I Just Want to Be With You, Mommy

 Girls, girls, girls. I’m not used to dealing with the drama of daughters. For a good many years it was just boys and their havoc-wrecking testosterone. Yet now that my two youngest girls are moving past the baby-ish stage, it’s evident that I’ve got two “emotionals” on my hand.


Growing up, I wasn’t an emotional child. I was feminine and girly, but I leaned towards processing circumstances cerebrally. Plus, moodiness wasn’t allowed in our home. My mom emphasized this often. She modeled it, too. Furthermore, I compartmentalized my emotions as a post-trauma method of coping with what I went through as a teenager (for those of you who know.) So I always believed that a person should be able to switch off the emo-button.

This has been both a good and bad thing. It allows me to focus on tasks. Yet the down side is, it makes me less sensitive to people’s emotions, which can be problematic when you are a wife and mom, and a friend! Edric has told me numerous times that I need to improve on listening and hearing him out, and not dishing out unsolicited advice, quoting Bible verses and telling him how he should process what he is going through. By God’s grace, I’m improving but I have to make a conscious effort to be more tender and gentle as a wife.

I have to tell myself…Be a blessing. How can you minister to Edric? How can I meet his need?

As a mom, I’m having to balance firmness and softness with my girls. They feel things so intensely and for longer stretches of time than my boys do. Tiana goes crazy over fluffy toys and animals. When I see her clasp her hands and breathe in deeply like something is the cutest thing she has ever seen while squealing in delight, I just don’t get it. Sometimes, I admit that I would love to be able to remote-control my girls into toning down their hysterics.

I remember telling Catalina the other day, “Stop crying. That’s enough.” She wasn’t being fussy, she was just lingering in the sentiment of being slighted by someone. Can a three year old really do this? Switch off? Apparently it’s difficult to do. In between her sniffling, she struggled to say, “Buuut I I I I can’t ssstttooop.” The tears kept falling. And then she just looked terribly adorable. (She is a toughie but like Tiana, she’s emotional).

Thankfully, I have Edric to help me change in this area and a sister like Candy, who is amazing at relating to people. She goes out of her way to make others feel appreciated, loved, and important. She used to be the one to elbow me (literally), or pull me aside and say things like, “Hey, I think you need to call so-and-so and reach out to her.” Or, “Hey, I think that person wants to spend time with you. You should connect with her.”

And I would be like, “Yes, you are right. I should.” She was like my emotional conscience! Well, she’s gone back to the U.S. so I’m slightly handicapped.

Yet, God is using my wonderful, emotional daughters to transform me. Praise God! There’s hope! Just because it’s not in my personality to be tender and soft, I must consider their needs as more important than what’s comfortable for me. This might mean extra hugs and kisses, and a milder tone of voice. It may mean sitting on the bed to read princess stories for the nth time. Or, it may involve extended craft times together. Sometimes it may also mean patiently waiting for them to work through their feelings and then processing circumstances with them after they’ve been given an opportunity to air their thoughts and opinions. Whatever it is, I’ve got to remember that they long to have a relationship with me in a way that no other human person can fulfill and that’s a precious, precious thing.

Plus, it’s not wrong to be an emotional person. I told this to a lady I have been counseling for a couple of weeks. God uses sympathetic and empathetic people all the time. They tend to be great at understanding others which is badly needed in this world.

My girls happen to need more TLC and it’s my role (and privilege) to make them feel secure and special. So last night, when Edric reported to me that Tiana was teary-eyed when she said, “I just want to be near mommy,” as he tucked the girls into bed, a stimulus-response light bulb switched on in my head. Stop what you are doing, Joy, and go to your daughter.

I was in the middle of a big project that I was stressed out about but God encouraged me. Your daughter needs you. She’s your priority.

Tiana is entering into some sort of phase as a girl. The other day I attempted to articulate how I was feeling about it to Edric by saying, “You know, I’m struggling with my role as a mom to the girls, especially Tiana. It’s like she’s looking to me for her sense of identity and I’m not sure what to do. It’s a challenge.”

Well, it doesn’t matter that it’s a phase that confounds me. I have to develop better parenting skills with my girls and I have to adjust. After Edric delivered Tiana’s message about wanting to be near me, I slid the laptop off my lap, got off my bed and peeked into the girls’ room. Tiana and Catalina were snuggled up under their covers but still awake. I went over to hug Tiana and lay by her side.

“Are you okay?”

She shook her head.

“Is something wrong?”

“I just want to be with you.” She had tears in her eyes.

“Okay, I will stay with you.”

She was relieved.

Across the room, I heard a heard a whimpering Catalina who wanted to be noticed. So I picked her up, held her in my arms and brought her to Tiana’s bed where I sat for a while. I stroked Tiana’s head to calm her down and prayed with the girls. When I was pretty confident that they were emotionally settled, I returned Catalina to her bed and kissed them both good night. Tiana requested for an extra hug, which I gladly obliged to. They slept soundly and woke up as their happy selves this morning.

My productivity may have been disrupted yesterday evening but I should never think of my kids as an interruption. They are my priority. Sure, there are seasons when I have to get projects done and I can’t drop everything for them. But as much as possible, and because I control my time, I can certainly postpone things like finishing a keynote presentation if my kids S.O.S. me for attention. And it’s amazing how even little doses of attention and affection deposit big feelings of love in the hearts of my kids.

I was watching my girls jump around playfully this morning and I thought to myself, I’m so thankful and grateful for them. Each of my kids is a gift from the Lord not only because children are so delightful, but because God uses each of their personalities – Elijah, Edan, Titus, Tiana and Catalina — to humble me and teach me how to live and love.

Love is not about what’s easy or comfortable for me. It’s about sacrifice and commitment to meeting the heart-felt longings of others. It’s about seeking to change and improve in order to grow in love. It’s not about controlling others for my benefit. It’s about being a channel of Christ’s selflessness even when it’s so much easier to be self-serving. It’s about waiting for people to bloom in God’s time and in His way, and leading them gently into this becoming.

It’s impossible for me to be this person if Christ wasn’t present in me. Time and time again I see that I am a work in progress as a mom. I want to be and I strive to be better, but often I fall short and it can be discouraging to be confronted with my imperfections. However, my hope is in Jesus who doesn’t let me be, who sends me sweet angels in the form of daughters to show me beauty, to show me love in a form that I’m learning to appreciate and recognise as necessary in this world.

But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

 

 

 

God Finds Our Children

Our children have their own timetables when it comes to their faith journeys. We can do our best to raise them in the ways of the Lord and to teach them God’s word, but at the end of the day they have to make the choice to follow God themselves. Sometimes this reality frightens me. I have to fight the fear and the worry that plague my thoughts with questions like, What if they don’t follow God? What if they fall away from the faith?

Even if Edric and I do our best to model Christianity to our children and teach them biblical truth, it’s no guarantee that they will walk the same path. We can’t force them to, either. Choosing to make Jesus their Lord and Savior is a personal thing. It’s between them and the Lord.

We share the gospel with them as soon as they can understand it, which is usually about 3 or 4 years old. However, we don’t know EVERYTHING that is going on in each of their hearts. Even though we spend loads of time with them because we are homeschooling parents, there’s a lot to them that remains unseen.

This is one of the reasons why we started taking one kid at a time on trips out of the country. Earlier in the year, we brought Elijah with us to Dubai. During our last trip to Australia and New Zealand, we took our second son, Edan. Titus will be traveling with us soon as well.

Elijah and Edan appreciated having our undivided attention when they had their turns traveling with us. In fact, Edan admitted that he enjoyed feeling like an only child! Over the two weeks that we were away with Edan, we got to know him better…

  • The way he thinks – very methodical and concerned about time and details. He always wants to know what the plan is.
  • His favorite things – ice cream, plants, animals, games, good books, playing the piano
  • His fears – the dark, what others think of him
  • What makes him feel special – time with us, words of affirmation
  • His gifts – leadership, charm, bringing people together, responsibility, taking care of others
  • His weaknesses – pride, impatience, easily hurt, harboring grudges
  • What makes him frustrated – conflict with his siblings and blocked goals.

My favorite discovery about Edan happened in Australia, during the Hillsong Conference. Edan joined the kids’ events so he was away from us for most of the conference days. I wondered how he would cope since he was alone and outside of his comfort zone. Well, he did just fine. He made new friends and he enjoyed the services, games, and activities.

I asked him, “What did you learn during Kidsong?”

He was quiet at first (typical Edan) as he processed what he was about to say, and then he replied, “I realized I shouldn’t be ashamed to praise God…like raising my hands when I sing to him and singing with all my heart. I shouldn’t worry about what people think because I should be focused on worshiping God.”

Of coursed I teared as he told me this. Anytime my kids talk about their spiritual lives, I get emotional. It’s the most important aspect of who they are, and I feel so happy every time they trust me enough to tell me about their triumphs and struggles in the faith.

A few weeks after our trip, Edan also told me that he encountered Jesus in a special way during one of our Sunday services. He began by stammering, “I don’t know how to explain it, mom. Something happened. I was sitting in church and I felt God’s presence. I gave my life to Him again. It’s like I really understood what it meant to be a sinner, and that Jesus died on the cross for me, to save me.”

I was so excited, I grabbed him and pulled him close holding him in my arms as we both cried tears of joy. I said several times, “I am so happy, Edan!”

My greatest joy as a mother is knowing that my children love God and want to please God. Someday they will be on their own to make choices without Edric and I around. My prayer is that they will find God and discover how much He loves them, that they will give their lives to Him not because we ask them to, but because they wholeheartedly desire to.

The comforting news is this: God is the one who finds our kids. He seeks them out one by one and reveals Himself to them. As parents, we need to do our part to condition our children’s hearts to be receptive to God when this encounter happens. This involves modeling a love for the Lord, being intentional about discipling them, and providing an environment that encourages them to seek after Him. However, it gives me peace knowing that God loves them more than I ever will. He is more concerned about their relationship with Him that I will ever be.

Therefore, I need to relax as His divine work takes place in their hearts. I can’t control my kids decisions when it comes to choosing to give their lives to Him, but God is in control. He is faithful. He is present. He is moving. He is speaking to our children.

Let’s pray that they will hear Him. Let’s pray they will see Him. Let’s pray that they will choose Him!

“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” 3 John‬ ‭1:4‬ ‭

Big Rocks, Small Rocks – Time Management for Busy Moms

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I wear many hats as a woman. There’s being a wife, a mother, a homeschooling parent, a discipler to women, a counselor, speaker, writer, and every now and then I have “jobs” or projects that I accept for added income. Recently, I’ve been asked by other moms, “How do you manage your time?”

I’m not writing this because I’m the best time-manager. But I have learned, through the years and with the help of my husband, to be more intentional about the activities that I commit to. My mom gave me great advice, too. She said, “Think of your activities as rocks – big ones and small ones. If you were to fill a jar with rocks, you would put in the big rocks first and then fit in the small rocks around the bigger ones. If you do the small ones first, then you won’t have space for the big ones.”

The reality is we are all in various seasons of our lives as women. Some of us are newly married, young mothers, raising older kids, or we are empty-nesters. Each stage comes with certain priorities and stresses. I am somewhere in between one end of the spectrum and the other. My fifth child is nearly 3 years old. She is no longer breastfeeding which means life is starting to feel easier and more “manageable.” Whew!

Whatever stage I find myself in, I have to identify the big rocks in my life (The things that only I can do, that I’m responsible for, that I can’t delegate to others):

  1. My walk with the Lord
  2. My husband
  3. My kids
  4. Homeschooling
  5. Home-management
  6. Exercise
  7. Discipleship / Ministry
  8. Writing
  9. Relationships with family – parents, brothers, and sisters
  10. Helping out with Homeschool Global

What are my small rocks? (The order doesn’t matter for these)

  • Speaking
  • Counseling
  • Jobs and projects that earn income
  • Relationships with friends
  • Hobbies

When my big rocks don’t come first (and in the order I wrote them above), I experience anxiety and stress. There may be occasions when certain needs are urgent – a crying infant who has pooped in her diaper vs. bringing my husband his butong pakwan because he asked for it. This is where both of us have to be flexible and understanding of one another.

I praise God that Edric was supportive through all my pregnant and breastfeeding years. He knew these stages weren’t easy for me, so he adjusted his expectations, too. The other blessing I want to praise God for is that I got to be a stay-at-home mom by the time our third son came along. I had to wait eight years, but it happened nonetheless, which alleviated me of the burden to contribute monetarily to our family. Whatever season I have found myself in, I’ve tried, as soon as possible, to revert to the order of priorities I listed above for my big rocks.

What are your big rocks? Every woman’s are different, but my strong suggestion is that you’ve got God, your husband and kids as first, second, and third. Some weeks ago, Edric and I were counseling a couple that was in bad shape because the husband was caught in infidelity. Although the woman is not to blame for her husband’s sinfulness, they both acknowledged that the demands of her work kept her from prioritizing his needs. Up till this day it’s a struggle for her to quit her job in order to look for one that is less hectic for herself and less damaging to her relationship with her husband. She is perpetually stressed out and exhausted but believes that her job is a “bigger rock” than her marriage. My heart goes out to her. 

I’m not saying that women have to quit their jobs. That’s not the point. The point is that we need to evaluate whether our jobs are worth sacrificing the priorities of spouse and children for. Is the corporate route the best option, for example? I’ve witnessed so many talented women direct their abilities and creativity towards income-generating businesses that allow them the flexibility and time to meet the needs of their husband and children. Therefore it’s not impossible to find something worthwhile to do that doesn’t take the place of our more important relationships.

After settling which rocks in our lives are the heavy-weights, we have to think through how we schedule our days and weeks around those rocks. It took me years to actually come up with a schedule that I could commit to. Thankfully, my husband, Edric, is a stickler for scheduling everything. So, his good influence on me finally rubbed off and I came up with a weekly routine that has been sensible and sustainable. I can’t share my exact schedule here for safety reasons, but I will give you an example of what my schedule generally looks like (the days may not match the actual):

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This schedule is my template for the week. Since homeschooling is like my day job, I safeguard my weekday mornings to get this done (except for the day when they have classes). I used to have my kids in music and pe classes on two different days, plus they attended a morning coop during a separate day of the week. Hardly any quality homeschooling got done as a result. My new schedule gives them one day out of the home for their classes. While they are busy, I take advantage of this day by doing errands (like going to the grocery) and meeting with people.

Some variations in my schedule may happen when there are urgent needs that must be attended to, when I have projects to complete, or when we have social events. But generally, this is it. Interestingly, when I don’t follow my weekly routine and have too many activities outside of the home (especially ones that end late at night), I tend to get sick. So having a schedule that isn’t too hectic keeps my body from breaking down, too. It’s actually necessary for me to keep to predictable cycles. Maybe it’s my age!

Edric and I also share one calendar that is updated everyday. His very able assistant intelligently manages this calendar for us. She is amazing! Keeping one calendar on our phones and devices has improved our communication as husband and wife. I used to get frustrated when he would book engagements and tell me about them the day of! Now I know what to expect and how to prepare myself. Furthermore, I also don’t confirm speaking engagements or appointments that eat into things like family time, meals together, evenings, or Sundays unless I refer to our calendar and run them by Edric first.

If you are involved in ministry, you may want to read on about the other tips that have helped me with time management:

  1. MINISTER ACCORDING TO YOUR LIFESTAGE.

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

We are called to evangelize and disciple others no matter what our lifestage as women. The question for moms, especially those with younger children, is how do I obey God’s purpose for me without compromising my priorities? How can I creatively integrate my lifestage with the call to minister to other women?

From the very beginning of our marriage, Edric and I had a discipleship group. We belonged to one and we started one, too. At one point the group we were handling got too big and people began to get married and have children. This is when their priorities started to change. As for me, I was often pregnant and/or breastfeeding, working part-time, and homeschooling.

At some point, I remember having a conversation with my mom where I said, “I don’t agree with the discipleship model of CCF (our church). It’s not right that young mothers are expected to disciple others when they are caught up with raising young children. Isn’t our primary ministry our kids?”

My mom, in her very gentle manner, listened and offered the best advice. She said, “Why don’t you disciple women in a way that incorporates your lifestage?” Brilliant, mom!

So I started a playgroup with the young mothers in my group. Since the moms could bring their children, they prioritized these playgroups. We would meet in the park and our kids would play while we had accountability and encouraged one another in the faith. This playgroup eventually evolved into a more formal cooperative of moms who now support each other’s homeschool journey. At present, we are on a break but will resume again in September. It has been a great way for me to reach out to the moms in our discipleship group and I’ve been so blessed by the moms who have stepped up to teach and handle classes for the kids.

Another challenge came when Edric and I moved into our new home. This geographic change affected the dynamic of our original discipleship group of men and women. Many of them found it difficult to trek all the way to our side of the metropolis. I felt very discouraged when this happened because our desire was to open up our home for ministry. But the traffic made it impossible to get people to our place in the evenings. Thankfully, I still got to see most of the women during our Homeschool Coop, but I did miss the old days, too, when we could gather as couples and cram together in our apartment.

Not wanting our new home to go to waste, Edric and I started another couples group for neighbors in our subdivision. We may have moved home locations but this didn’t mean that serving God by discipling others had to stop. Getting together with neighbors made it easy to stick to weekly meetings.

It has been almost two years since this group began. We rotate houses to give couples the opportunity to host and facilitate the sessions. The kids are welcome as well which means we don’t have to leave them behind every week.

  1. DO MINISTRY AS A TEAM

Another way to integrate lifestage and ministry is to mount events or speak at gatherings where Edric and I can serve as a team along with our kids. Edric and I share the burden of preparing singles for marriage, reaching out to young couples and families, and talking about homeschooling. Edric also feels called to educate people on financial literacy. So we help out with three big events in the year that are mounted by the Family Ministry of our church – Before and After I Do, Family and Finance, and Parenting — and other events that are related to these topics.

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Whenever our kids can be included in our talks, we let them prepare their own testimonies so they can experience ministering along side us. This simplifies our lives by allowing us to be together while we serve and direct our efforts toward the same things.

  1. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO (IF YOU SAY NO FOR THE RIGHT REASONS)

Sometimes, saying “No” is necessary, even at the expense of disappointing others. I learned this from my father who has laser focus for what he does. As a result he has been very effective at time management and accomplishing much for the Lord. Although it’s hard to turn invitations down, Edric and I realized that there are many people out there whom God can raise up to do a better job that we can as speakers. Even though people may ask us to speak doesn’t always mean we are the most qualified or most prepared to do so. God’s work will never lack His resources, people being one of them. So turning down an invitation doesn’t mean that an organization will be disadvantaged just because we can’t say yes. On the contrary, God will supply the best person(s) for the task.

What’s the criteria for saying, No? Edric has a template with specific questions that his assistant asks the person or organization inviting him or us. Then this data is inputted into a spreadsheet which calculates a percentage rating. Anything below 65 or 70% is low priority. I know it sounds pretty nerdy but it helps to assess whether an invitation is aligned with his (our) goals and focus.

  1. SYNC YOUR PASSIONS AND YOUR PURPOSE

I shared earlier that all of us are called to evangelize and disciple others. However, life stages pose a challenge to this call because some of us are newly married, pregnant or breastfeeding, or raising young kids (and some of us are doing this without any household help). These seasons demand a lot from us.

After I gave birth to my fourth child, Edric encouraged me to start a blog. When Edric proposed the idea he also asked his dad to help me set up my site. Papa (my father in law) came up with the name, “Teach with Joy.” I thought the blog was a great idea! After all, I was feeling more homebound than ever and I wondered how I would be able to reach out to women to minister to them (outside of my discipleship group).

I decided to make this site a venue to connect with the hearts of women all over the world with the gospel of Christ. My desire was to give people a glimpse of what it is like to be a wife, mother, and family that follows Christ. My prayer was that women would respond positively and with openness to the honesty (my mistakes and failures) and to the joy they read about.

Ever since I was young, writing was a passion of mine. My old writings were dark and emotional. However, as I matured in my faith, I wanted to write about what God is doing in our family and share practical insights and tips that can help women be the best version of themselves. As I merged my passion to write with the purpose of ministry, God blessed the effort. I’m humbled to be able to receive countless private emails and messages from women all over the world who want to know more about Jesus, thank me, or connect with me and tell me about themselves. Each email and message is a delight to read and respond to.

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The great thing about blogging is that I’m still accessible to my husband and kids. Furthermore, it has opened doors that I never would have anticipated – to endorse products that celebrate family and to be given the privilege of greater influence.

Recently, Lifestyle TV taped a series of interstitial shows to be aired in North America, Europe, and the Middle East. It’s a show called Joy of Living where I get to interview women about their life journeys. The project came as a surprise. I never expected to receive this opportunity!

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When the producer pitched the idea to me I had two requests. One was that I get to tape at home for most or all of the shows. I didn’t know if they would say yes. But I was willing to let the project go if they refused because I didn’t want to compromise my time with the kids. Well, they approved this request! I was overjoyed! The second request was that I be given the voice to speak about my faith. They let me do so for as long as I didn’t come across as preachy. That was fine with me.

God has given each one of us women abilities and capacities that are unique to us. Some of you have talents that are out of this world amazing! You may wonder if these are going to waste as you prioritize your spouse and children. My encouragement to you is to trust in God’s timetable. Put Him first, your spouse and kids next, and then let Him reveal to you what other aspects of your life need to count as “big rocks.” That’s where good time management begins – by asking the Lord what really matters, seeking to know what His will is, and then obeying it. As you do so He will not waste the gifts or dreams He has given you. They come from Him after all. In His beautiful time and way He will welcome and encourage their emergence for His glory!

If you feel lost because good time management eludes you at present, don’t be discouraged. Don’t lose hope. You are probably a young mom whose got one hand attending to a toddler, another arm breastfeeding a newborn, and you’ve got to cook a meal for your family tonight, and maybe you have a job that you are juggling, too. I’ve been there…It gets easier…Trust me.

Isn’t it a relief to know that God doesn’t expect perfection from us? Instead, He wants us. A deep, intimate relationship with us where we experience His presence, grace, enabling and peace.

In the meantime, let’s do what we can to identify our big and small rocks, exert our best effort, and trust that God will multiply our capacities. He will supply us with the resources and abilities we need to accomplish what He wants us to at this stage in our lives. We need to believe that He wants us to succeed at being good time managers and He will surely help us!

 

Teaching Kids About Healthy Sexuality

The question “When and what do I teach my kids about sex?” comes up in parenting huddles, where moms gather together and air their concerns about how difficult it is to protect our children from the sexually-charged world we live in. It is seemingly impossible to completely shelter our kids from the images and messages that blatantly celebrate sexiness and sex outside of marriage.

Moms have opened up to me about their children being exposed to pornography at ridiculously young ages. My own kids constantly feel the need to turn their eyes away from magazine racks that exhibit half-naked women on their covers in places like groceries, hardware stores, and bookstores. These places are supposed to be family-friendly places! However, our children’s eyes are hardly “safe”. It’s also difficult to sit through television programs because the ads between shows aren’t always wholesome for kids.

Let’s take a realistic look at how challenging it is to raise our kids with healthy views and convictions about sex and sexuality:

– Nearly 60 percent of sixteen to eighteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly one third of thirteen to fifteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly 60 percent of sexually active teenagers do not use a method of birth control, and the same number of kids have never once talked with their parents about birth control.

– Ninety percent of kids surveyed believe in marriage, yet 74 percent say they would live with someone before or instead of marriage.

– Thirty-one percent of teen girl virgins say they have felt pressured by a guy to go further.

– Sixty-seven percent of teens who have had intercourse wish that they had waited.

– Over half of the young people in America claim to have had oral sex by the age of twenty-two.

– The average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography is eleven years old.

– Three million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur each year among teenagers.

– In the summer of 2000, Twist magazine did an online survey of ten thousand girls, over half of whom were under fourteen. Amazingly, 24 percent of the girls who said they were virgins responded that they engaged in oral sex.

– There are fourteen thousand acts of intercourse or sexual innuendo on primetime TV. (Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns pg. 17 – 18)

Even if our kids are growing up in a morally toxic world, the good news is we don’t have to resign to this reality. There are several ways that we can be part of the solution to help our children grow up with healthy views and convictions about sex.

First, we need a mindset change. Sex is an amazing thing! Sex is God’s beautiful design for creation, intimacy, and pleasure in marriage. Why have we let the media, wrong experiences and inherited perspectives distort this truth so that we are ashamed and embarrassed to talk to our kids about it?

Unfortunately, this means that most kids don’t have conversations with their parents about healthy sexuality. They also hear confusing, negative messages about sex from their peers, role models or media. When it comes to the “sex talk”, many parents simply avoid the discussion, wait too long before educating their kids on the topic, or they simply tell them, “Don’t do it!” The message that religious organizations often pass on is that sex is a BAD thing so don’t do it outside of marriage. As for the rest of the world, it’s all about safe sex practices — how to do it without getting pregnant or STDs.

We need to have positive conversations with our children about sex, letting them know that it is neither ugly or dirty. It is wonderful! So wonderful it’s worth protecting and safeguarding for marriage.

After having five children, I realized that all kids, at some point wonder how they physically arrive into this world. Some kids are curious at younger ages, others at later ages. By the age of 7, our kids pretty much understand what sexual intercourse is and why it is beautiful in the context of a husband and wife relationship. Edric and I have this conversation with them early.

We answered (and continue to answer) their questions without substituting cutesy names for their private parts. Here’s a summary of what we cover…Girls have a vagina. Boys have a penis. There’s nothing immoral with those words. The two parts fit together according to God’s design so that a husband and wife can express their love for one another in the most intimate and special way. When sperm comes out of the man’s penis and goes into a woman’s vagina, one of the sperms will meet the egg inside the woman to form a baby. When you get to a certain age, you will start to find a girl beautiful or a boy handsome, and you will want to share this experience with them. But God wants you to save this for your husband or wife because it’s such a special thing.

Whew. That wasn’t too tough, was it?

We try to have these dialogues in a straightforward, non- squeamish way. Edric is better at this than I am. Sometimes I get uncomfortable going through the details. But I praise God that we are on the same page about educating our kids on sex in marriage early. If they hear unbiblical views on sex from friends or media, they can cross-check this info with the truth we’ve told them.

It’s also important to explain gender differences early. Because we’ve helped our kids to properly identity their body parts and the differences between female and male anatomies, they understand gender distinctions as early as 2 years old.

I remember asking our sons one time, “How do you know you are a boy?”

One of them blurted out, “Huh? I have a penis!” Like, hello, mom, did you intentionally ask a dumb question? Of course he didn’t say this. But I loved that his answer was so confident and uncomplicated.
On a comedic note, when we moved into our home and our 4-year old daughter walked into her bedroom, she announced, “No boys allowed. This is the vagina floor!”

Edric and I busted out into laughter. Basically she meant, “This area is for girls only!”

Beside teaching our children gender distinctions, we also need to tell them that their sexual organs are to be treated as sacred and private, educating them on what is appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to being touched. 

So many kids today become victims of sexual abuse, molestation and even rape. Tragically, most of it happens in their own homes and they get confused about whether it is wrong or not. If these is anything that makes me angry, heartbroken, and terrified at the same time it is that children are so commonly violated in this way in this country. About 60 to 70% of the people who come to me for counseling can recall at least one instance when they were abused by someone, and usually it was a relative. And they aren’t coming to me for counseling for these past experiences per se. However it comes up during the session as I ask questions or as the person opens up to me about their history.

My struggle as a mom is not to live in fear and pass on this fear to my kids because of my own past trauma as a rape victim. Yet at the same time, I want them to be aware that this can happen to them. So they need to protect themselves.

Edric and I tell them, “Don’t let anyone touch your private parts. These are private parts. Other people aren’t supposed to see them or touch them. And if anyone ever does that and tells you not to tell anyone, you can always tell mommy and daddy and we will protect you.”

Here’s a great book that teaches kids how to protect themselves. Available through @belugadreams


We also tell our household help not to touch our children’s private parts, unless they are bathing the little ones. (By two or threeyears of age children can be taught to wash themselves.) We teach our little daughters to dress modestly and cross their legs, too, so they aren’t exposing their underwear. We tell them, “Sit like a lady.”

As parents, we also have to model for our children how a woman and man interact with one another, relate to each other, and how we fulfill our roles within the family.

Furthermore, dads should spend time with sons to mentor them and moms should spend time with daughters to mentor them. Edric took Elijah to Mt. Apo when he turned 13 so he could have a rite of passage into young manhood. During their climb they were with a seasoned mountaineer and his son, too.

After four days, Elijah came home scruffy, stinky, and weathered! He learned how to have grit, to push himself and survive difficult weather conditions. He also watched Edric very closely. On the mountain, they spent time worshipping the Lord, sharing the gospel with other climbers, and reading Elijah’s letters from family members for his 13th birthday.

Not too long after this event, Elijah wrote a touching letter to Edric that included these lines, “Dad, thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man because I need you to be my role model. I really look up to you and I want to be like you…” With happy tears, Edric and I glanced at one another and smiled. What a privilege to meet this need in our kids!

Our children’s first concept of gender identity comes from us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, they are observing us and looking to us to understand what it means to be a man or woman according to God’s design.

At the same time, we need to affirm their worth in the Lord because relationships at home have a significant effect on the choices our children make and will make, especially when it comes to sexual purity.
My dad used to tell my sisters and I something like this: Each of you is like a “Rolls-Royce.” Think of a common car versus something like a Rolls-Royce. Everyone gets to drive a common car. Not a Rolls-Royce.

What he meant to say was, “No test-driving allowed! Don’t let guys treat you like a common car because you aren’t!”
Granted, it was totally a guy thing for him to compare us to cars, but the principle behind his advice was important. He wanted us to realize that we are special, that HE THOUGHT WE ARE SPECIAL, that guys should treat us as special. More importantly, he demonstrated what it means to be treated as special by being available, encouraging, and discipling us. (My mom was the same way.)

Very recently I was counseling a beautiful lady who suffered the after-effects of a painful breakup and bad relationship with a guy who was controlling and manipulative. When I asked her about her family culture, she told me she never felt good enough or important to her parents. So she thought it was normal for a guy to treat her badly, too. After all, she was brought up in a family where she had to prove her worth in order to be loved. Her father also made her feel incompetent and incapable. She tolerated her unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend for a miserably long time until God opened her eyes to see that marrying this guy would have been a huge mistake. Up till this day, as an adult, she longs to have a loving relationship with her parents but she feels misunderstood and rejected so often by them so she finds it difficult to ask them for advice when it comes to boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.

As I listened to her, I was convicted to put extra effort into strengthening my relationship with my kids. They need that security from Edric and I, and they need to be able to trust us with their hearts so we can influence them to make wise choices.

In her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, author Meg Meeker writes that parent connectedness is the number-one factor in preventing girls from engaging in premarital sex and indulging in drugs and alcohol…Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention…76% of teenage girls said that fathers influenced their decision on whether they should become sexually active…

It’s only by God’s grace that my parents met this need for affection and the desire to be valued in my siblings and me. As a result, we weren’t as eager to seek out this need in the opposite sex. Okay, so I floundered the most in this area because I actually had one boyfriend in high school and it wasn’t a very healthy relationship. But my sisters and brothers, wow. My youngest sister’s first kiss was at the altar! She made it very clear to her boyfriend (the only guy she had a serious relationship with) that she had strict boundaries. No kissing before marriage!

Maybe you were more like me and made mistakes. And maybe you are a parent reading this and you know that your child is not staying pure. I hope this bit will give you hope, as you come alongside your child to pray for them and restore them back to the Lord.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you know that I had two serious boyfriend relationships before marriage. I didn’t have sexual intercourse with my boyfriends, but I did everything else. So I tell people that I struggled with sexual impurity to call it what it is.

Even if I was raised in a good home, I made the choice to go against God’s standard of purity by going “too close to the edge.” The fact that I was a victim of rape and sexual abuse probably made it easier for me to rationalize my choices but that wasn’t an excuse.

I remember my mom calling me long distance one evening while she was away on a trip, and she gently asked, “How are you and your boyfriend doing? I dreamt about you guys last night and you were doing something you weren’t supposed to.”

I knew what she was alluding to and I must have turned five shades of pale. God had spoken to her through a dream! Can you believe it?! I was so convicted and bothered. I admitted to my mom that my boyfriend and I were indeed doing something inappropriate. This wasn’t the only time I had to make a confession to my mom or my dad.

However, their emphasis was not on lecturing me, embarrassing me, or judging me. Were they hurt? Yes. Were they concerned? Yes. Did they have to set restrictions? Yes. But they did these things in a manner that was redemptive. There was grace and forgiveness in the context of an existing love relationship with me. This inspired me to please God because I knew that my parents wanted what was best for me. They had proven this for many years prior to me ever being in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

Author Jim Burns said that as parents we need to convey to our kids that “God created sexuality, and in the light of marriage, He sees it as very good. Our children need to know that God wants the best for each of them in this area of their lives. He is not the great killjoy but rather the creator and sustainer of life.”

Unless our kids are convinced that we are for them, that we are on their side and want what is best for them, they won’t listen to the values we want them to internalize when it comes to their sexuality. So let’s start investing in our relationship with them from the very beginning so that the truths we pass on to them about safeguarding purity will sink deep and take root in their hearts. They might not make perfect choices (like me) but may their relationship with us and with the Lord, through the power of prayer, hook them back and get them back on track.

Here are some facts that tell us why sex is best reserved for marriage: (Source – Ray Short)

Fact 1 – Premarital sex tends to break up couples.
Fact 2 – Many men do not want to marry a woman who has had intercourse with someone else.
Fact 3 – Those who have premarital sex tend to have less happy marriages.
Fact 4 – Those who have premarital sex are more likely to have their marriage end in divorce.
Fact 5 – Persons and couples who have had premarital sex are more likely to have extramarital affairs as well.
Fact 6 – Having premarital sex may fool you into marrying a person who is not right for you.
Fact 7 – Persons and couples who have premarital sex experience sexual satisfaction sooner after they are married. HOWEVER –
Fact 8 – They are likely to be less satisfied overall with their sex life during marriage.
Fact 9 – Poor premarital sexual habits can be carried over to spoil sex in marriage.

As I end this, I want to propose that committing to purity is a family thing. When Edric and I were a younger couple, we watched a bunch of cool TV series on certain evenings to relax and unwind. These shows had great plots but they also had scenes in them and values that blatantly celebrated unbiblical perspectives on sex. We would close our eyes through those parts or press fast forward to avoid watching the “unholy” stuff. But after awhile we were like, What are we doing? This is a waste of time and it is not honoring to the Lord.

We realized that if we can’t sit through programs like these with our kids because we don’t want their minds polluted, then why do we think our minds are exempted from being corrupted as well?

We are all called to holiness. Furthermore, it’s easier to encourage the entire family to pursue purity if we all use the same filtration standards. Here’s a great passage that gives us guidelines for what we should watch and listen to: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭

There’s nothing inherently wrong with media. But the evil one uses these channels to influence and infiltrate our minds. Therefore we must be discriminating as a family about the kinds of shows, programs, music, and movies we entertain ourselves with. Everything that we take in shapes our values and perspectives. 

Psychology Today tells us that “Today, children are being sexualized earlier and earlier, in part because they are exposed to sexual material in movies, television, music and other media earlier than ever…A 2012 study shows that movies influence teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors as well. The study, published in Psychological Science, found that the more teens were exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they started having sex and the likelier they were to have casual, unprotected sex.” (Psychology Today)

When our oldest son, Elijah, started using an IPad he purchased, he installed restrictions on it to protect himself from going on sites or accessing media that could be pornographic. I praise God that he was convicted to do this on his own, as a child. Now that he is entering the crazy hormonal phase of young adulthood, my prayer for him is that God will continue to keep him pure hearted. I pray that for all my kids.

Even if Edric and I try our best to raise our kids with healthy sexuality, it’s no guarantee that they will stay pure in heart and mind. However, I believe they have a better chance of doing so if we start teaching them young. As the Scriptures say, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Psalms‬ ‭119:9‬ ‭

I really like what Paul said to his young disciple, Timothy: “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know what your perspective on sexuality has been. Maybe you are a young parent, trying to figure out how to raise your kids right. Or maybe you have older kids who are interested in the opposite sex or already dating someone and you are worried about the choices they have made or will make. Or maybe you are a person who is struggling with gender identity or sexual promiscuity. Or you didn’t grow up in a home where you saw healthy gender roles modeled by a mother or father, or you experienced sexual abuse.

Whatever your life state may be, I want you to know that God has a plan for you, as the man or woman that he designed for you to be. Everything that you have been through He can redeem and make beautiful. If no one has ever valued or treasured you and if you don’t feel like you are not worth much because of your choices, you need to know that God sees you. He knows you. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. He loves you and He died for you because you are so precious to Him! He can purify you and me and restore whatever sexual brokenness we have gone through.  

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms‬ ‭51:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Rest is a God Thing

In our fast-paced, performance-driven, results-oriented, and pressure-filled world, many of us neglect to rest. During our trip to New Zealand (which was amazing!), I conversed with a lady in her 50s who confessed to feelings of guilt every time she takes a break from her work.

She struggles to give herself time to be still and activity-less. As a business owner of a catering and food company she is doing very well financially, but she is also addicted to her work. First, she loves what she does. Second, she is an activity-driven person (she likes to be busy). Third, she’s got a big heart to serve others. Put all those elements together and you have a person who doesn’t know how to switch to “off” mode even when she should.

In a very comedic way, she even admitted that one of the causes for the absence of sexual intimacy in her marriage was that she habitually rushed her husband through the act! Why? Because she was always thinking about the next task she had to get done instead of enjoying their special times together. They remain committed to one another to this day but it’s a marriage sordidly lacking in the affection area.

So I told her, “Rest is not a sin. Rest allows you to be a better wife, mother, and a more productive worker. Even God rested!”

She smiled. As a long-time follower of Christ, she knows this, but I suppose it assured her to hear it again. Will she actually apply what I told her to? I don’t know. At the end of the day, she has to look deep inside to assess why activity is so important to her that she feels the compulsion to keep going to the point of absolute exhaustion.

None of us are built like the Energizer Bunny that I used to see in commercials as a child. This bunny demonstrated the longevity of the Energizer brand. As human beings we aren’t wired the same way. We can’t keep going, going, and going like a mindless battery. We have a body, a soul, and a spirit that benefits from rest. 

There at three kinds of rest that I would like to talk about. The first is the Sabbath. On the 7th day of creation, God rested. “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from His work which God had created and made.” (Genesis 2:3)

There are several things that stand out to me in this passage: 

  1. Rest came after God’s creative work was done. It was not an act of laziness.
  2. God blessed the 7th day. It was His idea. He made it special and important.
  3. He sanctified it. It is a holy day, set apart.
  4. He exemplified what it means to rest. He did not take a break because he couldn’t continue working. He’s God! He’s all-powerful. The Hebrew word for rest in this passage is shabat which means “to cease or stop.” (gotquestions.org) In Exodus 31:17, it even says that God was refreshed by His rest. 
  5. Another insight I gleaned from the Genesis passage is that God must have spent time with Adam and Eve on the 7th day when He rested. They were created on the 6th day. On the 7th day, God set aside the work to give them His full attention. What an amazing father God is! He delights to be with us. He wants us to know that we are His priority. I can imagine God conversing with Adam and Eve as they walked through the garden, as they reveled in the wonder of His creation. Similarly, the 7th day is a time for us to be in God’s presence, to reflect on His goodness, provision, and to cease from our striving and doing.

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. Genesis 20:8-11

Besides the 7th day, I believe there’s a second kind of rest that we ought to consider. It’s the mindset of rested-ness in the Lord

When I was in the U.S. with my family for a month, I saw how difficult it was for moms who do everything (love your husband and your kids, teach and train the little ones, breastfeed an infant, work, clean, cook, and do laundry). I didn’t even have to work! I was on vacation, but the daily chores were absolutely maddening!

Since I couldn’t stomach the mess, I found myself exhausted every night trying to tidy up after my five children. I refused to take breaks because I felt guilty ending the day without the laundry done, the kitchen impeccable, and everything put away.

At the same time, I thought to myself, this is horrid. I am not cut out for this, but I can’t stop myself from going in and out of every room like a policewoman/obsessive compulsive-house-keeping-attendant. As a result, I was too tired to wholeheartedly enjoy Edric or the kids. I saw them as the cause for my fatigue and I felt irritated when they weren’t considerate about their mess. What about time with the Lord? That suffered too. The first thing I thought about in the morning was cooking breakfast.

When I revisit the motivations that were driving me at the time, they were actually rooted in pride. I felt like I needed to prove that I could do everything, that I was somehow “super” as a mom. I pushed myself to maintain order for my own sake, because it mattered to me to be able to say that I had it all under control. I liked the control.

Did my husband care that I fluffed the last pillow and arranged it neatly on the couch after smoothing out the creases that made it look bunchy? Did my kids care that I picked up their shoes and lined them up beside the doorway before the day came to a close? Of course not. What they cared about was having me engaged and all-present in the moments we shared together.

To be honest, I wasn’t. My mind drifted towards each crumb that littered the kitchen floor, each stain that smeared the upholstery, and each unwashed item of clothing that had to be sorted and thrown into the washing machine. I had relaxation issues. Perhaps, given enough time I would have learned to chill and be realistic about how much of the mess is tolerable…what can be left to clean up the next day in favor of the more important relationships that need me.

However, I never quite got to that point because the vacation ended after a month, and we all returned to Manila where I once again delegated these sort of duties to our househelp.

Somehow, when our househelp is tasked with the cooking, cleaning, and the laundry, I pay less attention to the details of managing our home. But when it’s all on me, I notice every wrong thing in the home and feel like a failure when I don’t do something about it. And that’s why I know it’s a pride thing. When I’m in charge of something, I tend to get my sense of self-worth from what I do. And I am robbed of peace when my performance is mediocre, and I feel annoyed or disappointed when it’s not appreciated.

During the plane ride to New Zealand, I read a book by Becky Harling entitled Freedom from Performing: Grade in an Applause-Driven World. A performance driven person is someone who…

  • Is a slave to the expectations and demands of others
  • Compares herself with others, measuring her success against theirs
  • Exhausts herself trying to keep up
  • Defines her identity in terms of accomplishments
  • Lives to please others and becomes disillusioned when the affirmation isn’t there

What a refreshing read this book was for me! It allowed me to recognize that I can be a performance-driven person, forgetting that life is not a rat-race, it’s a grace-race. It’s not about trying to beat everyone to prove that I’m the best at what I do. It’s not about pursuing perfection for the sake of my self-esteem. Neither is it about comparing my worth to others. Rather it’s about…

…growing more and more like Christ in the way I think, act and speak everyday.

…recognizing that my strength and capacity come from the Lord, therefore all glory for any good that I do goes to Him.

…focusing on what really matters – loving God and loving others (starting with Edric and the kids).

…sticking to a routine that is a healthy kind of busy. For example, avoiding too many nights out of the home away from the kids, or planning meetings or activities that are in conflict with my priorities of being a wife and mom during the week (also known as learning to say, “No, I am sorry but I’m not available,” or “I can’t commit to that.”)

…being purposeful about time spent on things like social media and the Internet.

…carving out time for myself during the day or week (besides Sunday for me) to feed my mind with wisdom and truth, fill my emotional tank, strengthen my body, and listen to the Holy Spirit. Sometimes this means writing an article, reading a book, connecting with girl friends, exercising, being still and reflective, or taking naps! Even Jesus encouraged rest! “The apostles gathered together with Jesus; and they reported to Him all that they had done and taught. And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.'” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)” Mark‬ ‭6:30-31‬ ‭NASB‬‬

…surrendering what I cannot control to the Lord and embracing His plans with an attitude of thankfulness and praise.

Daily rested-ness matters because it reveals our perspective on who God is and who we are in relation to Him. Are we striving and struggling emotionally, physically, and spiritually because our priorities are off and our focus is on worldly success rather than pleasing God? Are we stressed and anxious as we work because we do not trust that God is in control? 

Jesus says, “Come unto me all you who are weary and heavy-ladden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) True rest is found in Him. It’s not about laziness. It’s not about the absence of work or hardship. We have to work and do our best. That’s a given. There will be days when the work feels bitter and difficult, and the outcome of our labor is imperfect and disappointing. But we can rest in the reality that our success is in the hands of the Lord, and our success is dependent on whether we are WITH the Lord.

“For what does a man get in all his labor and in his striving with which he labors under the sun? Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity…For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him (God)?” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23,25

“And He (God) said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.“” Exodus‬ ‭33:14‬ ‭

The third kind of rest is eternal. “Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!'” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”” ‭‭Revelation‬ ‭14:12-13‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Whether it is rest on a Sabbath, daily rested-ness, or rest in heaven, I believe God designed rest to remind us that life isn’t about endless work, performance, or toil on earth to earn money, enjoy luxuries, gain fame or power or derive our sense of self-worth from our accomplishments. Striving after these things doesn’t give us real rest. They can give us a false sense of it at times. But they cannot replace the rest found in knowing we are loved by God, that His presence is with us, and that we can trust in His plans for us. 

So take a break from whatever you are doing right now (even reading this) and just bask in that reality. Give the Lord your stress and your worry, and let His peace wash over you. He loves you dear friend. 

 

The Real Father of Father’s Day

The only thing Edric wanted for Father’s Day was to have our family values printed and mounted on our walls. This should have happened two years ago, but I procrastinated getting it done for various unacceptable reasons. 

A few weeks ago, he reminded me again, half jokingly, half hoping that I would actually finish this home project for him. 
However, we got busy with meetings and ministry activities, so Father’s Day slipped from my consciousness. It wasn’t until this week that the reality of my deadline confronted me. 

I panicked and contacted a friend who prints canvasses, asking how much she would charge and how long it would take. To my surprise, she told me her company could get it done in one to two days and she wouldn’t even charge me for the frames! I couldn’t believe it! 

It was Thursday when I spoke with my friend, Mags, and she efficiently delivered seven 20×20 inch frames to my house with a Happy Father’s Day cake and a balloon arrangement. In short, she got everything I needed to make Father’s Day special for Edric. What an unexpected blessing from the Lord!

Edric came down to the kitchen with the kids, and he was thrilled to see the frames lined up on display for him. They were arranged in the order of the word F.O.L.L.O.W.S. Our family come from the acronym, The Mendoza Family FOLLOWS Jesus. 


He told me, “I really feel special today.” 

I want to be able to take credit for conceiving this plan to surprise Edric like this on Father’s Day. But this day displayed how marvelous God is. It really had nothing to do with me. 

God knew how important those framed family values print outs were to Edric, who had made comments year-round about how he wished to see them hanging on the wall above our stairway. And I should have prioritized his request but I kept postponing it. Still, God graciously and mercifully made a way for me to get them done.

Making Father’s Day special for Edric would have flopped if the Lord didn’t come to my rescue by using my friend, Mags, who generously and graciously went out of her way to help me. God made a statement about Himself by this kind favor: His goodness toward His children is based upon His character and not because we are deserving. 

I know some pretty amazing dads and I also know some very disappointing ones. But God used the little miracle he performed to remind me that the focus of Father’s Day ought to be on him. He is the best father of all. He is the father that warrants all the praise. 

As a father, God’s love cannot be manipulated, purchased, or corrupted by circumstances or people. He is not earthly as we are. He is holy and pure. So when He calls Himself Father to us, we can be sure that He is infinitely better than the greatest father we can ever imagine and He will never think or act like any of the imperfect fathers we may know. 

None of us are entitled to have a perfect father like God is, but He invites us to be His children because He loves us. Let’s not allow our encounters with disappointing or absent fathers lead us to false conclusions about who God is. God is a good father. Period. That will never change. 

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.”‭‭ James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NLT

Beyond thinking about what to do for and give to the fathers we know, we should be thinking about what to do for and give to God, the Father. What would make Him happy? What would delight Him? Our hearts, our obedience, our devotion. He wants to call us all His children, the question is, do we REALLY want to call Him our Father? 

“But for us, there is one God, the Father, by whom all things were created, and for whom we live. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created, and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭8:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

Edric and I were awoken at 3 AM to the sound of what we thought to be thunder. It wasn’t until the morning that we were informed by our house help that the wall of our rip-rap fell into the street below.

Shocking! It looked like rubble after a bombing – rocks piled on one another and the earth exposed.

My two thoughts were, Thank goodness this didn’t happen when our kids were playing in our backyard! God is merciful. God protected us. We had a houseful of children because my nephews and nieces spent the night, too. Praise God they weren’t harmed either.

But my second thought was, Oh my goodness! What a disaster! 

I was tempted to blame the people behind our wall’s construction, but where would that have gotten me? As I began to mouth out my frustration, Edric reminded me that this wasn’t going to be productive. He was right.

We took a morning jog and I decided to pray and thank the Lord that he kept us safe. In the grand scheme of things, it was just a wall. Sure, there was major damage to it and it’s going to be costly to repair it. But this Is something fixable. It’s not a person’s life, and praise God, it’s not one our children’s lives we are talking about here.

As I surveyed the rubble and looked at the mess it left on the street, I meditated on several spiritual observations:

First, there’s always something to be grateful for. Our wall may be a tragic mess but we still have our lives and our home. Much of the world can’t enjoy a comfortable home. At least we have one. And by God’s grace, it’s comfortable. Therefore my heart is thankful.

Second, the wall that fell represents what is physical. The earth underneath represents what is within all of us — the spiritual person. Our wall tumbled down but the soil remained compact and stable.

We will go through circumstances in our lives where the walls around us will crumble. Maybe we will experience sickness, financial struggles, relationship issues, or we will enter into a season of obscurity after the high of a success. Whatever it is, will our inner persons survive? What will hold us together?

Years ago when everything I understood about the world was torn apart because I was a victim of rape, I came to a cross road where I had to choose what I would believe in. What would I cling to as truth? Would I choose the path of hatred, unforgiveness, anger, fear, and doubt? I knew these emotions would lead me down a dark path…the wrong one. So I determined to hope in who God is and to interpret what happened through spiritual lenses. He gave me the grace to forgive the men who violated me, which put me on the road to healing.

Colossians 1:17 tells us, “He (Jesus) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

This has been true in my life and in the lives of countless people who have embraced this reality. Jesus will hold us together during times of crises.

Psalm 16:8 says, “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Have you ever met people who have gone through incredibly difficult circumstances and yet the Lord transformed them into more beautiful versions of the persons they once were? I have! I have met amazing people who were victims of tragedy and yet they have blessed the world with their testimonies. They have declared what God has done and pointed others to Him.

In tough times, it is the inner person who is revealed. We may be able to hide behind pretenses and mask who we really are, but when we encounter obstacles; when people wrong us; when we lose something or someone important to us; and when we fall on desperate times, our true selves will be made manifest. That’s when we will recognize what anchors us, and what defines us. And this is what others will see, too!

Third, it isn’t the walls of our home that keep us safe at night. We can build a fortress to protect ourselves from intruders, natural disasters, and other calamities. However it is the Lord who makes us “dwell in safety.” “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) True security is to know that God is sovereign and in control.

Fourth, this world is not my home. Last Sunday, Edric preached a wonderful message in CCF Baguio entitled, “Act Like a Citizen of Heaven.” He challenged the audience to adapt attitudes and behaviors that glorify God and to set our mind on heavenly things. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 3:20)

Well, I believe that God wanted Edric and I to apply this message! So He gave us an opportunity to do so through this unprecedented disaster. Indeed, the broken things of this world remind us that we are destined for a better one.

On this earth we witness decay, death, and destruction. Therefore, let us NOT hope in what is temporal and passing. Let us not live like this is as good as it gets. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) May God open our eyes to recognise what He is doing as He molds our character through earthly struggles by way of people or circumstances, and may we look to Him for the life and peace that He gives and promises.

This has been a tough two weeks for me emotionally, and the wall falling was like an exclamation point in the midst of it all. Yet God has been my comfort. He has been my ROCK. “He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken.” Psalms‬ ‭62:6‬

Maybe something is happening in your life right now and the walls are tumbling down, or maybe you are standing in the heap of the rubble, in the aftermath of a tragedy. I pray that you will find your sure footing on the rock that is Christ. He will uphold you. He will help you rebuild what has been broken.

Are You in the Wilderness? 

One Christmas, my daughter received a set of Dora the Explorer clips, hairpins, and slippers from my mom. Instead of thanking her grandma, she flipped out and burst into tears. I don’t want Dora!

I couldn’t believe it! This was my sweet Tiana. How could she respond with such ingratitude? Of course I was deeply embarrassed and apologized profusely to my mom who was very positive about the whole thing, but I was more concerned about Tiana’s attitude and perspective.

When her emotions settled, I took her aside and had a conversation with her. I discovered that she was afraid her cousins would make fun of her Dora things and she wanted something else. In short, she forgot all about her grandma personally picking out the Dora present for her and she focused only on herself.

It became an opportunity to instruct her heart, but it also revealed the very human tendency that all my children have (myself included) to be ungrateful.

Beyond the bad attitude, ungratefulness, on a more serious level, is a rejection of God’s will and plan for us. To grumble is to doubt His character, specifically His goodness, loving kindness and sovereignty.

It equivalent to saying, “I don’t believe you really care about me, Lord, or that you want what is good for me. I don’t deserve what is happening to me. If you really love me, you would take this away or improve my circumstances.”

This is what the Israelites did when they grumbled many times in the wilderness, forgetting how God manifested His power and faithfulness in their midst and choosing to focus on what they missed about Egypt. In my quiet time today, I read about the Israelites complaining that they didn’t have any meat to eat. They were tired of the manna.

Wait a second! Who gets to eat sweet flakes that fall from heaven and settle on the ground like dew?! God provided for them in a miraculous way every day!

“It was like coriander seed, white, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.” (Exodus 16:31)

Yet I am far removed from the physical conditions that the Israelites had to weather. I can’t imagine living in tents from one sandy place to another, with five children in tow, bearing the extremes of hot days and cold nights, wondering how I will feed and clothe my family, and listening to instructions from an old man who used to be a Egyptian prince, who became a murderer and then a shepherd and now a prophet.

Whut?! This is messed up. No home, no steady job, no time table for when the experience will end, and no concept of where we are going except that I need to trust that God is speaking to and through Moses because he’s God’s mouthpiece. He’s the prophet who performed all the miracles to rescue my family. Maybe I am crazy for going along with this plan and hazarding the lives of my family. Maybe Egypt was still better. Work was tremendously hard but at least I could count on shelter and food. This, however, is not what I signed up for! I am not discounting the miracles, but I can’t help thinking that I miss my old life.

When I count the realities of what the Israelites endured, especially through the eyes of a mother, I can understand that it must have been challenging to believe that they were better off in the desert.

Some years ago a good friend of mine lost her husband in her early thirties and was left to care for three young childern. She was in a position of real need, physically and emotionally. I didn’t even know what to say to comfort her.

Like the Israelites, I wasn’t sure what God’s plan was all about. And I was tempted to think that God made a mistake in this instance. But it also dawned on me very recently that we can be so consumed with the difficulty of our circumstances that it eclipses the faithfulness of God entirely. We fail to appreciate every thing He has done and is doing.

I felt convicted about my own ingratitude for the many ways that God provides, protects and prospers us on a daily basis. For example, our house is three stories high. Besides that, it sits on a hill. So it towers above the ground of our backyard at about 20 meters. If any of our children were to fall off the highest floor of our house, they would die. Last year, during one of the occasions when their cousins came over to play, my daughter, Tiana, and my niece, Teegan, climbed over the railing of the third floor and stepped onto the two and a half foot wide glass ledge that hangs over the backyard.

They attempted to get a discarded milk carton that one of the cousins tossed onto the ledge. Thankfully and only by God’s divine protection, they did not fall or slip! When I found out about it, it was after-the-fact, as the other children reported the incident to me. I nearly cried from the horror of thinking they could have died!

God watches over our children all the time. However, we tend to make a bigger deal about the instances when He allows them to get sick, injured, or hurt and wonder if He really cares about us. Or, maybe it’s not about our kids. Maybe we look at the problems in our own relationships and circumstances, and feel like life is unfair, that we deserve better.

Similarly, the Israelites scorned the manna God sustained them with instead of appreciating what it was and what it symbolized. They perceived it as a curse rather than a blessing as they cried out for meat, wishing to return to Egypt. They looked at what they didn’t have. But, hello, short-term memory! Egypt = slavery!

“Say to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying, “Oh that someone would give us meat to eat! For we were well-off in Egypt.’ Therefore the LORD will give you meat and you shall eat. You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you and have wept before Him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?”‘ Numbers‬ ‭11:18-20

In Egypt they groaned under severe bondage, and God rescued them with a full feature show of His incredible power through the 10 plagues, and the parting of the sea. But in the desert, they still called out, give us Egypt! Despite the many instances that God displayed His ability to take care of them, they did not trust Him.

This is so emblematic of our tendency to forget what God has done for us. We don’t recognize what He has saved us from and continues to save us from. Sure, the desert wasn’t Disneyland. It was unpredictable, uncomfortable and perilous, but God gave the Israelites everything they needed.

We read this in Nehemiah 9:19-21, “You (God), in Your great compassion, did not forsake them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, to guide them on their way, nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go. You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, and You gave them water for their thirst. Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell.” Nehemiah‬ ‭9:2, 19-21‬ ‭

As I sit here, pondering the heart condition of the Israelites, I can’t judge them for their better off-as-a-slave-in-Egypt-than-in-the-desert-with-God mindset. The Israelites were indoctrinated by a culture and belief system of a nation whose people worshipped counterfeit versions of God, whose Pharaoh exalted himself as god and treated them as possessions to abuse and control. So the Israelites needed a soul detox experience to flush out wrong perspectives, appetites, and values that were not just anti-God, but anti-freedom…anti-fullness of life.

This leads me to believe that God’s methods for rescuing us haven’t changed. Perhaps the meaning of “desert” has. We go through different versions of the wilderness in our own lifetimes. And it’s tempting to express discontentment and to grumble, to lose faith in who God is and in His promises.

But God’s purpose remains the same. First, He aims to bring us to the point of recognizing that He is what we need and want — that Egypt represents our state of slavery to sin and a life bound for destruction and He represents our salvation. (By the way, we all come from Egypt.)

Second, the discontentment and discomfort we experience that lead us to compare or cry out, not fair, I don’t deserve this, or why me, is very often God taking us through the wilderness to liberate us from a culture and belief system that has enslaved us to counterfeit pleasure, freedom, and happiness. Sometimes this means that time in the desert will take longer than we hope it will. And sometimes this means that we will be at very desperate points when we are thirsty, hungry and tired of the wilderness living.

However, I do believe that God means for us to see beyond the water, manna and the meat. God knows we need physical solutions and He can easily provide these. But He sees our greater spiritual need and seeks to be the answer to it.

Furthermore, to be hungry is not the most tragic thing. It is the poverty mindset — thinking we are stuck in a desert, abandoned and forgotten, and in need of more (be it money, popularity, control, relationships or maybe even physical well-being) in order to be satisfied. But until our hunger is directed towards God, we will never be content with the little or the much that we have. Our cravings will not cease when we alleviate them with temporal, immediate, earth-centered fixes. Life will feel like a perpetual wilderness even if it may look like paradise to others.

In his book, Life Without Limits, limbless but amazing Nick Vujicic poignantly stated,”Life isn’t about having, it’s about being. You could surround yourself with all that money can buy, and you’d still be as miserable as a human can be. I know people with perfect bodies who don’t have the happiness I’ve found. On my journeys I’ve seen more joy in the slums of Mumbai and the orphanages of Africa than in wealthy gated communities and on sprawling estates worth millions.”

No matter where we go to seek for satisfaction in the world, the answer isn’t going to come from the world. Every person and place that looks like the answer can very soon turn into a wilderness that leaves us wanting and aching for more. In contrast, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” John‬ ‭6:35‬ ‭

God knows when we are hungry. He knows when we thirst. He made us. But these physical yearnings are meant to open our eyes to the spiritual reality of what we truly hunger and thirst for. Until we learn the lessons intended for us in the wilderness, we cannot be ready for the Promised Land. Our cravings and inclinations will remain earth-centered when they ought to be Christ-centered. Only He can develop in us a hunger and thirst for what pleases Him.

As I end this reflection of my time in the Word, I better understand why contentment is a condition of the heart more than anything else. When I was newly married, Edric and I didn’t have much money. We got married young. But since I came from a family with means, I felt embarrassed at times that I couldn’t afford the same luxuries my parents or siblings had. And somehow I felt like money afforded me a sense of security and self worth. In its absence or the lack of it, I began to feel discontent. God had to teach me that money is not what will make me happy.

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Instead, contentment was being able to say, Lord, I thank you and trust you through every season and circumstance. You are my bread, the sustainer of my soul. You have given me everything I need to accomplish your purposes and to know you. Thank you for providing for my needs. But more importantly, thank you for saving me from a life of sin and destruction. As long as you are with me, I can go through the deserts of life. Let me learn the principles you intend for me to embrace, so I will be prepared for your promised land. 

I have to remind myself of the same things even today. There will always be wants that I wrestle with. I pray you and I will be encouraged by the words of Paul: “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13

Fight with Gentleness

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

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

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

   

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To My Young Adult

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

   

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

   

  

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

—-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always here for you,

Mom

 

 

Courageous Caitie’s Legacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

 

Submission to My Husband Is a Heart Issue

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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