When Disappointment is a Good Thing

I like to rescue my kids from consequences and problems, and this probably echoes the sentiment of most parents who are well-meaning. Who wants their child to suffer or experience pain? None of us.

Yet, children grow through disappointments. As my father used to tell me, “Disappointments are good for children.” He meant this in the context of not giving in to what they always want, and letting them experience failure, too.

A few weeks ago, the kids and I were at the bookstore. Tiana begged me for a certain toy. It was a stuffed animal, one that resembled other ones she already had. I denied her request and she met this refusal with a sad, pouty face. I left her alone to stew in her emotions. The boys picked out books but she came away with nothing. 


It was clear from her posture and the manner in which she hunched her shoulders forward and bowed her head down that she felt upset with me. She’s six now and I gave her time to think through her feelings before correcting her.

After several hundred meters of walking around the mall, she reverted to her chirpy self. It didn’t kill her not to have that toy. The disappointment enlarged her capacity to deny herself material things. 

At home, I commended her for changing her attitude and choosing to be positive even if she didn’t get what she wanted. She beamed as I told her, “I am proud of you.” 

Two Saturdays ago, I let the boys “fail forward.” They were supposed to join a science fair for homeschoolers. But they didn’t prioritize conceptualizing a worthwhile idea and seeing it through to the end. Although they tried two or three experiments, they surrendered when these didn’t pan out according to their expectations. Instead of pushing themselves to try again, they procrastinated and got distracted by other activities. As a result, they refused to join the science fair for lack of a mind-blowing project that they could be proud of. 

Initially, I felt annoyed with them. Why were they whimping out so easily?! Why didn’t they display more resolve to do their science project, ANY science project?! 

My next instinct was to rescue them and come up with something so they could participate and redeem themselves. But that would have interfered with a life lesson they needed to learn. 

When we got to the fair, Elijah was especially frustrated with himself. I talked to him privately and he admitted to me, “It was wrong that we gave up so easily. We should have pushed ourselves and tried harder.”

This realization proved to be a valuable lesson on how opportunities are squandered due to wrong attitudes and perspectives. The kids wanted to make something impressive but since they couldn’t in their first few attempts, they simply gave up and complained. 

Our kids may get a lot of affirmation and encouragement at home but they have to be prepared for the eventuality that not everyone is going to applaud their work, give them a medal, or thank them. They aren’t going to be appreciated for their efforts all the time. Therefore it’s beneficial for their character growth to experience disappointment and failure without Edric or myself running to save them every time they don’t get what they want or when they make mistakes. If their lives are in danger then of course this emergency would warrant their rescuing. Otherwise, there are a great many lessons to be learned that will toughen them up as they deal with the frustration that comes from blocked goals, unrealized dreams and wants, conflict, and unfavorable circumstances. 

Growing up, I appreciated the emphasis my parents put on perspective. Perspective is so important because what we think determines how we act and move forward in life. Here are some truths that our children need to have as anchors that will hook them back to right thinking and wise decision making when they go through life’s disappointments:

1. Relax. God is in control. My mom used to encourage me by saying, there’s always a God-ordained reason for the things that happen. We can trust that God is sovereign and at work. As a result, my mom wasn’t ever a stressed out person. Similarly, children need to relax when their plans don’t come to fruition and when they mess up. As Romans 8:28 says, God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

2. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. There’s a difference between self-esteem (thinking you are so awesome) and God-confidence (knowing that your abilities come from the Lord.) Our children will face seemingly impossible situations that will overwhelm them physically, emotionally and spiritually. They have to remember that their strength comes from the One who is all-almighty. If He should will their success, then He can accomplish this through them. Nothing is impossible with Him! 

3. Success doesn’t come without trial, discipline, and struggle, so don’t give up! There’s no such thing as overnight success. Whatever is worth doing entails hard work and loads of effort. Keep going. My dad used to harp on this principle: Never say it can’t be done. Find a way. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭9:10‬

4. Don’t be entitled. Be grateful and content. When my kids told me one day, “Even our friends in Sunday School have cell phones,” my response was, “Well, isn’t it great that you guys are home schooled? You don’t need cell phones.” End of discussion.

As a parent there are occasions when I am tempted to give my kids what they want because I don’t want them to feel like they are “deprived.” But that is dangerous thinking. It’s called parent peer pressure! 

A wise parent must know when to withhold blessing even if it’s in their capacity to bestow it. God exemplifies this for us. He has infinite capacity yet he tempers material blessings according to our good. Similarly, we have to evaluate whether our kids really NEED something (in which case we should try our best to provide it), or if it’s merely a WANT that feeds self-centered thinking. Furthermore, just because other kids out there have toys, gadgets or privileges that our kids may not have doesn’t mean our kids are disadvantaged. Their happiness doesn’t have to be tied to material things. 

Entitlement in children is usually handed down by entitlement in us as parents. It’s a mentality that declares, I deserve this and that. I owe it to myself. People owe it to me. I can’t be happy unless I get what I want or what others have. If our kids don’t see us exercising restraint and self control when it comes to material things, or when they see us complain when we are inconvenienced, we pass on this same entitlement attitude to our kids. So we need to model gratitude and contentment. Otherwise, our kids will be derailed by disappointment when they are denied comforts, pleasures or material things that they want. 


When our kids have the right perspective on disappointment it can be a positive experience that prepares them for the challenging environments that they will enter into. Someday (and even now), when they aren’t always catered to, when circumstances are unfavorable or when they fail, they will be able to rise up with courage and resolve to pursue God’s plan for them and achieve the kind of success that glorifies Him. 

As the apostle Paul said, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body…Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” ‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:8-10, 16-18‬ 
 

Teaching Kids About Healthy Sexuality

The question “When and what do I teach my kids about sex?” comes up in parenting huddles, where moms gather together and air their concerns about how difficult it is to protect our children from the sexually-charged world we live in. It is seemingly impossible to completely shelter our kids from the images and messages that blatantly celebrate sexiness and sex outside of marriage.

Moms have opened up to me about their children being exposed to pornography at ridiculously young ages. My own kids constantly feel the need to turn their eyes away from magazine racks that exhibit half-naked women on their covers in places like groceries, hardware stores, and bookstores. These places are supposed to be family-friendly places! However, our children’s eyes are hardly “safe”. It’s also difficult to sit through television programs because the ads between shows aren’t always wholesome for kids.

Let’s take a realistic look at how challenging it is to raise our kids with healthy views and convictions about sex and sexuality:

– Nearly 60 percent of sixteen to eighteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly one third of thirteen to fifteen year olds have had sexual intercourse.

– Nearly 60 percent of sexually active teenagers do not use a method of birth control, and the same number of kids have never once talked with their parents about birth control.

– Ninety percent of kids surveyed believe in marriage, yet 74 percent say they would live with someone before or instead of marriage.

– Thirty-one percent of teen girl virgins say they have felt pressured by a guy to go further.

– Sixty-seven percent of teens who have had intercourse wish that they had waited.

– Over half of the young people in America claim to have had oral sex by the age of twenty-two.

– The average age of the first Internet exposure to pornography is eleven years old.

– Three million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur each year among teenagers.

– In the summer of 2000, Twist magazine did an online survey of ten thousand girls, over half of whom were under fourteen. Amazingly, 24 percent of the girls who said they were virgins responded that they engaged in oral sex.

– There are fourteen thousand acts of intercourse or sexual innuendo on primetime TV. (Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality by Jim Burns pg. 17 – 18)

Even if our kids are growing up in a morally toxic world, the good news is we don’t have to resign to this reality. There are several ways that we can be part of the solution to help our children grow up with healthy views and convictions about sex.

First, we need a mindset change. Sex is an amazing thing! Sex is God’s beautiful design for creation, intimacy, and pleasure in marriage. Why have we let the media, wrong experiences and inherited perspectives distort this truth so that we are ashamed and embarrassed to talk to our kids about it?

Unfortunately, this means that most kids don’t have conversations with their parents about healthy sexuality. They also hear confusing, negative messages about sex from their peers, role models or media. When it comes to the “sex talk”, many parents simply avoid the discussion, wait too long before educating their kids on the topic, or they simply tell them, “Don’t do it!” The message that religious organizations often pass on is that sex is a BAD thing so don’t do it outside of marriage. As for the rest of the world, it’s all about safe sex practices — how to do it without getting pregnant or STDs.

We need to have positive conversations with our children about sex, letting them know that it is neither ugly or dirty. It is wonderful! So wonderful it’s worth protecting and safeguarding for marriage.

After having five children, I realized that all kids, at some point wonder how they physically arrive into this world. Some kids are curious at younger ages, others at later ages. By the age of 7, our kids pretty much understand what sexual intercourse is and why it is beautiful in the context of a husband and wife relationship. Edric and I have this conversation with them early.

We answered (and continue to answer) their questions without substituting cutesy names for their private parts. Here’s a summary of what we cover…Girls have a vagina. Boys have a penis. There’s nothing immoral with those words. The two parts fit together according to God’s design so that a husband and wife can express their love for one another in the most intimate and special way. When sperm comes out of the man’s penis and goes into a woman’s vagina, one of the sperms will meet the egg inside the woman to form a baby. When you get to a certain age, you will start to find a girl beautiful or a boy handsome, and you will want to share this experience with them. But God wants you to save this for your husband or wife because it’s such a special thing.

Whew. That wasn’t too tough, was it?

We try to have these dialogues in a straightforward, non- squeamish way. Edric is better at this than I am. Sometimes I get uncomfortable going through the details. But I praise God that we are on the same page about educating our kids on sex in marriage early. If they hear unbiblical views on sex from friends or media, they can cross-check this info with the truth we’ve told them.

It’s also important to explain gender differences early. Because we’ve helped our kids to properly identity their body parts and the differences between female and male anatomies, they understand gender distinctions as early as 2 years old.

I remember asking our sons one time, “How do you know you are a boy?”

One of them blurted out, “Huh? I have a penis!” Like, hello, mom, did you intentionally ask a dumb question? Of course he didn’t say this. But I loved that his answer was so confident and uncomplicated.
On a comedic note, when we moved into our home and our 4-year old daughter walked into her bedroom, she announced, “No boys allowed. This is the vagina floor!”

Edric and I busted out into laughter. Basically she meant, “This area is for girls only!”

Beside teaching our children gender distinctions, we also need to tell them that their sexual organs are to be treated as sacred and private, educating them on what is appropriate and inappropriate when it comes to being touched. 

So many kids today become victims of sexual abuse, molestation and even rape. Tragically, most of it happens in their own homes and they get confused about whether it is wrong or not. If these is anything that makes me angry, heartbroken, and terrified at the same time it is that children are so commonly violated in this way in this country. About 60 to 70% of the people who come to me for counseling can recall at least one instance when they were abused by someone, and usually it was a relative. And they aren’t coming to me for counseling for these past experiences per se. However it comes up during the session as I ask questions or as the person opens up to me about their history.

My struggle as a mom is not to live in fear and pass on this fear to my kids because of my own past trauma as a rape victim. Yet at the same time, I want them to be aware that this can happen to them. So they need to protect themselves.

Edric and I tell them, “Don’t let anyone touch your private parts. These are private parts. Other people aren’t supposed to see them or touch them. And if anyone ever does that and tells you not to tell anyone, you can always tell mommy and daddy and we will protect you.”

Here’s a great book that teaches kids how to protect themselves. Available through @belugadreams


We also tell our household help not to touch our children’s private parts, unless they are bathing the little ones. (By two or threeyears of age children can be taught to wash themselves.) We teach our little daughters to dress modestly and cross their legs, too, so they aren’t exposing their underwear. We tell them, “Sit like a lady.”

As parents, we also have to model for our children how a woman and man interact with one another, relate to each other, and how we fulfill our roles within the family.

Furthermore, dads should spend time with sons to mentor them and moms should spend time with daughters to mentor them. Edric took Elijah to Mt. Apo when he turned 13 so he could have a rite of passage into young manhood. During their climb they were with a seasoned mountaineer and his son, too.

After four days, Elijah came home scruffy, stinky, and weathered! He learned how to have grit, to push himself and survive difficult weather conditions. He also watched Edric very closely. On the mountain, they spent time worshipping the Lord, sharing the gospel with other climbers, and reading Elijah’s letters from family members for his 13th birthday.

Not too long after this event, Elijah wrote a touching letter to Edric that included these lines, “Dad, thank you for teaching me what it means to be a man because I need you to be my role model. I really look up to you and I want to be like you…” With happy tears, Edric and I glanced at one another and smiled. What a privilege to meet this need in our kids!

Our children’s first concept of gender identity comes from us. Whether we acknowledge it or not, they are observing us and looking to us to understand what it means to be a man or woman according to God’s design.

At the same time, we need to affirm their worth in the Lord because relationships at home have a significant effect on the choices our children make and will make, especially when it comes to sexual purity.
My dad used to tell my sisters and I something like this: Each of you is like a “Rolls-Royce.” Think of a common car versus something like a Rolls-Royce. Everyone gets to drive a common car. Not a Rolls-Royce.

What he meant to say was, “No test-driving allowed! Don’t let guys treat you like a common car because you aren’t!”
Granted, it was totally a guy thing for him to compare us to cars, but the principle behind his advice was important. He wanted us to realize that we are special, that HE THOUGHT WE ARE SPECIAL, that guys should treat us as special. More importantly, he demonstrated what it means to be treated as special by being available, encouraging, and discipling us. (My mom was the same way.)

Very recently I was counseling a beautiful lady who suffered the after-effects of a painful breakup and bad relationship with a guy who was controlling and manipulative. When I asked her about her family culture, she told me she never felt good enough or important to her parents. So she thought it was normal for a guy to treat her badly, too. After all, she was brought up in a family where she had to prove her worth in order to be loved. Her father also made her feel incompetent and incapable. She tolerated her unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend for a miserably long time until God opened her eyes to see that marrying this guy would have been a huge mistake. Up till this day, as an adult, she longs to have a loving relationship with her parents but she feels misunderstood and rejected so often by them so she finds it difficult to ask them for advice when it comes to boyfriend-girlfriend relationships.

As I listened to her, I was convicted to put extra effort into strengthening my relationship with my kids. They need that security from Edric and I, and they need to be able to trust us with their hearts so we can influence them to make wise choices.

In her book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, author Meg Meeker writes that parent connectedness is the number-one factor in preventing girls from engaging in premarital sex and indulging in drugs and alcohol…Girls with good fathers are less likely to flaunt themselves to seek male attention…76% of teenage girls said that fathers influenced their decision on whether they should become sexually active…

It’s only by God’s grace that my parents met this need for affection and the desire to be valued in my siblings and me. As a result, we weren’t as eager to seek out this need in the opposite sex. Okay, so I floundered the most in this area because I actually had one boyfriend in high school and it wasn’t a very healthy relationship. But my sisters and brothers, wow. My youngest sister’s first kiss was at the altar! She made it very clear to her boyfriend (the only guy she had a serious relationship with) that she had strict boundaries. No kissing before marriage!

Maybe you were more like me and made mistakes. And maybe you are a parent reading this and you know that your child is not staying pure. I hope this bit will give you hope, as you come alongside your child to pray for them and restore them back to the Lord.

If you’ve been a follower of my blog, you know that I had two serious boyfriend relationships before marriage. I didn’t have sexual intercourse with my boyfriends, but I did everything else. So I tell people that I struggled with sexual impurity to call it what it is.

Even if I was raised in a good home, I made the choice to go against God’s standard of purity by going “too close to the edge.” The fact that I was a victim of rape and sexual abuse probably made it easier for me to rationalize my choices but that wasn’t an excuse.

I remember my mom calling me long distance one evening while she was away on a trip, and she gently asked, “How are you and your boyfriend doing? I dreamt about you guys last night and you were doing something you weren’t supposed to.”

I knew what she was alluding to and I must have turned five shades of pale. God had spoken to her through a dream! Can you believe it?! I was so convicted and bothered. I admitted to my mom that my boyfriend and I were indeed doing something inappropriate. This wasn’t the only time I had to make a confession to my mom or my dad.

However, their emphasis was not on lecturing me, embarrassing me, or judging me. Were they hurt? Yes. Were they concerned? Yes. Did they have to set restrictions? Yes. But they did these things in a manner that was redemptive. There was grace and forgiveness in the context of an existing love relationship with me. This inspired me to please God because I knew that my parents wanted what was best for me. They had proven this for many years prior to me ever being in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

Author Jim Burns said that as parents we need to convey to our kids that “God created sexuality, and in the light of marriage, He sees it as very good. Our children need to know that God wants the best for each of them in this area of their lives. He is not the great killjoy but rather the creator and sustainer of life.”

Unless our kids are convinced that we are for them, that we are on their side and want what is best for them, they won’t listen to the values we want them to internalize when it comes to their sexuality. So let’s start investing in our relationship with them from the very beginning so that the truths we pass on to them about safeguarding purity will sink deep and take root in their hearts. They might not make perfect choices (like me) but may their relationship with us and with the Lord, through the power of prayer, hook them back and get them back on track.

Here are some facts that tell us why sex is best reserved for marriage: (Source – Ray Short)

Fact 1 – Premarital sex tends to break up couples.
Fact 2 – Many men do not want to marry a woman who has had intercourse with someone else.
Fact 3 – Those who have premarital sex tend to have less happy marriages.
Fact 4 – Those who have premarital sex are more likely to have their marriage end in divorce.
Fact 5 – Persons and couples who have had premarital sex are more likely to have extramarital affairs as well.
Fact 6 – Having premarital sex may fool you into marrying a person who is not right for you.
Fact 7 – Persons and couples who have premarital sex experience sexual satisfaction sooner after they are married. HOWEVER –
Fact 8 – They are likely to be less satisfied overall with their sex life during marriage.
Fact 9 – Poor premarital sexual habits can be carried over to spoil sex in marriage.

As I end this, I want to propose that committing to purity is a family thing. When Edric and I were a younger couple, we watched a bunch of cool TV series on certain evenings to relax and unwind. These shows had great plots but they also had scenes in them and values that blatantly celebrated unbiblical perspectives on sex. We would close our eyes through those parts or press fast forward to avoid watching the “unholy” stuff. But after awhile we were like, What are we doing? This is a waste of time and it is not honoring to the Lord.

We realized that if we can’t sit through programs like these with our kids because we don’t want their minds polluted, then why do we think our minds are exempted from being corrupted as well?

We are all called to holiness. Furthermore, it’s easier to encourage the entire family to pursue purity if we all use the same filtration standards. Here’s a great passage that gives us guidelines for what we should watch and listen to: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭

There’s nothing inherently wrong with media. But the evil one uses these channels to influence and infiltrate our minds. Therefore we must be discriminating as a family about the kinds of shows, programs, music, and movies we entertain ourselves with. Everything that we take in shapes our values and perspectives. 

Psychology Today tells us that “Today, children are being sexualized earlier and earlier, in part because they are exposed to sexual material in movies, television, music and other media earlier than ever…A 2012 study shows that movies influence teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors as well. The study, published in Psychological Science, found that the more teens were exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they started having sex and the likelier they were to have casual, unprotected sex.” (Psychology Today)

When our oldest son, Elijah, started using an IPad he purchased, he installed restrictions on it to protect himself from going on sites or accessing media that could be pornographic. I praise God that he was convicted to do this on his own, as a child. Now that he is entering the crazy hormonal phase of young adulthood, my prayer for him is that God will continue to keep him pure hearted. I pray that for all my kids.

Even if Edric and I try our best to raise our kids with healthy sexuality, it’s no guarantee that they will stay pure in heart and mind. However, I believe they have a better chance of doing so if we start teaching them young. As the Scriptures say, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” Psalms‬ ‭119:9‬ ‭

I really like what Paul said to his young disciple, Timothy: “But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭3:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I don’t know what your perspective on sexuality has been. Maybe you are a young parent, trying to figure out how to raise your kids right. Or maybe you have older kids who are interested in the opposite sex or already dating someone and you are worried about the choices they have made or will make. Or maybe you are a person who is struggling with gender identity or sexual promiscuity. Or you didn’t grow up in a home where you saw healthy gender roles modeled by a mother or father, or you experienced sexual abuse.

Whatever your life state may be, I want you to know that God has a plan for you, as the man or woman that he designed for you to be. Everything that you have been through He can redeem and make beautiful. If no one has ever valued or treasured you and if you don’t feel like you are not worth much because of your choices, you need to know that God sees you. He knows you. He wants to have a personal relationship with you. He loves you and He died for you because you are so precious to Him! He can purify you and me and restore whatever sexual brokenness we have gone through.  

“Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalms‬ ‭51:7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Respect Issues – It’s Not Cute When a Toddler Calls You By Your First Name

Of all my children, Catalina, my youngest, was the one child who exhibited disrespect through her words and actions. Sometimes, I would think, My goodness! Who spawned this child?


During one particular incident I was leaning over the kitchen island when she tried to ask me about eating chocolate. Since I was engaged in a conversation with one of my other children, I couldn’t attend to her immediately. Instead I carried on with my dialogue. So she came up to me, smacked my behind, and voiced out, “Joy! Get me chocolate!”

Standing at about 34 inches tall, this two year old of mine, with her beady black eyes and dark wavy hair has always packed in a lot of fire into her tiny frame. In this particular instance, she probably did not realize that she had done something very disrespectful. To everyone else who saw and heard what happened, it was very tempting not to break out into laughter. But all of us knew that she had “crossed the line.”
Edric also experienced something similar when she addressed him as “Psst, hoy! Edric!” while sitting on the toilet.

Both of us talked to her and explained why her words and actions were not acceptable. We demonstrated how to speak to us in a courteous and honoring way. And we also warned her that if she did this sort of thing again she would be disciplined for it.

It must have been a week later when I instructed her to do a task and she retorted with a “No!” This time her defiance was very clear. So I took her to our bathroom and reminded her that we had a rule about disrespect and she broke it. In this instance, she received a spanking. A big hug followed and a sorry from her.

She now thinks twice about dishonoring us. Still, it hasn’t been easy to train our youngest. She’s like a bull. A cute one. Very strong-willed. Intense. Easily upset. But no child is too tough inside to train or disciple. Some kids may take longer than others. However, God calls us, as parents to train our children in Proverbs 22:6, and we have to believe that He will provide the grace and ability to make it to happen.

Here are some practical tips we have picked up from God’s Word, other parents who have raised their children successfully, and our own experience with being parents to five kids:

  • Start disciplining and training early. The earlier, the easier it is to prevent bad attitudes and behaviors from becoming habits that are difficult to deal with.
  • Establish your authority. Edric and I love our kids and they know this. However, they also know that we are God’s appointed authority in their lives. He has entrusted to us the responsibility of training and teaching them to learn the importance of obedience and submission to the Lord by learning to obey and submit to us.Our kids have a lot of fun with us but they also have a healthy fear of defying us. They understand that we mean business. For example, we don’t ask your kids, “Would you like to go to bed now?” when we want them to go to bed. We tell them. “It’s time to go to bed.” Period. If they stick out their tongue, throw a fit, say no, or delay their obedience, then we follow through with a consequence.
  • A consequence can come in the form of spanking, withdrawal of privileges, confiscation of a toy or gadget, or a “time out.” We stick to spankings during the younger years which has worked very effectively. And no, our kids don’t have psychological issues as a result of this form of discipline. Whatever you decide to use as a form of discipline, be sure to follow through. Consistency is key.
  • As a wife, I also have to model respect to Edric so that my kids see what it looks like and I don’t undermine what we are trying to accomplish. They have to see that I also esteem my authority. Furthermore, Edric builds me up as their authority by reminding them that they are to honor me. He has had to sit our older boys aside one or two times and address the way they communicate with me. Very sternly, he let them know that they are not to use a tone that is impolite when talking to me.
  • Complement the discipline with instruction. For example, we explained to Catalina why it’s not okay to use our first names. We also taught her how to respond when we give her a command. She must reply, “Okay, mommy or okay, daddy,” with a good attitude. I actually wait for her to change her facial expression or her tone so that it’s joyful. I don’t let her run off with a grumpy and angry face. When it comes to the boys, Edric teaches them how to be gentlemen – to show deference for people. Sometimes it’s about holding the door open for ladies, shaking the hand of an adult, acknowledging a person when they ask a question, or minding their own noise pollution in public places or tight spaces.
  • Be on the same page with your spouse and people in the home. As husband and wife, Edric and I need to share the same principles for respect, and disciplining for disrespect. Since we have house help, we also ask our house help to let us know when our kids don’t treat them nicely or kindly. We let our kids know that they aren’t allowed to disrespect the house help. Another thing that has helped is welcoming the reports of friends or family members who tell us when our kids are misbehaving. We are on an all out war against disobedience and disrespect in the hearts of our kids so we need all the help we can get!
  • Enlist the aid of older siblings to be an example of right behaviors and attitudes. The power of older siblings to influence younger siblings is incredible.
  • Commend positive character. When Catalina obeys or responds to us with respect, I call it out and affirm her. She smiles bashfully but she loves to hear the encouragement and is more likely to repeat the right thing she did. I don’t just say, good job honey. I yell out, “Wow! I am so proud of you!”
  • Spend a lot of time with a child who is unruly, acting up, or having issues such as disrespect. This will allow you to find out what’s going on in their hearts and strategize how to train them and minister to them. Disrespect reveals a more serious heart issue. That’s what you want to uncover. For example, when my older son, Elijah starts talking to me with a tone that is condescending or sarcastic, I look at him and gently ask, “Is there something wrong?” and we find time to have a heart to heart conversation about what’s bothering him. Sometimes the problem is I have done something to offend him or hurt him so I need to apologize for this, or he feels stressed and pressured, or perhaps he is struggling with some inner conflict or sin that he needs to repent from. When the root issue is tackled, the right behavior follows.
  • Don’t model disrespect among family members. A child can easily mimic shouting, criticizing, negative talk, and bad attitudes from parents or siblings. If we don’t want our kids to treat us this way, we can’t give ourselves a reason to act that way towards one another either. We need to cultivate a culture of respect for each another in the home, even towards our own kids. This entails being polite when we talk to each other and to them, being appreciative and kind, and using the magic words, please and thank you. Let’s model what it’s like to be a blessing to the people so our kids can copy us.
  • Pray for tenderness in the hearts of our children. The bible says that the hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of God and he directs it where he wishes. Similarly, the hearts of our children are like channels of water in his hand. He can orient these little hearts in the direction they should go. I bank on this truth for my kids. Surely, God can take a hard heart and tenderize it!

In conclusion, let’s not lose hope, retaliate, or be intimidated when our children are rude or ill mannered, especially towards us. There’s no quick cure but with patience, gentleness, teamwork, consistency, positive modeling, and God’s help you and I can train our children to be courteous and honorable towards others. This is God’s will for them and it’s a goal that we can achieve by His grace!

It’s Time to Play!

“Many of our greatest thinkers locate their capacity for original and profound thought in their imaginative abilities, first developed through creative play in early childhood.” (Pittsburg Post Gazette, August 2004)

Interestingly, “Kids and animals that do not play when they are young may grow into anxious, socially maladjusted adults.” (Scientific American)

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A lot of times we rob our children of the opportunity to play when we overschedule their lives or cram it full with academics and enrichment activities. A poll by HealthAmerica from 2006 revealed that out of 882 children, 41 percent between the ages of 9 and 13 felt stressed all of the time or most of the time, because they have too much to do. Of those same children surveyed, 78 percent wished they had more free time. (Ahchealthnews )

Although we may mean well as parents, we need to consider whether our children are getting sufficient time to enjoy the wonders of childhood. Do they get to play?

Play can be structured and unstructured. Structured play is defined by set goals and objectives determined by an adult. It is adult-directed. (For example, when I teach my child how to build a tower with blocks and instruct them which piece to put where.) In contrast, unstructured play has no specific goal or objective determined by an adult. It is child-directed. Give your child blocks and see what he or she does with them.

Both types of play are important. Structured play is beneficial when your aim is to teach your child new concepts, skills, and reinforce them (colors, shapes, numbers, letters, phonetic sounds, reading, etc.) But unstructured play is beneficial for the application and manipulation of those concepts and skills – to demonstrate and practice creativity…and, well, just enjoy being a kid!

Another area where we may short-change our children is when we buy them the wrong kinds of toys. Since our children were very little, my husband and I agreed that we would buy our kids “good toys,” and avoid battery-operated toys as much as possible. Some people still gift our kids with these sort of toys but we try not to purchase them ourselves.

“A good toy is 10 percent toy and 90 percent child,” says Joan Almon, director of the U.S. Alliance for Childhood. “Beware of killjoy toys. Give children simple play materials such as logs and stones, cloths and ropes, and they will create worlds.”

“Play starts with a box, with the discovery of pots and pans. If everything has bells and whitles and does everything for them from the time a child is very young (his) own imagination is not going to be very stimulated,” says Stevanne Auerbach, a.k.a Dr. Toy and author of Smart Play, Smart Toys: How to raise a child with high PQ.

Some of examples of good toys include:

  • Empty boxes (shoe boxes, big boxes, etc.)
  • Toilet paper rolls
  • Tissue paper
  • Fabric
  • Rocks
  • Sticks
  • Sand or mud
  • Trees
  • Leaves
  • Puddles or water
  • Bugs
  • Rope or string
  • Dolls for girls
  • Dishes and tea sets
  • Blocks
  • Legos
  • Playdough or clay
  • Marbles
  • Magnets
  • Old clothes for dressing up
  • Paper, drawing materials, paint, etc.

My kids go crazy over things like empty boxes and string! This afternoon my girls were running around with sticks, and my older daughter said, “Look, it’s an airplane!”, as she made the stick fly through the air.

So much learning happens through play. It may not be as quantifiable as results on a test paper, but rest assured, children are picking up something valuable.

“Play is how children begin to understand and process their world. Children’s play unlocks their creativity and imagination and develops reading, thinking, and problem solving skills as well as further develops motor skills. It provides the base foundation for learning.” Angie Rupan, Program Coordinator for Child Development Center in South San Francisco, CA and early childhood educator for over 20 years.

When we play with our kids, or when children play with one another, their language skills are developed. They pick up vocabulary, learn how to express themselves in ways that others can understand, and decode the grammatical structure of the English language without even realizing it!

When children are given unstructured play-time, their creativity sores. They learn how to be imaginative, invent, solve problems, build, and entertain themselves without being dependent on others to tell them what to do or how to think. Even simple toys like building blocks enhances mathematical ability in children.

My kids were trying to figure out how to build a suspension bridge the other day. They had to think through the physics involved to make this bridge.

Activities like drawing, painting, stringing, folding, cutting, squeezing dough or clay and molding it are all beneficial for fine motor skills. And activities that involve running, jumping, climbing, kicking, and the like will build muscular strength and endurance which are necessary for more difficult tasks that require body coordination.

What’s our part in all of this as parents? How do we ensure that learning happens when our children play? The following elements must be present:

  • Children feel free to express themselves
  • Children’s opinions are valued
  • Children believe they are unconditionally loved and accepted
  • Children are allowed to fail and learn from their failures
  • Children are allowed to experiment and try new ideas
  • Children are encouraged to consider more than one solution to a problem
  • Discipline is firm but not punitive
  • Parents accept some mess
  • Parents appreciate what their children accomplish and achieve
  • Parents communicate confidence in their children’s abilities
  • Parents demonstrate their own creativity and flexibility
  • Children are exposed to storybooks and storytelling
  • Make-believe is encouraged
  • Children have regular contact with parents and other children (siblings and cousins count, too!)

I don’t know what your family culture is like, but I hope you will prioritize playtime. It’s a necessary and fundamental part of childhood, and it’s our responsibility as parents, to provide a home environment where play is valued and encouraged. It’s time for our kids to play!

To My Young Adult

My husband, Edric, decided to institute a rite of passage for all our sons when they leave their childhood years and enter young adulthood. Since Eljah was the first to enter this stage, it was very special when we invited the key men in his life for dinner to pray over him and pass on their godly wisdom. 

   

I sat at the other end of the table and watched this ceremony transpire, thankful that God gifted our son with mentors who love Him and love the Lord. 

   

  

 When a publications company asked me to compose a letter to my children about how to help children process obstacles and difficult circumstances positively, I decided to write one for Elijah. I gave him a shorter one to read up on Mt. Apo when he reached the summit. But this one is something I want all my children to have when they become young adults. Plus, Elijah said he liked this one better! 

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It is hard to believe that you aren’t the little baby I once held in my arms. Have I prepared you enough, taught you enough to navigate the years ahead of you – years that will be marked by hormonal changes, growth spurts, and emotional tests?

In our family we don’t call these years the teenage years. Your dad and I have explained that thirteen means you are a young adult. But this doesn’t mean that you won’t have to deal with the same challenges that “teenagers” go through. You will meet transitions, upsets, disappointments, failures, wins, highs, and lows, and I want you to understand first and foremost that this is all a part of growing into the person God has planned for you to be.

You may be growing up in a positive home environment where you are treasured and loved unconditionally by your dad, siblings and me. However, not everyone outside of our family is going to applaud your principles, like you as a person, or give you a medal for effort. Sometimes, reality will fall incredibly short of your expectations, too. Worst of all, something precious and important to you may even be taken away.

As you know, something unprecedentedly evil happened to me when I was just a little older than you are now. We have talked about how I was a victim of rape. This tragic experience awakened me to the reality of evil in the world, deep pain, and darkened hope. I think now, more than ever before, it’s necessary for me to remind you that we live in a fallen, sinful world. My tragedy was not unique. There are many people who go through harrowing circumstances, some much more terrible than what I had to endure.

I tell you this not to frighten you or make you afraid of your future. I tell you this because you must understand that there is brokenness in this world because of sin, and someday, this brokenness may pierce your own heart. You may question everything you believe about who God is as you meet a cross road where you must face the question of faith.

It is at this juncture when you must cling to the truth that will anchor you. God loves you. He has a plan for your life. Even if you may not always be able to see this plan with your physical eyes, believe that it is good because God is good. In the book of Hebrews it says, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) My prayer is that you will have the maturity to interpret every circumstance with spiritual eyes – to have faith in God’s character.

Years ago I chose to believe that God never wastes our pain. He is a redeemer. He causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

When I look at my life today, you are a testament to this goodness. God gave me a child like you to love. He gave me your dad and our family. Furthermore, He gave me the privilege of serving Him and telling others about Him by using my life’s story.

God is also writing your life’s story. Let Him continue to do so by trusting Him always. Don’t try to grab the pen when the plot becomes uncomfortable. He’s got everything under control.

In the meantime, walk with Him one day at a time. Love Him and obey Him. If you do so, you don’t need to worry about what lies ahead. As Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

When I think about you growing up, this is what comforts me. If you have Christ in your life, you will be okay. You will have His peace, joy, grace, hope, power, and presence. This means that you will have everything you need to persevere and to overcome the obstacles and challenges you will face. Best of all, you will come out of these life lessons and tests stronger, better and wiser. You will be equipped for the special work that God will entrust you with. You will also be able to maximize your gifts and talents for His glory.

Finally, let me end this letter with the charge and encouragement that God gave to Joshua when he was about to conquer the Promised Land. “No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you…Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Like Joshua, God has a purpose for you to fulfill. It stretches out before you just as the Promised Land did before the Israelites. This thought is both intimidating and exciting! Furthermore, your dad, your siblings, and myself may not be physically present everywhere you go (even if we would like to be), but God will ALWAYS be with you. And just like Joshua, He is telling you to be strong and courageous, to let His Word and principles guide you. If you do so, you will be prosperous and successful.

Know that I love you always, through everything. And no matter where you are or where you go, remember that I will be praying for you, entrusting you to the One who is able to uphold you and shield you.

Always here for you,

Mom

 

 

Lessons From Climbing the Tallest Mountain in the Philippines

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Entry by my son, Elijah Mendoza.

My dad had been planning a rite of passage for me for a long time. He said we would have it when I turned 13, and through that I would transition from a boy into a young man. Since it meant becoming a young man, this experience had to capture the manly traits my Dad wanted me to embrace. So, he decided we would climb a mountain. But, not just any mountain, the tallest mountain in the Philippines, Mt. Apo!

I was so excited, because I wanted to bond with my Dad, be able to experience camping for the first time, and be able to say, “I climbed the tallest mountain in the Philippines!”

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Guess what? I can now say it! I climbed the tallest mountain in the Philippines. Praise God! But more importantly, I am now a young man. According to my Dad (and Mom), part of completing this right of passage was to journal my learnings from the experience.

I’d like to share with you two of the most important things I learned from climbing Mt. Apo. The first is the value of perseverance to achieve a goal. Mt. Apo is around 3000 meters high. It took us 4 days to climb the mountain, 2 up, and 2 down. And though we had a porter to carry some shared equipment for our group of 5, I had to carry my own pack with most of my stuff. I had to carry this as we went through farms, forests, marshes, flatlands, brush lands, and even boulders. I carried it through scorching heat and thick rain, while balancing on tree trunks, and even up an 87 degree cliff. In fact, there were moments where I would trip and fall, and I would get so annoyed with this load, and the added pain it was causing on my shoulders. But Dad would encourage me to push myself. And by God’s grace, I never thought of quitting. I kept pushing myself to endure all this because I was focused on the goal of finishing the climb, and remained excited about reaching the peak, then eventually going home.

Thanks, Conquer gear!

Thanks, Conquer gear!

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When we finally made it to the top, it was spectacular! We got to experience the sunrise above the clouds, and we worshipped God together. All the effort it took to achieve our goal taught me how gratifying it is to work hard versus taking it easy or giving up. I love how the Bible teaches us to persevere in Philippians 3:14 “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

DSC03475The second thing I learned was to be thankful. Life on the mountain was rough and hard. Even food and leftovers I would normally stay away from at home I would swallow down quickly, because I was so hungry. I even had to help kill a chicken just so we could have a meal! This chicken was gummy and hard to chew because it was a native chicken, but I ate everything! I also had to learn to take a poop in the wild, even without toilet paper. I was so desperate, I had to use leaves!

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Furthermore, since I was used to sleeping in a small tent on a hard floor, it was a treat when we got down from the mountain and a villager welcomed us into their house. Their life there was very simple, but compared to sleeping in tents in freezing cold, we got to stay in a clean house with a roof! Anything with a roof felt like a five-star hotel.

I learned that you don’t need a lot to survive and everything we have is a bonus and blessing from the Lord. A warm meal is a blessing. Having a bed to lay on and a roof over our heads is a blessing. Even having toilet paper is a blessing! So when the Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:8 “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”, I learned to literally thank God for everything.

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Climbing Mt. Apo was a life-changing experience for me. God used my Dad’s intentional training to help me better understand what it means to be a man. There were many things I learned from this experience, but these two are, for me, the highlights. Being a man is about being perseverant to accomplish the tasks God asks us to do. It also means taking responsibility for what has been entrusted to me and being thankful and grateful for it. Please pray for me in this new phase in my life. Please pray I apply these learnings, and more importantly, as I continue to grow through the years, I will become more and more like Jesus, the ultimate manly role model. God bless you!

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A Father’s Letter to His 13 Year Old Son

Since Elijah officially turned 13 today, Edric gave me permission to share this with you all…a letter which he wrote to him to read at the top of Mt. Apo.

My Dearest Elijah,

Today is a very special day as we formalize your passage into a young man. You are no longer a boy in my eyes, in the eyes of the men who matter in our lives, and in the eyes of your Mom.

In this new stage, my prayers for you are the following:

1. Be a young man of purpose. Grow and develop like Jesus did: wisdom, stature, favor w God and men (Lk 2:52). Don’t waste time doing things that don’t fall under any of these growth areas. As you do, have BIG dreams for God’s glory. Don’t fall into the culture of mediocrity. Instead, try to envision the greatest thing God can do through you with all that He has blessed you with. Do all you do for His glory, my son. (Dt 6:5-7)

2. Be a young man of purity. This stage will usher in all sorts of curiosity especially towards your body, a woman’s body, and the natural sexual interaction God has designed between the two, but in the context of marriage. As I’ve told you before, I cannot protect you (not completely anyway) from the devil’s temptations in this area –pornography, immoral relationships, and things of that nature. But I can prepare you. This is my way of doing so. Letting you know that it is a beautiful thing in the right context, in marriage. “How can a young man stay pure?”, the Bible says, “by studying God’s Word”.(Psalm 119:9)

Remember this is the only sin in the Bible that says “flee”. (1 Corinthians 6:18) So many times this is what you might have to literally do when friends (maybe even relatives) expose you to the same.

3. Be a young man of strength and courage. As Joshua was charged by God to take on leadership from Moses to finish the job of bringing His people to the Promised Land, God exhorted him to be strong and courageous, several times. He needed this pep talk to accomplish the great task God laid before him.

My son, the same is true for you. God has a great task before you, I don’t know exactly what it is, but I know you will need strength and courage. And that’s what I loved about our Apo climb. It pushed you to apply strength and courage as we scaled the boulders, pushed through the thickets, traveled the narrow paths, braved the frigid cold, endured the scorching heat, and braced ourselves from the wild cats! Life will hurl many of these roadblocks that will need you to be strong and courageous, pursuing the purpose and purity I encouraged you with earlier.

4. Be a young man of love. Jesus modeled this best. Fix your eyes on Him, my son. Not daddy. I will do my best to model Christ-likeness. Copy that. Where I fail, pls forgive me and do NOT do the same. Love like Jesus did. Have compassion towards others. Be motivated ultimately by this. Help the poor, orphans, and widows.

I love you with all my heart, my young man. I am very proud of the young man you are becoming. I am here for you every step of the way, as long as God allows, and solely by His grace.

Love,
Dad

  

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 ‭

The Guardians

  I was late to pick up Tiana from her ballet class but Elijah, my eldest, came to her rescue. We intersected paths as I walked towards the elevators of our church building from the cafe, where I was hanging out with my sister-in-law. Elijah informed me that he waited for Tiana to end her class then brought her up to the floor where he and my other boys had their violin lessons.

   
He didn’t have to do this. I usually stay and attend to her. But today, I decided she needed to mature in the area of independence, so I found a comfortable spot in the building to pass the hour and a half while she danced with her cousin and friends.

Elijah’s thoughtfulness and protectiveness was a pleasant surprise. On his own initiative, he trekked down to the floor where the dance studio was at, peeked through the glass window on its door to see if Tiana was alright, and collected her afterwards.

I told him I was so proud of him and he replied, “I am her guardian, mom. I am supposed to look out for her. She’s my sister. Dad told me to.”

   
He really is a wonderful older brother to all my kids. But this gesture, in particular, blessed me. We need more gentlemen in this world, and I am not saying that my son or sons exemplify noble character like this all the time. However, I truly appreciate that my husband, Edric, has purposefully taught our boys to mind their manners, consider the needs of others before their own, and protect their sisters (and me).
 For example, there have been many occasions when my sons will volunteer to come with me to the grocery, not because they like going, but because they refuse to let me go alone. They often insist on protecting me, declaring, “I will guard you, mom.”

Picture these young boys thinking their presence will thwart a thief or malicious person if they are by my side. Obviously I would have more success fighting for myself than they would for me, but it’s the heroism behind their offer to come along that I find so admirable.

How can Edric and I keep encouraging our sons to be honorable? Sometimes I wonder if they will stay noble in heart, innocent and tender hearted, valiant and courageous to stand for what is right and pleasing to God. I have fears as a mom…thoughts like, what if they change because they are influenced by peers, media, and the lies the evil one puts into their heads? What if life’s disappointments chisel away at their zeal for holiness and righteousness?

It’s humbling and frightening to know that Edric and I aren’t enough to safeguard our sons from the environment of a fallen world. No matter how hard we try and how intentional we strive to be, they aren’t immune to corruption. God has to be the one to hold them in His hands and preserve their virtuousness. He has to be the one to grow the seeds of character Edric and I have planted in their hearts. Praise be to God for His faithfulness. As Psalms 103:17-18 reads, “But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them.” 

In the meantime, I am cherishing who my children are now, especially their love for God, for us, and for one another. These are a mother’s greatest joys. I am also thankful for the privilege of raising boys who strive to be “guardians” for their younger sisters and me. This is a bonus. 

I pray they remain this way and excel all the more as God continues to prepare them to become the men He wants them to be. In the end, may they grow up to be more and more like Christ and manifest the goodness that comes from Him.

Allow me to quote what Edan, my second son, has shared in front of audiences in the past: “I want to be a gentleman because Jesus was a gentleman. He was kind to ladies and looked out for the needs of others.” Yes, indeed, my son!

 

Dying Young, Living Forever

Edric and I were on the way up to Baguio for the recently held Executive Couple’s retreat when my brother, Paul, phoned us. He called to relay the shocking news about his brother-in-law, Steve’s, untimely and tragic motorcycle accident. Edric choked down the tears and turned over to me in disbelief, trying to take in the reality as he struggled to say, “Steve died.”

“What?” I cried out, stunned as the tears came uncontrollably.

We found out that Steve’s motorcycle swerved off the road, and a head-on collision with a pole killed him instantly. He passed away a day before his 30th birthday.

I am ashamed to say that Edric and I were in the middle of a silly discussion about our communication issues in marriage when we received the call from Paul. The news broke through the trivialness of our argument and crushed us both to the core. How could Steve be gone? How could he have died like this? How could Edric and I have been upset over such small things when my sister-in-law just lost her brother?

We sat in the silence as Steve’s death eclipsed every feeling that seemed so big and important just moments before. Steve would have shared Christmas with my side of the family in the Philippines. Over the years of knowing him and seeing him grow up, he certainly felt like part of the family. His easy-going spirit and passion for God and people were contagious, too. It was impossible to encounter Steve without being impacted by his charisma. Edric and I were always convinced that Steve was a great guy with a great future.

 For the rest of the ride to Baguio, I kept thinking about Steve. Edric and I were scheduled to speak at the retreat but I had little motivation to. The tragedy of his unexpected death hung heavy in the air. My thoughts were restless until I had more information, more details. How was Jenny taking all of this? How was the rest of the Reed family?

Paul and Jenny were back in Manila, trying to schedule a flight to Seattle. Edric offered to adopt their kids for the time being. That was the least we could do. Neither of us got to speak to Paul or Jenny face to face before they left, but we stayed in touch online to keep them updated about their kids. A few days after, Paul also sent us a short video of his parents-in-law, Nelson and Linda, who delivered a beautiful, impromptu reflection during one of their church’s evening services.

Nelson explained that when Steve was born he held him up in his arms and thanked the Lord for the gift that he was. At the same time, he also surrendered him and dedicated him to God. As Steve grew up, Nelson didn’t stop him from being adventurous or doing things like riding a motorcycle. He trusted that his life was in God’s hands. As someone who is a personal friend to the Reed family, I know that the idea of surrendering Steve (and their three older children) wasn’t about neglecting their role to instruct him in the ways of the Lord. Nelson and Linda intentionally discipled all their kids. Nelson’s point was that he didn’t try to control Steve. And since he surrendered and dedicated Steve to the Lord as a baby, he and Linda were able to accept Steve’s passing as God’s will. Nelson professed all of this with peace even as he hurt as a father. Furthermore, he challenged the audience to surrender their spouses, children and even themselves to the Lord. As the Psalms says, “The earth is the Lord and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24:1) The act of surrender is acknowledgement that we don’t own our loved ones or even our own lives. Sometimes, God may elect for us to go through tragedy. Will we trust His sovereignty and His love?

  Even if it is difficult to grasp the reality of the grief a parent or sibling is left with after a son or brother is gone, I have been so blessed by the grace and faith-filled responses of Paul and Jenny, Nelson and Linda and the rest of their family. Collectively, they have chosen to process this tragedy with spiritual lenses. Without diminishing the pain that Steve’s absence has marked their hearts with, they cling to the hope that one day, they shall see Steve again. Steve was a man who walked intimately with God and he most certainly is living eternally with God.

Here’s a tribute to his life and death, written by Nelson, which I requested for permission to post here. I believe it will strengthen and encourage all of us to ponder upon the purpose for which we were created and to look forward to eternal life, which God has destined for all those who are His children through Jesus Christ.

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ALIVE FOREVERMORE!

Stephen John Reed entered heaven the afternoon of September 16, 2015, a day before his 30th Birthday. Medical examiners said he was probably dead before his body hit the sidewalk.

If what the examiners said is true, Stephen’s Lord and Savior took him in the “twinkling of an eye” to be with Him forevermore!

Anyone who knows Stephen knows that he lived “larger than life.” A few snapshots from Stephen’s abundant life will help explain the phenomena.

Stephen became a Third Culture Kid when born into a missionary family in the Philippines. He grew up forging close relationships with children from the nations. Swapping lunches and clothes with his buddies, he developed a palate for every cuisine and fashion on earth. He lived multicultural abundance!

Turbulent times rocked the Philippines the first decade of Stephen’s life. Yet fear never enslaved him; rather he flourished in love and adventure with his family and friends. Life was to be lived on the streets, not behind walls!

 Speaking of family, God graced Stephen with three older siblings – Jenny (Tanchi), Becky (Mangin) and Ben. All three trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior before they reached the age of six. Influenced by them, he too sought the Lord at a young age, not wanting to be entangled by sin and miss the blessed life the rest of the family enjoyed. Fast forward 25 years, a month before he died a summary of his journal entries reveal, “Live large, God is for me!”

Stephen thrived by surrounding himself with friends; not to get for himself, but to give. For example, his coach would get so upset when he didn’t “close” a breakaway, but would pass the basketball to his teammates so they could score. He was comfortable in his skin, liberated to encourage others in theirs.

During his high school years, Stephen began to blossom into his own person, less the little brother. Mom remembers times Stephen expressed desires to become great. As a young adult, “excellence” became his passion. He explained it like this, “Jesus promised an abundant life. I seek to excel in everything – spiritually, socially, in business, in fun and adventure! I believe this is what Jesus wants!”

Stephen started two businesses and was involved in several other enterprises. One month before he died he wrote of his walk with Jesus in the market place, “What ever I (Jesus) call for, I provide for!”

Motorcycles were another passion. God used a motorcycle crash to usher him home to glory. He was ready for eternity in every way, but we are sure he was surprised when he woke up in heaven.

All through Stephen’s life, his desire was that his friends would come to know the assurance and joy he had in an intimate personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, his confidence in the loving care of his heavenly Father seemed to take fear and anxiousness off the table for him. He wanted others to see that freedom comes from knowing God, not running away from Him. Though Stephen is dead, his voice and life still speak. He is alive forevermore in the presence of His Lord and Savior.

Friend, what about you? We write to you as “Friend” because Stephen would see you as his friend and we want to be like our son!

In your heart, is the Spirit of God calling you into a closer personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you have the assurance that Stephen has, that if you were to die today that you would be ushered into the Lord Jesus Christ’s presence?

You can have this assurance by simply confessing your rebellious and sinful heart toward God and by faith believe that because of God’s love for you He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins; and by believing that God the Father raise Jesus up from the dead to be the firstfruit of all those who would be saved unto eternal life.

Stephen prayed this prayer about 25 years ago. Two weeks ago today Stephen began to literally live eternal life . . . Alive, Alive, Alive Forevermore with his heavenly Father.

Christian friend, what is God saying to you? Please open your heart wide to the Spirit of God to fill you with His love and comfort. Cast off every sin and weight that keeps you from going deeper into the joy of God’s presence and living fully to His glory here on earth (Hebrew 12:1-4).

We want to hear from you, especially if you struggle to make sense of Stephen’s tragic accident. We ache in our hearts for the loss of our precious son, but at the same time we are experiencing the comfort and strength from our Heavenly Father. He is enfolding us into His love and goodness. So Dear Friend, do not hesitate to call or email us if you have concerns. We sincerely mean that. May God bless you!

Lovingly,

Nelson & Linda Reed
425-984-5724, n.reed@actionintl.org; linda.reed@actionintl.org;

Click to watch Stephen’s Memorial Service; also click to watch “Dream Big – A Video Tribute to Stephen Reed” by Chris Storer

Housing 12 Kids

Over the past two weeks, we have temporarily adopted my siblings’ children. My brother lost his brother in law to a tragic accident so he left the kids with us as he and my sister-in-law attended the wake services and funeral in Seattle. And then my other nephews and niece wanted in on the fun so they stayed with us, too.

From the 12 kids we housed at one point, we are now down to just 7. It’s been a crazy week, but a grace-filled one, too.

There were a few instances when one or two of my nephews and nieces acted up. One of them bit and clawed at our househelp. I know. Not good at all. Another one outrightly rebelled against Edric in front of the other kids. Edric and I dealt with these matters…primarily by talking to my siblings who could do something about their own children. And they did, which was greatly appreciated.

During one occasion, I did have say to one of the little boys, “You are in our house and you will follow our rules which means you will obey. If you don’t, you don’t get to stay.” I had to lay down the “law,” and he didn’t hate me for it. He knew I meant business and respected that. Children appreciate boundaries. Plus, being banished from a house full of cousins was the last thing he wanted. 

Apart from these minor attitude issues, and some unprecedented events and circumstances…like one of my nieces coming over with a head full of lice, and all the kids getting intestinal flu, by God’s grace, Edric and I survived and we are still surviving more children in our house! 

I have come to realize that it’s not the number of children that are a burden. (Okay, groceries can get expensive but praise God for His provision.) What makes the biggest difference is obedience and respect! 

Because MOST of my nephews and nieces are obedient and respectful they haven’t given us heartache these past two weeks. In fact, I can honestly say that having all of them over has been a delight! I experienced first hand how true the Bible is when it reads, “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” (Proverbs 29:17)

So I applaud the efforts of parents all over the world, including my siblings, who are deliberate and give their best effort to training their children. Even if no child is perfect 100% of the time, a child who has the heart to be obedient and respectful is a wonderful blessing to everyone! 

Some highlights of the past two weeks:
Edric getting the kids to recite their memory verse… 
Homeschooling together…  
    
Outdoor fun… 

    

    
Evening playtime… 

    
Some physical labor…    

   

Movie time… 

    
Playgroup…

    Tiana having more girls to play with…

  Visiting my friend’s farm… 

   
    
    
    
 
   
    
 

Let’s see how this next week goes! 
 

Compliment Character


Years ago my third son, Titus, might have seemed like a difficult child to parent. He was strong-willed, easily upset, and physically curious. He cared little about the consequences of his actions and would often drive his older brothers, Elijah and Edan, to absolute frustration when he would destroy their toys or ruin their games with his uncooperative spirit. 

As for me, my patience was also tested with Titus. He tended to do the very opposite of what I would tell him to do which was often very maddening. Yet after applying biblical discipline and teaching him what it means to have a relationship with Jesus, Titus matured past his Wreck-It-Ralph and Curious George toddlerhood.

Today, Titus is a transformed child. This is largely due to the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. While he retains his natural curiosity to explore and discover, he has learned to exercise restraint and self-control. More importantly, when he came into a personal relationship with Jesus some years ago, his attitude became easier to redirect. He understood the importance of obedience and sought to honor Edric and me.

Previously, Edric and I were harder on Titus because there were a number of attitudes and behaviors that needed correcting. But as we learned to affirm and call out the positive in our children, we sought to do the same with Titus. In the process, other wonderful aspects of Titus’ personality began to emerge.

For example, one of Titus’ more outstanding traits is his thoughtfulness and consideration of others. Whenever he gets prizes or candies from a party or event, his instinct is to set these aside to share them with his siblings. Whenever we are homeschooling and he hears me remark, “I am thirsty, does anyone want to get me water?,” he will run down the stairs to get me a glass of water from the kitchen. Sometimes he randomly does so without me asking at all. I tell him how much I appreciate this everytime and he beams.

The other evening he set aside food and water for Edan who was sick and stuck in a separate room for “quarantine”purposes. I forgot about bringing food up to Edan but Titus remembered and I applauded him for this In fact, he volunteered to bring Edan’s dinner up to him. A few moments later, he came to me teary-eyed. “Mom, I really feel badly that Edan is sick.” He went on to share, “I really wish he was better.” As he attempted to stop himself from crying. I hugged him, blessed by his tenderness of heart. (Thankfully, Edan did get better after a few days.)

Tonight, Titus displayed yet another example of thoughtfulness and kindness by letting Elijah have the toothbrush that he wanted. I was surprised when he came into the kitchen with an ugly pink toothbrush instead of the nicer Oral-B one that was in the linen closet where I directed him to go earlier.

“Mom, can I have this one?”

“Sure, but I have another one for you.”

“Yah I know, the Oral-B one, the nicer one, but I gave it to Elijah.”

It was a simple gesture but I was so proud of him for letting Elijah have first pick. I told him. “Titus, you are so kind. I am so proud of you! God is going to reward you for the way you think about others and your unselfishness. I will get you a new toothbrush okay?”

He paused for a moment, then replied, “It’s okay, mom, I don’t want you to have to spend money.”

For a toothbrush?! I thought to myself. He didn’t want me to spend for a toothbrush?! This kid is killer sweet!

I began to reflect on the Titus before this seven-year old version…the one who used to be more self-centered, defiant and generally unaffected by the way he inconvenienced or “tortured” everyone else around him. That Titus has been replaced by a kind and thoughtful son who loves Jesus and his family. Surely it is God’s handiwork in his young heart, but I also believe that highlighting the positive has been a very effective way to inspire him to grow in the area of character.

As a mom, I need to balance out my teaching with generous praise, putting on a detective’s eye to spot godly character in my kids. I really believe that when Edric and I see the good in our children, it inspires them to pursue that good and even surpass it! We are all called to edify one another with our words, and our children, amongst all others, need to receive this edification from us in order to bloom into the persons God wants them to be. 

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭4‬:‭29‬ NASB)