What Is This Love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we easily give up on our family members?

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

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

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

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

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

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil, Brazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I grumbled…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vomit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At 11 months

Catalina is nearly 1 year old. Has it passed that quickly? It’s been 11 months of loving my baby through sleepless nights and soiled diapers.

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At the same time last year I was stressing out about the realities of giving birth to a fifth child. I got through that and then came the challenge of her first month. Confined twice, once for an unknown bacterial infection and then for pneumonia a month later. But now look at her. I am amazed at how God makes all things beautiful in his time. For all the heartaches and pains he allows in our lives, there is a season of rejoicing that follows when we hope in him.

It was this hope that kept me afloat when I was lost in the darkness of uncertainty, when I was a mother gripped by anguish at the sight of her sickly child. Had it not been for hope’s warm light illuminating the tunnel of my consciousness, I would have given in to the blackening despair.

I was the saddest I had ever been, looking listlessly at white walls, past the point of tears. Edric feared that I was disappearing, emotionally speaking. But my Savior, my harbinger of hope, in a hospital room where I thought myself alone in sorrow, broke through my night with the affirmation of his presence.

It happened in an instant, while I watched my baby wearing her tubes and monitors lying quietly in her plastic crib. I said in my heart, “Surely now you are here with me as you have promised that you would always be. I believe it and I claim it.” And then I knew he was. There was no apparition. But I was convinced that he was watching it all unfold, his eyes upon me through the tempest. They were upon my sleeping child. We were the fixed mark of his love.

Then a peace and a calm that only he could bring entered into the arena with me. I had a fighting chance against the oppressive grief. In time, those dark days ebbed away. On the hope of his presence, I survived. As the weeks became months, the joy returned. His joy.

Sometimes on the path to joy, we must pass through the pain, the loneliness, and the darkness. It is during those shadowed moments when humanity’s weighted sorrows feel larger than us that we tend to reach for God. And finding Him we find the answer to our questions, the calm to our fears, the balm to our wounds, the satisfaction to our longings, the hope to our despair, the heaven to our hell.

I do not know the rest of my child’s story. But I am enjoying where it’s at right now. This page of her history declares that God is good and faithful. His doings are often mysterious to my finite mind but they are directed towards the same end — that I should know him, obey him, love him, and serve him, and lead others to do the same.

For all its turns, valleys and precipices, its narrow ways and indiscernible paths, I would not trade this life for any other as long as God is with me. He is the Lover of my soul, my all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present Savior, Redeemer and Friend. To know him is to know joy, and in him is a life of joy!

O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts
… (‭Psalms‬ ‭95‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

The Broken Hour Glass

“Where’s Edan?” I asked Elijah and Titus, who were checking out the toys in the bookstore. They shrugged their shoulders and tilted their heads in a clueless manner. Usually my three boys stick together when we are in public places. I even dress them alike so it’s easier to spot them. But Edan was nowhere in sight.

I probably would have panicked had I not ventured toward the paper section and caught sight of his very recognizable red shoe. It was sticking out on one side of a shelf. He was sitting cross-legged on the floor.

Relieved, I maneuvered my shopping cart up to him. Why was he hiding behind the bookshelf? He told me soon enough.

“Mom I broke something.” His countenance revealed embarrassment and fear.

“Really? What happened?”

He stuck his hand behind a stack of papers and pulled out a miniature hour glass that was bent out of shape. Its glass was cracked open, too. I suppose he had tried to conceal the thing because it had no business camping out in that dark corner where no one could see it.

“You have to tell the sales lady,” was my response. Then I turned it over. 79 pesos. Whew. I could cover for this if the store charged us.

I encouraged him to confess to the sales lady and explain to her what happened. He didn’t want to at first because he was scared. But this was necessary for his character growth — owning up to his mistake. And I added that he could ask for “mercy.”

He requested that I accompany him, which I did. We found a sweet looking sales lady to admit the accident to. She looked at Edan who held up the broken hour glass with his small hands. (I was hoping she was thinking he was so adorable.)

She went to her manager and came back a few minutes later saying, “It’s okay.” We didn’t need to buy it! Yeah! I was so happy. Edan was certainly relieved!

I didn’t know what the outcome was going to be when he made his confession. But I was glad that Edan experienced mercy. Ultimately I attributed this to God’s mercy. Edan did the right thing by being honest. Thankfully this was affirmed by the forgiveness he experienced.

The Bible says, He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully. He shall receive a blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Psalms 24:3-5 NASB)

I am not saying that a person will always be exempted from the consequences of their mistakes, but at the very least, when that person admits to them openly, he makes himself right before God. And that is the best thing that can happen to him or her.

When parents tell me that their children have problems with lying, I encourage them to consider whether their child has an authentic relationship with the Lord.

The Bible reveals this, “For you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8-10 NASB)

Children of God will bear the fruit goodness, righteousness, and truth. While it’s possible to struggle with truthfulness even if a person knows God, at some point the Holy Spirit’s conviction to confess will be too strong to ignore.

In the Bible, King David wrestled with confessing his immorality with Bathsheeba and his murder of Uzziah, but eventually he acknowledged his sin before the Lord and Nathan, the prophet. He lost his son as a consequence but he experienced spiritual and physical restoration.

How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD “; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Many are the sorrows of the wicked, But he who trusts in the LORD, lovingkindness shall surround him. Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous ones; and shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. (Psalms 32:2-5, 10, 11 NASB)

When I was a kid I would lie, cheat and steal. I knew it was wrong but I wasn’t as remorseful as I should have been. When I turned 9 years old, I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, and I developed the desire to live with integrity. Even if I was still tempted to cover up or dodge the consequences of my wrongs, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow me to rest or have peace in my heart.

For example, when Edric and I were struggling with purity in our dating relationship I wanted us to tell my parents. It was a mortifying thought but Edric felt the same need to do so as well. When we did tell them it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life (and possibly his), but God was able to take our failure and use it for good. There was the reality of shame to deal with, but we received mercy and forgiveness by coming into the light.

Did we have to tell them? I mean what kind of 23 year olds talk to their parents about something like this?! We were adults. But God made it clear that if we wanted their blessing for our future marriage, then they had to know that we struggled with purity in our relationship. When they gave the blessing for us to get married, it was with insight and knowledge of all the “facts.”

We all need to respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit when he puts a conviction in our hearts. What he asks us to do may not be easy. Often times it is the harder road to take. But we must commit to obey first and then entrust the results to God, including the consequences that may ensue.

I asked Edan why he told me that he broke the hour glass. I imagine that he was pretty nervous while he sat in the shadowed shelter of the bookshelf, contemplating what to do. His response was, “I wanted to do the right thing.”

When I followed up with “But why did you want to do the right thing?”, he answered “Because I wanted to obey God.”

Edan didn’t have to tell me. No one would have known. But because he has a relationship with the Lord, he was compelled to obey him.

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Someday Edric and I won’t be around to tell him what is right and wrong. This is true for all of our children. They must all develop the habit of being sensitive to God’s prodding now. In the future, should they commit bigger and more serious mistakes, I hope they will all have the courage to own up to them as well.

This is a value Edric and I need to teach our children and remember to practice ourselves. It’s about integrity and righteousness –the conviction to please God — in public and private, knowing that we stand accountable before him. We need to fear him more than men.

And the bonus is…God bestows amazing favor upon those who walk up rightly!

O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; But they who seek the LORD shall not be in want of any good thing. Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Who is the man who desires life and loves length of days that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and His ears are open to their cry. The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. (Psalms 34:9-17 NASB)

You Are My Kryptonite

Edric threw his work bag into the back of the car, and plopped himself beside me. “You are my Kryptonite,” he said, throwing his arms over his head with a smirk on his face.

“Huh?! Me?!”

“Yes, my Krypton.”

I inched over to him and hugged him. I love being Kryptonite…his “weakness,” as he calls it.

We had come from a lunch and I should’ve gone home by myself, but I turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you just come home with me?!” He didn’t have much going on at work so I hoped he would take the invitation. (Plus, if he had stayed at the office, he would have been home really late because his car was color-coded.)

“I think I will do that,” was his response, and I could hardly suppress my giddy excitement. The idea of having him around for the afternoon was such a treat!

Shortly after, he semi-ruined the romantic moment when he jokingly presented what looked like a booger to me and said, “Come on, I dropped everything for you this afternoon…take it. We are one person anyway.”

“Yes we are, but we don’t have the same boogers.”

He just wanted a reaction from me, a scream of girlish horror (which he received).

I’m glad we still have fun. We play silly games. We tease. We laugh. We exchange ideas and opinions. We argue and discuss our differences. We finish each other’s sentences.  We serve the Lord together. We cry because God is good…because it’s so amazing to raise children and watch them grow up…because we don’t deserve anything that we have…because it’s all grace.

This is grace. Right here. Right now. Having a husband who is tender and sweet towards me even after 13 years of knowing everything ugly, sinful, and complicated about me, and then calling me his Kryptonite. It’s flattering. It’s comforting. It’s scary!

If I don’t walk with the Lord I can be a stumbling block in his life. I can be a thorn in his side. I can be the devious whisperer who hisses negative thoughts and ideas into his ear…about people, circumstances, the present, the future…

So I have to guard my own heart. I must walk faithfully with the Lord and make sure that I encourage him to do the same. While he is my leader and the head of our home, he has given me the privilege of his trust. And with this comes a responsibility.

He said, “I must whisper well.”

A woman whispers into the ear of her husband and she can influence him towards or away from Christ-likeness. Take for example, Jezebel to Ahab.

1 Kings 21:25 tells us, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him.”

That’s not who I want to be to Edric! But I can certainly become this way if I’m not careful. I can have a Jezebel-spirit if I’m not filled with the Holy Spirit. A Jezebel-spirit is one who seeks to control and manipulate her husband to do what is wrong in God’s eyes, for her own gain and purposes.

Recently, I have wanted to buy more furniture for the house. But Edric has told me that we have to “tighten the belt” now. We have spent a lot for our new home so we have to temper our purchases, spread them out. My impulse is to finish decorating everything right away. But I have to mind what I say when I express this desire to him. If I pressure him, he will find a way to make more money. However, he is trying to turn down offers for added income so he can streamline his activities and be more focused. As crazy as it may sound, this is a good thing. It’s what I have prayed for.

The last six months have been tough with him traveling to so many different parts of the Philippines. God convicted him to be very selective about what he commits to. Of course this means less money. However, it also means more time for family, ministry, and spearheading the homeschooling movement. These are God-honoring preoccupations that matter in eternity.

As for the house, it’s here. It’s pretty much done. The sprucing and decorating can happen as we go along. In the meantime, I have to practice contentment and thankfulness. I’ve got to support Edric’s desire to give more time to the Lord’s work and not push him to make more money for me to spend on our house. In other words, I have to mind my whisperings as his Kyrptonite because he listens to what I have to say and values it, because my happiness matters to him, and because he loves me. Therefore, my heart has to be wholly devoted to the Lord so that I speak words that encourage Edric to make choices and decisions that honor God. I want to be a GOOD Kryptonite!

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37 NASB)

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The Magic of Unconditional Love

The kids and I spent the morning at Splash Island with my siblings and their kids a few days ago. We were having a belated celebration for one of my nieces who turned 7. It was my first time to visit Splash Island and I would give it a 6 out of 10 for cleanliness and upkeep, an 9 out of 10 for fun.

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From a parent’s perspective the hygiene and sanitation factor is important to me, especially since I have little kids who often put their fingers in their mouths and swallow pool water all the time. But my kids could care less about these things. They were laughing about the frog that was swimming in the water, which the lifeguard nonchalantly picked up and chucked out of the pool, and the dark mold which made creepy patterns in the water tube slide (according to Titus).

Regardless of how Splash Island has aged over the years, the kids had a blast. Some of them even liked it better than Imperial Palace (a beautiful, world-class water park in Cebu).

Unfortunately, two unpleasant things happened during our water park morning. Elijah lost his very expensive prescription glasses, and Edan’s old and ugly crocs were stolen. (I find it hard to believe that anyone would have wanted those shoes!)

The day began with the kids bouncing around in the huge wave pool. Since I had gone to the park with 5 kids, no yaya, and no Edric, I wasn’t very “on the ball” about certain details. One very crucial detail was telling Elijah to give me his glasses before he got into the wave pool. Initially he wanted me to keep them in the locker but I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to see anything if he got lost in the park. So I told him to keep them with him. Bad idea.

While I was preoccupied with watching my three younger children, Elijah and Edan took on the biggest waves right away. A few minutes later, Elijah’s glasses were knocked off his face by a wave. Unable to see clearly, he had no idea where they were in the water. I was at the opposite end holding Catalina so I couldn’t rush over to help him find them either.

Some moments later, my siblings and I tried to look for them, hoping they would be washed “ashore.” Nothing turned up. I prayed and prayed. I also asked Elijah to hold on to Catalina when the wave pool was turned off so I could do a more thorough search. Since I didn’t bring goggles, the life guard was kind enough to lend me his. On any normal day I wouldn’t have used a stranger’s goggles, but I was pretty desperate! I swam along the sides of the pool to check the corners at the bottom. I dove down numerous times to survey the floor. Even if the water was kind of murky at the part where the waves came from (which should have totally disgusted me), I didn’t stop my hunt until I covered every inch along that end of the pool. My siblings searched other areas of the pool as well. Sadly, it was all in vain. Visiting the lost and found twice and asking them to call or text me in case the glasses were turned in didn’t make a difference either. Sigh. I felt horrible.

In the meantime, Elijah didn’t seem to mind a bit. He couldn’t see much but he was having such a good time it didn’t really matter that the entire park was blurry from his perspective.

The kids and their cousins spent the rest of the morning on the slides while I held on to Catalina. I was kind of glum because I couldn’t believe the glasses were gone. Plus I dreaded to call Edric at work to let him know.

In the changing room, I finally phoned him. Surprisingly, Edric didn’t seem too upset. He was disappointed but he didn’t get angry. I didn’t really expect him to flip out but I thought I was in for a teaching session that might have begun with, “So what were you thinking when you told him to wear his glasses while swimming?” There was none of that.

At about 12:30 pm, I had to leave. The boys stayed with their cousins and I took the girls home. During the ride home, I profusely apologized via text, telling Edric again how sorry I was. I didn’t check my phone until a while later but when I did, I read this message…”I love you and I will always take care of you.”

What?! Wow! I texted him right back, “Thanks babe. That actually made me cry…” To which he replied, “Great, that’s the idea.”

He knows what a sucker I am for sweet, tender professions of his love for me, especially when I make a mistake and feel very ashamed and unworthy. In the grand scheme of things, losing a pair of glasses may not have been a big deal. But ever since we moved to our new home we have emphasized to our children the value of being good stewards of God’s blessings. Letting Elijah wear his glasses while running around the water park was a very irresponsible decision. I should have made it very clear that he could wear them while walking from one ride to another and then asked him to hand them to me before swimming.

While I was mulling over my impaired judgment, the last thing I thought I would receive was a text message telling me that I was precious, important, and cherished. When Edric sent me his message, I felt a sudden rush of joy. He didn’t rub salt on my mistake by giving me a lecture about responsibility. Instead he emphasized my value to him as a wife. That made my day! In fact, I was so excited to spend time with him that I dressed up in an outfit I knew he would like, dropped by the store to buy him snacks, and went to his office for an impromptu visit. He was thrilled to see me.

When we were finally in the car together, he looked at me with a big smile and said, “I like it when you give me undivided attention!” He also asked, “Did you notice that I didn’t say anything negative when you called me about the glasses? That’s my new realization. I won’t say anything if I have nothing good to say and I will wait before responding.” (Edric is such an intense person that he can be reactive when circumstances trigger his emotions.)

Of course I noticed! And I loved it! After all, he knew that I was very cognizant of my wrong. So he took a much kinder approach and reassured me that I didn’t have to fret over what happened because he loved me and would always take care of me.

I felt transported to one of those cheesy scenes where I was running towards Edric in a field of flowers wearing a white billowy dress (no braces or bangs) and everything was golden with sunshine. My, my, my, the power of words spoken in a timely fashion to soothe and calm the soul of a perturbed lover (aka me)!

This incident made me realize that spouses need to say things like this to one another more often. It’s like a magical formula for romantic feelings. It’s hard for lovey-dovey feelings to blossom when the soil of a relationship is overgrown with the weeds of fear, shame, anger, disappointment, insecurity, and unforgiveness. But when unconditional love is offered, especially to the one who is undeserving, it inspires them to change for the better and to love the giver in return.

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From a spiritual perspective, it’s the same way with God. An understanding of what He did for us on the cross should result in the desire to repent of sin, serve him, follow him, and be with him. He is the truest example of unconditional love and he invites us to rest in this love rather than hide in our shame or continue in sin. Furthermore, being filled with His love allows us to channel it to others…especially to our spouses who need it the most from us!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11 NASB)

 

From the Heart the Mouth Speaks

I was sitting across from Elijah while he finished his curry and noodles over lunch. He said, “My eyesight is getting worse. I can hardly read without my glasses on.” About a year ago, he could take his glasses off and read something that was 12 to 24 inches away. But not anymore. Of course it troubles him. It troubles me, too.

When he watched “Heaven is For Real” with my dad a few weeks ago, he told me, “Mom, I was so happy to know that in heaven no one is wearing glasses!” He is definitely looking forward to perfect vision in eternity.

It’s always hard for me as a mom to watch my children struggle through life’s disappointments. I can’t help his eyes get better, at least not yet. There’s the option of laser surgery when he turns 21 but he’s got many more years to go until then. And we were told that his eyes could get really bad when he goes through puberty. Sigh. We shall cross that bridge when we get there.

For now, what encourages me is Elijah’s faith and walk with the Lord. He lives with an unfulfilled longing — to have better eyesight. But he has the right perspective. He has turned that longing over to the Lord.

After we talked about his eyes, he added, “I have three prayers that I always pray…the first is that I will always love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is that we will all go to heaven at the same time. Third is that my eyes will be healed.” (I suppressed a tear! I am such a crybaby mom.)

Elijah may only be 11 years old, but his relationship with God teaches me how to have faith. He went on to say, “Only God can answer these prayers.”

It’s moments like these, during casual, random conversations with my children that I really get a glimpse into what’s going on in their hearts. I was blessed to know that loving God was number one for Elijah. That’s number one on my prayer list for all my kids, too. If God should grant that Elijah stays faithful to him all the days of his life, it would be my greatest joy as a mother. Whether we are raptured together or his eyes are restored completely, these things are secondary to the first of his prayers. If he loves God with all that he is, he already has heaven and he already has his sight.

In the meantime, as a mom, I keep hoping in God’s goodness and plan for Elijah’s life. The same goes for all my children. There are times when I know that God is doing something in the life of my child or children and I must stand aside. I watch as their faith is tested and purified in God’s refiner’s fire. Sometimes it is hard to watch. But each of my children must come to that point in their lives where they choose to follow God. I cannot choose for them. They must have a personal encounter with Him and His love, grace and forgiveness. I cannot experience these things for them.

However, Edric and I have to be present and available so we can be privy to what’s happening in their innermost persons. And then our job is to provide the environment and example, to teach the truth that leads our children to Him, and to pray earnestly and habitually for them. The rest of their life stories…especially the circumstances, trials, and challenges that will come their way, we have to surrender to the Lord and trust that he is control. He has a master plan for calling our children to Himself. If Edric and I do our part, then we can rest in that assurance.

I hugged Elijah yesterday when he was getting emotional about his eyes again. And he let me hold him. Sometimes I think that he is very mature in a lot of ways because he acts older for his age. But at that moment he was still a child and he needed a hug from mom. I asked him if it still mattered that he got hugs from me. And he said, “Mom, of course, if I go blind (his worst fear), that’s the only thing I will feel.” Oh okay. Kind of dramatic but what a totally sweet thing to say! Thank you Lord for these precious years…

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Enjoying Our New Home

“We can be a family here,” was something I said to Edric tonight as we watched the kids run around the island in our kitchen. (I think I gave them too much milk tea.) He pulled me close and told me that this was his exact sentiment. We had just finished singing Chris Tomlin’s version of “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The older boys attempted to harmonize and the two younger kids gave their all at the parts they knew…namely, the chorus.

After seven months of our nomadic lifestyle in and out of my parents’ place and Edric’s parents’ place while finishing our house, we are finally settled into our new place. It’s not completely done. The yard needs grass. Our stairs have to be rectified. Some minor fixes and painting works remain. We don’t have all our furniture in. Plus, I’ve got a few more boxes to unpack. But that’s okay. Even if settling in has come with its challenges, we are beginning to build routines that make it feel like home.

Today, the kids played basketball with Edric in the cul-de-sac in front of our house.

Two weeks ago when they were shooting hoops, it felt like we were at ground zero. When Edric called out to our children to join him for a game, Edan was braiding pipe cleaners. Braiding?! What the heck?! Titus was like, “I’m hiding!” when Edric was looking to pass the ball to him. Elijah was getting frustrated that he couldn’t shoot the ball. I accidentally knocked Tiana over and she wanted to quit. When Edan ran off for a water break, Edric called to him. “No water breaks!” This was exercise time. No one was allowed to leave the “court.” Tiana started to complain about being tired but Titus (her teammate) looked her square in the face while holding her shoulders and very emphatically said, “Tiana, we have to exercise!” Not too long afterwards Edric passed the ball to Titus and he said, “Shoot it, Titus!” Titus held the ball and threw it backwards to, um…no one.

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What a comedy. At one point some neighbors down the street were watching our very low scoring basketball game. It was embarrassing. It was a game of celebrated turnovers.

I turned to Edric and jokingly said, “my, my, the years that the locusts have eaten!” in reference to the fact that our kids spent so many years living in the city and inside our condominium.

When Edric and I were living in Bonifacio Global City, I coveted big open spaces where my kids could run around. I really wanted my children to grow up climbing trees, kicking soccer balls, playing catch, or shooting hoops in the backyard. For a long time, this was all fantasy. We tried our best to walk them to High Street and back and run around the fields that remained, but it wasn’t always very easy to get them outdoors.

But this afternoon, while Edric was spending time with the kids dribbling, passing, and shooting the basketball, I thought of how wonderfully surreal it all was. I was cooking Thai food for dinner while watching the kids enjoy themselves. (They are getting much better!) Tiana was prancing around in her leotards and tutu. Little Catalina was being pushed around in her tricycle.

I can’t thank the Lord enough for giving us this home. He blessed us with a place where we can build memories as a family.

This morning I sat on our balcony and watched the sun come up while I read my Bible. It wasn’t even 6 am. We recently got blinds that should block out the light but it still finds its way in between the panels. I don’t mind. First light is a beautiful sight. Plus, I love the sounds of morning. There’s a bird that sings a tune I used to hear when I was a child. Every morning I listen for it and remember the happy days of my childhood. Now it sings for the days of my children. I’m still pinching myself. God is good!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He (God) has made all things beautiful in his time…”

 

 

 

Courtship and Dating

I was going through my old files and I found this talk on Courtship and Dating. For my single readers out there…this is for you…

Edric and I would like to share with you how our relationship started so that you can copy the good about it and avoid the mistakes we made. Some things we learned the hard way and we want to be honest with you. But we pray that at the end of this, you will be blessed and encouraged to follow God’s principles for courtship and dating.

Edric: Joy and I have been happily married for 13 years. We have three boys, Elijah, Edan and Titus, and two girls, Tiana and Catalina. We first met in college at Ateneo. I was a very religious person and one of the things that got me interested in Joy was our first conversation. Since we had psychology class together, we sometimes had group projects. And during one of these occasions we were seated beside each other and had a very deep conversation about God. Before then, I had crushes on many different girls and Joy was never one of them because even though I thought she was beautiful, she struck me as someone foreign—not someone I would click with. But after getting to talk to her, I was completely intrigued.

Things to note –

  • Don’t rule out someone who is not your initial type because God they could turn out to be God’s best type for you. Be willing to look further than just your comfort zone.
  • Men appreciate being able to have a meaningful conversation with a woman. And women, if you can practice the art of good conversation (asking thoughtful questions and acknowledging and responding to our answers), that makes us feel very connected with you.

Joy: When I first got to talk to Edric, I immediately noticed that he was different than most of the guys in college. He was a principled person. He was straightforward, honest, and easy to talk to. We were both blessed to have been raised with a godly set of values, so we had a lot in common. But, we had different religious beliefs. So initially, I guarded my heart because I did not want to get involved with someone who did not share the same faith. That was the most important criteria for me in dating anyone. But, it was very difficult not to like Edric. He was very gentlemanly, sweet, kind, and charming.

Things to note –

  • As women, we appreciate transparency and unpretentiousness (like the guy isn’t trying to prove anything or put up a front). It makes us feel like we can trust the man. Values mean a lot to us. A guy can be super goodlooking, carry himself well, and be very confident, but if he doesn’t have a good set of values, he becomes unattractive very fast (to women who are looking for a serious relationship).
  • Try to find out if the person shares the same belief that you do even before you start to fall for a person. Once you get married, you need to be spiritually aligned because you will be making decisions and establishing values as ONE, especially when it comes to convictions about faithfulness, finances and parenting.

Edric started to pursue a relationship with me sometime after that and I remember that he came to my house one evening during our Junior year of college with 36 roses to ask me out to dinner. My parents realized that he was seriously interested in me. They said to me that evening, “Why don’t you invite him in to have dinner with the family instead of going out?” They wanted to get to know him. Edric was a very good sport and agreed.

Things to note –

  • When a guy is open to getting to know your family it is a very positive sign. It means that he has nothing to hide, that he wants to get to know more about you through the people that you care about. And, it makes a very remarkable impression on your parents and siblings!
  • And of course, being blatantly romantic is very charming. Almost every woman I know appreciates it when a guy goes the extra mile just to communicate that you are important to him. Thirty-six flowers was very sweet.

Edric: I remember during this dinner that Joy’s dad asked me a very famous question that he asks all dinner guests. “Edric, have you ever come to a point in your spiritual life wherein you are sure that if you die you will go to heaven?” All of Joy’s four siblings turned to face me as I answered, “Yes, I think so, because I try to be a good person.” Joy’s father said, “That’s interesting, well maybe one of these days I can share with you what it means to really have that assurance.” And as if on queue, Joy’s siblings said, “Why don’t you share with him now?!” In a matter of seconds, one of them had run to get a bible and plopped it right in front of Joy’s dad. Then, Joy’s siblings politely vacated the table to give us privacy. That night, I came to understand salvation and place my trust in Jesus Christ. Before this time, I had always thought that I could earn my way into heaven by being a good person. But that night, something changed. I accepted Jesus into my heart and I began to have a personal relationship with him. A different kind of peace came over me. I had the assurance that if I died that very day, I would be with Jesus, not because of my good works, but because he died for me and paid for my sins. But I still had a lot of spiritual growing that I needed to experience.

Things to note -

  • Spiritual leadership is one of the key roles of a man, especially in marriage. Whenever we conduct premarital counseling for couples, I always tell the guy, the buck stops with you. As a man, you are going to be the head of your marriage relationship, and the most important aspect of being the head is that you have to take charge spiritually. You don’t have to “dominate” spiritually but you are going to be held accountable for the spiritual health of your wife and kids. When Adam and Even sinned in the garden of Eden, God looked for Adam. He held Adam responsible even if Eve took the first bite. When I was in college, I didn’t know how critical it was that for me to be a spiritual leader as man, and that is why I want to share this with you, as early as now, before some of you make any major decision in the area of relationships. Are you ready to lead, take the helm?

Joy: After this evening, I got very excited. I thought, yippee! Edric understands what I believe, we can actually start dating! Well that was a wrong perspective. I should have waited on God’s perfect timing. My parents liked Edric very much but they also wanted me to focus on my studies more. Unfortunately, Edric and I started to became a distraction to each others’ studies, to developing our abilities and other relationships, and to maximizing our time to do ministry and serve others. Why? Because it was not yet the right time. The reality was that we were still in college, so even if we really thought we loved each other, we couldn’t get married, yet.

Things to note –

  • Sometimes it can be the right person but not the right time. Or the right time but the wrong person. Both of those have to be right before you commit to a relationship.
  • A very practical way to discern if you are ready to get into a serious relationship is this guideline: Each person needs to answer three major questions in their life –The 3 M’s — Master, Mission, and the Mate. If you already know who your master is – meaning who you will commit your life to (the spiritual question), then you can answer the second question, what will I do with my life, how will I best serve and glorify God with the abilities and strengths he has given me? And if you have answered that second question because you are already doing what you believe God wants you to be doing, then you can ask yourself the third question. What kind of person will enable me to pursue a life that is pleasing and glorifying to God?

Here some other practical considerations:

  1. Have you made a list of what you are looking for in a person you would like to marry?
  2. For the men – are you able to be financially independent from your parents and provide for a family?
  3. Have you established your personal standards for purity (that you are not willing to compromise on)?
  4. Do you have your parents’ full blessing and approval to get into a relationship with this person?

Edric: When Joy and I started to get serious about our relationship, we also began to compromise in the area of physical purity. We really believed that we loved each other and we were very attracted to each other. Because we spent a lot of alone time together, it was very hard to resist being physical with each other. Praise God we didn’t go all the way but we came way too close, too many times. This was a source of tension in our relationship because we both felt frustrated that we were not pleasing God.

After college, Joy and I began to think more objectively about our relationship. We both wanted to get married but we knew that we were not practicing purity before God. We said, “How can we expect God to bless our relationship if we are not completely obeying him?” We both decided to do something drastic — to break up and spend time discerning God’s direction for us as individuals. God convicted us to ask, “Whom do you love more, this person or me?” We had made each other more important than our relationship with God.

Things to note –

  • Because being physical outside of marriage is not God’s design, you cannot expect God’s blessing or hand to be upon your life or the relationship. Both Joy and I wanted God’s blessing. We did not have peace about staying together if we could not control the physical aspect of our relationship. Some of you might be in the same predicament or you might have experienced this same issue in the past. And let me assure you that if you put God first, he will work things out for good in your life. For those of you who don’t think it is such a big deal to be physical before marriage, let me caution you. We are all free to make decisions but not free to escape the consequences. Joy and I have counseled a lot of couples who do not experience a fulfilling sex life in marriage because they exhausted that aspect long before they ever God married. And when you mess with God’s design, there will always be consequences. God’s grace can turn things around, but if you want God’s best plan for your future marriage, then make the hard decisions now – decisions that are based on God’s word and truth and not what the world is saying or doing.

1 Corinthians 6:18-19 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Joy: Edric and I believed that if we put God first in our lives and seek him first, then he would bring us back together if that was his will. But we needed to want him above all things, above even our love for one another. When we broke up, we sought God independently and put him first. But it was extremely painful and difficult. The terms were: no communicating, no text messaging, no emailing unless absolutely necessary. God allowed this period of separation to be a time of delving in God’s word, reviving my prayer life, focusing on my job, and getting involved in ministry work. The same happened for Edric. Our lives became fruitful again.

Things to note –

  • When you are waiting on God for a person or answer about a relationship, don’t be passive. Busy yourself doing ministry, go all out in your job, enjoy your friendships and loved ones, and most of all, find your completeness in Christ. One of the most dangerous things you can think about relationships is “This person is going to make me happy.” That’s not true. You need to take two happy, contented people to make one happy relationship. Find your joy and satisfaction in Christ and you can love your future spouse out of this joy and satisfaction.

Edric: This was a very difficult period for me. No one had ever broken up with me. In the past, I was the one that did the breaking up with my ex-girlfriends. But God used this period of separation to work in my heart and prepare me to be a husband.

God was amazingly faithful. I continued to pray for Joy and Joy continued to pray for me. I knew in my heart that Joy was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But the Lord had to confirm this. My practical concerns were: I would have to be the spiritual leader, be able to make enough money to provide for a wedding, family, and home. And most importantly, get the full blessing of both Joy’s parents and my parents if I was ever to ask her for her hand in marriage.

I set up a secret meeting with Joy’s mom and dad for their blessing to marry her. They said yes. Whew. After half a year of praying, preparing and discerning, I was ready to ask Joy to marry me. Finally, I asked God, is it time? And he led me to this verse in Exodus 3:33, “I myself, the Lord answered, will go along to give you rest.” And I had complete peace. I set up an elaborate plan to orchestrate the proposal and I put the ring inside an old Bible and wrote out the question, “Will You Marry Me?” Everyone was in on the plan, except for Joy. Praise God she said, “Yes!”

Things to note –

  • God knows the desires of your heart. If these desires are for your greater good, he will give them to you. If they are wrong desires, he will give you something better. The key is to discern when you are in the center of his will – so he can speak to you clearly. The same thing applies to relationships. You might be interested in someone and think, this person is it! If only God will allow us to be together! If you pray about it and God says a clear no, then be excited that God has someone better. Joy and I had to have this mindsight even if it was difficult. But praise God, he wanted us to get married.

I also did something a little bit unorthodox before proposing marriage to Joy. I called up my two ex-girlfriends to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. God convicted me to make sure that I cut ties in an honorable way, and avoid bringing any emotional baggage into my marriage. So I asked them if there was anything I did to hurt or offend them by the choices I made while dating them. And I said sorry. This liberated me to move on with a clean conscience.

Things to note –

  • If you have not settled issues with past relationships and you want God’s blessing for your marriage, consider this passage: Matthew 5:23 – 24 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” The principle is put your affairs in order in the area of relationships, so that you can come before God and honor him at the marriage altar.

Joy: Hebrews 11:6 says, And without faith, it is impossible to please him (God) for He who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. When we sought to put God first, God rewarded us. By God’s grace, Edric and I are happily married. We love being married, having a family, and serving God together.

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Things to note –

  • God has a plan for each one of you. It is the best plan. If he decides to bring a special someone to your life then rejoice and if he doesn’t, well, you can rejoice also because he wants you especially for himself. But do your part – if you want to find the best person, then be the best person first. Focus on what you can control – plan out your singlehood by living it out to the fullest, in a way that glorifies God – but be open to the possibility that God may change and interrupt those plans by bringing someone into your life.

Be blessed and encouraged my dear single readers! While you wait and pray, may you experience God’s best even now – GOD HIMSELF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When It Rains Inside Your House

We spent the day moving boxes into our new home and everything was going great until there was a downpour outside. And then the downpour happened inside! The water started coming through the hanging chandelier in the entrance and out of the lights in the hallway on the second floor. It was like a waterfall from the top of our second floor ceiling to the ground floor below. I couldn’t believe it!

Thankfully, the architect assigned to our site (representing the contractor) was around to address the problem. Everyone else on his team was scrambling around looking lost and overwhelmed by the ridiculousness of the situation but eventually, they figured out what to do. Someone got up to the roof and found a piece of wood blocking the downspouts. (How the wood got stuck there in the first place is a mystery.) Others found containers to catch the water and throw it outside. The electrician borrowed my Iphone flashlight so he could go into the ceiling and spot the water’s point of entry.

When it rained this afternoon, the water began to pond and seep into the ceiling. Without any other outlet but the lights in the hallway, the water started to flow downwards. First it came down in trickles and then in a stream. It was almost beautiful seeing the water drop down two stories right in front of our main door. We have a lot of glass in our entry way so it was like a water feature! The only problem of course was this was happening inside. Had our four older children been with us, they would have been splashing around in the water and dancing for joy. My baby, Catalina, was with me and she was very fascinated by the spectacle.

Because it was such a crazy, unexpected disaster, I knew it wasn’t just a freak accident. This was a divine message for Edric and I. We went out onto the balcony and thanked God for reminding us that this world is not our home, and we should not love the things of this world.

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On a positive note, it was a blessing that this mess happened at the hour it did. First, the workers were still at the house to address the issue. Had it happened in the evening, when they had all gone home, we would have been in big trouble! Second, it was a good “test” shower before actual rainy season. We got to see how the house faired against lots of rain. Third, we hadn’t completely moved in yet so we weren’t put in physical jeopardy.

But the best reason of all was I believe God wanted us to share the gospel with the on-site architect. When I saw the water falling through the ceiling I wanted to freak out and blame someone, but God gave Edric and I the calmness to consider that there was a spiritual perspective to be had in all of this.

The architect was so apologetic and promised that his team would clear out the downspouts so it wouldn’t happen again. Of course, he also told us the ceiling and whatever else was affected would be rectified. At this juncture…when we are about to move in, the timing of this rectification is unfortunate, but in the grand scheme of eternity, the damage was “worth it.” Let me explain…

Ever since this architect came on board for the finishing stage of our housebuilding, I have been burdened for him to come to Christ. He is a very nice guy who has worked hard and well to manage the final phase of our house project. Two weeks ago, he told me he saw my feature on GMA, but we didn’t get to talk about it. I asked Edric if he could be the one to process the feature with him since it would be awkward for me to discuss something so personal with a man.

He wasn’t able to do so then because we were headed home but after the indoor downpour happened, it
was the perfect opportunity to tell him about Jesus. When he came up to me to apologize once again, I assured him, “This is a reminder that we should not love this world. This world is not our home, heaven is.” When Edric and I were in private, I was like, “Hon, you should share the gospel with him. This is the best time to do so!” Edric completely agreed and some moments later took the architect aside.

On the balcony, Edric introduced him to Jesus Christ and what it means to have a personal relationship with him. Given that the incident made people in the house consider how temporal the things of this world are, it was a great segue for Edric to get into the topic of eternity. Edric also referred to the Tanikala episode of 700 Club which the architect got to watch. At the end of their dialogue, Edric asked him if he wanted to pray with him to receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, and he said, “Yes! Gusto ko yan (I want that).”

I was so thrilled. I couldn’t help but take a photo of the two of them.

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Edric and I have been praying that God will use this house for his glory and his purposes, and that’s what happened today in the most unprecedented sort of way. This is HIS house, not ours.

Even if it meant getting rain inside our house, the ceiling being partially destroyed, our lights and chandelier possibly getting wrecked, and the floor warping because it flooded on the second floor, I was happy. Those things can be repaired and redone. But a soul…what is the price of soul?

God loves all of us so much. He wants to get our attention and make our hearts receptive to the gospel. If it means making rain fall inside a house in a disastrous way so that one person will come to know him, their soul is worth it!

Luke 15:10 “In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

I love you even with your braces and bangs.

Braces and bangs…what was I thinking?! I didn’t realize how awkward I would look. And I must admit that I struggle with vanity from time to time. The comedy of it all is I had to give so many talks these past two weeks. There were blog readers who came up to me wanting photos and I wanted to run away because I am vain!!! I didn’t want to smile and pose for the camera. I know…it’s silly.

After one of my seminars, Edric confronted me in a loving way and told me to get over it. He knew I was self conscious because I was hardly moving my upper lip. I looked like an unskilled ventriloquist. Part of the problem was my lips kept snagging on my braces.

It’s been a few weeks since I first got them. Thankfully, these are fast braces so I shouldn’t have to wear them for too long. In the meantime, while I am looking like a teenager with wrinkles, I am so glad Edric told me two mornings ago, “I love you even with your braces and bangs.”

He would prefer that I didn’t have either but at this stage, 13 years into marriage, we understand that physical appearances aren’t the most important aspect of a marriage. I am not saying it’s not necessary to be attracted to your spouse and to do your best to be attractive for your spouse. But it’s certainly wonderful to know that braces and bangs aren’t going to change the way Edric feels about me. I don’t have to look perfect. I am not pressured to be flawless.

At the recent wedding of my cousin, Joseph, the officiating pastor, Jay Jackson, said, “Because love sees more it is willing to see less.”

He certainly meant more than just the physical but since I am on the topic of external appearances, permit me to say how much I appreciate a couple of things about my husband…

I am so thankful I married a guy who doesn’t compare me to the attractive women he meets. (He interviewed three gorgeous beauty queens for his TV show a few weeks ago.) I am so thankful that he doesn’t entertain attractive stalker women online. (Some women don’t care that he is a married man. They still attempt to get his attention and flirt with him.) I am so thankful he doesn’t ogle at bill boards of younger women or look up pornography. He admits that he is tempted to just like any other man, but he tries his best to guard what he sees.

Why? Because he loves God. He wants to please Him. If Edric didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord, I wouldn’t have the same sort of peace that I do about our marriage. But because he does it affords me rest from trying to KEEP him attracted to me. I try to stay fit and take care of myself so I don’t fall apart physically. However, no amount of striving in this area would make him faithful to me unless he desired to live for God.

I have seen the same conviction in my father who has stayed faithful to my mother. The other day I was showing my dad old photos of him and my mom. And he began to have tears in his eyes. My dad hardly gets emotional! But he went through each photo with me, commenting on how beautiful my mom looked. Afterwards he asked me to send the photos to him. As he made his way up the stairs to his study room, he glanced back at me with an expression of tender affection and added, “It is good for a husband to look through old photos and remember how much he loves the wife of his youth…” He seemed to be lost in a moment of sweet remembering as he smiled and climbed the remainder of the stairs.

When he said “wife of your youth,” I remembered this passage in Proverbs…Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:15, 18 NLT)

A man marries the woman he loves but a man who loves God keeps loving the woman he married.

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