A Trait All Gentlemen Should Have

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Having three sons offers Edric and I many opportunities to learn about what boys are like and how they develop into men. One thing is certain, they need guidance and direction when it comes to growing in their concept of manhood. Edric plays a vital role in this aspect of their development, and he has intentionally taken it upon himself to teach them what it means to be gentlemen.

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When teaching opportunities present themselves, he will pass on things like, “We need to let ladies go first. We need to hold the door open for them. We need to help ladies carry heavy bags.” Everytime he leaves the home and the boys are left with me, he reminds them, “Protect your mom and your sisters.” It’s quite adorable when my sons take this to heart and insist on accompanying me when I have to run an errand in order to “protect me.”

I recall an instance when Elijah accompanied me to 168 in Divisoria to buy toys for a birthday party. When I had to use the toilet, Elijah said, “I can go with you, mom.” I thought he was afraid. So I said, “Okay, come wait right outside so I know you are safe.” But he replied, “No, I will make sure YOU ARE SAFE.”

These are simple ways that our children are learning to be gentlemen. However, there is a more important trait that all gentlemen should have that we are trying to instill in our sons – how to be buck-stopping leaders.

For the past few days, our family was at a retreat in Baguio, where Edric and I served as speakers. Our kids attended the children’s classes, where they were grouped by various ages. Elijah and Edan shared the same class. When we asked them if they obeyed their teacher, they confessed to their rowdiness – hitting one another’s heads and playfully agitating each other so they became a distraction to others. As a result the teacher separated them. We encouraged them to apologize for their behavior and they were in full agreement of doing so, acknowledging that their actions had been wrong. The next time they saw their teacher, they asked for her forgiveness, which she readily gave.

On the one hand, being a gentleman is about treating people with respect, being considerate of others before one’s self, keeping one’s word and dealing with people honorably and truthfully. On the other hand, it is about accepting accountability and responsibility for one’s choices and mistakes, choosing to do what pleases God, and encouraging others to do the same.

As Edric likes to put it, “the buck stops with us (men).” He shares this often during seminars where he talks about the role of a man, challenging them to imitate U.S. President Harry Truman example, who popularized the statement “The buck stops here” – a sign that sat on his desk in the Oval Office. Prior to this, it was common to use the phrase, “pass the buck” when playing poker whenever the person holding the buck was tired of the responsibility.

In contrast, the “buck stops here” represents the kind of leader men are supposed to be. Edric refers to the passage in Genesis 3, the tragic choice to eat the forbidden fruit and the aftermath of this decision. Adam and Eve attempted to hide themselves, a ridiculous attempt to conceal themselves from an all-knowing and all-present God. In this chapter, God did something very intentional. He called out to the MAN. “Where are you?”

Edric asks men during seminars, “Why didn’t God single out Eve? Eve, who took the first bite and convinced her husband to sin with her?” God sent a message to Adam – as the man, you are accountable, you are responsible, I put you in charge, what happened? This tells us that a man is accountable to God first, and then responsible to take care of those entrusted to his care, to lead them in the way God would have them go. He should not “pass the buck” by pointing fingers and blaming others or circumstances.

Perhaps I can illustrate this point with a story. When I was dating Edric, we struggled in the area of purity. He was a gentleman in the sense that he took care of me and looked out for my needs. He tried his best to treat me with respect. However, our hormones at that season of our lives were difficult to bridle. I’m not excusing what we did. Furthermore, it would not be fair for me to say that it was entirely Edric’s fault. I made my own choices and I did things I’m not proud of. At some point, Edric and I became very convicted about what we were doing. We broke up in order to put God first and seek his will for us.

One of my prayers was that Edric would sit down with my parents and tell them everything we did so we could “come clean.” I was amazed when, a few months later, while we were broken up, he called me and asked to have dinner with my parents on his own initiative. During that dinner he owned up to his responsibility as a man and put the blame on himself. It was the most awkward dinner of our lives. But I learned something remarkable about Edric, which only wanted me to marry him all the more!

A real gentleman says, “the buck stops with me! I am accountable. I am responsible.” I saw this trait in Edric when he apologized to my parents saying that as the man in the relationship, he should not have allowed our relationship to become so physical. He claimed the fault was is even if I insisted that the blame shouldn’t fall entirely upon him. My admiration for him increased 10-fold.

Up to this day, he is this kind of man. Of course he makes mistakes every now and then, but he will own up to them and burden himself with the responsibility of fixing problems that arise in our marriage and family. Furthermore, he will not let issues linger to a destructive point because he knows that God has put him in charge of the kids and me.

Admittedly, sometimes the problem is me! But Edric won’t say, “See, this is all your fault!” In fact, he has never, to my recollection, ever said this to me. More often than not, he actually says, “You know what, I need to make sure that I disciple you better, to help you.” Or, “I’ve got to step up and make sure I’m leading our family spiritually. This is on me.” He will even add, “I’m back, baby! (for my sake) Have no fear, ‘daddy’ is here (for the kids’ sake),” puffing his chest out and thumping it to give the moment some comedy.

When he makes this profession, I am confident not in Edric per se, but on the source of his ability to turn a situation around for the better or repair what needs fixing. Edric is dependent on God. He walks with Him and seeks to follow His principles. Therefore his enabling comes from God. Being a faithful follower of Jesus makes him a capable, buck-stopping leader. The aim of his leadership is to help those around him, especially the kids and me, to follow Jesus, too.

As women, we have a significant role to play to encourage the emergence of the inner, God-designed, buck-stopping leaders that husbands are made to be.

First, our outlook is important. I believe all husbands have the capacity to lead. This isn’t a trait exclusive to those with dominant personality types. Interestingly, our sons show leadership in very different ways from one another. Elijah has a very big personality but he is a leader by example. Edan tends to be less vocal, but organizing people and delegating tasks comes naturally to him. Titus is a man’s man. No matter what their personalities are like, each one of them can learn to copy the kind of leadership that Jesus Christ displayed for us. John Piper describes this as a combination of lion-hearted and lamb-like. Jesus boldly taught us how to live and he died for us to solve the problem of our sins, but at the same time he was among us as a servant.

Matthew 20:25 – 28 “But Jesus called them to Himself and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Second, we can appreciate the instances when our husbands make difficult decisions for the family. Whether these decisions turn out well or not, we can call out the fact that it must be hard to make the choices they have to make. We can tell them that their leadership means a lot to us.

Third, we should avoid criticizing them when they fail, because they will from time to time. Let’s ban comments like, “See, I told you so!” (Oh, I know this is hard! I have to bite my lip not to do this at times!)

Fourth, let them know that we are there to support them and pray for them, communicating that we believe God will help them to solve the problem and be the kind of leader they need to be. (Pray, pray, pray!!!)

I know it’s hard to communicate these messages when we are disappointed in the leadership or lack of leadership our husbands may display. But our positive outlook, belief in their leadership by the power of Christ’s enabling, encouragement, and prayers will do wonders! Men have so much pressure on their shoulders. The last thing they need is to be pressured by us.

For single women, how do you distinguish between someone who is a gentleman only on the outside and one who has the qualities of a buck-stopping leader? Observe the way a man you are interested in handles conflict, stress, problems, mistakes, and issues. Does he recognize and embrace his responsibility and admit accountability, seeking to find solutions that may entail sacrificing his own comfort and needs? More importantly, does he walk intimately with the Lord so that his responses are aligned with God’s principles and honor Him? In the process, does he motivate others to do the same, including you?

 

 

Dealing With Meltdowns

When my kids have their once-in-a-while “meltdowns” during our homeschooling, I am faced with two options. The first is to be annoyed, which is a very real temptation that may involve a response like, “Get over it and do your work. I have no time for your drama.”

Obviously, this would be counterproductive as it is unfair to expect my children to turn their emotions on and off like a switch does to a light bulb. So I usually go for option two, which is to give my children space to feel the emotion that is overwhelming them, to process what they are feeling, and then to pray about it. After all, I have several children to teach so having one absent from our homeschool room actually makes my life easier! But the more important objective is giving my kids the opportunity to hear from the Lord, and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to them more effectively than I can, especially when the meltdown is at its peak. This type of response is more effectively applied with older children who have a relationship with Jesus Christ because they are Holy-Spirit-equipped to process their circumstances.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Elijah, pushed his IPad away while muttering, “I can’t do this! I got everything wrong! I don’t like math anymore!”

“Are you okay?” I asked calmly, attempting to diffuse his frustration.

“No, I am not and you can’t help me. Nobody can help me.” (He tends to use superlatives in his sentences when he is emotionally charged.)

It wasn’t the most respectful thing to say to me, but I knew where he was coming from as a perfectionist. So I requested that he take a break from his Khan Academy work and go to his room. He got up, huffing and puffing about what a failure he was and threw himself on to the bed to cry.

When Elijah makes mistakes, his morale plummets due to the high standard he expects of himself. Even if I tell him, mistakes can be positive when we learn from them and it’s okay to make mistakes, mistakes are part of growing, that’s not what he wants to hear. More often than not, the best recourse is to back off and give him space to cool down.

After thirty minutes, I lay beside him on the bed and gave him a big hug and kiss. “I love you.” I assured him. And then I listened to his ranting about how upset he was and how he didn’t want to try because he couldn’t do his math well.

When he quieted down I asked him if his mistakes were due to an understanding issue or just carelessness. He admitted that it was the latter. I suspected it was probably so because he prefers to solve math problems mentally, without writing down the solutions.

Since it wasn’t a matter of understanding the formulas involved, I didn’t think it was a big problem. He just needed to slow down and take time to review how he arrived at the answers he did. Furthermore, I asked him if I could sit beside him and do the problems with him.

He really perked up with this suggestion! The idea of sitting side by side to tackle the work gave him renewed incentive to try again. (He is a time person.) So that’s what we did, as a team.

With each problem, we raced to see who would get the answer first. When I needed to review my math formulas I asked him to help me, which he enjoyed doing. In fact his mood changed completely. He was enthusiastic as he demonstrated how to solve the problems and as we compared our answers. I let him take the lead and he gladly did so, assuming the role of instructor as I played the part of student. In the process he answered every problem correctly. What began as a meltdown turned into a fun bonding and learning experience.

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When we finished, Elijah turned to me and said, “Thank you, mom. Thank you for listening and not lecturing me. And I really like it when you are with me.”

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19‬ NASB)

One of the sweet privileges of homeschooling is being able to ask my kids to take a pause from their “school” work in order to assess and pray about their emotions and attitudes. This gives the Holy Spirit room to convict them and minister to them. It also allows me to think through how I should respond so I avoid the default reaction of irritation when my kids say, “I don’t want to do my work, mom.” After the beneficial pause, which lasts between five to thirty minutes, I can come along side my children to walk them through the challenge of a difficult assignment.

This wouldn’t be realistic in the conventional school model, so I praise God my kids aren’t in a classroom. We aren’t rushed to finish course work during the day when it’s more necessary to stop and address a heart condition or encourage the love for learning. I also get to know my children better — what enlivens them, what demotivates them, what they need to improve on. Best of all, I see the grace of God at work as he helps them deal with their struggles and come out of them positively. God works in my own life, too, teaching me what to say and what to AVOID saying (which is my number one area of improvement in life…keeping quiet and being gentle!)

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭32‬ NASB)

I once read that parenting needs to be about long term goals rather than short-sighted ones. Short-sightedness is stressing out when my children aren’t eager to do their homeschooling work or when they don’t seem to get the material as expediently as I hope they will. I can fall into this mode of parenting which turns me into a tyrannical teacher, one who is pressured to MAKE my kids succeed academically. Or, I can set my sights on the long term goal of parenting.

My long term goal is to raise my children to love God with all that they are and to develop their gifts and abilities for his glory, so they can effectively declare the gospel. When that is my fixed mark, the kids and I can set aside the homeschooling task at hand because there is a more redemptive cause at stake — recalibrating my children’s hearts to adapt Christ-centered perspectives and attitudes. I want their minds primed for instruction rather than forced to receive it. I also want them to know that my love and acceptance will cushion their failures.

When these elements are present as we homeschool, the joy of purposeful learning and teaching returns and the atmosphere is one of peace and calm. But everyday births a new challenge or resurrects an old one so it’s only by God’s grace that we survive each year of homeschooling to pursue another one!

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Do We Really Need to Be Stressed?

My older sons were de-motivated at the beginning of the morning. When they looked over the homeschool work they had to get done, they sulked and complained about being “stressed.”

I am partially to blame for using this word lightly. When I have a lot going on, I will loosely say, “I’m stressed.” As a result, my kids have adapted it as a descriptor to explain how they feel when they see their books piled up beside them.

My example has not been profitable for them. It has caused them to misunderstand what REAL STRESS really is. So I decided to have an enlightening conversation with them once and for all to stop the misuse of this word in our home.

Stressed, I said emphatically. Do you really know what stress means? The word “stressed out” is more appropriately used by those who don’t have a home, who don’t have food, or clothing, who are deathly sick, and don’t have a family to love them. You and I don’t have stress in our lives, we are privileged…privileged to have food, clothing, shelter, to be sitting on this couch with one another, in the middle of a beautiful family room, where we are reading books we can afford to buy, and enjoying one another’s company. And most of all, we are privileged to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and to know where we are going one day if we die. That’s being privileged, not stressed. I know I have used that word “stressed” and you have copied me, and I have been wrong. (Please forgive me was added later on.) But from now on, we are banned from saying that word. Everyone who says it will loose points. Even me. You can fine me for saying it.

The expressions on my children’s faces changed from frowns to smiles as they realized that God has been good to us. He is good to us. Period. There may be times when our family experiences trials but in comparison to what we have in Christ, to having eternal security, stress doesn’t have to impair us from accomplishing the tasks we have been entrusted with or steal our peace and joy.

…May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled andwill not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:2-9)

It’s so important to teach our children perspective and to remind ourselves, as parents, that we can choose to look at our circumstances positively or negatively. When we focus on the privileges we have, it encourages our children to do the same. When we bicker and complain about hardships, our children will do the same. However, this isn’t just about our attitude on present circumstances. I shared the passages in 1 Peter 1:2-9 because we are supposed to look beyond this world, to the heavenly future God has in store for us which is certain and secure in Jesus Christ. We may go through very real problems and issues that may warrant the use of the word “stress” but in light of eternity, these remain for just “a little while” as the apostle Peter states. So let us “greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of our faith the salvation of our souls.” That’s what faith is!

Growing up, my parents role-modeled putting on spiritual lenses in the face of challenges and trials. My grandfather had once upon a time been very wealthy. He had an office in the Empire State Building and owned a textile company called Riverside Mills. He was featured in Reader’s Digest’s Who’s Who In Asia. So my dad was raised with, what he called, a platinum spoon. When he graduated from college, he worked for the family business. However, due to a series of bad decisions made by the company (not my father), one of the late Ferdinand Marcos’ cronies kicked my dad out of the family business and took over. It was incredulous. (I have simplified the story.)

My dad witnessed the humiliation of his father and the entire family. At one point, he admitted that he wanted to change his last name because so much ridicule was attached to it. However, he believed God had a purpose for allowing this to happen. Since we were very young children at the time, we didn’t feel the sting too much, but my parents had to figure out how to survive. (We ate fish most of the time, which I grew to love!)

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One of the things my parents tried to do was buy a cow to sell its meat after it was butchered. After all the effort, part of the cow had rot in it, and by the time they sold what they could, they only made P500 pesos. But they gave that to the Lord as a first fruits offering. They believed that God was in control and entrusted their future and ours to him. But my dad did his part. He didn’t give up. He even went to the Asian Institute of Management business school and graduated with honors, thinking he might need to become an employee.

Years later, my dad started a real estate company. (This happened after he acted on the conviction to give up a logging business because of the compromises he was pressured to make.) God blessed his real estate company. But the best thing that happened was the Lord worked in his heart and burdened him to start a church. He never wanted to become a pastor. He enjoyed teaching bible studies but pastoring was not his desire. However, he responded to God’s prodding. In the 80’s he began a bible study to minister to his businessman friends and their spouses. Eventually, this group grew and today, Christ Commission Fellowship is a movement of over 50,000 followers of Jesus who are committed to evangelism and discipleship in order to make Christ-committed followers. All honor goes to the Lord who has done this mighty work. Today my dad is still a self-supporting pastor (with my brothers running the family business so he can give his time and attention to ministry.)

I don’t say this to boast but to add emphasis to the point that a person’s spiritual perspective on problems is important. Had my parents, especially my dad, wallowed in suffering and misery, they would have lost sight of God’s hand in their circumstances. Worst of all, they would have forfeited the privilege and blessing of ministering to people all around the world, teaching about Biblical principles on leadership, marriage and family.

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Whenever I think about my parents’ history and their faith journey, I am reminded to be a better example to my children. They need to be encouraged to hope in God and his plan for their lives no matter what they go through. Training them to embrace this perspective begins at home, with the challenges they face as children.

Sometimes, a homeschooling assignment can feel like a big challenge to my kids. Heck, sometimes homeschooling can feel like a big challenge to me! Instead of caving in because it is difficult, the better thing to do is remember that we are children of God, with uncountable privileges to be thankful and grateful for. While stress may be a valid feeling, it can’t be a valid excuse to give up and stop trying. We need to do what we can, within our control, and then entrust the results to God, believing that these are the circumstances that he has elected for us to go through in this season of our lives.

My kids and I are a work in progress. There are some days when I want to stay in bed and avoid facing the day because the responsibilities I must attend to resemble the stack of books my kids don’t like seeing. Yet, I praise God for the daily grace he supplies to keep us all going. His resources are infinite. His strength is supernatural. His joy is incomparable. And his rewards are worth whatever we may count as “stress” in this life. But, hey, do we really need to be stressed when He is our Heavenly Father?

The Last Twelve Months of Boyhood

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-41-07 GMT 0800

Elijah is turning twelve this month. He hasn’t experienced puberty yet but I am anticipating that it will happen soon, which kind of frightens me. When will his testosterone-driven urges emerge? Will he start getting moody? And what about all the physical changes?!

I ran into one of his friends the other day who transformed into a young man in the few months I had not seen him. His voice was husky and low, he looked a head taller, and I spied a shadowy line of hair across his upper lip.

“What happened?” I idiotically asked him. “I went through puberty,” was his matter-of-fact reply, coupled with a grin and chuckle that hinted at, Isn’t it obvious? 

And it was. Obvious, I mean. Of course he went through puberty! I suppose I asked the question to remind myself that at some point I will be staring at my oldest son, wondering the same thing. I imagine that this assault on my reality will be accompanied by crying. (I already feel like crying. Okay, I am crying a little bit.)

A few weeks ago, Edric called me to his study room and pointed to his laptop where he was going through archives of family videos. We were like two addicts, hovering over the screen. I saw several videos of Elijah as a toddler. I had forgotten how high pitched his voice was. In one video he was smiling in every scene, revealing those deep dimples on either side of his face. Edric was coaching him for my surprise music video. They connived to sing their version of Chris Brown’s With You hit for my 30th birthday. There was Elijah, dressed in a hoodie, bobbing his head up and down as he vocalized the chorus, “With you, with you, with you, with you, with you…”

In another clip, he was blowing out birthday candles and shouting out spontaneous reactions as he unwrapped presents. “Yeah!” “Wow!” I remember telling him before this that he should communicate excitement and gratitude for every present he received, and he did so with such obedience, wanting to make sure that everyone knew he appreciated their gifts.

How did he become the big-footed, long-limbed, Google-humanoid who was sitting beside me on the couch, swiping through his Evernote checklist of daily activities while I wrote this post? I looked over at him as he grabbed his Singapore Math book, propped himself back on the couch, and started whistling a classical tune in perfect pitch.

“That’s a beautiful song. What are you whistling?” I asked.

“Gavotte from Mignon. It’s Edan’s song for violin class.”

“Another Gavotte? Why do you guys play so many Gavotte songs for your violin class?”

Elijah looked up from his book, and true to his Google-like capacities, explained, “Gavotte refers to a dance, an Italian dance. So different Gavottes can be composed by different people…” He didn’t mock me for not knowing that, even if he could have.

He may sound like an encyclopedia but he is still a boy, for the next twelve months, at least! But Elijah is aware that his needs are changing.

We had an interesting conversation about this that awakened me to the reality of his passage into manhood. He spontaneously told me very recently, “I need dad, mom. I really need him. I really look up to him.”

I wasn’t trying to steal the spotlight from Edric but I couldn’t help it. So I hazarded to ask, “What about me? Do you also need me?”

“Of course, mom!” He hugged me reassuringly, but then he said with a conviction I couldn’t challenge, “But I need an example, and that is Dad.”

Wed Dec 10 2014 10-14-16 GMT 0800

“Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of sons is their fathers.” Proverbs 17:6

In an older book called Raising A Modern Day Knight, author Robert Lewis shares this:

Something about a father’s physical and emotional presence gives life to a boy. Masculine life. Just being around dad—watching him shave, hearing him laugh, touching his flesh—invests a son with large doses of male energy. And this emotional capital cannot be gained anywhere other than in the presence of a father. The investment becomes even more substantial when a father imparts not only emotional capital, but moral and spiritual capital as well. In this nurturing environment, a son is weighted down with a masculine anchor. He lashes his soul to masculine moorings. But this also explains why sons drift in the absence of fathers. Instead of being weighted down, they become weightless. (pg.36)

According to Scripture, every son—from an early age—must be schooled in three critical areas…a will to obey (God’s will), a work to do (according to his own unique design), and a woman to love. Lacking these elements, a son will flounder in adulthood; he will wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, incompetence, and restlessness. But armed with them, a son becomes equipped to succeed in his relationship with God, in his community and church, and in his marriage. (pg.67)

Mon Dec 15 2014 13-51-37 GMT 0800

When Elijah declared his need for an example in Edric, I was overjoyed. It made me immeasurably happy to know that their relationship is as it should be as father and son. Over the last couple of years, Edric has intentionally discipled Elijah, and biblically speaking, this is his role.

Father’s do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 NLT)

However, I also felt a twinge of jealousy…just a tiny smidgen of envy. Elijah is departing from childhood, headed towards the path of manhood. Before the age of six, I was the apple of his eye. He wanted me more than anyone else. He needed me. But today, he knows that becoming the man God wants him to be will require the presence of his father more than anyone else.

In the past couple of days, I have thought about Elijah a lot. I’ve removed myself from the craziness of duty, training, teaching and disciplining to recall parenting days of yesteryears. There’s a wishing that beckons a sorrow, not of pain or regret, but of the sort that any mother would know…it comes like a longing to cradle my grown child as the baby he once was…to press my nose against that incomparably soft cheek that smelled both pure and sweet, scented by mild soap and mother’s milk…to watch the glinted eyes of wonderment when everything was new to exploring hands and feet…to hear once again that first laugh, first word, first “I love you”, and be the recipient of that first kiss…

What I would give to be privy once more to those moments where details have been swallowed up by time! For now they persist in parts, in feelings evoked by photographs, in memories conjured by sights and smells, as treasures in a heart that longs to linger in a season of passing childhood.

Sigh. The emotions we go through as mothers! No wonder why it says, Mary (in the Bible) treasured and pondered…ponder, ponder. I suppose that’s what this is…a post dedicated to treasuring and pondering upon the last twelve months of my son’s boyhood. This is me coming to terms with how my love for him must grow and mature. While I know he loves me deeply still and I love him more than ever, I must also step aside, not step away, but talk less and listen more, instruct less and mentor more, squander less and treasure more, react less and ponder more, hover less and pray more, so that one day Elijah can become the man God has planned for him to be.

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Sun Feb 01 2015 01-25-03 GMT 0800

Say, “Thank You, Hon.”

I woke up to a husband who called me to his bedside just to tell me, “I appreciate you, hon. All you do as a wife and mother. If I don’t tell you enough I want you to know that I am so blessed by you.”

Wow! What an unexpected surprise! It certainly set the tone for the rest of my Sunday.

Edric knows that I am a words kind of gal. Encouragement makes me feel loved. Really loved.

The great thing about positive words is it’s the EASIEST way to communicate to your spouse that they are important to you, that they are special and appreciated. You don’t have to exert physical effort to say I love you or I appreciate you. You don’t have to spend money to speak life-giving statements.

You do, however, have to notice and pay attention. My mom used to say, “have a detective’s eye for praise-worthy character in your children.” This is applicable in marriage, too.

Edric told me he noticed that I woke up to attend to Catalina last night, that I inconvenienced myself to get out of bed when I heard her coughing. Nobody has to call out this sort of sacrifice. I don’t wake myself up to check on Catalina and feed her in the hopes that someone in my family will give me a pat on the back for effort. Like all other moms, that’s what we do. But when Edric or the kids interrupt my autopilot mom-mode to say thank you, it feels pretty incredible! Duty turns into inspiration!

Even husbands can benefit from our words of praise. When we were in the U.S. for a month Edric helped me with chores and the kids. It was a matter of survival! We couldn’t leave poop in a diaper! We couldn’t ignore big bags of trash inside the house!

Up until that point, I had never seen my husband hold a broom and dustpan so many times in his life, get out of bed to help me catch Catalina’s vomit, marshall the kids to do their responsibilities, vacuum the car, haul trash, fix the bed, carry Catalina…I could go on.

IMG_1607.JPGHis domesticity and fathering were impressive! And so I told him so many times. When I would commend his kitchen skills like sweeping the floor, he would beam, hold up the broom like a weapon of war and shout out triumphantly, “This is my floor!”

Do we notice the wise choices, the acts of service, or the sacrifices our spouses make or do we treat these as a given? No applause needed because they are supposed to be doing these things? When was the last time we said, Thank you, hon?

So many of us fail to say thank you and I appreciate you enough. If you are living with an approbation-starved spouse, revive them today with your appreciation. Make them eager and excited to fulfill their role as husband/father or wife/mother. And, hey, if you are feeling extra gracious, do something sweet and give them
a “trophy.”

Edric and the kids got me these magnetic mini-Oscars for my birthday two weeks ago. Pretty cute, huh? These are the best thank you awards I have ever received!

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Four Weeks As a REAL Housewife

I get it now. Being a home maker is backbreaking work. I mean, a homemaker in North America. By the end of the day, my idea of a reward is a hot shower or sitting on a couch to watch some mindless movie to fall asleep to. There’s hardly anything left in me to give to Edric or my kids because I am tired.

It hasn’t been stressful cleaning, cooking, and doing the laundry. But it has been physically exhausting. I suppose this is why I have taken long pauses from writing as of late. Plus it isn’t very inspiring to talk about house chores. Who wants to know about how I sort dark and light clothing? It’s somewhere in between maddening and necessary. Everyday I look at the pile of laundry that the kids throw into the hamper and I am like, “You’ve got to be kidding! Do we go through that many clothes?!” Well, we do. We are 7 x 2 outfits a day. So when the kids don’t leave the house, I let them wear their pajamas morning to night. And if they don’t get sweaty, they can postpone their shower to the next day (and wear the same pjs!)

Then, there’s the kitchen. It’s a full-time preoccupation cooking and cleaning the kitchen. Now I understand why cereal is so popular. Heck, why not eat it three times a day! The kids went through an uncountable number of cereal boxes this vacation. I am ashamed to admit they survived on Lucky Charms and Cheerios.

In a few days I will have my unrealistic life back — the one that comes with household help. I finally understand why it is a luxury to be able to pay people to wash the dishes, clean the house, do the laundry, cook the meals, etc. America, for all its conveniences and efficiencies, is wonderful and I am glad to be part American.

However, I still prefer living in the Philippines. The kids do, too. They are looking forward to seeing their Siamese cats, toys, own beds, and getting back into the rhythm of our lives in Manila.

Manila doesn’t have the cleanest air or streets. It can get miserably hot. Life is crazy busy for us with homeschooling, business and ministry. But that’s where we are serving God and investing in the lives of others.

I will miss the cold weather, the traffic-less freeways, the quieter life where the extent of your social obligations are four or five good friends, the groceries (oh, the groceries with thirty options for butter!), the steak (I love a good steak), and the nobody-knows-you kind of anonymity that an introvert like myself can really get used to.

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But anywhere is home where I am with Edric and the kids. This past month has felt like we have been “at home.” However, I am so thankful to the Lord that at present, our mailing address is in Manila, Philippines. I am looking forward to a decent night’s sleep and breakfast that includes rice and comes with a clean up crew!

Some of the things I learned as a happily desperate housewife on vacation this past month:

1. Buy lots of cereal, milk, eggs, fruit, and cheese, and make these accessible throughout the day.

2. Invest in a ton of wet wipes and bring them everywhere!

3. Breastfeed your infant. It’s the simplest, easiest way to make sure she gets the nourishment she needs. Catalina cut back on the solids because she prefers the soupy, home cooked meals our yayas make for her. Thankfully she breastfed a lot so she was fine during this vacation.

4. Use one bag that can double as a diaper bag and purse. Forget about looking stylish. It’s the practicality you are after.

5. Let the older kids bathe, dress, feed, and clean up after themselves.

6. Have an IPad available to entertain a carseat-restrained infant. I gave in and let Catalina be distracted by hours of YouVersion’s Bible App (for kids) so she wouldn’t cry like a screaming banshee.

7. Give the kids vitamins and extra vitamin C everyday.

8. Take your vitamins and overdose on vitamin C everyday.

9. Encourage the older kids to babysit the younger ones.

10. Dress up and look nice even if you feel tired and want to wear pajamas all day. Only your children are allowed to do that!

11. Teach your 16 month old survival skills like feeding herself or going up and down the stairs so she has the freedom to go around the house without you worrying about her constantly. (Catalina learned to scoot down the carpeted stairs backwards very effectively.)

12. Enjoy the moment even if you are sick and tired of the mess, the amount of effort it takes to mind the whereabouts of five children, or preoccupied by thoughts about what you have to do next.

13. Appreciate the effort your husband makes to sweep the floor, clean out the car, and organize the children so you don’t feel irritated when he says he can’t hold the baby for longer than ten minutes.

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14. Train your 16 month old to obey. Catalina was hitting her younger cousin several times a day, every day, and throwing tantrums when she didn’t get her way. We finally started disciplining her by spanking her for disobedience and defiance. Praise God she improved significantly and made the connection — hitting is a no-no, and throwing herself on the floor while rolling around wailing is a no-no, too. Here she is hugging the cousin she used to bully…

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15. Saturate your mind with thoughts about God. I downloaded a lot of uplifting music on my Spotify account so I could meditate on the Lord, especially during long drives.

16. Find ways to recharge — nap times while you breastfeed, hot showers, short shopping trips, a fun movie, a chocolate chip cookie (or two or three. You will burn it off with keeping house and breastfeeding.)…Yes, I still managed to sneak in some me-time during this chore-ridden vacation.

17. Serve others with a joyful attitude without grumbling or thinking “you-owe-me.” Several times I was tempted to be irritated at every single person in my family for all the chores I had to do while they got to play or enjoy themselves. But God reminded me to work for Him.

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

The kitchen crew…

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Eating Issues?

Is it a challenge to inspire your kids to eat? Are you running out of ideas that are healthy and reasonably simple to prepare?

I was sent a copy of Yummy Mommy a week before we left for the US. Although I haven’t gotten a chance to try the recipes yet I am excited to when I get back to Manila. Even my second son, Edan, picked some of the ideas he would like me to cook or bake in the kitchen. It is such a great book for moms who want to offer kid-friendly meals to their children. I am sure all moms can relate to eating-related issues with their kids and a lot of recipe books ala sneaky chef style don’t always recommend ingredients that are locally available. This one does.

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Here is Anvil Publishing’s write up on their book…

Anvil Publishing releases Yummy Mommy by Tricel De Guzman, a full-time mother and dedicated homemaker, who collected favorite recipes of dishes of her daughter who is a picky eater. Aside from the delicious recipes, Tricel shares tips on food preparation and proper feeding Celebrity Mommy Cheska Garcia-Kramer tried cooking these yummy recipes for her picky eater Kendra and raved about it on Instagram! What’s more, all the dishes can be enjoyed by other family members.

Mommies can try mouthwatering dishes like, Spinach Rice with Tofu and Kiwi, Nice and Gooey Chicken Wings, Popcorn Shrimp with Orange Dip, Salmon Broccoli Rice Bake. Make kids enjoy merienda with Banana Fritters with Cream Cheese Sauce, Jam and Cheese Grilled Sandwich, Fruit Sticks with Milo Dip. For busy working moms, the No-bake desserts such as Banana Ice Cream Burrito, Blueberry Cheesecake in a Jar, Milk Flan with Honey Prune Sauce, and Mango-Ginger Parfait are perfect meal enders.

Yummy Mommy is now in the BESTSELLER list of National Book Store and Powerbooks nationwide.

Asthma?!

At 2:30 AM yesterday morning, Catalina’s labored, fast breathing, and wheezing troubled me. Concerned, I nudged Edric to verify my observations. He noticed that she was struggling but wasn’t as panicky as I was.

I’ve never had a child with asthma so I didn’t know that this was characteristic of children who have it. Since she was able to fall back to sleep, I waited until 6 am to suggest that we take her to the village clinic. (We have a 24 hour clinic in the village since there aren’t too many hospitals close by.) The nurse who attended to her suggested we consult with the general practitioner who was scheduled to arrive at 9 AM. Catalina seemed to be managing so I waited until early afternoon to see our ever reliable pediatrician, Dr. Joy Ty-Sy.

She noticed that Catalina’s diaphragm heaved in and out strenuously, and her shoulders rose and fell like she was compensating for the lack of air. So she called her doctors in the ER and had them take her vitals to get a baseline reading. Catalina was doing nearly 60 breaths per minute which is too many for a one year old. (Normal is 30 to 40 per minute.)

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After three rounds of nebulization her breathing stabilized, and her oxygen levels rose closer to 100%. She was treated as an asthma case which surprised me because neither Edric or I are asthmatic. Edric used to have eczema which can be connected to asthma but he never experienced difficulty breathing.

Her breaths normalized to a count of forty or so, and the wheezing stopped. The stethoscope revealed bibasal crackles in her lungs (probably due to phlegm from a cough she has), but since she lacked the appearance of malaise and had no fever, she was permitted to go home. We were prescribed a schedule for nebulizing with two medicines. One every four hours and the other every eight hours.

We were out of the ER after two hours with Catalina waving goodbye and insisting on leaving. “Go! Go!” She said, pointing towards the door that led to the reception area. She was back to herself. Praise God!

Whenever my kids get sick, I get my own form of spiritual asthma! My tendency is to worry and fret about their well-being. It’s only when I look to Him, thanking and praising Him in faith that I am calmed by the rest and peace he affords. The spiritual gasping stops.

God doesn’t lose a foothold of control, nor is he caught off guard by the problems that beset us. He remains sovereign and present, willing all things for his good purpose. Unless we embrace this truth it’s not easy to breathe easy as a mother.

Let God be our oxygen when we are tempted to panic. And the best way to receive his life-giving, panic-eliminating air is to maintain a disposition of dependence on Him, on our knees, praying faithfully for our children and entrusting them into his hands.

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

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It’s Your Mess: Deal with It Darling

By the end of our homeschooling morning, our “classroom” usually looks like someone threw a grenade into it. I’ve tried to manage the mess by cleaning up as we go along, but there’s no better way to keep this room straight than to have the kids take responsibility for it.

Today they wanted to dye eggs as an art activity, but I told them, “If you want to do art, you have to clean up the room.” So they pulled out a broom from the hallway closet, picked up markers and colored pencils, and wiped the paint off the floor.

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My kids can get presumptuous about our househelp cleaning up after them so I have to remind them to straighten their own rooms, organize their toys, and mop their spills. They aren’t always motivated but a helpful trick is to tell them they can’t move on to the next activity until they straighten up their clutter.

Yesterday, they wanted to watch the Muppets movie. They were all plopped in front of the television enjoying themselves when I went upstairs to check on their rooms. Titus and Tiana had pulled out blankets and re-arranged furniture. They also had stuffed animals thrown around. Elijah and Edan had played with Citiblocks and constructed “trees”.

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I went back down, turned off the television and told them that their rooms had to be spotless if they wanted to continue watching the movie. They complied and got to work. After ten minutes, Elijah and Edan bounded back down the stairs. Titus and Tiana struggled to restore the girls’ room to what it looked like before they messed it up. I told them they were responsible for the disorder and had to fix it.

Elijah, Edan, and I finished the movie but Titus and Tiana never came down. I went looking for them, wondering what ever became of their commitment to put their mess away. And I found them lying on the couch in the study room, ASLEEP! They must have gotten tired trying to figure out what to do.

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Well, they resumed their clean up duties and got the job done after they woke up.

I want my kids to understand that they are responsible for their things. It’s easy to make a mess. In fact, it’s pretty fun to do so. But if my kids get into the habit of letting others inherit their mess, it’s going to have a negative effect on their character. They have to learn faithfulness in the small areas, like putting away toys or wiping up spills, so it will carry over to bigger areas in the future. If they “mess” up relationships, or make wrong decisions, they need to own up to the consequences and do what is honorable – deal with the mess and do their best to fix what they can.

What Homeschooling Is Really About

I talk a lot about homeschooling, but I want you to know that my children aren’t always cooperative, there are days when I don’t feel like teaching, and sometimes I am the less than perfect mother who gets annoyed with her kids.

Two days ago, I was teaching Titus from his Singapore Math book and he couldn’t get subtraction using number bonds. I could tell he was guessing so I elevated my pitch and my tone was agitated. As I explained to him the concept of regrouping by 10, subtracting the ones from each other, and adding what was left, he was confused. I probably did a bad job of communicating this process and I expected it to click in his head right away. Well, it didn’t. I gripped the pencil he was holding and circled and scratched on his book for emphasis as I went over each problem.

Titus began to tear. I thought, Why can’t he get it?! Is there something wrong with him?! It’s not complicated! 

Well, there was something wrong with me. I was making homeschooling about me. What I wanted…my desired outcome…my teaching…my time…my effort…my way…my disappointment…OH, MY!

When I saw him struggling to stay composed, I felt horrible. Immediately, I apologized to him and hugged him, asking for his forgiveness. “Will you forgive me for being irritated? Mommy was wrong.” He readily accepted my apology and we pressed on. By the end of the session he figured out how to approach his math problems with confidence.

As for me, I was reminded that I am prone to reactiveness and impatience when my heart is in the wrong place. The key is to remember why I am homeschooling, to keep sight of the goal, which is to teach my children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

While teaching a subject like mathematics may be important, this is really a minute aspect of the real objective. Edric and I share a daily responsibility to nurture, encourage, and meet the needs of our children to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. (Luke 2:52) Therefore, our homeschooling isn’t about 4 hours of the day when they are seated in our study room for lessons. It’s a lifestyle that ministers to our children’s spiritual, social, mental, and physical persons.

 

SPIRITUAL

Homeschooling is discipleship. While academics have a place, the greater emphasis is teaching our children to have a personal relationship with Jesus, love God’s word, submit to authority, and develop Christ-like character.

When our second son was little, he was nicknamed the “chairman” for being a very serious and grumpy boy who would often say no. Edric and I talked about his attitude and realized we had failed to be intentional about sharing the gospel to him. A few weeks after Edric did so, our son was a transformed child. His heart became malleable and teachable. He would even tell me, “Jesus is my best friend.” More importantly, he became a kinder, more considerate boy.

Today, Edan initiates reaching out to other children, organizing activities and games for them, and he is also assistant teacher to my younger kids. While he still has character issues from time to time, I can see the fruit of God’s work in his life.

Discipleship is the key to homeschooling. It’s impossible to teach a child who doesn’t want to listen. When my children don’t have the right attitudes there’s no point in proceeding with lesson time unless I address their attitudes first. Otherwise, it will be a battle of the wills between my children and me.

There have been instances when I have asked my older children to excuse themselves from our study room so they can have a moment to prayerfully consider their heart issues. While I don’t believe in asking little kids to stand in a corner for “time outs,” I do believe in asking older children who have a relationship with Christ to take the time to think through their feelings and actions in light of God’s Word.

Are they acting and behaving in a way that pleases God? How can they change and improve if they aren’t?

I prefer to proceed when they are spiritually ready, when they have returned to me after the Holy Spirit has ministered to them. Almost always, he convicts them about the wrongfulness of their responses to the task at hand, to me, or to others. It is amazing how a moment of purposeful reflection leads them to God-honoring conclusions. (Of course I also pray that they will be attentive to what God has to say to them during that period of pause.)

 

SOCIAL

Parents’ apprehensions about homeschooling often center around the socialization question. “What about their socialization?” I’d like to quote Elijah, my eldest. Once upon a time, a friend suggested he should go to school so he could have friends. His spontaneous relply: “I have so many friends, I can’t even count them!” He wasn’t exaggerating. Like my other kids, they aren’t friend-starved.

While we don’t focus on making friends, we do focus on how to be a friend. The emphasis is on social development — training our children to look beyond their insecurities and comfort zones so they can be a blessing and channel of Christ’s love. Furthremore, in the context of family, there are numerous opportunities to practice relationship principles like unconditional love, forgiveness, humility, or “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” In fact, the family is often the hardest place to apply these principles! As much as we all love one another in our family, there are days when we don’t like each other. The challenge is to transcend this feeling by availing of the grace that Christ supplies.

Social development happens most naturally at home. Between a husband and wife, siblings, parent and child, each member of a family must die daily to selfishness and self-centeredness. They must choose to love, forgive, make sincere apologies, and grow in their understanding of one another. A child who can relate to others in this manner will not be in want of good company.

Furthermore, a child who has received love, appreciation, who is accepted for who he or she is, and allowed to fail and make mistakes will be inspired to learn. I remember an instance when Titus came to me in fear. His face was half-visible behind the sliding glass door that separated the room from the bathroom.

“Mom I did something.”

“What is it?” I asked. He was hesitant to confess his deed at first, but then I prodded him to do so.

“I hit the shuttlecock into our neighbor’s yard.”

That’s it?! I thought. Why couldn’t he tell me that right away?!

“It’s okay. I forgive you. It was an accident.” I said reassuringly.

“Why were you afraid to tell me that?

“I thought you would be mad.”

“Do I get mad a lot?” (I had to check.)

“No.”

“Well, I want you to know something. I love you no matter what and I will always forgive you.” I repeated it again until I was sure he internalized this.

He flashed a big smile and then ran off to play again.

I may not lose my temper with my kids and yell at them, but I do get irritated from time to time. So I have to be careful and mindful of the way I relate to them. I need to ask myself this question: Am I cultivating a relational climate that gives my children the liberty to express their heartfelt longings, fears, ideas, or confess their mistakes? The relationship I have with my kids impacts my ability to instruct their hearts and their minds. If they can trust me with who they are, they can trust me to teach them who they should become.

 

MENTAL

What is our schedule like when it comes to lessons?

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

7:00                – Bible Reading (as a family)

7:30                – Breakfast

8:30/9:00      – Lessons

12:30/1:00    – Lunch

2:00                – Nap/Play/Exercise

6:00                – Dinner

8:30                – Bedtime

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On Wednesdays, we get together with other homeschool families. A good number of ladies in my discipleship group are homeschooling their kids and they have women in their groups who are also homeschooling. Wednesdays is the day we have designated to hold classes so our kids can interact and work with other kids. I’m so blessed by the moms in this group who lend their expertise and creativity to teach art, music, bible, character, science, etc. We also asked an awesome physical trainer to teach our kids sports and fitness.

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When my kids and I are at home, our lessons happen around a large table. I assign tasks to my children and act the part of a facilitator. Elijah and Edan can do a lot of work on their own. Titus and Tiana need more attention from me. Catalina is “exiled” so we can focus. She is entertained by our househelp. (Praise God for househelp!)

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Ideally, it would be nice if all my kids sat around the table and stayed put, but I’m a pretty laid-back homeschooling mom. They can do some work on the floor or on the couch. They can even migrate to different rooms if this will help them accomplish their tasks. Sometimes, we even homeschool in the car if I absolutely have to do an errand in the morning!

My philosophy when it comes to teaching is simple: a child needs to master the essentials so he will become a self-directed learner. I am more particular about skills like math, reading, comprehension, logic and reasoning, rather than science, history, Filipino, social studies, etc. If my kids are confident with the essentials, they will have the building blocks to learn whatever they want to. I don’t want them to be held back by me. As much as possible, I try not to hover around them all the time. In fact, I tell them, “you can figure it out.” (Sometimes I have to say this because I don’t know how to explain it either!)

Unless they are really stumped, I encourage my kids to rise up to the challenge of a difficult task. This is one of the reasons why my boys are turning out to be good at math even if I’m terrible at it! I also encourage them to study what they are interested in, beyond what we are covering during their lessons. Since I don’t canabilize the day with instruction, they have a lot of free hours to pursue topics that are meaningful to them. Instead of burdening myself with the responsibility of teaching them EVERYTHING, I zone in on the basics and point them in the right direction by giving them access to a multitudinous number of books, and supplementing their learning with educational apps and internet sites that are pre-approved.

For example, some months ago my older sons memorized the periodic table of elements, just for fun. It wasn’t part of their science requirements to do so, but they were fascinated by it. So I let them use an app (Toca Lab) that helped them to understand all the elements and their abbreviations. When they weren’t using the app, they would play a game where they named all the elements and gave the symbols to match them. I don’t even know the periodic table of elements! I kept getting the symbol for Iron wrong when they would “quiz” me! It’s Se right?!

The point is I am very aware that I have cognitive limitations as their teacher so I don’t pressure myself to be the expert. If they want to learn about a topic that I’m not familiar with, I find out what resources I can connect my children with or to so they can become the experts.

 

PHYSICAL

The physical aspect of homeschooling has to do with developing our children’s talents, inspiring productive hobbies, giving them lots of play time to explore, build, create, and making sure they get adequate exercise and rest. Our children are enjoying a “relaxed” childhood. They don’t have to rush off to school, spend hours in traffic, or come home exhausted only to do more work.

 

CHECKLIST

We evaluate our children’s progress and growth by asking these questions:

IS MY CHILD…

  • Living a transformed life because of his/her relationship with Jesus Christ?
  • Developing a love for God’s Word?
  • Rooted in God’s Word?
  • Submitting to my authority with an attitude of respect?
  • Growing in Christ-like character?
  • Secure in my love for him/her?
  • Loving others, especially his/her siblings?
  • Thinking of others as more important than his/her self?
  • Mastering essential skills that will enable him/her to reason and defend his/her faith, and effectively communicate the gospel truth?
  • Developing his/her talents?
  • Playing and enjoying his/her childhood?
  • Pursuing productive interests and hobbies?
  • Getting enough exercise and rest?

Edric and I keep these questions in mind as we homeschool our kids so we know if we are pointing them in the right direction. When we sense that they are off-course, we re-evaluate and re-calibrate so we can correct where they are headed. We also look at our own lives and examine if we are exemplifying the values and principles we want them to internalize.

Like I said earlier, it’s not a perfect lifestyle. It can be challenging and tiring to keep training and teaching our children. It can be discouraging when we fail as parents. However, I am constantly amazed at the daily grace God provides to keep us going.

I remember an instance when I was stressed about homeschooling, and my older son, Elijah, commented, “You know John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, had 19 children.” In other words…mom, if she could do it then so can you. You’ve got it pretty easy with just five! More importantly, Susanna Wesley was a woman of faith and spiritual excellence. If I want to raise children who will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, I have to love God with all that I am first. That’s the secret to successful homeschooling.

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READ ABOUT SUSANNA WESLEY HERE: http://susanpellowe.com/susanna-wesley.htm

 

 

Halloween Hullabaloo

“Mom…don’t fight. You tell us not to fight, right? You and daddy shouldn’t fight.” Titus Mendoza.

We weren’t really fighting, but we were engaged in a debate over Halloween. Should the kids go around and get candy or should we ignore this festivity all together?

For the first time, Edric was open to the idea of our children participating in our village’s Halloween activities. Every house that is decorated signifies that they give out candy. We didn’t decorate because our family has never celebrated Halloween. So I assumed that Edric and I were on the same page. However, he had a recent encounter with someone who said, “So you don’t do Halloween because you are Christians, right?” It got him thinking about the real reasons why our family doesn’t get dressed up and traipse from door to door like most families do on this day.

Over breakfast, Edric invited the children to join our discussion and share their thoughts. The intention was good but the process was a little bit tense. Sure, we were having a “discussion,” but I must admit that it was fueled by irritation on my part. What had tripped the wires in my husband’s brain so that we suddenly didn’t see eye to eye?

He asked the kids, “Do you want to go around and get candy from the neighbors?” I didn’t think the question was worded accurately. So I interjected with my own version. “Kids, do you want to go begging for candy in silly outfits on a day that was born out of demonic origins?” (Kids representing 6 and below didn’t understand what I was talking about.)

“Okay, if that’s your perspective then why celebrate Christmas either?” Edric’s counter-statement was “it’s also pagan in origin.”

I didn’t have a credible defense. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I didn’t want to give that up. Plus, in my mind, celebrating Christ’s birth (even if it isn’t the exact date) seemed vastly different than joining in on a day that patronizes ghouls, ghosts, gore, and ghastly things. It wasn’t a sound argument by any measure, but I was getting increasingly annoyed so I added that into the discussion.

This began to look and sound like a fight to our kids. Titus even added, “You should be kind to your husband.” Edric got all excited when Titus said this and thought he had an ally. Then he discovered that “wife” was what Titus meant by “husband.”

“Who is the husband?” Edric asked. Titus chimed in, “Mommy!” The other kids cracked up and suggested that be kind to your wife was what he wanted to say.

I need to add that Titus had the sweetest way of correcting us. When he made the first comment about “not fighting,” there was a melody to his tone of voice and a big smile on his face. It was the same with his appeal for us to be kind to one another. Who could resist him? It certainly made Edric and I more conscious of our passionate dialoguing. So Edric said, “Mommy and I will continue this later,” assuring the children that we would resolve it in private.

While it isn’t morally wrong to collect candy on Halloween, we finally decided that it wasn’t of eternal benefit to our children or to us to perpetuate the celebration of a day that represented what is dark, evil, and ugly. Just look at the décor. Is it uplifting and edifying?

The other day I was at the toy store and they were selling decapitated heads, bloody arms and bodies, and hideous looking masks and faces. My daughter’s reaction, which was to run away, is exactly what I’m trying to emphasize. There’s something macabre about this day.

If a family wants to get dressed up in more wholesome outfits instead of witches and dead people…if they want to decorate their homes’ facades with cute pumpkins, that’s their call. Edric’s mom dressed him up like a carrot when he was little. I would have loved to see that! My friends came up with a good alternative. They planned a candy night at one of their houses so a bunch of families can still do the costumes and get their candy. We would have joined them except that we had other plans.

Fortunately, my kids don’t care too much about costumes or candy. They don’t feel like they are missing out on some glorious part of their childhood by not participating in Halloween. Since they don’t go to school, they aren’t aware of how big a deal it is either.

Here’s what they did today…

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I don’t want to go around making a doctrinal issue out of Halloween and judging families who allow their children to dress up, play make-believe, and fill their pumpkins with candy. I know a lot of people who enjoy the costume aspect of Halloween and they don’t cast spells or drink blood. Some are friends, others are family. Like my dad used to say, “There are things worth debating and there are things worth dying for.” I won’t die for the Halloween issue. I will die for the gospel.

However, I do think that we should all evaluate why we participate in certain festivities. It wasn’t until we started having kids that Edric and I began to rethink why we do what we do. What sort of values and precedents are we inculcating in our children? Just because an occasion is cultural and fun doesn’t mean our family has to give hearty approval to it. We can choose to celebrate the activities that are meaningful and profitable to us.

At the same time, we don’t want to raise little legalists. We don’t want our children to have this “holier than thou” image of themselves that turns people off to Christ. So we processed the conclusion with them. The kids were like, “Great! We didn’t want to get candy anyway!” (I also apologized for my tone of voice and irritation towards Edric.  Titus ran up to me and gave me a big hug.) Edric explained that this was a family decision and not a doctrine stated in the Bible. The Bible doesn’t say, “Don’t dress up in costumes and collect candy from nice neighbors on Halloween.”

However, for those who won’t be popping in those vampire fangs for their costume tonight, here’s something you might like to chew on…

For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭8-17‬ NLT)

Here is a well-written piece from John MacArthur’s ministry that is worth reading. I like the idea of using this popular holiday to give out gospel tracks!: Christians and Halloween

Modeling Womanhood

Tiana, my four year old daughter, likes to copy everything I do. I am her reference for womanhood. The other day she was talking about her hair when she said, “Mom I need one of those airconditioners for the hair.” She meant a blow dryer, which she had seen me use at a hotel.

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I was blessed to have my mom as a role-model for womanhood. Ever since I was a little girl, I looked up to her. She epitomized who I wanted to be. When people told me I sounded just like my mom or I reminded them of her, it was a compliment I gladly received.

The most important example she mirrored for me was how to be a wife and mother, how to be a woman who seeks to honor God in her life and relationships, especially at home.

What was often remarkable to me was my mom’s willingness to submit to my dad’s authority. Was she an opinionated and strong woman? Definitely. But she displayed strength under the Holy Spirit’s control. She knew that God’s will was often disclosed through the leadership of my father so she chose to follow him.

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If they were not in agreement, she would pray that God would change my dad’s heart (if that was His will.) For example, years ago she wanted to home school my siblings and me when we were in elementary. She had this epiphany before my dad did. Excited to communicate to him her plan, she asked him if she could pull my siblings and me out of a Chinese school to teach us at home. His response was, “Deonna that’s a big responsibility and I know your personality so I want you to pray about it for one year.”

Even though my mom was disappointed, she surrendered this desire to the Lord and obeyed my dad. After one year, she asked him again before re-enrolling us for the next school year. Calling him in the office with her sing-song-y voice she said, “Honey, today is the day for the enrollment of the kids but I have been praying about homeschooling. What has God showed you? Can we?”

My dad gave her a flat, “No.”

After she put the phone down, my mom sat in the bathroom and cried. She had hoped to homeschool my siblings and me that year, but that dream seemed like it was not going to happen. So she decided to pray again.

After she got dressed, she ventured another attempt and phoned my dad. “Peter, I’m about to leave for the school, but I just want to check one more time, what’s your final decision?”

Between the first call and the next, which couldn’t have been more than an hour, God miraculously worked in the heart of my dad. When I asked him what changed, he explained to me that he was convicted to make a faith decision. So he replied, “Okay, let’s go for it.” My mom put the phone down and sat in the bathroom again and cried…this time for joy!

Stories like this one demonstrated to me how God uses a wife to minister, bless, support, and encourage her husband to pursue God’s will when she submits to his authority.

When I got married and struggled with submission (it’s not a genetically inherited trait to be submissive, right?!) I remembered my mom’s example. She was a reference for me.

For the record, I still struggle. But I praise God for the example my mom modeled to me. Her desire to obey God by obeying my dad resulted in His favor in her marriage and in our family.

Was she always perfect? Nope. When my parents were building a house, my mom’s strong personality would seep out as a reaction to my dad’s perspective of function over form. When it came to design they had conflicting views. There were moments when my mom wanted to convince him about her more enlightened aesthetic preferences. However, she did so in a manner that would come across as agitated. Tiles, windows, doors, ceiling heights, railings, stairs, balconies, and room configurations would sometimes became tense discussions. If she ever did get annoyed to the point of disrespect, what she did model was a humble apology to my dad and to us, kids. She would say things like, “Kids will you forgive me for speaking to your dad that way. I was wrong.”

It was certainly clear to me that my dad was my mom’s number one priority next to God. One simple way she would prioritize him was asking for his permission before booking schedules or making commitments. She would tell the persons who invited her, “Okay let me get back to you, I will just check with Peter.” I learned to do the same as a wife, verifying with Edric before scheduling any activity that will conflict with his schedule, take me away from the home, or involve his presence. When people want to get together with us or make an appointment, I don’t say Yes, Edric and I can make it unless I confirm with him first. This also applies to occasions when my side of the family invites us over or tries to make plans.

My mom tried her best to make sure that my dad came home to a well-managed and happy home. When she was first married, she cooked everything in the same color. She didn’t know a lot of recipes so my dad bought her a cookbook one day and asked, “Do you think you could try some of the dishes in this cookbook?” She gladly did so. In fact, she became an amazing cook. I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen watching her cook and bake, and learned to do the same with her.

She was intentional about modeling and teaching home making skills to me. When I got married, Edric was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to bake cookies, sew buttons on shirts, hem pants, make throw pillows, handwash clothing if necessary, etc. (I also knew how to clean toilets and do some minor plumbing work.) These abilities especially helped in the first year of our marriage when we didn’t have househelp. There was nothing extraordinary about what I could do. Most people who don’t grow up with househelp learn these basic home survival skills. Nevertheless, Edric greatly appreciated that I wasn’t clueless when it came to managing the home. Thanks, Mom!

Instead of pursuing a career outside the home, my mom homeschooled my siblings and me for a good number of years. Even when we went to a conventional school, she remained a stay-at-home mom. We were privileged to have her available to us 24/7. She also arranged her ministry work, appointments, and activities around us so we didn’t have to compete for her attention.

Because she was present, it was natural for us to tell her about our day and discuss what was going on in our lives. I remember an occasion when I was asked by friends to try marijuana. When I got home, I told her, “Mom, my friends said I should try marijuana. They said I can’t say it’s not for me if I’ve never tried it.”

She didn’t go ballistic. She didn’t say, “Hey you are a pastor’s kid, you better not touch that stuff!” In fact, didn’t even show signs of elevated blood pressure. Instead she listened to my reasoning. That night she prayed for me and researched about drugs. The next day, she non-threateningly presented to me a Reader’s Digest article so I could have material to read. By God’s grace I never touched marijuana or other drugs as a result of her gentle intervention and influence.

My mom handled many parenting issues with grace. I don’t ever remember her shouting at me or any of my siblings. Instead, her method of correction was the sandwich approach. Pad the meat of what you want to say with a lot of sincere praise – the bread — so a person can swallow your correction – the meat – without gagging to death from discouragement. This approach came in very handy in marriage, raising my children, or ministering to others. I would imagine my mom and think, How would she say this in a way that speaks the truth in love?

It was my mom’s relationship with Jesus that made her the mother she was, and still is. She showed me what biblical womanhood is about – that a woman must desire to please God and follow his principles for her life, especially when it comes to marriage and parenting. When she does this it gives her a quality of beauty and spirit that makes her husband and children treasure her. As a bonus, her influence and ministry will reach far beyond the home. My mom may not have been a career woman but she touched the lives of women all over the world by her example and ministry.

May God receive the glory for the woman she is!