When A Good God Allows Rape

This September, at the Manila International Book Fair in SMX, OMF Literature will be launching my first published book, When A Good God Allows Rape. Yes, the title is kind of a shocker but for those of you who have followed my blog, you already know that this event is something I have spoken openly about. Some parts of the book I have take from a few articles on this site but I am happy to say that it’s the first autobiographical account of the tragedy, the events that followed, and God’s hand in all of it. 

 This is a dream come true for me, a bucket-list-kind-of-accomplishment. When I was younger I hoped that one day I would have the privilege of declaring what God has done in my life through a book. Now that I am just a few weeks from its launch, it feels wonderfully surreal. 

Even if I originally wanted this book to come out ten years earlier, the timing of its launch is as it should be. The landscape of my life’s journey includes a postscript of experiences and memories that overshadow that black spot in the timeline of my life. People will be able to see the thread of God’s goodness. 

Everything was going smoothly between the publisher, editor and me up until two weeks ago, when one of my dear friends in the story requested that her real name not be used. I understood where she was coming from and completely respected her feelings so I honored her request. But having to make alterations at the nth hour wasn’t easy. We remain close and this change will not harm our friendship. She is so dear to me.

Initially, the stress robbed me of sleep. So I did the one thing that I probably shouldn’t have done. I went shopping on Amazon. There’s something ridiculously therapeutic about putting things in my cart and taking them out, then putting them back in and taking them out, and reading reviews. I am not advocating stress-shopping! But it did give me something else to think about besides my book. 

What this unprecedented turn of events taught me was to trust in God’s will. I was also reminded that this book is not mine. I may have written its contents. But God owns this story, and he allowed this last minute revision even after I prayed for my friend’s heart to change on the matter. So this is part of His plan. 

I am excited and nervous at the same time. Excited because this is my first published book ever!!! And nervous because what if it isn’t received well and I have made myself so vulnerable in it?!!! You can tell from my exclamation points that these are emotionally loaded statements. But I have done my part and must rest in the comfort that God will do the rest. 

On a side note, I think it is pretty amazing that my editor was a British woman named Victoria Hope. How cool is it that the person who helped me finalize this book had a name like that? Victoria means victory in Latin. So put the two words together and you get “victorious hope.” This is what my book is about. We can all have a victorious hope in God, who redeems our tragedies. He loves us and uses all things for our good when we choose to follow and trust in Him. 

May God get all the glory for this book! It includes perspectives from Edric and my parents. And it’s a book for anyone dealing with tragedy and loss, no matter what kind. 

Of course I hope you will come to the book signing on September 20 at 4:30 PM at SMX, too! This book will retail for P100.   To read the MIBF preview on the OMF Literature site, click this: when a good God allows rape

Print the image below to get free entrance to the book fair!   

Does Money Make Us Happy?

When I was living at home with my parents, life was comfortable. My parents didn’t spoil my siblings and me, but they provided handsomely for us. It wasn’t until I got married and left home that it dawned upon me…there’s a ceiling to what Edric and I have, financially speaking, and it isn’t very high. 

We started off simply as a young couple and for the first time, I began to compare myself with others. Edric and I couldn’t afford luxuries like travel, buying new cars, eating out, or alot of personal shopping. 

We were both corporate people so the prospect of amassing wealth was a far off dream as we were in the beginning stages of our careers. Even though I appreciated how hard Edric worked, there were occasions when I paid attention to the disparity between what I grew up with and what I now had in marriage. And although I didn’t think I had a heart problem when it came to money, the reality was I believed that having more money would make me (us) happier.  

  

(Photo: exchangecalculator.com)

Thankfully, God used that stage in my life to expose my dependence upon money for security. Those early years of marriage were humbling as I watched my siblings and peers enjoy material things I desired for myself. Yet having less than I hoped to have was spiritually beneficial. 

Edric and I realized that we didn’t need a lot to be happy. In fact, those difficult years turned out to be some of the most romantic memories! The secret to joy was contentment. ‬‬When I stopped comparing my financial status to others and turned my attention to what I had, I saw the goodness of the Lord in my life — my wonderful, hard-working and loving husband, beautiful children, my health, the ability to work, a happy home, harmonious relationships, ministry, and most of all, God Himself. I accepted those years of spiritual pruning as protection against greed and materialism. 

Since God allotted for Edric and me to struggle financially, I believe He purposed it for our character growth. I honestly don’t think we were ready for the stewardship of financial wealth because our perspective on money was immature. We saw money as something to serve our own aims. If we had more we would have spent more on ourselves and attached our sense of self-worth and identity to money. 

Thankfully, God was always faithful. We never went hungry. God also assured me that He would provide for Edric and me. Provision didn’t always mean material wealth but I knew I didn’t have to worry about our future because God was our Father.

Psalm 34:10 tells us, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing.”‬‬

As God continued to increase our financial capacity, there came a point when we were preparing to build our home. This plan coincided with the efforts of our church to build a new training and worship center. One Sunday service, a guest speaker spoke on giving to God. Stirred by the message, Edric decided to write a check to support the building fund. Because of the amount he chose to give, he tearfully surrendered our dream to build our own home. Yet God assured him, build my house and I will build yours. Sure enough, about two years later, God provided above and beyond what Edric had written on that check and we were able to finish our house! 

Money is so often a test, whether in lack or abundance. And sometimes more so when it is abundant! The Bible tells us, “…Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NASB

Although money doesn’t make us more important or more special, it does have that sneaky way of making us feel like this is true. Whether a little or plenty, we all have the tendency to pursue it above our pursuit of God. Perhaps this is why the wise King Solomon wrote, “…Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭30:8-9‬ ‭NASB‬‬ 

Since money competes with God’s place in our hearts, the first cure is to fall more in love with God rather than money. Luke 16:13 tells us that we cannot serve both God and money because we will end up loving the one and hating the other. 

The second cure is to give. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 tells us, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.” ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:6-8‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Generosity is a good gauge for our heart’s attitude towards money. Author and speaker, Craig Groeschel, beautifully put it when he said that the pursuit of God over money will make us “strangely content” and “irrationally generous.” 

Randy Alcorn reminds us that “Too often we assume that God has increased our income to increase our standard of living, when his stated purpose is to increase our standard of giving. (Money, Possessions and Eternity

I am continually blessed by a couple I know who sets aside a giving fund from their monthly income. And whenever God prods them to give to a person or an organization, they willingly do so, having allocated the money beforehand for whatever or whomever God should convict them to be generous towards. 

We also need to remember that generosity is a condition of the heart not an ability reserved only for the wealthy. A poor and kind African man once told a missionary, “no one is too poor to give nor too rich to receive.” 

The third cure is remembering that God owns everything and we are His stewards. King David declared, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name…”‭‭1 Chronicles‬ ‭29:11-13 NASB‬‬ 

When Edric didn’t understand stewardship, he went into near bankruptcy.  His mentality used to be, “I earned this. I worked hard for this. I can spend my money on what I want to.” (He has shared this in public.) It wasn’t until a loving friend corrected his mindset that he realized he doesn’t own anything. He is just a steward of the resources God has entrusted him with, namely his time, talents, and treasures. 

The fourth cure is to remain simple. Just because we can pay for an item or a service that is more expensive doesn’t mean we should. When I wrote an article about why I don’t buy designer clothing, bags, or shoes it wasn’t because they have no appeal to me. They are beautiful things indeed! But the price at which they come by is unconscionable when so many people have needs around us. 

Do I go shopping and try my best to look put together? Do I still look for quality goods? Of course! Yet I want to quote another insight from Randy Alcorn: “Abundance isn’t God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It’s his provision for me to help others live. God entrusts me with his money not to build my kingdom on earth, but to build his kingdom in heaven.”  

So does money make us happy? Yes and no. It doesn’t make us happy when we look to it as the source of our happiness. But it can make us happy when:

1. we love God more than money and find contentment in Him.

2. we cheerfully give when God leads us to.

3. we understand that we are merely stewards because God owns everything. 

4. we choose to be simple so we can spend less on ourselves and bless others more.

In short, money “makes us happy” when we don’t use it to serve our own purposes (purposes which will never fully satisfy), but do use it to serve God’s purposes, which will give us infinite joy!  

 

God Always Provides For Our Homeschooling

Sat Apr 11 2015 02_36_51 GMT+0800-2

It never ceases to amaze me how the Lord continues to prove faithful as we homeschool our children. Homeschooling gets challenging every year in new ways. With a 7th grader and other kids moving up the elementary ladder, my instruction requirements become more and more difficult. In some ways, my kids become more independent when it comes to their subject studies. However, their emotional, spiritual, and physical needs increase. They need more mentoring and discipleship, they also need us to be more involved and attentive to what’s going on in their hearts.

I found this to be true with our son, Elijah, who is becoming his own man as he transitions into his teenage years. A lot of times Edric and I have to help him process what’s going on his head — the fears, the doubts, the worry, or the frustrations. We praise God that he loves the Lord because it makes it easier to reconnect him back to the biblical perspective as he deals with his feelings and his thought life. But I realize, that parenting never quite ends. We get through one stage and one season and feel like we’ve mastered it, only to enter into an entirely unchartered one where we are faced with the thought, We have no idea what we are doing! This is the wonderful adventure of being a mom and a dad. It’s never boring!

As a homeschooling mom, I have to come to terms with my own limitations, even intellectually. Teaching mathematics at the higher levels is not easy. But thanks to programs like Khan Academy, I can augment my lack of expertise. This year, there was a subject area that I finally surrendered to. FILIPINO.

I can teach math because I studied math. I may struggle through it, but if I can do it if I need to. But Filipino was never a subject to me until I got into college in Ateneo. And even then I enrolled in the Filipino for foreigners class where we learned phrases like, “Magandang Umaga and Mabuhay.” (I know. It’s pathetic.) But I thought it was great! Learning how to speak in Filipino more fluently came as I interacted with people in school. However, I never took it as a formal subject.

So to teach it now is like my version of a homeschool mom’s nightmare. I can’t get through a lesson without having to translate everything word-for-word into English in order to teach it to my kids.

As I planned for this homeschool year, I decided that I would focus on my strengths and supplement this area of weakness. Edric was sweet enough to give me the go signal to hire a Filipino tutor. I’ve never had to do this in all of my homeschooling…hire a tutor. But how nice to have it as an option!

I praise God that homeschooling offers me the flexibility to customize my children’s learning experience. I don’t have to be an expert in every subject area. I can outsource where I lack. Yeah!

So I had the plan to hire a Filipino tutor but I didn’t know where to find one. Thanks to Facebook, it took just one post, one cry for help on Facebook. Sympathetic and kind-hearted friends sent me several options.

Last Saturday, Elijah and Edan had their first session with their tutor and they loved it! I was so happy. It’s amazing how quickly the kids pick up content when the teacher knows what they are doing!

As for me, I marveled once again at how good God is. He called Edric and I to homeschool our children. He put the conviction and desire in our hearts to raise them to love Him with all that they are. And when the journey hits an obstacle, God is faithful to provide for our homeschooling needs.

I always tell moms who are having a hard time with homeschooling to remember that God is our partner in all of this. God is our enabler. His grace is sufficient. There is no homeschool problem too big for Him to solve. So be encouraged whenever you come up against a road block because it means that God is going to do something that will make you smile and say “Thank you, Lord! I can keep going!”

 

For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:5 (NASB)

Sat Apr 11 2015 02_34_09 GMT+0800

 

 

My Heart Is Turned Towards You 

  
This morning, amidst the flurry of activity I found myself in while preparing for a homeschool playgroup and all-day meetings, Edric very sweetly told me, “You know my heart is turned towards you.” Suddenly, whatever stress I felt dissipated as he calmly smiled at me while finishing his breakfast. 

He said this because I asked him if we could upgrade the tech situation in our homeschool room. The kids rely on my laptop (the only laptop we have at home) so it’s overloaded with files and programs that Elijah experiments with, and it’s a challenge when we both need to use it. I haven’t minded the sharing too much, but this year, with Elijah in high school for our homeschooling, we need at least one other laptop or a desktop computer for writing assignments and research. Plus, Elijah is learning programming too, so he needs a device to work on. 

I don’t know when Edric will actually buy a computer or laptop for our homeschool room because he has a lot going on at present, but the manner in which he heard my request and responded to it with tenderness meant a lot. I have said this before but I will say it again…women are not as complicated as we seem. 

Author and speaker, Craig Groeschel, said that “women are multipliers.” Be sweet to them and they will magnify sweetness in return. Be mean to them and they will give you hell. He actually used the phrase “give you hell” which was kind of surprising for a pastor but he delivered it with humor, trying to emphasize his point — a woman multiplies what she receives from her husband.

When Edric makes me feel like I am important and prioritized, I am an inspired wife! A little gas in my emotional tank goes a long way! My preference is affirmation. For other wives it may be time, affection, gifts, or service. Whatever it is, I think I speak for all women when I say that we bloom when our husbands “speak” our love language, as Dr. Gary Chapman puts it. 

It doesn’t take as much effort as a man might presume to meet the emotional needs of a woman. In fact the effort index is way higher when a man neglects the emotional needs of his wife. For example, yesterday, Edric ignored me when I asked him if I should bring the stroller for Catalina during our family date night. I must have asked for his opinion three times but he said nothing. We were rushing to get into the car and he may have thought it an unimportant question. Even though I shouldn’t have made a big deal out of it, I did. In my irritation I asked, “Why don’t you answer me?” 

He didn’t appreciate my tone or attitude and corrected me by remarking, “This is not an issue.” 

“Yes it is. I really don’t like it when you ignore me. I have said this before. It’s upsetting.” 

Well, that didn’t help. The first part of our family time was a little cold, at least between Edric and me. It took me a while to simmer down and quell my hurt. I started thinking of several other things that Edric did that day which upset me. Over one unanswered question, my mind resurrected three other reasons to fan my ire. Thankfully we resolved the dispute and apologies were exchanged. The point is, I get complicated when I feel slighted by Edric. Of all the people in my life it is his treatment of me that naturally matters the most. 

I am not saying that my reactive-ness is ever Edric’s fault, especially when I choose to be disrespectful or disobedient to him. My responses are still my responsibility. However, what I am saying is Edric’s gentleness and sweetness have a profound effect on me. That one phrase,”You know my heart is turned towards you,” made me think things like, “Wow, he really loves me! He really wants to take care of me! I am important to him!”   

Okay, I know it all sounds cheesy but that’s how simple a woman can be. We respond to tenderness. In whatever sincere form it comes — a kind word, a compliment, a thoughtful gesture, or an affectionate embrace — these little demonstrations make us feel loved. Multiply these actions over years and years and the result will be a woman who looks upon her husband with desire and admiration! Isn’t that what all husbands hope to receive from their wives? 

You don’t have to print this out and hand it to your husband to convict him to change. What you can do is pray for him if he tends to be insensitive or fails to meet your emotional needs. I keep praying for Edric and by God’s grace, he keeps improving. What you and I can do is appreciate and affirm the instances when our husbands do something, ANYTHING, that makes us feel special.

A few years after getting married, I complained that Edric stopped opening the door for me. One date night I said something like, “Wow. Times have changed. You used to open the door for me but now you don’t.” Did that statement motivate him to open my door? Most certainly not! In fact he got very annoyed with me for criticizing him. So one day I modified my approach. When he randomly opened my door during another occasion, I commented, “I really like it when you open the door for me. It makes me feel special, and it makes you very attractive.” With that statement, his eyes lit up and he programmed himself to open my door consistently from then on. Why? Because I appealed to his own heart-felt need to be appreciated. Edric has made opening my door a habit. What used to require effort from him is now automatic.

Similarly, there are many things we want our husbands to do that we wish wouldn’t feel like such chores to them. But rarely will our nagging, complaining, comparing, and criticizing compel them to transform in the areas we hope they will. Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to live in a desert land than with a contentious and vexing woman.” A man’s heart turns away from a woman who is argumentative, who provokes with her words and distresses him with her actions. He may look okay on the outside as he gives in to the pestering of his wife but the love he feels erodes over time as it is replaced by resentment for her disrespect. 

So, on the one hand this post is meant to applaud husbands who fulfill the call in Ephesians 5 to nourish and cherish their wives. What a blessing these men are! John Piper wrote, “When a man joyfully bears the primary God-given responsibility for Christlike, servant leadership and provision and protection in the home—for the spiritual well-being of the family, for the discipline and education of the children, for the stewardship of money, for the holding of a steady job, for the healing of discord—I have never met a wife who is sorry she married such a man. Because when God designs a thing (like marriage), he designs it for his glory and our good.” 

On the other hand, this entry is meant to encourage wives to continue hoping in God to work in the hearts of our husbands, praying for them, and appreciating the effort they display. If there is anyone who can reorient the hearts of our husbands, it is the Lord. “May the Lord direct your hearts (our husbands’) into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” (‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:5)‬ ‭

Furthermore, our greater comfort ought to be that God’s heart is turned towards you and me when our hearts are turned to Him!  “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope for His lovingkindness,” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭33:18‬)
  

Fourteen Is Better Than Thirteen

I sat across from Edric at a cafe this morning, studying his face like I hadn’t seen it a million times. Has it really been 14 years since we were standing at the altar, speaking our vows? Are we really parents to five amazing kids?

 Apart from the peppering of his hair and the smile lines at the edges of his eyes, he doesn’t look much older than he did in college. I actually think he is a more handsome version of his younger self. I like the way he is aging. It’s attractive to me.

The cafe was an unplanned departure from our original schedule. He should have been at the office and I should have been with the kids. But our vehicle needed a battery-change, so there we were, making the most of the opportunity to share breakfast and talk.

“Is this what you imagined?,” He asked me. “Is this what you imagined marriage would be like?”

It was an unexpected question but the moment called for it. We were tucked away in the corner of the cafe, and it was the day after our anniversary. Our overnight date at the Marco Polo hotel was coming to a close. So I said, “I didn’t think this far when I was single, but I knew that you were the person I loved and wanted to share my life with.” 

“It’s better than I imagined,” he added, like he meant to answer his own question. “I used to be afraid that our relationship would change as we got older, as we aged, when our bodies were no longer in their prime. How would this affect the way we perceived one another? But then I realized that marriage has stages to it. During the early years, the physical aspect seemed to be a large part of our intimacy. Yet as the years went by, I discovered a depth beyond the physical…like this, right now, being here with you and enjoying it. We are stuck here because of a car battery problem, but it’s totally fine because we are together. There’s no other person I would rather be with, raise children with, and serve the Lord with.”

I smiled as he took my hand, possibly in between chewing my tuna melt sandwich. (I was graceful about it, trying not to ruin the moment.) 

Fourteen years may be few compared to couples who are celebrating their silver anniversaries, but for us it feels like a lot of history. We have weathered many seasons together. It dawned on me, as I was reminiscing and recalling the early years of our marriage, that this history matters. The longer we stay married and honor the commitment we vowed to, the more palpable the oneness feels. 

When the Bible says that two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), I started thinking about the word ‘shall.’ While oneness is symbolized by the event of sexual union between a husband and wife, oneness is also a process. Oneness happens over time, memories, pain, and joy. The person I am today feels so intensely entwined into the person Edric is. 

   
 From two separate threads as single people, we became a tightly wound chord of three – the Lord, Edric and me. I may not have imagined what fourteen years of marriage would be like, but I know for sure that I can’t imagine life without Edric. Not now. Not after fourteen years of oneness. 

How does a relationship become like this? Where two people can be vulnerable and honest and naked and unashamed…and you can say “I love you no matter what, even if I know all your imperfections”…and you laugh at things that no one else finds funny…or signal mysterious codes across a room full of people and get each other’s message because an eyebrow was raised, or a mouth twitched, or a wink was sent your way…and you can lie in the stillness and quiet, closing your eyes to the events of the day, the good and the bad, and feel safe because the arms that are embracing you are familiar, and you fit so comfortably in each other’s spaces…and, yes, you also have three boys and two girls who act and speak like little versions of yourselves, but are way cuter, who need you both as dad and mom and need you to stay together because you are a family…and you navigate through the storms in your relationship and outside of it, hand in hand, looking to Christ to walk you through them, to heal the wounds that hurt like heck but make you stronger…and you may fight and disagree and really NOT like each other sometimes but you know that this is forever and you will commit to work it out because this is the person whom you chose to love and will continue to love in spite of, just because, and most certainly till you are old and wrinkled and maybe even toothless. 

As Edric and I live out the vows we once made to each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer til death do us part, my desire to be his and his desire to be mine increases all the more. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Solomon 6:3a) 

It’s hard to explain this when so many people quit on their marriages emotionally or legally soon after the difficulties confront them. And I know why they do. There’s always a reason that pushes them to do so. I’ve wrestled with some of these reasons myself. But from this vantage point, and not as one who professes to be an expert at mouthing out advice on relationships, but as one who has chosen to stay married for fourteen years (so far), my observation is this: fourteen years of marriage was way better than the first thirteen, and by God’s grace, I think fifteen will be better than fourteen. And by faith I believe that the best is yet to come, not next year or the next, but decades down the road! 

Why? Because this is the beautiful mystery of oneness – God’s design for a husband and wife – to journey together into the endless, vastless and unfathomable depths of love, His love. After all, it is not our exhaustible human love that binds us to one another. I love Edric because God first loved me. Edric loves me because God first loved him. As 1 John 4:19 put it, “We love because He first loved us.” It is the strand of God’s eternal love in our relationship that keeps us from unraveling, that strengthens our resolve to remain committed to each other through each passing year, that pulls us forward when we struggle to go on. 

As I end this entry, I want to say, stay. Don’t go. Stay through the seasons that are difficult, that feel unending, when human love has lost its feeling, and promises have been broken. Stay and see how God can renew and rebuild what is damaged in us and in our marriages, and meet our unmet longings with His amazing love. God is the author of marriage and His love is its keeper and healer. 

And to my husband, Edric, I thank you for staying with me. I love you more today than ever. Happy Anniversary!
“(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a)

   
 
 

Pursuing Peace at Home

Sometimes managing household help and a driver is stressful for me when their inter-personal relationships get complicated. When unsettled issues linger, their work and the environment of our home is affected. But my greater concern is their spiritual health and what lies behind the conflict.

For several months our household help and driver were embittered with one another. Their dissension began with minor irritations over personality differences. But the hurt escalated until they started name-calling and criticizing. When I asked each one of them what the issue was, the problem between them had become so convoluted, Edric decided to set a meeting to settle their conflict once and for all.

This morning, he mediated a nearly two hour discussion. First we prayed together and then he gave each person the opportunity to share their frustrations. He didn’t let emotions escalate and he prevented the higher-strung individuals from butting in and making snide comments. When everyone had the opportunity to speak up, he helped them identify the main issue.

The main issue was pretty simple — our driver was hurt because one of our household help was moody towards him. So he was demotivated to assist our girls when it came to chores outside the scope of his driving responsibilities. This angered the women who interpreted his attitude as laziness. They began to incite him with comments like, “you just sleep and eat,” which gave him reason to disdain them. Months passed and the angry feelings increased until they became noticeable to Edric, me, and our kids.

Today, Edric ably sorted through the mess with them and encouraged them to pursue peace. The two hour meeting turned out to be a wonderful time of healing for our household help and driver.

Edric asked all of them to say what they appreciated about each other, and what they could improve on. Tears were shed. Humility and forgiveness were present, and reconciliation took place.

At the end, I reminded them that our home represents Christ because we are followers of Jesus and so are they (each one of them has a personal relationship with Him). Therefore I concluded my little part of the speech I was allowed to inject, thanks to Edric, with the reason why we need to be at peace with one another. We want to glorify Christ in our relationships and in our home. They wholeheartedly agreed.

To give them a practical application, Edric went over Ephesians 4:29 which reads, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NASB‬‬

He made them read this passage and internalize it so they would remember to speak in ways that edify and not wound one other. We also prayed together to conclude our meeting. Afterwards, everyone was smiling and the atmosphere had changed from tense and chilly to warm and sunny!

I decided to write this entry because I was blessed by Edric’s leadership today. He sounded like a frog because he was battling a bad cough and laryngitis but he prioritized this peace-keeping mission to restore the relationships that were broken in our household. He could have left the problem to me to fix, but he knew that I needed his intervention to facilitate the meeting in Filipino and to assert his headship. The women were flaming some some pretty hot emotional fires but because they deeply respect Edric and have a healthy fear of him, they listened to his counsel and guidance. Edric also assured me that he knew the culture and how to steer the course of the discussion so it would remain focused and productive.

Fri Feb 07 2014 16-43-48 GMT+0800

When all was quiet again and we had a moment together, I thanked him profusely for coming to my aid. 1 Timothy 3:2-5 talks about the qualifications for an overseer as one who is “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” ‭‬‬

I know this passage is especially for church leaders, but in the verses which precede it, the encouragement is to aspire for church leadership. This means that every person ought to consider putting on the qualities that describe a leader. And being a good leader includes managing one’s household — ordering it and taking charge of it.

I used to think this was about making sure that our kids are well-behaved and obedient. But it was brought to my attention again today that the responsibility is greater. Edric and I need to disciple our household help and driver. They don’t just work for us to serve our family. We must be committed to their spiritual health, too. God has placed them in our lives so we can bless them and minister to them. Sometimes, this means Edric, as the head of our home, has to steer them towards Christ-likeness like he did today.

I may have been able to set up and oversee the meeting today, but I know it wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did so I praise God for the wisdom and initiative he gave Edric. What an amazing difference it makes when a man embraces his God-given position of authority in the home!

Tue Jul 01 2014 09-12-43 GMT+0800

Family Values

When I married Edric, I had no idea what kind of a father he would be to our future children. I hoped that he would be intentional, committed and present in their lives, but there was no way to be certain until we actually started to have kids.

I still remember the incalculable joy that lit up his face when our first son, Elijah, was born. By God’s grace I gave birth Lamaze, so I was cognizant and alert when Elijah came into this world. From behind the gauze mask, Edric’s eyes started to tear as he stomached the gravity of God’s gift to us. He was now a father.

Edric and I fumbled through our parenting in the early years of being a dad and mom. However, with the help of biblical principles from God’s Word, advice from mentors like our parents and other men and women of God, the accountability of family and friends, and good books, our understanding and application of parenting improved through the years.  (We have to keep improving still!)

I used to pressure Edric to be more involved and to be a spiritual leader to our kids, but all my yakking wasn’t what ordered his priorities. As Edric grew in his love for the Lord, God put it in his heart to ponder upon his place and purpose in our children’s lives. It was prayer and encouragement that made a difference, not nagging. Furthermore, he came across a passage of scripture that really convicted him to embrace fatherhood as a sacred trust. 

“We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭78‬:‭4-8 NASB) 

Today, Edric is the one who reminds me to be more intentional! Very recently, he came up with a code of Mendoza Family Values. It begins with this statement: “A Mendoza f.o.l.l.o.w.s. JESUS.”
F – FORGIVE one another
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O – OBEY God and authorities 

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L – LOVE one another unconditionally and love people to Jesus

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L – LEARN God’s Word and His Truths

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O – ONE (Live for the Audience of One – God’s glory)

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W – WORD (Keep your word)

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S – STEWARD (Be a good steward of your talents, abilities, opportunities, time and resources.)

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Edric has based our family devotions on these values in the last few months, giving a bible passage that corresponds to each trait for our children to internalize and memorize.

Every family needs to have a sense of identity that is rooted in their belief system. For our family, our identity is rooted in Jesus Christ and we want to follow Him faithfully. But what does this mean, in practical, everyday situations, especially for our kids? 

The list is something our kids can refer to again and again as they make choices. It isn’t an exhaustive list and there are many other character traits and principles our children need to learn, but this list helps to give them an image of a Christ-follower. Of course the bigger challenge is that Edric and I need to role model The Mendoza Family Values ourselves! 

Have you given thought to your family identity? What values will define your family? 

Disciplining Children Revisited

 
This is a follow-up article to the one I wrote on disciplining my 1-year old daughter, Catalina, which resulted in some eyebrow raising because I talked about spanking. Let it be said that I’m not an advocate of spanking for EVERY wrong behavior that needs correcting. I believe there are different ways to apply healthy correction that produce right thinking and behavior in the hearts and minds of our children. However, I refuse to accept the notion that spanking is the same thing as physical abuse, as some have so quickly labeled it.

First of all, let’s make some clarifications about spanking. Spanking is…

…NOT whacking my child in anger, repeatedly, for every wrong action or behavior.

…NOT a random consequence dependent on how I feel about the situation.

…NOT to be administered before a child understands “NO” or exhibits defiance.

…NOT as effective after the age of 6.

…NOT as effective when a parent uses it as a threat to coerce behavior.

…NOT about using an instrument that will break the skin or bruise it.

…NOT the only way to discipline a child.

…NOT to be used as a method of disciplining if a parent doesn’t have a good, loving relationship with his or her child.

…NOT to be used as a method of disciplining if only one parent applies it and the other doesn’t.

…NOT to be used if the rule that was broken wasn’t clearly explained to the child.

 

 Research shows that…

  1. The most aggressive children tend to be those who are never spanked.
  2. Of the many parents who spank, a minuscule number actually wind up abusing their children. Sweden outlawed parenting spanking in 1979. A decade later, Bob Larzelere conducted a follow-up study in which he found that child abuse had increased significantly since the ban.
  3. Diana Baumrind (considered the foremost researcher in the area of parenting style outcomes) has found that parents who are philosophically opposed to spanking are more likely to overreact to their children’s misbehaviour than parents who have no such philosophical objection. (For example, some parents resort to yelling at their children in order to control their behavior.)
  4. The more often a child is spanked, the less effective the spanking becomes. (A parent needs to consider their overall approach to discipline.)

The above information is taken from John Rosemond’s book, Parenting by the Book (pg. 216 – 219.)

I’ve said this before but I will say it again for the sake of those who may misunderstand spanking. I can count the number of times I’ve spanked each of my children over the course of their early childhood years. In other words, Edric and I haven’t had to spank our children a lot. If a parent spanks very often they need to revisit their parenting in general. Furthermore, there may be other factors that are undermining their attempts to discipline and disciple their kids such as…

…unresolved conflicts within the marriage

…frequent and hurtful displays of anger in the home

…hypocrisy (telling their children to do one thing but modeling the opposite)

…an insubordinate spirit on display, where a wife doesn’t model submission to the authority of her husband

…different parenting styles and philosophies on raising children between husband and wife

…application of unhealthy parenting styles like child-centrism

…relatives or househelp who contradict parents’ rules

…allowing children to have regular exposure to people or media content that opposes the values and character traits that a parent is trying to instill

 

Here are some common issues that parents may have to deal with and suggestions on how to discipline for these:

Dealing with eating issues – A parent can remove snacks in between meals, take away child’s plate so they get hungry by the next meal, or disallow a fun activity that should’ve followed after meal. We’ve had to do this with Titus. Of all the kids, he isn’t allowed to eat anything in between meals because he takes a long time to finish his food and he gets distracted while eating.

Tantrums and fussiness – Speak to your child calmly and let them that you will not give in to their behavior until they stop. Example, “Mommy will not carry you until you stop.” Don’t give in or pick them up to encourage their behavior. When they stop crying or stop making a scene then you can take them and say, “Very good, you stopped, now mommy will carry you.”

We encourage our kids by reminding them of our rule, “No being fussy.” Even our little 20 month old daughter knows this rule. Unless she makes her requests with a smile and a “please,” we don’t give in to her fussing or tantrums. She can pout all she wants (which ends up being very short-lived because no one will pay attention to her doing so). Most of the time, she will change her whining to a sweet “please” and a smile. However, if she screams in disrespect and continues to do so even after being told to stop, Edric and I will spank for this.

Impatience – Teach children to wait before you give them an object or an item that they are clamoring for. Until they stop demanding for it, they don’t get it. I’ve also observed that limiting time on gadgets and playing games on the computer or IPad increases my children’s ability to wait. In contrast, the instant gratification they receive from gadgets and playing games conditions them to be impatient so less is better when it comes to gadges like IPads.

Not sharing/selfishness – Confiscate the toy that two or three children are fighting over if asking them to take turns is not working. When my kids are unable to share a toy, I say, “I have to take it away because you guys aren’t sharing. When you are ready to share, I will give it back to you.”

Fighting with siblings – I sit them down together and we review bible verses on loving one another and treating one another with kindness. Then I ask them, “Are you behaving in a way that pleases God?” and let them come to their own conclusions about their attitudes towards one another. I follow up with a question like, “How can you improve or act in a more loving way?”

When it’s a toddler who bullies or hits their older sibling or other children, I take them aside and talk with them, demonstrating what it means to be gentle. However, if the hitting will put another child in danger (like my 8 month old nephew over Christmas), Edric and I will spank if our child disobeys a command like, “Don’t hit your cousin.”

Interestingly, spanking doesn’t cause a child to be confused when they are disciplined properly (not in anger, not using the hand). The focus is on spanking for disobedience of the command. Occasionally, Catalina will whack her siblings when they pull a toy away from her, as an act of self-defense and frustration. These moments are becoming fewer and far between because she can now articulate herself better. At the same time, I let my older children know that grabbing from Catalina causes her to react in anger so they should ask her nicely before they borrow the toy she is playing with.

As for Catalina, I ask, “Do you want people to hit you?” She will actually reply with a “No” and apologize to her siblings. The point is to let her think about what it will be like to be on the receiving end of a slap on the shoulder from her own siblings. Even if she is just a one year old, she understands! I wouldn’t recommend this as a full-proof solution to children who hit others since it’s hard for them to reason this way at such a young age. But I also think even very young children should start learning the golden rule, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31)

Teaching kids to get along doesn’t happen overnight and it involves giving them the opportunity to acknowledge their wrong and ask for forgiveness from one another when they hurt each other. We tell our kids to hug and express a sincere apology when they have conflicts. There’s something about requiring them to hug that softens their hearts and there’s something about making sure they say, “Will you forgive me?” that expresses the kind of humility that repairs their relationships. Sometimes, my kids are required to hug for at least 10 seconds so their hard faces turn into smiles!

Destroying objects or toys or losing them – When kids destroy their toys, don’t get them new ones to replace them. Let them realize that they need to practice good stewardship. If they were keen on breaking a toy, they can live with it broken or buy themselves a new one.

Children tend to lose objects and toys, too. One of our sons really liked a marble toy that he got for Christmas a few years back. It came with special, metal marbles. But he would misplace the marbles often. As a consequence, he wasn’t allowed to play with the toy until he found the marbles. Did he do his best to find them? Yes.

Messiness – It took a number of years for our kids to internalize the importance of cleaning up after their mess. But Edric and I refused to let them move on to the next toy or another room to mess up until they cleaned up the one they were first playing in. I don’t mind if they make a mess while they play for as long as they pick up afterwards. Afterall, mess is part of the fun (for as long as they aren’t doing something reckless like drawing on the walls or pulling the stuffing out of their pillows).

When they go to other people’s houses, they aren’t allowed to leave it without picking up the toys they played with. Even if we are in a hurry to leave, Edric and I will give them time to fix up. Some years ago, my sister-in-law temporarily banned them from using her kids’ playroom because they made a big mess and ruined some toys. I thought it was a great way to communicate to my kids that they need to be mindful of the way they play and deal with their mess in other people’s houses.

Being loud and obnoxious – If there’s one thing my children sometimes do that can drive me nuts it’s their boisterousness. For some reason, riding together in a vehicle gives them the prime opportunity to talk and laugh loudly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because they are thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. But tight spaces and public ones aren’t the best places for them to kick up the volume of their voices. It can be rude and assaulting to the senses.

To deal with this, I talk to them with a serious tone and explain why it’s not appropriate. Most of the time, they respond to this positively because they have learned to obey. If they don’t, I apply a consequence like withdrawal of a privilege. For younger kids, this can be tough. Catalina screamed like a banshee in her car seat for a good number of hours when our family drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was completely unpleasant! But, we had to keep her in that seat for safety reasons so we 1. Let her cry until she got tired. 2. Sat her beside an older sibling who could entertain her. 3. Distracted her with toys or the IPad.

Running off in public places – My kids know that they aren’t supposed to run off while we are in public spaces. With all their expendable energy waiting to be released, this can be really difficult for them. They love to run down mall aisles and hide behind clothing racks. So I let them know our rules for going out together (especially since I don’t bring househelp when it’s just the four older kids). Before we leave the vehicle, I will ask them to repeat what our rule for being in public is. “Stay close to mommy.” They know the risks of getting separated or taken by strangers. But I still remind them, “If you don’t stay near me, you won’t get to come with me the next time.” This usually works because they know I have every intention of implementing this consequence if they don’t follow the rule.

Lying – My personal conviction about a child who lies habitually is they may not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. John 8:44 says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

If a child already has a relationship with Jesus but is still young, they may not fully understand what lying is. So a parent needs to explain what truthfulness is and make their child feel like home is a safe place for honesty and confession.

Some children may lie because they are afraid that they will be scolded, lectured, shamed or punished if they admit to their mistake or fault. If this is the case then a parent needs to consider whether they encourage open communication in their home or make it challenging for their children to speak the truth. Do our children feel the liberty to share what’s really going on in their hearts?

Dr. Harold Sala, author of The Parent Map, outlines 10 guidelines for successful discipline (pg. 151 – 161). I will summarize them here, but if you have the opportunity to, grab a copy of his book at OMF Literature. It’s one of the most complete books I’ve read on parenting.

1. Establish clear limits of behavior. Dr. Haim Ginnot wrote that children “need a definition that tells them clearly what constitutes unacceptable conduct and what substitute will be accepted. The limits must be stated firmly so that it carries only one message, ‘This prohibition is for real. I mean business.'” Dr. Sala encourages us to expect our children to comply immediately. We shouldn’t be counting 1, 2, 3 and so on before they obey.

2. Enforce boundaries with consistent discipline. Spouses need to agree on the same rules and hold their children accountable for them without contradicting one another.

3. Discipline in private. I’ve made the mistake of correcting one of my sons in public one too many times. By public, I mean at the dinner table, in front of his siblings. He does much better when I take him aside and talk to him in private, one-on-one.

4. Establish responsibility for wrongdoing. Asking our children questions like “Why did you do what you did?” or “What did you do?” will allow them to identify their error, versus asking a question like, “Did you__________?” which warrants only a yes or no answer.

5. Show grief over the offense. Whenever our children disobey us, Edric and I express how it hurts us. We don’t go on and on about how sad we are. But we do let our kids know that it grieves us when they make choices that are displeasing to the Lord because that’s the real issue — we want them to make choices that please and honor God.

6. Discipline should be commensurate with the offense. Dr. Sala states that the “measure of discipline should be in relation to the severity of wrongdoing — neither too severe nor too light.” A mom told me that she put hot sauce in her four year old’s mouth for speaking unkindly to the househelp. She cried afterwards because she accidentally poured too much of it into his mouth and he was traumatized afterwards. On the one hand, he got the message loud and clear, but looking back, she realized it was a little severe.

7. Practice common-sense discipline with a purpose. A parent can use restrictions, time outs, writing assignments, and physical discipline. Restrictions would be things like reducing the amount of time on a gadget, or temporary suspension from a favorite activity. When Elijah was using his IPad to do a lot of research about apps, I gave him a time limit. He actually appreciate it because he wanted to know his “boundaries” when it came to IPad use. Time-outs work better for older children. I’ve asked my older sons to spend some time thinking about their wrong attitudes and praying about how they can change and they will come back to me with renewed spirits and an apology. Physical discipline, according to Sala, should be used only when a child is rebellious or defiant.

8. Allow a child to vent his emotions, then talk about what has happened and how to better handle the situation in the future. Edric and I have done this a number of times with our kids. We let them share their feelings or frustrations and then steer them gently in the direction of right thinking and right actions.

9. Once a matter has been dealt with, consider it forgiven. In other words, parents shouldn’t hold on to the offense of their child and use it against them in the future. We need to forgive as God has forgiven us.

10. Balance discipline with personal attention. I really like this point because children who are consistently problematic probably need a lot of attention from their parents. Dr. Sala writes, “Nothing is a greater gift to your child, nor will anything contribute more to his good behavior, than the gift of yourself.”

So, when is it appropriate to use spanking as a form of discipline?

This is where we have to carefully consider the nature of the offense and the context. Sometimes children make mistakes of the mind. They forget about a rule without intending to break it out of defiance. A mistake of the heart, on the other hand, is making a conscious choice to go against the will of a parent.

For example, one day, I called out to Catalina, asking her to come to me, and she purposefully walked away while looking back at me with a face that spelled, “I don’t have to listen to you, I can do what I want to.” I know that’s the look she was giving because I am with her everyday, therefore I am well acquainted with her personality, expressions, and tendencies. This moment was clearly a mistake of the heart and I couldn’t let her get away with disobeying and disrespecting me. It wasn’t about trying to control her for my own purposes. It was about teaching her to obey authority, for her future good.

Imagine what would happen if we were walking on the sidewalk of a street and she refused to stay beside me and hold my hand, choosing instead to run off? And what if a vehicle was headed her way and she didn’t know it, and she attempted to make her way on to the street itself. I would have to call out, “Catalina, wait for mommy!” or, “Catalina, stop!” or “Catalina, come here!” And if she chose to defy me as the vehicle zoomed past, she would most probably die! So, am I willing to inflict a measure of pain in the present to convey the importance of obedience? The answer is yes.

The point of this article is to say that spanking shouldn’t be quickly labeled as an abusive form of discipline, especially when it can save a child from future hurt and pain. Can it be abusive if done inappropriately? Yes (please refer to the clarifications stated at the beginning about what spanking is NOT). However, it can also be one of the best ways to teach life-saving obedience when a child is very young. Nevertheless, spanking isn’t the only form of discipline that a parent can and should implore to deal with the undesirable behaviors their child exhibits. There are a variety of disciplinary actions a parent can apply to train a child. Depending on the circumstance and the issue, a parent must be committed to the aim of discipline, which is to produce the fruit of righteousness in their child. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit ofrighteousness. (Hebrews 12:11) Proper discipline will be about “heart modification” (a term author Tedd Tripp uses), and not just “behavior modification.”

Let me close with a quote from Dr. Harold Sala’s book, “Discipline is an integral part of love…God instructed parents, fathers in particular, to discipline their children in order to save them from heartbreak and anguish.” (The Parent Map, pg.143,145)

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So…to spank or not to spank? I’ll leave that up to you to pray about and decide. May the Lord give us the wisdom and the resolve to never give up and never surrender to the challenge of training our children! “Discipline your son, for there is hope, do not set your heart on putting him to death.” (Proverbs 19:18)

 

 

 

The Real Star of Our Mayad Beginnings Shoot

IMG_6343.JPGLast weekend, our family had a photoshoot with and for Mayad Beginnings, the photography outfit of the amazing Mayad Studios (who happened to do the videography for my sister’s wedding). Their make-up artist, Rochelle Lacuna, arrived early, probably about 6:30 AM, so I was in that chair getting prepped for the morning’s shoot before breakfast. Mayad Beginning’s team came into our living room and dining room not too long afterwards. It turned out that most of Mayad’s team goes to either our church, CCF, or Victory. But there was one lady whom I chatted with who seemed to be on a search for spiritual answers. I will call her J.P. for anonymity’s sake.

J.P. was the woman who contacted me to set up the shoot via email and it was our first time to meet face to face last Saturday. I began with small talk and eventually got to asking her about her spiritual journey, just to get a pulse for where she was at. Her honesty and openness afforded me an opening to share the gospel.

First, I asked her why she started attending CCF, to which she revealed that she had grown tired of a religion of performance and legalism. What she wanted was to have a relationship with Jesus, to be able to enjoy him and worship him and she seemed to find this in CCF. There couldn’t have been a more perfect time to insert what it really means to have a relationship with Jesus. And since my make-up wasn’t quite ready, we could continue talking.

While mascara and false eyelashes were being meticulously attached to my eyelids, I recounted my own spiritual journey, which began in my childhood. At the young age of nine, I despaired at the thought of my eternal destiny. Having no assurance that I would go to heaven, and fearing that I was most certainly bound for hell, I confessed to my preacher father that I was afraid to die. After a thorough explanation of how Jesus’ death on the cross paid for my sins and with an invitation from my dad to believe in what Jesus did for me, I prayed to receive Him into my life as Lord and Savior. My siblings and parents sat around me as witnesses since my question about eternal life came in the context of our family bible study.

This was the introduction to the Bible passage I shared with J.P.  Since her disenchantment with her previous place of worship had something to do with good works as a basis for acceptance, I showed her Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves, not as a result of works so that no one should boast.” I requested that J.P. read the verses and explain to me what each line meant to her.

“What is faith?” I asked her. And using the simple explanation I’ve often heard bible teachers use, I pointed to her chair and commented that she was exercising faith at that moment, as she sat on the chair, absolutely dependent on it to keep her from falling to the ground. In the same way, Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are not saved by our own works and good deeds. It is by grace, through faith in what God has done for us.

I proceeded to show her John 3:16 which says, “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” What has God done for us? He gave us His Son, Jesus, to save us. What is our part? To believe, to have faith.

Still, J.P. said she struggled to give her life completely to the Lord because of past mistakes. She didn’t want to be presumptuous about God’s grace. So I told her the story of the thief on the cross by Jesus’ side, at the crucifixion. He had no opportunity to live a reformed life and yet when he expressed his faith in Jesus by saying, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,” Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

Death by crucifixion was reserved for the worst of criminals so we know that this thief committed a major crime. Similarly, there may be people out there who feel like they’ve done the unpardonable, the unforgivable. But God’s grace is still bigger. His blood can cover that sin or sins. God’s invitation extends to everyone.

Therefore, the onus is on us to accept his gift, his salvation, or to reject it. There are only two options. Either we embrace what Jesus has done, by faith. Or, we make excuses like, “I’m not ready” or “It’s too simple,” or “It doesn’t make sense, from a logic perspective.”

The reality is, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. How can someone love us this much?  I told J.P. that as a mother, I would never want to give up my children’s lives to save an evil person’s life. Yet God’s Word tells us, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

From the perspective of human logic, it is incomprehensible because we are more familiar with imperfect human love. But God’s love is different. He loved us (loves us) in our total and utter depravity and sinfulness, and chose to take our place so we can be reconciled to Him. And while it may not seem reasonable, we can understand the longing to be accepted this perfectly. Haven’t we all attempted to fill an emptiness in our hearts with relationships, career pursuits, habits, hobbies, accomplishments, acclaim, money and whatever else? Yet these things will never be enough to satisfy or save us, no matter what new forms they assume to make us think they will.

I am married to a wonderful man who loves God, and yet, he cannot fill the hole in my heart completely. He can love me and take care of me to the best of his ability, and I can do the same for him. And we enjoy each other in special and exclusive ways that we do not experience with other people. However, the space inside us is eternally wide and deep. Only the infinite personhood of God can occupy the void so that we cease from our striving to fill it.

One of my favorite passages is found in Colossians 1:16-17, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” 

Because we are made by God, for Him, we will not understand the fullness of joy, peace, love or purpose unless we experience these in the context of a relationship with Him. Why do orphans feel the need to know who their biological parents are? Why do they go through great lengths to seek out their real parents? We want to know where we came from so we can understand who we are supposed to be.  Thomas Aquinas summarized the essence of this by saying, “Our hearts are restless until they can find their rest in You (God).”

I told J.P. that I believed God ordained our time together for the very purpose of letting her know how much He loves her. The photoshoot was the circumstance that God provided so we could meet and have that discussion. I gave J.P. emotional space to digest what we talked about because she struggled with the next step, the closure – surrendering her life completely to the Lord. She was engaged during the entire make-up session, yet I couldn’t force her to receive God’s love, grace, and forgiveness. This is something she will have to do on her own, between her and God.

Shortly after my conversation with J.P., I had to get ready for our first shoot. The morning passed quickly as our family posed for the three concepts that Mayad Beginnings had in mind. We had a lot of fun but the best part of that day was the thirty minutes I had with J.P. while sitting on the make-up chair talking about our spiritual lives.

God has given Edric and I many opportunities to meet people from all walks of life, and I know that these moments are pre-ordained and pre-orchestrated not so much for our benefit (which a photoshoot can feel like because the attention is centered on us). Instead, I believe that he intends for us to use these occasions to deliver the gospel in whatever way or form we can. Whether this means sharing a conversation about God’s love or acting and behaving in ways that reflect Christ-likeness, we must remember that the greater privilege is putting the spotlight on Him and not on ourselves. The greater purpose is to declare the message of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.

I pray we never forget that the real star of our marriage and our family is JESUS. It’s not us or our kids. He is the reason why there is joy, love, and by His grace, forgiveness in our home. He is the inspiration behind the smiles and the laughter you will see in the highlights of our shoot. Thank you to Mayad Beginnings for capturing us so naturally. But thank you most of all to the Lord for the opportunity to be representatives of His Name.

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When a Walk-in Closet Becomes a Boxing Ring

It was not so coincidental that a marital conflict between Edric and me erupted a few hours before the historic Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather fight. This one happened in our walk-in closet, with verbal “punches” in lieu of actual ones.

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PHOTO CREDIT: HBO

It began like this…a few weeks ago, Edric thought of opening up our home to friends and family who wanted to watch the live version of the fight on pay-per-view. It was a great idea and we were very excited about hosting this event. But, let’s fast forward to yesterday morning, when I was getting ready for worship service. Edric came into our walk-in closet while I was dressing up for church and asked me how many families were coming over. The count was at seven families, but equivalent to 39 persons (including kids).

His next query was, “How did you plan to seat everyone in our family room?” As the bohemian between us, my idea involved big pillows on the carpet for people to chill and lounge on. He labeled this an ill-conceived plan as people may not be comfortable about sitting on the floor. My instincts told me otherwise but I challenged him when he included the comment, “So you didn’t think this through. This is a half-baked plan. You are supposed to be the home manager.”

Whoa! Supposed to the home manager? What was he insinuating?

I am ashamed to admit that my first instinct was to react. So I jumped right into that imaginary boxing ring and put my gloves on.

But first, the thought bubble: I coordinated with the other families who were coming, went to the grocery to buy ingredients for tacos, drinks, baking supplies, made the cookies ahead of time, and instructed our househelp, giving them a detailed list of everything they had to get done to serve our guests. Hmph! Who’s the home manager? I am most definitely home managing! Plus, it was his grand idea to have everyone over in the first place so maybe he should have thought through the seating plan, too. It felt like an Adam-blaming-Eve kind of moment and I didn’t appreciate it at all.

None of the above reasons justified the lashing comments that spewed out of my own mouth defending myself and my perspective. I said to Edric in agitation, “YOU came up with this plan to have people over. So instead of blaming me, maybe you should have helped me.” Edric didn’t appreciate my tone and disrespectful attitude. He firmly replied, “Just admit that you were wrong. You didn’t really think this through.”

Does anyone remember when Mayweather pridefully said, “No, no” to Pacquiao during their boxing match yesterday? Well, that was me, at that moment, deep inside. No, no, I’m not the wrong one, you are the wrong one for making a big deal out of this family room issue. Since Edric didn’t relent, and I had to finish putting on my make-up, I chose to exit the conversation by saying, “Fine, I’m wrong. I’m sorry.” (I wasn’t really sorry at all. I just wanted to end an annoying dialogue.)

A few moments later, Edric requested for me to cut his hair and I didn’t feel like it. Sure, I’ve been his designated barber-ella for the last six months and I did say I would do it the day before, but oh, the timing…

Images of hair butchery swam in my head. But I did give my word so I pulled out the clippers from under the bathroom sink, attempting to contain my rage. Knowing me all too well, he remarked, “You can do this right? You are not going to mess up my hair because you are upset with me?”

“Of course not!” Even if I was tempted to botch up his hair I wouldn’t have resorted to a below the belt move like that! Although, hmmm…it was tempting…

Right before I turned on the clippers, we resumed the discussion again, defending our points of view. Edric knew that I wasn’t really sorry. This time he strongly encouraged me to admit that I was wrong, citing my pride as the cause of my unwillingness to do so. In my exasperation once again and knowing deep inside that he was right about my pride, I declared with tears in my eyes, “Alright, I was wrong, I made a mistake. Will you forgive me?”

God looks at the heart and my heart was not looking very good. I may have mouthed out the apology but there was no sincerity in it. So there I was, with clippers in hand, cutting Edric’s hair but grumbling inside. Bitter. That’s how I felt.

Admittedly this wasn’t one of Edric’s better haircuts. The details showed sloppiness on my part as my internal irritation distracted me from doing my best. I didn’t intentionally attempt to mess up behind his ears (which can be such a tricky part!) but I did. Edric knew it too but he wasn’t in the mood to point it out, trying to quell his own aggravation towards me.

It’s amazing how the Sunday message was aptly entitled, “Fight With God’s Power.” My brother, Paul, was the preacher and he paralleled the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites to the spiritual battle we all face. Our enemies are sin, worldliness, and the evil one. How could I sit there in my seat and fail to be impacted by God’s Word?! I knew this message was for me.

When Moses held up the staff with his hands, the Israelites had the upper hand. When he dropped his arms the Amalekites started winning. With the assistance of two men, Moses kept his arms and staff up until the Israelites defeated the Amalekites. Moses’ staff symbolized God’s presence and power as the Lord used it to perform miracles in Egypt and in the desert on the way to the Promise Land. Holding his arms up portrayed the Israelites dependence on the Lord for victory. (Summary of Exodus 17:8-12)

At the end of the day, it is God’s presence and power that enables us to overcome the spiritual fight against sin, worldliness and the evil one, this was my brother’s point. In Ephesians 6:10 – 13 it says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

This message was exactly what I needed to hear. I saw Edric as my enemy. I wanted to throw the winning punches. I wanted to come out on top by proving that I was better. Sometimes this is what marriage feels like — a duel! Yet the real battle raging inside me was a fight against pride, against the worldly perspective that I would be the loser if I humbled myself and admitted that I could improve. Ultimately, the source of these temptations was the evil one, who took the opportune moment to attack me and I didn’t recognize him. All I saw was Edric as my nemesis. I got into the boxing ring without God’s presence or power and I was “punching” the wrong person.

How do we overcome the Amalekites in our lives, the sinful struggles we have? My brother, Paul, encouraged the audience to strategize, pray, stay in the word of God, record and remember, and give glory to God.

How should this have played out with Edric and me? I should have realized that this fight was an invitation from the evil one and not Edric. The strategy should have been to look past the attack on my person to the good intent of Edric’s comment. He sought to make sure our guests were comfortable. Second, I should’ve prayed about the hurt I felt when he seemed to insinuate that I wasn’t a good home manager. Then, prayed to calm myself down, to give a Spirit-filled response. Next, I should have obeyed the Holy Spirit’s conviction to apply passages like “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6) and “Let a wife see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). If I had done these things, I would have experienced victory in the real battle, and given glory to God by my words and actions. I could’ve recorded and remembered what God accomplished when I “fought” in His power.

After worship, we rushed home to welcome our guests. Everyone was fine with the seating arrangements and they didn’t complain at all. They were troopers. Yet this wasn’t what really mattered. Edric and I knew we had to resolve our conflict. This wasn’t about being able to say, “See, I told you I was right.”

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Yesterday afternoon I asked for forgiveness and meant it, explaining to Edric my realization about the spiritual battle we are in. “Will you please forgive me for my disrespect and anger? I was wrong. Even if I was hurt by what you said, I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I was convicted that this was a spiritual attack.” I also explained to him all the preparations I made for the day that he didn’t know about and he apologized for implying that I wasn’t a good home manager.

Afterwards, the issue of the family room discussion was resolved and God gave us the opportunity this morning to converse over breakfast. We had other lingering issues to address. I expressed to Edric that lately, performing my role as a wife has felt burdensome and more like a chore. I don’t want it to be this way, but this has been my struggle in the past few weeks. He confessed that he has been a demanding husband so this could have something to do with it. He also assured me by saying, “We just need to rekindle the romance. I will take care of you.” This evening we will take time to be together when we have our date night.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CHESTKNOTS

Even though I’m definitely looking forward to spending time with Edric tonight, I know that the greater problem is not the romance in our marriage or that a wife’s roles can be burdensome and chore-like. It is the enemies of my heart…the pride, self-centeredness, the obsession with self-preservation, wrong thinking, and the lies of the evil one. Therefore, my life-lesson is this: When a walk-in closet becomes a boxing ring I need to remember that Edric is not my real opponent. And, unlike the battle between Pacquiao and Mayweather which had me on edge and stressed out of my mind, it’s comforting to know that when I fight the enemies of my heart in God’s power, the victory is always His!

I love Edric with all my heart. Why do I make him the enemy? We’re in this spiritual fight against sin, worldliness, and the evil one together, as a team, with God…

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CETAPHIL

We’ve Never Gone Hungry

God continues to provide for us through the many seasons of our lives. At the beginning of this year, our reserves were running low because we finished building our home September 2014 and we traveled to the U.S., staying there for a month in December. (There’s no way to make a trip cheap when you have five kids!)

During the first quarter of 2015, we also had some pretty hefty bills to pay and taxes for Edric’s independent speaking contracts to settle. Plus there were some unprecedented doodads that were piled on to the money we had to part with. The stress mounted for Edric, yet God calmed him down with the assurance that He will always take care of us.

When you marry a man who loves God and chooses to live righteously, a great amount of fear is removed from you as a wife. You know that God will provide through your husband. It may not mean you have loads of money all the time, but you can be confident that God will bless the work of his hands and you won’t go hungry. And should you go hungry, God won’t abandon you. He promises this.

I am always encouraged by the passage in Psalm 34:10 which reads, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.”

Amazingly, when Edric surrendered our finances once again to the Lord, choosing NOT to panic or be worried, God gave us a wonderful bonus to whisper that he is mindful of us. Galderma renewed our contract as Cetaphil ambassadors. Last year we were featured on billboards and in stores, but this year Galderma expanded their marketing efforts to television. It was a pleasant surprise and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

Our family thoroughly enjoyed participating in Cetaphil Philippines’ Campaign. Cetaphil is a brand we actually use and need. As a matter of principle, we prefer to take on projects that we can be authentic about. Furthermore, our family has a range of skin care needs – from oily, dry, sunburn-prone, aging to eczema. It’s great to represent a brand that meets these needs effectively.

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For example, we have all benefited from Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Wash, which never dries out our skin. Even my husband, Edric, who doesn’t like to fuss about his skin is a believer in this cleanser. When we were taping the commercial, one of the lines he gave had to do with Cetaphil’s fragrance free characteristic. It was truthful of him to act out the part where he said, “fragrance free!” with a smile because this is sooo him! His very intelligent nose (he can smell cockroaches) dislikes strong smelling soaps, lotions, or perfumes.

 

The other day while spraying myself with perfume, Edan remarked, “Does Dad know you do that?!” The tone of his questioning insinuated that this wasn’t something Edric would like. (I wasn’t going to see Edric for a good number of hours so the scent would have mellowed by the time we were together!)

My own skin care routine is very simple but thankfully, Cetaphil has a product for every step of my routine. After washing my face at night, I use Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream.

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Since my skin reacts to chemicals and products, this moisturizer calms it down at night and the next day it feels renewed. Due to my mom’s Caucasian genetics, my skin is on the “thin” side so this moisturizer makes it suppler. To protect my skin during the day I use Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15.

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During days when my skin is oilier than usual, I will wash with Cetaphil’s Dermacontrol Wash and use Dermacontrol Moisturizer, which also has sunblock in it. There are periods when my face is prone to breakouts so the Dermacontrol line rescues it.


009_CET_Foam_Wash_Bottle1 010_CET_OilControlMoisturizer_Bottle1If I’m at the beach, I need stronger protection, so I pile on Cetaphil’s UVA/UVB SPF 50+. It keeps me from getting burnt since I’m very prone to sun damage (due to, well, once again, being half-caucasian.)

As for my children, especially my youngest daughter, Catalina, Restoraderm has been wonderful. She has very dry skin on her legs and stomach. Restoraderm, which is also prescribed by our pediatrician for our kids’ Eczema, keeps the patchy, scaly spots from spreading to the rest of her body. It smoothens out her skin, too. Titus tends to have pretty bad Eczema when his outbreaks happen. So there are occasions when I will have to use a hydrocortisone cream and then Restoraderm on top. Of course, I’m also careful about what my kids eat which is why we avoid food with MSG, preservatives, and artificial ingredients as much as possible.

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Beyond being talents for Cetaphil’s commercial and the fact that their products do work for our family, the greater blessing for me was experiencing God’s provision. As our Heavenly Father, he knows what we need and when we need it. If He deems it for our good to open His storehouse, he will do so. He delights to take care of us. And if he should allow us to be in uncomfortable financial situations so we learn to trust him and work on our character, then we can still hold on to the truth about His person – He will never leave us or forsake us.

I elected to use the title, “We’ve Never Gone Hungry” in order to communicate a spiritual truth. The Cetaphil commercial was an amazing earthly blessing with positive financial implications, however, when we have Jesus, He satisfies something much greater than our physical needs. In John 6:35, he tells us, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me WILL NOT hunger, and he who believes in Me WILL NEVER thirst.”

I pray that the joy people see in our faces as portrayed on television will highlight something beyond a good product or grand. I pray it will reveal the joy that is in our family because of Jesus! Here’s a behind the scenes look at how much fun we had…

 

 

 

 

 

God Can Make the Most Out of Scrambled Eggs

I still have vivid memories of the evening I met Monique over ten years ago. She waltzed into our bible study, on the invitation of her twin sister, Michelle, with her voluminous hair the perfect complement to her charisma and spirited personality. She opened up to me with honesty, unabashedly talking about the condition and nature of her relationship to John, a married man she was living in with, with whom she had a one year old daughter.

At some point in the evening, there arose in me a strong impression to present to Monique the biblical viewpoint on her relationship. Looking back, there may have been a gentler way to put it. But as a young bible study leader, a rookie at dealing with colorful and complicated counseling situations, I showed her a passage in Scripture that exposed her adultery. I also admonished her to stop living in with John. Monique didn’t defend herself. In fact she sincerely pondered upon the exchange we had. I wasn’t sure if I would see her again after I showed her the bible verses and made that statement about adultery.

However, Monique continued to attend our meetings even while she remained in a relationship with John. On the one hand, she sincerely expressed interest in spiritual matters. Yet she found herself bound to John in a manner that was almost too complex to walk away from overnight. Not only did they share a child and a home, they were business partners. Furthermore, she was friends with John’s wife and acted like a mom to his first child.

In her attempt to find convergence, she brought John to one of the bible studies that Edric was leading. John interpreted this move as a big set-up. He locked himself in the bathroom with his laptop for two hours! Back then, we knew John pretty much disdained us for encouraging Monique to stop sleeping with him.

Not too long after, Monique had a second child with John. With tears she confessed to our bible study group that she was pregnant. Yet the most heartbreaking part was Monique’s discovery of John’s betrayal. He had been cheating on her with multiple women.

In pain and completely lost, Monique finally understood that Jesus Christ was the only one who could save her from her brokenness. The love and security she sought in her relationships with men could not be satiated by anyone except Christ. With complete surrender, she gave her life to the Lord.

As difficult as it was, she moved out of John’s home and committed to guard her sexual purity. It wasn’t a perfect journey but her decision to give up John had a profound impact on her spiritual life.

At the same time, the Lord began to move in John’s heart. Tired of his lifestyle and sexual addiction (he professed to have slept with over 50 women), and jolted back to reality when he lost Monique’s trust, John earnestly sought to reform his ways. He told Monique that she shouldn’t be with him because he was a sick person — spiritually and emotionally. Monique’s response to him was you need to seek Jesus.

As Monique took steps to avoid immorality and grow in her faith, she chose to forgive John, which was compelling evidence for her spiritual transformation. Furthermore, she forgave the women whom John cheated on her with. As a result, John chose to give his life to Jesus Christ, surrendering to His grace. He began growing spiritually in a discipleship group with other men under Roli Sabado.

Eventually, John also started coming to our bible studies faithfully. A genuine desire to grow in his faith marked his conversion. There were a lot of periphery issues that both he and Monique had to sort through but God plucked ungodly behaviors, attitudes, and perspectives out of them like straight pins being pulled off a pin cushion. Then he filled the holes with renewed thinking and the pursuit of holiness and wholeness in Christ.

However, the reality of their scrambled egg situation remained. At this point, John and his first wife were annulled and she was in a serious relationship with another man whom she intended to marry. He had two kids with Monique but he wasn’t married to her, and they couldn’t live in together. The most honorable recourse was to marry Monique so they could be a family.

 
We encouraged John and Monique to have a civil marriage first, and shortly after, they had a recommitment ceremony in Boracay. They asked us to be their Ninong and Ninang even if we felt underaged as 31 year olds but it was an honor as they were our “spiritual” children. During this event, Monique invited the women whom John had cheated on! Since she knew them as friends before the affairs happened, she also desired that they come into a relationship with Jesus. I don’t know too many people who would think to do this but Monique didn’t harbor any bitterness towards them. Her greater concern was for their spiritual healing.
 

Serving together in Before and After I Do

Today, John and Monique Ong  actively serve as an integral part of the CCF Family Ministry Team, contributing their expertise as business people in events, photography, and videography. They are homeschooling parents with a brood of five. They also hold weekly community worship services in their company building every Wednesday night. More importantly, their journey to Christ and the broken road that God fixed to get them there is an amazing testimony of His grace.

Some years ago I narrow-mindedly told Monique that there may be limitations to the scope of their ministry. Since John came from an annulled marriage, I thought this would be a contradiction to their desire to help people stay committed to their marriages. However, as I listened to them testify during the Before and After I Do Seminar, I realized my perceptions of their ministry’s reach had put God in a box.

 

The reality is John and Monique represent the truth about all of us. We are lost and scrambled apart from Christ — a mix of wrong choices, worldly thinking and philosophies, weary from the pain, the addictions to sin, the drive for success, money, or fame, burdened by the façades we try to manage and the chasing after the ever-elusive joy and peace that cannot be had apart from Him. John and Monique’s story also tells us that God meets us where we are at, as the messy scrambled eggs that we are, and He wants to make us whole. He CAN make us whole! He has a plan for us that is beyond what we can ever dream or imagine…

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (‭1 Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭9-12‬ NASB)

People rarely identify with those who look like perfect eggs which is why John and Monique are especially effective as portraits of God’s love and forgiveness. As John and Monique stood before the crowd with honesty and humility about the mess they used to be, they overflowed with God’s amazing grace. I knew about their faith journey before hearing them talk so openly about it in front of the 800 men and women who attended the seminar. But to recall the people they once were when we met them, and to see the fruit of their lives that day was just WOW! Wow to the God who does the impossible and the inconceivable, who takes a sexual addict and makes him a holy, committed husband…who takes an adulterous woman and makes her honorable, healing her broken heart, and making her more beautiful inside and out!

No life, no scrambled egg is beyond the reach or redeeming power of God’s grace. When we receive His forgiveness and come into a relationship with Him through Jesus, His Son, repenting from our sins and surrendering ourselves to Him, He gives us a new beginning. We receive peace and joy in the present, hope for the future, and a story to tell about our past that brings glory to His name.

 

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”(‭Psalms‬ ‭103‬:‭2-4, 10-12‬ NASB)

Tomorrow, John and Monique will share their story at our church, CCF, at the 9am and 12 noon services. If you have friends or family who need hope and encouragement, invite them and come along, too! You will be blessed!

CCF: Frontera Verde, Ortigas avenue corner C5, Pasig City
POST SCRIPT:
Due to the difficult questions that people have asked as a result of this post I am including more details about John and Monique’s situation before they got married.
John filed for annulment as early as 2002 when he didn’t know the Lord. He got denied. He was not a believer then. Yes, there were attempts to restore their marriage. Initially, when they parted ways, John’s wife was in another relationship, so the mother of his wife asked John to help fix the situation. John tried. He even lived in their in laws house to try to make it work. But still the outcome was still the same. John’s wife did not give him any hope of reconciling. She filed for an annulment in 2006. She was pregnant with her present husband’s child. In 2007, John came to the Lord. The court approved his wife’s annulment in March 2008 and she got married in 2009. John and Monique also got married in 2009. 
No matter what is said here, people will still question the decisions made by John and Monique, and even myself for posting this article, and Edric and I for being the couple that mentored them. Re-marriage is such a hotly debated topic and there is no way to avoid reactions to a story like this, and so I understand why I have come under fire for this post.
For those who have thought my words to be ill-chosen and the story to be an example of how divorce and remarriage is okay, that was not my intention. Please forgive me. At the same time, I have seen John and Monique’s lives since the mess they were in. And I know that they have born fruit.
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16 – 20
As I shared, but perhaps not clearly enough, we told them they were in sin from the very beginning. I also expressed that there may be limitations to the scope of their ministry if they get married because of their back ground. However, I can think of so many people in God’s word who didn’t make the best choices even after they already knew the Lord — David? Solomon? Moses? Peter? But we are still blessed by what God has done in their lives. We read about their stories in God’s Word. Do we say to ourselves, let’s copy the bad choices they made and rely on God’s grace after? I hope not!
Did David, Solomon, Moses, and Peter end well despite their bad choices? By God’s grace, yes. Sure, they should have done a lot of things better. John and Monique could’ve done a lot of things better, too. I could have done a lot of things better in my own life as well. And I’m still a work in progress.
This post isn’t about saying copy John and Monique’s wrong choices because they are turning out okay. But to say that John and Monique’s lives should NOT be used as an example of grace just because John was a divorcee and Monique used to live in with him…Shouldn’t the focus be the fruit that they are bearing now despite where they came from? Isn’t that a story that God can use to encourage those who have made their own set of bad choices verses being interpreted as a story that gives us license to make bad choices?
Nevertheless…I will be more careful in the future when I publish posts because this is a very public site and I need to be very discerning about the content I write about. And I praise God that this is a blog where clarifications and apologies can be made, and people can give their honest opinions, too. So thank you to my readers who have called out the inconsistencies and voiced their convictions. It’s very humbling to come under fire like this (and discouraging. sigh.) but I will gladly accept the criticism because writing on this site is a big responsibility and God wants me to be accountable. I shouldn’t take it lightly or ignore opinions when they are very valid. So thank you to the brave ones who commented and corrected me! And I now I’m going to move on to write other posts. You may continue the dialoguing among yourselves of course but I will now excuse myself from the commenting back and forth. :)