HOPE

Sunday morning I was invited to speak at CRIBS, a center for abused women. When I was praying about what to share, God impressed upon my heart to talk about hope…

It’s easy to lose hope when you go through sexual abuse, molestation, incest, or rape. I know the feeling of losing hope — hope for the future, hope for acceptance, hope for security and protection, hope that you can ever be whole and undamaged again.

When I was raped at fifteen, I felt like something was stolen from me, something that no one could ever give back.

But then I remembered verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.”

So I made up my mind. I chose to believe that God was good, that he still had a plan for my life. I clung to the promise in Romans 8:28 which says, “But God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him.”

What good could ever come out of rape? I didn’t know how God would redeem this tragedy, but I made a personal choice not to allow tragedy to define or determine who I would become.

When I was speaking to the ladies at CRIBS, I told them, “God is not like the men who hurt you or who hurt me. Some of you may have been abused and betrayed by the men in your life who are supposed to take care of you and protect you — fathers, uncles, maybe even cousins, and brothers. But God is not like these men.

God is a loving, caring Father who is mindful of us. I have five children. They are all special to me. And I don’t think there will ever be a time when I will forget any of them. But here is what God says about himself:

“Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

What a tender description of God’s love for us! He doesn’t forget any of us, no matter what we have been through.

God loves us so much, He gave us His own son, Jesus Christ to die for us. Jesus was abused for our sake. He was mocked and humiliated, abandoned by those who were closest to him. He endured all this so that his death could bring us eternal life.

John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world he gave us his only begotten son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Why? Why would the God of the universe do this? GOD LOVES US SO MUCH HE WANTS TO HEAL MORE THAN OUR PHYSICAL PROBLEMS. HE WANTS TO HEAL OUR BIGGER PROBLEM — OUR SPIRITUAL PROBLEM.

Those of us who have gone through sexual assault had our physical bodies hurt and damaged. But there is a greater and more serious wrong that we have to come to terms with. Before God, we are ALL sinners.

Romans 3:9 -11 “What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.’”

What is our spiritual problem? Sin. We are separated from God. Our orientation is away from God.

Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

In the past I used to think that the men who raped me were the evil ones. Yes, they were wrong and what they did was horrible. But God reminded me that I am also a sinner. I may not hurt people the same way those men hurt me. However, I stand just as guilty before God. I too fall short of his righteousness. And because He forgave me then I should do the same to the men who violated me.

The entire world groans under the weight of sin. That’s why people assault, pillage, plunder and kill. That was never God’s plan. God made a beautiful world where people were supposed to be in harmony with Him, with one another, with creation. Relationships were intended to provide security and unconditional love.

After I was raped, a kind of skepticism and distrustful point of view grew in me. I often interpreted the affections of men as malicious and perverse. The sins committed against me altered my natural inclination to trust in people.

This is what sin does. It destroys, corrupts, and disrupts God’s good design. And the consequences of sin — heartache, hardships, problems, pain, and multiplied sorrows — these are the enemies of hope.

But Jesus gave his life, to restore and heal what sin took away, to give us hope. What is the hope we have in Jesus?

1. THE HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE

“For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13

The verse says “so that you may know.” It is a certainty, not a false promise.

Having the hope of eternal life comforted me greatly the night of the rape. I thought, “Lord they may be able to touch my body, but they cannot touch my spirit. My real life is hidden in you.”

No matter what happens to our physical bodies, we can look forward to heaven where the book of Revelations tells us, “every tear shall be wiped away.”

2. THE HOPE OF PEACE

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

The reality is we live in a world that is broken, fallen. While we cannot change this (at least not until Christ comes again), we can still have the peace he offers. If Jesus is present in our lives, we do not have to be afraid, to worry or doubt that he will take care of us when trials and difficulties come. He gives us the assurance that he has already overcome the world.

3. THE HOPE OF A NEW BEGINNING

“For if anyone is in Christ he is new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

I felt soiled and dirty after I was raped, but this verse reminded me that in Christ all things can be new again. I wanted new memories. I wanted to move on and move past what happened to me. Even if I was victimized, I didn’t want to live like a victim.

Today I am happily married and blessed with five children. I have the privilege of serving the Lord along-side my husband, Edric. Together we are enjoying the adventures of parenting and homeschooling our children. The dark memories of that night have been replaced by beautiful, delightful ones that speak of the wonders and faithfulness of God in my life and in my family’s.

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The Lord is a redeemer. He isn’t like the people or problems that steal and take away what is precious to us. He is a GIVER. He wants to GIVE us hope for the future — eternal life, hope for today — peace, and hope for our past — a new beginning.

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Years ago I gave my life to Jesus. He is the only reason why I was able to come away from this tragedy with hope and forgive the men who raped me. Will you let God redeem your life, too, so you can experience the hope that he has promised through his son, Jesus?

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Real Wealth

We checked on the status of our house a few days ago. It was exciting to see all the bedroom furniture being assembled in the rooms. Once the bedrooms are done, we can move in even if the rest of the house isn’t completely finished yet. Well, that’s the plan. Edric’s plan. Most people have said this is the best way to move things along when you are in the finishing stages.

When we were at the site, the kids ran up the stairs to look into the rooms, eager to see their personal spaces taking form. In the boy’s room, we assigned areas.

“Elijah this will be your bed, Edan this is yours and Titus this is for you.”

The boys started cheering and Titus pointed to the floor and asked, “On the floor?” There was no disappointment in his tone. He identified a spot in between two beds and waited for me to confirm it.

I took his face in my hands and said, “Oh no honey, you will have your own bed!” And I started to tear. It probably sounds silly that I did. But if you know Titus, how candid and unpretentious he can be, then my reaction would make sense. He has never complained about sleeping on a mat, on the floor. For him this has been the manner of his place as the youngest son. He didn’t have a “real” bed because there was no room for one in our condo. But at that moment I was showing him a new bed frame and he didn’t see it. He just assumed he would be getting the floor as always.

When I corrected him, he was like, “Really? Yeah! I will have my own bed!”

And he went on to say, “You know,
Mom, I never liked sleeping on the floor…”

I went to the bathroom and composed myself because I was VERY teary-eyed by then. Edric saw me and took me in his arms. Both of us stood there in gratefulness and amazement for the house that God has given to us. It’s a big upgrade for our entire family. Previously, we lived in 137 square meters shared between 9 people (our family and two househelps).

That is still larger than 90% of what the world’s population probably lives in. So I am not saying that we had a bad deal. But I grew up in a large house and when I got married, our first home — a one bedroom condo — was relatively small.

God taught me through the years to look forward to his provision and not to worry about when it would come. Besides, I didn’t need our first home to be larger. I had to do all the cleaning so I was okay with small! More importantly, Edric was in it and that’s what mattered to me. There was love, joy, and peace…things that expanded infinitely beyond the four walls of our home.

We had friends who started off with generously sized houses when they were newly married. That was not our beginning. We did not have much, financially speaking, so our initial home was simple. In fact, when we had our eldest, Elijah, he didn’t even have a crib for a while. He slept on a mattress on the floor. When I needed to feed him at night, I would go down to the floor and sleep beside him.

It’s amazing that he didn’t crawl off! The floor was carpeted so he wasn’t in danger of hitting himself. I think we put all kinds of pillows around him to keep him safe. Well…I probably would’ve been chided by sleep safe advocates, but back then, it was our best option.

God increased the size of our home as children were added. When Edan was born, we moved to a three bedroom condo. It suited us just fine until our fifth, Catalina, came along. Thankfully, by then, we were building our house.

In September 2013, we said goodbye to our condo and had it renovated shortly after. We had most of our belongings boxed up and stored in a warehouse. In the interim we stayed at my parents, and Edric’s for a bit, too. (We are still in this nomadic state until our final move.)

Our most recent home with hardly anything left in it…

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After we finished renovating the condo, I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I was excited that we had moved out and moved on. But on the other hand, we spent 8 years in that place. It was hard for me to say goodbye. Even if it was emptied out, retouched and repainted, I still had visions of our children in the rooms, playing, laughing, growing up.

I will miss every inch of that three bedroom condo. It was cozy. It had the smells and sounds of us.

When Titus made the comment about the floor, I thought of how
God has been our faithful provider. I know others may get their house and lot dreams fulfilled much earlier. And maybe others are still waiting on theirs, but for us this is neither too early or too late.

If it had happened sooner we wouldn’t have been ready. Edric and I needed to learn simplicity, humility, gratitude, and so did our children. We are still learning these virtues. But had we skipped to the house and lot bit of our history without going through condo living and tighter spaces, we might have become casualties of too much comfort. It’s always easier to upgrade than to downgrade, to upsize than to downsize.

I like our Heavenly Father’s manner of blessing, too. He is and always will be the source of infinite resources and abundance, but he tempers and minds the valve that releases these to his children. Material things have a way of replacing our spiritual hunger for the eternal. And, there is nothing more impoverishing to the human soul than to be stuffed full of prosperity and thereby emptied of the want for God.

Edric used to tell me that this passage was one of his favorites. “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord ?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT)

I have to admit that when he told me this was one of his “prayers” I thought, “Oh great, that’s it. We are never going to be rich.” But my mindset was all wrong. I was thinking that money would bring me security and happiness. It’s not that I wanted loads of it to spend on myself. I just wanted to know we had it, that we didn’t have to worry about where it would come from.

Well, God allowed Edric and I to begin simply to teach me not to anchor my faith on money but on Him. When I learned to live with less — less money, less space, less possessions — I found that I always had more than enough to be happy and thankful for. I like what English clergyman and writer Thomas Fuller said, “Riches enlarge rather than satisfy appetites.”

I am not saying that I have graduated from contentment. Not at all! This is a lesson that needs to be learned and re-learned depending on the circumstances that test it. Neither am I saying that money is unimportant. Edric and I have five kids! Money is necessary and very much welcome whenever it comes. What I am saying is that starting off with a small home and having a very limited budget to work with when we were newly married was a blessing. It was God’s master plan for our character development.

From this genesis Edric and I grew to understand that God always takes care of his children. We also learned that abundance is not the condition for true joy. True joy is to know God and his love for us, to be certain that his plans for our welfare are always for our good.

What is a big house without God in the hearts of those who live in it? And conversely, the tiniest of spaces could be home to the richest people on earth — people who abound with the joy of the God, who can laugh, cry, and love without fear, who extend forgiveness and grace to one another, who can sleep peacefully at night, and wake up with hopeful expectation and the gift of new mercies.

With just a few weeks left till we are finally in our “dream home”, a house that only God could’ve built and provided for, I want to remember that real wealth is the treasure of Jesus Christ. It is not the absence of struggle or the fulfillment of desire. It is the recognition and enjoyment of His presence with the ones we cherish the most, and finding that we can be fully satisfied during seasons of want and seasons of plenty because he is with us, in our home, and in our hearts.

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Two Become One

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My parents are literally East meets West, a Chinese and an American. When they met one another in the Philippines, they were from two distinctly different cultures brought together by a common love for Jesus Christ and the desire to serve him. Now married for nearly 41 years, and still in love (more so than ever before), it is their identity in Christ — as one — that has kept them together.

While I was cleaning out old albums, I came across a published narrative of how God brought them together, and I was so blessed to read their story again. I’m hoping you will feel the same way…

“Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-24

PETER (DAD):

As I meditated on this passage one morning in December 1971, I was confident that if I asked anything in the name of Jesus, he would do it. There was great peace in my heart as  I prayed, “Lord, allow me to meet my future wife. I am tired of dating girls and wasting time.”

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20140329-180017.jpgI met Deonna in Janauary at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. She had arrived in the Philippines on November 21 as a member of the Crossroads, a musical team for Asia of the aforementioned Christian organization.

At that time, I never imaged that she was the Lord’s answer to my prayer. There were two incidents, however, which prompted me to become better acquainted with her. The first occurred when my younger sister, Beth, went shopping with her. Beth commented afterwards, “she is so simple and wise in her shopping.”

The other happened a week after our encounter. The Crossroads and I were having dinner together. As we were sharing our experiences with the Lord, I noticed that Deonna had a deep comprehension of life. She showed great spiritual discernment in what she was saying. I talked with her again at the next Friday night meeting. That evening, I asked her for a date on Sunday afternoon.

Our first date was a unique experience for me. My original plan was to show her some interesting places in the greater Manila area and get-to-know her at the same time. However, a few days before Sunday, a pastor-friend invited me to speak in his church on the same afternoon that I was to be with Deonna. I accepted the invitation. Not being well-acquainted with Deonna, I didn’t know what she would think about my acceptance of the speaking engagement. I hoped she would be willing to minister with me. I waited until Sunday to tell her. When I did, I was delighted because she welcomed the idea. She remarked that it is good to have a balance between being together and ministering together. That Sunday afternoon, she helped me by sharing her testimony at the church I spoke at.

This was how our relationship began. It was the type of relationship I prayed I would have with a girl. I had spent time with other girls but none of them had expressed a willingness to serve the Lord the way Deonna did. I was encouraged by the fact that we were closer to the Lord and to each other when we parted that evening.

After our first date, we committed the future of our relationship to the Lord. Although we saw each other frequently between the months of February and August, we had to be separated for a period of three and a half months. Deonna toured with the Crossroads in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines in March and April; then in July, I went to the U.S. for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Explo’ 72 and Lay Staff Training.

With the possibility of marriage in mind, Deonna and I thought it would be wise for me to visit her family while in the U.S. During the second week of my trip to the U.S., I spent four days in Florida with them. I discussed with her father what the Lord had been showing us in regards to our relationship. I left her family with the assurance that her parents would welcome our marriage if it were the Lord’s will.

My love for Deonna grew during the rest of my time in the U.S. For the first time in my life, I began to realize the meaning of Agape Love – an unconditional, unselfish love. I discovered within myself a freedom to love her without the fear of losing her or of becoming jealous. Regardless of her response to me, I knew I would still love her. I only desired the best for her.

In August, the Lord finally confirmed that he had chosen Deonna to be my wife. He did this through many Bible verses and through the love which He had placed within me for her. Knowing that Deonna was to be my wife, I was eager to see her. As soon as my responsibilities would allow me, I began my trip home.

I had to stop in Germany to attend to some business affairs. Although I originally intended to spend a few months in Germany to complete my business there, I was able to do everything in a week. Then, I immediately flew to the Philippines with the intention of asking Deonna to marry me.

Wasting no time, I proposed to Deonna on Sunday, the 27th of August, which was just one day after I returned to Manila. I did not know what the Lord had revealed to her concerning our future. I only knew that I loved her and that the Lord had showed me that Deonna was to be my wife. Trusting His promises me, I had the courage to ask her to marry me. But when I asked her, she did not answer me immediately. After a moment of silence, she said, “Peter, please get my Bible out of the car. I want to share with you what the Lord showed me concerning our relationship.”

I never expected her to respond this way! Nevertheless, I brought her Bible and “patiently” waited for thirty minutes while she read the many Bible verses God had shown her. When she finally finished, I asked, “Deonna, what is your answer?” Again, she surprised me by saying, “Peter, let’s pray.” Not knowing what to expect next, I bowed my head. At the end of her prayer to the Lord, I heard her say, “Father, before you and all of heaven I say ‘yes’ to Peter. I will be his wife.”

I opened my eyes and looked at her. I never though that the woman I would marry would say “yes” to me through a prayer to our heavenly Father. Yet, Deonna had done it! I was overjoyed as I thought, “I am looking at my wife to be. She is God’s gift to me.” I remember my prayer in December, “Lord, let me meet my future wife.” God faithfully fulfilled His promise to me…” Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do…” My heart was full of joy, praise, and thanksgiving to God for giving me such a wonderful woman.

I can honestly say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

God is so good. He knows what is best for His children and when it is best to give it to us. Through this experience with Deonna, I have learned that “Faith” means to trust the Lord moment by moment, one step at a time.

 

DEONNA (MOM):

A week before leaving California for Asia, my mother entered the kitchen while I was cooking my lunch. “Deonna,” she said. “I am glad that you have chosen to obey the Lord by going to Asia to minster there as a member of the Crossroads.” Then I observed tears welling up in her eyes as she continued, “But honey, you are already 25. When will you get married?”

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20140329-204257.jpgI was deeply touched by her motherly concern. However, I had already given this problem to Christ and left it for Him to solve. Because of this, I was able to encourage her by replying, “Mother, if there was only one man in the world but the Lord Jesus Christ wanted me to marry him, then Jesus would bring me to him.” Then unexpectedly I added, “Who knows, Mom, maybe I’ll marry an Asian? God might have a permanent ministry planned for me in Asia.” This last statement certainly didn’t comfort her. She burst into tears at the thought of me staying in Asia for life.

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When I left Lost Angeles airport on November 14, 1971, I did not know that Jesus was actually taking me to meet a handsome Chinese man who would be my husband. Nor did I realize that I was leaving one way of life to eventually begin a new life with him in a foreign country. Unknowingly, Jesus had given me a glimpse of my future through my statement to my mom.

The Crossroads arrived in the Philippines on November 21. Manila had been chosen as our home base since the Asian Training Center for Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) was located there. Three weeks after arriving we attended the CCC Leadership Training Institute. On the second day of the institute, the topic of marriage came up again when Becky,  a newly married Filipino staff of CCC, shared with me that months before she met Ben, her husband, she had prayed for certain qualities to be in the man she married.

The results of Becky’s prayer inspired me to do the same. After the institute, I prayerfully made the list of qualities, which I wanted to be in the man I would marry. It was my desire that each quality would be pleasing to Lord. Let me share these qualities with you. I wanted:

  1. A true Christian – a man who has trusted Christ to forgive his sins and because of this, has Christ’s Spirit living in him.
  2. One who loves God more than he loves me.
  3. A man who allows Christ’s Spirit to control him and to guide his life.
  4. One chosen by the Lord to serve Him.
  5. One who understands that the Lord’s role for a Christian husband is to be the head of his home – to lead his wife through his love and not by force.
  6. A man with leadership ability.
  7. A man who is sensitive and understanding with others and wise in human relationships.
  8. One who is intelligent, has achieved the same level of education as I have, has a positive attitude toward life, and one who enjoys sports like swimming, (something that we can do together).

Although I didn’t know where this man was, I did know that the Lord would bring me to him someday. Until that time, I was content to pray for him and to wait.

In January, just one month after I had begun praying for my future husband, I met Peter. Our first meeting was very casual, and to be honest, very ordinary. We were at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. Approaching me with a friendly smile, he said, “Hi, I’m Peter.” I smiled and returned the greeting. I remember little of the rest of our one and a half minute conversation. But, I did take note of Peter and his personality. He appeared very friendly, sure of himself, and capable of leadership.

Later the following week, Peter invited the Crossroads to dinner. It was then that I learned he was in the textile business. The next Friday night at the Crusade meeting, he asked me to go sightseeing on Sunday afternoon. I accepted his invitation. However, our date did not turn out as I had expected. Since Peter had accepted a speaking engagement during our date, we ended Sunday afternoon ministering together in a small local church.

As I listened to him preach, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to minister together like this with my husband.” At that time, I did not realize that I would be ministering with Peter for the rest of my life. Standing before me was the man I would marry and for whom I had been praying. But, I didn’t know it.

After our first date, Peter and I began dating frequently. Each time we were with each other, we were drawn closer together. God also used the two of us, a blonde American lady and a dark-haired Chinese man, to bring many people to Christ. The more I was with Peter, the more I discovered that his qualities were identical to the qualities I had prayed to have in my husband.

Then in April, Peter told me that he believed the Lord was showing him that I was to be his wife. When he told me this, I became excited, but at the same time, I felt uneasy. To be married to a man with Peter’s qualities was in my prayer. Yet, to marry Peter meant marrying outside my own race. In order to make such a decision I had to know God’s attitude towards mixed marriages. I also had to be absolutely sure that it was God’s will for me to marry Peter. So, I replied, “Peter, I believe that a marriage relationship requires a mutual confirmation from the Lord that it is his will.” He agreed.

That night I returned home and wrote a list of practical questions to the Lord Jesus. I desired to know his perspective on mixed marriages, leaving my country, the future of our children, and the type of ministry Peter and I would have. I committed these questions to Him and expected Him to answer me from the Bible.

Finally, five months later on August 24 while I was returning by ship from the Southern Philippines, the Lord directed me to passages in the Bible which specifically answered all of my questions. Although I had many questions which He answered, I will only share with you His attitude towards races. In Galatians 3:26-28, He showed me that those of us who are in Christ are children of God. The earthly classifications of individuals by race and social status are replaced by a new classification for the children of God; we are one in Christ.

After he answered all my questions positively, I was confident that it was His will for Peter and me to be married. Bowing my head, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for showing me your will and for giving me to such a wonderful man as Peter.”

Two days after this revelation, Peter unexpectedly returned from his two months trip to the U.S. The day after his return, the 27th of August, he proposed to me. I did not expect him to ask me to marry him this soon after his return. I was excited but surprised.

I wanted to first share with him all the verses the Lord had given me in regards to our relationship before I answered him. After sharing the verses, I was still uneasy about the future. Even though I loved Peter, I realized that saying “yes” to him would change the entire course of my life. That was a difficult decision for me to make. However, God had clearly shown me that this was His perfect plan; that I should be Peter’s wife. I knew that I needed to pray in order to have the courage to make such a decision. I asked Peter to pray with me. I thanked the Lord for His plan for our lives, for Christ’s power to be obedient to His will, and most of all for Peter. While still praying, I said “yes” to the Lord and then “yes” to Peter.

THIS WAS PUBLISHED ON JULY 12, 1973.

Recently, my mom gave a shortened version of her testimony before our church and I want to add what she said:

My vows to Peter were consistent to the vow I had made to God.  As Ruth had said to Naoimi  in  Ruth 1:16 “…Where you go I will go … Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”

When I first arrived in Manila, the Lord had given me a promise of blessing which I did not really understand at that time from Mark 10:29-30. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sister or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms along with persecution; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Peter and I have now been married for nearly 41 wonderful years and looking back I can see that the Lord has literally fulfilled these promises to me. He gave me a wonderful husband whom I love and respect even more then ever!  And five children and in-law children who love and serve the Lord and thirteen, going on fifteen, amazing grandchildren! Of course, I also have many spiritual brothers and sisters whom I love who are also the fulfillment of God’s promise of blessing in my life as well. Truly it is the nature of God to bless us!  And He has blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined! All by His grace!

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Facebook Issues and Marriage

This morning Edric and I had a social media issue which I blew out of proportion. I never thought Facebook would get a glorified spot in our relationship but it did.

We were biking back from the park when Edric suggested that I avoid checking the profile of a certain person. I thought he was treating me like a child and I reacted. In fact I was not looking where I was headed and I crashed my bike into the sidewalk. And then I starting blaming him for causing my fall!

What upset me was I don’t impose what he can and cannot look at or whose profiles he checks out, and here he was putting restrictions on me for something that I felt wasn’t even worth discussing.

In his words, “I am your husband and it is my duty to protect you but you also need to do your part by not putting yourself in harm’s way…”

Well, I was so annoyed, I disrespectfully stamped my foot like a bratinella and walked off into the kitchen to escape from the dialogue. My response was, “I can’t believe you are telling me this when you (do this and that)…”

I ran upstairs to take a shower and let him finish his workout alone. I began to grumble before God…”This is so unfair and exasperating!”

But the Lord reminded me, “What did you learn in your meeting last night?”

The evening before, my mom talked about humility to a small gathering of wives. Oh the timing!

She very specifically shared about listening to our husbands with a gentle and quiet spirit. This is one evidence of humility.

Amidst my irritation, I resisted for a bit. I busied myself getting ready for a seminar I had to give this morning. When I ran into Edric again at the breakfast table he was placid and calm. He didn’t even bring up my behavior or attitude.

So naturally, on the way to my seminar, I felt convicted. I knew I had to apologize. I was clearly the one at fault. Edric was sincere in wanting to protect me.

This Facebook person was someone I used to be attracted to. Even if I have ZERO x infinity feelings for him at present, Edric had every right to insist that I be mindful of my Facebook activity. I should not be so overconfident. I am not invisible. Emotional carelessness could give the evil one a “back door” entrance into my relationship with Edric.

How can I really say that feelings cannot be resurrected just because I feel nothing now? And why would I ever want to hazard that possibility at all? Marriage requires a commitment to protecting it at all costs, from all known threats, visible and invisible.

Furthermore, I ought to give Edric no reason to worry or doubt my affections for him. And if any of my actions cause him to feel otherwise, then I must be willing to change. As for his own actions, I am not his policeman or his judge so I don’t need to compare and use that as a pathetic tactic to give myself license to research, google or look up men that are attractive. (For the record, I really don’t do this as a habit!)

When I settled this in my heart, I asked for his forgiveness for being disrespectful. Stamping my foot and blurting out cutting remarks were very wrong no matter what my reasons were. His reply was, “Of course I forgive you. In fact I was waiting for you to say something.”

As a wife, I struggle with suppressing and controlling my inclination to usurp Edric’s authority over me. I want to be the one to dictate what I can and cannot do. I don’t always like it when he micromanages my life. But the root of this is pride. God gave me a husband who corrects and minds even the small things in me so I will learn to listen and grow in Christlikeness. He is the one who sees all the flaws, the ones I want to hide from everyone else. He is the one who knows me best, especially my weaknesses. God uses Edric to chisel off what mars the image of the person God is edifying me to be. So it is in my best interest to honor what Edric asks me to do…even during occasions when his suggestions seem ridiculous or his corrections aren’t given in a manner which I would prefer.

Last Sunday the message was about living in the triangle of God’s blessing: we are blessed to bless others, just like the patriarch, Abraham exemplified for us (Genesis 12). But the conditions for blessing are intimacy with God+faith+obedience.

I want God’s blessing in my life and I certainly want to bless others, too. But I need to be in the triangle of blessing first. As a wife, one of the very clear ways I can put myself in that favorable position before God is to apply faith and obedience in the context of my marriage. This isn’t about trying to manipulate a God who cannot be manipulated. This is about believing in and following the principles of a God whose nature and desire is to bless those who do so.

When I had to speak this morning I knew that God’s hand would not be upon me if I didn’t humble myself and apologize to Edric for challenging his authority. And when I did, I felt that halo of anger around my head broken, and I could minister to the families I was called to without hypocrisy.

The ridiculous Facebook issue has been resolved. Edric and I said our sweet I love yous to one another before he left for a business trip with our eldest son. As he went out the door, I thought to myself, why would I ever let something shallow and meaningless damage what is so precious to me…my relationship with the most amazing man in this world, and my relationship with the One who gave him to me?

Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly…
(Zephaniah 2:3 NLT)

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Live In the Triangle of God’s Blessing

Go to Heaven Together

Between Edric and I, he is perceived as the “stricter” one by our children. It’s not that I’m not strict. I also set boundaries and rules for our kids. When I use the word “strict” I mean it in a positive way. Our children know our values, and why we want them to internalize them.

At the same time, we don’t want them to honor or obey us out of compulsion. We want them to develop convictions about what is right and wrong, to be discerning about their choices because they want to please God. After all, they won’t always live at home and we won’t alway be around. Someday they will be on their own. When they are confronted with moral choices in the future, no one will be looking over their shoulder. It will be between them and God.

Some nights ago, Edric walked into the kids’ bedroom to pray with the boys and they scrambled away from the IPad. I had told them earlier that they could play for a little while before going to bed. But it was 8:27 by the time they finished taking a shower and putting on their pajamas. This was just three minutes before their bedtime, so they didn’t really have time to play.

Edric asked, “What happened?” He wanted to know why they ran away from the IPad.

“We were scared.” Edan said. He thought that Edric would say no more playing on the Ipad because it was time for bed.

“Why are you scared? You don’t have to be scared. You know that whatever you enjoy, I also enjoy. I will only be concerned if you are not growing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men.” He wanted to assure them that they didn’t have to feel unnecessary guilt or fear.

The kids looked relieved and they smiled.

They conversed for a bit about playing on the IPad and Edric went on to say, “Sometimes there are things that are not good online and that’s what I want you to be careful about. You have to guard yourselves, because sometimes the devil puts things there that you aren’t supposed to see. And you know, daddy’s not going to be here all the time…”

For some reason, Edan latched on to the line “daddy’s not going to be here all the time,” and he started to cry.

When Edric asked him why he was crying, his answer was, “I don’t like it when you talk about you dying or mommy dying.” This wasn’t really what Edric was saying, but this statement created an emotional chain reaction and all three of our boys were in tears.

Edric very comfortingly said, “I finished a book today and I learned about the principle of a dot and a line. Our life is the dot and we don’t live for the dot, we live for the line, for eternity. What we do here on earth matters in heaven. And because we all believe in Jesus, we will see each other in heaven someday.

The boys’ fears were somewhat alleviated and he tucked them all in to bed and prayed with them. Afterwards, he came into our room and told me about their conversation.

As a mom, I couldn’t help it. I went to check on them, to make sure they were okay. They were buried under their covers.

I hugged each one of them. Titus looked up at me with tears in his eyes and pleaded, “Mom, can I sleep with you in your room?”

Edan and Elijah appeared from beneath their blankets and I went to each one of them. I was laying beside Edan on the bed and he seemed to be deep in thought. When I asked him if he was alright, he didn’t divulge all the details of the conversation he and his brothers had just shared with Edric. Typical. He’s a pretty mysterious fellow. But he did admit that he cried.

When I asked him why, he started to get teary-eyed again. Elijah, on the bed across from him, told me, “Edan said his one wish in all the world is that we all go to heaven together.” And with that statement, Edan bawled again. Elijah was trying to be more mature about it and control his emotions, but he was tearing up. Titus looked pretty weepy himself.

Oh these boys! So incredibly sweet and loving. My heart melted.

To lighten the mood, I said, “That’s my prayer, too! I pray that we will all be raptured together!” (I really do pray that!)

They still seemed distraught over the reality that Edric and I will die someday, so I gave them an invitation, “Do you guys all want to sleep in our room tonight?” Their eyes lit up. Of course they did! The one thing they wanted at that moment was to be with us.

So we had a slumber party in our room. The kids dragged their bedspreads and pillows through the door and slept on the floor. Edric was all for it, too.

We both looked at one another as we took in the site of our five children all around us. (Even the girls were with us.) How incredibly blessed we felt. I whispered to Edric what Edan’s one wish was – about being together in heaven – and then it was our time to get emotional. We had this knowing look as we glanced at one another, we don’t deserve these kids!

What a privilege and responsibility to have their hearts like we do. Our children want to be with us. They are happiest when they are in our company. They feel most secure when we are around. We are the people they feel most attached to. 

I’d like it to always be this way. But the reality is this earthly togetherness will change as our children grow up and as Edric and I age. And at one point, physical death will separate us here. But if we have heaven to look forward to, we need not dwell on what we will loose in this temporal world. What we enjoy on this earth as a family — the like-mindedness and like-heartedness in Christ that is our bond — is but a foretaste of what we have to look forward to in eternity. So while it is sobering to consider the passing of what we hold dear, we must cling to the hope that the joy we share can go on forever if we love and follow Jesus Christ. Edan’s wish need not be a balm of a dream. It will be a certainty if we, as parents, teach our children to make choices that mirror that hope. 

John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

 

1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

 

 

 

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Sometimes A Husband Needs Divine Laryngitis

(Based on a testimony Edric asked me to share for CCF Cebu…)

Last year, Edric was challeneged by the leadership of CCF (our church) to spearhead the Family Ministry. When he told me about it, I was thrilled. This was something that we have always been passionate about – marriage and parenting, leading families to Christ.

However, Edric wanted to pray about it first. He was very busy hosting his daily show, running a homeschool program, a small business, and he started to do speaking engagements for companies and organizations in and out of Metro Manila. His reasons for taking on all these commitments seemed very valid. We were in the middle of building our house so he was working hard to provide for it.

By the end of 2013, after giving it much thought, praying about it, and seeking the counsel of mentors and confidants, he made the decision to accept the responsibility to lead Family Ministry. This meant that he had to synchronize the activities of Life Academy (the new school that is based in CCF Tiendesitas) and NextGen (Sunday School), and create a plan and quarterly campaigns to reach out to soon-to-be married couples, married couples, and parents.

When he said yes to the role, I was excited. And our D12 (bible study group) was looking forward to how God would mobilize all of us to serve in Family Ministry.

Most of the activities were going to be launched in April 2014. However, as February and March rolled out, I noticed that Edric’s schedule was crazier than ever. He didn’t seem to be cutting down on his other activities. On certain weeks, he would have three out of town speaking engagements, sometimes more. (He would always bring Elijah, who speaks with him, for accountability and protection.)

These events were over and above all the other responsibilities he was in charge of. Plus, he had me and our 5 kids to take care of emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I became concerned. I didn’t know how he was going to manage everything without neglecting his more important priorities and without causing the needs of the ministry to suffer.

Sure enough, he went from one week to another harried. His days were packed with meetings. He was exhausted. I really missed him as a husband. But my bigger question was how is he going to give his 100% to God’s work? Is his mind even focused on God’s work?

When Edric is spiritually off, it is manifest in his temperament. He has the tendency to be irritable when he’s so focused on his doings and neglecting the being, being spirit-led and spirit-filled. As a result, his tone can get abrasive and he can be reactive when circumstances don’t pan out according to his expectations.

On Tuesday this past week, Edric and I experienced some tension. He complained about breakfast and I felt hurt by his tone and attitude. When he realized that he was wrong, he apologized for being agitated. Of course I forgave him but when I was alone, I really cried and prayed to God.

I was honest about my feelings of loneliness, fear, anxiety, and frustration. Lord, I don’t want my husband to be this way. I feel like his spirit is not right. And I’m so worried about family ministry. How can he head it if he is so busy? If his heart seems distracted? And how can I follow him? I don’t want to follow him if he is like this. Can you speak to him?

That afternoon, he flew with Elijah to Davao and strangely, he came back the next day with his vocal chords shot. It was so bizarre.

He had to get checked up and the doctor told him he had laryngitis and pharyngitis! The doctor said, “You have to rest your voice and take steroids.”

I couldn’t believe it. I had prayed but this was over the top! I felt bad for him but at the same time, I had this guilty excitement that perhaps this was a message from the Lord for him.

Some time later, I tried to ask him nonchalantly, “So what do you think God is trying to tell you?” Edric was very humble as he narrated what happened to him (with a very hushed sounding, frog-like voice.)

On the flight to Davao, he told me he was on the airplane seated beside what he described as “a sweaty guy who looked like a terrorist.” He admitted that this was a total judgment call on his part. God prodded him to share the gospel. Instead of saying yes I will, he ignored God’s leading. Preoccupied by what he had to do that evening, and affected by his stereotyping of the fellow, he didn’t want to do it.

It wasn’t until the end of the flight that he started chatting with the guy. The man turned out to be a very kind seaman who was looking forward to being with his family. By then it was too late to share the gospel. Edric had to rush off to the speaking venue and regrettably, he had missed out on the opportunity.

So that night, God took away his voice! Edric told me that God spoke to him, “If you are not going to use your voice for my purposes, then you will not get to use your voice for your purposes.” It was a loud and clear message!

The next day, his tapings had to be cancelled and his speaking engagement out of town had to be cancelled, too.

I need to add here that years ago Edric and I had a conversation about what kind of torture he wouldn’t want to have. (The useless conversations you sometimes have when you are married.) He said an unimaginable torture for him would be the inability to talk. And lo and behold, this is exactly what happened!

On a humorous note, Edric was very patient and cautious with the things he said in the last three days. When our eldest son spilled water on him at the restaurant, he was very calm.
Why? He had no voice! He had to be very selective and choosy about every word that came out of his mouth. In fact, I kidded him, “Hon, it’s been so peaceful between us lately. You have been so ‘gentle and quiet.’” Ha ha ha.

More significantly, losing his voice made him evaluate his priorities. God got his attention and re-calibrated his heart. Instead of being concerned about his cancelled tapings and speaking engagements, all of which bring him extra income, his mind was set on this weekend.

Both of us had to give a parenting seminar. And he had to orient parents on homeschooling and deliver a financial stewardship talk for families in Cebu. On top of that, he had to preach at CCF Cebu on Sunday.

His message was about “Living for the Line” as inspired by Bruce Wilkinson’s book called “A Life God Rewards.” Edric was to preach about what it means to live for eternity. Well, there was no way God was going to let him give that message without an authentic experience to back it up. So the laryngitis and pharyngitis were divinely appointed experiences to make sure he was living for the line himself.

At first, he was worried that his voice wouldn’t come back by the weekend. But I encouraged him. “Don’t worry, hon. God will give you your voice back. This will be his work.” By faith, I believed that God would do a miracle.

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We prayed and everyone around us prayed. On Friday, we arrived in Cebu and spent time with the kids at Imperial Palace. (It is a world-class water park in the Philippines. Totally awesome.) His voice was recovering but it was still raspy and strained. But amazingly, by Saturday, he was able to talk all day and he was able to speak in Sunday Service yesterday!

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Edric has a renewed fire to align all the doings of his life to match God’s agenda — to build God’s kingdom. The initial anxiety I felt is gone, not because Edric won’t ever get side-tracked or spiritually distracted again. He and I are both prone to this pitfall for as long as we are on this earth. My real comfort is knowing that the ministry we will commit our lives to is not one we bear alone. This is God’s work. It will be done with God’s power. And he will raise up the people and prepare their hearts for it in the way he deems necessary. If that means throwing in a laryngitis/pharyngitis moment to catch someone’s attention (like my husband’s), he will use it for good.

As for me, as a wife, my encouragement is to keep praying for Edric. My most valuable role is to support him this way — to pray that he will keep loving God and serving him with all that he is.

When I am tempted to nag Edric because I don’t like what he is doing, I don’t agree with his perspective, or I am hurt by something he did, I want to remember that God is Lord of my marriage, intimately involved and all-knowing about our weaknesses, character flaws and issues. He is committed to helping us grow and change to become more like Him. He is committed to making us spiritually fit for his work. I need not panic, manipulate or attempt to control Edric or circumstances. Instead, I must focus on fulfilling my role as a wife and keeping fervent in prayer.

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Family Photo Turns Into A Billboard

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.05.29 PMAfter giving birth to Catalina, I asked Edric several times if we could schedule a family photo session. We never got around to doing it. Amazingly, a month ago, the brand manager of Cetaphil, Joel Andrada, got in touch with Edric and told him about the concept for their new ad campaign. Joel asked if he could feature our family.

Edric was like, “We have five kids!” He wasn’t sure if Joel would be willing to get all of us for the shoot, but the crazy thing is, he was. Even Catalina was going to be included as a “talent.” Wee little Catalina at 5 months.

Cetaphil also needed grandparents so they asked if Edric’s parents or mine could be part of the shoot. Fortunately, my mother in law and father in law were available. (They have incredible skin so they were perfect for the campaign.)

The shoot began mid-morning and was done early afternoon. It was so easy to work with the team — Jasmine Mendiola was the make-up artist who made me look better than I actually look. Check out her work at Jasmine Mendiola Ana Kalaw did the styling. She minded every detail. The talented David Fabros was our photographer. He was incredibly patient with all our kids! Of course he was also a perfectionist. He even noticed that one of my eyebrows was not as filled in as the other one. See his photography site here: davidfabros.com

I wish I could name every person that helped out on the set. But my memory for names as of late has been horrible due to lack of sleep. There was an entire team making sure the shoot came together and they were all very accommodating, understanding of our zoo-of-a-family, and professional.

I had to feed Catalina a couple of times in between photo sessions. She only went ballistic once or twice. The other kids did very well and held out til early afternoon. Apparently, the DOLE is very protective of children who do photoshoots, commercials or appear on TV. (And they should be.) Some of their rules about child labor:

1. Only 4 hours per day/20 hours per week /2 days break in between
2. 30% of earnings must go into their savings account
3. If they earn more than 200k it must be put into a trust fund
4. They cannot be forced to do work.

Parents are required to attend a seminar that orients us on the laws protecting children. And permits need to be secured for each child.

It was such a privilege to do the shoot for Cetaphil. I have always liked their products. And I discovered more products in their line up that address specific needs for every person in our family! Oily skin, dry skin, eczema-prone skin, aging skin, baby skin. Cetaphil has something that is suitable for everyone without compromising the gentleness on the skin that has been associated with its brand.

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The added bonus for me was experiencing God’s provision. We are in the final stage of building our home and sometimes it feels like we are bleeding money. But God continues to confirm that everything we have comes from him. He gives us what we need and more in big and small ways.

I thought it was pretty miraculous that Cetaphil got every single person in our family and my parents-in-law, to do this shoot. I mean, I just wanted a family photo that I could frame but God gave us a billboard on almost every major highway! He is amazing!

Thank you Lord! Thank you Cetaphil!;)

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Kids Need Their Fathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Everything Breaks

The house is turning out better than I imagined thanks to our architect and contractor, but I allow myself to get stressed about little details. It doesn’t help that I am artistically inclined by nature and notice every mistake…everything…tiny chips, uneven walls, paint lines that aren’t totally clean, awkward termination points. Like Sherlock Holmes said, “My curse is, I see everything.”

During the surprise Valentines dinner Edric planned for me on the balcony, I was staring at a 1 cm chip on a tile for a bit, and I started feeling the frames of the sliding glass doors because I noticed some scratches. He was like, this is supposed to be a romantic evening. Let’s not do that. We can do that during the punchlisting.

Oh right, sorry. But that 1 cm chip kept looking back at me! Even now I am still thinking about it!

There have been occasions when it’s not just about a chip. Yesterday, for instance, I heard some pretty awful news. One of the hanging light fixtures in the dining room was broken by a supplier. I was livid. I couldn’t believe it. How could the supplier have been so careless?!

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Well, God has been using incidences like these to keep me spiritually conscious of my tendency to love the things of this world.

When I start to emotionally hyperventilate and feel frustrated about the house, Edric reminds me, “hold the things of this world lightly.” He also motions with his hand for me to relax!

He is totally right, too. At the end of the day, I have to remember that this house isn’t heaven. It’s a wonderful, amazing blessing. We want to be good stewards and fix the issues that we can. But it still represents what is temporal and fading in this world. As monumental an event as it will be for our family to move into this home after living in a condo for so many years, it cannot be the essence of what makes us a family or what brings us true joy.

I saw the broken light today. It was dangling in a sad way with the bulb exposed on one side. The kids gasped when they saw it. (The good news is the supplier is going to replace it.)

Of course I felt disappointed that the accident happened in the first place, but I thought of all the other things that will eventually break, get stained, fall apart, crack, and deteriorate over time. Such is the manner of the world we live in.

So while I am totally excited about moving into our new house, I cannot forget that it’s the things of eternity that I have to hold tightly.

Will our family love one another in this home as God’s word tells us to? Will it be a place where people feel welcome and loved? Will we use it for God’s work and kingdom? Will it’s atmosphere be characterized by a happiness and peace that points people to Jesus?

I pray our home can be all these things and more…things that will not pass away.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35 NASB)

When Your Children See Half-Naked Women On The Cover Of A Magazine

“Don’t let Hollywood have a monopoly on what our children learn about sex” Dr. Peter Tanchi

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Our children don’t learn about purity today. They learn about immorality. Just turn on the TV or surf the net or heck, drive down Edsa. It’s hard NOT to be assaulted by the sexually charged environment we are in.

The other day, my ten year old, said, “Mom, they have pictures of half-naked women over there.” This happened at the grocery and Elijah came up to me looking disturbed as he made this statement. He was referring to the magazine rack display which was positioned in full view of everyone who was exiting the store. The most scandalous of them all were at his eye level.

Edan was over there too but he was looking at something else. When Elijah asked him if he saw the magazine covers, he was like, “Huh?! What pictures?! I didn’t see anything.” He was telling the truth. He didn’t notice them at all. Elijah, on the other hand, is getting older and more cognizant of what is inappropriate in women’s dressing. All the visible skin was shocking for him.

We talked about how women are not supposed to show off their bodies that way, that it is not pleasing to God. I also told him that he shouldn’t marry a woman that projects herself in that manner. I don’t even know why I added that, but he very emphatically responded, “I will never ever ever marry a woman like that!” GOOD. I hope he feels the same way ten years from now.

I know we cannot keep our children in a bubble. In fact, Elijah told me he has seen similar photos of women on billboards. Of course it upsets me that society doesn’t care at all that children are continually exposed to lewd and provocative pictures of women and even men. There may be some sanctions imposed on marketing and media companies but still, our children’s innocence is threatened so often.

I was upset about the magazines in the store, but it was my mom that went the extra mile. My mom was with us doing her grocery shopping, too. Immediately, she called the manager and said very nicely but with conviction, “You shouldn’t display magazines like these the way you do. Please find a way to cover them. It doesn’t speak well of your store and it’s not good for children.” And one by one she flipped over the magazines. No one stopped her and the manager acknowledged what she had to say.

I didn’t know if the store would do anything about it. But I was proud of my mom. (Elijah was, too.) I thought to myself, yah, you tell them, mom!

The good news is just today my mom dropped by the same grocery and she informed me that there was paper pasted across the bodies of the cover models. You can still see the names of the magazines that are being sold but no more half naked women visible to the public. She commended the manager for taking action on her request.

When Elijah and I found out that the grocery had “censored” the magazines, we were both thrilled. It was encouraging to know that people (represented by this grocery) still respect convictions. There are still people out there who know, deep inside, that it’s not okay for young women to be posing with a tiny strip of fabric to cover their private parts. Elijah, in his candid manner, just called it out and it was like, oh, right, hello, these women are not partially clothed, they are pretty much naked.

This is not an attempt to go out into the streets with a sign that says, death to all who let themselves be photographed wearing nothing but a tiny strip of fabric, death to all those who photograph them, death to all those who buy these photos, and death to all those who sell them. I am not so guiltless, not about the above, but about feeding my carnal appetite for immorality. There are times when I switch on the TV and get intrigued by the plot of a movie or show that outrightly condones sleeping around. And occasionally, I will surf the net and look up some Hollywood gossip and find it entertaining. I am ashamed to admit that there’s something interesting about all the garbage that goes on in the lives of famous people. By God’s grace, I don’t have much time to do any of the above these days. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t have the curiosity for it…a curiosity that needs to come under the control of the Holy Spirit.

I am writing this entry because I want to challenge all of us to practice and model holiness no matter how hostile the moral climate is today. I told Elijah, “We must never be ashamed to have high standards when it comes to purity. We don’t have to be like everyone else and think, well this is just the way it is.”

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NASB)

Personally, I need to be more aware of how easy it is to buy into the unbiblical standards that are becoming more and more “accepted” in our country. But God’s word says, As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “Y ou shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16 NASB)

If my mom had not said anything about the magazine rack, I probably wouldn’t have. I would have just let it go and thought, well, that’s just the nature of things. But because my mom spoke to the manager, I was blessed by her desire to protect my kids and every other person that comes in and out of that grocery store.

Society may continue to head in the wrong direction by promoting and celebrating immorality but we don’t have to become a causality of this inertia. We can say something when there is opportunity to do so. We can take a stand when necessary. We can hazard being ridiculed as outdated and boringly conservative. We can hold on to the belief that purity is God’s design, that sex is supposed to happen in marriage, between a husband and wife. Why? Because our children are watching and others, too. They want to know what to believe, what to value, what to uphold. If we guard, protect, and live out what is good, true, and holy, and if we are a testament to the blessings of doing so, then our children and others will have the courage to do the same.

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Sweet In The Arms Of…

Catalina reached out to me for the first time today. She is five months, going on six. It was a wonderful feeling to be wanted. Her little arms stretched out and she motioned toward me. Moments like these are sweet rewards for being a mom.

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While I was holding her, I thought of the parallels between what it is like to be a mother and the heart of God as our Heavenly Father. When my baby girl extended her arms, lunging forward towards me because she wanted to be held, I didn’t say, “Oh well that’s so cute, keep doing it and maybe I will pick you up.” Of course not! Immediately, I dropped everything to take her in my arms and hug her, whispering tender things in her ear. I was thrilled to pick her up.

If I am like that as a mom, flawed as I am as a human being, then what more the delight of a perfect God when we reach out to him, call out to him and turn to him with all sincerity? If he put in me a desire to be good to my children, then how much greater must his goodness be?

He eagerly waits for us to recognize that he loves us, just like I wait for the point in time when all my kids know that I love them and they can reciprocate. One of my highlights as a mom is hearing my children say, “I love you, mom” for the first time, without being prodded or coerced to.

In the meantime, I do all I can to communicate to them that they are special to me, hoping that one day they will want to have a relationship with me. Similarly, God has done everything to make it possible for us to have a relationship with him.

The Bible tells us “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love –not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Our actions and circumstances do not change who God is. He remains a loving Father even if we reject this truth about him.

So we have to ask ourselves, what keeps us from reaching out to him in faith, with outstretched arms, so that he can be the father he wants to be to us? Is it the disappointments and pains of a fallen world? Is it our refusal to give up sin and follow his design for our lives? Is it our own misconceptions about who he is and our lack of intimacy with him? Is it our busy-ness and the constant striving after personal ambition? Is it the pride of personal success?

If we really knew how deeply, magnanimously, and unconditionally loved we are by the God of the universe, we would all throw our arms up into the air with abandon and say, “Lord, take me. Take all me! I want to be your child.”

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12 NASB)

Catalina dosed off to sleep in my arms while I held her. (When she is with me, she has everything she needs — company, affection, protection, milk! At least for now…) She looked so peaceful and content. In a small, earth-bound sort of way, this is what it is like to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father. There is no sweeter experience than to be held by him. But unlike me to Catalina, he is the source of everything we need and will ever need, forever and ever!

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To Buy Or Not To Buy A Designer Bag

A very pretty lady, impeccably dressed and with hair in perfectly set waves (hair I wish I had), came up to me and asked if I could write about managing finances, specifically in the area of curtailing materialism. She confessed that she liked to buy designer bags and asked how I stopped myself from doing so.

Well, first off, I don’t think it’s wrong to buy designer things. The devil is not Prada. Some people see it as an investment. Others can afford luxury without putting themselves in debt.

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However, there are occasions when it could be very wrong. For example, if you overspend (buy above your means) or if you have a compulsion to keep buying beyond your needs.

Whatever the reason or motive, I think each of us ought to be discerning about how we spend money. This article is not meant to be a guilt trip. But I intend to share my own perspective on luxury spending, particularly in the area of buying bags, clothes, shoes, jewelry or watches. Please don’t take it like I am judging every woman who wants to go out and buy herself a designer bag or two or three or so on (you know who you are ;)). I just have a different vantage point which may help someone who wants to re-evaluate her spending habits, someone who earnestly feels like she may want to change and channel her resources elsewhere.

Read on at your own risk…

I used to be a barefoot girl climbing trees, catching tadpoles, and playing with monkeys. My life was far removed from the city and shopping malls. More importantly, my mom was a simple person. She never spent alot on herself or on dolling me up. She always looked put together and she dressed me up nicely, but her spending habits were very controlled.

Up til this day most of her clothes come from the tiangge or Ross (when she visits my sister in the U.S.) So I suppose her example of frugality rubbed off on me. I did not see her buying luxury goods when I was living at home, so I didn’t develop an appetite for these things either.

What kind of spending habits did your parents have? What did they model for you? It’s very possible that they passed on to you the kind of perspective you have on spending.

It may be hard to believe but I cannot imagine paying more than 5k for a bag. Almost everyone I know who is my age has at least one luxury bag that costs 10 times as much. And others are willing to spend a hundred times more.

Personally, I don’t want to be holding or wearing anything that would tempt someone to chop my arm off. Furthermore, I really don’t feel like a bag is worth that much. Some women will say I have no idea what I am talking about. And they are absolutely right. I don’t. I am not a bag connoisseur.

But no matter what crocodile is killed to become a handbag, I would never be able to stomach paying thousand of dollars for it, even if it was made to look pretty in its after life. While I can appreciate the quality of luxury, unless the actual materials used to make a bag are near the equivalent value of the price, I think it’s a bad deal.

Everyone knows this right? Deep inside, we aren’t stupid. The difference is we all have built-in thresholds for what we are willing to pay for an item or an experience. Plus, there is the factor of what we can afford.

Life is about choices. Edric and I may not spend a lot of money on luxury products but we may spend it on a trip out of the country. Building a memory together as a couple or family is something we value more. Right now our resources are also going into our house building so that’s our present priority. Others may be able to spend on whatever their heart desires, but it isn’t common to be able to afford to do everything. Most of us have to make choices.

When it comes to bags, if I can buy something functional that does the job it doesn’t have to be branded. I want it to look stylish and well made but I have an amount that I will not go over when I make a purchase. This limits my options so I have to find deals online or in stores.

Admittedly, there are occasions when I want to pay more. But I have to remember God owns all the money Edric and I have. We are just stewards of the financial blessings he has given us. Therefore I cannot, in good conscience, pay a ridiculous amount of money for a bag when I can buy one that serves the same purpose for much cheaper.

I understand that expensive and cheaper can be relative to what a person is used to spending. But if the amount could feed a sizable orphanage for atleast a week or two, then it might be worth considering whether that money should be going to an orphanage. Just a thought. ;)

What about jewelry or watches? According to my husband Edric, who has interviewed a lot of financial experts on his TV show, jewelry and watches (depending on the brand) can be a good investment. But here is why I don’t spend for these things either. I am a practical gal. My jewelry is 90% fancy. Why? It would stress me out to have to worry about taking care of diamonds or any sort of precious stone or metal that I could lose. I don’t want the hassle of having to put jewelry in a safe. In fact, I feel very relaxed when our maids clean the bedroom. They are trustworthy but it helps that there’s nothing to take…nothing to tempt them…nothing to put into their pockets. The most precious things in our home are the people in it.

Furthermore, Edric prefers that we invest our money for the future. One of my personal dreams is to be able to buy a property for each of our five kids. I suppose this perspective comes from being the daughter of a land developer. My father’s business is in the housing sector. And like I said, I am practical. You can’t misplace a piece of property. Jewelry can get stolen or lost. With my track record for losing things, I really don’t deserve diamonds or gold.

While it would be sentimental to pass on to my children jewelry or time pieces, I would prefer to hand them the title to a plot of land. Tiny watch or a partial surface of the earth? Hmm…it’s a no brainer for me but everyone ascribes value differently. Apart from passing on a godly heritage, it would be great if we could help each of our kids get started when they are married. The Bible talks about this…

Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. (2 Corinthians 12:14)

If a person wants to invest in watches and jewelry as well as land or even stocks or a trust fund for their children, why not? It all goes back to motivation and purpose. God is not opposed to enjoying one’s wealth. Look at this Proverb: “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” (Proverbs 10:22) Some people are so blessed they can invest wherever they want to, and still give magnanimously to others. Praise God for them.

What about shopping for clothes and shoes? I enjoy shopping. But like my mom, I don’t need to buy branded clothing. If I find a wonderful deal then I may do so. However, I really can’t be too extravagant anyway. With the number of children I have, my kids would be naked and hungry if I was always buying things for myself. This is an exaggeration but having kids does diffuse my urge to shop for myself. They always need clothes and shoes because they are growing so fast! So a lot of times I have to shop for them.

The other reason why I control shopping for my own self is I have been pregnant and breastfeeding for so many years of my married life. I am many seasons behind the trends. My bust to waist to hip ratio is ever changing. There is no way to keep up and be fashionable all the time. So my criteria is right fit, color, and a statement of personal style. Not too trendy.

I may buy a trend or two if I really like it but the greater priority for me is to exercise so clothes will fit well. Until I get to the size I really want to be, I hold back on the clothes buying.

It’s also a blessing that I am not in any sort of fancy schmancy job that pressures me to look like a million dollars. Just the other day, I had a huge zit on my face. I mean it was so big I couldn’t believe it was on my face. It looked like a hill. My brother said, “What is that?!”

In contrast, my son turned to me and said, “It’s ok, you still look beautiful mom. Having that (the zit) just makes you look like you work really hard to take care of us.” That’s Elijah, my ever-politically correct son.

The people that I am surrounded with on a daily basis are incredibly BIASED. I don’t have to wear makeup or dress up and they think the world of me. They are my kids. Do they have a choice?! They compliment me all the time just for being me. Kids are awesome. Have lots of them! As for Edric, he just likes me to look clean and put together. Whew.

The kind of company you keep really matters. Do the people you hang out with turn on and feed your materialistic desires?

I will be honest, depending on the social circles I move in, there are times when I am tempted to think, maybe if I have designer things people will respect me more or hold me in higher regard. But when I process where that thought is coming from, the root of it is pride. It is pride telling me that I need material things of a certain standard to be accepted or to feel good about myself. So I go back to who I am in Christ. The God of this universe gave his life for a sinner like me. If he thought that I was worth that much then I certainly don’t need luxury to make me feel valuable.

If you feel like you have to wear designer clothes and accessories to feel better about yourself then it’s worth asking why this is so. Is it just because you are really after quality products or is there some sort of emotional or spiritual need that is being masked by all that spending?

Fifth, there are so many needs around me, so many ways to use money to be a blessing. I like the example of the early church believers. In Acts it says, “All the believers were together and shared everything. They would sell their land and the things they owned and then divide the money and give it to anyone who needed it. The believers met together in the Temple every day. They ate together in their homes, happy to share their food with joyful hearts.” (Acts 2:44-46)

The rest of the passage talks about how the Lord was adding to the numbers of those who were being saved daily. There was something so attractive about the believers’ lifestyle of sharing and giving to one another. People were coming to Jesus because of how they were caring for each other.

This passage provides a cure for materialism. Instead of thinking what else can I buy for myself, the mindset ought to be what else can I give?

One group of people I really enjoy giving to is our household help. Periodically, I go through my closets and take out a bunch of items and tell them they can have it all. Because they don’t have alot, they are always so appreciative.

Their presence in my life teaches me to be grateful for all the comforts I have. And even if they don’t know it, they keep me grounded in terms of shopping. Whenever I shop, I think about the kind of example I am setting for them and the impact I am making on them. I don’t want them to wrestle with jealousy or envy. They don’t have the liberty to buy themselves the same things that I can. So when I am tempted to make an expensive purchase, I think about them as my standard. How would they feel if they saw the price tag? It helps to use their purchasing capacity as a reference point instead of comparing myself to people who are really wealthy.

So do I struggle with materialism? Of course. I like things…things that are pretty, sparkly, well designed, tasteful, and expensive. But I choose to manage my desires by thinking about what I am spending on and why I am spending.

At the end of the day, whatever shopping habits I have must be filtered by contentment, motivation and stewardship. And just to clarify, a materialistic person is not someone who spends less. It’s someone who looks to possessions to fill a space that ought to belong to Jesus. Any of us can be susceptible to that. We need to come to the point where we know that only Jesus can bring us true satisfaction. And we need to recognize when the love for the world is replacing our love for God.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (1 John 2:15, 16 NASB)

Here are some helpful heart questions to ask ourselves when we shop…

Am I being a good steward of the money God has given our family?
Is there a better way to spend or invest this money?
Am I faithfully managing the budgets assigned to me by my husband?
How can I use money to bless others and meet needs around me?
Will I cause people to stumble or be envious of me if I am extravagant? What are my motivations when I want to buy myself more things? Is it to impress people? Is it really a need?
Am I trying to project an image to others that is rooted in pride?
Is my desire for material things increasing at a greater rate than my desire to feed on God’s word and spend time with him?
How are my purchases indicative of where my heart is?

“for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21 NASB)

Here’s a thought I would like to leave you with. My brother in law, Joel, passed on to Edric and I very insightful wisdom from his father about spending. “If it’s a need, find a way to afford it. If it’s a want, no amount will be worth it.”

Luxury bags, clothing, and accessories fall under the category of “want” and not “need” for me. I will not judge those who feel otherwise. Afterall, bags, shoes, clothing, watches, jewelry…these things are not the true measure of person. God sees past material things to the heart that is within.

If you forget everything I have written here, reflect on this…I like what my dad said during one Sunday service, if you love God with all your heart, you are free to do whatever you please. I had to think about that statement but it made absolute sense. If you love God with everything that you are, you will make choices that honor him. What you want will be what God wants. Therefore the question, “how do you stop yourself from buying designer bags?” is not a more important question that this one…Do you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? If you do, you will know what to do the next time you go shopping! God will give you peace about whether you should make your next purchase or not. ;)