A Trait All Gentlemen Should Have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Fathers and Children

Wed Jul 31 2013 03-39-36 GMT 0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Need An Everyday Husband/Dad

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

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

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

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

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Fri Jan 09 2015 06-16-39 GMT 0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Share many meals together, WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas 2014

 

The Last Twelve Months of Boyhood

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-41-07 GMT 0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-14-16 GMT 0800

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

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

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

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

Mon Dec 15 2014 13-51-37 GMT 0800

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sun Feb 01 2015 01-25-03 GMT 0800

Halloween Hullabaloo

“Mom…don’t fight. You tell us not to fight, right? You and daddy shouldn’t fight.” Titus Mendoza.

We weren’t really fighting, but we were engaged in a debate over Halloween. Should the kids go around and get candy or should we ignore this festivity all together?

For the first time, Edric was open to the idea of our children participating in our village’s Halloween activities. Every house that is decorated signifies that they give out candy. We didn’t decorate because our family has never celebrated Halloween. So I assumed that Edric and I were on the same page. However, he had a recent encounter with someone who said, “So you don’t do Halloween because you are Christians, right?” It got him thinking about the real reasons why our family doesn’t get dressed up and traipse from door to door like most families do on this day.

Over breakfast, Edric invited the children to join our discussion and share their thoughts. The intention was good but the process was a little bit tense. Sure, we were having a “discussion,” but I must admit that it was fueled by irritation on my part. What had tripped the wires in my husband’s brain so that we suddenly didn’t see eye to eye?

He asked the kids, “Do you want to go around and get candy from the neighbors?” I didn’t think the question was worded accurately. So I interjected with my own version. “Kids, do you want to go begging for candy in silly outfits on a day that was born out of demonic origins?” (Kids representing 6 and below didn’t understand what I was talking about.)

“Okay, if that’s your perspective then why celebrate Christmas either?” Edric’s counter-statement was “it’s also pagan in origin.”

I didn’t have a credible defense. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I didn’t want to give that up. Plus, in my mind, celebrating Christ’s birth (even if it isn’t the exact date) seemed vastly different than joining in on a day that patronizes ghouls, ghosts, gore, and ghastly things. It wasn’t a sound argument by any measure, but I was getting increasingly annoyed so I added that into the discussion.

This began to look and sound like a fight to our kids. Titus even added, “You should be kind to your husband.” Edric got all excited when Titus said this and thought he had an ally. Then he discovered that “wife” was what Titus meant by “husband.”

“Who is the husband?” Edric asked. Titus chimed in, “Mommy!” The other kids cracked up and suggested that be kind to your wife was what he wanted to say.

I need to add that Titus had the sweetest way of correcting us. When he made the first comment about “not fighting,” there was a melody to his tone of voice and a big smile on his face. It was the same with his appeal for us to be kind to one another. Who could resist him? It certainly made Edric and I more conscious of our passionate dialoguing. So Edric said, “Mommy and I will continue this later,” assuring the children that we would resolve it in private.

While it isn’t morally wrong to collect candy on Halloween, we finally decided that it wasn’t of eternal benefit to our children or to us to perpetuate the celebration of a day that represented what is dark, evil, and ugly. Just look at the décor. Is it uplifting and edifying?

The other day I was at the toy store and they were selling decapitated heads, bloody arms and bodies, and hideous looking masks and faces. My daughter’s reaction, which was to run away, is exactly what I’m trying to emphasize. There’s something macabre about this day.

If a family wants to get dressed up in more wholesome outfits instead of witches and dead people…if they want to decorate their homes’ facades with cute pumpkins, that’s their call. Edric’s mom dressed him up like a carrot when he was little. I would have loved to see that! My friends came up with a good alternative. They planned a candy night at one of their houses so a bunch of families can still do the costumes and get their candy. We would have joined them except that we had other plans.

Fortunately, my kids don’t care too much about costumes or candy. They don’t feel like they are missing out on some glorious part of their childhood by not participating in Halloween. Since they don’t go to school, they aren’t aware of how big a deal it is either.

Here’s what they did today…

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I don’t want to go around making a doctrinal issue out of Halloween and judging families who allow their children to dress up, play make-believe, and fill their pumpkins with candy. I know a lot of people who enjoy the costume aspect of Halloween and they don’t cast spells or drink blood. Some are friends, others are family. Like my dad used to say, “There are things worth debating and there are things worth dying for.” I won’t die for the Halloween issue. I will die for the gospel.

However, I do think that we should all evaluate why we participate in certain festivities. It wasn’t until we started having kids that Edric and I began to rethink why we do what we do. What sort of values and precedents are we inculcating in our children? Just because an occasion is cultural and fun doesn’t mean our family has to give hearty approval to it. We can choose to celebrate the activities that are meaningful and profitable to us.

At the same time, we don’t want to raise little legalists. We don’t want our children to have this “holier than thou” image of themselves that turns people off to Christ. So we processed the conclusion with them. The kids were like, “Great! We didn’t want to get candy anyway!” (I also apologized for my tone of voice and irritation towards Edric.  Titus ran up to me and gave me a big hug.) Edric explained that this was a family decision and not a doctrine stated in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say, “Don’t dress up in costumes and collect candy from nice neighbors on Halloween.”

However, for those who won’t be popping in those vampire fangs for their costume tonight, here’s something you might like to chew on…

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭8-17‬ NLT)

Here is a well-written piece from John MacArthur’s ministry that is worth reading. I like the idea of using this popular holiday to give out gospel tracks!: Christians and Halloween

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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Vomit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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A Father’s Priority

My husband, as amazing as I think he is, scored 0% for his auditory skills on a learning styles assessment. This has nothing to do with intelligence. It has everything to with how a person takes in and retains information.

Up until he took the test, I could not understand why he wouldn’t remember appointments and commitments we discussed or conversations we had. I would say, “But we talked about it. You said yes.”

“Nope. I don’t remember.”

“How can you not remember? You were looking right at me when you said yes.”

“Sorry hon, I really don’t remember.”

Grr.

After he took the learning styles assessment it all made sense. I became a smarter communicator by changing the delivery mode for any pertinent decisions or content we had to discuss. I switched to texting, messaging, and emailing for appointments, schedules and reminders.

It worked! He would give his confirmation and feedback via the same channels. It also gave me physical proof to show him in case he said, “I forgot.” He he.

This past week we celebrated Edan’s birthday. A week prior Edric and I discussed that his afternoon would be blocked off for Edan. I did consider the possibility that he might not remember but I was like, “Nah, this is our son. He won’t do that.”

Well, he did. The day that Edan turned 8, Edric booked five major meetings.
I found out while I was lying in Edric’s arms sharing a moment of sweet exchange about how much we missed one another. It turned pretty sour for me when I found out that Edric had left no room in his day to spend with Edan like he said he would. For Edan’s sake, I felt hurt and disappointed.

It turned out that Edan wanted to go to the pet store with his dad to buy a falcon. Okay…a falcon. Where would we find anything remotely close to a bird of prey?! Obviously the falcon was a fantasy of an idea. He was willing to settle for a bird that he could put on his finger and hold. Edric and I were pretty confident that Cartimar would have something that matched that description.

When I discovered that Edric had back to back meetings I thought Cartimar would have to be postponed. But Edric was convinced that he could find a way to get there and back and still make his meetings. I was pretty doubtful. Cartimar wasn’t around the corner. It was in Pasay. Nevertheless, I kept things optimistic at home for Edan’s sake.

He approached me several times to ask, “What time are we going, mom?” Buying that bird was like the dream of all dreams for him. But I had to wait on Edric to do some magic with his meetings.

Edric might have messed up initially (which he admitted to and apologized for), but one of the things I really appreciate about him is he will prioritize his family. No matter how busy he gets, when he knows me or the kids need him, he will make a way to meet that need. When he saw how excited Edan was and how Edan’s anticipation was hinged on his availability, he told me, “This is important to me, I will find a way to take him.”

By 11:30 AM Edric picked us up and we headed to Cartimar. And there was no traffic! We were in and out of Cartimar in about two and a half hours, and Edric even joined us for a late lunch.

Of course we didn’t get Edan a falcon like he originally wished for. He was willing to settle for two cockatiels. One he named Beady and the other, Geedy.

A side story…In Cartimar we ran into a friend of Edric’s family who was a pet store owner himself (for dogs) and he helped us negotiate the price of the cockatiels. He was God-sent. Normally, he wasn’t around but he happened to be there that day. So we knew that we weren’t getting duped as rookie bird buyers.

Edan developed an immediate attachment to his new pets. As for me, I was so impressed with my husband. First he displayed some pretty attractive bargaining skills. But more than that it was following through with his commitment to Edan that really blessed me. Edric found a way to slide his afternoon meetings upwards.

As a boy of few words, Edan is not the kind of child who will express gratitude with intense emotion. So when he does, it means a lot. In the car, he was sitting in the front seat with the bird cage on his lap, and he swung his head around to say, “You are the best parents.”

During lunch, when I explained to him that his dad moved his meetings just to take him to Cartimar, his eyes sparkled with pride, “Daddy is the best daddy!”

I know Edan was thrilled to get his two cockatiels. (As I am writing this he is with them at home, acting the part of loving parent.) But the joy he felt when he picked out those birds wouldn’t have been complete if Edric failed to be present. I know Edan. He might have taken the big let down like a toughie but it would have curdled inside him, and his countenance would have shown it.

Sometimes parenting can seem so complicated. I get all kinds of questions from friends and readers about how to deal with difficult children. And I know what it is like to be confronted with character issues in my own kids. But it’s really not that complicated. When my kids start acting up, character-wise, I know it is often a deficiency on the part of Edric and I (in the area of our parenting).

I am not saying this is always the case but our children tend to be responders. The way we raise and treat them; what we model, praise, hold dear; how we communicate that we love and cherish them, these make impressions that lead to desirable and undesirable behaviors and attitudes on their part.

Edan’s heart, like all my other children’s hearts, is delicate and fragile. It would have been deeply wounded if Edric had not prioritized him on his birthday. Edric didn’t need to spend 24 hours with him to make him feel significant. Two and a half hours to and from the pet store, and the prize of two cockatiels in a cage were enough to send Edan to the moon. He felt really special.

A father’s time and attention will do that. I see how hard it is for Edric to balance everything he does. It’s no easy juggling for him to be a husband, dad, TV host, motivational speaker, director of a homeschool program, head of family ministry, and discipler and mentor to other men. But somehow he is able to be around when it matters most. He knows that a father’s priority is his family, and his children know for certain that they are.

I pray that Edric will remain this way. It’s only by God’s grace that he is this kind of a dad to our kids. But he is going to be a dad for a very long while yet, and there will always be something competing with his priorities. The same goes for me as a mother. Edric and I have to continually ask ourselves, what must have precedence in our lives according to God’s word?

As I watched Edan delightfully engrossed in the responsibility of caring for his birds, and listened to him chatter away as he described their personalities…Geedy is “stubborn” and “wakes up early”, and Beady “eats all the food” and “likes to sleep”, I was reminded that it is always worth it to communicate to our children that they are the most important people in our lives.

pri·or·i·ty
\prī-ˈȯr-ə-tē, -ˈär-\
noun
: something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first
priorities
: the things that someone cares about and thinks are important
: the condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first

(http://i.word.com/idictionary/priority)

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Kids Need Their Fathers

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Some weeks ago my third son, Titus, was recovering from a cough and cold so he had to stay away from the other kids. Edric happened to see him peering out of the window, all alone. So he called out, “Do you want to go walking with daddy?” Titus was thrilled. He ran down the stairs and put on his shoes.

Edric walked with him all the way to the park and back. And Titus talked the whole time. He is not much of a talker so this was significant. Some of the things he said were, “So you and mommy have been married 5 times right, because you have five kids?” “Someday I am going to marry Tiana.” Of course Edric corrected his understanding of marriage and explained why he can’t marry his sister. It was a precious time, just the two of them.

When Titus got back home, he announced to his siblings that “dad went walking with him.” He narrated how Edric saw him at the window and called out to him. He was very proud to tell everyone.

A child’s self-worth is very much hinged on the attention and regard given by his or her parents. But, I think this is especially true for the time a father gives to a son. There is something special about the affirmation and validation a son receives from his dad.

I know a couple of guys who admitted that they tried to compensate for what their fathers’ did not give by turning to unhealthy habits and behaviors, relationships, and friendships, or pursuing ambitions in order to feel whole.

No one can give back the years that a father was absent or heal the wounds that his flaws inflicted. However, I have also seen men who did not live with the example of a godly father or receive the love and affection of a dad recover from their deep brokenness. Their new identity and self-worth came through Jesus Christ.

Two Sundays ago, I listened to the testimony of a man who was physically and sexually abused by his own father. He was betrayed and harmed on multiple levels as a young boy. As a result, he grew up without a compass. In his young adult years he turned to homosexual relationships and a decadent lifestyle to feel happy. But he was never satisfied with that life.

When he finally encountered Jesus Christ and understood how much he was loved, forgiven and redeemed by God, he became a transformed person. Today he is living for Christ. He admits that he is still tempted by sexual sin but he continues to pursue God’s design for him as a man. He has a peace and joy that he never used to.

I believe that no one is beyond God’s grasp. God can always redeem the mistakes of our parents. As this passage says, “Behold, the Lord ‘s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1 NASB)

However, let us not be the kind of parents who shipwreck the lives of our children. We may not be as bad as a father who beats and molests his children, but are we present to disciple, lead and train our children, steering their hearts toward God?

Most likely, you are a young woman or a wife or a mom reading this post. And if you are married to a husband who is neglecting your children emotionally and spiritually, hope in God. Pray for him. (Look at yourself, too, and pray about the areas where you need to change…we can all change for the better.)

When Edric and I had a smaller family, I prayed for him to step up as the spiritual leader of our home, that his heart would be turned towards our children. At the beginning he was great at prioritizing me and his work, but he didn’t really know how to be an intentional and purposeful father. But as we had more sons, he realized that they needed him. They needed him to model biblical manhood and to teach them what it means to love and follow Christ. And he couldn’t do this unless he spent time with them and built a relationship with them.

Today parenting is a team effort between us. We still make mistakes but we continue to refer to God’s word for guidance. We also ask for forgiveness from our kids when we fail to be Christ-like.

Just yesterday, Edric asked Titus to forgive him for being irritable. While I was correcting Titus and Tiana for speaking to one another with an unkind tone, I asked them, “Do mommy and daddy do that?” trying to point out that they should copy our example. Titus replied, “No, but daddy gets angry sometimes.” He clarified that daddy doesn’t shout but he can get irritated. Of course I passed on this observation to Edric. And he was very repentant about it and apologized to Titus, who readily forgave him.

Edric and I continue to pray for one another as we parent our kids. He prays for me to be the mom I need to be and I pray for him to have the wisdom he needs to lead our family. Author Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I agree with this but I also believe that whether man or woman, before God, we are all broken and need repairing. If we want to build strong children as parents, we have to recognize that we can’t do it apart from Christ.

Furthermore, if we find ourselves in a season of parenting alone as a mother, then we can be encouraged by God’s tender description of himself as father to the fatherless. What an assurance that he will provide in the areas where we cannot! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. (Psalms 68:5 NLT) Kids need their fathers, but more than a loving, godly earthly father, they need the FATHER OF ALL.

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