Brazil, Brazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I grumbled…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bangkal Thrift Store Shopping

In this furnishing stage of our house building, looking for decorative pieces has become one of our favorite bonding activities. Edric and I have shopped in the malls, in antique stores, and in furniture shops. A few days ago we went to Bangkal for some bargain hunting.

At the suggestion of Edric’s cousin, Marty, we checked it out to look for old solid wood finds. It was pretty easy to get to Bangkal area. We took Edsa, crossed over South Luzon Expressway, then made a right on Evangelista. Once we got there, we asked where the thrift stores were. Amazingly, we actually ran into someone from our church who helped give us directions.

Most of the stores in Bangkal were hot and junky, but we did find some unexpectedly cool things. Thankfully we were both dressed for the occasion, too. We went there in shirts and shorts. And before we got there, I accidentally snagged my shorts in a 7/11 store. Unfortunately, the snag was a bad one. It cut a hole into my shorts that I had to hide with my purse. Since we were in thrift stores, my shorts fit right in!

We came away from Bangkal buying two arm chairs, a desk swivel chair, and a side table. Everything was Narra! And it only cost us 14k (including the delivery charge and refurbishing). Kind of makes you wonder where they find these pieces!

I am still holding my breath because we saw the “before” but we haven’t seen the “after”. By tomorrow I should be able to post pictures.

At the very least, Edric and I had a lot of fun. We were enamored by the same things as we went from shop to shop.

When we ended the day at a watch repair shop, Edric turned to me and said, “I could be with you all day. I like to be with you all the time!” I should’ve said something sweet but honestly, by this hour my thoughts were turned towards Catalina and breastmilk supply. We had been gone since 10 am and it was almost 5pm. I wasn’t able to reciprocate with an equally romantic statement, but I did acknowledge him with a smile. I felt the same way, too. Had it not been for breastfeeding, I could have kept shopping with him.

It’s great to be married to the man you love but it’s even greater to be married to a man who shares the same interests and passions, who can be your leader, lover, and protector, and also your best friend. I really thank the Lord that Edric and I share this kind of relationship. I suppose this is what the Bible means when it says the “two shall become one.” Even our taste in decor is one and the same!

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Enjoying Our New Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

When It Rains Inside Your House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He Pulled Off A Mannequin Hand Again

Titus’ mechanical ability is escalating in power, kind of like Elsa’s freezing ability grew stronger in the movie, Frozen. Almost everyday he will dismantle something. Today it was the hand of a mannequin at a souvenir shop in Puerto Princesa. He looked up at Edric from under a table holding half the arm of a mannequin.

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When he does things like this and I ask him why, his usual response is, “I want to see how it works,” or “I want to see what is inside.”

As a mom I don’t want to punish his desire to learn or quell his curiosity. So my challenge is to keep him productively busy. Here are some ideas that have worked:

Sand. (Explore Sandbox sent me a kit with sand in it. It’s a very soft sand that doesn’t get stuck under my children’s nails.) Titus has asked to play with this almost daily since he got it.

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Clay or play dough. I prefer play dough because it feels nicer and smells better, but whenever the kids leave it out it hardens. Plus it’s more expensive. Clay, on the other hand, is so reasonable and it will stay mailable for a long while even if it is uncovered.

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Mining Kits or Digging for Treasure Kits (available at Toy Kingdom or Toys R Us)

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Paper folding. Elijah, my eldest, was the first to get into origami. But his brothers are interested in it too. They learn from Elijah and invent their own folds as well. One of their favorite things to fold is paper airplanes. Titus can spend a long time making planes and throwing them off the balcony.

A bicycle. Edric needs to replace Titus’ old one which we sold at a recent garage sale. When we move to our new house he will get one. In the meantime, he has been pretty content peddling around on his cousins’ bike.

A pet. When my mom had a kitten, Titus would play with it as often as he could. As a child, I had all kinds of pets, too. Most of the day I was outdoors with my monkey and dogs. I learned how to be a responsible pet owner. When Titus is a little older he will be ready to have a pet, too.

Scratch art. I used to order these from the US. But they have something similar that is available at National Bookstore. Kids take a scratch pen and use the friction to reveal colors under the black paper.

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Art supplies like paint, glue, scissors, hole punchers, staplers, tape. Titus spends hours drawing and making works of art. I often have to replace the art supplies in our home but I don’t mind. If my kids are inspired to create it’s worth it! I am so glad Art Attack sells products at National Bookstore, too!

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Cooking and baking. My kids enjoy cooking and baking. They had a couple of sessions at the Cookery Place in Fort which they thoroughly enjoyed. But when they are interested, I let them cook and bake with me. Titus especially likes making sugar cookies because he can cut out the dough and decorate with icing.

Old boxes, sticks, rocks, coins, marbles, plastic cups, leaves, toilet paper tubes, paper, string, and even dirt! When a child’s time is not cannibalized by gadgets, computers and television, they can make anything into a toy or source of entertainment. The other day, Titus brought me a plastic cup with flowers, rocks and leaves in it. It was a beautiful arrangement that he put together himself. My kids enjoy hanging out at our construction site playing in the dirt. (But I am one of those moms who is okay with dirt.)

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Making tents or forts. On certain days the kids take blankets, sheets and pillows and make tents or forts in their room. Even if it makes a big mess, I am all for it. I used to do this when I was a kid.

Dress up. Girls aren’t the only ones who like dressing up and role playing. My boys like it too. They have a container with wigs, clothes, swords, and other items they can use for costumes. They have put on “plays” and performances for us several times.

Swimming. I don’t know any kid who doesn’t like to swim. Over the past two months we have been to several beaches and visited a number of pools. They can spend all day swimming if we let them.

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Playgrounds and open space. Kids, especially boys, need to expend their energy. When we aren’t traveling, we encourage our children to walk to the park and exercise almost daily. It helps that their cousins are nearby so they usually go together. By the time they come home they are ready to eat, too!

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Science experiments. I let Titus participate in our human anatomy experiments even if this isn’t a required subject for him.

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Exploring with a flashlight. I got the kids color coded flashlights for their Christmas stockings. We don’t always take walks at night, but when we do, they can bring their flashlights with them and look for night creatures.

“Mix-mix.” Sometimes, I hand Titus and Tiana a simple mixing bowl with a variety of items on hand, like a cup of flour, water, sugar, soy sauce, etc. I let them mix everything together, using measuring spoons and cups, and a wooden spoon as their mixer and they have a blast.

Sports. Currently, Titus is enrolled in a Muai Thai class with his older brothers. It was Edric’s idea to get the boys into a martial arts class so they can protect one another and their sisters. I especially agree with the latter.

Learn a musical instrument. Following in the footsteps of Elijah and Edan, Titus is learning violin. We have violins for every age so we just pass them down as our kids grow to save money. He used to tinker with their violins but now he can have one of his own and put it to good use.

Young children, especially the wiggly ones like Titus benefit from activities that encourage productive play and hands-on learning. Otherwise, they get their hands into everything, even things you would rather they avoid! So they need opportunities to learn, build, create, explore, and invent in order to channel their energy and intelligence in positive ways. As a general rule, with Titus, what works is providing an environment that allows freedom within boundaries.

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Sweet Beedie Dies

What a sad morning.

Beedie, one of Edan’s cockatiels, died at about 10 AM. We were all pretty devastated. But Edan was especially despondent. When I pulled Beedie out of the cage and showed Edan his lifeless body, he walked away, up the stairs to be alone and cry.

I cried, too.

Beedie was the sweetest bird. And my heart ached for Edan.

Edan’s a pretty dutiful boy. He had a routine with his two cockatiels. Every morning he would change the water, feed them, and spend time playing with them. Beedie was his favorite because he was very good-natured. Whenever Edan would extend his fingers to him, Beedie would willingly climb on and chirp a happy tune.

I wish I hadn’t been the last to see him alive. He wasn’t doing too well early this morning. My dad used to breed cockatiels and parakeets so I knew that Beedie had all the symptoms of a sick bird. His head was bowed down, his eyes were closed and he refused to eat or drink anything. I didn’t expect him to survive for very much longer. But it was still hard to see him keeled over, his claws curled under him, with one eye shut and the other half open. He wasn’t breathing anymore. Geedie (Edan’s other cockatiel) looked on in a lonely sort of way.

Although I’m not entirely sure of what made him sick, I have a theory.  About two weeks ago I told Edan to quick tossing his cockatiels up into the air to make them fly. They came from the pet shop with their wings clipped so they couldn’t fly very far at all. Edan thought he was “helping them” learn how to fly. But I kept telling him that birds instinctively know how to fly. My fear was he was stressing them out by forcing them to fly when they obviously couldn’t because their wings were clipped.

Well, he forgot that I had told him this. A few days ago, Edan experimented with flying lessons again and Beedie accidentally dove into the pond in the garden because he couldn’t flap his wings very well. Edan freaked out and called Elijah who ran over to rescue Beedie. When the kids reported to me what happened, I reminded Edan that he wasn’t supposed to throw the birds up into the air. I also expressed concern that Beedie might get sick.

I know birds bathe in water but this was dirty pond water. And I’m pretty sure Beedie gulped in some of it. His feces were loose and the wrong color before he died.

Birds are really sensitive. And once they get sick, it’s not very likely that they will recover.

As a mom, I really wanted to spare Edan from experiencing the loss of his bird. But I couldn’t. I even prayed that he would live. But God didn’t let that happen.

To empathize with Edan, I held him for a while as we both cried about Beedie. We looked at the picture on my phone when we got him from the pet store and that made us cry even more.

This afternoon, I tried, in a very gentle way to ask Edan if he learned anything from this unfortunate experience…especially in the area of obedience. At the time he was hanging out with his cousins and his reply was, “Yes mom, but I don’t want to talk about it in front of my cousins.”

When it was just the two of us, I asked him again and he admitted to me that he should have obeyed and taken better care of Beedie, specifically, he should have NOT thrown him into the air to fly or twirled him around. As he went out the door of the study room, he also added, “The punishment of sin is death.” I actually laughed when he said this because I didn’t expect such an insightful comment from him. We both smiled at one another.

Obedience is a principle that my children will have to keep on learning as they grow up. The first command we teach our children is to obey. When our kids are younger, we emphasize it a lot. We even spank for disobedience. But as they get older, we don’t force them to obey. By about 6 or 7, they usually get obedience, and they understand why it is important. The next stage of their instruction when it comes to obeying is developing a conviction for it.

We want them to connect obedience with blessing. And when they don’t obey it’s beneficial for them to experience the consequences of their choices, even if hurts to watch this happen as a parent. My parents taught my siblings and I, “you are free to choose but not free to escape the consequences of your choices.”

As an 8 year old, Edan experienced a life lesson I hope he will not forget. It was painful for him to loose Beedie. But it would be more painful for him in the future if he didn’t internalize obedience this early on.

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

For homeschooling today, I asked Edan to write a tribute to Beedie so he can remember him…

Beedie was my Cocktail and he died today. We had him for 18 days. He was a kind bird. I loved him so much…. He was also loving, and happy. He was my pet. Everyday we would play together. I would clean his cage every day. He was a child bird, not yet an adult. In the morning he would call out for me.

But today he was very sick. When I checked on him, he was weak and he wouldn’t eat or drink. A few hours later he died. I felt sad. I will miss him very much. I had lots of fun with him. He was my favourite pet….

_____

WAAAAHHH (THAT’S ME…) 

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Real Wealth

We checked on the status of our house a few days ago. It was exciting to see all the bedroom furniture being assembled in the rooms. Once the bedrooms are done, we can move in even if the rest of the house isn’t completely finished yet. Well, that’s the plan. Edric’s plan. Most people have said this is the best way to move things along when you are in the finishing stages.

When we were at the site, the kids ran up the stairs to look into the rooms, eager to see their personal spaces taking form. In the boy’s room, we assigned areas.

“Elijah this will be your bed, Edan this is yours and Titus this is for you.”

The boys started cheering and Titus pointed to the floor and asked, “On the floor?” There was no disappointment in his tone. He identified a spot in between two beds and waited for me to confirm it.

I took his face in my hands and said, “Oh no honey, you will have your own bed!” And I started to tear. It probably sounds silly that I did. But if you know Titus, how candid and unpretentious he can be, then my reaction would make sense. He has never complained about sleeping on a mat, on the floor. For him this has been the manner of his place as the youngest son. He didn’t have a “real” bed because there was no room for one in our condo. But at that moment I was showing him a new bed frame and he didn’t see it. He just assumed he would be getting the floor as always.

When I corrected him, he was like, “Really? Yeah! I will have my own bed!”

And he went on to say, “You know,
Mom, I never liked sleeping on the floor…”

I went to the bathroom and composed myself because I was VERY teary-eyed by then. Edric saw me and took me in his arms. Both of us stood there in gratefulness and amazement for the house that God has given to us. It’s a big upgrade for our entire family. Previously, we lived in 137 square meters shared between 9 people (our family and two househelps).

That is still larger than 90% of what the world’s population probably lives in. So I am not saying that we had a bad deal. But I grew up in a large house and when I got married, our first home — a one bedroom condo — was relatively small.

God taught me through the years to look forward to his provision and not to worry about when it would come. Besides, I didn’t need our first home to be larger. I had to do all the cleaning so I was okay with small! More importantly, Edric was in it and that’s what mattered to me. There was love, joy, and peace…things that expanded infinitely beyond the four walls of our home.

We had friends who started off with generously sized houses when they were newly married. That was not our beginning. We did not have much, financially speaking, so our initial home was simple. In fact, when we had our eldest, Elijah, he didn’t even have a crib for a while. He slept on a mattress on the floor. When I needed to feed him at night, I would go down to the floor and sleep beside him.

It’s amazing that he didn’t crawl off! The floor was carpeted so he wasn’t in danger of hitting himself. I think we put all kinds of pillows around him to keep him safe. Well…I probably would’ve been chided by sleep safe advocates, but back then, it was our best option.

God increased the size of our home as children were added. When Edan was born, we moved to a three bedroom condo. It suited us just fine until our fifth, Catalina, came along. Thankfully, by then, we were building our house.

In September 2013, we said goodbye to our condo and had it renovated shortly after. We had most of our belongings boxed up and stored in a warehouse. In the interim we stayed at my parents, and Edric’s for a bit, too. (We are still in this nomadic state until our final move.)

Our most recent home with hardly anything left in it…

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After we finished renovating the condo, I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I was excited that we had moved out and moved on. But on the other hand, we spent 8 years in that place. It was hard for me to say goodbye. Even if it was emptied out, retouched and repainted, I still had visions of our children in the rooms, playing, laughing, growing up.

I will miss every inch of that three bedroom condo. It was cozy. It had the smells and sounds of us.

When Titus made the comment about the floor, I thought of how
God has been our faithful provider. I know others may get their house and lot dreams fulfilled much earlier. And maybe others are still waiting on theirs, but for us this is neither too early or too late.

If it had happened sooner we wouldn’t have been ready. Edric and I needed to learn simplicity, humility, gratitude, and so did our children. We are still learning these virtues. But had we skipped to the house and lot bit of our history without going through condo living and tighter spaces, we might have become casualties of too much comfort. It’s always easier to upgrade than to downgrade, to upsize than to downsize.

I like our Heavenly Father’s manner of blessing, too. He is and always will be the source of infinite resources and abundance, but he tempers and minds the valve that releases these to his children. Material things have a way of replacing our spiritual hunger for the eternal. And, there is nothing more impoverishing to the human soul than to be stuffed full of prosperity and thereby emptied of the want for God.

Edric used to tell me that this passage was one of his favorites. “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord ?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT)

I have to admit that when he told me this was one of his “prayers” I thought, “Oh great, that’s it. We are never going to be rich.” But my mindset was all wrong. I was thinking that money would bring me security and happiness. It’s not that I wanted loads of it to spend on myself. I just wanted to know we had it, that we didn’t have to worry about where it would come from.

Well, God allowed Edric and I to begin simply to teach me not to anchor my faith on money but on Him. When I learned to live with less — less money, less space, less possessions — I found that I always had more than enough to be happy and thankful for. I like what English clergyman and writer Thomas Fuller said, “Riches enlarge rather than satisfy appetites.”

I am not saying that I have graduated from contentment. Not at all! This is a lesson that needs to be learned and re-learned depending on the circumstances that test it. Neither am I saying that money is unimportant. Edric and I have five kids! Money is necessary and very much welcome whenever it comes. What I am saying is that starting off with a small home and having a very limited budget to work with when we were newly married was a blessing. It was God’s master plan for our character development.

From this genesis Edric and I grew to understand that God always takes care of his children. We also learned that abundance is not the condition for true joy. True joy is to know God and his love for us, to be certain that his plans for our welfare are always for our good.

What is a big house without God in the hearts of those who live in it? And conversely, the tiniest of spaces can be home to the richest people on earth — people who abound with the joy of the Lord, who can laugh, cry, and love without fear, who extend forgiveness and grace to one another, who can sleep peacefully at night, and wake up with hopeful expectation and the gift of new mercies.

With just a few weeks left till we are finally in our “dream home”, a house that only God could’ve built and provided for, I want to remember that real wealth is the treasure of Jesus Christ. It is not the absence of struggle or the fulfillment of desire. It is the recognition and enjoyment of His presence with the ones we cherish the most, and finding that we can be fully satisfied during seasons of want and seasons of plenty because he is with us, in our home, and in our hearts.

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Homemaking is Not Boring

As a homemaker, I never seem to be bored. Well, I do have five kids so that keeps me busy. But I am talking about not running out of fun things to do and learn, too. There is always a new way to cook chicken, a craft project to beautify the home, a skill to add to your repertoire of handy-manny-fixer-upper abilities, a book to read or internet site to visit to get tips on parenting, and for me, there is homeschooling and writing.

I think it helps to have friends and family who enjoy being home-based mothers, too. We feel very fulfilled and happy at home, and we enjoy exchanging stories and parenting adventures. And most of the homemakers I know have some sort of extraordinary ability or talent or even a hobby that they are able to delve into even while they take care of their homes and their children.

My sister-in-law, Jennifer, is one of those women. She recently moved to the Philippines to live. Prior to this she was based in New York. She is an incredible jewelry designer and is into all kinds of crafts. Today, she invited my friend, Marilen, and I over to make hair bows for our daughters. We had such a great time!

Jennifer has collected so much ribbon over the years, I wanted to spend all day making bows. After about an hour and a half, I made three designs. The idea was to bring clothes of our daughters’ to match the bows to.

Jennifer originally does beading classes or parties for adults or kids. Her jewelry line is called Bead Blessed. But she is open to doing bow making classes or parties, too. For p500 to p750 per person/materials included, I think it’s such a great deal. You can come up with unique pieces, and of course it is fellowshipping with other women that makes it so memorable.

Jennifer’s Samples (Bows that she has made for her daughter, Teegan):

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Clothes to match to bows:

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The tools:

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Our healthy snack:

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Our designs:

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Contact Jennifer at (0917) 302 3319
See her bead work as featured in Bride and Breakfast: http://brideandbreakfast.ph/2014/01/16/wed-colorfully-kate-spade-editorial/

Everything Breaks

The house is turning out better than I imagined thanks to our architect and contractor, but I allow myself to get stressed about little details. It doesn’t help that I am artistically inclined by nature and notice every mistake…everything…tiny chips, uneven walls, paint lines that aren’t totally clean, awkward termination points. Like Sherlock Holmes said, “My curse is, I see everything.”

During the surprise Valentines dinner Edric planned for me on the balcony, I was staring at a 1 cm chip on a tile for a bit, and I started feeling the frames of the sliding glass doors because I noticed some scratches. He was like, this is supposed to be a romantic evening. Let’s not do that. We can do that during the punchlisting.

Oh right, sorry. But that 1 cm chip kept looking back at me! Even now I am still thinking about it!

There have been occasions when it’s not just about a chip. Yesterday, for instance, I heard some pretty awful news. One of the hanging light fixtures in the dining room was broken by a supplier. I was livid. I couldn’t believe it. How could the supplier have been so careless?!

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Well, God has been using incidences like these to keep me spiritually conscious of my tendency to love the things of this world.

When I start to emotionally hyperventilate and feel frustrated about the house, Edric reminds me, “hold the things of this world lightly.” He also motions with his hand for me to relax!

He is totally right, too. At the end of the day, I have to remember that this house isn’t heaven. It’s a wonderful, amazing blessing. We want to be good stewards and fix the issues that we can. But it still represents what is temporal and fading in this world. As monumental an event as it will be for our family to move into this home after living in a condo for so many years, it cannot be the essence of what makes us a family or what brings us true joy.

I saw the broken light today. It was dangling in a sad way with the bulb exposed on one side. The kids gasped when they saw it. (The good news is the supplier is going to replace it.)

Of course I felt disappointed that the accident happened in the first place, but I thought of all the other things that will eventually break, get stained, fall apart, crack, and deteriorate over time. Such is the manner of the world we live in.

So while I am totally excited about moving into our new house, I cannot forget that it’s the things of eternity that I have to hold tightly.

Will our family love one another in this home as God’s word tells us to? Will it be a place where people feel welcome and loved? Will we use it for God’s work and kingdom? Will it’s atmosphere be characterized by a happiness and peace that points people to Jesus?

I pray our home can be all these things and more…things that will not pass away.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:35 NASB)

My New Year’s REVOLUTION

I am revolting against my fat. Two weeks ago, I resumed P90X’s Ab Ripper X and my abs felt like they were ripping. Not ripping with muscle, ripping in PAIN!

Over the holidays I just lost it with my eating. Every sweet thing was in my hand and I thought, my genetics will overcome this. What pride. What a fool.

After I gave birth, I was just 6 pounds shy of my pre-pregnancy weight. A month after, I started running and my mom was like, “Your insides are going to fall out.” Okay, so I took a break. A LOOONG BREAK.

Now I am 10 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight. Darn. I might as well be 5 months pregnant because that’s how much I weighed when I was!

Christmas came along, buffet meals, sweets, delectable treats and bam! Pounds. Flabbiness. Muffin top. Tummy. I thought, I’m burning 500 calories a day as a breastfeeding mom. Just shovel it all in. I’m a milk producing machine that needs all of this. I’m hungry. I can eat anything.

Reality check. I ate anything and everything and I wasn’t selective and healthy about my choices. Now I have to contend with 10 pounds to lose.

At my age, it’s not that easy. I am up against the law of Thermodynamics, the tendency towards atrophy. I’m going to have to work really hard to get my muscle tone back so my metabolism kicks in.

I knew I needed to get back into shape when my husband, Edric, mentioned that WE need to work out.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “It’s my butt, right? I actually have a butt now, it’s getting bigger! Is that it?”

“I don’t want to say anything. I’m trying to be Christ-like, remember?”

“But I want to know the truth. Tell me the truth! I need to lose weight. Just say it.”

Is there any husband in the world that can win this discussion? Of course not. But I really wanted Edric to tell me what he thought my problem areas were. Actually, I just wanted affirmation for what I knew to be true about my problem areas so I would have greater resolve to stop eating so much.

Finally, he admitted that I have gotten “curvier” (right. safe words) but for my health’s sake, I do need to exercise. It was a softer blow…

So the very next day we ran and did our ab workout. Hoowee. World of pain. But I’m excited. I don’t want to make excuses. It’s safe to exercise now. Catalina is almost 6 months! And I don’t want to grow older without trying my best to be fit and healthy.

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I like how Edric said it the other day. We need to be fit to fight. Fit to tackle life’s challenges – parenting, ministry, work, etc. Plus, I’m always telling women, we need to try to look our best whatever season of our lives. Now it’s time to eat those words and stop eating junk food and candy. The challenge is on!

Step 1: Run every other day and do Ab Ripper X with Edric

Step 2: Get rid of junk food and sweets in the kitchen cabinets (90% done)

Step 3: Drink a ton of water

Step 4: Eat brown rice instead of white (Been doing this)

Step 5: Get more sleep (IMPOSSIBLE, for now, but I will try.)

The first few runs were the hardest because my body was used to a sedentary lifestyle. But exercise is amazing. Once I started getting into a rhythm of waking up early to run, my body began to look for it.

It will probably take me a couple of months to lose 10 pounds if I do it the healthy way. I don’t believe in dieting. Diet has the word DIE in it which is very telling. But I do believe in being thoughtful about what I eat and finding the right fitness program for my body type.

For example, I cannot lift alot of weights. I will look like a she-hulk. My body easily bulks in a bad way. But running increases my metabolism so that I burn fat more efficiently. And doing abdominal exercises works out my biggest problem area. So it is a good combination for me to do both.

I will start out with this and then see what I can add to my routine after a few weeks. It usually takes me about two months to see significant results.

In the meantime this verse motivates me.Philippians 4:7 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”

What To Do About Santa

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

Santa Claus image taken from skytop.com

I should’ve published this earlier but just got around to it this evening…

In our home we don’t make Santa a part of our Christmas celebrations. Our kids don’t believe in Santa. Some people will shoot me for saying this. I know that Santa Claus is a huge part of Christmas for a majority of families. Personally, we don’t want our kids to buy into a fallacy and get really disappointed in the future when they realise that he doesn’t exist.

We aren’t anti-Santa like he is some sort of Satanic figure. (Same letters in Santa also spell Satan?!) If families want to make Santa Claus a part of their Christmas tradition, that’s their call. He’s a cute, cuddly man in a red suit who loves children.

But if you would like to know why we don’t encourage our kids to believe in him, then read on…

1. He isn’t real. I already said that right? We also don’t celebrate Easter by glorifying the Easter Bunny.

2. Since he isn’t real, it’s lying to say he is.

3. How long will you have to defend Santa if he isn’t real?

4. We treat Santa like we would any other character that is just “pretend.” The kids know that he is a part of Christmas celebrations around the world (not ours) but they think of him like they would ginger bread houses, elves, and flying reindeers. It’s all pretend. Our kids are pretty logical, too. How can one man be in a billion places at one time unless he has divine powers?

I wrote this short article as a response to a question that a reader asked me about Santa. Personally, I believe there are some things worth dying for and there are other things that are subject to debate. Whether it is wrong or right to include Santa Claus in Christmas traditions is something I will leave for the theologists out there to determine. After all, we could question other things…like what about Christmas trees? What about gift giving? We aren’t extremists.

So our conclusion…Santa Claus is a nice guy but in our home, it is our personal conviction that raising our children to believe in him and his magical powers would mean we would have to deceive our kids. More importantly, we don’t want Santa Claus to have center stage or to eclipse the central figure of Christmas in our home — Jesus Christ.

Teaching Children to Make Wise Choices

My kids like to use the IPads and computers for games. For about 4 months they were banned from gadgets so we could finish our homeschooling year. But after I gave birth, online educational programs and apps were a big help to keep the kids productive while I was busy with Catalina.

We stuck to certain parameters.

1. Is the game or app educational?
2. Will it help to develop an important skill?
3. Will it allow you to grow in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men? (Luke 2:52)
4. Playing games have time limits attached to their use.

Our kids know my apple ID and password. But they don’t abuse it. They will always ask for permission before getting an app, even if it is free. And they know what their boundaries are in terms of criteria.

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About two years ago, my second son, Edan, got hooked on Plants vs Zombies. He was obsessed with it. It was the first time I became concerned about letting the kids use the iPad for fun. I felt like we had opened a Pandora’s box as a family and let in the game monster. Edan of all my other children seemed to have a greater tendency towards addiction. He was more vulnerable.

In fact he admitted to me recently that the danger of computer games for him is he thinks about them even when he isn’t playing.

Every child is different and as parents we need to know what their strengths and weaknesses are. Elijah, for example, can self regulate and say, “Okay, I don’t want to play with gadgets for a week because I don’t want to get addicted.” And he can busy himself with reading and other interests.

However, Edan is different. He has a harder time controlling his desire for gaming. So we need to help him and avoid putting him in predicaments where he can “feed” that side of him.

A few days ago he came up to me asking if he could install a certain app. It was a game. It wasn’t educational. I struggled as a mom. Edan is a good son. By God’s grace, he is obedient, too. When he asked me, I could see the DESIRE in his eyes. He wanted the game and his happiness seemed to hinge on my response.

So I gave him the opportunity to present why he liked the game, to hear him out. And then I asked him very gently and thoughtfully, “Is this game educational?”

He answered, “No.”

“Is it a business game? Will it teach you business principles?”

“No.” His shoulders hunched over and he seemed disheartened.

“Will it help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and man? (Luke 2:52)

He shook his head and started to tear.

“Do you think you should get it then?”

When I asked this, he started to cry out loud. He already knew the answer.

Oh my heart broke as a mom. I hugged him. I knew it was important to him and he wanted the game very badly. He had taken a step of faith when he asked me. And a part of me was tempted to give in and then to remove the app later
on if it really was destructive.

But I had to be consistent. I had to consider his greater good and not just his present happiness. So I said something like this…”Edan, mommy wants you to enjoy playing games. I like you to have fun. But you need to find a game that will help you to develop a skill. It can’t be for entertainment purposes only. So why don’t you find something that is educational and present it to me as an option?”

Well, he was able to find an incredible app called Paper 53. It’s a great app for artists. Edan understands balance and symmetry without having learned these concepts so I know that he can hone his artistic abilities. When he showed me the app, I heartily agreed to get it for him because it would be a profitable use of his time.

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I wanted to share this because we need to teach our older children to make wise choices, to weigh the pros and cons of a decision. When they are younger, we can pull off the “obey because I said so.” But this has to change as they grow up. We don’t want them to obey on the outside but harbor resentment and rebellion on the inside. So it helps to get them to think through their decision making process, especially when it comes to dealing with the desires of the heart.

My parents used the same approach with me when I was interested in dating someone who would have been a poor choice. They took me out to dinner and asked me the right questions. Over the course of the conversation, just like Edan, I cried, but I knew what I had to do. I was able to arrive at a discerning conclusion and I did not entertain the guys attempts to pursue a relationship with me. I was 15.

We don’t want to raise children who have an underdeveloped capacity for sound judgement. So it helps to start off with clear principles that we want to live by as a family. And then we need to teach these to our children, reinforcing these principles by our own adherence to them and our consistency in upholding them in the home. When they are in predicaments that can lead to a violation of a principle, the asking-questions-part comes in. Let them consider whether their choices or actions favor those principles or go against them so they take ownership of their decisions. It also helps when we communicate trust in their capacity to make wise choices that please God because he is present in their lives.

A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out. (Proverbs 20:5 NASB)

PARAPHRASED FOR PARENTING: “The intentions in the heart of a child are like deep waters but a parent of understanding draws them out.”

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