Saying Goodbye to Seasons of Motherhood

I finally weaned Catalina two months ago. It was kind of a forced wean because Edric and I traveled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for seven days which left her no option but to take the bottle. But like all my other kids who breastfed for a long time, she resorted to milk in a cup instead.

When I came back, she still asked to nurse and I tried but there wasn’t any more milk. Of course I could have produced it again had I let her keep latching on. But at two and a half years old I also figured it was time to move on. She breastfed primarily for comfort, not for sustenance. 

Still, she made attempts so I would explain, “Mommy has no more milk.” This answer didn’t always satisfy her so I had to add, “Mommy can always hug you and hold you. I will always love you.”

  
I thought I accepted the weaning as the right thing to do until I broke down one Sunday afternoon. Catalina saw me and reacted, “Why? why?” And then she pretended to cry, maybe to emphathize with me or maybe to make fun of me. (Knowing her personality, it may have been the latter!)

It finally dawned on me that breastfeeding babies has come to an end. Sure, okay, technically, I can have more kids. But I may not, and apart from that, it’s dealing with the reality that Catalina is “growing up.” She isn’t a baby anymore. In fact, she told me she’s “a little lady” because that’s the term Edric uses to describe her. 

Sometimes, I want my little baby back! I miss breastfeeding her to sleep, being able to comfort her when she is scared, tired or needy, the physical bonding we share that is so tender and special, and how happy and satisfied she looks when she is nursing. (It’s always difficult for me to wean my babies.)

Older moms used to tell me things like, Cherish every moment with your babies, you will miss this. I would look at them while holding an infant in my arms or breastfeeding one, tired as heck, and their advice seemed distantly relevant to me. But now, from the vantage point of having nursed five babies, survived the sleepless nights, and moved past the feeling of being “tied-down” by the responsibilities of caring for infants, I look back and think…they were right. They were all right! It all came and went so quickly, so soon. And, sigh, I miss it all.

Those difficult seasons made me a mother. Those trying nights of waking up to comfort my babies allowed me to discover the amazing resilience we have as women. And those challenging moments of teaching my babies how to communicate, walk across a room, feed themselves, and learn other survival skills they would need as little humans made me believe that God gave moms a supernatural patience and grace to persevere and repeat ourselves a thousand times! 

Being a mother has been such an adventure, and it continues to be. I’ve come to accept that it’s always going to be hard to say goodbye to each season of motherhood because I am a fully invested mom. Whether it’s the first few months of caring for a newborn, breastfeeding through the infant stage and beyond, raising wiggly toddlers, homeschooling young children, or navigating the teen years (this is a recent one), there will be tearful passages and triumphant ones that make up the sweet song of motherhood. Like me, there’s no committed mom out there who will not feel the sorrow of leaving one stage and entering another.  

So I must move forward with gratitude, embracing the experiences that my growing children will live through with me. It may be goodbye to having babies but it’s also a big hello to exciting times ahead. 

For instance, I am learning to appreciate Catalina and love her in new ways. She sleeps in the girl’s room with Tiana but sometimes, during the wee hours of the morning she will sneak into our room, inch into a space beside me on the bed and quietly whisper, “Can you hug me, mommy?” 

When I am dead tired, I drape an arm over her body to make it seem like it’s a hug, but this doesn’t count for her. She will insist, “Can you face me?” Then she will press her cheek to mine and close her eyes. I will smell her soft skin and feel the warmth of it against mine. Soon after she will doze off peacefully and I will smile…partially because I can go back sleep, too, but more so because this is its own kind of special. Breastfeeding was wonderful but this is better. This is a new season to treasure.

  

Courageous Caitie’s Legacy

I have been scrolling through messages and posts about Courageous Caitie and it’s difficult to swallow the ending that today gave us. She passed away this morning after her platelet count dropped to 1 and her oxygen levels were critical.

When I found out, an hour later, on my way to the bathroom to take a break from my homeschooling, I was in shock. Maybe a part of me expected the worst given the recent updates on Caitie’s page. But a part of me also hoped for the miracle we all did, the chapter in her story we all prayed for – supernatural, physical healing.

Wouldn’t that have been a testimony?! Wouldn’t that have brought glory to the Lord, a triumph to give the watching world cause to believe that God answers the prayers of his children, especially those who love and follow Him?

I really hoped for this. I don’t think I had as much faith as Caitie’s mom did to believe that it could actually happen, but I certainly hoped it would. Several exchanges between Tine (Feliz) Lucas and myself through Viber brought more encouragement to me than my attempts at sending verses and warm messages did for her.

She always concluded our online conversations with a firm belief that God’s promises of healing in His Word were spoken just for Caitie. But I also know she felt like giving in to the fear and the doubt many times. Doctor Joy, Caitie’s pediatrician, and Tine’s sister, Jen, are friends of mine and they told me she wasn’t always feeling strong. They would ask for prayer support. And whenever possible, I sought updates from them, not wanting to bother Tine constantly because I knew she was dealing with a lot. Yet, even Tine’s vulnerability to those closest to her and the glimpses of it she revealed online sounded like strength to me. What mom could’ve survived the months she did, in the way she did? She is a hero to me. So is Jay Jay.

They became heroes to all of us. I don’t know if I could have posted updates and prayer requests as often as they thought to. But it was their faithful chronicles of Caitie’s journey that invited people to be a part of it. Somehow, even if Caitie’s condition baffled everyone because of its complexity and rarity, we all found something familiar in her life’s story that resonated with us.

As a mom, my heart ached and broke each time I saw Tine’s posts, especially the ones that desperately sought prayer. And the photos…oh, the photos! They were honest and tender, and sometimes too difficult to look at.

This afternoon, I find myself confronted with the reality of Caitie’s passing and there’s no way to dismiss it without considering the gravity of what just happened. Courageous Caitie, the little spirited girl whom thousands cheered on and supported through prayer, giving, fundraising, and writing about, breathed her last in the arms of her loving parents. She inspired the best in all of us as we saw her fight hard till the very end.

I sat around the table at lunch, shortly after I found out she died, my children’s laughter invading the grief in an almost assaulting way. They were teasing one another. I picked up Catalina who reached up to be held and put her on my lap. This looked too pretty a picture compared to the one I just saw – Jay Jay and Tine cradling Caitie’s still body.

   
 The tears began to fall. I wanted to appreciate that my children were living, breathing, and eating their lunch, but I also wanted to be alone for a while.

“Why are you crying, mom?” Elijah asked.

I excused myself from the table and hid in the guest room, leaving the kids to their bantering and teasing. Catalina followed me, of course. She always does. I hugged her tightly. Caitie wasn’t much older than she was.

Catalina traced the line of my tears and also asked, “Why are you crying?”

“Someone’s baby died.” This was the easiest way for me to explain it to her.

“Oh, someone died?” She looked concerned. If she only understood.

Someone died, Lord. Not just anyone, too. After all that fighting, why not the gift of a miracle? It feels like a cosmic let down to everyone who was looking on.

I struggled to grasp God’s plan in all of this, for Tine and Jay Jay’s sake, especially.

As they pack up Caitie’s belongings, thumb through her art work and homeschool work, and look on the empty bed where her form once was, I know it’s going to hurt like heck. I know they believe that God has a plan because they want to trust Him, but I also know that their memories will cling to images of Caitie and their hearts will long for her. They will feel the void and the loss like no one else will, and I can’t imagine what that will be like.

At a time like this, it may seem insensitive to mouth out bible passages, but I find that it is God’s very Word that fills in the space which Caitie’s death has left behind. Right now that space looks like a dark, empty hole into which faith might collapse. It’s easy to doubt the nature of God as loving, good, and sovereign when a parent loses their child.

A few months ago, I read Philip Yancey’s book called Why? The Question that Never Goes Away. He wrote, “From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way.”

He also quoted poet Christian Wiman who, in his meditation, My Bright Abyss, made this statement. “I am a Christian because of that moment on the cross when Jesus, drinking the very dregs of human bitterness, cries out, My God, my God, why has though forsake me?…The point is that he felt human destitution to its absolute degree; the point is that God is with us, not beyond us, in suffering.”

Yancey goes on to say, “Christ is God crying I am here. Because of Jesus, we have the assurance that whatever disturbs us, disturbs God more. Whatever grief we feel, God feels more. And whatever we long for, God longs for more.” (pg. 54 – 56)

God doesn’t always give us the miracle we hope for on this earth. But it isn’t because He doesn’t care. He sent His son, Jesus Christ to enter into our pain. The book of Isaiah described Christ as “despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; It was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” (Isaiah 53:2-6)

Furthermore, our understanding of healing is limited to physical relief and restoration. These are earth-bound fixes. Yet God’s plan for healing finds its truest meaning in eternity. When Christ died and rose again, He conquered death. Therefore those who believe in Him will also conquer death.

“Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immorality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immorality, then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-57

Caitie loved Jesus. Even in her young age, she understood that He died for her sins and she gave her life to Him. She was courageous for Him. I have no doubts that Caitie is alive and well in heaven with the Lord. The miracle of her story was not that doctors cured her cancer but that Jesus gave her life – eternal life.

It’s not coincidental that Caitie passed away right after the week when people gave most attention to Jesus Christ and celebrated His resurrection. Even in her death, she testifies to what He said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even if he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26)

What a sweet promise to revive our crushed hope. This is not the end of Caitie’s story, as it isn’t the end of God’s story for each of our lives. He is a redeemer and he never wastes our pain.

Yancey told the story of Jerry Sittster, author of the books A Grace Disguised and A Revealed. He was a professor of Whitworth College who lost his wife, mother, and four-year old daughter in a tragic car accident when a drunk driver hit them. In A Grace Disguised, which speaks of what happened, he composed, “The loss brought about by the accident had changed my life, setting me on a course down which I had to journey whether I wanted to or not. I was assigned both a tremendous burden and a terrible challenge. I faced the test of my life. One phase of my life had ended; another, the most difficult, was about to begin.”

Twenty years later, in A Grace Revealed, he surmised, “Eventually, we will live happily ever after, but only when the redemptive story ends, which seems a long way off. In the meantime, you and I are somewhere in the middle of the story, as if stuck in the chaos and messiness of a half-finished home improvement project. We might have one chapter left in our story, or we might have fifty. We could experience more of the same for years to come, or we could be on the verge of change so dramatic that if we knew about it we would faint with fear or wonder, or perhaps both. We could be entering the happiest phase of our lives, or the saddest. We simply don’t know and can’t know…In my mind there is only one good option: we must choose to stay in the redemptive story. However unclear it might be to us, we can trust that God is writing the story.” (Pg. 61 – 62)

We do not know the course our lives will take on this earth, nor do we know if our children will be spared from the ills that are in this fallen world. Like the Lucas family, we may face similar trials. However, we can know the Divine Architect who has a master plan for everything we go through. His redemptive story for you and for me is that we experience the love and grace He displayed through His Son, Jesus Christ, and enter into a personal relationship with Him that will continue for all eternity.

On Courageous Caitie’s timeline either Tine or Jay Jay wrote, “I miss you Caitie. But I’m glad were able to give you great family memories here on earth.” However, beyond the earthly memories of family and the precious moments they shared together, I do believe the most important gift that Tine and Jay Jay gave to Caitie was the gift of knowing Christ. Indeed, they did the one most loving thing they could ever do for her as parents – they prepared Caitie for her eternal home.

I was reminded that this is the most loving thing that we can do for the people we love, too. We do not know how long we will have to love the people God has surrounded us with. Let us make Caitie’s life count by passing on the miracle of Christ’s love to our spouses, our children, our families and friends. Caitie fought hard to teach us this and she died to remind us not to hold back, waste time, squander opportunities, or trade the lesser things for the greater things.

Thank you, Jay Jay and Tine for sharing Courageous Caitie’s journey with us. You raised a beautiful, special girl who lived for an exemplary purpose — to bring the hearts of the broken to the healing arms of Christ, where she is smiling, waiting there for you. 

  

 

Be the Supermom God Has Called You to Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homeschooling Interview on Mommy Hacks

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

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Keep Praying for Your Kids

Spending time with my kids is always a highlight of my day, especially when I have one on one time with them. Today I focused on Elijah. It’s fun to engage him in dialogue because he is expressive and enjoys talking. Plus, he is my eldest so we can discuss things like “adults.”

  After homeschool coop this morning, I took him to the American Eye Center in Shangrila Mall to see a pediatric ophthalmologist. (Thank you to everyone who gave me recommendations on Facebook!)

   

 We chatted on the way, and he shared with me how his fasting week went. Last week, our church had a week-long prayer and fasting event which our family and kids participated in. Elijah chose to fast from gadgets, sweets, and snacking. According to him, avoiding gadgets liberated him from a secret addiction he was beginning to have.

He confessed that using computers and iPads to educate himself on how to program and do coding pulled him into a world that cut him off from reality. In his own words he said, “I knew it was becoming unhealthy for me to be on my devices but I made two excuses. The first was ‘dad is busy working so I don’t have anything fun to do.’ Second, ‘it’s not bad because I don’t play games.'”

He explained that participating in the fast allowed him to use his time in different ways — reading books again, playing with his siblings, praying for others, and having quality bible reading time. The first few days were challenging but as the week progressed, he felt like a bondage was broken. And to think that his experience with gadgets was more educational in nature!

Yet, he admitted to me that there’s something about computers that entices him so much he can think of little else when his usage of them increases. As an older child, I check on him once in a while but I also know he has to come to his own conclusions about computers. Thankfully, the fast afforded him perspective. He was able to think objectively about being on gadgets. He even said, “My brain was releasing serotonin every time I got on a device!”

I laughed when he said this but I can believe it. Our brain naturally does this whenever we derive pleasure and joy from any experience. For my son, Elijah, it happens to be his interest in technology. He is deeply fascinated by the world of computers which can be a good thing. But I praise God for speaking to him about its potential dangers, too. He is not interested in gaming or Internet surfing or social media but he knows that the issue is about the time he dedicates to experimenting on computers. He likes learning about how computers work, how to jailbreak devices, build websites and apps…that sort of thing.

His proposal, therefore, is to avoid being on a computer or gadget as much as possible during the week. Originally, this was our house rule. But last year, during the latter months, I was more relaxed. The kids would use devices for educational purposes only. However, Elijah was susceptible and more vulnerable to gadget-addiction than my younger kids were. So this hidden struggle developed in his heart.

Thankfully, a big change has been Edric’s availability. Since he stopped his morning show on ANC, he has dedicated more quality moments to share with our sons — playing games, doing puzzles, and getting them outdoors. Elijah told me this made a significant difference in subduing his desire to fiddle with gadgets. (The presence of a father does wonders!)

  Elijah will be 13 next month and I have been praying that He will develop positive habits and use his time wisely. I do believe that fasting week made Elijah more concerned and aware of his spiritual struggles. But his revelation also affirmed the need to keep praying for my kids.
Our greatest work, as parents, is on our knees, interceding for our kids. Someone once told me that parenting must be done on our knees. It’s so true! The battle for our children’s hearts is a spiritual one.

I spend a lot of my time with my kids because they are homeschooled. Edric and I are intentional about disciplining, training, and teaching our kids. Yet all these efforts will fall short if we do not beseech God for his enabling and wisdom, if we do not pray for our children’s protection and for God’s love to grow in their hearts so that it transforms them from within. Therefore the encouragement I received from my afternoon with Elijah was to pray for him and all my children. Only God can effectively bring to light the concealed parts of their hearts and convict them to choose attitudes, behaviors, perspectives, friends, habits, and activities that are good and pleasing to Him.

Here’s an example of how I pray for my kids (not including the specifics for each of them.) Feel free to personalize it and improve on it for your own kids:

“Lord, I pray for each of my kids to love you with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. Help them to seek after you and desire to know you. Put in them a passion for your Word. Open their eyes to understand spiritual truth and shield them from the lies of the evil one. Let them develop God-honoring convictions about the friends they should choose, habits they should form, and the use of their time. Prepare their future spouses to be God-fearing and committed Christ-followers. Safeguard their innocence and purity. Keep them from unhealthy addictions. Instill in them Christ-like character and teach them to be spirit-filled. Make them bold and courageous for what is true and right. Give them a compassion for the lost. Let them love one another and look out for each other. Help them to love and respect us and to submit to authority. Let them know they are equally loved and special to us. Allow them to develop their gifts and talents for your glory. Equip them to be influencers and leaders who will make a difference for you in this world. Let their hearts be teachable and humble. Give them a love for learning. May our daughters be beautiful inside and out, and our sons handsome and masculine — men and women of stature. Bless them with musical and artistic talent, and let your favor be upon them. Make them mighty in spirit and wise. Protect them from Satan, his demons and evil spirits, malicious people, robbers, kidnappers, abusers, natural calamities, accidents, sicknesses, and sin. Do not let them fall away from you. Let them be faithful to you till the end of their days. May they live for you and glorify you with all that they are. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

I want to keep praying for my kids this way and even more intentionally as they grow older. Each one of them, like Elijah, has their weaknesses, and these become more apparent as they mature. Sometimes it’s such a temptation to be anxious. However, when I start to feel worried, it is prayer that allays my fears. I remember WHO I am entrusting my children to. Let me end this with an amazing description of who God is. We can replace each “you” and “your” with the names of our kids:

“He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in From this time forth and forever.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭121:3-8‬ ‭

Potty Training Mode

  At two and five months, Catalina is officially the longest in diapers among my five kids. I liked those Huggies Pull-ups so dang much, I delayed potty training her. But a week after the Christmas and New Year’s activities died down, I decided it was time. There was no more putting this off. Her younger cousin was already potty-trained! 

So I did what I have commonly done with all my other children. During the day, she wore underpants instead of diapers. Did she pee on the floor? You betcha! Did we have to do a lot of mopping and soaping of the floors! Uh-huh! 
This phase usually takes a week to two weeks. It is about conditioning a child to recognize that the pee has to go somewhere appropriate and the floor is not it. Furthermore, she finally gets to feel what it is like to be wet. With her Huggies that always worked well to keep her dry, she didn’t experience this. 

Every time she had an accident, I would tell her (or anyone else who saw it happen), “You have to wee wee in the toilet.” (And poop!) 
Furthermore, a great trick has been to anticipate when she might need to use the toilet. Every hour was a good start. We would sit her on the toilet seat and encourage her to urinate even if she didn’t ask to.

Amazingly, after about a week and a half, she finally got it. And now she asks to pee in the toilet. Pooping has been a little more challenging. But she’s done it a couple of times, too. I usually personify her fecal matter. Edric thinks I am crazy when I say, “Catalina, the poop wants to go into the toilet. That’s his home. And he wants to be there with his friend.” (If there’s more than one “banana” fellow. How do I explain all of this without being gross?!) 

Well, Catalina now has a dialogue with me about Mr. Friend going to be with his other friend when she is about to do number 2. Edric may think my methods are crazy but it is helping her get more comfortable about using the toilet for number 2. It’s a girl thing! We are relational. 

Anyway, toilet training success has always happened at the 24 month mark for my kids. And I am so glad that Catalina has adjusted to “phase 1” — ask to be brought to the toilet to pee or poop. Better late than never. 

Phase 2 will be removing diapers when we are out of the home. Phase 3 will be taking them off for night time sleeps. Challenge, challenge! 

  I do have to give credit to Huggies for their pull-ups which made it so much easier to rush Catalina to the toilet and get them off so she could sit on the seat just in time. This has been especially helpful in the mornings when she wakes up with her Huggies on and then she still asks to use the potty. 

By the way, I skip the whole miniature toilet thing. I had one and tried it wih two of my kids. Who wants to have to clean that thing out! It was much simpler to get one of those small cushion seats that attach to the top of a toilet seat so my kids don’t fall in. This has happened! And this is an awful way to build potty-confidence and security! 

I will miss the diaper-butt look…the kind where Catalina wears leggings or pjs that look all bubbly at the bum and then taper down to the ankles. Soooo cute! But it’s time. And thankfully, these tactics are working just like they did with my other four.  

 

Peanuts and an Apology

  
My husband, Edric, and I invite our children to correct us and tell us how to improve. We don’t always recognize character areas where we are weak so it helps to have our children identify these areas. They watch our examples closely and they have tender consciences, too. So we benefit from their input. It isn’t always easy to receive their correction but when we do they appreciate our humility, and it teaches them to do the same. 
  
Two days ago, Edric and I hosted a yayas and drivers party in our home. We were running late for it because we came from another engagement. Strangely, when we entered our village, the guard stopped us. He didn’t let us through because he failed to see our sticker. Edric rolled down his window, annoyed, and said, “We have a sticker!” (Translated from Tagalog.) 

His tone conveyed irritation and he pointed his finger at the sticker like, yo dude, do you know who I am?! Of course he didn’t say that, but the kids latched on to his tone. The guard embarrassingly lifted the barricade.

The car atmosphere turned quiet for a bit and then our two oldest sons, Elijah blurted out, “Dad, you sounded entitled when you said that,” followed by Edan, “Yah, it wasn’t very nice.”

I could see the tension in Edric’s face. On the one hand, he wanted to acknowledge what the kids were saying but on the other hand, he didn’t appreciate the inconvenience the guard caused him when he was rushing to our place. But I praise God that he let the Holy Spirit convict his heart and he replied, “Oh really? It really sounded like that? I am sorry, kids.” The kids forgave him and we proceeded home.

Unbeknownst to them, Edric returned to the guard later on and apologized to him. He also brought him peanuts to make up for his haughtiness. I didn’t find out till the evening when he told me, while the kids found out the next day.

He explained how he drove to the guard house to ask for forgiveness and how the guard politely accepted his apology and gladly took the peanuts! The kids’ eyes lit up with relief. It mattered to them that he humbled himself. In Elijah’s words, “I knew dad was wrong so when I found out he said sorry to the guard I felt better. It was the right thing to do.”

Edric and I have our failings and our kids are well aware of our imperfections. But I praise God for softening Edric’s heart so he could show the kids and me an example of love and humility.

Our children hunger to see an authentic faith. They are allergic to hypocrisy. Although they don’t expect us to be without fault, they do hope that what we do is consistent with the things we teach them. So if Edric and I talk about loving God, we need to demonstrate this with our actions. If we fail to, we need to right our wrongs as best as we can so we don’t harden our children’s hearts towards following Christ.

A lot of times it is the manner in which we treat people who serve us, such as waiters, salespersons, janitors, guards, drivers, yayas and the like that tell our children what being a follower of Jesus is all about. Do we respect them? Do we regard them with dignity? Do we show them love? Or, do we act entitled, demanding, unappreciative, and basically like the world revolves around us?

Let’s model to our children what it means to love people the way God does. There are no degrees of importance to him when it comes to people. The same should be true for us so it can be true for our children.

“For though the LORD is exalted, Yet He regards the lowly, But the haughty He knows from afar.” Psalms‬ ‭138:6‬ ‭

Keep Calm And Walk On Your Bare Feet


  I grew up with a mother who wasn’t a primadonna. She didn’t need anyone to baby her or massage her emotions. Just recently, I found out she drove herself to the emergency room when she woke up at midnight with unusually high blood pressure. She didn’t think she needed to trouble my sleeping father to attend to her.

When she told me about this (a month later), a part of me thought, You should have asked dad to bring you, mom. Your health is a big deal. You are almost 70! It’s okay to ask for help.

But another part of me was like, Way to go, mom. You are something else! And even though it troubled me that her blood pressure spiked like that, I admire my mom for being the low maintenance person that she is. She tilts towards the positive spectrum when it comes to interpreting her circumstances. More importantly, she’s not a self-focused person. She doesn’t burden others with drama.

Because of her example, I have a peg in my mind when I encounter unfavorable incidences. Take yesterday for instance…I suffered a mishap on the way to a radio interview and I tried to imagine what mom would do.

As I exited my car in a hurry, I broke my shoe when I tripped on the cobblestone driveway of One Corporate Plaza. The uneven surface proved to be treacherous for my footing, and the strap popped off my right wedge in an irreparable way. I tried to keep it on, hobbling towards the glass doors as I made a spectacle of myself. It was a miserable fail. Finally, I thought, what the heck, I will just take them both off.

(I know this situation would have been familiar to my mother. She has no issues with removing her shoes when they fall apart or become uncomfortable. The other day she walked all around S&R barefoot because she said her shoes were hurting her. Good for you, mom!)

So, I unbuckled my wedges, picked them up, and traipsed into the building, right up to the lobby desk to sign myself in. Afterwards, I lined up behind people in suits to get into the elevator. I got some curious looks as people noticed my toes sticking out from under the hem of my skirt. But I had an appointment to catch so I didn’t really care. One of the suited men left the elevator I went into to take another one…maybe he thought I was crazy.

The good news is I got to my interview just in time! My barefeet did the job of running me up the two flights of stairs to the FEBC office when the elevator could go no further. So there I was, with hosts Vins Santiago and Haydee Sampang for the program, Family Matters, to talk about my book and my life story. They laughed with me as I recounted what happened.

When I messeged the women in my discipleship group, thanking them for praying for my interview, I received comments like, “Wow, you are so positive…I don’t know if I would have responded that way.”

Well, I have my chillax mother to thank for that! I praise God that she is not a panicker or a hyper-ventilator.

The difference between my mother and me, however, is I am the type to SOS my husband when I need help. She would have walked right back out the building barefoot. But I texted Edric in the middle of my interview asking him if he could have someone buy me slippers. And like the knight and shining armor he is, he sent slippers to me so I could walk out of the building with slightly more dignity!

When I think about my mom, I’m reminded of the passage in Proverbs 31:25 which reads, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” My mom epitomises this because she is a woman who trusts in the Lord. She isn’t afraid of what people will think of her, either (which is why she readily shares the gospel, even with strangers.) And when situations are inconvenient or difficult, she elects to see the bright side, making the most of the moments God sends her way. I pray this example rubs off on me more!

 

 

 

Validating Your Husband’s Leadership

I have been too exhausted in the past two weeks to write anything substantial. First came the Philippine Homeschool Conference and then Counterflow 2015 which were book ends to a number of social events and other commitments that kept me away from my kids and disrupted my day job — homeschooling. 

 Ready for the World – Philippine Homeschool Conference 

Counterflow 2015 

However, I am happy to announce that this week, I can return to a semblance of normal. Things should taper off even more by mid-November. I can’t wait…the perfect way to end the year…slowing down.

During the Counterflow parenting event yesterday, I was most inspired by plenary speaker, Cassie Carsten. He spoke with conviction, passion, insight, a large amount of humor. Although he directed his talk to the fathers in the audience, there were principles for everyone to extract.

Personally, I was convicted by the concept of the first follower. In a marriage, a husband is called to lead, to initiate. But his leadership must be validated by his first follower, also known as his wife. Children pay close attention to the dynamic between dad and mom. They watch, Cassie pointed out, the EYES of mom. Do her eyes acknowledge and affirm what dad is saying? Or does she roll her eyes in irritation or glare in defiance when he speaks?

I latched on to this insight when Cassie went on to say that followers watch the response of the first follower more than the initiator. In other words, wives can undermine the leadership of a husband when they communicate to their children, even in the most subtle of gestures, that they don’t think he can lead. Furthermore, the second follower (oldest child) is supremely important to setting the pace for the subsequent followers (succeeding siblings).

 Come to think of it, I have noticed this phenomenon with my own children. If I wholeheartedly agree with Edric’s plans or opinions on a matter, my kids tend to do the same. If I question him, even with a look that says, “Seriously? That’s your idea?”, then my children get infected by my coup-like spirit.

It is my wholehearted support of Edric’s leadership that matters most among all the followers in our home. Just a few days ago, Edric talked to me about this. He asked, “Why have you been so contradictory lately?” 

My version of this was different. Perhaps I had been more “opinionated” but not necessarily contradictory. However, he named several occasions when I flat out disagreed with his ideas with a tone that was condescending. And it bothered him even more when I challenged him by commenting, “So do you want a wife that is a yes-woman? Someone who always agrees with everything you say and do? I am not that kind of woman.” 

Truthfully, this statement came out of a heart that was boiling with pride, because the correction about being contradictory wasn’t about me not being able to present my perspective or opinions. But this was the angle I pursued to win this verbal jousting so that I wouldn’t be cornered about the real issue — disrespect. Annoyed, Edric claimed that I was missing the point and going all lawyer on him, which is his way of saying I was about to dissect his every word and look for holes in his hypothesis. 

I may not have intended to be contradictory but I had been on edge, emotionally, for the past two weeks. Multiple speaking engagements triggered my nervous system and I found it difficult to relax. So I mouthed out all kinds of things without filtering them as carefully as I should have. At the end of the day, however, it was simply a matter of disrespect for Edric. He didn’t appreciate my tone of voice or reflex responses that seemed critical towards him. 

Thankfully, we settled this conflict with sincere apologies, but God had a more personal message for me. 
It came delivered by Cassie Carstens, when he highlighted how important the eyes of a wife are — the way she looks upon her husband and acknowledges him. 

As I sat in the audience yesterday, listening to him speak, the rebuke that convicted me was this: Joy, you need to improve in the area of respecting Edric. You may think you are submissive, good, and respectful as a wife but deep inside you have not fully embraced your role to validate Edric’s leadership. You still like to prove that you are right, wiser and better which stems from conceit, insecurity and self-centeredness.

 Aaaaaahhhh. It’s true! It’s true! As God’s Word declares, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Mark‬ ‭7:21-23‬ ‭
I also spoke at Counterflow yesterday on motherhood. Furthermore the entire event was for parents. But God intended for me to reflect on my marriage. Edric and I, by His grace alone, have a wonderful relationship. However there are hidden crevices in my heart where character flaws reside and these emerge when Edric and I have conflicts. Sometimes these flaws actually start the conflicts. So I was grateful for yesterday, to uncover the parts in me that God must still redeem. 
There is always room to grow and improve as an individual. Sometimes it takes a guest speaker from South Africa to be God’s messenger of truth to reveal these areas of improvement. But the point is to keep seeking and learning about what it means to be a better spouse or a better parent. 

For those who missed Cassie’s talks at Counterflow yesterday, he will have a series of events Tuesday to Thursday. He is one of the best speakers I have ever listened to and I don’t want to miss this opportunity to invite anyone (especially dads) who can carve out time to hear him speak. You will be changed…for the better! 



 
Good news! CCF will be offering the workshops at a hugely discounted price of just P50!!! (For three days!)

My Response Is My Responsibility

My sweet son, Titus, did it again, in the way only his mind would have thought to do. He acted upon his God-given curiosity and put a coin inside his violin right before he was about to perform for a recital.

A few minutes prior to
his turn, he came down the aisle to my seat in the back and whispered, “Mom, I did something. I accidentally dropped a coin into my violin.”

My first thought was, You’ve got to be kidding me! Right now?! You do this?! What if it affects the sound of your violin when you perform?

Yet, how could I be upset at him? I looked at him as he bit his lower lip in anticipation of my response. I knew he didn’t mean to jeopardize his entire performance by getting the coin stuck inside his violin. And scolding him for his carelessness would not help his performance.

My sister stepped outside the room and attempted to shake it out. After several vigorous attempts, she resigned and returned the violin to Titus.

“It’s okay, hon,” I reassured Titus. “You can play with the coin inside.”

And that’s exactly what he did. When he got up on stage and lifted up his violin, I heard the coin travel to the base of his violin where it stayed during his piece. Thankfully, the coin didnt get in the way of his performance. However, the coin will live in his violin forever.

As I watched Titus get through his song, I thought about how much I love him…everything about him. Like all my other children, he has aspects of his personality that stress me out sometimes, but he is uniquely designed and gifted by the Lord.He is so often a reminder to me that I cannot control my children, too. They make choices and mistakes that can be frustrating but my job is to respond in God-honoring ways.

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend who lost her temper with her son as she homeschooled him. She lashed out at him when he met her attempts to teach him with resistance and disinterest. So she took his book and tore it up and when he began to cry, she plugged his mouth with a pillow in her irritation. When she realized the emotional hurt she caused her son, she asked for his forgiveness.

When she came to me for advice, she was deeply troubled about her display of anger, and she felt unqualified to be a homeschooling mother and a mom. We talked for a while about practical ways to take the frustration out of her homeschooling which had to do with curriculum choices and methods of instruction. I also encouraged her by sharing some of my own struggles when I teach my kids. However, the more important conclusion was that being a mom (a homeschooling one or otherwise) requires us to be directed, filled, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As adorable and lovable as my children are, they are going to make choices that reveal their folly of heart. And the solution is not to battle the outward behavior but to address what’s going on inside and then respond to the behavior in a Spirit-filled manner.

My friend’s confession to me wasn’t a unique one. I have heard other moms tell me similar accounts. Whether they homeschool or not isn’t the commonality. Instead it is the desire to control their children and force them into compliance and obedience. And a lot of times the default reaction is to get angry.

The Bible tells us, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God,” which is a great principle to remember when we are tempted to lose our temper in front of our children. Our anger will not make them righteous, and it won’t make us righteous either. We may think it will produce RIGHT behavior from them but it doesn’t transform them for the better on the inside.‭

Here are the suggestions I gave to my friend that have helped me when I am instructing my children, especially my OLDER ones.

1. Identify the root of the behavior. Whether it is a bad attitude, defiance, carelessness or irresponsibility, ask the why question. Why are they acting this way?

– Are they affected by my own negativity?
– Do they feel pressured to perform?
– Am I rushing through the material or their work?
– Is the skill level required of them greater than their capacity?
– Is it a character issue — laziness, lack of discipline, a sense of entitlement, or a deeper emotional or spiritual concern?
– Was the undesirable circumstance a result of an accident versus malicious intent?

2. Respond with wisdom.
– My child may need some time to pray and reflect about their attitude before continuing with their work.
– I may need to humbly apologize for my own shortcomings — my teaching style, tone or actions.
– My child may need his work to be broken down into easier steps so he can build confidence in the skill required of him.
– I may need to change my methodology or the material so it’s more engaging for my child.
– I may need to spend one-on-one moments with my child where we can bond and fellowship outside the context of instruction, where we can get to know one another better so that my child feels secure in my love for him.
– Dad may need to help with the emotional and spiritual aspect.
– A family devotion at night may help to instill or reinforce Christ-like character.
– More time with dad may help to fill my child’s emotional tank.
– Perhaps my child does not have a personal relationship with Jesus and I need to share the gospel with him.

3. Cradle instruction with positive words and actions.
– Tell my child that I appreciate them and enjoy being with them.
– Give them healthy praise.
– Call out instances when they put in the effort and try their best.
– Be affectionate with them.
– Challenge them appropriately and reward them appropriately so they are motivated to do their best.

4. Create an environment and systems that are conducive to instruction and learning.
– Organize and plan out my homeschool room.
– Prepare or think through lessons ahead of time so I am not fumbling through my instruction.
– Have a schedule that is reasonable, predictable and visible.
– Safeguard my homeschooling time so I am focused enough to give my kids all the attention they need.

Here’s a copy of my kids’ schedules for them to refer to and check off (and yes, each one is laminated).  
5. Pray for my kids.

As a mom, I have to remember that my response is my responsibility. It is my choice to be Spirit-led or to get mad when challenges and obstacles arise in my homeschooling or parenting. A bad learning day can turn into a great one when I reject the anger or disappointment and replace it with God-honoring responses. And a good learning day can turn into a horrible one when I focus on the negative and lose sight of the goal of raising my children to love God with all that they are.

 My job is not to force or manipulate my kids to learn or behave perfectly but to do my best to…

…make them feel loved and secure

…equip and enable them to develop their talents, and abilities

…teach them the skills they need to be successful and make a difference for Christ

…apply discipline when their character needs shaping

…pass on biblical truth to guide their choices

…model Christ-like attitudes and behaviors for them to copy

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭15:1‬ ‭

“A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” ‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:11‬ 

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭

  
  
(He actually got the coin out tonight! A miracle!)

I Need Heaven

 I held a magnifying glass up to my eye and jokingly asked Elijah, “Is this what things look like to you when you aren’t wearing glasses?” It was evening and I was lying beside him on his bed as the rest of the kids threw pillows up in the air with Edric. They were playing a game, using the pillows as pretend bombs and tossing them at one another.

Elijah had taken off his glasses as he usually does before bedtime and set them aside. But in response to my question, he now put them back on, holding the magnifying glass up against his eyes. “Yup, pretty much.”

I knew his eyes were bad, but for the first time, I realized how indistinguishable details are to him. The room turned into a messy blur of moving shapes and colors that melted into one another. I could see forms of people but there were no lines to define where one object or body ended and another began. It was like seeing the world as an impressionist painting, but with movement. No wonder he says I’m a beautiful mommy! He doesn’t see any of my flaws! (In contrast to my second son, Edan, who asked me the other day, “What are those holes on your face, mom?” referring to my pores! Ack!)

When the reality of Elijah’s eyesight hit me, my heart hurt in the way that a mother’s does when she feels helpless to remedy the pain of her child. I was quiet. Elijah, unaware of the stirring within me, removed his glasses once again and sat up on the bed to join his brothers’ pillow-bomb fighting.

I watched him playfully interact with his brothers and dad, unaffected by the constraints of his handicap. He’s lived with his degenerating eyesight for years. And although his Ophthalmologist visits are trying because his fear of possible blindness intensifies during each check up (when his eye grade shoots up), he’s come to accept that this is his cross in life.

Without his glasses, Elijah wouldn’t be able to find me in a crowd unless I was twelve inches away from his face. Unless he heard my voice and zoned in on the direction it came from, he would be lost. When Elijah misplaced his glasses last year, he got separated from us in the mall. In my terror, I panicked. It took me a few minutes to find him. He was walking directionless in an aisle with crowds of people passing by him on either side. I called out to him and took him in my arms immediately and held on to him. What a relief to know that he was okay!

By God’s grace, Edric and I don’t have bad eyesight. Edric wears glasses but his grade is minimal. He can function without them. My eyes are still okay. I’ve eaten a lot of tomatoes in my lifetime. Maybe that has something to do with it! More sensible people would say that it’s genetic, of course.

Everytime I think about Elijah’s eyesight, it makes me reflective about heaven. Whether surgery works on him someday or doesn’t, I’m glad that there’s heaven for him, for me, for everyone. We need heaven. I need heaven.

This morning, on the way to a planning retreat, Elijah and I were having a dialogue about his eyesight again, and he told me, “Mom, someday in heaven, I want Jesus to be the one to touch my eyes to heal me.” I choked back the tears. What a tender hope he treasures in his heart as he looks forward to eternity.

I think about the hurting, the sick, the destitute, the dying, and rejoice that the length of human life on earth isn’t the best part of our existence. Whatever you and I are going through today, it’s comforting to know that God has prepared a better place for us through His Son, Jesus.

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2-3

   

Helping A Child Overcome Shyness 

My fourth child, Tiana, might be labeled as shy by people who first encounter her, especially when she clings on to me during social gatherings. She is very sweet and such a darling but she isn’t always confident around people she doesn’t know. I have come to understand that the root of her behavior goes beyond the shyness. She has a fear of people, something I used to struggle with as a child.

My fear of people crippled me at times. I worried about acceptance. I got intimidated by people who were smarter, more popular, more beautiful. I was scared to try new things because I didn’t want to be ridiculed. I preferred the comfort of certain friends rather than mingling with unfamiliar people. I was concerned about the impression I made on people. The real issue was self-consciousness and self-centeredness.  

It wasn’t until much later on in my life that I learned the principle of choosing to be a blessing, to look past myself and see the needs of people around me. My mom taught me this. She said, “Whenever you are with people, seek to be a blessing.” This advice changed me.  

I stil have to make a conscious effort to put on this mindset because it goes against my predisposition. But it has made a big difference when I go to a social gathering, an event, or meet with people to spend time with them or get to know them for the first time. It’s not about what can they do for me or how they will respond to me, but how I can minister to them?

Furthermore, when I am overwhelmed by the social situation, I pray! I ask God to help me be a blessing. And He does! He gives me a heart for the people I am with so that the focus is not on myself or my insecurities. Instead, I am challenged to think of how I can reach out, and make others feel special and important. 

The Bible says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Like my mom helped me, I am helping Tiana move past her “self-consciousness.” For example, the other day she was crying when I told her she had ballet class. This may not be a big deal to most little girls who love to wear tutus and dance, but for Tiana it was like a nightmare! She was afraid to be with people she didn’t know. However, I gently informed her she had to obey. Plus, we were going to get through this as a team. She nodded her head with tears in her eyes. 

I reminded her that she just learned a bible verse during our family devotion that went like this, “Do not worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” (Philippians 4:6) So I asked her to pray when I saw that she was about to cry again. And she did. We prayed together. 

When we got to her class, we arrived early. Young girls her age started to trickle in to the dance room. Tiana did not pay attention to them. She sat at the end of the room drawing on a piece of paper. So I assisted her. I asked one of the girls what her name was and introduced her to Tiana. And then I asked them to play together before class started. Initially, Tiana didn’t want to, but I insisted. So she asked if her two year old sister, Catalina, could accompany her. 

 Catalina tends to be more outgoing, so she gladly obliged. She was the one shouting out, “Come, Tiana!” Tiana, her new friend, and Catalina ran back and forth across the room. It was a senseless game but at least it got Tiana’s mind off her self. 

  Tiana started to warm up to her new friend. But when class was about to start and other girls were around Tiana, she began to tear again but I gave her an encouraging look that said, “You can do it!”
  

 She got through the entire class splendidly! Every once in a while she looked over at me and I met each glance with a smile, silently mouthing the words, “Good job!” 

When she was done, she ran over to me and exclaimed, “I had sooo much fun, mom! And I made new friends! They are so nice.” Afterwards, I asked her how she was able to get over her fear and she replied, “Have no fear, Jesus is here!” It was the cutest thing to hear her say that rhyme. 

Will Tiana be able to go to her next ballet class alone? That may be a stretch, but now she knows that there is nothing to be afraid of. 

 As a mom, it is my responsibility to help Tiana work through her fears by teaching her to turn these over to the Lord. The next level will be teaching her to initiate friendliness rather than waiting for others to seek her out or include her. She will get there, by God’s grace!