Just You & Me, Baby!

No kids. Just Edric and I. I miss them but this is a lot of fun! We needed this time away.

The perks of childless traveling…

1. People think we are boyfriend and girlfriend (kind of cute but I would NEVER have been allowed to travel with Edric when I was still dating him. He he)
2. We are so efficient! It’s like leaving planet Krypton and having super powers on earth, except we left Manila and we are now in Brazil. Without the kids, we move faster and think clearer.
3. I don’t have to fill out 7 immigration cards! Yeah! Just two!
4. We only need ONE taxi. We only need ONE hotel room.
5. We take ONE suitcase each. That’s it. We don’t have to pack the whole house.
6. I am not worried about losing any of my kids. There’s no need to count them off to check that they are complete.
7. The whining and crying sounds on a plane aren’t coming from my kids. Whew.
8. Long plane rides become a time to rest and relax.
9. We can go anywhere, eat anywhere, shop anywhere we like to without anyone complaining that they are tired.
10. Edric takes such good care of me because I am the only one he needs to concern himself with.
11. We get to talk and reconnect on a much more intimate level.
12. The romance meter starts going up.

Today we arrived in São Paulo and we had dinner at a grill called Galeto’s. As we enjoyed the privacy of a corner and delicious food, we reviewed how our marriage was doing. Edric told me that he missed me paying attention to him. I didn’t know this. He said that I haven’t been asking him about his day and cuddling with him at night. These are simple things which I have taken for-granted.

Back in Manila I tend to be very pragmatic. We have so many commitments that keep us in kinetic mode. I hardly have time to sit through a meal with him without rushing off to attend to Catalina, getting ready for an event or activity, or checking my phone. This affects our relationship, sometimes more than I realize it. What a timely break God has given us to be alone and revisit our marriage.

On the plane, Edric told me, “I like traveling with you because I get to learn about you all over again. I get to see new facets of who you are.”

I think he made an important point. No matter how long a couple is married, it’s necessary to keep getting to know one another. Plus, the more you learn about your spouse the more honestly you can love them.

I like getting to know Edric, too. Every time we travel certain quirks surface…All of his things need to be in one section of the hotel room. Most of the time he under packs and runs out of clothes. He gets very introspective and reflective about life. When he is in the Duty Free of an airport, he will most probably visit the gadget store. When he does, he gets this childlike excitement when he is in there. His idea of touring is taking in the sights and culture of a city in an unhurried sort of way. Even though he gets hungry often, he would rather spend on shopping than on food. He is a sucker for souvenirs. He holds my hand more. (I like that part!)

It’s been difficult to be gone from our five little darlings at home. However, Edric and I do need these just-you-and-me-baby kind of trips to “study” one another so we can get an A+ on our relationship!

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Vomit

It’s not a pretty title but it’s my descriptor for what happened this afternoon, in the car, on Edric’s leg, on his leather shoes, on his hand, and laptop bag. Of all the people to vomit on, I wish it hadn’t been Edric. No it wasn’t my throw up. It was Titus’. He gagged on the lettuce in his tuna sandwich while he was sitting on Edric’s lap.

I saw it project out of Titus’ mouth like it was happening in slow motion. All I could think of was Noooo. Stoooop. And then the jarring sound of Edric’s voice interrupted the freeze-frame scene. “TITUS!!!” He yelled his name and there was silence. The vomit was out.

Who was to be pitied? I was torn. Edric couldn’t clean himself because Titus was on his lap. But Titus was tearing because Edric had shouted his name. I felt badly for both.

I can deal with vomit. As a mother, I have conquered worse. But Edric wasn’t prepared to take on the regurgitated mess that was oozing down his handsome pair of slacks and staining his leather shoes. For one thing, he had some of it on his hand.

Yet my heart also went out to Titus. Although he had no vomit on him (let’s call him vomit-free), he was hurting inside. I wanted to start preaching to Edric about our family bible study two nights ago. Edric had asked the kids to memorize and apply 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. It begins with LOVE IS PATIENT, LOVE IS KIND. Furthermore, we attended a worship service last Sunday where the preacher spoke about RESPONDING AND NOT REACTING.

The acronym he shared was P.R.A.Y. – Pause, Resist your first instinct, Ask God how you should respond, Yield to his will. During Sunday service Edric had repeatedly whispered to me that this was a perfect message for him.

I suppose expecting Edric to apply this when Titus threw up on him was a little much. But it was the shouting that really disappointed me. That part wasn’t necessary. However, correcting Edric in front of the kids would have been the worst thing to do. So I just waited for the Lord to convict him. In the meantime, I cleaned the vomit off with wet wipes, praying in my heart that Edric would say sorry.

Praise God for whoever invented wet wipes! They are a mom’s best friend.

Very shortly after, Edric asked for Titus’ forgiveness and embraced him. Titus felt the liberty to express his hurt and they were reconciled as father and son. Edric knew he had been wrong to raise his voice…vomit or no vomit.

Interestingly, that same evening while I was baking salted caramel cupcakes for our friends, I had a wonderful chat with a dear sister in the Lord. It just so happened that the topic veered towards her husband. And she shared with me an insight about marriage that ministered to me.

“When I got married my dad told me to let my husband make mistakes.”

One incident that she narrated was particularly hilarious. Many years ago her husband was in charge of a fundraising activity for their church. He successfully collected seven thousand dollars. At the time, there was no account to deposit the amount in and he didn’t want to put it into his own bank account, for integrity’s sake. So while he was responsible for holding on to the cash, he stuck the bills in a sour cream container which he put in the freezer for safe-keeping.

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I know this guy. He is intelligent. So as crazy as this freezer idea was, I know it had nothing to do with his IQ. He did, however, fail to mention this very important detail about the sour cream container to his wife (my friend).

One day his mom came over and cleaned out their freezer while they were away. Like any loving mother, she thought she was doing her children a good deed. The sour cream container was thrown out! She just assumed it was trash.

When my friend found out that her husband had “deposited” the money into their freezer and lost it, she was incredulous. She couldn’t believe that he had stored it in their freezer!

But being the supportive, godly and faith-filed woman that she was, she encouraged her husband by saying, “I think your boss is going to write you a check to replace the money.”

Amazingly, her husband received a check from his boss. Furthermore, because her husband was man enough to come before their church congregation and explain what happened to the money, God redeemed the situation. Donations poured in, so much so that the church had to turn down cash at a certain point.

When my friend told me this I was encouraged. There are occasions when Edric’s decisions or actions trouble me. Because I love him deeply and recognize the impact his choices have on our family, I get nervous and worried when I feel like he isn’t applying godly wisdom or Christ-likeness.

The vomit incident was a case in point for me. I really wanted to hammer Edric down with statements about what he did wrong and why it was wrong. Why did he have to get angry at Titus? Why didn’t he consider how yelling might wound his spirit and upset the rest of us who were witnesses to his reaction? Would the kids think he was being a hypocrite for teaching one thing and then doing the opposite?

Had it not been for the prodding of the Lord to be cool and calm, I would have spewed out my own form of verbal vomit. But thankfully, Edric came to his own realization about his shouting. Surely this was the working of the Holy Spirit in his own heart.

Here is where I want my friend’s story and this vomit incident to converge. God is in control of our husbands. When we are tempted to panic and instigate a “coup” to overthrow or undermine their authority, we need to step back and remember whose authority they are under.

Edric is accountable to God. If and when he gives in to thinking and behaviors that don’t please God, I know that God is going to minister to him and discipline him if necessary, for his good. If I don’t let God deal with Edric in his own way and time, then I may become the reason for my husband’s greater failures! I may become the blockade that prevents him from experiencing God’s work and victory in his life!

As I think about what my friend’s father told her — be willing to let your husband fail — I must answer certain questions. Do I trust that God loves Edric? Do I trust that he is control? Do I trust that he can turn his failures into the best opportunities for godly instruction and growing in wisdom?

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It may not happen in an instant or overnight. And sometimes the changes I hope for may take years and years of prayer. Yet my confidence is in this promise “that He (God) who began a good work in his life will complete it.” (Philippians 1:6)

And might I add that Edric used to be much more hot-headed. Small inconveniences would spike a great rise in his emotional temperature. But through the years God has caused him to change remarkably in this area. He is much more patient and careful about his words and actions. In fact, our eldest son, Elijah, told him recently, “Dad you have really changed.”

This blesses me. It’s a miracle when spouses change for the better, a miracle that speaks of God’s handiwork. When people ask me if a husband or wife will change in a marriage, hoping that marrying them will be a catalyst for positive change, I tell them, “Don’t expect that YOU can change your spouse, but GOD can. That’s why he needs to be present in your marriage.”

Tonight, Titus was the last one to finish his dinner. I saw him sitting by himself looking very much alone on our balcony. The back drop of the expansive night sky made his six year old frame look especially tiny. When Edric noticed that he was in need of company, he stayed with him. I watched the two of them engage in conversation and laugh together until Titus was done. I thought of what a tender site they were as father and son.

A wife and a mother can mop up vomit with wet wipes. But only the God of the universe can mop up the vomit of our lives. He does things like turn the heart of a hurting son back to his father’s and a father’s to his son’s. He alone can redeem the stink and mess that we make. The question is are we willing to surrender our lives and the lives of those whom we love to him so he can do so?

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Live With Your Wife In An Understanding Way

We were in the middle of a morning run when I opened up to Edric about my frustrations with our househelp. The day before they had served a huge Tupperware full of pasta to the remaining construction workers who are presently in our home. I tend to be generous with the workers and give them left-overs whenever I can, but this is a decision that usually comes from me.

I was intending to use the pasta to serve as an extra dish during the evening because we had guests coming over. However, when I asked the girls where the pasta was, they told me that they had served it to the workers.

My blood curdled a little. I didn’t want to yell or get angry, but I was irked by their presumptuousness. While I tend to be friendly with them, sometimes I feel like this makes me less of an employer in their eyes and more of a “buddy.” I do like being their friend but it’s a tricky thing with househelp. On the one hand they are employees but on the other hand they live with us like family.

This sort of relationship can get complicated. Where do the emotional boundaries lie? I care deeply for their well-being but at the same time, I need them to perform their best. But since I lean more towards being a relaxed sort of boss, there are occasions when this back fires…like that afternoon with my precious pasta.

Well, I had to move on. Eighteen people were coming over and I needed to brainstorm a menu. So I headed to the kitchen and like a madwoman on a mission, took over the place. I was fueled by my irritation which was further piqued by the absence of an actual “I am sorry, m’am,” from my house help.

This tends to be the trend with my househelp. They act apologetic when I correct them but I rarely get a verbal sorry. For the most part I have let it slide as something cultural. My sister-in-law and I have exchanged notes about the same issue. We both like the ladies who work for us very much, but for some bizarre reason, they don’t explicitly say “sorry” when they make mistakes. When they break china or glasses or decor, and I ask them about it, they will acknowledge that they did so but then laugh or gloss over it.

When I mentioned the pasta story to Edric he encouraged me to talk with our househelp. At the time, I was caught up in the whirlwind of getting dinner ready so I wasn’t in the mood to. And because I was still mulling over the pasta, I cooked everything myself to avoid interacting with them. Edric was like, “What are you doing? Just talk to them.”

I don’t know. What was I doing?! I was being childish!

After I calmed down and before the guests arrived, I decided to confront the issue and talk to all of them about what happened. The point was to explain the “ground rules” for giving away food in our house so it was clear to everyone. Well, miracle of miracles, one of them actually said sorry. I couldn’t believe it! It sounded so wonderful I made a very big deal out of it and called the rest of them to attention.

“It really matters to me when you say sorry. I know that you are but when you actually say it, it means a lot.” And then I directed my gaze to the one househelp who was the “mastermind” behind the pasta business and I gave her the opportunity to apologize to me. Thankfully, she humbled herself and did so.

The next morning when I was running with Edric I told him that I spoke with them. He was so proud of me. He knows how stressed I get over househelp problems so he felt like this was a step in a positive direction for my managerial skills as a home maker.

Our conversation was absolutely splendid until he swung it around and started correcting me. He made a connection between my desire for our househelp to verbalize a sorry and his desire for me to say sorry with feeling. Huh?! Where was this coming from? We had dealt with this topic two weeks prior and I thought it was a done discussion.

SIDE NOTE: Two weeks ago we had a talk about how we differed in the way we apologize to one another. We went into a long debate over which style of saying sorry was more acceptable — his or mine, and realized that the differences were due to upbringing. He was used to saying sorry with more drama and he expected the same of me. If I just said, “I’m sorry, babe,” he felt like I didn’t really mean it. And I felt like it was judgmental of him to say that. We finally concluded that whoever apologises needs to make sure that the hurt party knows that they are really sorry. Whew. Long story short. Moving on…

When he brought up the same topic while we were running, I sensed a lecture coming on and I reacted by saying, “What bad timing.” I wanted to dialogue about househelp woes. Inserting a teaching session felt like a “sleight of hand” to me. Well, he thought I overreacted and responded with a “forget this.” Then he sped up his pace so that I lagged about 10 meters behind him.

I wanted to catch up to him and outrun him out of pride but the hills where we now live are killer hills. It’s not like the flat surfaces we used to run on in Global City. These hills really slow me down. Plus, I am not in the best fighting form right now. My exercise rhythm has been “arrhythmic.” Edric is in better shape than I am. He certainly was when we were climbing those hills!

So I kept my pathetic pace and watched him prance like a gazelle ahead of me. I did the only thing I could at that moment…I just prayed that he would be more understanding and talked to the Lord about what just happened. My sensitivity was not to be applauded but I felt hurt that Edric had to be unkind about it. I mean, running faster just to get away from me?!

Well, about five minutes passed and I saw Edric do a u-turn. He turned and looped back to me.

When he was right beside me, I asked, “Why are you here?” half-teasing.

He smirked and replied, “The Bible says, live with your wife in an understanding way or your prayers will be hindered! I felt annoyed with you but then God convicted me – do you want your prayers to be hindered?!”

At this point we both laughed. He told me he needed to be a better listener and he role-played being one of my “girl friends.”

“Sooo, how did you feel?” He flicked his wrist like a chick would and apologized. I also said sorry for my irritation because that was wrong, too.

I wanted to write about this incident because I really appreciated Edric’s application of the passage on “living with your wife in an understanding way.” And I don’t mean to diminish my own immaturity in all of this when I reacted to him. But I wanted to highlight the fact that Edric could have jogged ahead of me all the way home but he listened to God’s prodding to consider where I was coming from. It meant a lot.

I think I speak for the majority of women out there when I say that one of the best ways for a husband to BE UNDERSTANDING towards his wife is to listen to what she is saying; consider where she is coming from — how she feels and why she feels that way; affirm and appreciate what is right and true in her perspective and actions; and then correct what is wrong with gentleness at the appropriate time.

This isn’t the most natural thing for a guy to do because I know most men want to shortcut to the correcting part with their wives. But as women we become more receptive when we know that we have been understood first.

As for me, I learned not to judge Edric’s motives when he teaches me. That’s what gets me into trouble. During the last part of our run, he reminded me, “You have to remember that I have no malice (when I am correcting you).” He explained that he says the things he does because he loves me.

So in conclusion…there has to be a healthy balance…Husbands need to live with their wives in an understanding way, but wives need to trust their husbands, too!

Edric and Joy

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (NLT)

It’s So Hard to Say Sorry…Sometimes

With five kids who are dual citizens, US and Filipino, Edric and I have to visit the US Embassy and Department of Foreign Affairs more often than most parents have to….more often than we would like to. Whether it’s getting a consular report of birth abroad, passport, or renewing an expired passport, we have to be in the US embassy or DFA almost every year.

I dread preparing all the paperwork which can be so tedious and time consuming. However, the most stressful aspect of it all is getting from our home to the different government facilities on time.

Now that we live in the QC area instead of Global City, we need to give ourselves a generous amount of time to travel. Today our appointment was at 7:45 am to renew Elijah and Titus’ passports. So Edric said we had to leave by 5:45 am.

We went to bed pretty early last night but Catalina didn’t do too well so I wasn’t very perky at 5:20 am. Usually, I can get ready in twenty to thirty minutes. I am a no frills kind of person so I don’t need to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. (I don’t even own a hair dryer…I should probably get one. But my hair is so wispy it dries quickly.)

Edric and Elijah were in our van by 5:50. I didn’t get down till about 6:00. Titus came a few minutes after. At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal but Edric looked at me disapprovingly. He thought I didn’t have a sense of urgency. When we got out of our village, he began expressing his annoyance, pointing to the traffic and saying, “Five minutes matters.” I was just quiet. The cars were moving pretty slowly. Uh oh.

When we got to Makati, he made a comment about the traffic again and said, “See, see, we are not going to make it. You can forget the embassy. You probably should rebook our schedule.”

Whoa. What was up with his doomsday perspective?!

“Why do you have to be so negative?” was my response.

“Because I used to work in Makati. I know what the traffic is like.” He had one of those irritated but restrained faces, like he was trying very hard not to be angry with me. (I need to give credit to him for this because he has changed a lot. He tries to be more quiet when he is irked with me so he can process his emotions.)

I retaliated a little, “So what do you want from me?”

“Say sorry.”

Huh? For 10 minutes? Come on.
I didn’t want to. I was quiet.

Instead of saying sorry right away, I prayed for mercy. “Lord, please, please can you help us make it there on time? Please show me mercy.” But my motivations were wrong. I wanted to make it just to show Edric that he was being over the top about my 10-minute lateness.

How could I ask for mercy if I wasn’t willing to say sorry?! I knew that God wouldn’t honor that prayer because my heart wasn’t right.

Why was it so hard to say sorry anyway?

I did a self-analysis…

I don’t seem to have a difficult time asking for forgiveness from relatives, friends, and others. But when it comes to Edric, I struggle with saying sorry sometimes.

Why? PRIDE.

This morning, I knew I was late but I also thought…give me a break, I prepared all the documents and went through all the trouble — photocopying, getting photos done, going through their records, filling out the forms. There was no thank you for that. I also had to wake up for our baby and she cried this morning so I couldn’t get ready as quickly. Furthermore, did my lateness merit his dark-cloud comments? Like we were NEVER going to make it to the embassy because of me?

God convicted me that I was just rationalizing. I was late so I needed to apologize for that. That was the issue. If we agreed on 5:45 I should have been in the van at that time. It doesn’t matter what circumstances caused my tardiness. It didn’t even matter that Edric was asking for an apology in a manner that didn’t suit my preferences. I WAS LATE. I should have just said, “Will you forgive me for being late?”

My thoughts were…Are you a child of child? Do you belong to him? Stop wrestling with the demon of pride. You need to learn to humble yourself. Do you want God’s blessing? Do you want to make it to the embassy?!

Yes, yes, yes, yes!

I turned towards Edric and said, “Honey, will you forgive me for being late?”

It wasn’t so hard after all. It came out pretty well and I didn’t gag on those words!

Of course Edric forgave me. He always does.

I asked for the Lord’s mercy again. This time it wasn’t about proving that I wasn’t such a bad person. I really didn’t want to go through the hassle of rescheduling our appointment. God was merciful indeed! He allowed us to make it to the embassy on time, with some minutes to spare before our appointment. A nice plus was the kindness and courtesy extended to us by the officials who processed our paperwork. One of the officials was a viewer of Edric’s show and he was extra gracious to us, giving us his email so we could coordinate with him directly for our children’s
Social Security numbers.

God is so good!

As I was reflecting on the events of the morning, I remembered the beautiful wedding we attended last Sunday night. The officiating pastor for the first part of the ceremony (who also happened to be my dad) gave three principles for marriage — commitment, communication, and forgiveness.

He said that these were non-negotiable in a marriage. And the enemy of marriage is selfishness, which is just another name for pride.

Saying sorry to Edric when I made a mistake even if I didn’t feel like I did something “very bad” was absolutely necessary. Why? First, Edric expressed to me that I needed to say sorry for being late so I shouldn’t have been defensive. I was late. End of discussion. I should have acknowledged his perspective and communicated the desire to improve and change.

Second, when self-centered thinking started to invade my consciousness, I should have fought it off right away. (Saying a sincere sorry immediately is one of the antidotes to having a hard heart.)

Third, when I got married I made a commitment to Edric before God to be his wife. This may not seem like an epiphany but what does it mean to be a committed wife?

A committed wife is humble. A committed wife knows how to say sorry. A committed wife wants to get better as the years go by. A committed wife receives correction with grace no matter how it is delivered. A committed wife pleases God with the thoughts she entertains about her husband and her actions towards him. And a committed wife receives God’s favor.

God could have allowed us to be late so that I learn a painful lesson. But he was merciful and gracious to me. When I admitted that I was prideful and apologized to Edric there was a peace that came from God…a peace that we would make it to our appointment and all would be well. This peace would have evaded me if I hadn’t responded to the Lord’s conviction to ask for forgiveness.

It is hard to say sorry sometimes (in marriage) but I am learning that when it is, it’s usually because I am prideful, selfish and refuse to honor my commitment to be a good wife to my husband. If I want God’s favor and hand of blessing in my life and marriage then I need to reject these ungodly inclinations and focus on doing what I know God wants me to and stop making excuses!

The wonderful bonus to all of this is Edric apologized to me too for being reactive. Praise God!

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I am committed to this guy no matter what!

You Are My Kryptonite

Edric threw his work bag into the back of the car, and plopped himself beside me. “You are my Kryptonite,” he said, throwing his arms over his head with a smirk on his face.

“Huh?! Me?!”

“Yes, my Krypton.”

I inched over to him and hugged him. I love being Kryptonite…his “weakness,” as he calls it.

We had come from a lunch and I should’ve gone home by myself, but I turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you just come home with me?!” He didn’t have much going on at work so I hoped he would take the invitation. (Plus, if he had stayed at the office, he would have been home really late because his car was color-coded.)

“I think I will do that,” was his response, and I could hardly suppress my giddy excitement. The idea of having him around for the afternoon was such a treat!

Shortly after, he semi-ruined the romantic moment when he jokingly presented what looked like a booger to me and said, “Come on, I dropped everything for you this afternoon…take it. We are one person anyway.”

“Yes we are, but we don’t have the same boogers.”

He just wanted a reaction from me, a scream of girlish horror (which he received).

I’m glad we still have fun. We play silly games. We tease. We laugh. We exchange ideas and opinions. We argue and discuss our differences. We finish each other’s sentences.  We serve the Lord together. We cry because God is good…because it’s so amazing to raise children and watch them grow up…because we don’t deserve anything that we have…because it’s all grace.

This is grace. Right here. Right now. Having a husband who is tender and sweet towards me even after 13 years of knowing everything ugly, sinful, and complicated about me, and then calling me his Kryptonite. It’s flattering. It’s comforting. It’s scary!

If I don’t walk with the Lord I can be a stumbling block in his life. I can be a thorn in his side. I can be the devious whisperer who hisses negative thoughts and ideas into his ear…about people, circumstances, the present, the future…

So I have to guard my own heart. I must walk faithfully with the Lord and make sure that I encourage him to do the same. While he is my leader and the head of our home, he has given me the privilege of his trust. And with this comes a responsibility.

He said, “I must whisper well.”

A woman whispers into the ear of her husband and she can influence him towards or away from Christ-likeness. Take for example, Jezebel to Ahab.

1 Kings 21:25 tells us, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him.”

That’s not who I want to be to Edric! But I can certainly become this way if I’m not careful. I can have a Jezebel-spirit if I’m not filled with the Holy Spirit. A Jezebel-spirit is one who seeks to control and manipulate her husband to do what is wrong in God’s eyes, for her own gain and purposes.

Recently, I have wanted to buy more furniture for the house. But Edric has told me that we have to “tighten the belt” now. We have spent a lot for our new home so we have to temper our purchases, spread them out. My impulse is to finish decorating everything right away. But I have to mind what I say when I express this desire to him. If I pressure him, he will find a way to make more money. However, he is trying to turn down offers for added income so he can streamline his activities and be more focused. As crazy as it may sound, this is a good thing. It’s what I have prayed for.

The last six months have been tough with him traveling to so many different parts of the Philippines. God convicted him to be very selective about what he commits to. Of course this means less money. However, it also means more time for family, ministry, and spearheading the homeschooling movement. These are God-honoring preoccupations that matter in eternity.

As for the house, it’s here. It’s pretty much done. The sprucing and decorating can happen as we go along. In the meantime, I have to practice contentment and thankfulness. I’ve got to support Edric’s desire to give more time to the Lord’s work and not push him to make more money for me to spend on our house. In other words, I have to mind my whisperings as his Kyrptonite because he listens to what I have to say and values it, because my happiness matters to him, and because he loves me. Therefore, my heart has to be wholly devoted to the Lord so that I speak words that encourage Edric to make choices and decisions that honor God. I want to be a GOOD Kryptonite!

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37 NASB)

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The Magic of Unconditional Love

The kids and I spent the morning at Splash Island with my siblings and their kids a few days ago. We were having a belated celebration for one of my nieces who turned 7. It was my first time to visit Splash Island and I would give it a 6 out of 10 for cleanliness and upkeep, an 9 out of 10 for fun.

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From a parent’s perspective the hygiene and sanitation factor is important to me, especially since I have little kids who often put their fingers in their mouths and swallow pool water all the time. But my kids could care less about these things. They were laughing about the frog that was swimming in the water, which the lifeguard nonchalantly picked up and chucked out of the pool, and the dark mold which made creepy patterns in the water tube slide (according to Titus).

Regardless of how Splash Island has aged over the years, the kids had a blast. Some of them even liked it better than Imperial Palace (a beautiful, world-class water park in Cebu).

Unfortunately, two unpleasant things happened during our water park morning. Elijah lost his very expensive prescription glasses, and Edan’s old and ugly crocs were stolen. (I find it hard to believe that anyone would have wanted those shoes!)

The day began with the kids bouncing around in the huge wave pool. Since I had gone to the park with 5 kids, no yaya, and no Edric, I wasn’t very “on the ball” about certain details. One very crucial detail was telling Elijah to give me his glasses before he got into the wave pool. Initially he wanted me to keep them in the locker but I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to see anything if he got lost in the park. So I told him to keep them with him. Bad idea.

While I was preoccupied with watching my three younger children, Elijah and Edan took on the biggest waves right away. A few minutes later, Elijah’s glasses were knocked off his face by a wave. Unable to see clearly, he had no idea where they were in the water. I was at the opposite end holding Catalina so I couldn’t rush over to help him find them either.

Some moments later, my siblings and I tried to look for them, hoping they would be washed “ashore.” Nothing turned up. I prayed and prayed. I also asked Elijah to hold on to Catalina when the wave pool was turned off so I could do a more thorough search. Since I didn’t bring goggles, the life guard was kind enough to lend me his. On any normal day I wouldn’t have used a stranger’s goggles, but I was pretty desperate! I swam along the sides of the pool to check the corners at the bottom. I dove down numerous times to survey the floor. Even if the water was kind of murky at the part where the waves came from (which should have totally disgusted me), I didn’t stop my hunt until I covered every inch along that end of the pool. My siblings searched other areas of the pool as well. Sadly, it was all in vain. Visiting the lost and found twice and asking them to call or text me in case the glasses were turned in didn’t make a difference either. Sigh. I felt horrible.

In the meantime, Elijah didn’t seem to mind a bit. He couldn’t see much but he was having such a good time it didn’t really matter that the entire park was blurry from his perspective.

The kids and their cousins spent the rest of the morning on the slides while I held on to Catalina. I was kind of glum because I couldn’t believe the glasses were gone. Plus I dreaded to call Edric at work to let him know.

In the changing room, I finally phoned him. Surprisingly, Edric didn’t seem too upset. He was disappointed but he didn’t get angry. I didn’t really expect him to flip out but I thought I was in for a teaching session that might have begun with, “So what were you thinking when you told him to wear his glasses while swimming?” There was none of that.

At about 12:30 pm, I had to leave. The boys stayed with their cousins and I took the girls home. During the ride home, I profusely apologized via text, telling Edric again how sorry I was. I didn’t check my phone until a while later but when I did, I read this message…”I love you and I will always take care of you.”

What?! Wow! I texted him right back, “Thanks babe. That actually made me cry…” To which he replied, “Great, that’s the idea.”

He knows what a sucker I am for sweet, tender professions of his love for me, especially when I make a mistake and feel very ashamed and unworthy. In the grand scheme of things, losing a pair of glasses may not have been a big deal. But ever since we moved to our new home we have emphasized to our children the value of being good stewards of God’s blessings. Letting Elijah wear his glasses while running around the water park was a very irresponsible decision. I should have made it very clear that he could wear them while walking from one ride to another and then asked him to hand them to me before swimming.

While I was mulling over my impaired judgment, the last thing I thought I would receive was a text message telling me that I was precious, important, and cherished. When Edric sent me his message, I felt a sudden rush of joy. He didn’t rub salt on my mistake by giving me a lecture about responsibility. Instead he emphasized my value to him as a wife. That made my day! In fact, I was so excited to spend time with him that I dressed up in an outfit I knew he would like, dropped by the store to buy him snacks, and went to his office for an impromptu visit. He was thrilled to see me.

When we were finally in the car together, he looked at me with a big smile and said, “I like it when you give me undivided attention!” He also asked, “Did you notice that I didn’t say anything negative when you called me about the glasses? That’s my new realization. I won’t say anything if I have nothing good to say and I will wait before responding.” (Edric is such an intense person that he can be reactive when circumstances trigger his emotions.)

Of course I noticed! And I loved it! After all, he knew that I was very cognizant of my wrong. So he took a much kinder approach and reassured me that I didn’t have to fret over what happened because he loved me and would always take care of me.

I felt transported to one of those cheesy scenes where I was running towards Edric in a field of flowers wearing a white billowy dress (no braces or bangs) and everything was golden with sunshine. My, my, my, the power of words spoken in a timely fashion to soothe and calm the soul of a perturbed lover (aka me)!

This incident made me realize that spouses need to say things like this to one another more often. It’s like a magical formula for romantic feelings. It’s hard for lovey-dovey feelings to blossom when the soil of a relationship is overgrown with the weeds of fear, shame, anger, disappointment, insecurity, and unforgiveness. But when unconditional love is offered, especially to the one who is undeserving, it inspires them to change for the better and to love the giver in return.

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From a spiritual perspective, it’s the same way with God. An understanding of what He did for us on the cross should result in the desire to repent of sin, serve him, follow him, and be with him. He is the truest example of unconditional love and he invites us to rest in this love rather than hide in our shame or continue in sin. Furthermore, being filled with His love allows us to channel it to others…especially to our spouses who need it the most from us!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11 NASB)

 

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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Husband vs Family

Edric and I have this “in-law” rule which we apply when we have to deal with our respective families and protect our own relationship. If Edric has an issue with my family, I front for us. And if I have an issue with his family, he fronts for me. We use statements that show we have a united front.

For example, if my family invites us to a dinner but we have our own plans as a couple or Edric wants us to do something else, I will call my parents and tell them, “I am sorry but WE have something else going on so we can’t make it.” Using WE as the pronoun communicates that we are in agreement.

The only thing that trumps the in-law rule is the husband-rule. Edric will talk to my parents or family and front for us when necessary if the issue requires him to step in. For the most part neither of us have problems with each other’s families. Both his family and mine respect our boundaries as a couple. They aren’t intrusive or demanding, which is such a blessing. Plus, I love Edric’s family like my own and he feels the same way about mine.

However, Monday night, for the first time, I was very stressed by the whole “in-law” rule. We planned to watch the new X-Men movie with my brothers, their wives and my parents. At about 4:30 PM, the idea to have dinner at Sambo Kojin together was suggested by one of my brothers. Neither Edric or I got back to him immediately because our afternoon was busy. Edric was in a meeting and I was at the grocery. We weren’t paying attention to our phones.

When Edric and I were on the way to the movie theater, he asked me to call my brother to verify the plans. All the while I thought that Edric was in agreement with the dinner at Sambo. I assumed that he had read the message and was okay with dinner. So this is what I communicated to my brother. However when I hung up, Edric told me we weren’t going to eat at Sambo Kojin. He didn’t want to spend that much for dinner.

At first I was annoyed. Why did he suddenly become so stingy about dinner? And it put me in a difficult position because I had to call my brother back and tell him that we weren’t going to join the family for dinner. The new plan was to meet them right before the movie.

After explaining the change in plan to my brother, he made a comment that hurt my feelings. He said it was “not nice” for us to go off and do our own thing if we were supposed to be spending time together as a family. I hung up on him when he said that. I was frustrated that he wasn’t getting my cue that this was about supporting Edric who was my priority. Edric was seated beside me in the car. And I wasn’t about to have a discussion with my brother over the phone about the importance of transferring loyalties to your spouse. (He knows this stuff. He would have appreciated it if his wife did the same.) My mistake was I hung up out of irritation which I had to apologize for later on.

By now my aggravation was heightened because I was in between my family and Edric. On the one hand, I knew I should honor Edric. On the other hand, my family couldn’t understand why we weren’t willing to be flexible. So I felt pressured. When I tried to bring this up with Edric and tell him that it was going to create an issue, he was dismissive about it and didn’t think it was a big deal.

He casually went to grab a burger at Mc Donald’s and asked if I wanted anything. No thanks.

My mom called me at that moment and I went to a corner to talk to her. She wanted to know why we weren’t going to join them for dinner and she attempted to convince me. It must have been a mixture of pressure, frustration and annoyance that made me start to cry. I didn’t like that this whole Sambo Kojin incident was turning into an issue. Basically, I made the request not to talk about it anymore. I let her know that I didn’t like being caught in between. And I requested that they please understand where I was coming from. I also expressed to her that I was hurt by what my brother said. I even misquoted him amidst my emotional turbulence. “He said I was being mean…” was what I told her.

Edric didn’t catch me crying because I ran off to the restroom and stayed there for a few minutes. After he bought his burger, he was like, “Tell them we can sit down with them at Sambo Kojin even if we don’t eat.”

I did this but my mom thought it would be awkward if they were all eating and we weren’t. Well I had completely lost my appetite anyway. And that was the best compromise we could think of to satisfy both sides so we headed to the restaurant.

When we got to Sambo Kojin, we sat down and started to fellowship. It wasn’t long after that my brother initiated talking about what happened. I didn’t want to discuss it at all. But he wanted closure. Personally, I was like, let’s just get to the X-men movie part.

Having to talk about it made me cry again. I felt like my brother was only seeing one angle of this incident. His personality can be so strong (like my dad’s which can be a really great thing but at that moment, I felt emotionally bulldozed). Truthfully, he is an awesome brother and we get along so well. This was more about me dealing with the internal conflict of having to “manage” both my husband’s wants and my family’s and feeling like both were somehow insensitive about the predicament I was in. I felt like an inept tight rope walker holding one of those poles to keep from falling off a thin line.

I praise God for Edric who knew I was stressed and stepped in to admit that he was the “bad guy” in all of this. He explained that he was trying to be more prudent about our spending as of late. (Like as of that same day!) After several minutes of back and forth discussion, both he and my brother finally understood where the other was coming from. They apologized to one another and my brother also apologized to me for saying the phrase, “not nice.” And I said sorry for misquoting him.

Somewhere near the meat section of the buffet, my dad lovingly took Edric aside and told him that he needs to be considerate of me being caught in between. He suggested that next time, Edric ought to be flexible. He kidded Edric and said that a dinner at Sambo Kojin was not going to bankrupt him. He could have certainly afforded to adjust so that everyone could be together and fellowship.

I praise God that Edric was humble enough to listen to what my dad had to say. He realized he had been inflexible and stubborn. He also apologized to me for putting me in an uncomfortable situation. Everyone was very understanding and accommodating of my unusual dramatics that evening. I also asked for their forgiveness for being overly sensitive.

By the end of dinner we were all in good spirits again and the bond of unity was restored. X-men turned out to be very entertaining, too (except for the more than usual violent parts which I didn’t care much for). I was thankful to Edric for sticking his neck out to clarify the issue. He took a risk by identifying himself as the source of the problem and choosing to protect me. At the same time, I appreciated my family’s positive response to conflict and their openness to discussing differences in personalities and perspectives. We all came away from the incident closer to one another.

Edric also went out of his way to make sure I had a proper meal to eat. He had Sbarro’s deliver a lasagna to me in the theater which worked out great because I love to eat while I watch a movie!

The next day, I happened to see my dad and he asked if everything was okay in reference to the evening before. He also added something like this, “Conflict is good. It’s a blessing that we can talk about these things as a family.” Furthermore he said, “When I found out that there was an issue I kept it in my ‘suspense file.’ I didn’t judge until I listened to what really happened.”

That principle got me thinking…

When it comes to the in-law rule, the husband rule, or any rule that a couple lives by when it comes to dealing with conflict with family or relatives, we need to include the suspense-file rule. Don’t judge. Give everyone the opportunity to share where they are coming from and then go for the most God-honoring solution.

Had I been more mature about it, I should have kept my emotional cool and been less judgmental…especially about what my brother said to me, the pressure that I thought my family was imposing on me, and thinking ill of Edric’s decision. These three factors caused me to go into an emotional tailspin that made me retreat into the false safety of silence. But I praise God for the more spiritually mature people around me who knew that resolving the conflict and listening to one another was the right thing to do.

Conflicts are inevitable in a marriage, family, with relatives and with others, but conflicts can also help people and relationships to grow and change for the better.

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. (Romans 12:18 NASB)

Best buds years ago…and by God’s grace we are still close today…

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The Friend Hat

I have put on the “friend hat” many times in marriage, when Edric needs someone to be vulnerable with and open up to. It’s not always easy to remove the emotional part of me that is so characteristically woman. But, there are occasions when Edric will share with me his temptations as a man, particularly in the area of women, and I have to resist the jealousy, the anger, and the pride. He doesn’t give me heartache in this area but his struggles are real and honest.

Recently, he was telling me how important it is that he doesn’t travel alone when he goes around the Philippines to give seminars for companies. He brings Elijah with him. On the one hand, Elijah is his speaking partner, but on the other hand, he is also an accountability partner.

Edric gave me a hypothetical scenario that could be spiritually precarious for him like…”What if I was alone at a hotel’s cafe and an attractive woman came up to me…” He reiterated how grateful he was that Elijah was around to keep him “safe” from this sort of temptation.

I listened with conflicting feelings. I appreciated his openness with me. That was my greater feeling. But of course, I also felt like my bloated idea of Edric’s tunnel vision for me was deflated. Pin-pricked. Duh…of course he is still a red blooded male who isn’t immune to the flirtatious behavior of women or distracted by the blatant indecencies that assault him when he turns on the TV, spends time on the Internet, or, heck, walks around or drives around in a car. Even if he is not “looking” for temptation, it finds him as it finds every man. The only difference is that he loves the Lord and that gives him the instinct to look away or run away (whichever applies). It’s only by God’s grace and divine protection that he doesn’t fall. The Lord keeps him faithful.

I listened and tried to understand where he was coming from like a friend would. I also affirmed his desire to stay pure in heart and mind. Edric doesn’t need to open up to me about these things. Yet he does.

To refrain from teetering over to ballistic-missile-wife-mode I think about this principle in James 1:19-20: But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to become angry. For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

My part as a wife is to put on the friend hat when Edric needs a sounding board, a dependable and trustworthy confidant — a listener who won’t belittle his fears, criticize his dreams, or blow up about his struggles as a man. I also need to put it on when he needs a prayer partner.

“How can I pray for you?” is a helpful question to ask when I know he feels lost, inadequate, concerned, tempted, or defeated. I wish I was always spiritually alert to know when to insert this question. Honestly, there are moments when I am thinking, what the heck?! Why are we discussing this again?!

But I think of how to keep the communication channels open between us. If I want him to keep trusting me with the secrets of his heart, my words and attitudes must be tempered with sensitive thoughtfulness.

Proverbs 31:11 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her…”

The other night we were counseling a couple and they expressed a sad reality that can infect any marriage.

“When we were dating and first married, we had so much to talk about, but now we find that we don’t have much to talk about at all.”

This couple admitted that there are certain topics that have become off limits between them because they lead to conflict. Furthermore, the hurt and disappointments have piled up over the years. So their conversations are more pragmatic and lack the depth of true communion. (The good news is they are willing to work towards restoration and healing because they want to have a Christ-centered marriage.)

A marriage can only last so long without the intimacy that God designed it to have. While we may tend to blame our spouse when it is gone, we have to take a look at ourselves and consider if we may have pushed them away by our careless and selfish responses to who they are and how they present themselves to us.

In Genesis it says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”(Genesis 2:24, 25 NASB)

I believe that intimacy goes beyond the physical. It says in Genesis, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. While they were literally naked, I would like to think it was more than that. There was nothing to hide. They weren’t afraid that the other would point an ugly, judgmental finger and emphasize every flaw and imperfection in their person. They didn’t feel compared, measured, or insufficient. There was total trust, total security, total confidence in one another’s affection and devotion.

We all come into marriage longing for this sort of relationship-perfection. And sometimes I wonder if what Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden was a fantasy of an idea, an impossible utopia? But while I was attending “Unshakable,” a conference by apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and his team, he made a statement about HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY. Our tendency to blame others, especially God, for the unfortunate and unpleasant circumstances that are present in this world, makes us overlook our responsibility to embrace God’s will and design.

We took his beautiful design of oneness of flesh and nakedness without shame and we defiled it with sin. Sin brought the shame, distrust, fear, and pain that enters into marriages today. As a result, we are cautious about what we say and what we do. We prefer self-preservation and conflict-avoidance. We stop revealing ourselves honestly and openly to the person we have called beloved.

However, the longing to do so remains. And we become lonely and dissatisfied because our relationship doesn’t meet this need. Worst of all, when someone else dangles the hope that this need could be met, it moves us only farther away from our spouse and closer to sin and unfaithfulness.

So open communication is important. It is not a guarantee against an affair but it builds the intimacy that is necessary for a husband and wife to feel connected and safe with one another.

My mom gives seminars on Open Communication and here are some pointers she shares on HOW TO HAVE OPEN COMMUNICATION:

- Make time – don’t send busy signals
- Give your full attention (set distractions like gadgets aside, turn off the TV, move away from the computer screen)
- Listen to their heart / feelings
- Show interest by asking questions
- Don’t lecture
- Don’t react, raise your voice or get angry
- Do not use phrases like “you always…or you never…”
- Share your own struggles and stories
- Ask, “How can I pray for you?”

These suggestions seem pretty straightforward but the path back to intimacy must invite Christ. I have said it so many times in my entries that God must be present in a marriage. It is his presence that restores the “Eden-like” relational climate between a husband a wife. With God’s love, forgiveness, grace, and hope, a wife can come along side her husband as a life-giver as she listens to the most vulnerable of his thoughts and feelings. And a husband can offer the strength a wife needs when she admits her fears and insecurities. They can be “naked and an unashamed”, even at the risk of hurting or being hurt.

I am not saying that being truthful has to be done in a brutal, tactless sort of way. After all, the Bible says that our speech needs to be “seasoned with grace.” But, we can invite one another to these shoulder to shoulder, side-by-side-I-am-here-for-you-sort-of-moments. It doesn’t always have to be about our struggles and temptations. It’s also about sharing our highs, victories, and joys.

I am not writing this for the men but if it helps them, then well and good. I am really writing this for us women. We have the privilege of being best friend to our husbands. Let’s not relinquish that special place that should belong to us!

On the way home from a wonderful evening with our bible study group in Vieux Chalet, Antipolo, Edric took my hand as we reflected on the recent ministry activities we have been involved in. He said, “I am so glad I am going through this journey with you. I can’t imagine doing this (life) on my own.”

Edric and I love one another deeply in a romantic way, but I praise God that he is able to say what he did because we are also great friends.

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Courtship and Dating

I was going through my old files and I found this talk on Courtship and Dating. For my single readers out there…this is for you…

Edric and I would like to share with you how our relationship started so that you can copy the good about it and avoid the mistakes we made. Some things we learned the hard way and we want to be honest with you. But we pray that at the end of this, you will be blessed and encouraged to follow God’s principles for courtship and dating.

Edric: Joy and I have been happily married for 13 years. We have three boys, Elijah, Edan and Titus, and two girls, Tiana and Catalina. We first met in college at Ateneo. I was a very religious person and one of the things that got me interested in Joy was our first conversation. Since we had psychology class together, we sometimes had group projects. And during one of these occasions we were seated beside each other and had a very deep conversation about God. Before then, I had crushes on many different girls and Joy was never one of them because even though I thought she was beautiful, she struck me as someone foreign—not someone I would click with. But after getting to talk to her, I was completely intrigued.

Things to note –

  • Don’t rule out someone who is not your initial type because God they could turn out to be God’s best type for you. Be willing to look further than just your comfort zone.
  • Men appreciate being able to have a meaningful conversation with a woman. And women, if you can practice the art of good conversation (asking thoughtful questions and acknowledging and responding to our answers), that makes us feel very connected with you.

Joy: When I first got to talk to Edric, I immediately noticed that he was different than most of the guys in college. He was a principled person. He was straightforward, honest, and easy to talk to. We were both blessed to have been raised with a godly set of values, so we had a lot in common. But, we had different religious beliefs. So initially, I guarded my heart because I did not want to get involved with someone who did not share the same faith. That was the most important criteria for me in dating anyone. But, it was very difficult not to like Edric. He was very gentlemanly, sweet, kind, and charming.

Things to note –

  • As women, we appreciate transparency and unpretentiousness (like the guy isn’t trying to prove anything or put up a front). It makes us feel like we can trust the man. Values mean a lot to us. A guy can be super goodlooking, carry himself well, and be very confident, but if he doesn’t have a good set of values, he becomes unattractive very fast (to women who are looking for a serious relationship).
  • Try to find out if the person shares the same belief that you do even before you start to fall for a person. Once you get married, you need to be spiritually aligned because you will be making decisions and establishing values as ONE, especially when it comes to convictions about faithfulness, finances and parenting.

Edric started to pursue a relationship with me sometime after that and I remember that he came to my house one evening during our Junior year of college with 36 roses to ask me out to dinner. My parents realized that he was seriously interested in me. They said to me that evening, “Why don’t you invite him in to have dinner with the family instead of going out?” They wanted to get to know him. Edric was a very good sport and agreed.

Things to note –

  • When a guy is open to getting to know your family it is a very positive sign. It means that he has nothing to hide, that he wants to get to know more about you through the people that you care about. And, it makes a very remarkable impression on your parents and siblings!
  • And of course, being blatantly romantic is very charming. Almost every woman I know appreciates it when a guy goes the extra mile just to communicate that you are important to him. Thirty-six flowers was very sweet.

Edric: I remember during this dinner that Joy’s dad asked me a very famous question that he asks all dinner guests. “Edric, have you ever come to a point in your spiritual life wherein you are sure that if you die you will go to heaven?” All of Joy’s four siblings turned to face me as I answered, “Yes, I think so, because I try to be a good person.” Joy’s father said, “That’s interesting, well maybe one of these days I can share with you what it means to really have that assurance.” And as if on queue, Joy’s siblings said, “Why don’t you share with him now?!” In a matter of seconds, one of them had run to get a bible and plopped it right in front of Joy’s dad. Then, Joy’s siblings politely vacated the table to give us privacy. That night, I came to understand salvation and place my trust in Jesus Christ. Before this time, I had always thought that I could earn my way into heaven by being a good person. But that night, something changed. I accepted Jesus into my heart and I began to have a personal relationship with him. A different kind of peace came over me. I had the assurance that if I died that very day, I would be with Jesus, not because of my good works, but because he died for me and paid for my sins. But I still had a lot of spiritual growing that I needed to experience.

Things to note -

  • Spiritual leadership is one of the key roles of a man, especially in marriage. Whenever we conduct premarital counseling for couples, I always tell the guy, the buck stops with you. As a man, you are going to be the head of your marriage relationship, and the most important aspect of being the head is that you have to take charge spiritually. You don’t have to “dominate” spiritually but you are going to be held accountable for the spiritual health of your wife and kids. When Adam and Even sinned in the garden of Eden, God looked for Adam. He held Adam responsible even if Eve took the first bite. When I was in college, I didn’t know how critical it was that for me to be a spiritual leader as man, and that is why I want to share this with you, as early as now, before some of you make any major decision in the area of relationships. Are you ready to lead, take the helm?

Joy: After this evening, I got very excited. I thought, yippee! Edric understands what I believe, we can actually start dating! Well that was a wrong perspective. I should have waited on God’s perfect timing. My parents liked Edric very much but they also wanted me to focus on my studies more. Unfortunately, Edric and I started to became a distraction to each others’ studies, to developing our abilities and other relationships, and to maximizing our time to do ministry and serve others. Why? Because it was not yet the right time. The reality was that we were still in college, so even if we really thought we loved each other, we couldn’t get married, yet.

Things to note –

  • Sometimes it can be the right person but not the right time. Or the right time but the wrong person. Both of those have to be right before you commit to a relationship.
  • A very practical way to discern if you are ready to get into a serious relationship is this guideline: Each person needs to answer three major questions in their life –The 3 M’s — Master, Mission, and the Mate. If you already know who your master is – meaning who you will commit your life to (the spiritual question), then you can answer the second question, what will I do with my life, how will I best serve and glorify God with the abilities and strengths he has given me? And if you have answered that second question because you are already doing what you believe God wants you to be doing, then you can ask yourself the third question. What kind of person will enable me to pursue a life that is pleasing and glorifying to God?

Here some other practical considerations:

  1. Have you made a list of what you are looking for in a person you would like to marry?
  2. For the men – are you able to be financially independent from your parents and provide for a family?
  3. Have you established your personal standards for purity (that you are not willing to compromise on)?
  4. Do you have your parents’ full blessing and approval to get into a relationship with this person?

Edric: When Joy and I started to get serious about our relationship, we also began to compromise in the area of physical purity. We really believed that we loved each other and we were very attracted to each other. Because we spent a lot of alone time together, it was very hard to resist being physical with each other. Praise God we didn’t go all the way but we came way too close, too many times. This was a source of tension in our relationship because we both felt frustrated that we were not pleasing God.

After college, Joy and I began to think more objectively about our relationship. We both wanted to get married but we knew that we were not practicing purity before God. We said, “How can we expect God to bless our relationship if we are not completely obeying him?” We both decided to do something drastic — to break up and spend time discerning God’s direction for us as individuals. God convicted us to ask, “Whom do you love more, this person or me?” We had made each other more important than our relationship with God.

Things to note –

  • Because being physical outside of marriage is not God’s design, you cannot expect God’s blessing or hand to be upon your life or the relationship. Both Joy and I wanted God’s blessing. We did not have peace about staying together if we could not control the physical aspect of our relationship. Some of you might be in the same predicament or you might have experienced this same issue in the past. And let me assure you that if you put God first, he will work things out for good in your life. For those of you who don’t think it is such a big deal to be physical before marriage, let me caution you. We are all free to make decisions but not free to escape the consequences. Joy and I have counseled a lot of couples who do not experience a fulfilling sex life in marriage because they exhausted that aspect long before they ever God married. And when you mess with God’s design, there will always be consequences. God’s grace can turn things around, but if you want God’s best plan for your future marriage, then make the hard decisions now – decisions that are based on God’s word and truth and not what the world is saying or doing.

1 Corinthians 6:18-19 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Joy: Edric and I believed that if we put God first in our lives and seek him first, then he would bring us back together if that was his will. But we needed to want him above all things, above even our love for one another. When we broke up, we sought God independently and put him first. But it was extremely painful and difficult. The terms were: no communicating, no text messaging, no emailing unless absolutely necessary. God allowed this period of separation to be a time of delving in God’s word, reviving my prayer life, focusing on my job, and getting involved in ministry work. The same happened for Edric. Our lives became fruitful again.

Things to note –

  • When you are waiting on God for a person or answer about a relationship, don’t be passive. Busy yourself doing ministry, go all out in your job, enjoy your friendships and loved ones, and most of all, find your completeness in Christ. One of the most dangerous things you can think about relationships is “This person is going to make me happy.” That’s not true. You need to take two happy, contented people to make one happy relationship. Find your joy and satisfaction in Christ and you can love your future spouse out of this joy and satisfaction.

Edric: This was a very difficult period for me. No one had ever broken up with me. In the past, I was the one that did the breaking up with my ex-girlfriends. But God used this period of separation to work in my heart and prepare me to be a husband.

God was amazingly faithful. I continued to pray for Joy and Joy continued to pray for me. I knew in my heart that Joy was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But the Lord had to confirm this. My practical concerns were: I would have to be the spiritual leader, be able to make enough money to provide for a wedding, family, and home. And most importantly, get the full blessing of both Joy’s parents and my parents if I was ever to ask her for her hand in marriage.

I set up a secret meeting with Joy’s mom and dad for their blessing to marry her. They said yes. Whew. After half a year of praying, preparing and discerning, I was ready to ask Joy to marry me. Finally, I asked God, is it time? And he led me to this verse in Exodus 3:33, “I myself, the Lord answered, will go along to give you rest.” And I had complete peace. I set up an elaborate plan to orchestrate the proposal and I put the ring inside an old Bible and wrote out the question, “Will You Marry Me?” Everyone was in on the plan, except for Joy. Praise God she said, “Yes!”

Things to note –

  • God knows the desires of your heart. If these desires are for your greater good, he will give them to you. If they are wrong desires, he will give you something better. The key is to discern when you are in the center of his will – so he can speak to you clearly. The same thing applies to relationships. You might be interested in someone and think, this person is it! If only God will allow us to be together! If you pray about it and God says a clear no, then be excited that God has someone better. Joy and I had to have this mindsight even if it was difficult. But praise God, he wanted us to get married.

I also did something a little bit unorthodox before proposing marriage to Joy. I called up my two ex-girlfriends to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. God convicted me to make sure that I cut ties in an honorable way, and avoid bringing any emotional baggage into my marriage. So I asked them if there was anything I did to hurt or offend them by the choices I made while dating them. And I said sorry. This liberated me to move on with a clean conscience.

Things to note –

  • If you have not settled issues with past relationships and you want God’s blessing for your marriage, consider this passage: Matthew 5:23 – 24 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” The principle is put your affairs in order in the area of relationships, so that you can come before God and honor him at the marriage altar.

Joy: Hebrews 11:6 says, And without faith, it is impossible to please him (God) for He who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. When we sought to put God first, God rewarded us. By God’s grace, Edric and I are happily married. We love being married, having a family, and serving God together.

family 2

 

Things to note –

  • God has a plan for each one of you. It is the best plan. If he decides to bring a special someone to your life then rejoice and if he doesn’t, well, you can rejoice also because he wants you especially for himself. But do your part – if you want to find the best person, then be the best person first. Focus on what you can control – plan out your singlehood by living it out to the fullest, in a way that glorifies God – but be open to the possibility that God may change and interrupt those plans by bringing someone into your life.

Be blessed and encouraged my dear single readers! While you wait and pray, may you experience God’s best even now – GOD HIMSELF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Bullies Become Friends

IMG_2752It’s always interesting to see how my kids will respond to children who pick on them. Although it doesn’t happen often because it isn’t easy to gang up on five children (okay Catalina doesn’t quite count yet since she is still a baby), the younger ones do get their share of unpleasant encounters with the bullying kind. When this happens Edric and I find ourselves having to weigh the appropriate response. Should we intervene? Should we tell them to fight back? To extend grace, to turn the other cheek and be Christ-like?

The other day Tiana came running out of Playdium in Fun Ranch sobbing. “I want to stay with you, mom. I don’t want to play anymore.”

This was uncharacteristic of her. At the time I didn’t know what was going on so I encouraged her to go back in. She obeyed but thirty minutes later, she was crying again.

Upon investigating the matter, it was brought to my attention and the other moms who were with me (my sister and two sisters in law), that there was a boy who was yelling at my children and their cousins. He was also throwing objects at them.

Tiana, my sweet 3 year old, was especially affected. Had her father been around he may have handled the situation differently. He is especially protective of our daughters!

I asked the kids to point out who the boy was, and I saw this cute five year old who was complaining to the attendant on duty that he was the one being victimized. As I watched him gesticulate and make all kinds of dramatic statements about the kids who were bothering him, I found it hard to believe that this same little boy could harass a group of 8 children, half of whom were larger than he was. But my kids confirmed that he was indeed the culprit who was being nasty to them.

From the outside of the play area I called to him, “Come here, what is your name?” He answered without hesitation. I asked him, “What happened?” He explained that he had built something that some kids had knocked down. It hadn’t been my kids or their cousins but he had blamed them. That’s why he yelled and threw objects at them. My children looked on as this boy gave his defense. They must have realized what I had, that he wasn’t really an unkind boy, that he was merely acting on an assumption.

Author and speaker, Craig Groeschel said, “hurt people hurt others.” Sometimes it’s worth it to find out where a “bully” is coming from. That afternoon I wanted to teach my children how to reach out to this boy who was in need of some friends to play with.

“Would you like to play with these kids?” I asked him. His furrowed eyebrows relaxed and his expression softened. “Yes.”

“If you want other kids to play with you, then don’t shout at them, okay?

He nodded his head.

I was still leaning over the rail as I introduced him to my kids and their cousins. Elijah immediately invited him to build a tower. And they all ran off to enjoy the rest of their time at Playdium.

My job is done here, I thought to myself. The kids got my cue.

I watched them run around the different obstacles together with this “bully” turned friend as part of their troop. At the end of the hour, he told them they were his best friends.

He was a very nice boy who had been misunderstood. I am not saying that all children who bully others are this sweet under their rough and tough exteriors. But I think it pays to try and understand what the root cause of their behavior is and what they are really after.

My nephew was in a big school and a boy drew on his shirt during class. But this same boy ended up wanting to be his friend. My nephew was kind to him and they became good friends during the course of the year.

Kindness may not always win against bullies but it’s worth trying as a first response. If it doesn’t work and a child keeps harassing your children, then do what we do…our kids have Muai Thai classes to defend themselves and those they love if necessary!

In the car, I told the kids that I was proud of them for playing with the boy.

“If someone isn’t nice to you then reach out to them, if they still are unkind, it’s not your problem anymore. At least you tried. We represent Christ so in our responses to people, we must treat others in such a way that they will be attracted to Christ. Now, if they fight you and try to physically hurt you, you guys do Muai Thai! You can defend yourselves!” ;)

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I love you even with your braces and bangs.

Braces and bangs…what was I thinking?! I didn’t realize how awkward I would look. And I must admit that I struggle with vanity from time to time. The comedy of it all is I had to give so many talks these past two weeks. There were blog readers who came up to me wanting photos and I wanted to run away because I am vain!!! I didn’t want to smile and pose for the camera. I know…it’s silly.

After one of my seminars, Edric confronted me in a loving way and told me to get over it. He knew I was self conscious because I was hardly moving my upper lip. I looked like an unskilled ventriloquist. Part of the problem was my lips kept snagging on my braces.

It’s been a few weeks since I first got them. Thankfully, these are fast braces so I shouldn’t have to wear them for too long. In the meantime, while I am looking like a teenager with wrinkles, I am so glad Edric told me two mornings ago, “I love you even with your braces and bangs.”

He would prefer that I didn’t have either but at this stage, 13 years into marriage, we understand that physical appearances aren’t the most important aspect of a marriage. I am not saying it’s not necessary to be attracted to your spouse and to do your best to be attractive for your spouse. But it’s certainly wonderful to know that braces and bangs aren’t going to change the way Edric feels about me. I don’t have to look perfect. I am not pressured to be flawless.

At the recent wedding of my cousin, Joseph, the officiating pastor, Jay Jackson, said, “Because love sees more it is willing to see less.”

He certainly meant more than just the physical but since I am on the topic of external appearances, permit me to say how much I appreciate a couple of things about my husband…

I am so thankful I married a guy who doesn’t compare me to the attractive women he meets. (He interviewed three gorgeous beauty queens for his TV show a few weeks ago.) I am so thankful that he doesn’t entertain attractive stalker women online. (Some women don’t care that he is a married man. They still attempt to get his attention and flirt with him.) I am so thankful he doesn’t ogle at bill boards of younger women or look up pornography. He admits that he is tempted to just like any other man, but he tries his best to guard what he sees.

Why? Because he loves God. He wants to please Him. If Edric didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord, I wouldn’t have the same sort of peace that I do about our marriage. But because he does it affords me rest from trying to KEEP him attracted to me. I try to stay fit and take care of myself so I don’t fall apart physically. However, no amount of striving in this area would make him faithful to me unless he desired to live for God.

I have seen the same conviction in my father who has stayed faithful to my mother. The other day I was showing my dad old photos of him and my mom. And he began to have tears in his eyes. My dad hardly gets emotional! But he went through each photo with me, commenting on how beautiful my mom looked. Afterwards he asked me to send the photos to him. As he made his way up the stairs to his study room, he glanced back at me with an expression of tender affection and added, “It is good for a husband to look through old photos and remember how much he loves the wife of his youth…” He seemed to be lost in a moment of sweet remembering as he smiled and climbed the remainder of the stairs.

When he said “wife of your youth,” I remembered this passage in Proverbs…Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:15, 18 NLT)

A man marries the woman he loves but a man who loves God keeps loving the woman he married.

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