“Hon, You Have to Be a Better Homemaker”

When my husband, Edric, told me I had to be more involved in the home as a “homemaker,” meaning, “to put my whole heart into it,” I felt offended. He didn’t intend to put me down, but I reacted to his correction, primarily due to pride.

By my estimation, I was doing a decent job. Although I wasn’t a Martha Stewart or the kind of wife that put a whole lot of effort into making her home look Pinterest-worthy, our home was clean and our household help had a schedule that they followed, I had a meal plan, the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator were stocked with food, and there was a system in place for the day to day affairs. Plus, much of my personal time was consumed by home schooling, child-rearing, ministry, my writing, and projects/work commitments, so it wasn’t like I was lazing about as a woman.

However, Edric’s expectation for my homemaking went beyond the practical management. He hoped that I would put effort into beautifying our walls, making it feel “homey” by giving it a more lived-in look and adding personal touches, plants, paying more attention to details and upkeep issues, and finishing projects like my paintings and woodworking with the kids.

Although I didn’t agree with his perspective when he first made the comment, God convicted me that there was A LOT of room for improvement in this area of my life.

Edric is my leader. If he sees an area that I ought to better myself in then why not gladly receive it? I lose nothing by responding positively to what he asks me to do, especially since becoming a good homemaker is a means for me to be a greater blessing to him and my kids, as well as people who enter our home. I remember an insight I got from my very wise mother, “God uses our husbands to mold our character and prepare us for heaven.” Her spiritual perspective often ministers to me.

Edric and my dad are similar in the sense that they are teachers and like to help people be their best by pointing out areas they can improve in. Well, when I react to Edric’s teaching personality it’s usually because I’m proud and don’t like him telling me how I should change. However, he is almost always right. The issue is, when it comes to his correction (and only his for some reason), I get defensive. Yet, if God is using him to prepare me for heaven, then hallelujah, I should listen! After all, Proverbs 26:12 warns, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Furthermore, mediocrity isn’t becoming of a follower of Christ. I should be faithful at everything I do, everything that falls under my scope of responsibilities, which includes home-managing and home-making. Not every wife has the opportunity to stay at home so I understand that some of us have time constraints. Yet in my case, there really is no excuse. God has gifted Edric and me with a wonderful home to steward. How can I expect the Lord to entrust me with more important responsibilities if I’m not being faithful with what he has laid in front of me?

Truthfully, my home can use some attention, MY attention. (It’s different when a wife and mom personally sees to the details of her home rather than delegating these to household help.)

I can start by taking care of the small issues that I’ve been ignoring…left-over construction materials hidden in the backyard…a disorganized storage room…a broken kitchen clock (just fixed this)…lightbulbs that need replacing…family photos that need to be hung (did this yesterday! Woohoo!)… (As I make this list, I’m realizing how pathetic it is that I’m not attending to these things!)

Lastly and most importantly, I’m supposed to be my husband’s strong supporter, his Ezer Kenegdo, his “helper” as Genesis 2:18 puts it. By not embracing what he is asking me to do as a homemaker wholeheartedly, I’m not fulfilling my role as God has called me to.

Three months ago I borrowed a book from my mom, Becoming, which had an amazing chapter in it about a woman’s role written by Chrystie Cole, titled We Are Ezer. The word, Ezer, as found in the Genesis text was used a descriptor for Eve and Chrystie Cole explains that it meant "ally, aid, someone who brings support and relief" (the same word used to describe the Lord twenty-one times in the Old Testament).

It is adjoined to the word, Kenegdo, which means "corresponding to or suitable to." The two words together reveal that women are supposed to be the essential counterpart, indispensable companion, or corresponding strength to the people in our lives. Whether single or married, this is a God-given identity to us as women, fully realized in the context of our relationships with others. We were designed to strengthen and support the people in our lives with our talents, gifts, abilities, and encouragement. Since I am a wife and a mom, I am to be an Ezer to Edric and my kids.

According to Chrystie Cole, “A good illustration of this strength can be drawn from a 12th-century architectural innovation known as the flying buttress. Commonly used in Gothic architecture, a flying buttress provides essential support hat preserves the architectural soundness and integrity of a building. These buttresses bear weight and relieve pressure from the walls, allowing for higher ceilings, ornate latticing, and extra windows. Like these powerful structures, a woman provides an undergirding strength within the context of relationship that empowers others to become and achieve things that might have otherwise been impossible. She is an essential counterpart providing necessary, load-bearing support.”

Is that a beautiful example or what?! I nearly teared when I first read this! Thank you Chrystie Cole!

When I asked my husband earlier this year, “How can I support you as a wife?” (Be warned…this is a dangerous question to ask your husband if you aren’t ready and willing to humbly receive the answer!) His response was, “Take care of the home and do the things I ask you to.”

Even back then I knew that he wanted me to delight in being at home and managing our home wholeheartedly, but I would get distracted and fill up my calendar with other things to do, and simply delegate the homemaking to my household help. Now I better understand that he notices the difference between my full engagement and presence as a homemanager, and my convenient detachment from it.

I started this article a few days ago, but yesterday, when Edric came home, he found me using a power tool (oh yeah), a drill, to make holes in our wall to hang our family photos in the hallway upstairs. I also hung up one of my paintings, which had been stored in the linen closet for over a year. Elijah ably assisted me with the drill, too.

Together with the kids, I started a garden project in the yard, which is something Edric wanted me to be on top of. The kids and I also kickstarted their story-book writing for the seven character books that Edric’s been asking us to do for the last two years, Plus, I spent about an hour trimming all the bamboo that was overgrown and looking hideously neglected instead of waiting on Edric to do the gardening. During my mad-bamboo-cutting-spree, I got bitten at least twenty times by red ants. Yet after a day of wholehearted homemaking, I felt very fulfilled! The kids enjoyed helping me as well, which was a wonderful bonus, since it got them outdoors and encouraged them to be productive and learn new skills.

I didn’t mean to brag in the last part by talking about everything I did yesterday, but I didn’t want to end this article by “preaching” about things that I need to apply myself. So I got crackin’ on my home-making!

There remains a list of things to do that will probably never end, and I’m still not a Martha Stewart by any measure, but I’m thankful that God is using my teacher-husband to refine me in the very best way. Without his corrections and suggestions about how to be better I would stagnate as a person and never achieve my fullest potential as an Ezer to him, my kids, and to others.

If you have a husband like me or persons in your life who challenge you to grow and improve, let’s praise the Lord together! This is going to be good for us! We need this!

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Kids to Organize Their Things

As much as possible, I try to instill in my kids the value and discipline of picking up after themselves. Even little Catalina, at three years old, is learning this habit. I need to repeat instructions with her more often than my older kids. However, they all know that in our home, your mess is your responsibility. When they forget, I remind them.

The homeschool room gets the messiest, especially at the end of the morning when cut and torn paper, writing instruments, craft materials, books and notebooks, as well as a few toys pepper the room. Catalina probably contributes to seventy percent of the disarray. 

Tiana, who doesn’t like disorder, will grab a broom and begin sweeping. Edan takes the initiative to return his books to their proper location. As for Titus and Elijah, they need some gentle pushing to motivate them to clean up as well. Everyone is supposed to put their own books away, on their designated shelves. It’s part of their learning experience, and something that I am pretty sure my future daughters and sons-in-law will thank me for. Wink. 

I have also instructed the household help to reinforce the cleaning-up-after-themselves habit for my kids. It’s so easy to be lazy and delegate tidying up to others, but my kids won’t learn about stewardship, responsibility, or organization this way.

I am not at the level of tidiness that my sister-in-law, Jenny, is…someone who is a neat freak in a good way. She’s my peg for orderliness. Yet, I would like to think that I have improved over the years of being married to a wonderful husband whose idea of a cathartic experience is to clean out his closet and de-clutter. He is strong and masculine, but I find it adorable when I see him standing in front of his side of the walk-in closet, humming a tune while taking stock of what to throw out or give away, how to re-arrange his shoes, or thoughtfully line up his shirts and pants. 

Living with someone who abhors clutter, who feels ruffled when his things are moved an inch from their original location, has caused a little bit of his OCD behavior to rub off on me. I am still messy in comparison. But we do share a common liking for keeping the home tidy. 

Very simply put…we prefer to avoid stacks of objects, books, and papers on desks or cabinets, and we throw away, donate or garage-sale surplus and unused possessions that needlessly collect dust. As I share this, I actually feel guilty about three areas in the home that require sorting yet again — the linen closet with two bins that I haven’t opened in a number of months, the guest room closet which the househelp recently stuffed with miscellaneous items, and the storage room, which is, well, collecting more storage. 

Going back to training the kids…

Recently, I was asked to write about Simply Modular: “the first modular storage system designed for those who like to constantly change interior layout and move around through the use of simple connectable planks. Planks come in different colors are self-assembled into different styles to meet the individual needs of the furniture.” 


My boys jumped on the opportunity to assemble the planks. The experience served as an application for geometry and logic. They had to configure the planks according to their design. And when they made mistakes, it was easy to take the planks apart again. 


Naturally, Titus, my mechanical son, was very eager to participate in this. Elijah, too, took charge of the building. He even instructed me what to do. 



Since the planks were made of lightweight and durable plastic, they could be assembled and transferred to any place in the house. So my kids designed the furniture pieces in the living room and then we carried them to the girls’ room. 

Tiana and Catalina were thrilled! Tiana, as I said, gets really excited about organizing her things. I know, it’s kind of weird, but nice. 

She went to work right away and begged me to help her. Since I had to leave for an appointment, I requested that we resume the task another time. Her response, “You promise, okay?” 

My goodness. This girl likes to be clean and to organize!


The only objective feedback I have on the planks is that the doors don’t close completely. I am trying to figure out a fix for this. But other than that, Simply Modular has provided me with a quick and easy solution for the girls’ storage needs. Plus, we can always redesign and remodel the planks to serve another purpose. 

Other ideas from Simply Modular:

Simply Modular Furniture System, which started in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, is quickly earning popularity among millenials with fast-paced and ever-changing lifestyles, as well as condo investors. It is fun, flexible, practical, durable and affordable, as it combines function, quality, design and value – with sustainability in mind. It is the first of its kind in the country.

Simply Modular are connectable panels that are self-assembled to form different types of furniture – a shelf, cabinet, console table, closet, bed, desk, bench, etc. They may be reused and morphed into different styles and sizes as needed. Storing the panels takes up minimal space as they are flatly stacked in a box, easily transportable. All parts, made from high quality ABS plastic, are 100% waterproof, termite-proof, rust-proof, and can hold up to 200 kilos.
More info on Simply Modular:

G/F SMDC M Place Panay Avenue Quezon City 

Tel No: 0917-637-4152 

Store Hours: 10AM – 8PM Mon – Sun

E-mail: hello@simplymodular.ph

Nutritious Snacks by Raw Bites

I am often on the lookout for healthy and nutritious snacks for my kids. Admittedly, my pantry isn’t always stocked with honest to goodness food for my children or Edric and me. I cheat from time to time. (I still make my chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes on my kids’ birthdays.) However, I do lean towards healthy eating for our household. 

After my gut health issues and the various skin asthma breakouts my kids have had towards certain foods, I tend to read the labels on everything I buy. If I can’t decode what’s on them then I know it’s probably not good for us. 

Although I don’t want to make healthy living an obsession (Edric has warned me repeatedly about this), my desire is to be wise and intentional about what we eat in our home. 

It’s great to know that Raw Bites has healthy, organic, natural sugar, GMO-free, and preservative-free snacks-in-a-box options that can be delivered right to your home. They sent me a sample of their premium box and it came with the following goodies:

 Check out Raw Bites’ site and Instagram for more information: 

Menu 2017

One of my to-do list for 2017 was to come up with a meal plan for our family that was a combination of healthy and delicious. Edric and I wanted to expose our kids to different cuisines and cultures, and we also wanted to be able to inculcate eating habits that are good for them. Although I couldn’t organize an entirely gluten-free, carb-free, low fat diet (I love fat like real butter!), I attempted to put together a mix of food that included lots of fruit, vegetables, protein, and good carbs. I’ve got growing kids and it wouldn’t be fair to feed them things that tasted like paper! (I personally can’t eat everything on this menu because of certain restrictions I need to follow for health reasons, but Edric and the kids don’t need to be constrained by my issues.) 

So here’s our MENU 2017. It’s actually a two-week menu that can be repeated accordingly: 1st and 3rd week, then 2nd and 4th week. The portions are for a seven-person family with household helps to consider so don’t be alarmed at the number of eggs I have to buy! Please don’t fault me if some items are missing on Grocery List Week 1&3 and Grocery LIst Week 2&4. (These are PDF files so you may have to click the links again if they bring you to a separate page.) 

Truthfully, this menu can be pricey at the grocery. However, this is the one expenditure in our home that Edric and I invest in – good, healthy, and as natural-as-possible food for the family. 

A lot of the recipes can be done by my home cook or me, but some of the meals required referencing an online source. So, I’ve included those links as well under Menu 2017.

Happy eating and home managing!!!


 

The Importance of Gut Health

Only recently, I discovered that the stomach functions like a second brain. Gut health is so important, you can actually cure yourself by eating the right food and avoiding the ones that are actually killing you silently. 

For example, I have dealt with memory issues and slight insomnia in the last year. These problems became more pronounced in the last quarter of 2016. At first, I dismissed these concerns as consequences of busy-ness and too much activity. However, when I met with Life Science Senior Medical Consultant, Dr. Oyie Balburias, he explained that my root problem was most probably mal-absorption of protein. 

Although protein is part of my regular diet, my results and lengthy discussion with him revealed that I am deficient in it. Interestingly, I also work-out and exercise regularly but my body scan showed that I was a negative 2 for muscle, which means my fat to muscle ratio is that of an under-exercised person! That was sobering! (And depressing!)

Until I cure my “leaky gut” issue by changing my diet to avoid foods that I am intolerant to, I will continue to have protein-absorption problems. Furthermore, I have to ingest the right mix of macro and micro nutrients, which Dr. Oyie prescribed for me.
 
What I appreciate about functional medicine is that it considers how everything about the body, such as its organs, systems, emotional and spiritual dimensions, are interconnected. With functional medicine, prescription medicine isn’t the first option, rather it is a person’s “relationship with food” that becomes the primary means to achieve one’s health goal.
 
According to Dr. Oyie, “Often times people eat their way into the problems or illnesses that they currently have and the best way to start the healing process is to eat their way out of it. All of this starts with an improved relationship with food. For many of us, our relationship with what we eat is often complicated. We know what’s good for us but we can’t help sneaking in that piece of cake in the middle of the night or grabbing fast food when we’re in a rush. For some it’s gotten so complicated, that their relationship with food has become counterproductive to their physical and emotional wellbeing.”
 
I sat through my three-hour consultation with him– a very comprehensive look into my history—and thought to myself, “This all makes so much sense!”
 
One of the reasons why it’s so hard to change our eating regimens and food preferences is because our stomachs, being the second brain of our body, “control us.” If we develop an addiction to sugar, it’s because our stomachs have programmed our brains to like it. So we have to slowly eliminate foods that are harmful to us. Many people, for example, don’t do well with dairy or wheat. Personally, I’ve noticed that wheat causes bloating in me. So I’ve tried to stay away from it as much as possible. 
 
Dairy is a tougher one to remove for me (and my kids). Out of curiosity I asked the doctor whether dairy was okay for kids. He said, for as long as cows aren’t injected with hormones, antibiotics, and steroids, then dairy is okay for kids (those who don’t have lactose intolerance).
 
I researched about the milk that my kids drink – Friso. It’s also the brand our family endorses. And I found out that Friesland Campina does not inject their cows with hormones, antibiotics or steroids. Hooray! They try to keep their milk as close to nature as possible. So I can give Friso to my children with a good conscience. They need the calcium and nutrients which I don’t want to compromise on.
 
Dr. Oyie also emphasized how a child’s gut health has to be established very early on, as early as the first two years of life. Otherwise, children tend to have allergy issues and other health complications. And what a mother eats and doesn’t eat before and during pregnancy plays a crucial role in the formation of a child’s healthy gut. A lot of sugar while pregnant is a big no-no!

Since I am learning all of this after the fact, I have to be wise about the way I feed my five kids who are all beyond two years old. It’s still possible to restore gut health in my kids, which is the good news. 

As for me, Life Science will be prescribing a diet very soon which I hope to be able to share with you. But, every person has specific needs so it is best to do a thorough assessment of your over all health before subscribing to any diet. 

That’s another principle I learned from Dr. Oyie. “Each person was uniquely created by God,” as he said, “and therefore its needs are also unique.” What works for me may not work for you, and what works for you may not work for me.

Edric, for example, is in much better health than I am. Even though we pretty much eat the same foods at home, and we both avoid sugary foods and junk foods as much as possible, he is healthier than I am. I honestly felt very jealous when I first saw his results. However, his problem has to do with the  mitochondria in his cells. Since he tends to get very busy and his schedule is hectic, Dr. Oyie advised that he needs to eat a diet that’s for athletes, and that he needs to learn relaxation techniques and how to “switch off” when it comes to activity. According to him, things like watching TV and internet surfing and are not positive sources of relaxation. Screen time at night wakes up a person’s system, confusing its natural reliance on circadian rhythms. So Edric also quit watching TV series before bedtime.

True forms of relaxation and recharging are praying, fasting at least once a week (which resets the body), deep breathing and meditating on truth — God’s Word. My sister, who is also into functional medicine, suggests that uplifting music is beneficial as well. Personally, I find that being outdoors, climbing mountains, sitting in a bath tub, and getting a foot and head massage help me to de-stress. 

Of course, Edric has to intentionally set aside moments for rest in his calendar, too. This year, he committed to do this and asked that his assistant to create “blackout” dates when he won’t schedule any commitments. I was relieved to hear this because his schedule naturally impacts mine. 

I wrote a little bit about functional medicine earlier this year and it seems to be a topic I keep returning to. On the one hand, the philosophy behind it is so sensible — nutrition, wise choices about how we use our time, manage stress, rest, and exercise are the best ways to achieve optimum health for me and my family. On the other hand, I am writing about this again because my struggle continues to be with food. I love to eat! So this knowledge about gut health and its impact on the body is a reminder to apply self-control and discipline! As Proverns 25:28 says, “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” How true it is that the body breaks down when we can’t exercise self-control over what we eat! 
 

Creative Play Unboxed

I always enjoy new finds that can enhance my kids’ homeschooling experience. Last week, I met Stefanie Lim at a speaking engagement I was at, and she handed me a box called Oli Boxship as a gift for my kids. Stefanie’s the co-founder of Oli’s Boxship, which is a box of craft surprises delivered to your door, for kids ages 4 to 9. 

The idea behind Oli’s Boxship is igniting creative play and educating children about science, language, math, and social studies at the same time. 


The box we received covers the five senses. It came with all the materials we needed and a story book, too!


Everything in the box is neatly packaged by activity. There is also a booklet of instructions to guide kids.



My kids haven’t done the projects yet but they are excited to! So I am planning to use the box as a reward at the end of our homeschooling week.

I also checked out Oli Boxship’s subscription options and I have attached them below: 


For more information, you may also contact:

Your Kids Are What You Eat

We binged on junk food when we got back from our trip to New Zealand and Australia. It was a good and terrible thing. I was bloated and lethargic after one night of joyous gluttony.

Normally, we don’t eat this way as a family. Growing up, I didn’t either. My mom fed us raisins, home made popcorn, and fruit for snacks. We hardly drank fruit juices, too. It was basically water. So I never acquired an appetite for coffee, tea, soft drinks or juice.

I am a water girl and I drink chlorophyll powder and turmeric. That’s about it. But once in a while I will eat a piece of cake, gobble down M&Ms, and Jalapeño Cheetos. Yet I try to avoid doing this on a regular basis, especially because I am aging. It’s doubly hard to get rid of fat and build muscle.

The challenge is training our kids to eat nutritiously and make wise choices when it comes to taking care of their bodies. At the beginning it’s about teaching them to obey, which includes finishing what is on their plate. By the age of 4 (I wish it was earlier), our kids eat what we give them and ask them to. Praise God. That’s His grace.

Another aspect is setting boundaries and being a positive example as parents. If we don’t make healthy choices we can’t expect our kids to do the same. It’s a family thing. Our kids are what we eat becauase they tend to eat what we eat.

It doesn’t have to be complicated or unrealistic either. I am not vegan or someone who eats only organic food. Sometimes I wish I was, and I applaud those who are this disciplined. But it’s not that easy to be organic about everything in the Philippines. Plus, focusing too much on what we can and can’t eat can cause our children to be paranoid and legalistic. Our kids pick up on what Edric and I talk about so quickly, so the older ones get overly concerned about their sugar intake and they look at labels for preservatives in food because they hear us converse about these things.

However, there are some non-negotiable about our diet. First, minimal refined sugar. Take soft drinks for instance. Soft drinks are hands down bad for your body. So we don’t let our kids develop a palate for it. They don’t see Edric and I drinking it either. Sometimes Edric will buy a Coke when we are at a Chinese resto but that’s about it. And the kids will give him a hard time and say, “Why is dad drinking a Coke?!” Like its a mortal sin!
Thankfully, because we talked to them about the badness of soft drinks early, they have no liking for it. Even when they go to other people’s homes or parties where pop is served, they avoid it on their own.

With the exception of my chocolate chip cookies, we use honey, muscovado or coconut sugar to sweeten food. And we don’t do powdered juice drinks either.

Secondly, we look at labels when it comes to the food we eat. Anything with preservatives like sodium nitrate and MSG are red flags. Unfortunately, this means that we can’t eat yummy stuff like corned beef and Spam. I miss those days! Although I am ashamed to admit we haven’t quit the bacon yet (this is a tough one for Edric and our kids) and Knorr Sinigang Mix, for the most part, we avoid canned goods and the anything with a label that sounds too technical to understand.

Once again, we aren’t dogmatic. Sometimes I serve hotdogs to guests. But they won’t be the red ones!

Third, we don’t like to eat a lot of fast food. It’s a last option for our family. Like…when we are desperately hungry. Otherwise, it’s home cooked meals for us. Brown rice, fish, and veggies are a favorite combination for my kids and me. With Edric we have to give him more options but we tend to veer away, in general, from pork.

When it comes to snacks, I have to improve on the selection I provide for my kids. Thankfully, there are amazing options for healthy snacks these days. I am also writing this so I can think through a better plan for the snacking part of our day.

I was thrilled to be sent samples from a company called The Honest Crop.


My kids consumed these in one day! Now they are asking for more! Look at how pretty the chips are! I ate an entire bag of these myself. They also have Taro Chips and Sweet Potato Chips. Both so delicious!


Besides giving them fruit, carrot sticks, cheese, and nuts, I am hoping to add these to our snack menu, too. Woohoo!

Here is The Honest Crop’s price list:

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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.

Why Children Learn Best at Home

At the recent Global Home Education Conference in Brazil, I met Debra Bell again. She is one of my homeschool heroes. She was an educator who taught her own kids so she understands the differences between homeschooling and conventional schooling better than most people do. Her book, Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, has helped countless families navigate the challenges of homeschooling. Furthermore, she has gotten her PhD on learning psychology and done extensive research on how children learn. In her workshop, she explained 8 reasons why children learn best at home.

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I want to add just two other points that I covered in the talk I gave in Cebu. Firstly, learning happens best at home because parents are able to focus on the heart of their child.

The amount of time I have with my kids allows me to study them thoroughly and prepare their hearts to receive instruction. A few days ago, I found out that Edan was tempted to run away sevearal times. Edan? My sweet son? Run away?!!! I started to cry. But instead of panicking, Edric and I decided to take him out to lunch for fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and ice cream (some of his favorite things, especially the latter.)

During this lunch we asked him to explain what was going on in his heart and he told us that he gets very angry inside. Sometimes, he gets angry with Elijah, Edric or me. Oh dear. When he does, he thinks, Maybe I will just run away. This was shocking to me because I think our home is a pretty loving, stress-free home environment. But apparently, Edan doesn’t always see it this way.

For one thing, he doesn’t handle conflict with his brother, Elijah, well. (We are working on this.) He likes to avoid getting into discussions when he is frustrated. Furthermore, he gets hurt when Edric or I correct him with a negative tone. He actually used the phrase, “When you get mad at me.” His love language is words so he is very sensitive to what people say.

We both encouraged Edan by saying, “Edan, you can talk to us about anything. Anytime you are going through something, you can come to us. We want to listen to you, to help you. We love you and you are important to us.”

I also told him a story about a boy who grew up in a wonderful Christian home where he was deeply loved. “However,” I continued, “this boy grew up and chose the wrong friends who invited him to do drugs. So he got addicted and fell away from the Lord. When I interviewed the parents to find out what happened to this son of theirs, they revealed that he hid things in his heart. He didn’t share what was going on inside. As a result, he listened to the lies of the evil one. It’s the same way with any of us, Edan. Imagine a sheep on a field by itself. To a wolf, it will seem like vulnerable and easy prey. But if that sheep was beside the shepherd and with the other sheep, the wolf would think twice. It will be harder for him to attack the sheep. As a Christian, it’s difficult to follow Christ alone, just like that sheep. We need others.”

Edan smiled at Edric and me. He knew what we were getting at. He came away from our lunch feeling like he was treasured and special, that we love him no matter what.

Does this mean that he will never feel like running away again? The temptation may still come. In fact, he recently said, “Mom, I am getting that feeling again,” when Edric and I were about to go out on a date! Hmm…was this manipulation?! I talked to him about his feelings and the next day, we took all the kids out for a movie and dinner date.

Why is the heart so important when it comes to homeschooling? If my kids don’t trust me or don’t feel secure in their love for me (or Edric’s), they will not listen to my (our) instruction. Furthermore, if their hearts aren’t spiritually okay, their minds won’t be okay either. Homeschooling gives us a lot of time to get to know our children and to invest in their hearts.

Three years ago, I attended Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s seminar in Berlin on Why Home Education Works. He presented an interesting conclusion from the view point of a developmental psychologist. I wrote about his theory a few years ago, which I found to be very insightful. (He isn’t even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.) According to Neufeld, homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature in to a healthy and whole person who can achieve his fullest potential. Years of research and study show that a child was designed to be raised and educated at home because the most important element in a child’s development towards maturity is his attachment to those who are responsible for him (aka parents).

There’s another aspect to focusing on a child’s heart, which is to help them internalise obedience and respect. This is a prerequisite to effective learning. Imagine trying to get five children to sit down and do their work if they don’t obey? Nightmare. My focus will be diverted to behavioural management instead of valuable hours spent acquiring knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

It’s challenging for Catalina right now because she is in obedience-training mode. But I’m amazed at how big the change has been since we became intentional about disciplining her. I can tell her, “Catalina, sit down.” Or, “Catalina, don’t be fussy.” Or, “Catalina, wait, because mommy is still talking to your brother.” She will listen. Not perfectly. But she’s improved significantly. Therefore, it is now plausible to teach her. Her heart is ready. Some months ago, it would have been crazy to attempt this.

Yet another critical aspect of focusing on the heart is imparting convictions to our children. When they understand that they are accountable to God to live for His purposes and glory, they will make wise choices about the use of their time, the thoughts they entertain, the habits they develop, and the friends they hang out with. When it comes to education and responsibilities, they will try their best even if no one is watching them.

Another reason why learning happens best at home is more practical in nature. The skills needed for the 21st century are not achieved through the conventional methods of schooling. I’ve been reading Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – and What We Can Do About It. He describes 7 Survival Skills for the 21st Century for Work, Learning, and Citizenship. Academics are great but they don’t rank as high with CEOs and owners of some of the largest and most profitable businesses in the world. Tony Wagner interviewed top CEOs and business owners and they revealed certain abilities that they look for, which I’ve posted below:

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Interestingly, all these skills can be honed in the context of the home and through parental instruction! When I read Wagner’s book, I got so excited! It made me realise that homeschooling is not just about creating an optimum environment for learning, focusing on their hearts, and providing the foundation of character and conviction in our kids. Homeschooling can prepare our kids for the REAL world.

1. Critical thinking and problem solving —  We  can teach our kids to ask questions, to be resourceful, and to find sensible solutions to learning challenges they face. It’s not about memorizing facts or content mindlessly. It’s about making logical and intelligent choices.

2. Collaboration and leading by influence — We can teach our kids to work together, love and forgive one another unconditionally. We can also teach them to deal with personalities and engage people they may not naturally gravitate to. More importantly, we ought to remind them to pursue Christ-likeness and encourage others by their example. Good leaders inspire followers. They don’t lord it over others.

3. Agility and adaptation — We need to train our children to be flexible. Learning doesn’t always happen in a predictable fashion. Everything doesn’t always go as planned in life either. Sometimes we need to pursue the same goal but change our methods in the process and our kids have to learn to adjust. For example, we need to learn about math concepts but if the book doesn’t cut it, what other sources can we use?

How about when a child doesn’t get his or her way? We can teach them to respond with the right attitude. And when a child fails at a task, we can gently push them to keep going.

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism — Many homeschooling families do home-based businesses. Our kids have tried doing this several times. But we need to give them even more opportunities to practice creating a business idea and executing it, and how to earn money even while they are young.

With older children, we can apply initiative by making them responsible for their learning. Don’t hover over them all the time. They have to take ownership of their learning goals and proactively improve themselves.

5. Effective written and oral communication – This is self-explanatory but apparently, many students today have problems articulating themselves well when they write or speak. Our own kids can be prone to the same problem if we are not intentional about building these skills. At the same time homeschoolers can have an edge because they have access to experiences that conventional schooled children may not.

A few weeks ago, my friend’s 10 year old, homeschooling daughter stood along side her dad to give a short testimony about how her father is loving to her mom. She helped give examples to the audience about how a husband should cherish his wife. She was articulate, poised and she memorized her entire talk. She did an amazing job!

I have used Institute for Excellence in Writing to help my eldest son develop his creative writing skills. He used to abhor writing. But after using this material he wrote a 52 paragraph narrative about his Mt. Apo climb. He did a great job, too. When I met author, Andrew Pudewa, in Brazil I thanked him for the blessing he has been to us all the way in the Philippines. If Elijah displayed a negative attitude toward writing in school, I don’t think a teacher would spend hours searching for a better way for him to learn to write. But mothers will do this kind of thing for their kids.

6. Assessing and analysing information — With the overwhelming amounts of information accessible to children today through the Internet, we need to teach them to evaluate and process content. Will they take everything at face value or will they think twice about making decisions based on what they read and see online?

Elijah makes stock reports and submits them to his dad. He reads through articles and updates about the businesses he invests in and gives recommendations based on his research. But he must do so thoroughly because his investments are at stake. As a result, he trains himself to sort through the information before coming to conclusions. By God’s grace his portfolio is doing pretty well, too.

7. Curiosity and imagination – Everyday our kids have time to play, explore, discover, invent and create. We don’t cannibalise the hours of their day with school work. To my horror I was told that some conventionally schooled students in highly competitive institutions have to study into the late evenings during the week then wake up ridiculously early to avoid the traffic to school. This makes me want to cry. These kids are missing out on the wonders of childhood which should include day dreaming, exploring, inventing, creating, and mastering their areas of giftedness.

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Finland is at the forefront of revolutionary educational methods and their methods have been proven successful. In an article written by an 7th grade math teacher in the U.S. who completed his Fulbright research assignment in Finland he explained, “We (in Anerica) can’t even stick to ONE philosophy of education long enough to see if it actually works. We are constantly trying new methods, ideas and initiatives. We keep adding more and more to our plates without removing any of the past ideas. Currently we believe “more” is the answer to all of our education problems— everything can be solved with MORE classes, longer days, MORE homework, MORE assignments, MORE pressure, MORE content, MORE meetings, MORE after school tutoring, and of course MORE testing! All this is doing is creating MORE burnt out teachers, MORE stressed out students and MORE frustration. Finland on the other hand believes less is more.” Source: 11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us Less Is More

I also believe in less is more to give way to pursuits and activities that do more for kids. Over the weekend, I spoke to parents from Cebu who encouraged their 12 year old daughter to study fashion design while she was homeschooling. She competed with students much older than she was. But she turned out to be the most imaginative of them all, according to her teacher. She presented her first project in an unconventional way, displaying a 1920’s outfit to explain the uniqueness of that era in fashion design. At 14, she continues to study design and is excelling at it! If she is amazing now, how much more when she actually studies it in college?!

What’s her big advantage? Her parents didn’t choke the creativity out of her by cramming her mind full of academics. She spent many hours sketching and drawing before she ever took up fashion design. And she did this during her childhood years.

Knowing that learning happens best at home brings me great comfort as a homeschooling mom. It also affirms our family’s decision to choose this lifestyle. Furthermore it is starting to look like the future of education is headed in the direction of home education. Or, at the very least, something very similar to the way learning transpires at home and customizes learning for a child.

The world is changing fast and educational models are becoming outdated more quickly than institutions and governments are able to adjust to these changes. Homeschooling parents may seem crazy to those who anchor their sense of security on school systems and on reputable school brands. This article is not about criticizing those parents. I believe parents who homeschool and parents who send their kids to school are well-meaning and love their kids just the same. But maybe one day soon, people will applaud the brave parents who had the foresight to recognize that their children could learn more, be more and accomplish more in their home instead of in a traditional classroom.

Be the Supermom God Has Called You to Be

The landscape of motherhood has changed significantly in the last decade.

Moms today…
• Multi-task on their smartphones (Pinterest, Instagram, online parenting communities)
• 61% of moms 18 to 32 are unmarried
• 64% say that parenting has become more competitive – pressure to be the “perfect” mom.
• Perfect means organized, educated, fit, focused on family, has a great job & able to cook.
• Will spend for organic/natural foods and products for their children. SOURCE: mothermag.com/millennial-mom-statistics

Interestingly, an article by livescience.com revealed that one of the distinct ways motherhood has changed over time is that today, moms feel a whole lot of guilt. When moms stay at home they fear they aren’t contributing enough financially or they won’t be respected. When they go to work they worry about neglecting their children. Today’s moms also have more to do and less time to do it. As a result, we are more stressed about wanting to have it all. Trying to be supermoms makes us super crazy.

As I begin this entry I want us to lay aside the anxieties that loom over us and look at the mom God has called you and me to be. Who is this mom? And what is her purpose? What really makes her super? (I’m doing this as a cathartic experience for myself, because I need this!) 

Unless we settle these questions, we will continue to pursue an image of motherhood that is based upon the world’s standards of success and not on God’s standards for us. We will be tempted to compare our children with others and derive our sense of security and worth from the way they perform or what they achieve. 

Some months ago, my kids joined a basketball program and they weren’t the superstars. Initially, I wasn’t surprised because they hardly played basketball. Yet, as I watched their session, it became very obvious that their cousins outshone them in every aspect of balling.

When I got home, I complained to Edric, “You need to spend time playing basketball with the boys. They don’t know how to play. This is your department. You and I are athletes but they are terrible at basketball. How can this be? We need to do something!” 

He looked at me like I was a raging demoniac. Where was this ugly competitiveness coming from?
I wanted our kids to be good basketball players for pride’s sake. Furthermore, I blamed Edric for not being intentional about training them at home. He didn’t appreciate how I was pinning this on him and reacted to me, which resulted in a conflict.

Afterwards, I realized that my perspective was wrong. My disquiet and anxiousness about their ability to perform athletically were rooted in jealousy and insecurity. I didn’t want their cousins to be superior to them in sports.

Colossians 1:17 says, “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” As a mom I need to remember that in Christ, I hold together. When I don’t keep Him as my anchor, I end up wounding those I love with my negative perspectives, words and actions.

Motherhood isn’t a contest. My children aren’t trophies. The first thing I need to understand about motherhood is the word STEWARDSHIP. I don’t own my kids. They were entrusted to me, to Edric, so that we might raise them in accordance with God’s will and purposes. The Bible says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:13-14

My fourth child, Tiana, put it very well when I asked her one morning, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She answered with conviction, “I will be whatever God wants me to be.” As a five year old she understood that she belongs to the Lord.

Since my children were made for the Lord, stewardship means…

…teaching my children to love and honor God with all that they are. (Deuteronomy 6:5-7)
…disciplining and correcting my children when they exhibit attitudes and behaviors that do not conform to His character. (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 19:18, Proverbs 22:15)
…protecting my children from influences or experiences that harden their heart towards Him or lead them away from Him. This includes minding my own example to them. (Psalm 119:9, 1 Corinthians 6:18, Proverbs 13:20, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Mark 9:42, 1 Corinthians 11:1)
…identifying the gifts and bents of my children and helping them to develop these for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 10:31)
…giving my children a vision for their lives – how God can use them to accomplish His will and purposes. (Proverbs 29:18, Romans 8:28, Jeremiah 29:11)

It is my God-given purpose to raise my children this way — a responsibility that I cannot delegate to others or pursue half-heartedly. I am accountable to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for this sacred trust.

“For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:11-12

Someday, when I stand before the Lord, I will give an account of my role as mom. What did I do with the children He gave me to raise for Him? Will I be found faithful?

This doesn’t mean that my children must turn out perfect under my watch. At the end of the day, my children are also accountable to God and they must make the choice to follow Him on their own. However, I do believe that God will look at the years that He gave me to teach and train them, and ask me what I did with those years. Did I do my best to build the right foundation in my children’s hearts and minds — a foundation that will prepare them to love, obey, and follow Him?

The apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:10-12, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Our task is a supernatural one, which can seem daunting and intimidating, but before I end this entry, I want to remind all of the mothers out there that God loves you and me. We are precious to Him. It’s important to let this reality invade our hearts completely because motherhood requires us to be sacrificial and resilient. We aren’t fit for the task when we meet each day empty and wanting, or oppressed by our own emotional and spiritual issues.

There was a time when I was overwhelmed with the responsibilities of mothering five children. It felt like I was in a perpetual season of imperfection. My homeschool schedule was shot and my children’s academic progress was snail-like. I ended each day tired and lost. However, God brought me back to the truth that I needed to hear, the truth that calmed the turbulence inside me. He loves me. He is for me. He will uphold me.

“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are…” 1 John 3:1

I have found that one of the best ways to encourage my children when they are feeling down, discouraged or frustrated is to remind them that I love them. I love them no matter what, just as they are. Similarly, but in an infinitely more amazing way, God loves you and me, even in our imperfection. We don’t need to be supermoms to be acceptable to Him. What a relief! 

Why should this matter so much? God will equip you and me to be the moms we need to be. As we seek His will for our children and parent them accordingly, Luke 12:29-31 assures us with this image of our Heavenly Father: “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. Luke 12:29 – 31

  What a comfort to have a daddy we can always run to when we mess up, feel inadequate, fall apart, or need encouragement. He’s not just any daddy, too. He is all-poweful, all knowing, all-present, and all-amazing! 

He’s saying to us, “Don’t worry. Seek after me and I will take care of you.”

As we focus on being faithful stewards of our children, let’s not forget that we have a faithful Father who is committed to enabling and empowering us. We have a high calling to fulfill, but we are never alone as we do so. God puts the “Super” in all of us! 

Homeschooling Interview on Mommy Hacks

In case you missed this episode of Mommy Hacks last year, I am posting the interview I had with beautiful moms Rica Peralejo Bonifacio and Cheska Garcia Kramer where they grilled me (in a positive way) with questions about homeschooling. Find out what a typical day is like for the kids and me, or get the answer to your socialisation question. Plus, find out why homeschooling is my favorite job in the world! Check out the video here: Mommy Hacks Interview

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Rags 2 Riches Launches a New Line of Decor

Rags 2 Riches, the home and design store that taps local craftsmen and women to weave their products recently collaborated with designer, Marilen Montenegro of Marilen.ph.

img_0788-1.jpgMarilen is a talented designer but she is also a model, tv personality, blogger, homeschooling mama and friend. One look at this home line tells me she’s mixed in all these aspects of her person into the handwoven planters, serving trays, poufs, and hampers. The colors pop and say happiness.

  
I could imagine one of the teal poufs on the floor of a homeschooling room. It’s something my own kids would enjoy sitting on to read a book. Here’s Marilen’s son, Santiago, enjoying his seat. He started bouncing on it later on, too. (As a mom of two energetic kids, I am sure she thought of that sort of thing when she had these made.)

img_0772.jpgOne of her serving tray designs followed the lines of her Marilen.ph logo – simple, clean, but far from boring with their textured handles and white washed finish. 

My top picks are the planters which remind me of the macrame projects my mom used to do. They look mid-century but with a colorful punch to them. 


And of course there’s the hamper which can also be used as a planter, which Marilen whispered to me she named Joy. And how joyful looking it is! The hue and style make you want to smile. I certainly did!


Be sure to stop by one of Rags 2 Riches’ stores to see the whole line. This one is in Podium, Ortigas. 

   

  

  

  



 

Things that matter…hmm…showing up for a friend’s product launch because you want her to know you’ve got her back. 

  
For more info, check out R2R’s social media accounts and website:

  
Visit Marilen.ph, too, for great tips on how to style your home with heart!