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!

Beware Of the Bladderwort Woman

Deceitfully beautiful yellow flowers, that’s a Bladderwort.

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(Photo source: www.fs.fed.us)

My sons and I have been reading about carnivorous plants. Edan and Titus love this part of their Botany. Venus Fly Traps, Sundews, Pitcher Plants and Bladderworts. We spent an extended time discussing Bladderworts because I made an analogy between carnivorous plants of this nature and women they should avoid in future. (When you are the teacher, you can insert all kinds of discussions that you deem important.)

These yellow flowers grow above water but devour creatures by sucking them into bladder-like cases in their roots. Like other carnivorous plants, Bladderworts don’t kill creatures to eat them. They take their nitrogen (which plants normally get from the soil). When animals get up close they are vacuumed in and digested. Most carnivorous plants also leave the exoskeleton of an animal behind.

Hmm…as I was reading this, I had a moment’s epiphany and thought about connecting this topic to a short lesson on the opposite sex. I explained to my sons that they need to avoid Bladderwort women.

This lead to an even livelier discussion which had my boys laughing aloud. But I was serious. I reminded them that in the future they need to look for women with genuine substance, who are beautiful inside and out — who love God above all. I warned them that there are women out there who will look very attractive but, like Bladderworts, these women will lead to their demise and ruin. In fact, this breed of woman can turn them into a skeletal version of the men God intends for them to be (in the spiritual sense).

“Beware the Bladderworts, boys! Someday, when you meet someone you think is pretty, I am going to ask you, ‘Is she a bladderwort?’ just to check.”

We had another round of guffaws! They liked that one. Bladderwort is such a cool name for a bad woman. It sounds so much like a wart.

My sons are young but I want them to have an internalized checklist of what to look for and avoid in a woman, way before their curiosity in girls is piqued. They are already aware of the affections that naturally develop between a man and a woman. This dynamic is evident everywhere, even in cartoons (sometimes unfortunately so.) They also observe Edric and I as we relate to one another as husband and wife. But romance hasn’t been awakened in them yet. Whew. They are too preoccupied with being boys which is wonderful because it is the best time to pass on principles on courtship (in manageable doses of course!).

Preventive is better than prescriptive. I don’t want to talk about these things when they have already given their hearts away.

So here we go…

“Carnivorous” women use men in the same way actual carnivorous plants do. They tend to be takers who knowingly or even unknowingly look to a man to fill a lack in themselves. If a woman NEEDS a man to live, to feel complete, to project a certain image of herself, or to feel happy, she becomes a life sucker. This is the opposite of what God designed women to be — lifegivers. (A term used by author John Eldredge for the Hebrew word “helpmate” in Genesis.)

In contrast to carnivorous plants, GOOD FLOWERS are life-giving to bees, butterflies, and other critters that are drawn to their nectar. But carnivorous plants ensnare hapless creatures with their sweet smell so they can trap them. They use their “attractiveness” for selfish reasons.

This sounds similar to women who put much emphasis on external appearances to feed their sense of security or worth. I can be guilty of this. Sometimes my motivations for dressing up are totally self-centered. I want to hear compliments about the way I look to butter up my ego. So I praise God for a year of feeling unattractive with braces, hormonal skin breakouts, and my post-pregnancy body!

Proverbs 31 says, “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord she shall be praised.”

It’s not wrong to be fashionable and make the effort to stay fit and healthy. However, it goes back to motivation and purpose. Are we trying to attract people to ourselves or to Christ? How much time, effort and money do we spend on our looks?

Interestingly, carnivorous plants also grow in swampy areas and places without much soil. My encouragement to the men…do your research! Check the “surroundings” — who does this woman hang out with? Who are the ladies that belong to her inner circle of friends and confidants? Are they the type that nourish her spiritually and emotionally like good soil to a plant? What’s her background? Does it smell “swampy” or do others speak highly of her virtues?

20140927-194627-71187112.jpgMoms, as we educate our sons on character traits to look for and avoid in a woman, let’s model the right ones for them, too. We are very often the benchmark for our sons’ concept of a woman. But sometimes we can be Bladderworts to our husbands and children and suck the life right out of them! So the secret is to root our identity in Jesus Christ; be nourished by his love; and reflect the glory of his light.

I like how Edan put it, “Women should be Sunflowers.” You got it, kiddo! A-sunflower-kind-of-woman has her face turned toward the Son (Christ) and she radiates Him. That’s real beauty. (‭Psalms‬ ‭34‬:‭5‬ NASB) May our sons have the wisdom to discern this!

When Things Turn Sour, BE SWEET!

Early this morning I had a doctor’s appointment for my scoliosis. Three of my kids were with me — Elijah, Edan and Titus. (My two girls have been sick).

I asked the driver to park while the kids and I headed up to the clinic. After thirty minutes my appointment was done which was great. I was in a rush to head home to my sick Catalina so I could feed her. Even though she usually has a good appetite, she hardly ate the day before due to her bronchitis. Breastfeeding was the best way to make sure she got enough in her to battle the sickness.

When I called my driver to pick us up, he didn’t answer his phone. So I sent him a text message. Still, I didn’t get a reply. I sent another one and NOTHING.

After 6 unanswered calls and failed messages, I was tempted to be annoyed. What was he doing?Sleeping?! (That was my first thought.) What were my options? Take a taxi with the boys? Wait outside anyway? Was the driver okay? Did something happen to the car?

The boys and I checked all levels of the basement parking trying to spot our car. We couldn’t find our driver or the vehicle.

How was I to deal with this unpleasant experience? I wanted to grumble and mumble and act entitled. But God convicted me to be thankful and use the opportunity to spend time with my boys.

So I told them, “When things don’t go our way, we need to be thankful. Perhaps God is protecting us from an accident. God is reminding us to be positive. I want to be upset because we shouldn’t have to wait like this. But let’s make the most out of our time. Let’s have fun!”

The boys were like, “Yeah!”

We found a Krispy Kreme cafe where I bought the boys shakes and we did some impromptu homeschooling. I happened to have Edan and Titus’ Botany book with me so we enjoyed a lively discussion about carnivorous plants.

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We spent an hour in Krispy Kreme before I gave our driver another call. This time he answered!

“Where are you? Did you fall asleep?” My tone had a hint of agitation in it which was perceptively detected by my very auditory son, Elijah. “Mom, don’t get angry,” he said melodically.

“Angry? I am not angry.” (Okay, I was annoyed. There’s a difference right?!) It’s amazing how Elijah can hear the slightest changes in pitch and notation. I wasn’t raising my voice but I am glad Elijah reminded me to keep it cool. My kids do a great job at keeping me accountable for my actions!

I heeded Elijah’s advice and gave our driver the opportunity to explain himself. Listen, listen, listen. It turned out his phone was acting up. My calls did not register even though I heard the ringing on my end and he received my text messages only as we were on our way home. I heard them come in and he said, “Ay ma’am, I just received your texts.”

Nevertheless our driver was so polite and apologetic for making us wait. Whew. I am glad I didn’t get angry. He is such a nice guy and he has a pre-millennium version of a cell phone (which I hope to upgrade soon with Edric’s permission!)

It’s so easy to judge people and criticize them when we don’t see the entire picture. If I had lost my temper with my driver and scolded him, I would have been a bad example to my kids and our driver. This incident taught me to make the most of a sour situation by having a SWEET ATTITUDE. (And maybe literally drinking something sweet!) That extra hour of fellowship with my sons was worth the inconvenience.

I also learned to suspend negative thoughts about others and seek to understand where they are coming from. As a result I was happy to hear Elijah tell me, “I learned to be patient and not to judge people.” Amen!

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (‭John‬ ‭7‬:‭24‬ NASB)

When Things Turn Sour, BE SWEET

Early this morning I had a doctor’s appointment for my scoliosis. Three of my kids were with me — Elijah, Edan and Titus. (My two girls have been sick).

I asked the driver to park while the kids and I headed up to the clinic. After thirty minutes my appointment was done which was great. I was in a rush to head home to my sick Catalina so I could feed her. Even though she usually has a good appetite, she hardly ate the day before due to her bronchitis. Breastfeeding was the best way to make sure she got enough in her to battle the sickness.

When I called my driver to pick us up, he didn’t answer his phone. So I sent him a text message. Still, I didn’t get a reply. I sent another one and NOTHING.

After 6 unanswered calls and failed messages, I was tempted to be annoyed. <em>What was he doing?Sleeping?! (That was my first thought.) What were my options? Take a taxi with the boys? Wait outside anyway? Was the driver okay? Did something happen to the car? </em>

The boys and I checked all levels of the basement parking trying to spot our car. We couldn’t find our driver or the vehicle.

How was I to deal with this unpleasant experience? I wanted to grumble and mumble and act entitled. But God convicted me to be thankful and use the opportunity to spend time with my boys.

So I told them, “When things don’t go our way, we need to be thankful. Perhaps God is protecting us from an accident. God is reminding us to be positive. I want to be upset because we shouldn’t have to wait like this. But let’s make the most out of our time. Let’s have fun!”

The boys were like, “Yeah!”

We found a Krispy Kreme cafe where I bought the boys shakes and we did some impromptu homeschooling. I happened to have Edan and Titus’ Botany book with me so we enjoyed a lively discussion about carnivorous plants.
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We spent an hour in Krispy Kreme before I gave our driver another call. This time he answered!

“Where are you? Did you fall asleep?” My tone had a hint of agitation in it which was perceptively detected by my very auditory son, Elijah. “Mom, don’t get angry,” he said melodically.

“Angry? I am not angry.” (Okay, I was annoyed. There’s a difference right?!) It’s amazing how Elijah can hear the slightest changes in pitch and notation. I wasn’t raising my voice but I am glad Elijah reminded me to keep it cool. My kids do a great job at keeping me accountable for my actions!

I heeded Elijah’s advice and gave our driver the opportunity to explain himself. Listen, listen, listen. It turned out his phone was acting up. My calls did not register even though I heard the ringing on my end and he received my text messages only as we were on our way home. I heard them come in and he said, “Ay ma’am, I just received your texts.”

Nevertheless our driver was so polite and apologetic for making us wait. Whew. I am glad I didn’t get angry. He is such a nice guy and he has a pre-millennium version of a cell phone (which I hope to upgrade soon with Edric’s permission!)

It’s so easy to judge people and criticize them when we don’t see the entire picture. If I had lost my temper with my driver and scolded him, I would have been a bad example to my kids and our driver. This incident taught me to make the most of a sour situation by having a SWEET ATTITUDE. (And maybe literally drinking something sweet!) That extra hour of fellowship with my sons was worth the inconvenience.

I also learned to suspend negative thoughts about others and seek to understand where they are coming from. As a result I was happy to hear Elijah tell me, “I learned to be patient and not to judge people.” Amen!

Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (‭John‬ ‭7‬:‭24‬ NASB)

Caught On Camera

This past week, homeschooling solutions asked me to take video answers to questions posited by other homeschoolers or would-be homeschoolers. Since my week was pretty hectic, I had to find time to get the videos done at home and then send them so they could be uploaded for the launch of their site.

I asked Elijah to help me out because he is my go-to person for tech-related concerns at home. He set up the camera and positioned it for the light using a chair and books. And then he told me what hand signals he was going to use to let me know when to start talking and stop talking.

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It took a couple of takes to figure out what worked and how to eliminate unnecessary noise. But since it was done by amateurs like us, the videos came out very “home-made” in their feel.

At first we were laughing and having fun as we did this project together. But after a while I began to feel really tired. We had to tape 10 answers. And more often than not, each time we did one, we had to retake. So I began to feel agitated and impatient. When Elijah would make a mistake, like knock the camera or accidentally delete a previous take, I would complain.

But when I viewed a couple of the takes where I switched from interview mode to correcting Elijah, I watched my facial expressions and tone, and I was like, “yikes!” Is that what I sound like and look like when I am irritated?! My poor kids!”

I am glad I got to see myself in action because I didn’t realize how my smallest gestures of negativity get magnified when they are captured on camera. Afterwards, I was more mindful about being patient as we finished the remaining taping sessions.

Lately I have wondered why my kids use a harsh tone with one another when they are upset. They don’t shout but I can hear the annoyance in their voices and it has surprised me. Well, now I know why. My kids speak to one another using the same mannerisms they see in me!

I remember a story of a mom who was upset that her daughter yelled at her. When she was asked if she also screamed at her daughter, the mom replied, “Yes, but that’s different. I am the mom.” (Hmm…it’s not different.)

If we want our children to respect us and respect others, they need to see us demonstrating the same thing, especially to them. We all have habits or reactions that seem harmless until they are caught on film. How much more thoughtful we would be about what we say and do if we knew people could watch the highlight reel of our ugly parenting moments on national television!

Here’s a noteworthy consideration: The Bible tells us that people will “give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

It also tells us we must correct one another with a “spirit of gentleness.” Galatians 6:1

On a side note, Elijah didn’t even use his glasses while he was helping me because they were broken. (I was the one who accidentally hit them in the car a few days ago.) So he was straining his eyes to look at the camera screen just to help me. What a sweetheart! I took a photo of him today with his glasses. He wore them to an event this morning because they were his only option but they sat crookedly on his nose since one side of the glasses popped off when they broke. And he had to tilt his head to one side to keep them from falling off! He didn’t even complain. He was his usual jolly self. Sigh. It’s images like this that inspire me to be more loving, more patient, more spirit-filled. Children are so tender… (And we will be getting new glasses tomorrow!)

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The Isaac of Money

When my kids do anything noteworthy in their lives, I attribute it to the Lord. I know that I am a flawed mother and it is only by God’s grace that my children have the desire and commitment to love him with all that they are.

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A few weeks ago I was blessed by the resolve of my 11-year old son, Elijah, to give his hard-earned money to our church, as an offering. Elijah has money in three “instruments.” The first is his small stock portfolio. Second, he has a savings account where he has placed his salary from Edric. His job is to speak with Edric on road shows around the Philippines. Third, he has a glass jar at home where he had several thousands of pesos in cash stashed in it.

Over three years he has put money into this jar from garage sale earnings, birthday money, origami business earnings, and odd jobs he has done for me, like tutoring his younger brother, Edan, in Filipino. It wasn’t a ton of money but it was valuable to him.

We don’t give our kids an allowance. As homeschoolers, they don’t need one. If they are hungry they can go to the fridge or pantry and get something to eat. Lunch is on the house, too…naturally. So, if they want money, they learn that it has to be earned and worked for.

During one Sunday service, Elijah heard a message about Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son. The preacher asked, “What is the Isaac of your life?” Unbeknownst to me, it got Elijah thinking.

After worship, he confided in me. “Mom, I am going to give God all the money in my glass jar.”

I must admit that I was tempted to respond, “Are you sure? You don’t have to. God will understand if you keep it. You worked hard for that money.”

But I didn’t want to quell the Holy Spirit’s prodding in his heart so I affirmed his desire to give to the Lord. I asked him why he thought money was his Isaac. And he replied, “I think about money a lot. How to make money and what I can buy with it. How to invest it. It preoccupies my mind. And I had not tithed in a long time.”

So before we left for Brazil, he emptied out his glass jar and stuffed his bills and coins into an envelope. I saw him holding on to it during worship and then he dropped the envelope into the tithe box at our church.

An “Isaac” can be symbolic of something or someone we love most in this world which has the potential to replace our love for God. Sometimes it can be a blessing that has turned into a curse.

When I was in college, Edric was a kind of Isaac in my life. He and I compromised in the area of purity so we decided to break off our relationship after we graduated, to honor God first. It was a painful period in my life and his. But purging ourselves of one another’s presence allowed us to devote our time and attention to growing in our walk with Christ and serving him.

God allowed Edric and I to get back together and marry, just as he returned Isaac to Abraham. But this may not always be the case when we surrender a person, circumstance, material possession or pursuit to God.

God declares himself a jealous God in the holiest sense of the word. He is jealous for our love, not in a selfish, self-centered way, but in a manner that seeks our good. After all, our truest joy is found in worshiping and loving him above all else. Substitute gods may bring us a measure of happiness and pleasure, but satisfaction is NOT guaranteed.

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience …” (Colossians 3:5-6)

For my son, Elijah, money was becoming his idol. Interestingly, after he gave his money, he felt relieved and more “relaxed” because he didn’t have any more money in the jar to focus on. This is what he told me!

In the same way, when Edric and I broke up, it was painful but I felt peace. We made a difficult choice but it was for the right reasons. I knew that if God wanted Edric and I to get married he would bring us back together. If not he had someone better for him and someone better for me.

To this day, there are things in my life that can take the place of God if I am not careful. Elijah’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit encouraged me to be more vigilant. I too need to make sure that my heart is wholeheartedly devoted to God.

I-Angel Hipseat Carrier

I received an awesome baby carrier as a gift a few weeks ago. It has an ingenious seat built into it that removes the pressure from a mom’s back and shoulders.

The seat allows Catalina to sit comfortably facing me or looking outwards, or she can ride on my back.

This morning I walked around with Catalina in it. She did great which was surprising because she doesn’t like to be carried all the time. And I don’t like to hold her for too long because she can get heavy and squirmy.

I-Angel is going to come in very handy for taking Catalina out of the house and for our family travels. The only downside is it can be bulky because of the built-in seat. So if you aren’t wearing your baby on it, packing it or lugging it around may be a slight inconvenience. But it is quite lightweight which is nice.

I really like the one I got because the color can be worn by Edric or me and the fabric is very breathable. It’s one of the most comfortable baby carriers I have ever used. I think the built-in seat is so clever!

For more information: I-Angel

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Brazil, Brazil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, I grumbled…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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At 11 months

Catalina is nearly 1 year old. Has it passed that quickly? It’s been 11 months of loving my baby through sleepless nights and soiled diapers.

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At the same time last year I was stressing out about the realities of giving birth to a fifth child. I got through that and then came the challenge of her first month. Confined twice, once for an unknown bacterial infection and then for pneumonia a month later. But now look at her. I am amazed at how God makes all things beautiful in his time. For all the heartaches and pains he allows in our lives, there is a season of rejoicing that follows when we hope in him.

It was this hope that kept me afloat when I was lost in the darkness of uncertainty, when I was a mother gripped by anguish at the sight of her sickly child. Had it not been for hope’s warm light illuminating the tunnel of my consciousness, I would have given in to the blackening despair.

I was the saddest I had ever been, looking listlessly at white walls, past the point of tears. Edric feared that I was disappearing, emotionally speaking. But my Savior, my harbinger of hope, in a hospital room where I thought myself alone in sorrow, broke through my night with the affirmation of his presence.

It happened in an instant, while I watched my baby wearing her tubes and monitors lying quietly in her plastic crib. I said in my heart, “Surely now you are here with me as you have promised that you would always be. I believe it and I claim it.” And then I knew he was. There was no apparition. But I was convinced that he was watching it all unfold, his eyes upon me through the tempest. They were upon my sleeping child. We were the fixed mark of his love.

Then a peace and a calm that only he could bring entered into the arena with me. I had a fighting chance against the oppressive grief. In time, those dark days ebbed away. On the hope of his presence, I survived. As the weeks became months, the joy returned. His joy.

Sometimes on the path to joy, we must pass through the pain, the loneliness, and the darkness. It is during those shadowed moments when humanity’s weighted sorrows feel larger than us that we tend to reach for God. And finding Him we find the answer to our questions, the calm to our fears, the balm to our wounds, the satisfaction to our longings, the hope to our despair, the heaven to our hell.

I do not know the rest of my child’s story. But I am enjoying where it’s at right now. This page of her history declares that God is good and faithful. His doings are often mysterious to my finite mind but they are directed towards the same end — that I should know him, obey him, love him, and serve him, and lead others to do the same.

For all its turns, valleys and precipices, its narrow ways and indiscernible paths, I would not trade this life for any other as long as God is with me. He is the Lover of my soul, my all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present Savior, Redeemer and Friend. To know him is to know joy, and in him is a life of joy!

O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts
… (‭Psalms‬ ‭95‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

Consider Wearing and Using “Belly Armor”

I wish I had known about Belly Armor by RadiaShield while I was pregnant, especially since I was on electronic devices quite often, using my IPad and IPhone to write entries. Thankfully Catalina can still use the Belly Armor blanket and I can cover myself when “working” on my gadgets too. But it’s most beneficial for pregnant women who don’t need to give their babies unnecessary radiation exposure. The biggest plus is having peace of mind that you did your best to protect your unborn child from radiation. Why do I find out about cool stuff like this after the fact?!

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RadiaShield carries light-weight and luxe blankets for mommies and babies:

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Tees:

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Belly bands:

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For more information check out: Belly Armor Learn about the hazards of exposing your family to radiation from electronic devices and how you can protect those who are most susceptible — babies and children.

Here’s my little Catalina playing around in her Belly Armor blanket. Thanks Jem Perez for this very thoughtful gift! Love it!

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From the Heart the Mouth Speaks

I was sitting across from Elijah while he finished his curry and noodles over lunch. He said, “My eyesight is getting worse. I can hardly read without my glasses on.” About a year ago, he could take his glasses off and read something that was 12 to 24 inches away. But not anymore. Of course it troubles him. It troubles me, too.

When he watched “Heaven is For Real” with my dad a few weeks ago, he told me, “Mom, I was so happy to know that in heaven no one is wearing glasses!” He is definitely looking forward to perfect vision in eternity.

It’s always hard for me as a mom to watch my children struggle through life’s disappointments. I can’t help his eyes get better, at least not yet. There’s the option of laser surgery when he turns 21 but he’s got many more years to go until then. And we were told that his eyes could get really bad when he goes through puberty. Sigh. We shall cross that bridge when we get there.

For now, what encourages me is Elijah’s faith and walk with the Lord. He lives with an unfulfilled longing — to have better eyesight. But he has the right perspective. He has turned that longing over to the Lord.

After we talked about his eyes, he added, “I have three prayers that I always pray…the first is that I will always love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is that we will all go to heaven at the same time. Third is that my eyes will be healed.” (I suppressed a tear! I am such a crybaby mom.)

Elijah may only be 11 years old, but his relationship with God teaches me how to have faith. He went on to say, “Only God can answer these prayers.”

It’s moments like these, during casual, random conversations with my children that I really get a glimpse into what’s going on in their hearts. I was blessed to know that loving God was number one for Elijah. That’s number one on my prayer list for all my kids, too. If God should grant that Elijah stays faithful to him all the days of his life, it would be my greatest joy as a mother. Whether we are raptured together or his eyes are restored completely, these things are secondary to the first of his prayers. If he loves God with all that he is, he already has heaven and he already has his sight.

In the meantime, as a mom, I keep hoping in God’s goodness and plan for Elijah’s life. The same goes for all my children. There are times when I know that God is doing something in the life of my child or children and I must stand aside. I watch as their faith is tested and purified in God’s refiner’s fire. Sometimes it is hard to watch. But each of my children must come to that point in their lives where they choose to follow God. I cannot choose for them. They must have a personal encounter with Him and His love, grace and forgiveness. I cannot experience these things for them.

However, Edric and I have to be present and available so we can be privy to what’s happening in their innermost persons. And then our job is to provide the environment and example, to teach the truth that leads our children to Him, and to pray earnestly and habitually for them. The rest of their life stories…especially the circumstances, trials, and challenges that will come their way, we have to surrender to the Lord and trust that he is control. He has a master plan for calling our children to Himself. If Edric and I do our part, then we can rest in that assurance.

I hugged Elijah yesterday when he was getting emotional about his eyes again. And he let me hold him. Sometimes I think that he is very mature in a lot of ways because he acts older for his age. But at that moment he was still a child and he needed a hug from mom. I asked him if it still mattered that he got hugs from me. And he said, “Mom, of course, if I go blind (his worst fear), that’s the only thing I will feel.” Oh okay. Kind of dramatic but what a totally sweet thing to say! Thank you Lord for these precious years…

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