Two Become One

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My parents are literally East meets West, a Chinese and an American. When they met one another in the Philippines, they were from two distinctly different cultures brought together by a common love for Jesus Christ and the desire to serve him. Now married for nearly 41 years, and still in love (more so than ever before), it is their identity in Christ — as one — that has kept them together.

While I was cleaning out old albums, I came across a published narrative of how God brought them together, and I was so blessed to read their story again. I’m hoping you will feel the same way…

“Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-24

PETER (DAD):

As I meditated on this passage one morning in December 1971, I was confident that if I asked anything in the name of Jesus, he would do it. There was great peace in my heart as  I prayed, “Lord, allow me to meet my future wife. I am tired of dating girls and wasting time.”

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20140329-180017.jpgI met Deonna in Janauary at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. She had arrived in the Philippines on November 21 as a member of the Crossroads, a musical team for Asia of the aforementioned Christian organization.

At that time, I never imaged that she was the Lord’s answer to my prayer. There were two incidents, however, which prompted me to become better acquainted with her. The first occurred when my younger sister, Beth, went shopping with her. Beth commented afterwards, “she is so simple and wise in her shopping.”

The other happened a week after our encounter. The Crossroads and I were having dinner together. As we were sharing our experiences with the Lord, I noticed that Deonna had a deep comprehension of life. She showed great spiritual discernment in what she was saying. I talked with her again at the next Friday night meeting. That evening, I asked her for a date on Sunday afternoon.

Our first date was a unique experience for me. My original plan was to show her some interesting places in the greater Manila area and get-to-know her at the same time. However, a few days before Sunday, a pastor-friend invited me to speak in his church on the same afternoon that I was to be with Deonna. I accepted the invitation. Not being well-acquainted with Deonna, I didn’t know what she would think about my acceptance of the speaking engagement. I hoped she would be willing to minister with me. I waited until Sunday to tell her. When I did, I was delighted because she welcomed the idea. She remarked that it is good to have a balance between being together and ministering together. That Sunday afternoon, she helped me by sharing her testimony at the church I spoke at.

This was how our relationship began. It was the type of relationship I prayed I would have with a girl. I had spent time with other girls but none of them had expressed a willingness to serve the Lord the way Deonna did. I was encouraged by the fact that we were closer to the Lord and to each other when we parted that evening.

After our first date, we committed the future of our relationship to the Lord. Although we saw each other frequently between the months of February and August, we had to be separated for a period of three and a half months. Deonna toured with the Crossroads in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines in March and April; then in July, I went to the U.S. for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Explo’ 72 and Lay Staff Training.

With the possibility of marriage in mind, Deonna and I thought it would be wise for me to visit her family while in the U.S. During the second week of my trip to the U.S., I spent four days in Florida with them. I discussed with her father what the Lord had been showing us in regards to our relationship. I left her family with the assurance that her parents would welcome our marriage if it were the Lord’s will.

My love for Deonna grew during the rest of my time in the U.S. For the first time in my life, I began to realize the meaning of Agape Love – an unconditional, unselfish love. I discovered within myself a freedom to love her without the fear of losing her or of becoming jealous. Regardless of her response to me, I knew I would still love her. I only desired the best for her.

In August, the Lord finally confirmed that he had chosen Deonna to be my wife. He did this through many Bible verses and through the love which He had placed within me for her. Knowing that Deonna was to be my wife, I was eager to see her. As soon as my responsibilities would allow me, I began my trip home.

I had to stop in Germany to attend to some business affairs. Although I originally intended to spend a few months in Germany to complete my business there, I was able to do everything in a week. Then, I immediately flew to the Philippines with the intention of asking Deonna to marry me.

Wasting no time, I proposed to Deonna on Sunday, the 27th of August, which was just one day after I returned to Manila. I did not know what the Lord had revealed to her concerning our future. I only knew that I loved her and that the Lord had showed me that Deonna was to be my wife. Trusting His promises me, I had the courage to ask her to marry me. But when I asked her, she did not answer me immediately. After a moment of silence, she said, “Peter, please get my Bible out of the car. I want to share with you what the Lord showed me concerning our relationship.”

I never expected her to respond this way! Nevertheless, I brought her Bible and “patiently” waited for thirty minutes while she read the many Bible verses God had shown her. When she finally finished, I asked, “Deonna, what is your answer?” Again, she surprised me by saying, “Peter, let’s pray.” Not knowing what to expect next, I bowed my head. At the end of her prayer to the Lord, I heard her say, “Father, before you and all of heaven I say ‘yes’ to Peter. I will be his wife.”

I opened my eyes and looked at her. I never though that the woman I would marry would say “yes” to me through a prayer to our heavenly Father. Yet, Deonna had done it! I was overjoyed as I thought, “I am looking at my wife to be. She is God’s gift to me.” I remember my prayer in December, “Lord, let me meet my future wife.” God faithfully fulfilled His promise to me…” Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do…” My heart was full of joy, praise, and thanksgiving to God for giving me such a wonderful woman.

I can honestly say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

God is so good. He knows what is best for His children and when it is best to give it to us. Through this experience with Deonna, I have learned that “Faith” means to trust the Lord moment by moment, one step at a time.

 

DEONNA (MOM):

A week before leaving California for Asia, my mother entered the kitchen while I was cooking my lunch. “Deonna,” she said. “I am glad that you have chosen to obey the Lord by going to Asia to minster there as a member of the Crossroads.” Then I observed tears welling up in her eyes as she continued, “But honey, you are already 25. When will you get married?”

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20140329-204257.jpgI was deeply touched by her motherly concern. However, I had already given this problem to Christ and left it for Him to solve. Because of this, I was able to encourage her by replying, “Mother, if there was only one man in the world but the Lord Jesus Christ wanted me to marry him, then Jesus would bring me to him.” Then unexpectedly I added, “Who knows, Mom, maybe I’ll marry an Asian? God might have a permanent ministry planned for me in Asia.” This last statement certainly didn’t comfort her. She burst into tears at the thought of me staying in Asia for life.

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When I left Lost Angeles airport on November 14, 1971, I did not know that Jesus was actually taking me to meet a handsome Chinese man who would be my husband. Nor did I realize that I was leaving one way of life to eventually begin a new life with him in a foreign country. Unknowingly, Jesus had given me a glimpse of my future through my statement to my mom.

The Crossroads arrived in the Philippines on November 21. Manila had been chosen as our home base since the Asian Training Center for Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) was located there. Three weeks after arriving we attended the CCC Leadership Training Institute. On the second day of the institute, the topic of marriage came up again when Becky,  a newly married Filipino staff of CCC, shared with me that months before she met Ben, her husband, she had prayed for certain qualities to be in the man she married.

The results of Becky’s prayer inspired me to do the same. After the institute, I prayerfully made the list of qualities, which I wanted to be in the man I would marry. It was my desire that each quality would be pleasing to Lord. Let me share these qualities with you. I wanted:

  1. A true Christian – a man who has trusted Christ to forgive his sins and because of this, has Christ’s Spirit living in him.
  2. One who loves God more than he loves me.
  3. A man who allows Christ’s Spirit to control him and to guide his life.
  4. One chosen by the Lord to serve Him.
  5. One who understands that the Lord’s role for a Christian husband is to be the head of his home – to lead his wife through his love and not by force.
  6. A man with leadership ability.
  7. A man who is sensitive and understanding with others and wise in human relationships.
  8. One who is intelligent, has achieved the same level of education as I have, has a positive attitude toward life, and one who enjoys sports like swimming, (something that we can do together).

Although I didn’t know where this man was, I did know that the Lord would bring me to him someday. Until that time, I was content to pray for him and to wait.

In January, just one month after I had begun praying for my future husband, I met Peter. Our first meeting was very casual, and to be honest, very ordinary. We were at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. Approaching me with a friendly smile, he said, “Hi, I’m Peter.” I smiled and returned the greeting. I remember little of the rest of our one and a half minute conversation. But, I did take note of Peter and his personality. He appeared very friendly, sure of himself, and capable of leadership.

Later the following week, Peter invited the Crossroads to dinner. It was then that I learned he was in the textile business. The next Friday night at the Crusade meeting, he asked me to go sightseeing on Sunday afternoon. I accepted his invitation. However, our date did not turn out as I had expected. Since Peter had accepted a speaking engagement during our date, we ended Sunday afternoon ministering together in a small local church.

As I listened to him preach, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to minister together like this with my husband.” At that time, I did not realize that I would be ministering with Peter for the rest of my life. Standing before me was the man I would marry and for whom I had been praying. But, I didn’t know it.

After our first date, Peter and I began dating frequently. Each time we were with each other, we were drawn closer together. God also used the two of us, a blonde American lady and a dark-haired Chinese man, to bring many people to Christ. The more I was with Peter, the more I discovered that his qualities were identical to the qualities I had prayed to have in my husband.

Then in April, Peter told me that he believed the Lord was showing him that I was to be his wife. When he told me this, I became excited, but at the same time, I felt uneasy. To be married to a man with Peter’s qualities was in my prayer. Yet, to marry Peter meant marrying outside my own race. In order to make such a decision I had to know God’s attitude towards mixed marriages. I also had to be absolutely sure that it was God’s will for me to marry Peter. So, I replied, “Peter, I believe that a marriage relationship requires a mutual confirmation from the Lord that it is his will.” He agreed.

That night I returned home and wrote a list of practical questions to the Lord Jesus. I desired to know his perspective on mixed marriages, leaving my country, the future of our children, and the type of ministry Peter and I would have. I committed these questions to Him and expected Him to answer me from the Bible.

Finally, five months later on August 24 while I was returning by ship from the Southern Philippines, the Lord directed me to passages in the Bible which specifically answered all of my questions. Although I had many questions which He answered, I will only share with you His attitude towards races. In Galatians 3:26-28, He showed me that those of us who are in Christ are children of God. The earthly classifications of individuals by race and social status are replaced by a new classification for the children of God; we are one in Christ.

After he answered all my questions positively, I was confident that it was His will for Peter and me to be married. Bowing my head, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for showing me your will and for giving me to such a wonderful man as Peter.”

Two days after this revelation, Peter unexpectedly returned from his two months trip to the U.S. The day after his return, the 27th of August, he proposed to me. I did not expect him to ask me to marry him this soon after his return. I was excited but surprised.

I wanted to first share with him all the verses the Lord had given me in regards to our relationship before I answered him. After sharing the verses, I was still uneasy about the future. Even though I loved Peter, I realized that saying “yes” to him would change the entire course of my life. That was a difficult decision for me to make. However, God had clearly shown me that this was His perfect plan; that I should be Peter’s wife. I knew that I needed to pray in order to have the courage to make such a decision. I asked Peter to pray with me. I thanked the Lord for His plan for our lives, for Christ’s power to be obedient to His will, and most of all for Peter. While still praying, I said “yes” to the Lord and then “yes” to Peter.

THIS WAS PUBLISHED ON JULY 12, 1973.

Recently, my mom gave a shortened version of her testimony before our church and I want to add what she said:

My vows to Peter were consistent to the vow I had made to God.  As Ruth had said to Naoimi  in  Ruth 1:16 “…Where you go I will go … Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”

When I first arrived in Manila, the Lord had given me a promise of blessing which I did not really understand at that time from Mark 10:29-30. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sister or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms along with persecution; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Peter and I have now been married for nearly 41 wonderful years and looking back I can see that the Lord has literally fulfilled these promises to me. He gave me a wonderful husband whom I love and respect even more then ever!  And five children and in-law children who love and serve the Lord and thirteen, going on fifteen, amazing grandchildren! Of course, I also have many spiritual brothers and sisters whom I love who are also the fulfillment of God’s promise of blessing in my life as well. Truly it is the nature of God to bless us!  And He has blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined! All by His grace!

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Facebook Issues and Marriage

This morning Edric and I had a social media issue which I blew out of proportion. I never thought Facebook would get a glorified spot in our relationship but it did.

We were biking back from the park when Edric suggested that I avoid checking the profile of a certain person. I thought he was treating me like a child and I reacted. In fact I was not looking where I was headed and I crashed my bike into the sidewalk. And then I starting blaming him for causing my fall!

What upset me was I don’t impose what he can and cannot look at or whose profiles he checks out, and here he was putting restrictions on me for something that I felt wasn’t even worth discussing.

In his words, “I am your husband and it is my duty to protect you but you also need to do your part by not putting yourself in harm’s way…”

Well, I was so annoyed, I disrespectfully stamped my foot like a bratinella and walked off into the kitchen to escape from the dialogue. My response was, “I can’t believe you are telling me this when you (do this and that)…”

I ran upstairs to take a shower and let him finish his workout alone. I began to grumble before God…”This is so unfair and exasperating!”

But the Lord reminded me, “What did you learn in your meeting last night?”

The evening before, my mom talked about humility to a small gathering of wives. Oh the timing!

She very specifically shared about listening to our husbands with a gentle and quiet spirit. This is one evidence of humility.

Amidst my irritation, I resisted for a bit. I busied myself getting ready for a seminar I had to give this morning. When I ran into Edric again at the breakfast table he was placid and calm. He didn’t even bring up my behavior or attitude.

So naturally, on the way to my seminar, I felt convicted. I knew I had to apologize. I was clearly the one at fault. Edric was sincere in wanting to protect me.

This Facebook person was someone I used to be attracted to. Even if I have ZERO x infinity feelings for him at present, Edric had every right to insist that I be mindful of my Facebook activity. I should not be so overconfident. I am not invisible. Emotional carelessness could give the evil one a “back door” entrance into my relationship with Edric.

How can I really say that feelings cannot be resurrected just because I feel nothing now? And why would I ever want to hazard that possibility at all? Marriage requires a commitment to protecting it at all costs, from all known threats, visible and invisible.

Furthermore, I ought to give Edric no reason to worry or doubt my affections for him. And if any of my actions cause him to feel otherwise, then I must be willing to change. As for his own actions, I am not his policeman or his judge so I don’t need to compare and use that as a pathetic tactic to give myself license to research, google or look up men that are attractive. (For the record, I really don’t do this as a habit!)

When I settled this in my heart, I asked for his forgiveness for being disrespectful. Stamping my foot and blurting out cutting remarks were very wrong no matter what my reasons were. His reply was, “Of course I forgive you. In fact I was waiting for you to say something.”

As a wife, I struggle with suppressing and controlling my inclination to usurp Edric’s authority over me. I want to be the one to dictate what I can and cannot do. I don’t always like it when he micromanages my life. But the root of this is pride. God gave me a husband who corrects and minds even the small things in me so I will learn to listen and grow in Christlikeness. He is the one who sees all the flaws, the ones I want to hide from everyone else. He is the one who knows me best, especially my weaknesses. God uses Edric to chisel off what mars the image of the person God is edifying me to be. So it is in my best interest to honor what Edric asks me to do…even during occasions when his suggestions seem ridiculous or his corrections aren’t given in a manner which I would prefer.

Last Sunday the message was about living in the triangle of God’s blessing: we are blessed to bless others, just like the patriarch, Abraham exemplified for us (Genesis 12). But the conditions for blessing are intimacy with God+faith+obedience.

I want God’s blessing in my life and I certainly want to bless others, too. But I need to be in the triangle of blessing first. As a wife, one of the very clear ways I can put myself in that favorable position before God is to apply faith and obedience in the context of my marriage. This isn’t about trying to manipulate a God who cannot be manipulated. This is about believing in and following the principles of a God whose nature and desire is to bless those who do so.

When I had to speak this morning I knew that God’s hand would not be upon me if I didn’t humble myself and apologize to Edric for challenging his authority. And when I did, I felt that halo of anger around my head broken, and I could minister to the families I was called to without hypocrisy.

The ridiculous Facebook issue has been resolved. Edric and I said our sweet I love yous to one another before he left for a business trip with our eldest son. As he went out the door, I thought to myself, why would I ever let something shallow and meaningless damage what is so precious to me…my relationship with the most amazing man in this world, and my relationship with the One who gave him to me?

Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly…
(Zephaniah 2:3 NLT)

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Live In the Triangle of God’s Blessing

Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

I received a letter from one of the persons working at our construction site asking for money for his soon-to-be-wedding. In the letter he explained that he was desperate because the fund he had allocated for the reception was stolen. Of course I wanted to help him. The guy seemed to be trustworthy and sincere. But at the same time, I had to be prudent and tell Edric about it. (I have been suckered before.)

In marriage this is called the principle of being “under cover”. Author John Bevere talks about submission to authority as a form of protection. Submission isn’t just about obeying Edric as leader. It’s also recognising that God has ordained him to look out for me, that his authority in my life is like an umbrella over me.

When he told me, “Let me handle it. I will talk to him,” I felt stressed at first because I wanted to give the guy an answer right away. I knew he was waiting. In fact he texted me to get an update. But a part of me knew I should investigate the legitimacy of his story, too. So when Edric said, “I will be the one to respond to him,” the stress was replaced by relief. Edric took on the burden and I was able to relax.

In the car, on the way to our site meeting, I told him how much I appreciated his desire to protect me and stand in “harm’s way” for my sake. He turned to me very casually and was like, “Of course. I like to protect you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” (I love this man.)

After our morning meeting, Edric met with the guy to find out more details and verified what he was saying with a co-worker. He also asked the guy why he didn’t email him directly. And he said he was embarrassed. Edric responded jokingly, “Well, the money will come from me anyway, right?”

In the end, the guy’s story checked out. He was telling the truth. So Edric told him, “We will help you.”

This incident may seem like a small matter but I wanted to talk about the blessings of this aspect of submission. In the garden of Eden, if Eve had said to the serpent, “Let me get back to you about eating the fruit. I have to go check with Adam,” I wonder what would have happened?

Maybe she would have gone to Adam and said, “Hon, there is this serpent I have been hanging out with. He’s been telling me that God doesn’t want us to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because He DOESN’T want us to be like him. I kind of see his point, but I wanted to find out what you thought about it. Do you think I should try it? I have been thinking about it alot lately. It looks really tasty.”

In response perhaps Adam would have been like, “Heck, no! And I don’t want you talking to that serpent anymore either! He is bad news. Trust me, honey, God wants what is best for us. He has given us everything else to eat. He is a good God. In fact, next time that serpent comes anywhere near you, I want you to tell me where he is and I will have a word with him!”

It’s interesting that the Serpent targeted Eve, poisoning her thoughts with his lies. Whether she was entirely alone or not can only be speculated. But from the sequence of events, it doesn’t look like she got Adam’s permission to eat the fruit. She acted on her feelings and emotions. She invested time lingering around the forbidden fruit and fantasizing about what it would be like to have it. And the Bible tells us that it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam.

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:13, 14 NASB)

As women we need to recognize that we tend to have same Eve-like vulnerability. Look at the way we fall for men who don’t treat us the right way! In my household alone, almost every single girl that has ever worked for me (and I have gone through a number) has had her heart broken by a man. (Heck, I have too!) In the group of ladies I disciple and women that I counsel, I have heard countless stories of misguided choices when it comes to men. But this is just one aspect of our lives. We fall prey to many other deceptions outside the realm of dating and relationships.

Years ago I read Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and this book opened my eyes to how much deception is going on in my own heart. The evil one still uses the same strategy he did with Eve in the garden — he is constantly lying to us about who God is, who we are, where our worth lies and what me must do to be happy. The key is to confront these lies head on with God’s word.

Married or not, we have to be feeding ourselves with Bible truth. Of course for the marrieds like me, we need to keep learning to listen to our husbands, and letting them be the protector they were designed to be.  I’m blessed to be married to a man who loves the Lord with all of his heart. So he helps me to make choices that are for my good. He helps me to discern what I ought to commit my time to and what activities aren’t profitable. He looks out for me spiritually, emotionally, physically.

After nearly thirteen years of marriage, I still like to hear him say things like, “Stay on this side of the road, hon…it’s safer.” I still like it when he reaches out his hand to hold mine so I won’t trip or fall. I still like it when he offers to open the door for me. I may be able to fend for myself, but it’s wonderful to be able to have, in Ira Gershwin’s words, “someone who’ll watch over me.” I’m so grateful that Edric has turned out to be that someone for me! 

New Years

Marriage and The Best Valentine’s Celebration Ever!

I have often said that I married a wonderful man. He is still wonderful and he gets better with age (like wine). Praise God! But marriage has always come with its challenges. We are two very different people. And these differences can polarize us when we don’t make the effort to preserve our unity in Christ.

In past entries I’ve talked about having Jesus Christ in the center of a marriage as the key to keeping it together. I’ve also written about the importance of fulfilling the biblical roles of a wife as helpmate and “lifegiver” to her husband. So I’m not going to talk too much about these two principles.

Instead, I want to share a few practical tips that have made a positive difference in my marriage. Every marriage is at a certain season and stage so not every point may apply. But I hope you will pick up something that will give you renewed inspiration and resolve to love the one you married.

Tip # 1: If it’s not going to matter twenty years from now, don’t make it an issue.

One of the hardest things for me to do as a wife is to lose an argument or a discussion. I can be such a proud person. I often want my perspective and ideas acknowledged by Edric as more valid than his. I want to “win.”

Just yesterday Edric was looking for our bee propolis throat spray. I sensed in his tone that he thought I wasn’t “on top of things.” But, my suspicion was he misplaced it. I even told him that he was the last one to have it. He didn’t admit to this. And honestly, between the two of us and our bad memories it is often hard to prove who is right when it comes to remembering where things are.

Well, I visited him in his office and lo and behold, there was the bee propolis spray sitting on his shelf. I picked it up and said, “Hey! Here it is! I knew it was with you.” Edric looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. According to him he never even realized it was there. This irked me. It was on display just a few feet away from where he was seated, how could he not have known that it was there?

To prove that he must have known, I scrolled through my text messages to find evidence. I remembered a text message he had sent me, asking me to have the propolis and throat candy delivered to his office. I showed him this text message but he was like, “I don’t know. I never received the propolis so I can’t be held responsible.”

What?! This made me want to jump up and down in irritation. Why couldn’t he just say, “Oh yah, my bad, I had it after all.”

For several minutes afterwards, I tried to pursue my point – that he was the one who had it the whole time. But when the discussion was getting nowhere, I realized it wasn’t worth deliberating about. If he honestly couldn’t remember that the propolis was given to him then so be it. I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Did I really have to fight him about it? Would it matter twenty years from now? No. Peace between us was more important. So I went for that. Plus, we found the propolis. Case solved.

Tip # 2: Be willing to accommodate each other’s preferences if it isn’t a matter of moral consequence.

There’s no way that two people, living together with different personalities can be like-minded in everything. Edric and I are similar in what is most essential…what we believe about God and his word. We may have theological debates once in a while but we refer back to God’s word and make conclusions that are based on biblical truth.

However, we can be very dissimilar in our preferences when it comes to our hobbies, interests, and habits.

For example, building our home has been an exercise in choosing to accommodate one another’s preferences.

One major point of contention between us was the master’s bathroom toilet. Yes, a toilet. Edric wanted one of those low, old-style toilets that was reminiscent of the potty we had in our tiny condo (our first home as a couple). For him this toilet epitomized comfort. I insisted that we should not get that kind of toilet. It seemed outdated and ugly to me. But he really wanted it.

After going back and forth for a while, we came up with a compromise. We would get the shape he wanted but I would help him look for an updated looking one. Fortunately, we found one that had both features. He also let me choose all the other toilets in the house. The willingness to accommodate one another’s preferences brought about unity in our disharmony. And now Edric will always be happy sitting on that toilet!

Tip # 3: CHOOSE GRACE.

When we were newly married, Edric used to drape his clothes all over the house. He would remove his clothing and then do the drape thing. It totally bugged me. There was a hamper that he could’ve put his dirty shirts and pants into but he preferred to lay his worn clothes on the back of our sofa. And then there was the matter of his socks. They were like little annoying balls left here and there. I used to get so upset until I was taught this hard-to-swallow-but-very-effective principle…Choose grace.

Choosing mercy was about keeping myself from getting irritated. But choosing grace was about picking up his things and putting them in the hamper for him.

The amazing thing is today he is much neater than me! His closet is more organized. And he has a stand where he drapes all the clothes that he wants to have accessible for the next day.

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Sometimes in marriage, choosing grace is not as simple. What if a husband is temperamental and easily angered? What if he was unfaithful?

If we were to look at ourselves very honestly, we are all recipients of God’s grace. There is no goodness in any of us apart from Christ. But we were forgiven and redeemed from sin by His sacrifice on the cross. When we choose grace, we recognize that because of what God has done for us, we can do the same. We can forgive, restore, and love by his grace.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us... (Ephesians 1:7, 8 NASB)

When we apply grace in our relationships, we experience its transforming power. I have experienced grace from Edric many times. One of the ways he is grace-filled towards me is at night, before we go to bed. Almost every night for as long as he doesn’t fall asleep out of utter exhaustion, he will tell me he loves me. Even if we have come from an evening of unpleasant dialogue because we were fighting or I was “misbehaving” as a wife by being disrespectful, he will reassuringly tell me, “I love you.” That takes supernatural grace! He says it without expectation, without trying to manipulate me. He says it just because he wants me to know that he loves me no matter what circumstance we weather together.

When Edric tells me he loves me and I know I don’t deserve to hear it, it makes me want to be a better wife. It makes me want to change and right what I have done wrong.

We should never underestimate the power of extending grace to our spouses. The effect may not be immediate. Sometimes it may take years for a spouse who is a cheat and a liar to come around, but I like the comfort that this passage offers. We need to hope in God…

1 Peter 3: 3-5 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”

Tip # 4: Give one another a CLEAN SLATE.

I would not be worth paying as an accountant. But I have an extraordinary capacity to keep a record of offenses done by my husband against me. Oh wait a minute, that is pretty common to us women, right?!

Whenever the hurt starts to pile up because I keep adding to this record, I am quick to respond with irritation or anger. It’s not the big stuff that often frustrates me, it’s the small things.

To free myself from recordkeeping, I must choose to give Edric a clean slate everyday. Otherwise, I will keep an inventory of hurtful incidences and file them under “things I don’t like about my husband.” And the more I file in that section, the more likely I am to focus on the negative. Instead I need to have this mindset: New mercies every morning, just like God is towards me.

Lamentations 3:22-23 “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”

The idea of a clean slate is like the movie, 50 First Dates. The woman in the movie lost her memory everytime she went to bed at night. In marriage, I want to apply this by having amnesia for offenses and long-term memory for the good.

Past hurt can often define the way we respond to our spouse. So the principle of giving one another a clean slate is to forgive daily and declare in our hearts, “This is a new day, a new beginning. It is my gift to you.” When we do this we liberate ourselves from bitterness and we are free to enjoy our spouse.

Tip # 5: Be positive.

We can be so exacting of our spouse that we forget to praise and affirm them. Just recently, Edric and I were counseling a couple and we encouraged them to tell one another three things that they appreciate about each other every morning. Everyday, it has to be three original things. We asked them to do this because their default mode was to be critical of one another. As a result, they struggled to communicate what was really on their hearts.

Whenever I start to hold Edric to a set of expectations or mental “checklist” of how he should behave or treat me, I lose that feeling of admiration and respect that I ought to have for him, that God’s word commands me to have. To revive it, I try to be intentional about minding the simplest gestures or aspects of his personality that I appreciate. Soon after, I can’t wait to be with him and spend time with him because I realize what an amazing man I am married to!

Tip # 6: Keep dating each other

I am crazy about our kids but it is really nice to spend a quiet evening with Edric, just the two of us. He is my best friend and my favorite person to be with. Date nights really give us a chance to talk no matter how busy our week gets.

During our dates, we will ask one another, “How can I improve? How am I as a wife? How am I as a husband?” Because of this weekly habit, we don’t have a lot of issues that pile up. They have a short life span in our marriage.

When I gave birth some months ago, date nights were hard to come by. We noticed that this really affected our intimacy. I’m not just talking about physical intimacy. I’m talking about that deep sense of connectedness that we usually share. We became more pragmatic and less romantic towards one another.

When Catalina was able to take breastmilk in a bottle after 6 weeks, we resumed our date nights again. Even though it was very soon after I gave birth, we decided that it was important to safeguard this time together. (Praise God we also found a yaya whom we could trust to take care of her.)

After so many years I still get excited when Edric picks me up to go out for dinner. I dress up for him. I look forward to our conversations and affectionate exchanges…holding hands, hugging, kissing everywhere we go like newly weds. Date nights are our designated times to enjoy one another. No paying attention to cell phones. No gadgets. Just us.

Tip # 7: Pray and wait with eager expectation.

Not all issues or problems in marriage can be solved over night. There may be circumstances that happen in the timeline of a marriage that cause deep wounds. Only God can heal these. We need to give him room to do this. The wonderful thing is God has the capacity to fix what is broken in our marriages. He invites us to turn over burdens and rest in him. “Come to Me,” He says, “all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” And He goes on…”Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

There are occasions when I have to come desperately before God and ask him to do a heart makeover in me or work in the heart of Edric. And he has always been faithful. The answers may not come right away. But when they do, the timing is perfect.

I want to end with a story that illustrates exactly what I mean.

Lately, Edric has been so busy that I wondered if he would plan anything for Valentine’s Day. Yesterday passed and we did not go out. We just hung out with the kids at home. I didn’t expect anything dramatic but I didn’t receive a card or anything.

Over the years Edric has set a very high precedent for himself. During celebrations like Mother’s Day, my birthday, and our anniversary, he will put a whole lot of effort into planning a surprise that is pretty spectacular. But I have learned to be content and cut him some slack. After all, what matters more to me is that Edric is faithful, loving, and most importantly, that he keeps God at the center of his life. These are the greater gifts that he has given me as a husband.

The only thing I really wished was that he would be around more because I missed him a lot. I felt like all his activities were cannibalizing time that we ought to have together. Instead of complaining, I just asked the Lord to guide him as the spiritual leader of our home and to keep his priorities in the right order.

Well tonight, he suggested that we go inspect our new house (which is almost done. Yeah!) Edric and I did our routine checks of the finishing work on the ground floor and then we headed upstairs. When I got to the balcony, I was completely blown away. He had set up a table for us. Music was playing. The kids were jumping up and down (they were all in on the surprise, even our househelp.) And he had flowers on the table and food for our dinner. It was a setting for two.

He blurted out, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

I started to tear. This was our first dinner in our new but unfinished home. He put together a playlist of music we both like. And he even bought outdoor furniture for us to sit on. Edric doesn’t go out and buy furniture! I do that kind of thing. He had food ordered and he asked our househelp to set up table. (The kids were given dinner in a restaurant nearby and Edric and I had the place to ourselves.)

As for the contractor, Edric had coordinated with him last week and asked that the entire second floor be cleaned up in preparation for this evening. Usually, I can sense when he has a plan cooking. But I had no idea. I never imagined that he would be able to go through all the trouble to put together a dinner with the schedule he has had as of late. He told me, “I want you to know how special you are, no matter how busy I am.”

Just when I started to feel a little bit “neglected” as a wife because Edric was so preoccupied with work, ministry, speaking engagements and his tapings for ANC, God touched his heart to do something like this for me. This was the best post-Valentine’s celebration ever! And it was a wonderful reminder that I can always hope in God for my marriage and anticipate that it will get better and sweeter as I commit to pray for it and walk with Him.

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The Idolatry of Equality

It’s Not Fair! That’s my battlecry as a wife when I buy into the idolatry of equality.

Last week I got my nails done and accidentally messed up two toenails by snagging them on a grocery cart. They were such a pretty bluegreen color with glitter on top. When I destroyed them on the wheel of the cart, I absolutely had to return to the salon to repair the damage.

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No guy will understand how important this is. My husband certainly didn’t. I was thirty minutes late from my discussed ETA with him. He expected me to be home when he got back from his retreat and I wasn’t.

Edric doesn’t like coming home to a wife-less house. He always looks forward to seeing me. When I am not around it is a real downer for him.

When I got home, one of the first things he told me was, “You know how important it is to me that you are here when I get home. I really wanted to spend time with you and talk to you about the retreat and you said you would be back, but I came home and you weren’t.” Not the most romantic conversation after being apart for a day and a half. Plus, he was emotionally distant because he was frustrated with me.

At first I tried to explain the nail incident, but his reply was, “So what.” His perspective was if you said you would be back, then there should be no excuse.

But in my mind, I was like, So what?! I was just 30 minutes late! Really?! Hey, didn’t you just come from a retreat?! Is this the application…be irritated with your wife?

I will cut through the dramatic hours of silent treatment and fast-forward to the part where we settled the matter with apologies. I asked for forgiveness for being late and he asked for forgiveness for being over reactive.

The incident really wasn’t a big deal. But, a woman’s heart has all sorts of turns, corners and pockets where residual hurt and anger get stored if we don’t flush these emotions out.

Just two mornings later when Edric’s chirpy alarm woke me up at 5 am and Catalina started crying, I thought, It is MY turn to be grumpy. He forgot to turn off his phone alarm setting the night before. Since it was charging on the other side of the room, it went off for a while. Great, I thought, there is no way Catalina will let herself be put back down after that…especially since it went off a second time! With hardly a night’s sleep, I thought I had every right to put on an air of, This is your fault that my sleep was interrupted. You owe me now. Cha-Ching! Time to cash in on some emotional pay back time. How can I make him feel badly? (Self-centered married people are funny like that.)

First, I tried to make more noise than usual as I got out of bed. A deep sigh, creaking the bed a little, chucking the pillows back on to the bed, picking up Catalina from her crib and talking to her as I changed her diaper.

Edric didn’t notice any of this because he went straight back to sleep.

Sigh. Oh well…

I decided to take Catalina outdoors for an early morning prayer walk. That’s right, a prayer walk. So holy. Not.

The wonderful thing about prayer is I cannot come before God in spirit and in truth unless I acknowledge my sins before him. So I sought to understand the grumblings in my heart and I traced it back to this: idolatry of equality.

If Edric can get irritated at me for being 30 minutes late then why can’t I be irritated for being awoken an hour too early by his phone alarm?

And then a thought came to me. It wasn’t mine. It was delivered by the Holy Spirit. Why are you so upset? Why must everything be about equality.

Hmm…I don’t know. Because it’s my right?

If Edric holds me to a certain standard or expectation then I want to require the same of him…you know, to be fair…

I am absolutely sure that all women can identify with me, married or single.

In fact, some weeks ago I received a comment from a reader (who will probably never visit my blog again). She said she doesn’t agree with the idea that a woman must follow a man’s leading. I don’t blame her for her vehemence against the biblical concept of husband and wife relationships. It can seem “unequal” and “unfair.” It looks like a husband gets all the power and a wife gets the raw end of the deal.

However, this really depends on a person’s worldview. I have a biblical worldview so I absolutely believe that God’s prescriptions for living are for our good. I have experienced this good and observed this in others, too.

Nonetheless, I definitely understand why women want equal treatment, respect, and opportunity. Each one of us, in one way or another has experienced “unfair” treatment as a woman — being labeled, taken for granted, cast aside, or abused. And our instinct is to protect, defend and fight for what we think is due us.

However, I had an epiphany that morning as I was walking and praying. God ministered to me. My cry for fairness and equality was corrupting my heart. Unless I had it, unless I was treated the way I deemed in accordance with my worth then I was not happy.

But am I really worth anything? I am a recipient of grace I don’t deserve. Jesus died for me. He paid a debt he did not owe for a sinner like me. (Romans 5:8) So my worth is really dependent on the Lord, not me.

Furthermore, the condition for healthy, loving, and God-glorifying relationships is not equality. It’s not, “you give your 50% and I will give my 50%.” The key is to keep growing in Christ-likeness, regardless of your spouse.

Edric is a wonderful, wonderful, God-fearing and loving husband. I’ve talked a lot about this in other posts. But there are instances when I’m like, Who is this person?! How can he think and behave that way?! You can ask him and he would say the same of me. I call it carnal seepage – when selfishness leaks out of us.

If equality is the standard, the expectation in marriage, then it is doomed for sorrow. Marriage is so much about dying to self, letting God be the winner, letting him get the glory. John 12:24 says that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it can bear no fruit.

When my marriage becomes about what I want at the expense of God’s principles and his word, I trade true and lasting joy for present gratification. For example, the act of vengeance can make anyone feel good at first. But a vengeful person is not really a happy person.

Or, what about someone who insists that they ought to be accepted and respected for their lifestyle choice – a choice that goes against God’s design and will for them? How can they be at peace deep inside? Initially, they may feel like they are living the life they always wanted. But give it time and they will meet an emptiness, a longing, and a desperate desire that can only be filled by God.

A few Sundays ago a very successful businessman shared that he once had everything a man could want — fame, fortune, women (besides his wife). He only thought of himself. But at a certain point, he realised it all meant nothing and he wanted to end his life. But God found him. He came into a relationship with Jesus Christ and his life was redeemed. His marriage was restored. The people around him whom he cared about began to want Jesus, too, because of his testimony.

I’ve heard countless stories like these that affirm a truth we must all confront sooner or later. Our greatest joy, our best life is found in Christ, in living according to his plan and purpose for us. The unchanging condition for experiencing this is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to love and obey him with everything that we are.

When people disagree with this, I don’t lose sleep over their opposing view. If they really don’t want Jesus they can try life their own way. God gives us freedom to choose our version of happiness. Temporal or eternal? It’s like those Choose Your Own Adventure Books I used to read when I was a child. The ending was entirely my fault, in accord with my choices.

So going back to marriage. When I choose to submit to Edric, when I honor him and respect him, when I treat him with greater regard for my own preferences and it seems unfair that I have to give in, it’s not because I have a martyr complex. It’s not because I am the inferior sex in the relationship. It’s because I trust in God’s design for marriage. I believe that he is holy, loving, and good. He loves Edric and me the same. He died for both of us. He has given us the same inheritance in the faith. I know that choosing to glorify him results in my gain and not my loss. With God you never trade down, you always trade up. His ways are always better.

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As a bonus…Edric told me that his new year’s resolution is to be Christ-like in his behavior and attitudes. God has been convicting him to be more patient, loving, understanding, and considerate. He has also been asking me periodically, Have I been more Christ-like? I already had an amazing husband. Sure, he has his moments of “carnal seepage” just like I do, but with God, every year of marriage gets better.

So does it pay to insist on equality? Let’s have a higher standard. Let’s insist on being Christ-like towards our spouse, children, and others, and let God be the one to repay us as we live to please him.

 

 

 

It’s Not About The Money

Money issues rank pretty high in the list of conflicts between a husband and wife. Edric and I have our share of money issues. They aren’t frequent but they do happen from time to time.

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Just yesterday, we had a stressful conversation over something sooo insignificant. But in marriage it’s sometimes the small things that trigger a deluge of toxic discussions, especially when you are both in combat mode.

We were settling money matters with one another. Edric said he transferred a certain sum of money to my account but based on records, I was absolutely sure he didn’t. (We share everything but I have a separate account that he puts funds into to help me budget monthly expenses for the household.) I mentioned to him again that what he had given me for the month was short. But he didn’t think so. To verify he checked his online transactions and sure enough, there was no transfer made on the day that he claimed he made one. There was a smaller amount but it was for a charity donation that I had advanced.

Instead of saying, Ok, I will send the funds now, Edric said that it was my fault for not collecting from him and reminding him back in November.

Some minutes later, he did send it but he seemed annoyed. He didn’t like having to deal with the backlog because he had “closed his books” on last month’s expenses. So he was irritated with me. And I retaliated by saying that this was his system so if it was flawed, it couldn’t possibly be my fault. He was in charge of our expenses. Furthermore, I explained to him that I had told him that he had not transferred the amount at the end of the month. But since he didn’t believe me at the time and we were both busy, we didn’t have the chance to verify transactions. It wasn’t until yesterday when the topic came up that I mentioned it again.

Our dialogue continued into the car when we were on our way to purchase water heaters for our new house. How fitting! The atmosphere was heating up!

He commented that the source of his irritation was my disorganization. As an example, he cited that after his massage the night before, he got money from my wallet to pay the therapist. And he said seeing the contents of my wallet was EMBLEMATIC of my lack of organization. It was like an explosion. Of course this upset me. A wallet as emblematic of organization?!

I told him the fact that he had to get money from my wallet meant that he had not prepared money for the therapist before hand. So who was the disorganized one?

Like I said…the deluge…

And I went on to say if you call me disorganized then it needs to be in context. I don’t need to have a regimented schedule like you do because I am at home with the kids. So evaluate me based on the condition of our children. Plus, I just gave birth, so am I not allowed some slack, a little bit of understanding for not having my whole life in order like yours?

He said that it wasn’t about not understanding. It was about explaining the source of his frustration over the incident with the money.

How a discussion on money traveled to this point is really one of those miracles that defines marriage.

Well I was missing the point. Do I have to improve on my organization? Admittedly…yes. Okay. Yes. Yes. I CAN be like an explosion. My wallet has a bunch of receipts in it that I need to throw away. My computer files need to be catalogued and put into better folders. My homeschooling schedule has been erratic because of breastfeeding. And I haven’t been able to prioritize everything that Edric has asked me to. So the more Christ-like response would have been to say, “I do have to improve.”

Eventually I did say this but only after Edric apologized to me for reacting about the money transfer. Sigh.

When I thought back on my resistance to accept his correction, the Lord convicted me that it was my pride. I cannot allow myself to become defensive when Edric points out an area of my life that I need to work on. Even if I don’t like the style of delivery or the context, if he says something that is valid, I need to listen better and acknowledge it. Otherwise, how will I grow? How will I mature spiritually and become more Christ-like unless I am sensitive to the way God uses him. He is the person who knows me the most, who sees my life with microscopic lenses.

Furthermore, I have to realize that Edric is my “boss”. While I would prefer that he is always sweet and tender towards me, if I reject the occasions when he is stern or dislikes my attitude, behavior, or perspective, then I do myself a spiritual disfavor. I forfeit God’s blessing when I am not humble enough to listen. Edric is not my enemy even if it can feel that way when are in a conflict. He is God’s mouthpiece of correction and instruction.

My enemy is pride! And the best way to overcome it is to say, “Thank you Lord for my husband. For using him to disciple me towards Christ-likeness.” And to Edric, I need to be more willing to say, “Thank you for helping me to improve and grow as a person.” I told him that and I meant it. Hee hee.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man (person) is he (one) who listens to counsel. Proverbs 12:15

Back to a 10

When we go out on dates, Edric and I will try to ask each other, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate our marriage?” This becomes a starting point to discuss how we can improve and meet one another’s needs. We also do this with the couples that are in our bible study group, asking them to give their spouses a score. If it’s less than 10, we say, “What will make it a 10?” Usually the men give a higher score than the women do so it always leads to interesting but helpful dialogues.

Lately, Edric and I have been so busy we haven’t had any quality dates. And I told him on several occasions that he had too much going on. He acknowledged this but there was already a momentum to everything that was happening and he had to ride the wave of activity to close the year.

By yesterday morning, however, I was tired of feeling de-prioritized. So when he asked me in passing, How’s our marriage, 1 – 10? I said it was a ZERO. I’ve never said that. But I was really sad about the state of our relationship. I felt like we were drifting apart. We needed to address the issues that were polarizing us.

Since Edric’s calendar had been packed with speaking engagements in and out of town with Elijah, his ANC tapings, TMA Homeschool activities, house building meetings and ministry commitments there was no time to talk.

When we did encounter one another, there was tension between us because he was harried and always had something more urgent to attend to (which annoyed me.) So I decided to withdraw. I didn’t want to be a needy person, a cling-on, a ganglion cyst. My own interests kept me busy. If he wasn’t going to initiate re-connecting I wouldn’t.

After I opened up to him and expressed that I didn’t think we were doing well, that I didn’t think our relationship was healthy, he teased me about being so dramatic. But I was serious. So he assured me that we would find time to talk about it. He just had to finish his events for the day.

We had a Christmas gathering in Antipolo with our bible study group in the afternoon and I went ahead with the kids because Edric was coming from another event. When he finally got to the party he mentioned that we could ride home together to talk since it would take us a while to get home. And, the kids could go home in another vehicle. I was looking forward to being with him.

However, as the evening was drawing to a close, Edric told me that I would go on ahead with the kids because he was planning to play NBA with the men in Pasig. SERIOUSLY?! That was my first thought. I just opened up to you about how things aren’t going well between us and how busy you have been and now that you have some free time you are going to go off and play a computer game?! I was livid. But I didn’t show it because he had mentioned the change in plans in front of a friend.

When we had a moment to interact in private, I said with irritation, “I don’t understand why you have to go off tonight.” And he replied, “Is this an issue, because we can make it an issue.” Well, that was it. WAR. My warfare is not the shouting, fighting kind. I am a quiet slayer.

At 8:00, I went home and Edric went off with the guys. In the van, with the children, I acted like everything was fine. I didn’t want to bring the kids into the conflict between Edric and I. In fact, when Elijah mentioned, “So Dad is not going home with us?” I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I said something like, “Yup, he is going to hang out with the men.”

At home, by myself, was another story. I put Catalina into her crib and I sat down on the bed to get in a little bit of writing. I started to cry. Usually, I wouldn’t have made a big deal out of him going out. The guys are “safe.” They hang out to play NBA once in a while. It’s harmless. It’s clean fun. Plus, they are our good friends.

What bothered me was the timing. He completely forgot that we were supposed to “fix” our relationship…that we were supposed to ride home together and have an important conversation. I felt angry and hurt. Of course, being a woman, all my thoughts became convoluted and tangled themselves into a ball of wire.

He is changing. He doesn’t care about my feelings. He would rather be with the guys than with me. He’s becoming so selfish, leaving us to go home so he can run off and have fun with his friends. If I went off to hang out with my girl friends and left him to be with the kids he would be upset. And he was acting like I was making an issue out of nothing.

Wow. I’m just going to withdraw and detach myself. Of course, these were prideful thoughts and they were judgmental and wrong.

(LIKE I’VE SAID MANY TIMES, WE DON’T HAVE A PERFECT MARRIAGE! )

This morning, before our church’s service, my strategy was to be as frigid as possible without being disrespectful. I made him a yummy omelet to be dutiful but I didn’t plan to eat it with him. I had breakfast ahead with the kids and left him a plate with his food on it. After getting Catalina ready and making sure everyone else was dressed for Sunday worship, I barely interacted with him. I told myself, I will answer with one-liners and shrugs, keep my voice monotone, barely make eye contact unless absolutely necessary, and not initiate conversation. Embarrassingly juvenile but I was hurt and wounded. There was no motivation to be cheerful and chatty. Of course this behavior was NOT okay.

In the car, it was quiet for a long time. The Lord spoke to me, “talk to him.” I wrestled…I don’t want to talk!!! “Say something.” I don’t want to say something!!!

I said something to the kids. “Look, it’s the Santa house.” (There was a house that looked like its owner was obsessed with Santa Claus. There were like 20 huge Santas hanging everywhere.) I eventually said SOMETHING to Edric but it was quick.

It didn’t take long before Edric noticed that I was behaving very uncharacteristically. When he asked me why, I explained that I felt hurt that he left us to go off and hang out with the guys, especially after I had told him that we really needed to work on our marriage and settle some issues. At first, he wasn’t very sympathetic. He expected me to understand that playing games with the guys was a much needed break for him, from all the work-related stress he had to deal with as of late.

At some point I said, “Well, how would you feel if I went off with my girl friends until 3 AM in the morning and you were at home with the kids? Would that be okay?” He didn’t appreciate this attempt to flip roles around and he walked away. Walked away?!

During worship, he mentioned to me that what I had said was childish. I shouldn’t have retorted but unfortunately, I did. I leaned over to him and disrespectfully said, “Don’t you dare call me childish.” (In my still monotone voice.)

“Are you threatening me?” was his response. Oh my, this was going downhill.

Could I sing worship songs to the Lord after that? Nope. I took Catalina from her yaya and held her as a prop because I needed a distraction.

During the course of the morning, God spoke to me. A man shared about his life’s journey from worldly success that left him empty and suicidal to an abundant life when he came to know Jesus Christ. And I felt wretched at that point for being so full of myself. All of the funk and muck I had been feeling was not due to Edric. I was blaming him and making my happiness dependent on the way he treated me. But my anchor is Jesus Christ. My joy comes from him. My ability to love Edric and my children comes from him.

Amazingly, Edric turned into his sweet self again. He was convicted during the service, too. In the middle of the pastor’s message, he put his arm around me and jokingly teased, “You love me. You know you do…” Of course, he apologized, especially when he realized that he had set me up with an expectation – the expectation of riding home together to talk – and completely abandoned it. He tried to charm me and say all kinds of things to make me smile….“I’m madly in love with you,” he said, “My love makes you mad right?!”

I’m pretty easy. A little attentiveness from Edric mixed in with lots of cheesy phrases makes me respond with enthusiasm. And he knows it. He knows how to charm me. But I’m glad he isn’t just a smooth talker. He really does follow through with what he says when he makes claims like, “I will make it up to you…” “I’m going to change…” And I believe him because I know he loves Jesus and that is the reason why he really means it when he says that he loves me, too.

Having these sorts of conflicts and getting past them is a reminder that marriage isn’t an easy stroll through a park full of sweet smelling flowers. It takes hard work and it has to be held together by Jesus, at the center. Colossians 1: 17 tells us “in HIM all things hold together.” If Jesus wasn’t in our marriage, Edric and I would be stuck at zero to five on the relationship scale. We would be attempting to solve our problems on our own insufficient power. Our effort wouldn’t cut it because apart from Christ, our tendency is towards selfishness. So even if marriage has its lows, because we love Jesus and let his love motivate us and overflow out of us, it can certainly bounce back to a 10!

By God’s grace, we eventually resolved our conflict by discussing the root issues maturely. I also said sorry for my disrespectful comment. And we just came from a date, holding hands, eating Vietnamese noodles and watching a movie. I’m happy to say that after the cold war (on my part at least), our relationship is healthy again. Praise God!

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You Have to Let Him Be the Man

Edan, our second, is 7. So he has a number of baby teeth on their way out. I pulled one a few weeks ago. Edric was jealous that I did it. He wanted the honor of pulling it out himself. But I couldn’t help it. The thing was practically dangling at a 45 degree angle. It was much too tempting not to pop that sucker out and that’s exactly what I did. I pushed down on it really fast with my thumb and it came right off. Edan was too stunned to realize there was any pain. I was so looking forward to pulling out his other teeth but they weren’t quite ready.

Two weeks later another baby tooth was just barely hanging on. We were in a lighting store at a home depot when Edan showed me how loose it was.

“Do you want me to pull it out? I can do it right now.”

Edan stopped me, “Daddy said he is going to do it.”

I tried to bargain with Edric for the opportunity to since I had done it so successfully the last time but he wouldn’t budge. “Nope, I am doing it.” He was adamant and confident.

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Okay, okay. We got home and Edric brought Edan to our bathroom. With Edan facing him he proceeded to pull on the tooth with a tissue. A tissue?! My thoughts were, You’ve got to be kidding me. That isn’t going to work.

He spent about five minutes toiling over how to do it and using the tissue without success. Edan was feeling very stressed and on the verge of tears. I really really wanted to say, “Can I please take over, that’s not the way to do it. I know what to do. Just let me do it.”

But I couldn’t defame Edric in front of the kids. Some of them were watching in suspense and Edan believed that Edric could do it. He was terrified but he trusted his dad. So I stood aside but discreetly suggested that he could flick the tooth downwards with his thumb and it would probably come out really fast.

He gave my suggestion a try and the tooth didn’t resist at all. The root was so worn down it just popped out. Edan was so happy and relieved. Whew. So was I!

Edric pulled me aside and asked, “How did you know that would work?”

“Really? You have never done it that way before? I pulled out my own teeth that way when I was a kid.”

“I have never pulled out a tooth!”

“Seriously?! You have never pulled out even your own teeth?!”

“Nope. In fact I was getting pretty stressed and nervous trying to pull out Edan’s!”

No wonder why he was trying to grip the tooth with a tissue initially and attempting to pull it upwards! He could have at least thought of using pliers!

Well, looking back I am glad that he still came out the hero in all this. The kids were impressed at how he eventually got it out.

It may seem like such a small thing but our kids are watching us all the time. They observe the way Edric and I relate to one another as husband and wife. We try to respect one another in front of the kids because we also ask them to respect us. So when he has greater insight or perspective on a matter and vice versa, we will correct in private or give suggestions in a way that doesn’t make each another look inferior or incapable (as much as possible). We support each other’s roles and affirm them. In this instance, I stepped aside to let Edric be the man, especially given the fact that getting their teeth pulled is pretty terrifying for our kids. So
I wanted them to be confident that he could definitely do it. I wanted them, especially Edan who is going to be losing a lot more, to trust his dad.

And…well the added bonus is he REALLY DOES know how to pull out a tooth efficiently now!

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In a marriage, we must help one another improve but not in a hostile take-over manner. Nobody is perfect. A husband and wife both need each other to become better, but it should be done in a positive manner, and not in a way that makes each other bitter because they are humiliated or belittled.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; (Romans 12:10 NASB)

How to Attract the Right Kind of Man

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Once again, to my single readers, here is the the post I promised. After writing “What To Look For In A Man,” this is the flip side – how to attract the right kind of man. It took me a while to put it together but with the help of a group of men whom I trust and hold in high regard, I got the content I needed. They provided valuable insight into the kind of woman they considered as “marriage-material.” Some of the men were already married, so they had the added hindsight of what really matters in the long term. Although certain preferences varied from one guy to another, there were a couple that stood out as pretty consistent. So let’s get right to it…

What does a good guy look for in a woman?

Someone who will follow his leading. Yep. I wasn’t surprised to get this one as an answer. Men naturally like to lead and they want a woman who will trust and respect them to do so. No matter how society reverses the roles of men and women, God’s design still stands. A man is called to headship in a marriage.

One of the guys clarified that it doesn’t mean a woman can’t have an opinion. In fact, he welcomes this. Men don’t want a woman who is always patronizing them. However, at the end of the day, if a man has to make a decision and a woman doesn’t completely agree, will she support him? This is what counts. Will she be willing to yield her will in favor of his, trusting that God has spoken through her husband?

This is important in marriage because you can’t have two heads going in different directions. Think about it…two heads on one body is also known as a MONSTER. God has given men the responsibility of leadership in a marriage. He has uniquely made a woman to be a compliment to a man. A woman’s role is invaluable – her support, encouragement, insightfulness, and prayer will be key to her husband’s effective leadership.

A positive, joyful person. Men don’t want a woman who will drag them down with their moodiness, irritation, expectations, and negativity. If a man is going to settle down with someone FOREVER, let her not be a grumpy, moody, self-absorbed person who will drain the life out of him! Oh my.

I’ve fallen into that mode a couple of times and it is not attractive to Edric. Men go to happy hour to get away from a woman like that. They want someone who will encourage, build up, and affirm them. For example, if a man makes a mistake (and he will in marriage, that’s a given and so will we!), he doesn’t want to hear a lecture or a 10-point sermon on what he did wrong and how he can correct his error. He doesn’t want to be yelled at, criticized or belittled either. What he does want to hear is, “Hon, I forgive you. I believe in you. I know God is going to help us get through this.”

Is this asking too much? I don’t think so. After 12 years of marriage, I know how powerful statements like that can be. As women, we have a way with words. We can target our statements to cut through a person. In fact, we can destroy a man and turn their heart away from us when we say things like, What’s wrong with you?! What were you thinking?! That was really stupid! This is all your fault! I should’ve never married you! I was better off single! And on and on…

The Bible says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21)

We need to carefully consider the words we say and filter them to make sure they build up and don’t tear down. No guy wants to end up with a woman who will keep highlighting his present mistakes or resurrect his past failures.

“It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” (Proverbs 21:19)

A good guy is looking for a woman who will encourage him to trust in God, who will keep him hopeful about the future, and remind him that she is right there with him, willing to move towards it together, for better or for worse!

I like what my dad had to say about my mom, “She is flexible and easy to please. Anywhere is fine as long as she is with me.” He also added, “I pity the man who marries a woman who is difficult to please!”

Physically attractive. Before you react, let’s dissect this a little. God first presented Eve to Adam visually. Almost all the men I know (the good guys and the bad boys) notice what a woman looks like. In fact, this is often what gets their attention at the beginning. But after hearing the opinions of the men I interviewed, it was comforting to know that they don’t all share the same preferences for physical attributes.

One guy said, “I like legs and I got a wife who is 60% legs.” Another guy jokingly quipped, “It wouldn’t hurt if she looked like a Victoria Secret model.” (Good luck!) Yet another one said, “femininity and poise, a woman who is lady-like in her behavior and demeanor.”

When it comes to outward beauty, it can be very subjective. This means there is no ONE type that will appeal to every single man on the planet. So let’s celebrate our uniqueness because it is God given. At the same time, there are attributes that are considered universally appealing which we can do something about. Here are some examples: clear skin and vibrant hair, feminine curves, fitness, posture, bearing, smile, a positive body-image, confidence, hygiene, and grooming.

We need to do our best to look our best. If we need to change our diet and start an exercise program then let’s get started. If this means we have to pluck our eyebrows and wear deodorant, hey, it’s about time. If this means we need to update our wardrobe because our closet is a collection of ratty T-shirts from high school, then we need to go out and get something nice.

It doesn’t cost that much to look put-together. My mom and I enjoy bargain shopping. We are able to find stylish clothing just about anywhere without having to spend a fortune. We cut each other’s hair, too! (Okay, I probably need to get my hair professionally cut soon.) I’m sharing these little secrets because I am glad my mom is simple. She never bought a single designer bag or designer pair of shoes, so I wasn’t wired that way either. But she taught me a lot about how to sit, stand, walk, and how to dress like a lady.

A good guy has radars that alert him to avoid high maintenance women. Men can tell if a woman is overly concerned about her physical appearance. One of the interviewees said, “A woman needs to be content with herself so that she doesn’t feel the need to buy expensive clothing or wear a lot of make-up to make her feel beautiful.” (Paraphrased) Okay, I understand where he is coming from but praise God someone brilliant invented the “no-make-up-make-up” look! Ssh.

The focus of trying to look our best shouldn’t be, “I need to do this to get a guy but rather, I need to put effort into taking care of the face and body God has given me because I reflect him.”

And on that note, let me add that if we want to represent Christ, let’s wear clothing that highlights beauty but doesn’t sexualize us. If you don’t know if something is too sexy, ask your brother or your father! That’s right, go ahead. My older brother used to ban me from wearing all kinds of clothing.

As a married woman, Edric helps me a lot. He will tell me if I am wearing an outfit that isn’t appropriate because it draws the wrong kind of attention. And speaking of attention…when it comes to physical attractiveness, let’s remember that the motivation should be to attract people to the person in us – Christ – and not to pursue and obsess about being attractive. Honestly, the most attractive women I know and admire are those who are spirit-filled and radiate Christ-likeness.

I like how one of the guys put it, “The physical rates very high with men, but it’s definitely not number one after you get married.” He went on to explain that a really beautiful woman has depth. There’s a depth to who she is and it is anchored on who she is in Christ. This is not to say that it doesn’t matter to a man that his wife tries her best to stay attractive, but as the Bible says, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)

Someone he can connect with and enjoy activities with. Being able to engage one another in conversation, meeting each other intellectually, having common passions, hobbies, interests or shared ministries…these things add dimension to a relationship. A guy wants his life partner to be a companion he can have fun with and DO things with. In fact, if a gal plays sports and is game for an adventure it’s a plus.

My brother, Paul, and his sister-in-law, Jenny, are both athletic. In fact, they seem to breed athletes. My nephew, Caleb, turned over at just a few weeks! Since Paul and Jenny are into fitness and sports, they can play golf together, run, bike, swim, and if Paul is lucky, he can even get Jenny to play basketball once in a while. Recently, they even mounted a Fitness Retreat for athletes. She’s pregnant right now so after this season, she will be up and about her activities with him again. But it’s great that their common interests get them to bond with one another and their kids.

Furthermore, if a woman uses her gifts and abilities to serve the Lord and others that’s a plus-plus. A good man will be drawn to a woman who invests her life in blessing those around her versus someone who is self-absorbed, spends too much time on Facebook and Instagrams herself all the time.

“Get along with his parents.” Who wants the added stress of having to manage their parents’ perception of the woman they are interested in? Stretch that across a lifetime and it’s not pleasant to keep trying to convince your parents that you married the right person.

I have a friend who is absolutely loved by her mother-in-law. Before she was married, she would bring food over to her boyfriend’s house and spend time with his mother when she was invited over. So very early on, she won the favor of her mother-in-law.

In our family, all my sisters-in-law are dearly loved, too. My brothers made sure that my parents got to meet them before they committed their hearts. So during family gatherings, it’s wonderful that everyone gets along and shares common values. Conversations are free-flowing, no one has to be “on their guard,” and we exchange a whole lot of laughter.

Most important of all…A committed follower of Jesus. According to one of the interviewees, “When a woman loves the Lord, the rest follows – obedience, submission, gentleness of spirit…”

One of the couples in our discipleship group (a small group for couples) had a pretty rocky start. Both the husband and wife would criticize each other in public and they would shout at one another during fights in private. However, both of them had a relationship with Jesus. When they began to take their spiritual growth seriously, there was a very noticeable change in the way they treated each other. The wife became sweeter, more respectful and submissive toward her husband. In fact, she made a 180-degree turn from the person she used to be.

So many conflicts in marriage need spiritual solutions. Furthermore, when children come into the picture, it matters that both husband and wife share the same biblical values. Otherwise, they will be contradicting one another’s parenting style and challenging one another’s decisions when it comes to child-rearing.

Before I end this entry, I want to insert some of my own take-it-or-leave-it tips on what is attractive in a woman. I’m no love-guru. But I believe there is an art to the kind of womanhood that men are drawn to and it largely has to do with behaving like a lady, a feminine one. (Some people have vehemently reacted to this list. And like I said, it’s NOT the Bible. My goodness, no. These are just SUGGESTIONS. If you really really don’t like to wear skirts, hey, don’t kill me. Wear pants. At the end of the day, a man will look past things like this if he really loves you. I know someone who had sweaty hands and stinky armpits but she has a husband who is madly in love with her.)

In no particular order…

Wear dresses and skirts more often than pants. It sounds silly but it makes a difference.

Stand straight. Don’t slouch. Walk with good posture.

Don’t play head games with a guy, acting like you are interested in him one day and ignoring him the next. If you like him, smile at him, talk to him when he talks to you. Don’t send mixed signals. Guys don’t do well with mixed signals.

If he has already expressed interest in you, reciprocate interest if you like him. You don’t always have to wait for him to come up to you and make the first move. You can wave hello or initiate conversation. Just be natural about it and don’t do it ALL the time.

Have a life of your own that doesn’t revolve around his. Let him miss you. You don’t have to see him every single day. You don’t have to text him, call him, message him, and send him photos every other hour.

Don’t be clingy and selfish. If he wants to hang out with his guy friends or he has something he has to do that doesn’t include you, don’t make him choose and don’t impose rules on him. Be happy for him and give him his space. Be busy doing your own thing.

Pursue your ministry calling, hobbies, work, and interests. It makes you multi-faceted and more fascinating (but don’t do it for this reason!)

When he starts to open up to you and share his dreams, his frustrations, his goals, etc., be a good listener, someone he can confide in.

Preserve an amount of mystery. This is different than playing games. Don’t always volunteer information about yourself unless he asks. And if he does, give it to him in regulated doses so there’s always something more to discover.

Be grateful and appreciative for the things he does for you, and compliment him when it’s appropriate.

Show off some of your domestic skills (if you are pretty confident about them). Cook him a meal, or bake him some brownies.

Be game for adventure and activity. Don’t act like you are going to break your nails if he wants to take you hiking. Be fun!

Be thoughtful and considerate. For example, don’t be late or make him wait for you. Another example is when he has a rough day, send him a word of encouragement.

Pray for him. Ask him how you can pray for him.

Love God more than you love him. Don’t compromise your values or principles for him. Set boundaries when it comes to the physical.

Be complete in Christ. Don’t look to a guy to complete you.

In fact, I want to end with that thought. There’s something that you absolutely need to know. God loves you. Live to please him first. Don’t take this article and think, “Yes, this is how to snag a husband who will love me and take care of me.” You don’t need a man to complete you or make you whole. You are beautiful just as you are because you were made by God. He created you for a special purpose and your best life is found in pursuing this purpose. If that includes getting married, then praise God. If not, he has something better in store for you. But just remember, married or single, an attractive woman is one who is content, at peace, and joyful in the Lord!

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Counterflow! (Updated Details)

Don’t miss this event. Attending a parenting seminar like this immensely helped Edric and I become better parents. We learned valuable principles that we have applied as we raise our children.

Counterflow is about parenting against the tide of modern thinking which has removed God from the equation and turned towards humanistic philosophies and perspectives on how to bring up children. Man-centric child rearing is on a dark path. We are seeing a rise in a generation of young people who do not have a moral compass, who are sexually promiscuous, who struggle with gender confusion, who live in a virtual world, who are addicted to social media, who act out violent fantasies, and who are victims of broken homes.

We need to change this. We need to stand against this tidal wave and save the next generation.

The content of this seminar will focus on big picture parenting and how to teach, influence and disciple your child at every stage of their lives from baby to young adult. Even singles are welcome! Find out what kind of parent you need to be before you start a family. Hope to see you there!

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What To Look For In A Man

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Edric is and always will be the love of my life. The other morning, I snuggled up to him in bed. He doesn’t like to be awoken prematurely, but he knew it was me. So he pulled me to himself and hugged me. “I love you,” he said and fell asleep again. I just lay there, content and calmed by the nearness of him.

In the book of Proverbs there is a verse that says a man should rejoice in the wife of his youth. But I think of it from the perspective of a woman and I rejoice in the husband of my youth. Marriage has been such an adventure with Edric, from it’s tumultuous yet romantic beginnings, growing up together, sharing ministries and passions, and now…five kids later. Sometimes, we look around the table at our children’s little faces and ask ourselves, “Do we really have five?!”

I have no regrets about marrying young because I married the right person. Single women have asked me if I could talk about this topic. So I’m going to venture back to my pre-marriage days. With the added wisdom of the present, I hope these insights will give perspective on what to look for in a man.

First, let me clarify when I use the phrase “what to look for.” I don’t ascribe to the idea that a woman should go around prowling for a man. It’s not feminine. A man may be flattered by the attention of an attractive woman but she will not be able to hold his interest forever. No matter what society does to reverse the roles of man and woman, certain truths remain. A real man wants the challenge of pursuing a woman he is interested in. I like how author John Eldredge puts it, men want a “beauty to rescue.”

So, when I say “what to look for,” it’s more about having a conscious list a woman can refer to, something to sift through the dross of suitors who do not fit the bill. But, a word of caution. This list doesn’t have to be so exhaustive that there is no man on the planet that can meet all 100 requirements. May I suggest a few things that really matter, the “non-negotiables.” Looking back, these are the things that made a positive difference in my own marriage.

Remember, this isn’t the Bible. A woman has to develop her own convictions. But I would like to think that this short list can provide a thoughtful start.

1. A God-fearing man who has a personal, growing relationship with Christ. This is number one. If a man truly loves the Lord, he will want to please him. In marriage, this translates to a man who will commit to faithfulness, a man who will be willing to change for the better. He doesn’t have to be a bible teacher or a preacher. But if he has, at his core, the desire to follow God with all of his heart, he will also take care of his wife’s heart.

Edric wasn’t teaching the bible when we got married. I could’ve compared him to my preacher/teacher father and thought, he should be like my dad. But I knew that Edric had something fundamentally important – he loved God. I knew that since the Holy Spirit was at work in his heart, he would become the man God wanted him to be and the husband I needed him to be.

Even though our marriage begun with a colossal clash in personalities, Edric became better and better over the years. He developed an even greater desire to put God at the centre of our marriage. He committed to fulfill his biblical role as leader, lover, and provider. God also gave him the patience to help me grow as a wife!

Furthermore, he had the fear of the Lord in him. So I wasn’t afraid that he would go off and cheat on me or lie to me. Even though he struggled with the same temptations any man would, I learned to put my trust in God. I prayed for him to remain faithful to me. (I still do!) By God’s grace, Edric has stayed faithful and given me no heartache in this aspect.

A lot of women crush on Edric, especially now that he is a public figure on TV. And some of them even tell me they wish they can marry someone like him. (Only in the Philippines!) Yes, he is good looking, especially to me, but what makes Edric special is Christ.

2. Hard-working and responsible. Not every man is a millionaire. But they don’t need to have a fat bank account to be marriage-material. For as long as they understand the value of hard work and their role to provide for the needs of their future family, then God will bless their efforts. Of course a woman needs to adjust her own expectations. She has to be willing to simplify her lifestyle.

When Edric and I were starting out, we hardly had anything, monetarily speaking. But we had enough to get a place to live in and to cover our expenses. (We weren’t recklessly romantic. Edric made sure he had what we needed to get started.)

We had a very simple lifestyle. It was an adjustment for me at first because I was used to having my own car, traveling, and not having to worry about budgets. Although I didn’t expect to have the same standard of living when I got married, I missed some conveniences and comforts of my single life. But I never felt like I traded that life for a substandard version. I was willing to go through anything with Edric because I loved him and trusted his leadership. I couldn’t imagine a better life without him. There was never a time when I doubted that he would take care of me. First, I knew that he loved God. And, as witness to holiness in his private life I knew there was nothing in his life to exempt him from being blessed. Second, he tried his best to be a good provider so I knew God would make sure we never went hungry.

The added bonus of not having much to begin with made Edric and I careful about our spending decisions. We couldn’t be lavish. We had to be thrifty. Edric was genetically wired to be frugal but I needed training in this area. So God used this season to mature both of us. He taught us what it meant to be a steward of his resources and to trust him for our daily bread.

3. A good set of friends. The company a man keeps is pretty defining. If a guy hangs out with fools and drunks, well, that has got to make an impact on his own value system. Proverbs 13:20 says, He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

I knew Edric’s friends. They were nice guys. They didn’t party or mess around with girls. Edric’s friends mattered to me because we would be hanging out with the same set of friends in marriage. Furthermore, I knew that these men played a big role in Edric’s life and they were an influence to him.

Up till this day, we spend time with his “barkada” and we share many common principles about marriage and raising children. And on days when Edric is hanging out with the boys, I don’t have to worry that they are going to go off and do something stupid. I have peace.

4. Parent-approved. I praise God I married into a wonderful family. Edric’s family accepted me as their daughter and sister with open arms. If Edric’s parents had disapproved of me, I wouldn’t have married him. I wouldn’t have dated him either! And if my parents had not given Edric their blessing to marry me, we wouldn’t have gotten married.

Having been privy to many of the marriage counseling cases my parents dealt with over the years, I knew that parental blessing was a key factor in the success of any marriage. Many of the couples who had marital problems began without the blessing of their parents. There are consequences for dismissing the biblical principle of obeying and honoring parents. But, on the positive side, the Bible says “it will go well” with those who listens to their parents.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12)

Both my sisters, Candy and Carolyn, are married to amazing guys. In a sense, they were “hand-picked” by my father. But I will talk about Carolyn’s husband first.

Carolyn did not really have marriage on her radar. She was busy with med school and music ministry. It was my dad who asked her to consider Joel. And it was my brother, Paul, who encouraged Joel to pursue her. Carolyn opened her heart to the idea and not too long after they were dating, God led them to marriage with the full blessing of both sets of parents. Today, they are happily married, expecting their first child, and Joel is really the perfect match for Carolyn. He brings out the best in her and vice-versa. Together they serve the Lord faithfully and have a loving, Christ-centered marriage.

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5. A man who has a compass. It’s scary to entrust your life into the hands of a man who has absolutely no idea what he wants to do with his own! We should get a clue from the animal kingdom. The female goes with the mate she feels most secure with, the one who proves that he can take care of her and their offspring.

One of the things I really admired about Edric when we were dating was he knew what he wanted. He sat me down when and talked about his 5-year, 10-year plan. Did he have everything figured out? Nope. But there was a plan and I knew where I fit into the plan. I anticipated that there would be bumps along the way but I wasn’t afraid. His compass was pointing in the right direction. I was confident that he would be able to lead me and lead our children.

Just look at him handle a map… :) Doesn’t he look like knows what he is doing? (Such an unnecessary photo at this point but I just wanted to put a picture of him in this post.)

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Over the years, Edric’s 10-year plan got revised a couple of times but always for the better, because God was changing it for his purposes. We’ve gone through some tough times in our marriage and every now and then, these obstacles and challenges present themselves again. However, my trust and confidence are in the Lord who is the center of our relationship. I know Edric walks with him, and I’m trying my best to do the same. Therefore, the present and future glimmer with hope.

If I had married a man whose life-goals were secular, worldly, and whose choices did not honor God, I would feel very insecure about the present and future. (I am saying this to singles people who have not yet committed themselves to a life partner. However, if you are married to the kind of man I have just described, don’t lose heart…with God, nothing is impossible. Pray, pray, pray, and exemplify Christ-likeness in your own home as a testimony to your husband.)

For my single friends, don’t be suckered and waste time giving your heart to a man who has the potential to shatter it. Pay attention to the signs… If you know that a guy has a history of promiscuity and is also sleeping with you, whose idea of fun is getting drunk with his buddies, who has a bad temper, who has no spiritual appetite for God or his word, whose life goals are worldly and devoid of the desire to please God, who tends to make choices that are self-serving…hmmm…wisely consider this reality: Married men don’t miraculously change their ways. They need a heart transplant, in the spiritual sense!

Women don’t have the expertise to rescue a person like that. It takes the Lord. So we are better off waiting for that moment to happen way before any sort of commitment is made or moving on entirely.

Good looks, athleticism, charm, wealth, popularity — traits that women tend to find attractive — can camouflage the real man. So pray for discernment. Be realistic about 10 to 20 years from now and ask yourself, is this the kind of man I want to give my heart to and raise children with? Are our values aligned?

Let’s not trade the more valuable qualities for the lesser, temporal ones that may even become our very source of pain. Imagine how sad it would be to marry a handsome and rich man who peacocks himself to other women!

Furthermore, we need to be “femininely” investigative. Use those powers of observation to see how a man responds to stress, relates with people (especially his family), spends or invests his money, uses his time, and follows through when assigned a task in ministry or his job. If he belongs to an accountability group, or a discipleship group, as we call it in our church, gather some information about him through discreet sources. If he owns his own company, find out what his business ethics are like and what others have to say about him. It’s common to be so enthralled by a person and get smoke-screened by traits that we find so attractive. But we have to look deeper and pay attention to what surrounds a man – the people, the history, the influences, the circumstances. What impact does he have on others and how is he impacted by the world around him? What choices define him?

When my sister, Candy, was interested in a guy while she was at dental school in San Francisco, she wanted my parents to meet him. Candy thought he was a nice guy — good-looking, musically inclined, intelligent. She was raving about him and talking about how amazing he was. But she wanted to see what my parents thought. So they took her and her boyfriend out to dinner. During dinner, my parents asked Candy’s boyfriend a lot of questions, particularly about his plans and what he wanted to do with his life. During this dinner the poor guy hardly ate, but it proved to be a very critical moment for Candy. She realized that he wasn’t the kind of man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. He had no compass.

Later on, my dad suggested that she consider Jeff (her husband today). Jeff wasn’t an option at the time because he was in a relationship. But my father said, “He’s not yet married!” In other words, there was still hope. Not too long after, Jeff got out of his relationship and started hanging out with Candy. Their friendship blossomed into a romantic one and well, long story short, they are married with two sons and another baby on the way. Both of them love God and have a great marriage. Oh, and the cutest sons!

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I’ve laid out the non-negotiables and it’s up to single women to fill in their “negotiables.” This can be anything from the color of a guy’s hair, to his height and build, to the sport he plays, to hobbies, to sense of humour. The list can go on and on (hopefully not too long! Does it really matter what color a guy’s hair is unless you are really big on genes and chromosomes?!)

Be encouraged…It may seem harder and harder to meet a man with outstanding qualities, but remember, there is no telling what a man can become and accomplish when his heart belongs to Christ, especially when he marries someone who strongly supports, faithfully prays, and positively affirms him. At the onset this man may not fit the image of one who has it all by worldly measures, but the potential for extraordinary lies in the inner man. And it is a wise woman who is able to discern this and a prized wife who is able to encourage it.

Next up: HOW TO ATTRACT THE RIGHT KIND OF GUY

Over a Burger

Edric is my best critic, in the most positive sense of the word. He will tell me very honestly how I can improve. And I need him to. He knows me better than anyone.

Most of the time, I appreciate his constructive criticism. But, when my pride gets the better of me, I tend to become defensive and act dismissive about what he has to say. Often, my temptation is to put on a verbal boxing match to defend my position or to retaliate. So it’s only by God’s grace when I am able to receive his feedback with the right attitude.

A few days ago, Edric called me after his ANC taping to inform me that he was on his way home. But he was ravenously hungry and absolutely had to stop somewhere to grab a burger. I convinced him to come all the way home first so I could go with him and buy the burger for him. He was resistant because he wanted to get one immediately but I buttered him up by saying, “I miss you, let’s go together.”

When Edric knows I really want to be with him, he will move mountains. He is very sweet like that. Plus, he liked the idea of me taking care of him because his language of love is service.

While I was waiting, I called him again to let him know that I was walking to the park with the kids. I asked him if he could swing by the park instead and pick me up from there. He agreed. At the park, I made the mistake of mentioning aloud, to the kids, that I was going to get a burger with their dad. They all wanted to come. But I told my two older boys to stay with their cousins and I would take Tiana , Titus and Catalina. They agreed when I told them I would buy them some ice cream and get them French fries.

When Edric arrived at the park, he was excited to see us as usual. The kids ran to greet him. I had Titus, Tiana, and Catalina in tow.

Initially, he didn’t mind that I decided to bring the three younger kids with us. We all piled into the backseat with him. Titus and Tiana wanted to sit on his lap so he accommodated them both. Everything was going well until Catalina started to cry really loudly and needed to be fed. So I fed her.

We were at the drive through window of the fast food restaurant in about ten minutes. I ordered a bunch of stuff for Edric and the kids. By this time, however, Catalina had latched off and was screaming. (Our nickname for her is “terrorista.”)

There I was trying to order food while holding Catalina. She was throwing a tantrum of surprisingly astronomical proportions for her tiny self. The two other kids were getting rowdy. Edric was on his phone for business but I needed help grabbing my wallet to pay. No one was helping me.

I expected Edric to notice that I was having a hard time trying to calm Catalina down and dialogue with the woman at the fast food window. But he was preoccupied with his phone. He even got snappy. “Just feed her!” So I got irritated and made some comment. Titus asked me a question I can’t remember now but my very wrong answer was, “Your dad is not helping me.” I never do third person references like that. Edric retorted with an equally annoyed, “excuse me?”

On the way back home, Edric and I were upset with one another. We were quiet. I was finally able to make Catalina relax by feeding her again but I was hurt by Edric. He didn’t even thank me for ordering and buying the burger.

I thought he had been so self-absorbed in his reaction to the situation. When we got home he brought his burger to eat upstairs. Usually, I would prepare it and put ketchup on it, get him a drink and lay it all out for him. But I left him alone.

He retreated to his computer which bugged me even more. I kind of avoided him the entire evening. When we did intersect at some point I expressed to him that I thought he was only thinking of himself.

Edric, on the other hand, told me I had to improve on being more organized. He said that if I had thought more carefully about bringing the kids along and come up with a better plan then I would not have been so stressed when Catalina started crying in the car. At first I challenged this and argued that the kids wanted to be with him. Plus, I added, “Life is not always predictable with five children. We have to be flexible…if we can’t be flexible then why have so many kids?!” I know, I know. It was a low blow. Bad move and bad timing. It just made things worse. Edric walked away.

The next day, he wanted to resolve our issue. He asked if I was willing to listen to his explanation of his actions. The narration began like this…He had a burger that he could not eat until after his tapings. (He already had lunch previously but this was going to be his snack.) So he left it in the make-up room to enjoy later. Apparently, someone had been tempted by the burger and stole it. When Edric went to retrieve it after his tapings, it was gone. By then he was starving. (Edric gets hungry every 2 to 3 hours.)

Nothing would do but the exact same burger to alleviate his hunger and frustration, and he wanted it as soon as possible. When I asked if I could go with him, this meant he would have to wait an extra 30 minutes just to pick me up first, but he was amenable to do so because he would get to be with me. He expected to pick me up in the house but I switched the plans on him and mentioned that I would be at the park and he could get me from there.

He was looking forward to a peaceful ride to and from the fast food restaurant. But I jumped into the car with three of our youngest children and an eventually-screaming-baby. The kids were all over him and he was stressed because he was wearing a shirt that he had to return to his clothing sponsor. It couldn’t get dirty. The moment when I was making the orders, he absolutely had to reply on his phone to an urgent situation.

All he wanted from point a to point z was to eat a burger he was craving. And he expected that I would prioritize his burger need and take care of it like I offered to when I called and said let’s go together.

I listened to this entire narration but I must admit that I was not that impressed at first. Still nursing my own hurt, I couldn’t help but think...a burger?! This is all about you wanting to eat a burger?! Seriously?! You got irritated at all of us because you were controlled by a banal desire to eat?!

Of course I did not say those things. It would have been disrespectful! These thoughts came and went in a matter of seconds.

Even though I wanted to challenge his perspective, I was convicted to understand where he was coming from. It was pretty awful that someone took his burger. And it was insensitive of me not to consider how important it was for him to be able to eat that burger after he worked so hard during his tapings. Furthermore, had I not insisted that he pick me up, he would have come home happily AFTER
getting his burger fix. So I suppressed my pride and apologized for not prioritizing him.

I kept quiet afterwards and just prayed that Edric would also be convicted to say sorry for his attitude and irritation. Well, he did even better. Not only did he ask for forgiveness, he asked me to tell him how I felt and what my perspective was. And he listened to me.

I really appreciated that. I know it’s not easy for a man to listen to his wife talk about how he can improve. It’s unpleasant and humbling but it does wonders for relational intimacy. Afterwards, I felt so in love with Edric again. It was so easy to forget about the burger incident the day before. As closure, we prayed together, holding hands.

Edric and I know that marriage isn’t always easy. It takes a whole lot of dying to oneself. I pray that Edric and I will not stop listening to one another. Unresolved conflicts over small things like a silly burger can compound themselves.

It’s normal to want to be right and to insist on your own perspective as more valid than your spouse’s. But you must esteem one another as more important than yourself. You must be willing to give each other the opportunity to talk openly about feelings and hurts.

Would it really be worth it to forsake one another over a burger?! Of course not!

But when I am acting in pride it’s so easy to dismiss what matters to Edric when I think that I am right. However it’s not about what is right for me but what is right for our relationship…what is right before God. I must be committed to fixing and restoring intimacy between Edric and I. There can be no room for pride. It destroys the very thing I desire most in my marriage — to be loved, cherished, and appreciated by Edric. On the other hand, when I die to myself, I experience God’s hand of blessing and Edric’s favor. The end result is Edric and I grow closer and sweeter through conflict.

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