Modeling Womanhood

Tiana, my four year old daughter, likes to copy everything I do. I am her reference for womanhood. The other day she was talking about her hair when she said, “Mom I need one of those airconditioners for the hair.” She meant a blow dryer, which she had seen me use at a hotel.

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I was blessed to have my mom as a role-model for womanhood. Ever since I was a little girl, I looked up to her. She epitomized who I wanted to be. When people told me I sounded just like my mom or I reminded them of her, it was a compliment I gladly received.

The most important example she mirrored for me was how to be a wife and mother, how to be a woman who seeks to honor God in her life and relationships, especially at home.

What was often remarkable to me was my mom’s willingness to submit to my dad’s authority. Was she an opinionated and strong woman? Definitely. But she displayed strength under the Holy Spirit’s control. She knew that God’s will was often disclosed through the leadership of my father so she chose to follow him.

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If they were not in agreement, she would pray that God would change my dad’s heart (if that was His will.) For example, years ago she wanted to home school my siblings and me when we were in elementary. She had this epiphany before my dad did. Excited to communicate to him her plan, she asked him if she could pull my siblings and me out of a Chinese school to teach us at home. His response was, “Deonna that’s a big responsibility and I know your personality so I want you to pray about it for one year.”

Even though my mom was disappointed, she surrendered this desire to the Lord and obeyed my dad. After one year, she asked him again before re-enrolling us for the next school year. Calling him in the office with her sing-song-y voice she said, “Honey, today is the day for the enrollment of the kids but I have been praying about homeschooling. What has God showed you? Can we?”

My dad gave her a flat, “No.”

After she put the phone down, my mom sat in the bathroom and cried. She had hoped to homeschool my siblings and me that year, but that dream seemed like it was not going to happen. So she decided to pray again.

After she got dressed, she ventured another attempt and phoned my dad. “Peter, I’m about to leave for the school, but I just want to check one more time, what’s your final decision?”

Between the first call and the next, which couldn’t have been more than an hour, God miraculously worked in the heart of my dad. When I asked him what changed, he explained to me that he was convicted to make a faith decision. So he replied, “Okay, let’s go for it.” My mom put the phone down and sat in the bathroom again and cried…this time for joy!

Stories like this one demonstrated to me how God uses a wife to minister, bless, support, and encourage her husband to pursue God’s will when she submits to his authority.

When I got married and struggled with submission (it’s not a genetically inherited trait to be submissive, right?!) I remembered my mom’s example. She was a reference for me.

For the record, I still struggle. But I praise God for the example my mom modeled to me. Her desire to obey God by obeying my dad resulted in His favor in her marriage and in our family.

Was she always perfect? Nope. When my parents were building a house, my mom’s strong personality would seep out as a reaction to my dad’s perspective of function over form. When it came to design they had conflicting views. There were moments when my mom wanted to convince him about her more enlightened aesthetic preferences. However, she did so in a manner that would come across as agitated. Tiles, windows, doors, ceiling heights, railings, stairs, balconies, and room configurations would sometimes became tense discussions. If she ever did get annoyed to the point of disrespect, what she did model was a humble apology to my dad and to us, kids. She would say things like, “Kids will you forgive me for speaking to your dad that way. I was wrong.”

It was certainly clear to me that my dad was my mom’s number one priority next to God. One simple way she would prioritize him was asking for his permission before booking schedules or making commitments. She would tell the persons who invited her, “Okay let me get back to you, I will just check with Peter.” I learned to do the same as a wife, verifying with Edric before scheduling any activity that will conflict with his schedule, take me away from the home, or involve his presence. When people want to get together with us or make an appointment, I don’t say Yes, Edric and I can make it unless I confirm with him first. This also applies to occasions when my side of the family invites us over or tries to make plans.

My mom tried her best to make sure that my dad came home to a well-managed and happy home. When she was first married, she cooked everything in the same color. She didn’t know a lot of recipes so my dad bought her a cookbook one day and asked, “Do you think you could try some of the dishes in this cookbook?” She gladly did so. In fact, she became an amazing cook. I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen watching her cook and bake, and learned to do the same with her.

She was intentional about modeling and teaching home making skills to me. When I got married, Edric was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to bake cookies, sew buttons on shirts, hem pants, make throw pillows, handwash clothing if necessary, etc. (I also knew how to clean toilets and do some minor plumbing work.) These abilities especially helped in the first year of our marriage when we didn’t have househelp. There was nothing extraordinary about what I could do. Most people who don’t grow up with househelp learn these basic home survival skills. Nevertheless, Edric greatly appreciated that I wasn’t clueless when it came to managing the home. Thanks, Mom!

Instead of pursuing a career outside the home, my mom homeschooled my siblings and me for a good number of years. Even when we went to a conventional school, she remained a stay-at-home mom. We were privileged to have her available to us 24/7. She also arranged her ministry work, appointments, and activities around us so we didn’t have to compete for her attention.

Because she was present, it was natural for us to tell her about our day and discuss what was going on in our lives. I remember an occasion when I was asked by friends to try marijuana. When I got home, I told her, “Mom, my friends said I should try marijuana. They said I can’t say it’s not for me if I’ve never tried it.”

She didn’t go ballistic. She didn’t say, “Hey you are a pastor’s kid, you better not touch that stuff!” In fact, didn’t even show signs of elevated blood pressure. Instead she listened to my reasoning. That night she prayed for me and researched about drugs. The next day, she non-threateningly presented to me a Reader’s Digest article so I could have material to read. By God’s grace I never touched marijuana or other drugs as a result of her gentle intervention and influence.

My mom handled many parenting issues with grace. I don’t ever remember her shouting at me or any of my siblings. Instead, her method of correction was the sandwich approach. Pad the meat of what you want to say with a lot of sincere praise – the bread — so a person can swallow your correction – the meat – without gagging to death from discouragement. This approach came in very handy in marriage, raising my children, or ministering to others. I would imagine my mom and think, How would she say this in a way that speaks the truth in love?

It was my mom’s relationship with Jesus that made her the mother she was, and still is. She showed me what biblical womanhood is about – that a woman must desire to please God and follow his principles for her life, especially when it comes to marriage and parenting. When she does this it gives her a quality of beauty and spirit that makes her husband and children treasure her. As a bonus, her influence and ministry will reach far beyond the home. My mom may not have been a career woman but she touched the lives of women all over the world by her example and ministry.

May God receive the glory for the woman she is!

Obeying Your Husband = God’s Bountiful Blessings

Edric and I usually don’t spend alot for birthday parties. With five children, that kind of expense can add up. However, we do like to celebrate their first year of life with a dedication ceremony that gives them back to the Lord. It’s the principle of “for God’s use only.” The Bible says, “The earth is the Lord and all it contains, the world and all who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24:1) Therefore our children, our possessions, our accomplishments all belong to Him.

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For Catalina, we waited until October to hold her birthday/dedication event so we could time it with our house dedication. We invited family, our bible study group, Edric’s best friends from high school, and a few of our neighbors. I wanted to invite more people but the headcount for our guests was somewhere around 140 (with kids and yayas) which was a sizable number to have in our home.

I wasn’t sure how we were going to feed everyone if the cooking was dependent on me. So I asked Edric what kind of budget we had to work with and he mouthed out a number that wasn’t too exciting. How in the world was I going to put together this event with such a small budget?

His reasons were valid. We just finished our home so expenses have been tighter. It’s saving mode time. But X amount for food, tables and chairs, décor, games and prizes? I racked my brain trying to figure out how to do it.

Here were my options:

1. Cook some of the food and order the rest. Borrow chaffing dishes from my mom. Rent the tables and chairs. Decorate on my own.

2. Get a more reasonable caterer that wouldn’t be able to style it but had good food. Decorate on my own.

3. Hire a caterer who could supply some of the food, bring tables and chairs and centerpieces, and I provide the rest of the menu.

4. Convince Edric to give me a bigger party fund so I could get someone who could decorate and cater for me and create the theme I wanted, and be stress-free!

Naturally, I desired option 4. It would have been the simplest way for me to hold the party. But I knew that Edric really wanted me to be frugal. So I did my part to plan and find suppliers.

I wrote a random post on Facebook asking for caterer recommendations. While I received a number of helpful responses, one of the suggestions really stood out — Passion Cooks Catering. I checked out their Facebook account and I thought, Here’s a company that will surely be able to execute the theme I wanted. 

Since I had no idea what their rates were like I sent them a message and explained my requirements. In response, I received a list of their prices. When I went through their price list, I was discouraged. Their costs weren’t within the range of my budget.

So I kept looking for suppliers and narrowed down my choices to three options. Passion Cooks was still one of them but I didn’t reply to their proposal right away. I was considering another caterer who had given me a proposal the included food, chairs and tables. In fact, I was inclined to finalize with them because the price was right, but I waited for a few more days. In the meantime, I received a Facebook message from Maja Martinez-Angeles, one of the owners of Passion Cooks Catering , asking if I reviewed their newest proposal.

She sent me another menu that was for a heavy merienda which I really liked, and she also offered to set-up chairs, tables, and decorations. But it didn’t indicate the cost. Here’s where my internal wrestling with submission to Edric came in. I knew that if I really begged him, he would allow me to increase my budget. He is sweet towards me like that. He’s often said, “You are my weakness.” However, if he did give in to me it would be due to manipulation on my part. And I didn’t want to do that. His desire to keep to a budget was a good one and I knew I should honor it.

Before I sent a reply to Maja, God convicted me very strongly to OBEY Edric. I was embarrassed to tell her the price per head that I needed but God told me, You obey Edric and tell Maja what your budget is. Be humble and honest. Be willing to settle for the other caterer because you should honor Edric. Don’t try to manipulate Edric to get your way.

Okay, okay. I replied to Maja saying that at this point in time, I only had such and such amount to work with and I would consider getting her for a future event instead. In a few minutes, Maja got back to me and said, “The menu I proposed to you is X amount.”

What?! Seriously?! I couldn’t believe it. It was even lower than what I had told her! But what about chairs and tables and décor? Maja told me she would include that in the cost.

I almost fell off my chair. In fact, I got teary-eyed. It seemed too good to be true.

She asked me to meet her so we could discuss details. We convened at a café where I also met her adorable daughter, Yuna, and to my surprise, she casually mentioned, “I forgot to tell you that I go to CCF (our church), and I’m under the discipleship group of Cindy Soriano (The wife of CCF Alabang’s head pastor, Joby Soriano). Oh, and I read your blog, too.”

By this time I knew it was definitely too good to be true! This was the Lord’s doing! Maja turned out to be such a wonderful, professional, experienced, and capable stylist/caterer/businesswoman. I was very impressed with how easy this all seemed to her. She understood exactly what I was hoping for in terms of a look for the event. For example, I wanted a rustic garden theme with folded white chairs (not the typical mono bloc covered ones or tiffany chairs), and wooden tables. Maja’s company had these. I also wanted more gourmet food which her menu options had. She even handed me packed food to taste without me asking for her to do this.

The food was delicious! Even my son, Elijah, exclaimed, “This is the best salad ever!” in reference to their Mango Salsa with Catfish Salad.

Through the course of our discussions, I also found out that Maja had six years of experience in New World Hotel after she graduated from college before starting her business. I believe this is one of the reasons why she has a keen eye for detail and sophistication. Following her work there, she partnered with her mom (who is a chef), to create Passion Cooks Catering.

She worked hard to build this business. When she was starting out, a certain venue told her that her chaffing dishes were outdated and didn’t “pass” their standards. Now, they more than welcome her business! I asked her how many people she can cater for in a day and she replied, “We can handle up to 2,500 people.” This translates to multiple events or one HUGE wedding! Today, Maja handles wedding occasions and her partners, Melissa Cabrera-Bolasco and Ivy Caparas, oversee kiddie parties and other celebrations.

After I met with Maja, I was very confident that she would be able to take care of everything. The stress I had felt as I scrambled to find caterers and brainstorm dissipated. All I had to do was complete my “assignments.” Send her photos of my inspirations, find a photographer, source a sound system, email her the dimensions of our yard, and give her the list of the kids’ games, etc.

Early Saturday morning, Maja sent her army of people to our home. Two hours before the event, Elijah came bounding up the stairs to drag me down to see all the décor. “You HAVE to come downstairs, mom!” I was in the middle of printing the game rules but he kept insisting.

The backyard was transformed into a stunning rustic garden theme…better than I imagined! Edric was thoroughly impressed. He had no idea what kind of coordination had happened behind the scenes when he was in the U.S. that week. When he saw our backyard, he couldn’t believe it! ESPECIALLY BECAUSE I STUCK TO HIS BUDGET AND OBEYED HIM.

He was so pleased that I did so, he even asked, “Do you need more money? How can I help you?” The context was this…A few hours before 3 PM (when the party was to start), I presented to him the cake that I made myself. I made this cake to save money. He forced down a chuckle because the icing had peeled off the cake on one side. It was an obvious disaster. So his heart went out to me and he told me that whatever I needed he would get for me! So we made an emergency trip to buy three rainbow cakes and other materials for the games.

In the meantime, Maja dropped by for a bit to check on the place. When I saw her I told her how amazed I was! But this wasn’t the end of the story…

She had told me to get a photographer and we knew a couple of photographer friends. Unfortunately, all of them were busy this past weekend. So Edric told Elijah to take pictures of the set-up. Well, Maja texted me that her friend, Joshua, was going to snap photos of the details before the guests arrived. It turned out that Joshua recognized Elijah from a photoshoot of our family last year, and he offered to photograph our family and send a team to cover Catalina’s party!

Joshua didn’t just take our family portrait, he also took the Tan-Chi family portrait. This was something my parents and siblings wanted to get done while my sister, Candy and her husband, Jeff , were visiting from the U.S. Initially, I asked my brother, Peter, to bring his camera to the party so we could do an informal shot of the family. He was prepared to do this but God provided a professional.

Joshua De Guzman is a 22-year old photographer who is spunky and very talented! Even though he is young, he is already a very experienced photographer. Check out his Facebook page: Little J Photography. This guy is going to go places.

During a quick lunch with him and Maja before the party, we found out that he used to be a fish vendor in Tuguegaraw before following his dream of becoming a photographer. Coming to Manila to study, his “calling card” was the blackboard/whiteboard, where he would write something like this, “If you want a free photoshoot, call me and bring a camera.” He didn’t even own his own camera but he used these opportunities to get lots of practice and train himself. Today he is living his dream at such a young age.

If I were to enumerate all the ways God blessed this day, this article would get very long. (It already is.) But, the last thing I wanted to share was how God held the weather. I checked the weather forecast for Saturday, October 4, every single day for two weeks prior to it. All the forecasts said to expect thunderstorms. Ack. Every day before Saturday, there was heavy rain in the afternoon. But October 4 was the best day to do it because my sister was leaving two days after and almost all of the people we invited were available on this day. So I just prayed really hard and asked family and friends to pray, too.

The entire morning was clear and the clouds started to darken in the early afternoon but the miracle was, we only had a light shower and no downpour. Since we had tents in the backyard, we were perfectly fine.

Let’s put this all together…

I didn’t want to follow Edric’s budget at first. But because I honored him as my husband, God gave me…

…the gift of a gorgeous party we could not afford

…styled by a brilliant artist-of-a-woman

…who happened to be a member of our same church

…who happened to be a reader of my blog

…so we could celebrate the life of a daughter and a home we do not deserve

…with friends and family who came despite the horrendous traffic

…on a day that should have had torrential rain but didn’t

…that was captured by a talented photographer

…who happened to be free to take photos of the event

…who also took our family portraits

…who volunteered his services

…who sent a team to cover the rest of the party

…who gave us amazing photos to remember an amazing day!

It’s not always easy for me to obey Edric. There are days when I don’t want to, when I want my own way. However, I remember principles like Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I need to prefer God’s will; to wholeheartedly follow His principles; to love His precepts; to want Him over my own desires.

If I had placed my desire for a beautiful, stress-free party above my obedience to Edric, I would have forfeited the extraordinary happenings of that day. Desire must follow delighting in God. In the end, obeying Edric resulted in God’s bountiful blessings. Furthermore, since Edric saw that I really tried my best, I had his favor, too.

Will this always be the case? I don’t know how God intends to reward us as wives every time we honor our husbands. However, I do know that in his perfect time and perfect way, he will bless us because he calls himself a REWARDER of those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

May you and I continually experience this truth in our lives and marriages!

MANY THANKS TO MAJA OF PASSION COOKS CATERING AND JOSHUA OF LITTLE J PHOTOGRAPHY! MAY THE LORD BLESS YOU IN INCREDIBLE WAYS FOR YOUR GENEROSITY OF SPIRIT, AND THE MANNER IN WHICH YOU CONSTANTLY GIVE GLORY TO HIM WITH YOUR ARTISTRY!

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Virginity

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My beautiful sister, Candy, is visiting from the U.S. with her family. She gave her testimony about purity to a group of young people two weekends ago. I asked her for a copy of what she shared for the benefit of all my single readers. May this post bless you!

CANDY: Growing up my parents always talked to us about staying pure, guarding our hearts and bodies from sexual sin, and saving ourselves for marriage. They said we have to make the choice ahead of time to stay pure and abstain from sex before marriage. If you don’t decide ahead of time, when the temptation comes, it will be harder to say no.   This applies to other areas of our lives…. Whether it be saying no to drinking, to smoking, to drugs, and even sexual orientation.

As a teenager, I actually struggled with the thought, what if I become a lesbian someday?  I played a lot of sports and I women from opposing teams were hitting on me…even while I was playing basketball against them! I talked to my mom about this and confessed my fears. I said I don’t want to be a lesbian because I know it’s against God’s word but I’m afraid I might become one. She said it is a choice. I just need to decide ahead of time to follow God’s design and trust in Him.

Amazingly, when I decided I would never become a lesbian or even experiment with things of this nature, I had a peace that came over me. The worry vanished. (I’m so glad I communicated with my Mom what was going on in my head, too, because she was able to help me.)

Another way my parents helped me was encouraging me not to be in an exclusive dating relationship until I was ready to get married. So in high school, I never had a boyfriend. However, when I started attending college, I told my parents that I needed to start dating so I would know what kind of man I wanted to marry. To me, that sounded logical and I thought I knew more than my parents about this subject. Their ideas were old fashioned to me.

Instead of reacting or belittling my ideas, we openly discussed this train of logic. I soon realized I had it backwards. First, to pray and decide what kind of man I wanted to marry… and then ONLY date the man that fit my criteria, a man who had the godly characteristics I longed for. I didn’t need to date a lot of guys to figure that out. It would be a waste of my time and open me up to more temptation.

Because I was able to internalize this truth while talking to my parents, God protected me from a lot of heartache, wasted relationships and time, and potential immorality. I still remember my Dad telling me… “someday there will come a point where you think you know more than me, but I will still know more than you.” Now that I’m an adult and have my own children, I full-heartedly believe that parents do know more than their children since they have the added wisdom of experience.

However, even though I believed my parents and wanted to protect my purity, I didn’t always listen to their advice. One of the guidelines my parents taught me was never be in a room alone with the opposite sex. Until dental school, I had never kissed a guy.  However, there was a man who started courting me. He was handsome, musical, and smart. One night we were in my room alone and before I knew it we were kissing. I remember feeling guilty afterwards and realized I shouldn’t have done that. I had wasted my first kiss on somebody that I wasn’t sure I was going to marry. Even though I knew this in my head, there was a strong temptation to be physical with him.

I finally shared with my parents what was going on with me and this guy. Being accountable to my parents gave me renewed strength to put boundaries when it came to the physical aspect. I also asked my parents if they could meet the guy because I didn’t want to get into a serious relationship unless they approved of him.

As my parents sat down with him and asked them questions about his plans and life goals, his answers made me realise that he wasn’t God’s best pick for me. With difficulty but conviction, I was able to end the dating relationship.  I praise God that my parents lovingly intervened to help me process and think through my affections for this guy. Because of their wisdom, it was apparent that I shouldn’t be with him.

After this experience, I committed to honor my parents and marry someone they approved of.  Second, I knew what kind of man I wanted to marry… someone who really loved the Lord and had a mature relationship with Him. In time, God brought His best choice to me with the full blessing of my parents. In fact, he was a man whom my father identified as someone I should consider. When my dad broached the idea to me this man, Jeff, had a girlfriend. But soon after Jeff broke up with her and began expressing interest in me.

Even though I had given my first kiss away, I was able to stay a virgin and give Jeff that gift when we got married. Seven years ago, we got married and today we are blessed with a growing family — three boys — Corban, Levi and Joshua. We are both dentists, serving the Lord together, and we share a burden for dental missions.

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God’s way is the Best Way. There is no better life lived than one that obeys and follows the Lord. God’s will for us is to be pure and to guard ourselves against sexual sin.  It takes commitment to be pure and holy, to preserve one’s virginity, and to set guidelines in order to avoid the temptation that is out there.  The decision must be made long before a relationship is in the picture. Furthermore, letting our parents have a say about a major choice like who we date and marry may not always turn out the way we hope, but he uses their wisdom and experience to protect us and help us make wise choices. I am so glad I didn’t continue in my relationship with the guy I was seeing before Jeff. If I hadn’t heeded the advice of my parents, I would have missed out on the blessings God intended for me.

To those who aren’t virgins, make the decision today to be pure. My husband wasn’t a virgin when we started dating. He had slept with his first girlfriend and deeply regretted what he did. I praise God that he was a changed man before we dated. He and I decided NOT to have sex together until we got married. So you can say that he was a spiritual virgin in our relationship.

Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart oh Lord, my God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

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MY POST NOTES…

As Candy’s older sister, I’ve witnessed first hand how God has directed the course of her life because she sought to honour him and his principles. By His grace, she was preserved from the heartaches that many women experience today. She bypassed the broken heartedness, deceit, betrayal, and depression that are very often the aftermath of sexual sin (not to mention the possibility of pregnancy and STD’s, too). As a bonus, God led her to a man who respected her for her convictions and who wanted to honour them. Yes, these men still exist in the world! Jeff is a man who loves God and Candy deeply. He is also intelligent, wise, successful, and good-looking. He may not have had a perfect past (none of us do), but when he gave his life to the Lord, he too committed to purity.

I have yet to meet a woman who celebrates her sexual exploits and experiences outside the context of marriage.  Sooner or later women come to a point of recognition — that sex as portrayed by a world that has rejected its DESIGNER, is a fleeting pleasure that doesn’t satisfy the greater longings for love and happiness. It may be fun at the onset, but the reality is we do not gain by giving away what is precious to us to a man who is not our husband. It is never a fair trade to exchange our bodies for the promise of their love and devotion. An honourable man will not expect a woman of worth to do this for him. This is a privilege reserved for the security and sanctity a marital relationship provides.

In contrast, I have met many women who committed to purity who are enjoying marriage as God intended them to. They do not carry the ugly baggage that sexual sin attaches to their souls. Although it is common to think casually about sex and to lose one’s virginity early, the blessings of purity are worth the wait — peace, joy, protection, and God’s favour.

When everyone is saying that sex is okay outside of marriage and giving hearty approval to those who engage in it, it’s easy to buy into the same perspective and do the same. So the company one keeps is important.Whether it is family members or a group of friends who share the same convictions, accountability makes the commitment to purity more plausible.

It’s also necessary to be sensitive to the values we are exposed to. From billboards, advertisements, TV shows, movies, internet sites, music, and even people we look up to and see as role-models, we are developing appetites and patterns of thinking that impact our concept of right or wrong. If we are constantly bombard by messages that tell us sex outside of marriage is the norm then we will believe this. Furthermore, what is to prevent us from remaining faithful to our spouse in marriage? Whatever habits we form before marriage will be difficult to undo later on.

So my dear young people, I would like to encourage you to make God’s word the standard. Sexual purity isn’t about staying a virgin, it is much more than this. Virginity is first and foremost a condition of the heart towards God. It is about seeking to be holy in our thoughts and actions as He is holy.

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

For those who have made choices that have not glorified God, there is hope. Purity is a byproduct of what we fill our minds with and what we believe about God and ourselves. Don’t focus on pursuing purity. Pursue God and his will for your life and he will be the one to purify you inside and out.

Some people have said, but what about the guys? Are there any guys out there who will save themselves for us? That’s God’s department. I was blessed to marry a guy who was a virgin. (I can talk about this in another post.) There are men out there who love God, who have also committed to purity, but I doubt you will encounter them at common social venues that one might expect to. Forget about bars, for instance. Broaden the horizon. I like what one pastor said and I will paraphrase it here… “If you want to find God’s best, run as hard and as fast as you can towards God, then look to your left or right. If you see someone running in the same direction, grab their hand.” Some of the sweetest marriages have happened when two persons who give themselves to God’s work find one another in the context of serving God. How amazing it is when we recognise a shared passion to build God’s kingdom in the heart of another. How greater still when this recognition leads to a marital union that makes two better as one!

 

 

Just A Little MORE Respect

I am on a role with this respect series so I am going to go ahead and post what I just shared at a couples’ retreat in Baguio…

At the beginning of my marriage I struggled in the area of respect. (For those of you who have followed my blog, you have heard me say this a number of times.)

I thought I had married the man of my dreams. He was (still is) but in our marriage, certain realties presented themselves.

Edric had temper issues. I didn’t see this when we were dating. But my father-in-law jokingly told me once, “Edric can be a monster.” I laughed because I thought it was an exaggeration. This couldn’t possibly be true, I thought.

However, a few weeks after we got married I began to see what my father-in-law meant. Edric had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to him. When he was in good spirits he was the most fun person to be with. He was energetic, intense, and passionate. But, when he was uncomfortable due to heat, hunger, fatigue, or stress, he was the binary opposite. If his expectations were not met he tended to be critical. Furthermore, as the only son in his family, he wasn’t used to being flexible with inefficiencies and changes in plans. He admitted that he was used to being treated like a PRINCE. Naturally, in marriage, he graduated to KING and wanted to be treated that way.

I began to entertain thoughts like, “Is this the man I married? Is this how marriage is going to be?”

One of the mistakes I made was I compared Edric to my dad. Even though I didn’t vocalize this, it was like I had a mental chart in my head with two names on it..Edric versus my father. And then I went down the list of “categories” and said things like, “Why can’t Edric be more even-keeled like dad? Why doesn’t he make choices like dad in this area? Why isn’t he a better provider?”

So I made it my mission to help Edric be a better husband and leader. I thought I was doing him a favor by correcting and pinpointing areas for improvement. But this didn’t work. It only lead to more conflict.

Edric would be driving down Edsa and if someone cut him off, he would try to chase the person down and antagonize him. This would deeply annoy me, so I would say things like, “Why do you have to get angry? You shouldn’t do that. That’s not a godly response.”

He would react with greater irritation at my attempts to teach him, and tell me to back off and leave him alone, that it wasn’t the time or place to correct him. According to him, he already knew he was wrong and he didn’t need me to say it.

This sort of scenario and many others repeated themselves over and over so that I developed a resentment toward Edric. I became an expert at rolling my eyeballs, deep sighing, snide remarking, contradicting and arguing, the silent treatment, even withholding sex at times, and a host of other tactics to communicate my disappointment in his leadership and choices.

I even kept journals where I enumerated my frustrations and hoped that he would read them. He didn’t. He had no idea what kinds of ugly feelings inspired me to fill pages and pages of my notebooks. After a while, I worried that if my children or others ever read my journals in the future they would think I had such an awful marriage which wasn’t true. But since I tended to write more when I was upset at Edric, my journals reflected this!

I praise God for couples’ retreats and seminars, the advice of wise women who have gone before me, and for God’s word where I learned and relearned about my role as a wife. I had failed to respect Edric because I thought of it as conditional. My perspective was, If he was deserving I would respect him. And what about me? What about being cherished and treated with respect?

God showed me that I was neck-deep in ugly pride and bitterness, and these hidden sins of my heart were making me a contentious and unpleasant wife. I mistakenly thought I was the better half in our relationship, the one who was more spiritually mature. But I wasn’t! My attitude was turning Edric’s heart away from me and it wasn’t inspiring him to grow spiritually either.

I realized that respect was one of Edric’s needs and desires, and I wasn’t meeting it. More importantly, I was disobeying God’s command to respect Edric as the head of our marriage and family. God convicted me to look at the many ways that I needed to change. How could I be a better helpmate? Edric’s strong supporter? A life-giver along side him? What did I have to stop doing and start doing?

I determined to do four things:

The first was I PRAYED for Edric and SURRENDERED him to the Lord. Instead of nagging Edric, I began to beseech God, presenting to him very specific requests about Edric, myself and our marriage. As I came before the Lord in dependence and brokenness, I experienced God’s peace, assurance, and security. The burden to change Edric was turned over to Jesus and I relaxed as a wife.

For the first time I began to understand what it meant to be a gentle and quiet spirit. It was resting in who God is amidst circumstances, amidst the urge to manipulate or control Edric, or fight for my rights as a wife. It was knowing that I was heard — my hurts, longings and desires — by the ONE who knew me best and loved me most.

Second, I FORGAVE Edric and chose to apply the principle of a CLEAN SLATE. If Jesus had died for me and forgiven me completely, who was I not to do the same for my husband?

The Bible tells us the God’s mercies are new every morning. Similarly, I needed to let go of the compounded hurt that kept stealing my joy. Instead of thinking, “he’s never going to change”, or “see he’s going to do the same thing again,” I said to myself each day is a new opportunity to love and forgive Edric.

Third, I asked Edric “HOW CAN I BE A BETTER WIFE? This is, of course, a dangerous question to ask! I discovered I had to improve a lot! I needed to speak in a more gentle way, I needed to do what he told me right away (as often as possible), I needed to prioritize his want for companionship, attention, service, and intimacy. So I humbled myself and asked for forgiveness for my disrespect and the things I had done to hurt him. I still have to do this when I repeat the same mistakes.

Fourth, I learned to BE A MORE AFFIRMING AND ENCOURAGING WIFE. Instead of telling him how he should lead spiritually, I affirmed his love for God and desire to follow him. Instead of second-guessing and challenging his decision-making, I expressed confidence in his leadership. Instead of wishing we had more money, I thanked him for working hard and trying his best to provide for our needs. Instead of focusing on what he was doing wrong, I tried to pay closer attention to instances when he made godly choices.

When I chose to be more positive, I realized what an amazing man I was and am married to. There were so many things that I didn’t see when I was focused on the negative aspects of his person (which were really minimal in light of all his great facets). When I was zoning in on his faults and criticizing them, I had tunnel vision for the bad that blackened out his wonderful traits.

Slowly but most certainly, Edric began to transform. It wasn’t overnight but God worked in his heart and made him a more selfless, patient, and Spirit-filled man. Today I see the old Edric less and less. If I had the beta version when we got married, God has upgraded him to version 10.0 x 10.0. God keeps on upgrading him!

For example, in the mornings I get my baby from her room and breastfeed her in ours. This is early in the morning. Sometimes, I get her at 5 or 5:30 am. Afterwards, she doesn’t go back to bed again. She is fully awake. In the past, Edric would have ordered me to bring her out so he can get more sleep. But he is the one who lovingly takes her and brings her downstairs to our househelp so I can rest. It’s a sweet gesture that demonstrates how different he has become. From expecting to be treated like a KING, he is willing to serve me and inconvenience himself for me.

A few weeks ago we were enjoying our date night when he asked me, “How can I improve and change as a husband?” I had to think long and hard and I replied, “Honestly, you have been great! I can’t really think of anything.”

Photos from that date night…

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Years ago I would have jumped at the opportunity to bullet point all the ways I wanted him to change. But by God’s grace he is a transformed person because of Christ’s continued work in his life. He is truly a godly leader, a loving and understanding husband, and a good provider. He is a man that I admire and respect with all my heart.

While I still struggle with respect and Edric still struggles with impatience from time to time, the secret to victory, romance and joy in our marriage is keeping Christ at the center of our relationship. When the motivation to keep improving wanes or when we are tempted to return to the selfish version of our Christ-less selves, Jesus becomes our superseding why, compelling us to press on in obedience and hopeful expectation.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me
. (‭Galatians‬ ‭2‬:‭20‬ NASB)

Serving together at the CCF Couples Retreat in Baguio. I love this man!

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NOT-Afraid-of-the-Dark-Trophies

I suppose it’s normal that all kids are afraid of the dark at some point. My kids struggle with this. They don’t like going upstairs alone. They prefer to have a buddy when they enter a dark room. I understand because I used to have the same fear. Sometimes I still do.

For the longest time I used to sleep with a bathroom light on. But Edric needed absolute darkness to get a goodnight’s rest. So we compromised with a led night light for a while. It was a pathetic source that casted more shadows around the room. Over the years I ditched the night light and got used to sleeping in the black.

Tonight we had a bible study with the kids on 1 John 4:4. “Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world.”

The kids took turns memorizing the passage and reciting it. Edric explained to them that when they are afraid all they have to do is remember that Jesus, who is in their life, is greater than the evil one. I thought this wasn’t going to work because I know how fearful they can be. Not too long ago, Edan broke down and cried when he had to get my IPad from the bedroom all by himself. Tiana won’t go into a bathroom without company if the lights aren’t turned on.

Amazingly, there is power in God’s word. I was reminded of how living and active it is. As an application, Edric asked each of our four older kids to get an item upstairs. Edan and Titus were each asked to get a random toy from their bedroom. They went upstairs separately from one another and came back down with a toy. Elijah was tasked to get an item from their bathroom. He returned with a roll of toilet paper. As for Tiana, she resisted at first. But she too reappeared with a pillow in her arms.

I was so proud if them. I know it was difficult for them to obey Edric, but they did. As a result, they were emboldened by one another’s courage. More importantly, they recognized that Jesus is with them no matter where they go.

That’s exactly what Edan said. “I wasn’t afraid because I knew Jesus was with me.”

I hope this verse continues to give them confidence as they face their fears. Interestingly, it’s the same bible passage I memorized as a child that helped me to be brave in the dark.

Many of the bible passages I hold most dear I learned in the context of our family bible studies when I was a little girl. My dad had devotion night for my siblings and I once a week. We would go through a verse or verses and discuss their meanings, adding our insights and application commitments. As a result, I grew up with a storehouse of truth to bank on. When I encountered bigger problems and had to navigate toward the right decisions, I had references archived in my brain for promises, commands, warnings, blessings, etc.

I dealt with doubts, fearfulness, worry, pain, anger, and the like with truth from the scriptures. I want our kids to be able to do the same. Like all children, they are susceptible to spiritual attack. They need to fortify their minds with God’s word so they can withstand the attempts of the evil one to corrupt, destroy, and pollute their minds and hearts with his poisonous lies. Something as simple as being afraid of the dark is a deception that our children can counter with bible truth so they don’t live in bondage to their fears.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭12-17‬ NASB)

THE KIDS AND THEIR NOT-AFRAID-OF-THE-DARK-TROPHIES…

A slingshot:

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A domino:

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A roll of toilet paper:

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A pillow:

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A Greater Purpose For Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Beyond Poetry And Passion

When I was married in my 20s, I knew only of young love — the kind that inspired poetry and passion. But now that love has aged with me and for me in the heart of Edric, I prefer this version of love – one that feels young but old at the same time.

There are moments when Edric looks at me and I know he beholds me as one who is familiar. But then his eyes glint with a curiosity, as though he is meeting a part of me for the first time.

It’s a wonder that he remains committed to discovering that there can be more to me. More to the face he has seen ten thousand times. More to the person he has shared ten thousand conversations with.

I blush under his affectionate scrutiny and blurt out, “Why are you looking at me like that?” He replies, “I’m getting that feeling again.” And he will tell me how much he loves me.

After 13 years of marriage, I am grateful to be loved like this — loved beyond the poetry and passion…where Edric and I can celebrate honesty as two unmasked, unraveled persons. This is intimacy. And intimacy blossoms in the context of permanence and security, where a man is as Christ to his wife and a wife as the church to Christ. The fruit of intimacy is a sacred and profound love where husband and wife choose to need, want, and give to the other through the changing seasons of life’s landscape. Perhaps I can share this better through a story…

When I was a child, my siblings and I made whirlpools in a circular kiddie pool at the clubhouse we frequented as a family. We collaborated to run around the edges as fast as we could, forcing the water to spin in one direction. Then came the most fun part — letting ourselves float along and be dragged by the current.

My life as of late has felt like a spinning whirlpool. Unlike those glorious days of childhood where it was okay to be pulled around and around for the fun of it, whirlpools in adulthood are stressful and maddening. I blame mine on the centrifugal force of busyness.

When Edric and I got back from Brazil, we jumped right back into our activities. Two days after we arrived, still recovering from jetlag, we went on an out of town trip. During the same week we entertained guests and attended social events. I was confronted by all the make-up work my kids and I had to get done for homeschooling. Furthermore, I accepted several commitments and appointments that were crammed into an already packed schedule following our arrival. All of these were good things in and of themselves. But when I saw no hope for a pause, I grew anxious.

There are super women out there who live, breathe, and eat stress. It them stronger. But I don’t have that kind of power. Busyness is my kryptonite. My immunity drops and my emotions go south.

So I lost it…emotionally. Edric had no inkling apart from a few exchanges where I made quips like, “I think we were doing too much again.”

It was 12 AM on Thursday night when Edric turned over to his side to fall asleep after his “good night and I love you, hon.” I lay on my side feeling lost and confused, praying honestly to the Lord about my frustrations. While I wallowed in self-pity, clutching my pillow a little too melodramatically, Edric heard my quiet sobbing and asked if I was alright.

“No. No I’m not. I don’t feel like anyone understands what I’m going through right now.” (Of course these sort of statements are never true.)

“What’s wrong?”

He saw me get out of bed with my disheveled hair, oversized Florida Gators T-shirt, doing like a Frankenstein walk over to my desk in the darkness. I was feeling for my laptop in the darkness having suddenly remembered that I had to send an email to a couple we were counseling.

“What are you doing?” He followed me to my table. “Stop it. You look like a crazy person. I want to show you something.”

He pulled me to himself and walked me over to the large floor to ceiling glass sliding doors that opened up to our balcony. The lights of the city illuminated the quiet night like a canopy of colorful stars. In the distance I could make out the outline of the mountains set against the cloudless expanse of the sky. It was a spectacular view.

“Look at this. Do you remember when I surprised you for Valentines Day and prepared dinner for you on this balcony, when the house wasn’t finished yet? And we looked forward to moving in? Can you believe that we are actually living here now?”

He invited me to sit with him outside so we could talk. I was reluctant to at first but his persistence prevailed. There was no getting away from this. He wasn’t going to leave me alone. We sat out there with the crickets as background music to a monologue of my thoughts. When the mosquitos wouldn’t quit biting Edric’s legs, he decided to be more practical and said we could continue this on our bed.

Edric listened until he could interpret my emotional driveling and concluded, “I think you have been through some major life events as a woman this past year and you have had no time to process all the changes. And you need that. I know you.”

I nodded then sobbed like a little child with my head tucked under my arm. Yes, that was it! What a relief to be psychoanalyzed so correctly.

Then he asked me to come even closer to him so that I was completely in his arms and he whispered, “I will take care of you. I think I haven’t given you enough attention lately. Do you want me to take the afternoon off tomorrow? I can come home early. You know that I like to rescue you…”

I wanted to be taken care of. I wanted to be rescued. At that moment I was the epitome of spiritual and emotional weakness.

The next day, Edric finished off a meeting in the morning and came home to do his work in the dining room. Every time I saw him, I had one of those puerile, giddy, girly smiles. We didn’t have to be joined at the hip that afternoon but knowing that he was around gave me inspiration as I tended to the kids and managed home affairs.

I’m the kind of woman who will climb off the balcony of a three-story home to get to another balcony to find a way into a study room to fix a jammed door. (I had to do that about two months ago and the workers saw me doing my acrobatics from our back yard while my children looked on in terror. “Mom! You might die!” The workers were pointing and making comments like I was insane. I assured them that I knew what I was doing. To my children I said, “You are NOT allowed to do this. EVER.”)

The point is I can take care of myself if I need to. I can deal with my emotions and process them with the Lord so I don’t dump them on Edric every single day. But there are times when I need his perspective, his friendship, his understanding, or a hug and a kiss, and the calm of his voice when he says, “everything is going to be alright.”

God didn’t create women to be helpless creatures who are dependent on men for their survival and happiness. Heck, we bear the physical pain of birthing children on our own. We find fulfillment in the work of our hands, in the pursuit of our God-given talents and abilities, and in the relationships we keep. However, there is something about the strength of a man, the assurance of his presence, and his desire to take the lead and protect that settles us and allays our fears.

Is it just me?

People have criticized me for saying this. But I think they’ve missed the point. I’m not saying that a woman needs a man to feel complete or satisfied with life. At the same time, it would be ignorant for someone to say that a woman NEVER needs a man. (Hello…sperm + egg = person.)

I suspect that most of the women who say this don’t really believe this deep inside. But they have been hurt and disappointed by men. So have I. At some point, we have all been victims or casualties of men’s wrong choices. (As they have been of our own sinful decisions, too.)

To protect myself, I concluded that I would not let myself be vulnerable to a man. I wanted to be in control, independent, and capable of looking out for myself. But then I married a man whom I could trust, who invited me to a relationship with no pretenses. There was no promise that he would never hurt me, but I knew with certainty that he was a man who loved God. So God gave me peace — the peace of knowing that Edric would be the one to keep my heart.

I let myself be honest…honest about needing him. I’ve chosen to need him as he has chosen to need me. We need one another for different reasons, but in this truthful surrender of independence, we found that the journey together was better.

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In a recent event for my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary, they sang an edited version of Adam Sandler’s song, “I Want to Grow Old With You.” Their rendition reminded me that marriage isn’t about growing past each other’s imperfections. Sometimes the areas that we don’t like about our spouse or ourselves still remain. But when we choose to need, want, and give to the one we married as the years go by, God provides the filter of grace. This filter distills the flaws and harsh realities, removing the impurities that would otherwise poison and corrupt our hearts with selfishness, bitterness, fear, pride or regret. And meltdown moments at 12 AM, when held as one’s beloved, wearing an ugly t-shirt and haloed by unkempt hair, bear image to the sweet irony of love. For in loving beyond the poetry and passion we find that we return again to these.

Happy Anniversary, Edric Mendoza! This one was for you.

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The Isaac of Money

When my kids do anything noteworthy in their lives, I attribute it to the Lord. I know that I am a flawed mother and it is only by God’s grace that my children have the desire and commitment to love him with all that they are.

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A few weeks ago I was blessed by the resolve of my 11-year old son, Elijah, to give his hard-earned money to our church, as an offering. Elijah has money in three “instruments.” The first is his small stock portfolio. Second, he has a savings account where he has placed his salary from Edric. His job is to speak with Edric on road shows around the Philippines. Third, he has a glass jar at home where he had several thousands of pesos in cash stashed in it.

Over three years he has put money into this jar from garage sale earnings, birthday money, origami business earnings, and odd jobs he has done for me, like tutoring his younger brother, Edan, in Filipino. It wasn’t a ton of money but it was valuable to him.

We don’t give our kids an allowance. As homeschoolers, they don’t need one. If they are hungry they can go to the fridge or pantry and get something to eat. Lunch is on the house, too…naturally. So, if they want money, they learn that it has to be earned and worked for.

During one Sunday service, Elijah heard a message about Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son. The preacher asked, “What is the Isaac of your life?” Unbeknownst to me, it got Elijah thinking.

After worship, he confided in me. “Mom, I am going to give God all the money in my glass jar.”

I must admit that I was tempted to respond, “Are you sure? You don’t have to. God will understand if you keep it. You worked hard for that money.”

But I didn’t want to quell the Holy Spirit’s prodding in his heart so I affirmed his desire to give to the Lord. I asked him why he thought money was his Isaac. And he replied, “I think about money a lot. How to make money and what I can buy with it. How to invest it. It preoccupies my mind. And I had not tithed in a long time.”

So before we left for Brazil, he emptied out his glass jar and stuffed his bills and coins into an envelope. I saw him holding on to it during worship and then he dropped the envelope into the tithe box at our church.

An “Isaac” can be symbolic of something or someone we love most in this world which has the potential to replace our love for God. Sometimes it can be a blessing that has turned into a curse.

When I was in college, Edric was a kind of Isaac in my life. He and I compromised in the area of purity so we decided to break off our relationship after we graduated, to honor God first. It was a painful period in my life and his. But purging ourselves of one another’s presence allowed us to devote our time and attention to growing in our walk with Christ and serving him.

God allowed Edric and I to get back together and marry, just as he returned Isaac to Abraham. But this may not always be the case when we surrender a person, circumstance, material possession or pursuit to God.

God declares himself a jealous God in the holiest sense of the word. He is jealous for our love, not in a selfish, self-centered way, but in a manner that seeks our good. After all, our truest joy is found in worshiping and loving him above all else. Substitute gods may bring us a measure of happiness and pleasure, but satisfaction is NOT guaranteed.

“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 …” (Colossians 3:5-6)

For my son, Elijah, money was becoming his idol. Interestingly, after he gave his money, he felt relieved and more “relaxed” because he didn’t have any more money in the jar to focus on. This is what he told me!

In the same way, when Edric and I broke up, it was painful but I felt peace. We made a difficult choice but it was for the right reasons. I knew that if God wanted Edric and I to get married he would bring us back together. If not he had someone better for him and someone better for me.

To this day, there are things in my life that can take the place of God if I am not careful. Elijah’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit encouraged me to be more vigilant. I too need to make sure that my heart is wholeheartedly devoted to God.

Sunrise On Copacobana Beach

A couple of nights ago, Edric told me he was feeling lost. (With the number of hats he has to wear, juggling his responsibilities can get overwhelming.)

Maybe it was the jet lag and the cold weather that got to me because I felt annoyed as he was going on and on about how he couldn’t handle a particular ministry he was in charge of. I was like, “What?! You committed to it. You can’t just back out of it.”

According to him, he didn’t anticipate the commitment level it would entail. We went back and forth discussing the reasons why it was challenging. Instead of drawing him out and asking him questions, I wanted him to skip over to the park where he resolved to keep going no matter what the cost. For me it was a matter of principle and duty. Since this didn’t happen and I was falling in and out of consciousness while I fought the urge to sleep, I said, “If that’s how you feel, then quit. Just quit.”

This was the least helpful thing I could have said. First of all I didn’t even mean it. Second, it was an insensitive way of closing the conversation because I was too tired to go on.

It wasn’t a surprise that Edric’s response was a frigid “GOODNIGHT.”

The next day we joined my parents for breakfast and my dad asked him how things were going. (When he gets the chance to, my dad invites Edric to update him. He likes to know how he can pray for Edric and mentor him as a father.)

I watched and listened to my dad as he sat through sentences and sentences of Edric’s concerns about his responsibilities and time management. My dad patiently interacted with him without lecturing or cutting him off. It was a marvelous site to behold because I had done the complete opposite the night before.

As Edric shared what was on his heart, he seemed to receive greater clarity. My dad asked him questions that got him to think through his motivations. By the end of that hour Edric felt encouraged and built up.

I wish it had been me that inspired these feelings in him. But I had missed out on the opportunity to do so.

As we headed back to our hotel room, I admitted to my mom that I had to work on my listening skills. Sometimes I get impatient when people want to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, especially when they revisit the same issues again and again. For me, if you know the right thing to do then do it, don’t paddle around the pond of feeling, circling round and round. Or quit walking into the muck of despair when you can take the more solid, higher ground.

I sound awful and mean when I say this but I think it has more to do with a personality type. Even though I feel things deeply I like to process emotions expediently. Edric prefers to express his emotions freely and he takes a while to come to a conclusion. But once he gets to that point, having journeyed through many degrees of feeling, he emerges with resolve and conviction that is unparalleled. It’s actually one of the things I appreciate about him. But in marriage, when I am thinking only of myself I end up responding in a manner that hurts Edric when he is in that “emotional-cocoon-state-of-mind.”

As I observed my dad over breakfast, I learned a valuable lesson about good communication. I mentally archived it as a template. First, he asked questions. Next, he paid attention. Third, he shared experiences and struggles that resonated with what Edric was going through. Fourth, he acknowledged Edric’s feelings without belittling them. Fifth, he gave constructive suggestions that Edric could act on. Sixth, he helped Edric decipher what was going on in his heart.

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I am so thankful to the Lord that Edric and my father have a wonderful relationship. And I am also thankful that my dad has improved in the area of communication over the years. In the past, when someone would open up and get emotional with him, he tended to be more left brain in his response.

For example, years and year ago, during my dad’s birthday celebration, Edric very vulnerably expressed to him how much he looked up to him as a father. He talked about what a positive difference he made in his life. After Edric’s tearful speech, my dad said, “good job.” Oh, and he did include some sort of pat on his back after giving him a half-hug. Good job?! Good job?!

After that incident my very concerned mom talked with my dad in private and told him that Edric might have gotten hurt by his lack of responsiveness. When my dad realized this he apologized to Edric as soon as he could and best of all, he changed for the better. His present default mode is to listen, dialogue, empathize, and encourage.

With Edric, God gave me the opportunity to remedy my failure. While we were in Rio, at 4:30 in the morning (we both woke up thinking it was 7 am), he asked me to rate our marriage. This is an exercise we do with couples we meet with to gauge how they are doing.

In the darkness of our hotel room I said, “Probably a 9.” He gave us a “7.” Of course I was curious to know why. And he enumerated three ways I had upset him during this trip.

1. I didn’t serve him with enthusiasm. My expectation was he was going to serve me on this trip and take care of me.
2. I didn’t seem interested in talking to him because I would whip out my phone and write.
3. I was self-deprecating on several occasions about myself. Sometimes I make negative comments about my post-baby-body hoping that Edric will reply with adulation for it. But this often backfires. (Gals, my mom used to say don’t ever point out your flaws and turn them into a discussion with your husband. It’s unattractive and unbecoming. Most of the time a husband doesn’t notice every pimple, dimple, wrinkle and crinkle unless you start spotlighting them.)

I stapled my mouth shut as I listened to him, making the effort to apply what I remembered from my dad’s example. When he asked me, “Are you okay?”

“Not really. But I feel like talking about my perspective will not be helpful.”

I got up to use the toilet to buy myself some thinking time, and then I sat back down beside him. “I am sorry babe. I will change.”

He wasn’t expecting this. And he added, “What about me? How can I improve?”

“Honestly, I think you are great. You are a good husband, you take care of me, you have become much more patient…”

“Are you playing mind games with me?” He kidded.

“What? Of course not.” I was serious.

Then we went over each of the three points that he raised and identified how I can change and be more understanding towards his needs. Edric enjoyed and appreciated our conversation. So did I. It was refreshing to take the gentle and quiet spirit approach. (God reminded me that I really need to continually humble myself and do this more often!)

By 6:30 am we prayed and took a walk on Copacobana beach as we watched the sunrise. It was cloudy and rainy when we arrived in Rio, but the sun was breaking through. For the first time we got to see a more picturesque beach which had looked dull when it was overcast.

The scene was emblematic of our marriage. Our relationship is not a perfect one. We have stormy and dark days from time to time, but when we apply God’s principles, the forecast looks bright! He is the light of our marriage!

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What Is This Love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we easily give up on our family members?

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

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

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

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

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

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil, Brazil

Edric and I are off to Brazil! I just said a tearful goodbye to the kids and cried as I hugged Catalina. This is my first time to leave her since she was born.

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The trip to Brazil is so long and Edric and I will be speaking while we are there. After weighing the pros and cons we decided to let her stay behind. I will keep pumping while I am away and some dear friends donated milk for her.

We are taking this trip because my dad invited us to speak at a conference in Curitiba. We will team teach on biblical parenting.

Initially, I didn’t want to go because Catalina is still breastfeeding, we just moved in to our home, and I am trying to finish our homeschooling year. The timing isn’t ideal.

When my dad first broached the idea to me, my response was, “There’s no way, dad. Not this year. Plus, I really don’t think Edric can go.”

“We shall see…just pray about it,” My dad said this with a playful smirk on his face. I knew he was going to try and convince Edric to go. But I thought for sure Edric wouldn’t be available to because of his taping schedules and work load. In fact I was counting on him to say “sorry, dad, but we can’t go.”

Surprisingly, when my dad called Edric, he was like, “Yes! We will go!” He was so eager! Edric and I talked about it later on in the day and he was inclined to go for two reasons. First, we were invited to speak about what is closest to our hearts — a biblical blueprint for families. Second, we haven’t been to Brazil. The opportunity to travel to South America was very enticing.

My parents were thrilled when they found out. They love doing ministry together. If circumstances permitted, they would take all of my siblings and I, as well as our spouses to every parenting seminar they give (no matter where in the world) so we can minister as a family. For the most part, I feel the same way. It’s always a joy to serve the Lord alongside them.

But this year, I self-declared that I would avoid public speaking. I turned down several opportunities to speak because I knew that the preparation time, traveling back and forth, and engagements themselves would take me away from my duties as a wife, mother and homeschooler. Since I felt “tsunamied” by major life changes like a fifth baby, new house and new ministry, I determined for myself that speaking was low on my priority list.

When the Brazil trip was finalized, I wrestled with frustration. Why not next year, Lord? Why this year? Is it so wrong for me to want to take a break?

I know it sounds ungrateful of me to have asked these questions. After all, what a privilege to minister in this manner and what an opportunity to serve the Lord. And wow! In Brazil! Hello, lady, be excited! Be thankful!

Well, I grumbled…

It wasn’t until two weeks ago that God gave me another perspective to meditate on. I was reading through the gospels and I came across the biblical account of Jesus, right before he performed the miracle of the five thousand. He received news about the beheading of his cousin, John, and he intended to withdraw to a secluded place. (I empathized with this part — wanting to withdraw.) But then I got convicted by what he did next. When the multitudes followed him he felt compassion for them and attended to their needs. And then be performed an incredible miracle — feeding five thousand people with five loaves and two fish.

The passage reads…Although he (Herod) was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. His (John’s) disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus. Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:9-14 NASB)

When I read this passage, it tore me up inside. In contrast to Jesus’ servant heart and selflessness, I was thinking only of my wants. I really wanted a year to homemake, develop consistent routines for our family and homeschooling, enjoy Catalina and her milestones, maybe even write more and paint and sew! So I cried and cried while telling the Lord, “I am not like you, Lord. I am so sorry.”

In the narrative, Jesus had just lost his cousin. He had every right to get away to mourn and spend time alone. And yet he set that desire aside for the sake of the multitude and their needs, for the sake of God’s work.

I felt so ashamed. If the God of this universe made time for people, even when it was emotionally and physically inconvenient, then who was I to reject the opportunities to do the same?

All seasons of my life belong to God. I may want to linger in one or get out of another, but I have to listen to and obey God’s leading. I have to remember that I am on active duty for his kingdom. At any time I may be called to serve in a capacity that may not be what is convenient, comfortable, or timely from my perspective. However, being available means having the disposition of willingness to go where he wants me to.

Coincidentally or not so coincidentally, we were told that about five thousand Christian leaders will gather at this conference in Curitiba, Brazil. I am sure it’s going to be an amazing time for Edric and I, not just to speak, but to be attendees and participants. Plus, it’s our anniversary next week so God gave us a special gift for our 13th honeymoon! We will make a side trip to Rio!

I once heard Andy Stanley talk about the “irresolvable tensions” of life. He said that we can’t always remove these tensions. For me my irresolvable tension is my commitment to “private” ministry — Edric, kids and home — and my commitment to “public” ministry — writing, discipleship, speaking, and counseling. To forsake the public in favor of the private is not the solution. I must learn to balance the tension in between these two poles with a positive attitude.

While my priority is still Edric and the kids, there will be occasions when God makes it clear that I am supposed to serve in a more public capacity. This Brazil trip is one such example.

Edric and I are headed to the airport. I miss the kids terribly but I am also looking forward to serving God with Edric and “honeymooning” in Brazil. And no, we will not make another baby! ;)

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Vomit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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