Why Your Renewal of Vows Can Mean More Than the Day You Said Yes

It’s always a joy to share in the celebration of a wedding. The starry-eyed bride, blooming, and radiant, standing beside her dashing groom is a scene I will never grow tired of witnessing. There’s something magical about the day a person commits to marriage, and it’s hard to imagine any other celebration in one’s lifetime dethroning it as queen of all events. Plus, there’s the amount of effort, thoughtful planning, and spending that goes into it that elevates it to a different level of stress and glory. 

Last night, however, I got to be a part of a renewal of vows ceremony that represented a much more beautiful truth about God’s design for marriage. Ruth 1:16-17 declares, “…Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” 


Even if the passage was directed towards Ruth’s mother-in-law, it powerfully epitomizes what it means when a couple pledges to one another, “I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part…”

It’s easy and romantic to profess this at the beginning. But when you’ve been through hell on earth with your spouse (to put it as bluntly as possible), the more intuitive choice seems to be the renouncement of that vow in favor of self-preservation. 

Yet there are couples who stay on the harder path, the one that requires them to walk together when feelings of love have withered and hurt has deeply rooted itself within their hearts. Although animosity has killed whatever hope for love they might have clung to, and they can no longer stomach a reason to honor a commitment that has drained and wearied them to utter exhaustion, they do the counterintuitive thing. They keep going even without being able to see, with human eyes, the restoration and redemption they seek. This is the power of faith in God to do the impossible, what the book of Hebrews calls, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews‬ ‭11:1‬)‬‬

Edric and I first met Tye and Elaine (the couple who renewed their vows) at a juncture in their marriage when quitting was the humanly sensible recourse. Theirs was a relationship broken by infidelity and continuing deceit. They sat before us, as part of the breakout group we were accidentally assigned to facilitate during a couples’ retreat, and the despair of disappointment and hurt visibly darkened their countenances. I thought to myself, there’s only one person who can save this relationship and resuscitate it back to life, and that person is Jesus Christ. 

I didn’t know how Christ would work His miracle in them. But they came to the conclusion, after the retreat, that He presented an alternative to leaving one another. This was the genesis of a long, arduous two-year climb to rebuild a marriage that onlookers might have regarded as a hopeless case. 

It takes one prayerful and relentless person in a marriage who believes that Jesus transforms to turn on the light of hope back on in a marriage. A committed husband or wife who is willing to change, to humble himself or herself for the Lord becomes a channel of God’s forgiveness, love, peace, and joy to awaken the unbelieving spouse from the point of resignation to the point of recognition. Edric and I saw this in Elaine, and eventually we also saw it in Tye.

When a wife or husband consistently manifests Christ-like behavior amidst the turbulence of a troubled marriage, the other begins to wonder whether the person they once fell in love with might still be there…the wife who used to honor, submit to, and prioritize him…the husband who used to patiently understand, care for, and cherish her. 

Surely it is as 1 Peter 3:1-2, and 7-9 have iterated it: Wives who are submissive to husbands who don’t deserve such submission (because they are themselves disobedient to the Lord) win their husbands over to Christ by actions that display chaste and respect. Husbands who seek to understand their wives and their weaknesses, as well as honor their wives, receive God’s favor by means of answers to their heartfelt prayers. And if both wives and husbands seek to be harmonious, sympathetic, humble, loving, kind, and refrain from vengeful actions in words or deeds, then they place themselves in a position to inherit blessing from the Lord. 

It’s very hard to ignore the grace of Christ in a person’s life, especially in a spouse whom you encounter daily. “Why is my spouse responding so differently? Why is my spouse still here? Why is my spouse choosing to love me and forgive even when I have hurt him or her and continue to do so?  How is this possible?!” Questions such as these will naturally pique a spouse’s curiosity and fertilize his or her heart with seeds of the gospel. 

The one beautiful truth that Tye and Elaine’s renewal of vow ceremony taught me was that a dead marriage cannot kill the resurrected Christ! He is at work and alive in each person who loves and follows Him, and in each marriage that He is welcomed into. 

My father used to say, “A big problem is big when you focus on the problem. But when you focus on a big God then the problem becomes a small one.” 

Our focus on and trust in a limitless God invites His power into our problem and His solution into the impossible circumstances of our lives. This includes our marriages.

Tye and Elaine are now enjoying a grace-filled marriage, where Christ reigns at its center, and their testimony beckons those in broken relationships to hope against hope that theirs can be restored, too. They openly share what they have been through to encourage others. 

It has been a privilege for Edric and I to be a part of Tye and Elaine’s journey, to be first-hand witnesses to how God changes people. First, He changes us as individuals, healing us and making us complete in Him, and then He changes the people and circumstances around us in accordance with His will. He specializes in 360 degree healing, not bandaid fixes to the wounds in our lives. 

Elaine, in her impromptu renewal of vows speech, made a remark that brought many of us women to tears. “I would not change anything we went through.” For her to pronounce this when two years ago she battled anger and bitterness is a testament to God’s healing! 

A wedding day will always be special, but a renewal of vows can be even more meaningful when you say I DO AGAIN to a person whose wretchedness and flaws you have lived with, and vice versa. This is what Tye and Elaine demonstrated last night. This is what we should all do as married couples. 

A renewal of vows is coming to that point of understanding what saying yes to marriage really means, what love really means — a commitment to an imperfect person for their highest good, which often requires sacrifice. It is to understand that two imperfect people can return to the honeymoon stage of their marriage and keep rebuilding it daily because of Jesus Christ. 

The unique thing about Tye and Elaine’s renewal of vows was that Tye connived with our discipleship group to plan a surprise ceremony for Elaine. I can’t go into how elaborate the plan was and the maneuvering that was involved to hide this secret from Elaine. But the process was priceless for all of the ladies in our couples’ group who banded together to produce a DIY event for Tye and Elaine. Our husbands were pretty game to wear the outfits we asked them to as well. 

Dapitan, Dangwa, Kamuning, each other’s household items, time, talents, and lots of prayer…this is what it took to make the event happen. 


I was so blessed by the ladies (and the kids) in our discipleship group who tirelessly decorated, baked, coordinated, offered their expertise, and labored to make the evening memorable. God gave us the capacity to function like a professional team of event planners! Everyone was willing to do this for free and to sacrifice because we have supported one another and been there for each other during the highs and lows of our lives. We know what it means to fight for and fight together (with the Lord’s help) for our marriages.


Ambassador Gregory Slayton once said, “You need to surround yourself with battle buddies in life.” 

Edric and I are so thankful to the Lord to have several groups of battle buddies whom we meet with for accountability, fellowship, prayer, spiritual feeding, and encouragement. 

Last night was a celebration of Christ’ love and goodness in all of our lives, a time to remember that God can revive dead marriages and resurrect them to something even more beautiful than they once were! Our part is to cling to Him and embrace the Ruth 1:16 by saying to our spouses, “Where you go, I will go. Where you stay, I will stay.”

We Don’t Need to Have it All this 2017

It’s probably a cliche to say that women want to have it all. But the truth remains that this is often our perspective which is why many of us end up frustrated and unhappy. Just look at the first woman, Eve, who had the perfect guy and the perfect garden, and yet she failed to deny herself the ONE thing that she was told she couldn’t have.

We haven’t changed much since then. We still subscribe to the idea that happiness and fulfillment will be ours when we have that dream guy, beautiful children, a Pinterest-worthy home, successful career or business, and loads of money to spend on our every material desire. The list is more exhaustive than this…I could add to it a vibrant social life, popularity, flawless and ageless beauty, a thriving ministry or worthy charity, etc.

Let’s get real. There’s no way to “have it all.” As my father used to wisely advise my siblings and me, “Life is about choices.” 

Many times the choice is about whether we will live for ourselves and our worldly accomplishments or heed the Lord’s plan for us. In Matthew 16:25-26, Jesus tells his disciples, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  ‭

I have often been asked, is it possible to homeschool my child and be a working mom? It isn’t an easy question to answer because everyone’s circumstance must be taken into consideration. Some moms are single parents while others play an integral role in the financial stability of their families. As much as I would like to promote homeschooling and reply, “Yes, it’s possible!,” I would be setting them up for future heartache and frustration if I failed to include this reality: It’s not sustainable for moms to give their 100% to a 9 to 5 job and 100% to homeschooling. At some point it will come down to a matter of priorities rather than trying to “have it all.”

BUT…here’s a spiritual perspective to consider. God has a surprising way of rewarding the faith decisions we make. I know moms who stepped down from their corporate jobs to be consultants from the home or even quit working entirely in obedience to God’s calling so they can focus on homeschooling. As a result, their husbands received surprise promotions or their businesses experienced financial successes to cover their family’s’ needs. Or, they learned to make do with less. In other words, provision wasn’t a problem for the Lord when they aligned their priorities wit God’s will for their lives.

I thought this was a fitting article to write at the beginning of 2017. What choices did we make in the past year? Will we continue to make these? Are these choices in line with the priorities that God wants us to have?

To be honest, I started the year with my ducks in a row but somewhere at the half way mark, I became preoccupied with doings that veered me away from my priorities. I took on projects that ate into my time with the kids. This meant that I made more money but I sacrificed quality homeschooling. More spending capacity didn’t equal greater peace or happiness for me because I knew that I was trading something more important — my day job as a homeschool mom — for activities that would not matter much ten years from now. Edric and I convened to evaluate how to protect my schedule in 2017 and I am looking forward to a less frenetic pace of life so that he and the kids have the best of me.

Over and over again in my life, I have found that focusing on the right priorities is costly. For example, when I got married to Edric I knew he wasn’t a wealthy guy. He worked hard and had a stable job, but financially speaking, we wouldn’t be swimming in cash or enter into marriage with the ability to afford luxury. But I was okay with that. The more important consideration for me (besides Edric’s love for the Lord and for me) was that he desired to provide for us to the best of his ability, and that he committed to rise up to the challenge of being a provider. So between the option of waiting to be financially comfortable before getting married or getting married young, I chose the latter. 

Some people commented that we were too young to be getting married. But our parents had given us their blessing and we both received confirmation from the Lord through His word, mentors, and specific answers to prayers that the timing was right. 

Did we have financial challenges? Definitely. But I wouldn’t trade the year we got married and the history we’ve shared for the material wealth we could have possessed had we postponed our marriage in favor of earning more money. 

Furthermore, we didn’t think it was healthy for us to stay in a serious relationship and struggle through the temptations of purity for an extended period of time. And yes, sex in the context of marriage was something we were looking forward to. So why delay being able to enjoy this aspect of marriage for too long?! 

In our society today, young men and women are getting married later and later, and it’s more and more uncommon to find a 20+ or 30+ virgin — male or female. My hats off to the few, gloriously standing men and women who have vowed to preserve their purity no matter what. However, it’s extremely difficult to navigate through the sexually charged environment that surrounds us without becoming a casualty of immorality. 

Therefore, Edric and I prioritized getting married early because we knew we wouldn’t last, purity-wise. We were too attracted to one another! Think of how exhausting it would be to continually resist the pull of gravity! I am sure you understand what I am saying because we are all the same. When we love someone, it’s God’s design for us to desire sexual intimacy with them. But it’s not God’s design for us to experience this outside of marriage. (If you have been a reader of this blog for a while, you already know that it’s only by God’s grace that Edric and I broke up at one point in our dating stage to run away from this struggle.)

When Edric and I got engaged, we opted for a short four months to plan our wedding. The short engagement was a form of protection for us as well. We kept our plans for the wedding simple, practical, and inexpensive. Fortunately, we got married before the dawn of the age of Bride and Breakfast (Janna and Ian Simpao are my friends so I can say this without disrespecting their website.) Those images of perfect weddings and gorgeous ideas would have driven me crazy with envy. 

So what did our wedding look like? Did I “have it all” as a bride? Most certainly not. Our original venue and dream for a beach wedding changed two weeks before the day of the ceremony. My entourage probably suffered through the cold of the Tagaytay air as they walked down the aisle in their chiffon dresses designed for the beach. 

They carried two wilted roses stabbed through the center of an orange stuck for lack of an expensive bouquet to hold. Our table arrangements had hardly any flowers on them. And my dress had no ornate beading or dramatic flare to it. I designed it myself, bought the fabric with my mom and mom-in-law in Divisoria, and paid 15,000 pesos for a seamstress to execute my drape-everything-to-one-side (my good side) asymmetrical vision of a dress. 

Our giveaways were fifteen peso 3×5 wooden frames with the verse, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘Plans to prosper you and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope.'” Jeremiah 29:11

Oh, and by the way, Edric and I forgot to have those frames handed out. So for years, we had boxes full of these frames and no clue what to do with them until my mother in law creatively used them as Christmas decor. 

My good friend, Jennie, did a superb job on my make up (as a favor) and it looked fantastic at the beginning but as the night progressed, photos will prove that my face turned greasy-looking with the unwanted bonus of a pimple surfacing when the concealer wore off. Plus, I had strands of hair falling across my forehead and sticking to it. 


A number of other mishaps occurred but I would rather tell you that I was the happiest bride in the world. To be honest, the fails didn’t matter to me. I was marrying Edric before God, family, and friends. Every untoward incident and substandard aspect of my wedding day paled in comparison to the commitment he and I were making to one another and the joy of sharing that moment with those whom we loved. 

Could our wedding day and reception have turned out to be flawless had we prolonged our engagement period? Could the affair have sparkled with all the impressive trimmings and trappings that came with a hefty sum? Most probably. However, we valued getting married sooner than later, and looked forward to the marriage rather than the actual event of the wedding. 

Today, my priorities are…

1. to please, honor, know, love, and obey God 

2. to be the wife and mom He has called me to be.

3. to minister to others and declare the gospel message by using my talents, abilities, and resources 

4.Take care of myself so I can do all of the above 

I know it doesn’t sound like a magnificent list that will earn me worldly accolades. However, after half a year of striving in some ways to “have it all” I am convinced that these are and will continue to be the most valuable things to me. 

So how will this translate into practical goals:

– Finish reading my Bible again

– Pray more consistently – Colossians 4:2

– Make room for quietness and stillness (without depending on my phone for entertainment)

– Read more books that are spiritually edifying, that give me a storehouse of truth to draw from and bless others with

– Make Edric feel important by completing the list of things he wants me to get done 

– Respect Edric’s authority and submit to his leadership — be his strong supporter. 

– Improve in the area of serving him by having a positive attitude when he asks me to do something 

– Be more responsive when he initiates sexual intimacy (He told me to add this! Ha ha!)

– Be more affirming and encouraging to Edric and the kids

– Protect my homeschooling schedule by keeping my mornings and afternoons free as much as possible, except for days when the kids have classes

– Give each of my kids lots of personalized time so I can meet their needs more intentionally 

– Try to do the things that my kids enjoy. Be more playful 

– Read to them more often 

– Continue to use my blog and social media platforms to reach out to people 

– Be more involved in the lives of the women I disciple 

– Drink veggie and fruit shakes consistently

– Sleep early in the evenings 

– Exercise at least three times a week 

– Say no to speaking engagements and projects when they conflict with my priorities.

I know most of us will think through our resolutions as the 2017 begins, but I hope we will prayerfully ask the Lord what our priorities ought to be before making our lists.  We don’t need to have it all in 2017, but we can let God have all of us so that our priorities are aligned with His will and design for our lives. In so doing we receive the blessing of having the most important things! 

I have used this before but I will end with it again because it’s so encouraging… 

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew‬ ‭6:26-33‬ ‭

Happy New Year! 

Giving Birth and Why the Context Matters

I saw this photo in my files. This was the night I gave birth to Catalina in St. Luke’s Medical Center in BGC. It reminds me of the pain I went through and the joy that came after.

I appreciated that my doctor let me walk around, stretch, even jog a little on the floor where I gave birth so that I could “help” Catalina descend. This was actually my longest labor but God sustained me and I was still able to give birth Lamaze.

It’s so important that you find a doctor who understands your birth preferences but who will also tell you when science must intervene. My doctor, Dr. Regina Capistrano, has always respected my desire to give birth without anesthesia, and she’s allowed me flexibility when I am in labor, but she’s managed my expectations, too. When needed, she applied her expertise as a doctor and prescribed procedures to ensure that my babies and I were healthy.

I praise God that I gave birth Lamaze to all five kids but this isn’t to my credit. I prayed hard when the pain made me feel like I was going to die! God rescued me each time! But I was also thankful that my doctor was present to go through the experience with me and see it through to the end.

Of course, Edric provided emotional and spiritual support which I badly needed. He played music for me, attended to me, and stayed right by my side. And many times, my mom would show up to be there for me and family members and friends would visit shortly after to offer congratulations.

As I reflect back on my pregnancies and births, I have come to realize all the more that birth was meant to be experienced in the context of relationships — a husband and wife, family, people whom you trust. It doesn’t make it any easier to have a baby, but it certainly magnifies the joy!

People often quote the passage that says, “Children are a gift from the Lord,” and I agree with this. At the same time, I also believe that we need to consider the gift we will give to the children born to us. They need a mother, a father, a family, and a community who will love them and raise them up to understand their worth and value…how loved they are by God…that He has a wonderful plan for their lives.

If you come from a broken home and can’t provide this, do not lose heart. God says He is father to the fatherless. You can also find mentors who will come along side your child to meet his or her different needs.

But my appeal is to the single, yet to be married person out there. Seek God’s plan and design for family, for children, which He intended for our joy and our good.

Recently I struggled in my heart with a revelation that someone I know intentionally got pregnant outside of marriage. My heart ached for the realities that she and this child will be up against.

Pregnancy and post pregnancy bring with it a hailstorm of emotions because of hormones. The struggle to parent a child feels much more uphill when you are alone, without a spouse. A boyfriend who acts the part of biological parent does not provide the same security of a father figure. And the truth is, many children born out of wedlock experience abandonment by their biological father and grow up with father wounds.

There are no short cuts to true happiness. Sin is not the route to joy. Maybe there’s the appeal of temporal pleasure and euphoria, but not real joy. Real joy comes when we pursue God’s will, even if it’s hard to wait on His timing for unfulfilled longings and desires. It comes when we obey Him and abide in His love, preferring His statues and His presence in our lives to our own wants and substitutes for Him.

As I write this, I may sound impassioned and my tone may sound like rebuke. But my intention is not to point a finger at the guilty to penalize them with shame. I believe in God’s redemptive grace to all who repent and seek Him. And I have seen God repair people’s mistakes. However, the journey often robs us of peace and the casualties along the way are many.

My real intent is to encourage all of us to renew our thinking. I appreciate how the New Living Testament of the Bible says it so overtly, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans‬ ‭12:2

The Apostle Paul specified this because he knows our vulnerability. We all prefer the route of self-gratification and following our own will, especially when we are immersed in cultures where it seems so corny and irrelevant to practice righteousness. Yet, God’s will is good and pleasing and perfect. Children aren’t supposed to be born to unwed women. (Sadly, it’s a growing statistic all around the world.)

Until we stop rationalizing and basing our convictions on the moral trends of the world, we will not prefer God’s will. And the fact remains that God’s will is best for us. It’s true for our children, too. So let’s not do them a disservice by allowing their conception to happen outside the bounds of God’s will, which sets them up for future heartache. They may not have a choice in the matter, but we do. Our choice to practice purity and the pursuit of God’s will is our precious gift to them. 

I Just Want to Be With You, Mommy

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you okay?”

She shook her head.

“Is something wrong?”

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

“Okay, I will stay with you.”

She was relieved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

God Finds Our Children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Big Rocks, Small Rocks – Time Management for Busy Moms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. MINISTER ACCORDING TO YOUR LIFESTAGE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. DO MINISTRY AS A TEAM

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

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

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

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

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

  1. SYNC YOUR PASSIONS AND YOUR PURPOSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Teaching Kids About Healthy Sexuality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew. That wasn’t too tough, was it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rest is a God Thing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Real Father of Father’s Day

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Walls Come Tumbling Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You in the Wilderness? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13

Fight with Gentleness

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

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

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

   

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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