Fight with Gentleness

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

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

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

   

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To My Young Adult

My husband, Edric, decided to institute a rite of passage for all our sons when they leave their childhood years and enter young adulthood. Since Eljah was the first to enter this stage, it was very special when we invited the key men in his life for dinner to pray over him and pass on their godly wisdom. 

   

I sat at the other end of the table and watched this ceremony transpire, thankful that God gifted our son with mentors who love Him and love the Lord. 

   

  

 When a publications company asked me to compose a letter to my children about how to help children process obstacles and difficult circumstances positively, I decided to write one for Elijah. I gave him a shorter one to read up on Mt. Apo when he reached the summit. But this one is something I want all my children to have when they become young adults. Plus, Elijah said he liked this one better! 

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It is hard to believe that you aren’t the little baby I once held in my arms. Have I prepared you enough, taught you enough to navigate the years ahead of you – years that will be marked by hormonal changes, growth spurts, and emotional tests?

In our family we don’t call these years the teenage years. Your dad and I have explained that thirteen means you are a young adult. But this doesn’t mean that you won’t have to deal with the same challenges that “teenagers” go through. You will meet transitions, upsets, disappointments, failures, wins, highs, and lows, and I want you to understand first and foremost that this is all a part of growing into the person God has planned for you to be.

You may be growing up in a positive home environment where you are treasured and loved unconditionally by your dad, siblings and me. However, not everyone outside of our family is going to applaud your principles, like you as a person, or give you a medal for effort. Sometimes, reality will fall incredibly short of your expectations, too. Worst of all, something precious and important to you may even be taken away.

As you know, something unprecedentedly evil happened to me when I was just a little older than you are now. We have talked about how I was a victim of rape. This tragic experience awakened me to the reality of evil in the world, deep pain, and darkened hope. I think now, more than ever before, it’s necessary for me to remind you that we live in a fallen, sinful world. My tragedy was not unique. There are many people who go through harrowing circumstances, some much more terrible than what I had to endure.

I tell you this not to frighten you or make you afraid of your future. I tell you this because you must understand that there is brokenness in this world because of sin, and someday, this brokenness may pierce your own heart. You may question everything you believe about who God is as you meet a cross road where you must face the question of faith.

It is at this juncture when you must cling to the truth that will anchor you. God loves you. He has a plan for your life. Even if you may not always be able to see this plan with your physical eyes, believe that it is good because God is good. In the book of Hebrews it says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) My prayer is that you will have the maturity to interpret every circumstance with spiritual eyes – to have faith in God’s character.

Years ago I chose to believe that God never wastes our pain. He is a redeemer. He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

When I look at my life today, you are a testament to this goodness. God gave me a child like you to love. He gave me your dad and our family. Furthermore, He gave me the privilege of serving Him and telling others about Him by using my life’s story.

God is also writing your life’s story. Let Him continue to do so by trusting Him always. Don’t try to grab the pen when the plot becomes uncomfortable. He’s got everything under control.

In the meantime, walk with Him one day at a time. Love Him and obey Him. If you do so, you don’t need to worry about what lies ahead. As Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

When I think about you growing up, this is what comforts me. If you have Christ in your life, you will be okay. You will have His peace, joy, grace, hope, power, and presence. This means that you will have everything you need to persevere and to overcome the obstacles and challenges you will face. Best of all, you will come out of these life lessons and tests stronger, better and wiser. You will be equipped for the special work that God will entrust you with. You will also be able to maximize your gifts and talents for His glory.

Finally, let me end this letter with the charge and encouragement that God gave to Joshua when he was about to conquer the Promised Land. “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you…Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Like Joshua, God has a purpose for you to fulfill. It stretches out before you just as the Promised Land did before the Israelites. This thought is both intimidating and exciting! Furthermore, your dad, your siblings, and myself may not be physically present everywhere you go (even if we would like to be), but God will ALWAYS be with you. And just like Joshua, He is telling you to be strong and courageous, to let His Word and principles guide you. If you do so, you will be prosperous and successful.

Know that I love you always, through everything. And no matter where you are or where you go, remember that I will be praying for you, entrusting you to the One who is able to uphold you and shield you.

Always here for you,

Mom

 

 

Courageous Caitie’s Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

 

Submission to My Husband Is a Heart Issue

 

    I never quite graduate from learning what it means to submit to my husband’s authority. Just when I think I’m doing all right in this area, a new challenge appears that reminds that I’m still in the process of becoming the wife God wants me to be.

About two weeks ago, my dad, who was going to preach on Sunday, asked Edric and I to recommend people who can share about how small group discipleship has positively impacted their relationship with Jesus Christ. Several persons came to mind. Two of them were a husband and wife who went through major marital problems but are now in the process of restoring their marriage. When we first met them they had deep wounds they were working through, but today, they are committed to one another, they love the Lord, and have a passion to tell others about Him.

Although their shared testimony would surely encourage the church audience, Edric and I sensed that talking about what happened to their marriage in public was premature. Even if we have witnessed amazing change in their lives, they needed more time to heal. So we parked them as an option and thought to ask someone else.

Later on in the week, however, my dad messaged me again. Sunday was fast approaching and he was still looking for someone to share his or her testimony to add impact to his message on small group discipleship. I felt like it was up to me to help him.

Before I go on, I need to admit to something. Edric has lovingly cautioned me about this before, that in my desire to honor my dad or mom, I sometimes move ahead of him, without getting his approval for decisions I make. Whenever my parents ask me for help it is, more often than not, ministry-related. And when it’s for ministry, I interpret the request as valid.

While I don’t always say yes to them, there have been occasions where I have taken on speaking engagements or activities that they ask me to be a part of before asking Edric for permission. My thought bubble often is, This is for ministry. Edric will understand. But my presumptuousness gets me into trouble because conflicts in schedules arise and Edric and the kids are inconvenienced by my decisions. More often than not, Edric is a good sport about it because he loves dad and mom and knows that their intentions are virtuous. So the issue is not between my parents and Edric who have a great relationship. The issue is I don’t consult him first and he ends up feeling pressured or manipulated to accommodate the choices I make.

Over the years I’ve tried to be more sensitive about this. Even if I love my dad and mom, I cannot make rash decisions in their favor without seeking Edric’s approval. Serving them is not more important than submitting to my husband, who ought to be my priority.

When I got married, Edric became my authority. God’s word is clear about the principle of leaving and cleaving when you are married. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Although both of us seek to honor his parents and my parents, it cannot be at the expense of our own marriage.

Furthermore, it isn’t my parents whom I’m directly accountable to anymore. I’m under my husband’s authority. Ephesians says. “Wives be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24

Let me return to the story I began with to illustrate how crucial it is that I obey this command of the Lord and do not move ahead of my husband. When I received the message from my dad, asking for a person or persons to share their testimony, I thought, Perhaps it’s alright if the couple (the one I referred to at the beginning) give their testimony anyway.

At that moment, Edric was busy speaking at a conference so I couldn’t broach the idea to him. Furthermore, I came up with the rationalization that my intentions were right. This was for the Lord, for ministry. Edric would understand. I will just confer with him after he is done his talk.

There was a small voice telling me this wasn’t the best idea, that I was acting impulsively, but I ignored the prodding of the Holy Spirit to check with Edric first. In my haste, I called the wife and proposed the idea to her. I asked her if she would be willing to give her testimony with her husband. I even sent her a sample outline to guide her and her husband as they thought through what to share. And then I added that Edric would call her husband to confirm everything.

My plan was to tell Edric after he finished his speaking engagement, which was to end about forty minutes later. (What was forty minutes? I really could’ve waited!) I hoped that Edric would approve of my decision and see the positive in it.

However, when I first told him that I had proposed to the wife that she and her husband share on Sunday, he was like, “I thought we agreed that they weren’t ready. Did you manipulate things again?”

Manipulate things? That seemed like a harsh way to put it. But maybe he was right. Maybe I had maneuvered circumstances in such a way that he had to go along with my plan. After a little persuasion, he agreed that the couple’s testimony would have impact and minister to the hearts of the audience. But, it was I who had set the ball in motion.

Edric called the couple and set the phone on speaker mode to discuss what they would be sharing at the pulpit. This was Friday evening. In the meantime, I contacted dad letting him know that we had found someone to share. I felt like I was a good daughter who had done him a favor.

After our conversation with the couple, they seemed eager and excited. The wife forwarded me her version of their story and it was beautiful. Everything seemed to be working out just fine. We challenged them to write their testimony as a team, where the wife would give one portion and the husband would give the other. They had until midnight to get back to us, which they did. There were no barriers so far.

However, at about 2 AM, I received a text message from the wife explaining that they wouldn’t be able to share anymore. Certain emotions and histories were unearthed that needed to be dealt with and the husband, in particular, wasn’t ready. He felt terrible about backing out because he wanted to honor God by serving Him in this way, but the reality was he couldn’t stand before an audience at this point in time to declare the things he wanted to. It had been a tearful night for them.

My heart was crushed. I knew this was my fault. The stress this couple went through as they tried to piece together their sides of their marriage journey could’ve been prevented had I not gone ahead of Edric and operated outside of the covering of his authority. We should have let them be as we initially discussed, trusting God’s time-table for their healing, instead of putting them in this predicament. As a result, they felt discouraged and disheartened, especially the husband, who felt like he had failed the Lord for not being ready to declare His goodness in their lives. (Of course this wasn’t true and Edric reached out to him to minister to him.)

As for me, I read through the message of the wife, and started to tear myself. This couple became a victim of my decision to go against God’s design for marriage. I presumed to know better and to justify my conclusions about their readiness before getting permission from Edric. Had I asked Edric before making that call to the wife, he who would have repeated what we originally established, that it wasn’t the right time for them to share their testimony publicly. But I chose to push it anyway because of my dad’s pressing need. The results were disastrous, in my estimation, and the pain the couple went through, unnecessary. In the end, I had to apologize to the wife, hoping that she would extend my apology to her husband. And I had to tell my father that he had to look for someone else to share on Sunday…the next day. Of course, I also had to say sorry to Edric.

When I confessed to Edric the chain of events, he was frustrated with me and highlighted my faulty decision-making process. I sought to come to my dad’s aid but went about it in the wrong way. Instead, I should have followed what Edric and I had decided earlier that week about the couple’s status, and remained resolute about it. Instead, I caved in to what I perceived as an urgent need and the couple became a casualty of my insubordination.

Edric was correct. I had no defense to give to minimize the guilt I felt. I simply had to embrace that the root issue was my failure to internalize what submission to my husband is – it’s a heart thing. Do I really want God’s blessing and favor in my life, in my marriage and family? Do I really believe that God’s principles are for my protection and my good, and the good of those around me?

I chose to forget this on Friday when I made that phone call in haste. I chose to believe that it was up to me to find someone to fill in the space for a Sunday sharer. What was I thinking?! God could have found someone to stand before the church with a powerful testimony to give that would bring glory and honor to His name! I wasn’t greater than God’s hand!

Indeed, God provided the perfect person to share. Venus Raj, former beauty queen of the Philippines, and a committed follower of Jesus Christ, stood at the pulpit when my dad called her up in the middle of his message, to talk about the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was in awe as I listened to what God has done in her life. She was radiant with an inner beauty that far surpassed her reputation as a beauty queen. It was the beauty of a woman who found love, joy, and peace in the Lord.

What did I learn that weekend? I learned that my good intentions must never bypass God’s word and instruction in my life. I cannot say, “Well, I’m doing this for the Lord, but contradict an instruction such as submit to your husband.”

I also learned that there are no contradictions when it comes to honoring my parents and honoring my husband. When I am faced with a decision that must favor one over the other (and neither are asking me to do something against the word of God), I must choose to obey my husband first. In doing so, I bring honor to my parents. God will bless the decision I make to submit to Edric by blessing them, too. How is this so? Edric may choose to change his mind about a matter that he was originally not in favor with. Or, God will provide for the need of my parents or answer their concern in a way that is greater than my capacity to do so.

  In His sovereignty, God is able to cause all circumstances to work together for the good of those who love Him as it says in Romans 8:28. But this is a promise for those who love Him. And those who love Him are those who obey Him and delight to obey Him.

I wrote this post because I understand what it is like to be a wife who struggles with submission. There are times I get it right, but there are occasions, like I shared above, when I think I know better or I see submission as a deterrent to accomplish a goal that I desire to happen. God continues to teach me that submission is a heart issue. It’s between God and me, and whether I want to obey Him with all that I am.

Allow me to close with this passage in Leviticus 26, which holds for us the promise of blessing when we obey God. “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land... So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you... 11 Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12 I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”

 

 

 

Whom Do You Love More?

For all my young readers out there, this post is for you. I shared it during this morning’s church service and I hope it will bless and encourage you! 


Ever since I was a child I cared about what people thought about me. I was a self-conscious person and a people-pleaser. This character weakness was tested especially in college, when I was no longer homeschooled or in a Christian school.

After graduating from an American school for missionaries called Faith Academy, most of my friends left for the US or Europe after high school, and I had to make friends from scratch. I didn’t know people in college like most students did. 

Eventually, however, I had a group of friends I started hanging out with who kind of took me “under their wing.” They were a great bunch of friends – intelligent, beautiful, kind-hearted, and fun to be with. However, they also belonged to a crowd who enjoyed going out to bars and clubs on Wednesday nights and the weekends.

When I first started frequenting bars with my college friends I thought I would never drink alcohol. It didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t grow up in a home where alcohol or cigarettes were common. And the high school I went to didn’t allow students to have either. So I would sit around and watch everybody with some sort of booze in their one hand, most often beer, while they checked each other out and chatted each other up. A lot of it was flirting between guys and girls, or sitting around with your group of friends while some guy treated you all to drinks.

At the beginning, I thought, What am I doing here?! This is a slow way to die, inhaling all this second hand smoke! It was almost intolerable, but I would go anyway, to be with my girl friends. Almost always, I would feel out of place, uncomfortable about connecting with people in an environment that seemed to be the worst place to engage in genuine conversation.

Nevertheless, I wanted to fit in somehow. So I thought, Why not try just a little alcohol? It’s not like the Bible says that drinking is sinful. To be honest I didn’t like the taste at all at first, but participating in the same things my friends did made me feel closer to them, more accepted, and this mattered to me.

The tipping point for me was going on an out of town trip for a football match. Our team went to a bar afterwards to celebrate, and getting a buzz from my cocktails gave me an exhilarating sense of freedom. I felt more confident, more gregarious. I do recall receiving surprised and concerned looks from people who knew me to be the conservative Christian. But I rationalized, “Hey, I can do this. I am still in control and I’m not doing anything stupid.”

I would rarely drink to the point of tipsiness, but there were a few times that I got carried away and did some ridiculous things.  One time I kissed a friend in public (someone I would never ever have kissed) while wearing my angel outfit and halo at a halloween party. The irony. My girl friends rushed over to pry me away, scolding our friend when it wasn’t even his fault. Another time, I got drunk and threw up out of a window of a moving vehicle. Yet another time, I danced like an idiot on the ledge of a club that had a lot of lecherous looking old men in it. In Europe, on a month-long trip with my friends (which was a blast), we would be out every night we could dancing with strangers and going out with people we hardly knew.

Thankfully, this season of my life was short-lived. After a while, I thought to myself, Why am I doing these things? Do I really want to be this person? I don’t even like alcohol! Furthermore, I recognized that my root problem was not the actual drinking or nights out, but the desire to have people’s approval.

Amazingly, when I told my parents about my night time adventures and the places I went go to they were NOT reactive. They didn’t scold me or condemn my friends. They didn’t pressure me to live up to the expectations of a pastor’s kid (which would have probably incited me to rebellion). Instead, their style was to spend time with me and ask me questions like, “So why do you like to drink?” They tried to understand my motivations so they could better disciple me. After all, it wasn’t my behavior that was the issue to them. It was my heart. So they prayed faithfully for me. They prayed a lot! And they reminded me that I was accountable to God.

Since they weren’t the kind of parents who were suffocatingly strict and unreasonable, or the kind of parents who micromanaged every choice their kids made, I appreciated and respected their input. More importantly, their talk-less, listen-and-dialogue-more method of mentoring me gave the Holy Spirit the space to speak to me and convict me.

I began to be deeply disturbed about the trajectory I was headed in. I knew I was a follower of Jesus. Yet my motivations revealed that I valued what people thought about me more than God’s opinion of me. Did I really love Jesus with all my heart?

Furthermore if I really loved Jesus then I would live to please him above all else. My goal would be to glorify Him, and to pursue Christ likeness and righteousness. But at that point I couldn’t confidently say that my life inspired others to follow Christ. Living with this dichotomy — professing to love God yet having little fruit to show as evidence, troubled me. I didn’t have peace.

So I went back to the convictions that my parents passed on to me when I was younger — truths that hooked me back into the will of God before I wandered too far off course. I made the decision to honour God and glorify Him. If I truly loved Him, this would be a priority to me.  It wouldn’t even be about whether drinking was okay or not. (Sometimes we can be so legalistic and judgmental as followers of Christ, equating spirituality with this image of someone who doesn’t drink, smoke, dance, go to clubs or maybe even movie theaters! Nevertheless, I do believe that everyone who likes to do things like drink or smoke should assess why they do. And if their reasons signal red flags like addiction, dependence, peer acceptance, or remedies for stress, etc…then it may very well benefit them to ask the same questions I had to.)

For me the more important questions were, “How do I live in such a way that people will be attracted to Jesus Christ in me? What does God see when He looks into my heart?” In response, I changed my Wednesday and weekend habits. I stopped going to bars and clubs in order to “fit in.” 

This didn’t mean that I lost all my friends either. I loved these girls. I still do. And when we can, we get together for meals or coffee, occasions when we can really connect and talk.

Another, more serious test came when I had my second boyfriend, the same boyfriend who eventually became my husband whom you know as my one and only, Edric Mendoza. We struggled in the area of physical purity. We didn’t have sex but we pushed things to the absolute limit. I knew that I was making compromises that were not pleasing to God, but a part of me also wanted to hold on to Edric’s affections for me. There were moments when I would deceivingly think, this isn’t so bad. It’s not like we are having sex. But I had lowered my standards for holiness and purity by comparing my actions to what “other people are doing.”

Once again, I had to ask myself the same question, Do I really love Jesus more than I love Edric? 

Because the struggle with purity continued no matter what tricks we tried to avoid temptation, we were compelled to consider breaking up. Edric also loved God and wanted to do what was right. So we broke off the relationship without any timetable for getting back together. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do and Edric would say the same thing, but it was also one of the best decisions we ever made.

Edric was an idol in my life whom I had to surrender to God. When I did so, my passion for the Lord was rekindled. Prior to this, my struggle with purity had put a wedge and cap on my ability to grow spiritually. Edric also grew deeper in His faith.

Eventually, God allowed us to get married with the approval and blessing of our parents, and after full disclosure to them. By this time our hearts were prepared to love each other the way God called us to. We understood that in any relationship, Christ must be the center. A husband and wife must love Jesus first to love each other the way they should.

Not all love stories may end this same way, but I do believe that when we love God with all that we are He gives us His best in return, which is first and foremost Himself. Everything else is a bonus!

Mendoza_119Today I am happily married to Edric. We have five children. And we are serving the Lord as a team and teaching our children to love Him. The stories that I shared are almost twenty years old, but they remain significant because they were turning points in my life, when I made a conscious choice to love God and obey Him over something else or someone else that was important to me.

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

We may have to sacrifice and experience challenges as we love God with all that we are, but He promises fullness of joy!

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” ‭‭John‬ ‭15:9-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

By God’s grace, the best and sweetest years of my life so far have been those that I have given wholeheartedly to loving, following, obeying, and serving God. When I am tempted to replace this love for God with something else (because struggles still exist), I tell myself, Nothing is better than Christ. And nothing will ever satisfy me more than to seek Him and obey His will! 

It’s About Surrendering to God, Not Your Spouse

  My struggle with pride is so often tested in the context of marriage. It is most apparent when I have to apologize to Edric, too. Why? Because I tend to think that I am right and he is wrong (which doesn’t make me right!) I also think that offering an apology means to raise the white flag of surrender — to give up a strategic advantage in a verbal conflict. (Also wrong.)

    Let me illustrate this problem of mine in a story. On Monday I felt weak, like I was coming down with the flu. My body was heavy, my brain was foggy, and I had little appetite. Being overwhelmed by the kids’ homeschool portfolios heightened my feelings of malaise, too. If I could have laid down to sleep off the fatigue I would have but the kids needed me and I had responsibilities to get done.

    Since it was date night and Edric and I were set to enjoy a buffet dinner together, my mid-afternoon phone call about changing the plans came as a disappointment to him. But in my state I wouldn’t have been much fun and the thought of eating a huge meal when I couldn’t appreciate it was unconscionable. So I requested to do date night at home, with a movie on the couch. Not too exciting. Edric agreed but he wasn’t thrilled.

    When he got home, I didn’t greet him immediately, either, which was a mistake. He hollered for a bit while awaiting my appearance at the bottom of the stairs to run into his arms. However, I stayed upstairs on my bed, half resting, half hovering over papers, trying to grade Elijah’s physical science tests. When Edric saw me, he commented, “Oh so this is why you wanted to stay home, because you had to get homeschool work done.” 

    “No, I really am not feeling well,” I replied. 

    Perceiving me as preoccupied, he took the kids to the garden to throw the ball around. 

    When evening settled in and dinner was done, Edric and I asked the kids to give us some time alone in the family room. We talked about Edric’s day — the highlights and lowlights. He opened up about a major problem at work which disheartened him so we spent some moments in prayer together, lifting up the issue to the Lord. I thought that this exchange qualified as a good substitute for a conversation we might have had over if we had gone out that night. Afterwards, we watched the film, Unbroken. (A great film!)

    Interested in the true life story of the character being portrayed, Louie Zamparini, I googled the guy and read an online biography about him. When the movie ended I was still on my phone reading so Edric interjected, “So you’re still busy.” 

    “Nope. I was just reading about Zamparini.” Shortly after I put my phone down, too.

    When we retired to bed, he didn’t attempt to cap off the night with a conversation. Instead, he turned over to his side and said flatly, “Goodnight. I love you.”

    After nearly fifteen years of marriage and almost twenty years of knowing one another, I am very sensitive to Edric’s mannerisms and tone of voice. I most certainly know when he is upset. So I asked, “What’s wrong? Are you upset?” 

    No answer came. I waited for a few moments. Absolute silence. Then, in my irritation I said, “I really feel hurt when you don’t answer me.”

    He didn’t like this comment at all. It roused him from his pretend slumber and he turned around to face me. Then he proceeded to enumerate the different ways I disappointed him that afternoon and evening. His primary sentiment was, I didn’t give him the time and attention he expected to receive. I was too busy for him. Plus, he hoped to end the evening with intimacy, but he felt like I was not interested because I was sick.

    Since the evening didn’t play out the way he imagined it would he decided to go to bed. And my question and comment to him about not answering me felt like an insult that he explained as, “turning the tables around and projecting him as the bad guy.” With indignation he asked, “What do you want from me?” 

    I responded in a feeling-holier-than-thou sort of way, “I want you to be spirit filled when you respond to me.” 

    He took this as a verbal jab. Okay…it was. I didn’t like his aggressive tone and I felt like he was only looking at things from his perspective. Wasn’t I the sick one here? I had a long day, too. And didn’t we have a wonderful moment on the couch to talk and pray together? 

    I even added at one point, “So are you faulting me for being sick?” 

    He responded with, “Are you about to get your period?” 

    “No and this has nothing to do with getting my period.” (Why do husbands always think this is a reason?!)

    There was silence again. His corner and my corner.

    As I wrestled in the quiet with my feelings, more specifically, my pride, I prayed that God would help Edric to see that HE WAS THE WRONG ONE, that he was the one over-reacting. Then I waited for Edric to be convicted. 

    It didn’t happen. 

    Instead, I heard God address me and my attitude. He told me, very clearly, YOU HUMBLE YOURSELF. Initiate saying sorry. You said you wanted to improve in this area, so humble yourself. You be the one to ask for forgiveness first…for your tone, your irritation and not prioritizing him.

    I wanted to ignore the prodding but it was incessant. Furthermore, Edric remained unmoved. Finally I remembered reading about loving God during a recent morning quiet time: TO LOVE GOD IS TO OBEY GOD. 
    “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” John‬ ‭14:21‬

    Would I dare to defy and resist God himself?! No way. Not when it came down to that. This wasn’t a fight between Edric and me, this was an occasion that revealed the real war raging beneath the surface — me vs. obeying God by choosing humility over pride. 

    So I yielded. With gentleness (which could have only come for the Lord) and with quietness of spirit (which also came from Him), I asked Edric to forgive me for my disrespect — for not prioritizing him, for being angry, and for saying the things I did during our conversation. 

    I found out later on that Edric was shocked by this uncharacteristic behavior of mine. I am ashamed to admit that he usually apologizes first.

    But I am also happy to say that after surrendering my rights and feelings, and entrusting them to the Lord, my vindictiveness dissipated. I cried for a little bit to myself, which felt like being cleansed somehow…like ugliness was draining out of me. I was honest with God, “Sometimes it’s so hard to follow you. It’s so HUMBLING!” But He comforted me with his sweet presence as I lay there, in the dark, with my head pressed against my pillow. What followed was relief and liberty, like I had made I through a spiritual test. 

    Then came something unprecedented. God asked me to initiate intimacy with Edric. “Tell him you will also have sex with him.” 

    “What?! Lord! That’s too much! That’s giving in too much!” 

    But I knew why God was asking me to do this. (Let’s not get uncomfortable about sex, okay? This is what you are supposed to do in marriage!) Offering to have sex to Edric, in the context of an argument or at the conclusion of one, was to abandon my tower of pride and to break down my walls of self-preservation. Inviting him to intimacy was to tell him, “I still love you. I still forgive you.” It was an offering of grace.

    Edric also revealed to me later on that he didn’t know what to say because I don’t EVER tell him this when we have come from an argument! He was too shocked to say yes! How awkward was this?! But I was thinking…Yey, he didn’t say yes! But Lord, please see that I obeyed by asking, okay?

    Two days after Edric and I had a great conversation to repair and heal our relationship. Edric also owned up to the areas where he should have been kinder and sweeter to me.

    What’s my point in sharing this very personal story? Humility in marriage doesn’t make me the loser like I wrongfully think it does. It’s being prideful that does. When I always want to win an argument, discussion, or maintain my fighting position, the effect is more pain and anger for Edric and me. In contrast, when I aim to please God and obey Him when he tells me to say sorry, admit my shortcomings, and move towards Edric with a sincere desire to reconcile and restore our marriage, this act of emptying myself of ME invites Christ to fill the space that pride has vacated. What pride refuses to do, Christ enables me to — to wholeheartedly love and forgive Edric, and to enjoy him again. It’s always a gain to choose God’s ways over mine. And always a win when God is glorified. 

    I don’t know what kind of marriage you are in or what kind of struggles you have as a spouse. But all of us ought to love the way Christ loves us. And a lot of times this may mean denying our prideful-ness and replacing it with the grace He gives to apologize, forgive, accept, hope, and remain committed to the one we vowed to love. So whenever you say sorry first, admitting to the hurt you have caused in your marriage, think of it as surrendering to God, not your spouse. 

    My father said that “grace is more than unmerited favor, it is the ability to accomplish God’s will.”  As Titus 2:11-12 explains, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.”

    Let me leave you with an insight from author, speaker, and apologist, Ravi Zacharias. “Love is a commitment that will be tested in the most vulnerable areas of spirituality, a commitment that will force you to make some very difficult choices. It is a commitment that demands that you deal with your lust, your greed, your pride, your power, your desire to control, your temper, your patience, and every area of temptation that the Bible clearly talks about. It demands the quality of commitment that Jesus demonstrates in His relationship to us.”   

     

    The Inspiration Behind the Book

    There are pivotal moments in all our lives, circumstances that compel us to reevaluate our beliefs and convictions. We cannot move past these monumental interruptions in the timeline of our existence without answering questions about God, the world, or ourselves.

    Many years ago I found myself at this juncture, as a victim of rape at the age of 15. I came face to face with the reality of evil in this world, something that my cornucopia childhood had shielded me from. Confronted with the pain of being violated, I had to find an interpretation for tragedy. Why does tragedy happen? What causes others to commit crimes against other people? What makes me the same or different from criminals or those who intentionally hurt or destroy? Will I continue to believe in God or deny Him for allowing this to happen to me?

      The choices I made post-rape, repositioned the compass of my life. By God’s grace, I was able to move towards healing rather than away from it. In the process of thinking through what happened to me, these were the conclusions that helped me to move forward:

     We cannot control what happens to us, but we can choose how we will respond. We can choose to become better or bitter.

    When tragedy happens, it reminds us that we live in a fallen world marred by sin. At the same time, tragedy enables us to identify with the sufferings of others when we process it positively. It enlarges our capacity to empathize and minister to others.

    Real healing happens when spiritual issues such as faith and forgiveness are dealt with. And forgiveness is a major step towards healing. However, to forgive those who have hurt us, we need to understand that we too are sinful and need God’s forgiveness. With the forgiveness that we receive from God through His Son, Jesus, we can choose to forgive those who have wounded us. Furthermore, forgiveness liberates us from being destroyed by bitterness and anger.

    When bad things happen in our lives, it doesn’t alter God’s character. He remains sovereign, good, and loving no matter what we go through.

      A sovereign, good, and loving God restores, resurrects, and renews. He purposes to use the tragedies in our lives and turn them into beautiful stories of His amazing grace.

    I elaborated more on these points in my book, which I hope and pray will also encourage those who have gone through difficulty in their lives. Although I wrote this book as someone who was a rape victim, I intended it to minister to all people who have suffered from tragic experiences in their lives, especially those who are questioning God’s goodness and plan for them.

    Recently, I was asked why I wrote this book at this point in time, years after the incident occurred. God’s timing is always perfect. Today, I am happily married to a wonderful man who loves God – a hard-working provider, a spiritual leader, and a loving husband and father to our five children. My husband, Edric, and I have the privilege of doing ministry together as speakers for seminars and conferences on marriage and parenting. I also have a blog called teachwithjoy.com where I write about the joys and honest challenges and struggles of marriage, parenting, and homeschooling. The incidence of rape is no longer the main focal point in the story of my life. It is the goodness of God.

      This is a story about who God is and how He redeems what is broken in all of us. As people read it, may they be encouraged to cling to the hope that He promises – that He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (Romans 8:28) To Him be all the glory! 

      When A Good God Allow Rape is avaialable at OMF Lit and Passages Bookshops and select National Bookstores for P100. 

    You can also buy the ebook through Amazon, Buqo, Flipreads, Google Play Store, iBooks (international stores only), and Kobo. 

    Written for OMF Lit blog.

    Keep Praying for Your Kids

    Spending time with my kids is always a highlight of my day, especially when I have one on one time with them. Today I focused on Elijah. It’s fun to engage him in dialogue because he is expressive and enjoys talking. Plus, he is my eldest so we can discuss things like “adults.”

      After homeschool coop this morning, I took him to the American Eye Center in Shangrila Mall to see a pediatric ophthalmologist. (Thank you to everyone who gave me recommendations on Facebook!)

       

     We chatted on the way, and he shared with me how his fasting week went. Last week, our church had a week-long prayer and fasting event which our family and kids participated in. Elijah chose to fast from gadgets, sweets, and snacking. According to him, avoiding gadgets liberated him from a secret addiction he was beginning to have.

    He confessed that using computers and iPads to educate himself on how to program and do coding pulled him into a world that cut him off from reality. In his own words he said, “I knew it was becoming unhealthy for me to be on my devices but I made two excuses. The first was ‘dad is busy working so I don’t have anything fun to do.’ Second, ‘it’s not bad because I don’t play games.'”

    He explained that participating in the fast allowed him to use his time in different ways — reading books again, playing with his siblings, praying for others, and having quality bible reading time. The first few days were challenging but as the week progressed, he felt like a bondage was broken. And to think that his experience with gadgets was more educational in nature!

    Yet, he admitted to me that there’s something about computers that entices him so much he can think of little else when his usage of them increases. As an older child, I check on him once in a while but I also know he has to come to his own conclusions about computers. Thankfully, the fast afforded him perspective. He was able to think objectively about being on gadgets. He even said, “My brain was releasing serotonin every time I got on a device!”

    I laughed when he said this but I can believe it. Our brain naturally does this whenever we derive pleasure and joy from any experience. For my son, Elijah, it happens to be his interest in technology. He is deeply fascinated by the world of computers which can be a good thing. But I praise God for speaking to him about its potential dangers, too. He is not interested in gaming or Internet surfing or social media but he knows that the issue is about the time he dedicates to experimenting on computers. He likes learning about how computers work, how to jailbreak devices, build websites and apps…that sort of thing.

    His proposal, therefore, is to avoid being on a computer or gadget as much as possible during the week. Originally, this was our house rule. But last year, during the latter months, I was more relaxed. The kids would use devices for educational purposes only. However, Elijah was susceptible and more vulnerable to gadget-addiction than my younger kids were. So this hidden struggle developed in his heart.

    Thankfully, a big change has been Edric’s availability. Since he stopped his morning show on ANC, he has dedicated more quality moments to share with our sons — playing games, doing puzzles, and getting them outdoors. Elijah told me this made a significant difference in subduing his desire to fiddle with gadgets. (The presence of a father does wonders!)

      Elijah will be 13 next month and I have been praying that He will develop positive habits and use his time wisely. I do believe that fasting week made Elijah more concerned and aware of his spiritual struggles. But his revelation also affirmed the need to keep praying for my kids.
    Our greatest work, as parents, is on our knees, interceding for our kids. Someone once told me that parenting must be done on our knees. It’s so true! The battle for our children’s hearts is a spiritual one.

    I spend a lot of my time with my kids because they are homeschooled. Edric and I are intentional about disciplining, training, and teaching our kids. Yet all these efforts will fall short if we do not beseech God for his enabling and wisdom, if we do not pray for our children’s protection and for God’s love to grow in their hearts so that it transforms them from within. Therefore the encouragement I received from my afternoon with Elijah was to pray for him and all my children. Only God can effectively bring to light the concealed parts of their hearts and convict them to choose attitudes, behaviors, perspectives, friends, habits, and activities that are good and pleasing to Him.

    Here’s an example of how I pray for my kids (not including the specifics for each of them.) Feel free to personalize it and improve on it for your own kids:

    “Lord, I pray for each of my kids to love you with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Help them to seek after you and desire to know you. Put in them a passion for your Word. Open their eyes to understand spiritual truth and shield them from the lies of the evil one. Let them develop God-honoring convictions about the friends they should choose, habits they should form, and the use of their time. Prepare their future spouses to be God-fearing and committed Christ-followers. Safeguard their innocence and purity. Keep them from unhealthy addictions. Instill in them Christ-like character and teach them to be spirit-filled. Make them bold and courageous for what is true and right. Give them a compassion for the lost. Let them love one another and look out for each other. Help them to love and respect us and to submit to authority. Let them know they are equally loved and special to us. Allow them to develop their gifts and talents for your glory. Equip them to be influencers and leaders who will make a difference for you in this world. Let their hearts be teachable and humble. Give them a love for learning. May our daughters be beautiful inside and out, and our sons handsome and masculine — men and women of stature. Bless them with musical and artistic talent, and let your favor be upon them. Make them mighty in spirit and wise. Protect them from Satan, his demons and evil spirits, malicious people, robbers, kidnappers, abusers, natural calamities, accidents, sicknesses, and sin. Do not let them fall away from you. Let them be faithful to you till the end of their days. May they live for you and glorify you with all that they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

    I want to keep praying for my kids this way and even more intentionally as they grow older. Each one of them, like Elijah, has their weaknesses, and these become more apparent as they mature. Sometimes it’s such a temptation to be anxious. However, when I start to feel worried, it is prayer that allays my fears. I remember WHO I am entrusting my children to. Let me end this with an amazing description of who God is. We can replace each “you” and “your” with the names of our kids:

    “He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.”
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    The Problem With My Tongue

    If there is one SPECIFIC thing I need to improve on this year, it is to guard my tongue. As a person who takes pleasure in the use of language as a means of expression, I have come to realize what a sacred responsibility it is. This gift of communication is from the Lord but when infected with selfishness, it can be used to curse and hurt others.

    For example, over the holidays I took the kids to buy presents for one another. The kids earned their own money to buy gifts and they were thoroughly excited to pick out Christmas presents for each others and their cousins. But since their budgets were small, they couldn’t purchase very expensive toys for each person. Instead they had to be thoughtful and creative. However, since four out of my five were in the store with me, in the end, l paid the cashier a significant amount of money on their behalf. 

      I took the kids’ presents to the wrapping counter and asked if the attendants could wrap each of their gifts. One of my sons bought three cars for their cousin, the total amount of which was 300+ pesos. But the lady at the counter said, “I am sorry but we can’t wrap items that are less than P300.” And I appealed, “But I am combining the items so they are equal to at least P300.” The lady’s non-sense reply was, “Sorry, ma’am but that’s our policy.” 

    I retorted with irritation, “It doesn’t make any sense. You mean to tell me that even if I spent seven thousand pesos in your store, you will not wrap items that I bought that are less than 300 pesos?” 

    “Yes, ma’am. The minimum for wrapping everything is 10k.” 

    By this time I was thoroughly annoyed and visibly so. There was no real logic to what she was saying. One of my sons was beside me, peering over the table, innocently hoping that he could have all his gifts for his siblings and cousins wrapped. The site of his anticipation heightened my aggravation for the attendant.

    Maybe the attendant saw all the small items in his shopping bag and thought about how she didn’t want to have to wrap every single small item in it. I don’t know what exactly was going through her head but she seemed to be unaccommodating and inflexible. This was a classic case of rote thinking at the expense of the customer’s convenience. 

    My pride kicked in when she offered to wrap some of the items with a higher price tag on them. Instead of cheerfully receiving this proposal, I said, “Forget it. Never mind. We will just do everything ourselves.” My tone was curt and cutting. 

    I didn’t want to have to sort through all the kids’ gifts for each other — 20 something items to check each of their price tags before giving them to the attendant to wrap for us. So I walked off. My son saw that I was upset. 

    My heart wasn’t right and I wasn’t a good example. This was one of those moments when I wished I could have restrained my emotions and chosen to be humble and compliant. I let bad customer service determine the way I verbally responded. 

    This is where I often err. I had to apologize to my kids and ask for their forgiveness. Looking back, I should have returned to the salesperson and also asked for her forgiveness, but I was too proud. I didn’t redeem the situation or honor God’s name. 

    Therefore, it’s no surprise that during this fasting week and time of prayer, God revealed to me that I need to improve in this area. I came across this passage…

    “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips. Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice deeds of wickedness with men who do iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭141:3-4

    Even though I gave an example of speaking unkindly to a sales attendant, most of the time it isn’t with strangers that I let my tongue loose. Rather it is with my husband, Edric, who has also told me on numerous occasions that I have to be careful with my words and tone. When I don’t like a decision he has made or the way he treats me, my tendency is to lash out with statements that provoke him to debate and argue with me. 

     During a seminar I attended last year, the speaker said, “When you are about to say something to your spouse think about whether it will really benefit them to hear you say what you want to say or if it is merely to benefit yourself.” 

    I thought this was a great principle to keep in mind as I guard my mouth. God made our tongues to bless and not to curse, to give life and build up, not to tear down. Furthermore, we are to use our mouths to exalt God and declare His goodness. During the same day I read about guarding my tongue Psalm 145 said, “All Your works shall give thanks to You, O LORD, And Your godly ones shall bless You. They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom And talk of Your power; To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom. My mouth will speak the praise of the LORD, And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.” ‭Psalms‬ ‭145:10-12, 21‬ ‭

    Please pray that I will be more thoughtful about the words I speak. What comes out is a good clue to what’s inside my heart. I have tried to find a remedy for this disease of the tongue that I am susceptible to. And so far the best fix is what Psalm 119:11 says: “Your word have I treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you.” 

    Highlights of 2015

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

    The boys improved immensely in their violin playing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Another super highlight was Elijah getting baptized. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

    Number Our Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    What Does My Heart Look Like This Christmas?

    Edan, my second son, is the kind of child whose expressions and actions have to be observed closely because he isn’t a talker. When I ask him what he’s thinking or feeling, he needs time to reflect before churning out an answer.

    His two brothers are very different. Elijah likes to dialogue about his thoughts and feelings. Titus will simply say, “I’m not thinking anything.” (He’s a very uncomplicated fellow.) Edan, on the other hand, needs to be pried open cautiously. He doesn’t respond to confrontation, nor does he appreciate being badgered into giving an answer to people’s queries about himself. So I’ve learned to be patient as a mother and wait for him to unfold in his own way.

    Every once in a while, however, I will catch him doing something that speaks loudly about the kind of person he is. And I latch on to these occasions and treasure them because they reveal what’s going on inside his heart.

    Today, at church, a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a while handed each of my kids money for Christmas. (She is ninang to my daughter, Tiana, but she generously gave my other kids money, too.) All of them were thrilled. Naturally, I expected them to think of buying something for themselves.

    As the service went on, I noticed that Edan pulled out a tithing envelope. He carefully tucked his bills inside them. He held on to the envelope for a while and then turned around to whisper to me, “Mom, can you put this in the tithing box for me?

    Surprised, I asked him why he wanted to tithe the money he just received. True to his nature, he didn’t give me an immediate answer. But shortly after, he managed to explain, “I want to give my money to Jesus.” When I prodded him further, he added, “I can’t explain it, I just like giving to Jesus.”

    At first I thought, Whose kid is this?! Is this my 9 year old, Edan?!

    Edan is better known in our family as a keeper of money rather than a giver of it. When we play board games, he likes to hoard the cash and pile it up. That’s his default strategy to beat everyone. It doesn’t always work but he, of all our kids, seems to have this bent towards business-mindedness. I suppose this is why it surprised me to see how willingly he parted with his money. His actions appeared incongruent with his personality and he got my attention. God used Edan’s example of a giving heart to teach me three important Christmas lessons.

    First, Edric and I have come to recognize that anytime our children make the right choices it isn’t because we are such great parents or because our children are extra special. We can only go so far and do so much as parents to influence our kids towards Christ-centeredness. We are fallen persons, a mix of flaws that must be surrendered to the Lord daily. Furthermore, each of our kids is unique and fragile in their own way, with weaknesses and character issues that need supernatural fixing. So the miraculous transformation that we witness in them is a testament to the way God makes something beautiful out of our mess-ups, mistakes, and missed opportunities. While I would like to take credit and say, “Yep, that’s my kid,” I am more convicted to say, “He’s your child, Lord. That’s your handprint in his heart and life. That’s Christ in him. Please complete the work you have begun in him and make him into the man you want him to grow up to be, not for me, not for Edric, but for you and your glory.”

    Second, everything we have been given is grace. Edan wasn’t an “official godchild” of my friend. Yet she handed him some money anyway, because she loves him as she does all my other kids. Similarly, God loves you and He loves me. He bestows upon us certain gifts, talents and abilities that speak more of who he is as a loving heavenly Father rather than how deserving we are. All of my kids had the opportunity to do something with their monetary presents, but they didn’t make the same choice Edan did. In the same way, all of us have the liberty to spend our gifts, talents and abilities as we choose. Will we keep these for ourselves or will we say, as Edan did, “Lord I give what I have to you?”

    Third, the ability and desire to give what we have to God comes when we realize what He has given to us. Beyond the gifts, talents, and abilities, God sent us His Son, Jesus. Years ago, as a younger boy, Edan received Jesus into his life by faith. He understood that he was sinful and needed a Savior, and he believed in what Jesus did on the cross for him. Shortly after, it felt like Edric and I had a new child. Edan was vastly different from the previous version of himself, whom we knew to be grumpy, uncooperative, and temperamental. He became kind and tender-hearted and he developed a genuine love for the Lord.

    At about the same time five years ago, Edan sang the song “Mary, did you know” before he went to bed one evening, with my younger sister, Carolyn, as his witness. They shared a room during our Christmas vacation because we were a growing family and couldn’t fit in one room with all our kids. Carolyn told me the song came to Edan spontaneously, as she turned off the lights so he could go to sleep. As she tucked him in, he said, “You know, Aunty Carolyn, I really love Jesus. He is my best friend.”

     I remembered this story as I thought about Edan holding on to the tithing envelope with his little hands. When he said he wanted to give everything that he had to Jesus it came from a deep gratitude he could not articulate, one which overflowed from experiencing the gift that is Jesus Christ.

    This Christmas I pray we will spend time pondering upon God’s generosity to us. May the gift of His Son compel us to present to Him the gift of a giving heart – a heart transformed by Jesus that delights to offer everything to Him in return for who He is and what He has done.