elijah to hold on to Catalina when the wave pool was turned off so I could do a more thorough search. Since I didn’t bring goggles, the life guard was kind enough to lend me his. On any normal day I wouldn’t have used a stranger’s goggles, but I was pretty desperate! I swam along the sides of the pool to check the corners at the bottom. I dove down numerous times to survey the floor. Even if the water was kind of murky at the part where the waves came from (which should have totally disgusted me), I didn’t stop my hunt until I covered every inch along that end of the pool. My siblings searched other areas of the pool as well. Sadly, it was all in vain. Visiting the lost and found twice and asking them to call or text me in case the glasses were turned in didn’t make a difference either. Sigh. I felt horrible.

In the meantime, Elijah didn’t seem to mind a bit. He couldn’t see much but he was having such a good time it didn’t really matter that the entire park was blurry from his perspective.

The kids and their cousins spent the rest of the morning on the slides while I held on to Catalina. I was kind of glum because I couldn’t believe the glasses were gone. Plus I dreaded to call Edric at work to let him know.

In the changing room, I finally phoned him. Surprisingly, Edric didn’t seem too upset. He was disappointed but he didn’t get angry. I didn’t really expect him to flip out but I thought I was in for a teaching session that might have begun with, “So what were you thinking when you told him to wear his glasses while swimming?” There was none of that.

At about 12:30 pm, I had to leave. The boys stayed with their cousins and I took the girls home. During the ride home, I profusely apologized via text, telling Edric again how sorry I was. I didn’t check my phone until a while later but when I did, I read this message…”I love you and I will always take care of you.”

What?! Wow! I texted him right back, “Thanks babe. That actually made me cry…” To which he replied, “Great, that’s the idea.”

He knows what a sucker I am for sweet, tender professions of his love for me, especially when I make a mistake and feel very ashamed and unworthy. In the grand scheme of things, losing a pair of glasses may not have been a big deal. But ever since we moved to our new home we have emphasized to our children the value of being good stewards of God’s blessings. Letting Elijah wear his glasses while running around the water park was a very irresponsible decision. I should have made it very clear that he could wear them while walking from one ride to another and then asked him to hand them to me before swimming.

While I was mulling over my impaired judgment, the last thing I thought I would receive was a text message telling me that I was precious, important, and cherished. When Edric sent me his message, I felt a sudden rush of joy. He didn’t rub salt on my mistake by giving me a lecture about responsibility. Instead he emphasized my value to him as a wife. That made my day! In fact, I was so excited to spend time with him that I dressed up in an outfit I knew he would like, dropped by the store to buy him snacks, and went to his office for an impromptu visit. He was thrilled to see me.

When we were finally in the car together, he looked at me with a big smile and said, “I like it when you give me undivided attention!” He also asked, “Did you notice that I didn’t say anything negative when you called me about the glasses? That’s my new realization. I won’t say anything if I have nothing good to say and I will wait before responding.” (Edric is such an intense person that he can be reactive when circumstances trigger his emotions.)

Of course I noticed! And I loved it! After all, he knew that I was very cognizant of my wrong. So he took a much kinder approach and reassured me that I didn’t have to fret over what happened because he loved me and would always take care of me.

I felt transported to one of those cheesy scenes where I was running towards Edric in a field of flowers wearing a white billowy dress (no braces or bangs) and everything was golden with sunshine. My, my, my, the power of words spoken in a timely fashion to soothe and calm the soul of a perturbed lover (aka me)!

This incident made me realize that spouses need to say things like this to one another more often. It’s like a magical formula for romantic feelings. It’s hard for lovey-dovey feelings to blossom when the soil of a relationship is overgrown with the weeds of fear, shame, anger, disappointment, insecurity, and unforgiveness. But when unconditional love is offered, especially to the one who is undeserving, it inspires them to change for the better and to love the giver in return.

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From a spiritual perspective, it’s the same way with God. An understanding of what He did for us on the cross should result in the desire to repent of sin, serve him, follow him, and be with him. He is the truest example of unconditional love and he invites us to rest in this love rather than hide in our shame or continue in sin. Furthermore, being filled with His love allows us to channel it to others…especially to our spouses who need it the most from us!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11 NASB)

 

From the Heart the Mouth Speaks

I was sitting across from Elijah while he finished his curry and noodles over lunch. He said, “My eyesight is getting worse. I can hardly read without my glasses on.” About a year ago, he could take his glasses off and read something that was 12 to 24 inches away. But not anymore. Of course it troubles him. It troubles me, too.

When he watched “Heaven is For Real” with my dad a few weeks ago, he told me, “Mom, I was so happy to know that in heaven no one is wearing glasses!” He is definitely looking forward to perfect vision in eternity.

It’s always hard for me as a mom to watch my children struggle through life’s disappointments. I can’t help his eyes get better, at least not yet. There’s the option of laser surgery when he turns 21 but he’s got many more years to go until then. And we were told that his eyes could get really bad when he goes through puberty. Sigh. We shall cross that bridge when we get there.

For now, what encourages me is Elijah’s faith and walk with the Lord. He lives with an unfulfilled longing — to have better eyesight. But he has the right perspective. He has turned that longing over to the Lord.

After we talked about his eyes, he added, “I have three prayers that I always pray…the first is that I will always love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is that we will all go to heaven at the same time. Third is that my eyes will be healed.” (I suppressed a tear! I am such a crybaby mom.)

Elijah may only be 11 years old, but his relationship with God teaches me how to have faith. He went on to say, “Only God can answer these prayers.”

It’s moments like these, during casual, random conversations with my children that I really get a glimpse into what’s going on in their hearts. I was blessed to know that loving God was number one for Elijah. That’s number one on my prayer list for all my kids, too. If God should grant that Elijah stays faithful to him all the days of his life, it would be my greatest joy as a mother. Whether we are raptured together or his eyes are restored completely, these things are secondary to the first of his prayers. If he loves God with all that he is, he already has heaven and he already has his sight.

In the meantime, as a mom, I keep hoping in God’s goodness and plan for Elijah’s life. The same goes for all my children. There are times when I know that God is doing something in the life of my child or children and I must stand aside. I watch as their faith is tested and purified in God’s refiner’s fire. Sometimes it is hard to watch. But each of my children must come to that point in their lives where they choose to follow God. I cannot choose for them. They must have a personal encounter with Him and His love, grace and forgiveness. I cannot experience these things for them.

However, Edric and I have to be present and available so we can be privy to what’s happening in their innermost persons. And then our job is to provide the environment and example, to teach the truth that leads our children to Him, and to pray earnestly and habitually for them. The rest of their life stories…especially the circumstances, trials, and challenges that will come their way, we have to surrender to the Lord and trust that he is control. He has a master plan for calling our children to Himself. If Edric and I do our part, then we can rest in that assurance.

I hugged Elijah yesterday when he was getting emotional about his eyes again. And he let me hold him. Sometimes I think that he is very mature in a lot of ways because he acts older for his age. But at that moment he was still a child and he needed a hug from mom. I asked him if it still mattered that he got hugs from me. And he said, “Mom, of course, if I go blind (his worst fear), that’s the only thing I will feel.” Oh okay. Kind of dramatic but what a totally sweet thing to say! Thank you Lord for these precious years…

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Enjoying Our New Home

“We can be a family here,” was something I said to Edric tonight as we watched the kids run around the island in our kitchen. (I think I gave them too much milk tea.) He pulled me close and told me that this was his exact sentiment. We had just finished singing Chris Tomlin’s version of “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The older boys attempted to harmonize and the two younger kids gave their all at the parts they knew…namely, the chorus.

After seven months of our nomadic lifestyle in and out of my parents’ place and Edric’s parents’ place while finishing our house, we are finally settled into our new place. It’s not completely done. The yard needs grass. Our stairs have to be rectified. Some minor fixes and painting works remain. We don’t have all our furniture in. Plus, I’ve got a few more boxes to unpack. But that’s okay. Even if settling in has come with its challenges, we are beginning to build routines that make it feel like home.

Today, the kids played basketball with Edric in the cul-de-sac in front of our house.

Two weeks ago when they were shooting hoops, it felt like we were at ground zero. When Edric called out to our children to join him for a game, Edan was braiding pipe cleaners. Braiding?! What the heck?! Titus was like, “I’m hiding!” when Edric was looking to pass the ball to him. Elijah was getting frustrated that he couldn’t shoot the ball. I accidentally knocked Tiana over and she wanted to quit. When Edan ran off for a water break, Edric called to him. “No water breaks!” This was exercise time. No one was allowed to leave the “court.” Tiana started to complain about being tired but Titus (her teammate) looked her square in the face while holding her shoulders and very emphatically said, “Tiana, we have to exercise!” Not too long afterwards Edric passed the ball to Titus and he said, “Shoot it, Titus!” Titus held the ball and threw it backwards to, um…no one.

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What a comedy. At one point some neighbors down the street were watching our very low scoring basketball game. It was embarrassing. It was a game of celebrated turnovers.

I turned to Edric and jokingly said, “my, my, the years that the locusts have eaten!” in reference to the fact that our kids spent so many years living in the city and inside our condominium.

When Edric and I were living in Bonifacio Global City, I coveted big open spaces where my kids could run around. I really wanted my children to grow up climbing trees, kicking soccer balls, playing catch, or shooting hoops in the backyard. For a long time, this was all fantasy. We tried our best to walk them to High Street and back and run around the fields that remained, but it wasn’t always very easy to get them outdoors.

But this afternoon, while Edric was spending time with the kids dribbling, passing, and shooting the basketball, I thought of how wonderfully surreal it all was. I was cooking Thai food for dinner while watching the kids enjoy themselves. (They are getting much better!) Tiana was prancing around in her leotards and tutu. Little Catalina was being pushed around in her tricycle.

I can’t thank the Lord enough for giving us this home. He blessed us with a place where we can build memories as a family.

This morning I sat on our balcony and watched the sun come up while I read my Bible. It wasn’t even 6 am. We recently got blinds that should block out the light but it still finds its way in between the panels. I don’t mind. First light is a beautiful sight. Plus, I love the sounds of morning. There’s a bird that sings a tune I used to hear when I was a child. Every morning I listen for it and remember the happy days of my childhood. Now it sings for the days of my children. I’m still pinching myself. God is good!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He (God) has made all things beautiful in his time…”

 

 

 

Husband vs Family

Edric and I have this “in-law” rule which we apply when we have to deal with our respective families and protect our own relationship. If Edric has an issue with my family, I front for us. And if I have an issue with his family, he fronts for me. We use statements that show we have a united front.

For example, if my family invites us to a dinner but we have our own plans as a couple or Edric wants us to do something else, I will call my parents and tell them, “I am sorry but WE have something else going on so we can’t make it.” Using WE as the pronoun communicates that we are in agreement.

The only thing that trumps the in-law rule is the husband-rule. Edric will talk to my parents or family and front for us when necessary if the issue requires him to step in. For the most part neither of us have problems with each other’s families. Both his family and mine respect our boundaries as a couple. They aren’t intrusive or demanding, which is such a blessing. Plus, I love Edric’s family like my own and he feels the same way about mine.

However, Monday night, for the first time, I was very stressed by the whole “in-law” rule. We planned to watch the new X-Men movie with my brothers, their wives and my parents. At about 4:30 PM, the idea to have dinner at Sambo Kojin together was suggested by one of my brothers. Neither Edric or I got back to him immediately because our afternoon was busy. Edric was in a meeting and I was at the grocery. We weren’t paying attention to our phones.

When Edric and I were on the way to the movie theater, he asked me to call my brother to verify the plans. All the while I thought that Edric was in agreement with the dinner at Sambo. I assumed that he had read the message and was okay with dinner. So this is what I communicated to my brother. However when I hung up, Edric told me we weren’t going to eat at Sambo Kojin. He didn’t want to spend that much for dinner.

At first I was annoyed. Why did he suddenly become so stingy about dinner? And it put me in a difficult position because I had to call my brother back and tell him that we weren’t going to join the family for dinner. The new plan was to meet them right before the movie.

After explaining the change in plan to my brother, he made a comment that hurt my feelings. He said it was “not nice” for us to go off and do our own thing if we were supposed to be spending time together as a family. I hung up on him when he said that. I was frustrated that he wasn’t getting my cue that this was about supporting Edric who was my priority. Edric was seated beside me in the car. And I wasn’t about to have a discussion with my brother over the phone about the importance of transferring loyalties to your spouse. (He knows this stuff. He would have appreciated it if his wife did the same.) My mistake was I hung up out of irritation which I had to apologize for later on.

By now my aggravation was heightened because I was in between my family and Edric. On the one hand, I knew I should honor Edric. On the other hand, my family couldn’t understand why we weren’t willing to be flexible. So I felt pressured. When I tried to bring this up with Edric and tell him that it was going to create an issue, he was dismissive about it and didn’t think it was a big deal.

He casually went to grab a burger at Mc Donald’s and asked if I wanted anything. No thanks.

My mom called me at that moment and I went to a corner to talk to her. She wanted to know why we weren’t going to join them for dinner and she attempted to convince me. It must have been a mixture of pressure, frustration and annoyance that made me start to cry. I didn’t like that this whole Sambo Kojin incident was turning into an issue. Basically, I made the request not to talk about it anymore. I let her know that I didn’t like being caught in between. And I requested that they please understand where I was coming from. I also expressed to her that I was hurt by what my brother said. I even misquoted him amidst my emotional turbulence. “He said I was being mean…” was what I told her.

Edric didn’t catch me crying because I ran off to the restroom and stayed there for a few minutes. After he bought his burger, he was like, “Tell them we can sit down with them at Sambo Kojin even if we don’t eat.”

I did this but my mom thought it would be awkward if they were all eating and we weren’t. Well I had completely lost my appetite anyway. And that was the best compromise we could think of to satisfy both sides so we headed to the restaurant.

When we got to Sambo Kojin, we sat down and started to fellowship. It wasn’t long after that my brother initiated talking about what happened. I didn’t want to discuss it at all. But he wanted closure. Personally, I was like, let’s just get to the X-men movie part.

Having to talk about it made me cry again. I felt like my brother was only seeing one angle of this incident. His personality can be so strong (like my dad’s which can be a really great thing but at that moment, I felt emotionally bulldozed). Truthfully, he is an awesome brother and we get along so well. This was more about me dealing with the internal conflict of having to “manage” both my husband’s wants and my family’s and feeling like both were somehow insensitive about the predicament I was in. I felt like an inept tight rope walker holding one of those poles to keep from falling off a thin line.

I praise God for Edric who knew I was stressed and stepped in to admit that he was the “bad guy” in all of this. He explained that he was trying to be more prudent about our spending as of late. (Like as of that same day!) After several minutes of back and forth discussion, both he and my brother finally understood where the other was coming from. They apologized to one another and my brother also apologized to me for saying the phrase, “not nice.” And I said sorry for misquoting him.

Somewhere near the meat section of the buffet, my dad lovingly took Edric aside and told him that he needs to be considerate of me being caught in between. He suggested that next time, Edric ought to be flexible. He kidded Edric and said that a dinner at Sambo Kojin was not going to bankrupt him. He could have certainly afforded to adjust so that everyone could be together and fellowship.

I praise God that Edric was humble enough to listen to what my dad had to say. He realized he had been inflexible and stubborn. He also apologized to me for putting me in an uncomfortable situation. Everyone was very understanding and accommodating of my unusual dramatics that evening. I also asked for their forgiveness for being overly sensitive.

By the end of dinner we were all in good spirits again and the bond of unity was restored. X-men turned out to be very entertaining, too (except for the more than usual violent parts which I didn’t care much for). I was thankful to Edric for sticking his neck out to clarify the issue. He took a risk by identifying himself as the source of the problem and choosing to protect me. At the same time, I appreciated my family’s positive response to conflict and their openness to discussing differences in personalities and perspectives. We all came away from the incident closer to one another.

Edric also went out of his way to make sure I had a proper meal to eat. He had Sbarro’s deliver a lasagna to me in the theater which worked out great because I love to eat while I watch a movie!

The next day, I happened to see my dad and he asked if everything was okay in reference to the evening before. He also added something like this, “Conflict is good. It’s a blessing that we can talk about these things as a family.” Furthermore he said, “When I found out that there was an issue I kept it in my ‘suspense file.’ I didn’t judge until I listened to what really happened.”

That principle got me thinking…

When it comes to the in-law rule, the husband rule, or any rule that a couple lives by when it comes to dealing with conflict with family or relatives, we need to include the suspense-file rule. Don’t judge. Give everyone the opportunity to share where they are coming from and then go for the most God-honoring solution.

Had I been more mature about it, I should have kept my emotional cool and been less judgmental…especially about what my brother said to me, the pressure that I thought my family was imposing on me, and thinking ill of Edric’s decision. These three factors caused me to go into an emotional tailspin that made me retreat into the false safety of silence. But I praise God for the more spiritually mature people around me who knew that resolving the conflict and listening to one another was the right thing to do.

Conflicts are inevitable in a marriage, family, with relatives and with others, but conflicts can also help people and relationships to grow and change for the better.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18 NASB)

Best buds years ago…and by God’s grace we are still close today…

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