A Greater Purpose For Learning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Beyond Poetry And Passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s wrong?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it just me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Isaac of Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience …” (Colossians 3:5-6)

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

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

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

Sunrise On Copacobana Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? Of course not.” I was serious.

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

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

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

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What Is This Love?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do we easily give up on our family members?

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

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

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

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

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

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brazil, Brazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I grumbled…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vomit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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