It’s Never Okay to Throw a Toilet Paper Roll at Your Husband

After writing an article last week on “Fighting with Gentleness,” I messed up big time. I mean, BIG TIME. I’ve been honest with my readers about my mistakes as a wife and mother, so I’m not going to plaster over this one.
During an argument with Edric two Sundays ago (after church, mind you), I threw a toilet paper roll at him. Yes, a toilet paper roll! Why?!

What triggered this outburst in me? What happened to me?! I’m not a thrower.

Okay, I’m not going to lie. There was one other time that I threw something. It was four years ago. Edric and I were agitated at one another. I flung the remote control towards the other end of the room where it crashed into the wall and fell apart.

I had to apologize profusely and ask for forgiveness for my display of violence. Thankfully, Edric dispensed his forgiveness in a very sweet and gracious way, assuring me that he loved me no matter what. But I regretted that moment for many months after. I still regret it.

So why did I revert to throwing again? And this time, a toilet paper roll?

Let me go back to the beginning, when a discussion took place about breakfast. (We have at least one altercation a year that deals with breakfast. I don’t know why. It just happens.)

Edric’s first statement was to serve variations of scrambled eggs. We eat pretty hearty breakfasts. Eggs are a big part of our morning meals. For a while, we were doing more scrambled eggs than fried or boiled. Then Edric asked to add more fried eggs to the menu. Finally, a few weeks ago, he was tired of the sunny side up eggs and requested for more stylized scrambled eggs.

My fault was forgetting to inform our househelp right away. So I had to apologize to Edric for not implementing his instruction immediately. This initial conversation was fine. But the breakfast discussion continued. Edric commented about how his morning meal is often cold. So he specified that breakfast be served at 6:15 AM instead of at 6 AM.

This kind of irked me because it seemed so nit-picky. A difference of 15 minutes? Really? But I got it. Ever since I can remember, he has disliked eating re-heated food and wants everything served hot right before he sits down at the table. So I tried to avoid over-reacting.

However, when I asked him what time he wanted breakfast served on Saturday and Sunday, he answered, “That’s flexible.” I got confused. If hot meals were so important to him then why say that the timing for breakfast on the weekends was flexible? When I bugged Edric to give me a time, he began to be annoyed. So I said something like, “Look, you’re the only one who has a problem with cold food, so please say a time that we can all work with for the weekends, too.”

Edric rebutted, “Everyone has a problem with cold food.”

“Everyone?” I challenged. “It’s just you who has this issue.”

Then I proceeded to interview each of the kids sitting in the back (such a disrespectful thing to do), and they all supported Edric’s hot food perspective. Oops. I was the loser.

He snapped at me and said something he never has. “You’re bringing the kids into this? You are so pathetic!” It wasn’t a shout but there was emphasis and anger in his tone.

Oh my. It was on. I forgot everything I wrote about fighting with gentleness in my article, and the war began.

Defensively I quipped, “Well, not everyone has a problem with cold food because I, for example, don’t care if food is hot or not. In fact, I don’t even like hot food.” (I seriously don’t because it burns my tongue.)

“You mean you don’t like freshly cooked, warm food?” Edric asked doubtfully.

“Yes I do, but I can live without it,” was my response.

“So if you go to Shang-rila buffet, you won’t mind it if the food they served wasn’t hot?” Edric cynically questioned my logic.

“That’s a totally different scenario. My point is, if you are so picky about hot food then you should decide a specific time for breakfast to be served on the weekends, too, so we can all adjust to you,” I replied.

He still refused to give a time, claiming that it was my responsibility as a homemanager to institute these things. But, since he was micromanaging weekday breakfast schedules then why not do the same for the weekend, too?

When we got home and the kids vacated the car, I nearly pinched him on the shoulder and snapped at him, “Don’t ever say something like that to me!” (I was referring to the pathetic statement.)

He fired back at me, “No, you don’t do that!” (Referring to my disrespect and attempt to pinch him.)

Some of the older kids heard this. This situation was awful. We had argued in front of the kids and dishonored one another. Up to the bedroom we both stomped.

Edric wasn’t going to brush this conflict aside. He sat across from me on the bed and initiated conflict resolution. I can’t narrate everything that was said, but it was a convoluted mess of tears, frustration, exaggeration, blaming, judging, and yes, a toilet paper roll at the height of it all. That was my doing. I stormed out of the bathroom with the toilet paper in my hand and meant to hit his body with it but I totally missed. He was only two feet away, too. (My aim is terrible when I’m emotional.)

He volunteered his body to be hit again as a taunt, and I half jokingly claimed that I needed a bigger object to throw at him. Of course I didn’t take him up on his offer!

Somewhere in the middle, Edric pulled the “you are going to have your period” card to explain my irrational reactiveness, which got me worked up again because my period was far, far away. And he pulled out his phone to video our conversation as evidence of my emotional instability. He planned to archive the video for future reference. This didn’t help towards resolution.

We must have been in our bedroom for over an hour, with the door locked and the kids pounding on it several times calling us down to lunch. We had to gently shoo them away, explaining that, “Mommy and daddy need to talk.” The older kids understood, but the younger ones returned several times. In the end, Edric and I asked for forgiveness from one another and from our children. Peace returned to our home.

But, wow. I couldn’t believe the incident happened in the first place, and over a breakfast conversation! It was so wrong of me to hurl that toilet paper roll at Edric. It was so wrong of me to snap at him and be disrespectfully irritated. When I think about that incident I am reminded of a very important life principle: Never let your spiritual guard down.

1 Peter 5:8 so sensibly put it: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Edric and I spent the first quarter of 2016 serving the Lord and ministering to others. Yet, serving the Lord and doing ministry doesn’t guarantee spiritual perfection. In fact, it sometimes has the tendency to make one complacent about their spiritual walk. To be honest, I wasn’t praying as faithfully. I may have been reading my Bible, but I wasn’t living with dependence on the Holy Spirit every single day.

When I’m not controlled by the Holy Spirit, I am the WORST version of myself. Impatient, prideful, spiteful, unkind, judgmental, unmerciful, bitter, and vengeful…these are just a few of my un-shining characteristics. And yes, I can even go so far as to throw a toilet paper roll at my husband! It’s only by God’s mercy that I missed. The point is, there’s not an ounce of goodness in me apart from Christ. I can’t cruise along the Christian life and assume that I’m not going to revert back to my old self. Therefore, I always need to acknowledge my need for God’s power to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

Furthermore, God is opening up more opportunities for me to have a more public platform. Now, more than ever, I have to be careful, conscious, and intentional about walking intimately with Him. In a climb with some of the ladies in my discipleship group, I saw a sign at the summit that read, DANGER. Whenever we experience successes in life, this is when we are most vulnerable to falling and failing spiritually. My dad used to say, “Prosperity is more dangerous than poverty.” In the same way, I believe that accomplishing much makes our hearts more prone to pride, selfishness and other sins of the heart that are deadly to the human soul.

The day after Edric and I fought, I went on a run and cried out to the Lord. I felt so broken and discouraged. As I was running, the Bible passage that came to mind was 2 Chronicles 7:14, “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” I prayed, Lord, please forgive me and please heal my marriage.

God was gracious to me. I didn’t deserve grace, but the next day, He caused Edric to be extra sweet and kind to me. Edric acknowledged that he had to take better care of me, to cherish and nourish me as His wife. It was an affirmation that I must keep praying for my marriage. Jesus Christ is the only one who can restore and heal it when it needs fixing. And He’s the only one who can protect it when the evil one seeks to divide Edric and me. 

Psalm 16:2 declares, “You are my Lord; I have no good beside You.” That’s my declaration at the end of this post. Lord, I cling to you. If you aren’t in my life, I am a completely lost, broken and unholy person who damages those around her. But I don’t want to be that way. Please help me. Be the goodness in me that pours forth into the lives of those around me, into the lives of my husband and my children. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Maybe you are like me and you’ve messed up at one point in your marriage, or many at many points, or you are messing up right now. Don’t lose heart. You can change, you can be restored, you can find grace and help in your time of need. I pray you will seek the Lord as the answer. 

 

Why Children Learn Best at Home

At the recent Global Home Education Conference in Brazil, I met Debra Bell again. She is one of my homeschool heroes. She was an educator who taught her own kids so she understands the differences between homeschooling and conventional schooling better than most people do. Her book, Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, has helped countless families navigate the challenges of homeschooling. Furthermore, she has gotten her PhD on learning psychology and done extensive research on how children learn. In her workshop, she explained 8 reasons why children learn best at home.

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I want to add just two other points that I covered in the talk I gave in Cebu. Firstly, learning happens best at home because parents are able to focus on the heart of their child.

The amount of time I have with my kids allows me to study them thoroughly and prepare their hearts to receive instruction. A few days ago, I found out that Edan was tempted to run away sevearal times. Edan? My sweet son? Run away?!!! I started to cry. But instead of panicking, Edric and I decided to take him out to lunch for fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and ice cream (some of his favorite things, especially the latter.)

During this lunch we asked him to explain what was going on in his heart and he told us that he gets very angry inside. Sometimes, he gets angry with Elijah, Edric or me. Oh dear. When he does, he thinks, Maybe I will just run away. This was shocking to me because I think our home is a pretty loving, stress-free home environment. But apparently, Edan doesn’t always see it this way.

For one thing, he doesn’t handle conflict with his brother, Elijah, well. (We are working on this.) He likes to avoid getting into discussions when he is frustrated. Furthermore, he gets hurt when Edric or I correct him with a negative tone. He actually used the phrase, “When you get mad at me.” His love language is words so he is very sensitive to what people say.

We both encouraged Edan by saying, “Edan, you can talk to us about anything. Anytime you are going through something, you can come to us. We want to listen to you, to help you. We love you and you are important to us.”

I also told him a story about a boy who grew up in a wonderful Christian home where he was deeply loved. “However,” I continued, “this boy grew up and chose the wrong friends who invited him to do drugs. So he got addicted and fell away from the Lord. When I interviewed the parents to find out what happened to this son of theirs, they revealed that he hid things in his heart. He didn’t share what was going on inside. As a result, he listened to the lies of the evil one. It’s the same way with any of us, Edan. Imagine a sheep on a field by itself. To a wolf, it will seem like vulnerable and easy prey. But if that sheep was beside the shepherd and with the other sheep, the wolf would think twice. It will be harder for him to attack the sheep. As a Christian, it’s difficult to follow Christ alone, just like that sheep. We need others.”

Edan smiled at Edric and me. He knew what we were getting at. He came away from our lunch feeling like he was treasured and special, that we love him no matter what.

Does this mean that he will never feel like running away again? The temptation may still come. In fact, he recently said, “Mom, I am getting that feeling again,” when Edric and I were about to go out on a date! Hmm…was this manipulation?! I talked to him about his feelings and the next day, we took all the kids out for a movie and dinner date.

Why is the heart so important when it comes to homeschooling? If my kids don’t trust me or don’t feel secure in their love for me (or Edric’s), they will not listen to my (our) instruction. Furthermore, if their hearts aren’t spiritually okay, their minds won’t be okay either. Homeschooling gives us a lot of time to get to know our children and to invest in their hearts.

Three years ago, I attended Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s seminar in Berlin on Why Home Education Works. He presented an interesting conclusion from the view point of a developmental psychologist. I wrote about his theory a few years ago, which I found to be very insightful. (He isn’t even an advocate of homeschooling. He is an advocate of child development.) According to Neufeld, homeschooling provides the optimum environment for a child to mature in to a healthy and whole person who can achieve his fullest potential. Years of research and study show that a child was designed to be raised and educated at home because the most important element in a child’s development towards maturity is his attachment to those who are responsible for him (aka parents).

There’s another aspect to focusing on a child’s heart, which is to help them internalise obedience and respect. This is a prerequisite to effective learning. Imagine trying to get five children to sit down and do their work if they don’t obey? Nightmare. My focus will be diverted to behavioural management instead of valuable hours spent acquiring knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

It’s challenging for Catalina right now because she is in obedience-training mode. But I’m amazed at how big the change has been since we became intentional about disciplining her. I can tell her, “Catalina, sit down.” Or, “Catalina, don’t be fussy.” Or, “Catalina, wait, because mommy is still talking to your brother.” She will listen. Not perfectly. But she’s improved significantly. Therefore, it is now plausible to teach her. Her heart is ready. Some months ago, it would have been crazy to attempt this.

Yet another critical aspect of focusing on the heart is imparting convictions to our children. When they understand that they are accountable to God to live for His purposes and glory, they will make wise choices about the use of their time, the thoughts they entertain, the habits they develop, and the friends they hang out with. When it comes to education and responsibilities, they will try their best even if no one is watching them.

Another reason why learning happens best at home is more practical in nature. The skills needed for the 21st century are not achieved through the conventional methods of schooling. I’ve been reading Tony Wagner’s book, The Global Achievement Gap: Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need – and What We Can Do About It. He describes 7 Survival Skills for the 21st Century for Work, Learning, and Citizenship. Academics are great but they don’t rank as high with CEOs and owners of some of the largest and most profitable businesses in the world. Tony Wagner interviewed top CEOs and business owners and they revealed certain abilities that they look for, which I’ve posted below:

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Interestingly, all these skills can be honed in the context of the home and through parental instruction! When I read Wagner’s book, I got so excited! It made me realise that homeschooling is not just about creating an optimum environment for learning, focusing on their hearts, and providing the foundation of character and conviction in our kids. Homeschooling can prepare our kids for the REAL world.

1. Critical thinking and problem solving —  We  can teach our kids to ask questions, to be resourceful, and to find sensible solutions to learning challenges they face. It’s not about memorizing facts or content mindlessly. It’s about making logical and intelligent choices.

2. Collaboration and leading by influence — We can teach our kids to work together, love and forgive one another unconditionally. We can also teach them to deal with personalities and engage people they may not naturally gravitate to. More importantly, we ought to remind them to pursue Christ-likeness and encourage others by their example. Good leaders inspire followers. They don’t lord it over others.

3. Agility and adaptation — We need to train our children to be flexible. Learning doesn’t always happen in a predictable fashion. Everything doesn’t always go as planned in life either. Sometimes we need to pursue the same goal but change our methods in the process and our kids have to learn to adjust. For example, we need to learn about math concepts but if the book doesn’t cut it, what other sources can we use?

How about when a child doesn’t get his or her way? We can teach them to respond with the right attitude. And when a child fails at a task, we can gently push them to keep going.

4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism — Many homeschooling families do home-based businesses. Our kids have tried doing this several times. But we need to give them even more opportunities to practice creating a business idea and executing it, and how to earn money even while they are young.

With older children, we can apply initiative by making them responsible for their learning. Don’t hover over them all the time. They have to take ownership of their learning goals and proactively improve themselves.

5. Effective written and oral communication – This is self-explanatory but apparently, many students today have problems articulating themselves well when they write or speak. Our own kids can be prone to the same problem if we are not intentional about building these skills. At the same time homeschoolers can have an edge because they have access to experiences that conventional schooled children may not.

A few weeks ago, my friend’s 10 year old, homeschooling daughter stood along side her dad to give a short testimony about how her father is loving to her mom. She helped give examples to the audience about how a husband should cherish his wife. She was articulate, poised and she memorized her entire talk. She did an amazing job!

I have used Institute for Excellence in Writing to help my eldest son develop his creative writing skills. He used to abhor writing. But after using this material he wrote a 52 paragraph narrative about his Mt. Apo climb. He did a great job, too. When I met author, Andrew Pudewa, in Brazil I thanked him for the blessing he has been to us all the way in the Philippines. If Elijah displayed a negative attitude toward writing in school, I don’t think a teacher would spend hours searching for a better way for him to learn to write. But mothers will do this kind of thing for their kids.

6. Assessing and analysing information — With the overwhelming amounts of information accessible to children today through the Internet, we need to teach them to evaluate and process content. Will they take everything at face value or will they think twice about making decisions based on what they read and see online?

Elijah makes stock reports and submits them to his dad. He reads through articles and updates about the businesses he invests in and gives recommendations based on his research. But he must do so thoroughly because his investments are at stake. As a result, he trains himself to sort through the information before coming to conclusions. By God’s grace his portfolio is doing pretty well, too.

7. Curiosity and imagination – Everyday our kids have time to play, explore, discover, invent and create. We don’t cannibalise the hours of their day with school work. To my horror I was told that some conventionally schooled students in highly competitive institutions have to study into the late evenings during the week then wake up ridiculously early to avoid the traffic to school. This makes me want to cry. These kids are missing out on the wonders of childhood which should include day dreaming, exploring, inventing, creating, and mastering their areas of giftedness.

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Finland is at the forefront of revolutionary educational methods and their methods have been proven successful. In an article written by an 7th grade math teacher in the U.S. who completed his Fulbright research assignment in Finland he explained, “We (in Anerica) can’t even stick to ONE philosophy of education long enough to see if it actually works. We are constantly trying new methods, ideas and initiatives. We keep adding more and more to our plates without removing any of the past ideas. Currently we believe “more” is the answer to all of our education problems— everything can be solved with MORE classes, longer days, MORE homework, MORE assignments, MORE pressure, MORE content, MORE meetings, MORE after school tutoring, and of course MORE testing! All this is doing is creating MORE burnt out teachers, MORE stressed out students and MORE frustration. Finland on the other hand believes less is more.” Source: 11 Ways Finland’s Education System Shows Us Less Is More

I also believe in less is more to give way to pursuits and activities that do more for kids. Over the weekend, I spoke to parents from Cebu who encouraged their 12 year old daughter to study fashion design while she was homeschooling. She competed with students much older than she was. But she turned out to be the most imaginative of them all, according to her teacher. She presented her first project in an unconventional way, displaying a 1920’s outfit to explain the uniqueness of that era in fashion design. At 14, she continues to study design and is excelling at it! If she is amazing now, how much more when she actually studies it in college?!

What’s her big advantage? Her parents didn’t choke the creativity out of her by cramming her mind full of academics. She spent many hours sketching and drawing before she ever took up fashion design. And she did this during her childhood years.

Knowing that learning happens best at home brings me great comfort as a homeschooling mom. It also affirms our family’s decision to choose this lifestyle. Furthermore it is starting to look like the future of education is headed in the direction of home education. Or, at the very least, something very similar to the way learning transpires at home and customizes learning for a child.

The world is changing fast and educational models are becoming outdated more quickly than institutions and governments are able to adjust to these changes. Homeschooling parents may seem crazy to those who anchor their sense of security on school systems and on reputable school brands. This article is not about criticizing those parents. I believe parents who homeschool and parents who send their kids to school are well-meaning and love their kids just the same. But maybe one day soon, people will applaud the brave parents who had the foresight to recognize that their children could learn more, be more and accomplish more in their home instead of in a traditional classroom.

Fight with Gentleness

Gentle in the dictionary means considerate, kind and amiable in manner and disposition, not harsh or severe. I want to be like this, especially towards Edric and the kids. But my one big struggle is how I deal with conflict – conflict between Edric and myself when we get into an argument or don’t share the same perspective, and conflict between my children and me when challenges arise as we homeschool.

Edric and I have a great marriage, by God’s grace. However, we butt heads because we are opinionated people and oh, so different. When my opinion sounds even mildly disrespectful, he takes it personally and retaliates, which brings out the wrathful side of me in return. When we both remain prideful, the discussion gets verbally ugly. There’s no shouting or cursing, but we jump right into the crazy cycle of trying to win against each other. It doesn’t end until one of us chooses to be humble and apologize. Thankfully, our conflicts have become less and less heated over the years, but they are still present, and of course, they still hurt.

 With my kids, the challenge is remaining calm and positive while I homeschool. On days when they are all over the place because they are distracted, unmotivated, and uncooperative, it deeply frustrates me. I find myself mouthing out negative statements or giving dramatic speeches to guilt-trip them into listening to me. Neither of these methods helps us homeschool better or improves our relationship with one another.

   

  

Thankfully, I read a passage in Colossians that got me thinking about this idea of fighting with gentleness:

Have the right perspective. We need to look at circumstances with spiritual lenses. Sometimes, the earthly and material world can seem so big and important. But we are to look to the greater life we have in Christ, not the one we have died to.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3)

When I start to think, I’m so irritated at Edric right now, or so annoyed with my kids, I have to ask myself, What is causing this anger? What is the source, the root of the conflict I am in? Is it something that really matters in the grand scheme of eternity?

95% of the time, the issues I encounter between Edric and myself, and my children are trivial when I look upon them with heavenly lenses. The other day I reacted to my five-year old daughter, Tiana, when she kept reversing her numbers as I was teaching her math. I was upset because she repeats this mistake often. But then I stopped myself as I looked at her face and saw her sweet puppy dog eyes studying my expression. At that moment, she knew I was irritated. So, I had a choice. I could continue making her feel inadequate or I could protect her heart, which is infinitely more important than pressuring her to perfect math skills as a five year old. After I changed my tone, adding cheer and sweetness to it, her confidence revived itself and she diligently finished her work.

Put aside the old and put on the new. It’s normal to struggle with our old nature. But God reminds us that we are dead to it. We are no longer children of wrath who are enslaved to sin, unable to please God, and destined for destruction. Therefore we can’t think or behave like we still are.

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” Colossians 3:5-8

As we put aside our sinful nature, we are to put on our new nature in Christ. We are to put on Christ-likeness. Yesterday, I had a crazy schedule that turned circumstances into the perfect context for a conflict with Edric. I brought my five kids to violin, piano, ballet (for the girls), basketball (for the boys), Filipino class, conducted a talk on choosing curriculum, and went to the grocery without yayas to help me. While I managed to bounce around from one venue and activity to another, I also had to think through the menu for the couple’s bible study we were hosting that evening.

At 4:30 pm, Edric called me twice but I didn’t hear my phone ringing because it was on silent mode. I called him back and he asked where I was. He informed me we had to go home earlier than expected to meet with one of the couples before our study (a meeting he forgot to inform me about). Although I was at the tail end of my shopping, he was already outside of his office, waiting on the street with the kids to be picked up. He was hot and tired, and concerned that we would be late.

I arrived about fifteen minutes later with a vehicle stuffed full of groceries, violins, gym bags and basketballs. Edric didn’t appreciate being greeted by this chaotic mess. Since our van was color-coded we were using a smaller vehicle which meant that only two rows were usable for seven of us and a driver. I held Catalina on my lap, Elijah and Edan sat in the front together while sharing a seatbelt, Tiana positioned herself in between the two front seats facing the back seats (a very precarious position), and Edric and Titus squeezed in beside me.

We were probably breaking a number of MMDA rules. Edric challenged me with the question, “What was your plan?”

Honestly, this was my plan. It was a bad plan. I surveyed all the bodies in the vehicle and the back rows stacked to the ceiling with our belongings and groceries and thought, Okay, this was a dumb of me.

As soon as I could, I apologized and asked for Edric’s forgiveness. He was quiet. (I might have spied some steam coming out his ears as he attempted to stay cool.) I prayed that he would not be reactive and he wasn’t!

For a split second, my old self wanted to turn the tables around. I wanted to point out that Edric didn’t inform me about our meeting with our couple friends so he had no reason to fault me for being late. I also wanted to point out that he was kind of giving me the cold shoulder even after I apologized. However, if I had gone this route, I am certain that a marital version of World War III would have ensued. Thankfully, the Lord reminded me to practice gentleness by being humble and quiet. It worked!

The next part of Colossians 3 says, “Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.” Colossians (3:9-11)

Remember you identity. God tells us that we are loved, not just loved, but beloved (a word that means cherished and treasured). Because God sees us as special, we have nothing to prove. Instead, we have everything to improve to live up to this identity.

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…” (Colossians 3:12)

A few months ago my good friends and family members were involved in a special needs event for children called A Night to Shine. It was sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation with the aim of making special needs children feel like kings and queens for the night. Something magical happened as these special needs children were treated like royalty. According to the volunteers, not a single one of them acted up, threw a tantrum or misbehaved. In a gathering of about 500 people, this was a miracle! They responded so positively to the value and worth attributed to them.

Similarly, when we know how much God loves us, it motivates us to be our best. In a conflict scenario, this translates to the ability to surrender our rights instead of proving that we are right. We can anchor our security and sense of worth in Christ, not in the way other people treat us or fail to love us.

Choose to forgive and to love. Two days ago I cried in the bathroom as I tried to understand one of my sons. He pushed my buttons in all the wrong ways this past week. It deeply aggravated me and I was harsh with him. I told God, “I don’t know what to do. Can you help me, Lord?”

God’s reminder to me was to continue to forgive and love my children no matter what. Being a wife and a mother is a ministry. Ministry is messy and ministry always requires God’s grace and dependence on Him.

In my parents’ 40+ years of serving the Lord, their greatest obstacles have been dealing with people. But I never saw them lose their temper or bad mouth people who slandered, criticized, or disagreed with them. Not once did they speak with bitterness about them in front of my siblings and me. They may have expressed their sadness and concern but they never gave us cause to hate the persons who hurt them. Instead they would encourage us to pray.

Although I think my parents are wonderful, I know that it is Christ in them that enabled and still enables them to forgive and love people. They understand that ministry is about living out the grace of God, the manifestation of which is forgiveness and love. Do they always feel like it? Of course not. They are human. But forgiveness and love are superhuman choices we CAN all make when we know what Christ has done for us.

“…bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Colossians 3:13-14)

Pursue unity. In a day and age when people are divided over so many issues, Christ-following families should have homes defined by unity and peace. People need convincing proof that Christ is real, and I believe one of the best ways to demonstrate this is to pursue unity with one another. What is the secret to unity? As the verse below reveals, it is love.

“Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14)

There are times when I say that I forgive Edric or I ask for his forgiveness, but my statements are devoid of real love. I just mouth them out because I want to end the conflict. But without love, unity is not attainable. I end up harboring resentment in my heart or developing negative attitudes toward Edric.

How can my heart move towards him when there is so much standing in the way of doing so? How can there be peace when apologies and forgiveness are superficial? The application for me is to apologize in love and forgive in love in order to attain unity, and unity in turn will invite peace.

Be saturated with the Word of God. The devil specializes in filling our minds with deceitful thoughts. To counter these lies, we need to be filled with God’s truth.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell with you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual sons, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

I can’t lose my temper when I’m meditating on something like Proverbs 15:1 which advises, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

God’s Word is powerful, living and active. The more we read it, the more influence it will have over our thoughts and actions, conforming these to do what pleases God.

Be thankful. In Colossians 3:1-17, being thankful is mentioned three times so it must be important. The last part ends with this: “Whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I respect Edric. Since meetings and activities required me to be in his office a lot this week, I got to observe him closely. It made me appreciate how hard he works, the stress he has to deal with, and the difficult choices he has to make. What a guy!

I tanked up on positive thoughts about him, so when he was annoyed with me yesterday for missing his calls, being late, and stuffing the vehicle full of groceries, it was easier not to be negative in response. Furthermore, during our couple’s group, I also told him that I have great respect for the choices he makes because they reveal his deep love for God. This made him a little teary eyed and it was a tender moment. But the point is this…when I have an attitude of thankfulness to the Lord for Edric and even my kids, I am less likely to focus on the things they do that upset me, and more likely to respond with gentleness.

  
Gentleness is a great and powerful virtue. I’m discovering that it is one of the best ways to deal with conflicts and to preserve unity in our home. And here’s a great promise to inspire us, “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Now it’s time to apply, apply, apply!

Submission to My Husband Is a Heart Issue

 

    I never quite graduate from learning what it means to submit to my husband’s authority. Just when I think I’m doing all right in this area, a new challenge appears that reminds that I’m still in the process of becoming the wife God wants me to be.

About two weeks ago, my dad, who was going to preach on Sunday, asked Edric and I to recommend people who can share about how small group discipleship has positively impacted their relationship with Jesus Christ. Several persons came to mind. Two of them were a husband and wife who went through major marital problems but are now in the process of restoring their marriage. When we first met them they had deep wounds they were working through, but today, they are committed to one another, they love the Lord, and have a passion to tell others about Him.

Although their shared testimony would surely encourage the church audience, Edric and I sensed that talking about what happened to their marriage in public was premature. Even if we have witnessed amazing change in their lives, they needed more time to heal. So we parked them as an option and thought to ask someone else.

Later on in the week, however, my dad messaged me again. Sunday was fast approaching and he was still looking for someone to share his or her testimony to add impact to his message on small group discipleship. I felt like it was up to me to help him.

Before I go on, I need to admit to something. Edric has lovingly cautioned me about this before, that in my desire to honor my dad or mom, I sometimes move ahead of him, without getting his approval for decisions I make. Whenever my parents ask me for help it is, more often than not, ministry-related. And when it’s for ministry, I interpret the request as valid.

While I don’t always say yes to them, there have been occasions where I have taken on speaking engagements or activities that they ask me to be a part of before asking Edric for permission. My thought bubble often is, This is for ministry. Edric will understand. But my presumptuousness gets me into trouble because conflicts in schedules arise and Edric and the kids are inconvenienced by my decisions. More often than not, Edric is a good sport about it because he loves dad and mom and knows that their intentions are virtuous. So the issue is not between my parents and Edric who have a great relationship. The issue is I don’t consult him first and he ends up feeling pressured or manipulated to accommodate the choices I make.

Over the years I’ve tried to be more sensitive about this. Even if I love my dad and mom, I cannot make rash decisions in their favor without seeking Edric’s approval. Serving them is not more important than submitting to my husband, who ought to be my priority.

When I got married, Edric became my authority. God’s word is clear about the principle of leaving and cleaving when you are married. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Although both of us seek to honor his parents and my parents, it cannot be at the expense of our own marriage.

Furthermore, it isn’t my parents whom I’m directly accountable to anymore. I’m under my husband’s authority. Ephesians says. “Wives be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be subject to their husbands in everything.” Ephesians 5:22-24

Let me return to the story I began with to illustrate how crucial it is that I obey this command of the Lord and do not move ahead of my husband. When I received the message from my dad, asking for a person or persons to share their testimony, I thought, Perhaps it’s alright if the couple (the one I referred to at the beginning) give their testimony anyway.

At that moment, Edric was busy speaking at a conference so I couldn’t broach the idea to him. Furthermore, I came up with the rationalization that my intentions were right. This was for the Lord, for ministry. Edric would understand. I will just confer with him after he is done his talk.

There was a small voice telling me this wasn’t the best idea, that I was acting impulsively, but I ignored the prodding of the Holy Spirit to check with Edric first. In my haste, I called the wife and proposed the idea to her. I asked her if she would be willing to give her testimony with her husband. I even sent her a sample outline to guide her and her husband as they thought through what to share. And then I added that Edric would call her husband to confirm everything.

My plan was to tell Edric after he finished his speaking engagement, which was to end about forty minutes later. (What was forty minutes? I really could’ve waited!) I hoped that Edric would approve of my decision and see the positive in it.

However, when I first told him that I had proposed to the wife that she and her husband share on Sunday, he was like, “I thought we agreed that they weren’t ready. Did you manipulate things again?”

Manipulate things? That seemed like a harsh way to put it. But maybe he was right. Maybe I had maneuvered circumstances in such a way that he had to go along with my plan. After a little persuasion, he agreed that the couple’s testimony would have impact and minister to the hearts of the audience. But, it was I who had set the ball in motion.

Edric called the couple and set the phone on speaker mode to discuss what they would be sharing at the pulpit. This was Friday evening. In the meantime, I contacted dad letting him know that we had found someone to share. I felt like I was a good daughter who had done him a favor.

After our conversation with the couple, they seemed eager and excited. The wife forwarded me her version of their story and it was beautiful. Everything seemed to be working out just fine. We challenged them to write their testimony as a team, where the wife would give one portion and the husband would give the other. They had until midnight to get back to us, which they did. There were no barriers so far.

However, at about 2 AM, I received a text message from the wife explaining that they wouldn’t be able to share anymore. Certain emotions and histories were unearthed that needed to be dealt with and the husband, in particular, wasn’t ready. He felt terrible about backing out because he wanted to honor God by serving Him in this way, but the reality was he couldn’t stand before an audience at this point in time to declare the things he wanted to. It had been a tearful night for them.

My heart was crushed. I knew this was my fault. The stress this couple went through as they tried to piece together their sides of their marriage journey could’ve been prevented had I not gone ahead of Edric and operated outside of the covering of his authority. We should have let them be as we initially discussed, trusting God’s time-table for their healing, instead of putting them in this predicament. As a result, they felt discouraged and disheartened, especially the husband, who felt like he had failed the Lord for not being ready to declare His goodness in their lives. (Of course this wasn’t true and Edric reached out to him to minister to him.)

As for me, I read through the message of the wife, and started to tear myself. This couple became a victim of my decision to go against God’s design for marriage. I presumed to know better and to justify my conclusions about their readiness before getting permission from Edric. Had I asked Edric before making that call to the wife, he who would have repeated what we originally established, that it wasn’t the right time for them to share their testimony publicly. But I chose to push it anyway because of my dad’s pressing need. The results were disastrous, in my estimation, and the pain the couple went through, unnecessary. In the end, I had to apologize to the wife, hoping that she would extend my apology to her husband. And I had to tell my father that he had to look for someone else to share on Sunday…the next day. Of course, I also had to say sorry to Edric.

When I confessed to Edric the chain of events, he was frustrated with me and highlighted my faulty decision-making process. I sought to come to my dad’s aid but went about it in the wrong way. Instead, I should have followed what Edric and I had decided earlier that week about the couple’s status, and remained resolute about it. Instead, I caved in to what I perceived as an urgent need and the couple became a casualty of my insubordination.

Edric was correct. I had no defense to give to minimize the guilt I felt. I simply had to embrace that the root issue was my failure to internalize what submission to my husband is – it’s a heart thing. Do I really want God’s blessing and favor in my life, in my marriage and family? Do I really believe that God’s principles are for my protection and my good, and the good of those around me?

I chose to forget this on Friday when I made that phone call in haste. I chose to believe that it was up to me to find someone to fill in the space for a Sunday sharer. What was I thinking?! God could have found someone to stand before the church with a powerful testimony to give that would bring glory and honor to His name! I wasn’t greater than God’s hand!

Indeed, God provided the perfect person to share. Venus Raj, former beauty queen of the Philippines, and a committed follower of Jesus Christ, stood at the pulpit when my dad called her up in the middle of his message, to talk about the transforming power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I was in awe as I listened to what God has done in her life. She was radiant with an inner beauty that far surpassed her reputation as a beauty queen. It was the beauty of a woman who found love, joy, and peace in the Lord.

What did I learn that weekend? I learned that my good intentions must never bypass God’s word and instruction in my life. I cannot say, “Well, I’m doing this for the Lord, but contradict an instruction such as submit to your husband.”

I also learned that there are no contradictions when it comes to honoring my parents and honoring my husband. When I am faced with a decision that must favor one over the other (and neither are asking me to do something against the word of God), I must choose to obey my husband first. In doing so, I bring honor to my parents. God will bless the decision I make to submit to Edric by blessing them, too. How is this so? Edric may choose to change his mind about a matter that he was originally not in favor with. Or, God will provide for the need of my parents or answer their concern in a way that is greater than my capacity to do so.

  In His sovereignty, God is able to cause all circumstances to work together for the good of those who love Him as it says in Romans 8:28. But this is a promise for those who love Him. And those who love Him are those who obey Him and delight to obey Him.

I wrote this post because I understand what it is like to be a wife who struggles with submission. There are times I get it right, but there are occasions, like I shared above, when I think I know better or I see submission as a deterrent to accomplish a goal that I desire to happen. God continues to teach me that submission is a heart issue. It’s between God and me, and whether I want to obey Him with all that I am.

Allow me to close with this passage in Leviticus 26, which holds for us the promise of blessing when we obey God. “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments so as to carry them out, then I shall give you rains in their season, so that the land will yield its produce and the trees of the field will bear their fruit. Indeed, your threshing will last for you until grape gathering, and grape gathering will last until sowing time. You will thus eat your food to the full and live securely in your land. I shall also grant peace in the land, so that you may lie down with no one making you tremble. I shall also eliminate harmful beasts from the land, and no sword will pass through your land... So I will turn toward you and make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will confirm My covenant with you... 11 Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. 12 I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”

 

 

 

I Am Glad I Married a Man Who Didn’t Sleep Around

Edric and I will be fifteen years married in July. That’s not a milestone by some standards, but in a day and age when many marriages don’t make it past the five year mark, I’m deeply grateful. First, I’m grateful to the Lord because he’s the reason why we are still together. Second, I’m grateful to Edric who chooses to love me everyday, even when I’m not always lovable.

 Since it is the “love month” I decided to write a piece to thank my husband for being the kind of man that didn’t sleep around before marriage. It sounds very unromantic for me to put it this way, but if you read through this, you might begin to believe, as I have, that this is one of the most romantic gifts a husband can ever give his wife (and vice versa). How I wish I could have offered virginity to Edric, but as many of you readers know, I was once upon a time a victim of rape. (Read about my story in my book: When A Good God Allows Rape)

When I met Edric in college, I thought he was a good-looking guy. He told me to say “handsome” when he read this part over my shoulder. It was his unpretentiousness that kept me interested, second to the fact that we connected on a spiritual level. He didn’t mask his person behind a façade. He was sincere, honest, and easy to trust. 

As we got to know each other, he opened up about his past relationships, and I found out he was still a virgin. A virgin? Even in our day they were becoming a rare breed, especially for guys. Although he admitted to me that he struggled with pornography, he didn’t ever sleep with any of his girlfriends or other women. (Edric shared about his pornography struggle in my book so I’m being open about something he has already been open about.)

I knew it was important to preserve one’s purity. Events in my life took that away from me, but I still committed NOT to have consensual sex with anyone until I got married. I hoped to meet a guy who valued the same standards, too, so it mattered a lot that Edric had stayed pure. It told me something about his character as a man. I know he wrestled with the realities of what happened to me but I praise God it didn’t turn his heart away from me. Very much a rescuer, it inspired him to be my protector.

Our courtship wasn’t perfect, however. I have confessed this in other articles I have written about us and in my book. We got physical and stumbled along the way, but I praise God we didn’t experience sexual union until we were married. Prior to marriage, Edric and I also told our parents about the physical struggles in our relationship. We admitted to the wrong choices we made that brought us very close to the edge of what would have been the greatest mistake of our history. This was part of coming clean. 

The Bible says, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Hebrews‬ ‭13:4‬ ‭

We wanted to begin our relationship anew, with everything out in the open to honor the marriage bed. We also kept our engagement short — 4 months — to avoid further temptation. 

I was blessed to be able to look forward to our honeymoon because it the first time for me to experience sexual intimacy as God designed it. (My encounter with abuse didn’t count, of course!) Edric whisked me away from our reception at a very early 9 PM. He concocted an elaborate plan to escape through the funicular that connected Tagaytay Midlands to the Highlands. This is where we got married. I don’t even think we said goodbye to people, which seemed like the socially inappropriate thing to do but he could not wait for our “celebration” to begin. 

We spent our first night together as husband and wife in Tagaytay Highland’s Spa & Lodge. In keeping with tradition, he insisted on carrying me over the threshold of the doorway of our room. Attendants and onlookers smiled in a congratulatory way. All this while I found Edric’s energy amusing as he acted like someone on an adrenaline high. But it made me feel special, treasured, and wanted. 

The next day we headed to Baguio where we had a cabin all to ourselves. We didn’t need a grand trip to Europe or a foreign country to look forward to. All we cared about was a nice room somewhere cold. Think about the olden days when all that was necessary was a tent. Since we didn’t have a lot of money when we started out, Baguio provided the perfect setting for lots of cuddling.

During our honeymoon, I didn’t have insecurities about how it would go. I trusted Edric. I knew he had saved himself for marriage and didn’t have multiple partners to compare me to. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t nervous. And I am not going to inappropriately divulge the details of our first night. It was not “perfect” because we weren’t experts in the bedroom, but that’s what made it so perfect! We had nothing to prove to one another. There were no benchmarks to measure ourselves against. I remember feeling like it was the beginning of a beautiful journey of discovery, just between us — sacred, tender, profound. Edric gave me the privilege of being the first and the promise of being the last, till death do us part. 

The sex act in marriage is a pledge and a seal. It is the becoming of one flesh before God — the real ceremony of matrimony. In the Genesis account of Adam and Eve’s marriage the word marriage was not used at all. When Eve was presented to Adam by God, it reads, “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.’ 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 ‭2:23-25‬) The ceremony was simple and uncomplicated. Adam was joined to Eve and they became one. Similarly, the person God has made for you is the only one you are supposed to be joined to as one flesh — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

God, in his wisdom, didn’t make many versions of Eve for Adam to choose from, either. (He wouldn’t have any ribs left. Just kidding!) God made just one. And he knew exactly what she should be like and what Adam would like. I think it’s important to say this because sometimes we don’t trust God to give us what we really want in a spouse. 

However these passages of scripture tell me that God always knows better. He knows the desires and longings of our hearts. He is mindful of our needs and He provides the best answer to them, better than we can ever imagine or hope for. Adam didn’t know what he was missing out on. He didn’t declare himself alone. It was God who said it wasn’t good for him to be alone. 

Amazingly, when Adam saw Eve he felt a bond and connectedness to her that was unlike any other that he felt with God’s creatures. As he beheld her she appeared to him comfortingly familiar and yet mysteriously and wonderfully different. Can you imagine for a moment what the Lord must have been thinking as He saw Adam’s eyes lock onto Eve’s with delight? I am sure He reveled in their joy, as he does in our joy when we get married.

As designer of marriage, God is also the best matchmaker. But we struggle with waiting on Him to bring this person to us. As a result we rush into relationships that feel right and many times end up broken inside when we have to leave them. God demonstrated from the very beginning that this was not his design. Marriage was between one man and one woman that he made for each other. He didn’t intend for us to suffer through the break ups and heartaches that come when we commit ourselves to many other people before marriage. And He most certainly didn’t purpose for us to bring those hurts into our marriages. 

We don’t often have the foresight to anticipate how past sexual experiences will affect our relationship to our spouse. Enjoying the intensity of sexual union and achieving oneness becomes complicated. Firstly, we program ourselves to view sex as a tool to achieve something that is self-serving. Some women control their boyfriends by using sex to keep them interested, others thrive on the attention men give them for their sexiness. Some men pressure women to sleep with them under the pretense of expressing love when what they really want is to enjoy the pleasures of sex. Still others like the conquest involved in being able to bed a woman — the more, the better. Sadly this self-seeking paradigm is brought into marriage and a spouse looks at sex as something that is for their benefit. It’s not about giving but about taking. 

Secondly, sex before marriage stimulates a desire for the illicit. And when it becomes monogamous, couples ache for the excitement that once came with the forbidden. 

Thirdly, it’s hard to remove images of sex with others or feelings about past relationships when a person engages in sex with their spouse. They don’t want to remember the things they did with others but it invades their minds anyway. Guilt overcomes them which results in the inability to perform with liberty and freedom.

Lastly, one’s sexual history can cause trust issues in marriage. It’s not so far fetched to think, “If my husband slept with women before, what’s to keep him from doing so when we are married?” If he didn’t internalize the sacredness of sex in marriage when he was single, there’s no guarantee that he won’t explore the same behavior when he is married. 

Interestingly, people think it’s okay to have sex with others before they get married but not afterwards. But sleeping around before marriage is like conditioning oneself for unfaithfulness and adultery (of the body and mind) when sex is viewed so casually prior to the committed and permanent relationship of marriage. 

Marriage won’t guarantee faithfulness. I am not saying Edric and I are impervious to adultery because we didn’t have casual sex with people when we were single. It’s only by God’s grace that we stay faithful to one another, and we will only finish well by God’s grace. But moral purity is a discipline. And Edric often tells me, look at track record. That matters. If a guy sleeps around before marriage, it doesn’t matter whom they marry. She can be the most beautiful woman in the world but she will not be good enough to keep him pure. I am not discounting the grace and power of God to deliver someone from their past but there are real problems that we carry into our future when we violate God’s commands. Galatians 6:7 tells us, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” 

1 Timothy 4:7-8 says, “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

A person who has disciplined himself to say no to sex before marriage will find it easier to say no to sex outside of marriage when he becomes a husband. He has made it a habit to please God. His default is to run away from sin rather than towards it. Certainly other factors play a role, too, like having good communication as husband and wife, meeting each other’s heartfelt needs, exerting effort to upgrade your marital sex life, being willing to improve to better satisfy one another, being connected to people who can hold you accountable for sexual purity, etc. The truth remains that sex outside of marriage is not something you can do and walk away from without consequence to your entire person or your future spouse. 

Some years ago I was speaking to a friend who confessed to me that she would think about her sexual experiences with her ex-boyfriend when she had sex with her husband. And her experience with her ex was better! Another friend told me that her husband felt rage every time he saw her ex-boyfriend. This ex-boyfriend was the first person my friend had lost her virginity to, and he couldn’t get over it. Yet another friend admitted to me that her martial sex life was not exciting because they explored everything before marriage. In marriage they hardly had sex. Some other friends had issues with faithfulness because their spouse programmed their appetites to enjoy elicit sex. Having slept with multiple people before marriage, monogamous sex wasn’t as desirable. 

Sex isn’t the only thing to enjoy in marriage but it is a big part of what makes marriage a special relationship. And we need to do everything we can to protect it. I praise God that I am reaping the benefits of being married to a man who didn’t sleep around. But at the end of the day it’s not his love for me that saved him from promiscuity. It was and is his love for God. 

As I age physically, he remains committed to honoring his purity for me and guarding his eyes and heart. This conviction comes from his relationship with God and not necessarily his undying devotion to me. Love for God is evidenced in the choices we make, whether single or married, and the history of a man’s choices will tell you whether he truly loves God, especially in the area where he is prone to weakness and great temptation — the area of sexual purity. 

Therefore if you aren’t married, take a good and honest look at the man you are with in a dating relationship or the man you want to marry. The man he is today will not miraculously change into a holy, righteous person who will be committed to pursuing purity as a husband if he is not making it his current priority to please God. Furthermore, the same weaknesses he struggles with at present will become the same chink in his armor when he is married.

So don’t settle for a man who hasn’t valued his purity, yours, or other womens’. And don’t give your purity to a man who claims he loves you who isn’t your spouse. Sexual promiscuity and experimentation may be portrayed as pleasurable and normal in this world but they are not God’s design for us. He purposed for a man and woman to present themselves to one another “naked and unashamed” as Adam and Eve did, husband and wife, without the guilt, sorrow, or fear that many people deal with today. At the same time, God is a redeemer. If you have failed to value purity the way He wants you to, it’s not too late to repent and start committing to it. You can still honor God with your mind and body. You can still flee immorality and receive the grace and power of God to live a life that pleases him. 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John‬ ‭1:9‬

Whom Do You Love More?

For all my young readers out there, this post is for you. I shared it during this morning’s church service and I hope it will bless and encourage you! 


Ever since I was a child I cared about what people thought about me. I was a self-conscious person and a people-pleaser. This character weakness was tested especially in college, when I was no longer homeschooled or in a Christian school.

After graduating from an American school for missionaries called Faith Academy, most of my friends left for the US or Europe after high school, and I had to make friends from scratch. I didn’t know people in college like most students did. 

Eventually, however, I had a group of friends I started hanging out with who kind of took me “under their wing.” They were a great bunch of friends – intelligent, beautiful, kind-hearted, and fun to be with. However, they also belonged to a crowd who enjoyed going out to bars and clubs on Wednesday nights and the weekends.

When I first started frequenting bars with my college friends I thought I would never drink alcohol. It didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t grow up in a home where alcohol or cigarettes were common. And the high school I went to didn’t allow students to have either. So I would sit around and watch everybody with some sort of booze in their one hand, most often beer, while they checked each other out and chatted each other up. A lot of it was flirting between guys and girls, or sitting around with your group of friends while some guy treated you all to drinks.

At the beginning, I thought, What am I doing here?! This is a slow way to die, inhaling all this second hand smoke! It was almost intolerable, but I would go anyway, to be with my girl friends. Almost always, I would feel out of place, uncomfortable about connecting with people in an environment that seemed to be the worst place to engage in genuine conversation.

Nevertheless, I wanted to fit in somehow. So I thought, Why not try just a little alcohol? It’s not like the Bible says that drinking is sinful. To be honest I didn’t like the taste at all at first, but participating in the same things my friends did made me feel closer to them, more accepted, and this mattered to me.

The tipping point for me was going on an out of town trip for a football match. Our team went to a bar afterwards to celebrate, and getting a buzz from my cocktails gave me an exhilarating sense of freedom. I felt more confident, more gregarious. I do recall receiving surprised and concerned looks from people who knew me to be the conservative Christian. But I rationalized, “Hey, I can do this. I am still in control and I’m not doing anything stupid.”

I would rarely drink to the point of tipsiness, but there were a few times that I got carried away and did some ridiculous things.  One time I kissed a friend in public (someone I would never ever have kissed) while wearing my angel outfit and halo at a halloween party. The irony. My girl friends rushed over to pry me away, scolding our friend when it wasn’t even his fault. Another time, I got drunk and threw up out of a window of a moving vehicle. Yet another time, I danced like an idiot on the ledge of a club that had a lot of lecherous looking old men in it. In Europe, on a month-long trip with my friends (which was a blast), we would be out every night we could dancing with strangers and going out with people we hardly knew.

Thankfully, this season of my life was short-lived. After a while, I thought to myself, Why am I doing these things? Do I really want to be this person? I don’t even like alcohol! Furthermore, I recognized that my root problem was not the actual drinking or nights out, but the desire to have people’s approval.

Amazingly, when I told my parents about my night time adventures and the places I went go to they were NOT reactive. They didn’t scold me or condemn my friends. They didn’t pressure me to live up to the expectations of a pastor’s kid (which would have probably incited me to rebellion). Instead, their style was to spend time with me and ask me questions like, “So why do you like to drink?” They tried to understand my motivations so they could better disciple me. After all, it wasn’t my behavior that was the issue to them. It was my heart. So they prayed faithfully for me. They prayed a lot! And they reminded me that I was accountable to God.

Since they weren’t the kind of parents who were suffocatingly strict and unreasonable, or the kind of parents who micromanaged every choice their kids made, I appreciated and respected their input. More importantly, their talk-less, listen-and-dialogue-more method of mentoring me gave the Holy Spirit the space to speak to me and convict me.

I began to be deeply disturbed about the trajectory I was headed in. I knew I was a follower of Jesus. Yet my motivations revealed that I valued what people thought about me more than God’s opinion of me. Did I really love Jesus with all my heart?

Furthermore if I really loved Jesus then I would live to please him above all else. My goal would be to glorify Him, and to pursue Christ likeness and righteousness. But at that point I couldn’t confidently say that my life inspired others to follow Christ. Living with this dichotomy — professing to love God yet having little fruit to show as evidence, troubled me. I didn’t have peace.

So I went back to the convictions that my parents passed on to me when I was younger — truths that hooked me back into the will of God before I wandered too far off course. I made the decision to honour God and glorify Him. If I truly loved Him, this would be a priority to me.  It wouldn’t even be about whether drinking was okay or not. (Sometimes we can be so legalistic and judgmental as followers of Christ, equating spirituality with this image of someone who doesn’t drink, smoke, dance, go to clubs or maybe even movie theaters! Nevertheless, I do believe that everyone who likes to do things like drink or smoke should assess why they do. And if their reasons signal red flags like addiction, dependence, peer acceptance, or remedies for stress, etc…then it may very well benefit them to ask the same questions I had to.)

For me the more important questions were, “How do I live in such a way that people will be attracted to Jesus Christ in me? What does God see when He looks into my heart?” In response, I changed my Wednesday and weekend habits. I stopped going to bars and clubs in order to “fit in.” 

This didn’t mean that I lost all my friends either. I loved these girls. I still do. And when we can, we get together for meals or coffee, occasions when we can really connect and talk.

Another, more serious test came when I had my second boyfriend, the same boyfriend who eventually became my husband whom you know as my one and only, Edric Mendoza. We struggled in the area of physical purity. We didn’t have sex but we pushed things to the absolute limit. I knew that I was making compromises that were not pleasing to God, but a part of me also wanted to hold on to Edric’s affections for me. There were moments when I would deceivingly think, this isn’t so bad. It’s not like we are having sex. But I had lowered my standards for holiness and purity by comparing my actions to what “other people are doing.”

Once again, I had to ask myself the same question, Do I really love Jesus more than I love Edric? 

Because the struggle with purity continued no matter what tricks we tried to avoid temptation, we were compelled to consider breaking up. Edric also loved God and wanted to do what was right. So we broke off the relationship without any timetable for getting back together. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do and Edric would say the same thing, but it was also one of the best decisions we ever made.

Edric was an idol in my life whom I had to surrender to God. When I did so, my passion for the Lord was rekindled. Prior to this, my struggle with purity had put a wedge and cap on my ability to grow spiritually. Edric also grew deeper in His faith.

Eventually, God allowed us to get married with the approval and blessing of our parents, and after full disclosure to them. By this time our hearts were prepared to love each other the way God called us to. We understood that in any relationship, Christ must be the center. A husband and wife must love Jesus first to love each other the way they should.

Not all love stories may end this same way, but I do believe that when we love God with all that we are He gives us His best in return, which is first and foremost Himself. Everything else is a bonus!

Mendoza_119Today I am happily married to Edric. We have five children. And we are serving the Lord as a team and teaching our children to love Him. The stories that I shared are almost twenty years old, but they remain significant because they were turning points in my life, when I made a conscious choice to love God and obey Him over something else or someone else that was important to me.

John 14:21 says, He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

We may have to sacrifice and experience challenges as we love God with all that we are, but He promises fullness of joy!

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” ‭‭John‬ ‭15:9-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

By God’s grace, the best and sweetest years of my life so far have been those that I have given wholeheartedly to loving, following, obeying, and serving God. When I am tempted to replace this love for God with something else (because struggles still exist), I tell myself, Nothing is better than Christ. And nothing will ever satisfy me more than to seek Him and obey His will! 

Number Our Days

Edric spoke on numbering our days during the Sunday Service two days ago. It was an inspiring message that challenged the audience to consider how we use the time we have.

Psalm 90:12 says, So teach us to number our days that we may present to You (God) a heart of wisdom.

Life is short. Our friend, Steve Reed, passed away at 30. Another friend of the family, Jay Lucas, died of cancer shortly after it relapsed. And my grandfather (Angkong) departed at 96. None of us know the length of our days on this earth. It can be a few years or many, but in the end, it’s merely a dash between the year we are born and the year we die. 

Therefore, Edric challenged us to adopt the perspective of Kerry and Chris Shook in their book, “One Month to Live.” Edric read this back in 2008, but it tied in perfectly with his New Year’s challenge for us. 

If each of us had only one month to live, what would we do differently? Why aren’t we doing these things now? 

He pulled out three points from their book: Live passionately, love completely, and learn humbly. 

Live passionately for the Lord. This is about building God’s kingdom and not our own. Do we look to meet the spiritual needs of those around us and minister to them? Or, are we too busy pursuing the temporal things — money, fame, power?

Personally, I need to improve on sharing the gospel with people in a one-on-one context. I talk about Jesus on my site, the gospel story is in my book, and I insert the gospel message when I speak in front of audiences, but sometimes, I am too preoccupied to strike up a conversation with a sales lady, clerk, beautician, massage therapist, etc, and I forget that these are missed opportunities to tell them that they are infinitely loved by God, that He wants to have a personal relationship with them. Instead, I am thinking about whether they are serving me the way they ought to, or if I am getting my goals accomplished. People become a means to an end. But God wants me to consider their end. My mom, who talks about Jesus as often as she can, says, “When we don’t share the gospel, it’s like telling people to go to hell.” 

Very recently, I read Ezekiel again, and I highlighted the passage that speaks about how we are accountable to tell people the truth. Whether they receive it isn’t our problem, but if we don’t declare God’s Word He will hold us responsible as His “watchmen.”

“”Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” Ezekiel‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭

Living passionately for the Lord is also about being contagious Christians. Do we do our best at work, home, ministry? Do we use our talents, gifts and abilities to glorify God? If people were to examine our lives closely, would they be able to conclude with absolute certainty that we are followers of Christ? Would they be attracted to the joy, peace and love they see, and desire the same for themselves? 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭

Love completely is about forgiving and unconditionally accepting the people in our lives. If we were to number our days, knowing that life is too short to squander on anger and bitterness, would we choose to end our days with unresolved conflicts or issues in our marriages, with our children, siblings or others? 
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.‭‭” Colossians‬ ‭3:12-14‬ ‭

Learn humbly involves the willingness to change, to listen and receive correction and criticism, or to seek to grow and mature in areas of weakness. 

  God gave Edric and me the perfect opportunity to apply all three aspects of numbering our days. We traveled to the beach with the kids without yayas. Catalina is two so I am trying to help her become more independent. But it’s never simple to travel with five kids. It’s a lot of fun but it requires Edric and me to be hands-on at all times. Thankfully, our older sons are a big blessing. They give us breaks and take over when they can. Yet like I said, family vacations can be a good test of living passionately, loving completely and learning humbly. 

  Just today, on the way home from the beach, we nearly lost Catalina who walked off to go exploring in the hotel. Edric panicked and raised his voice at Elijah, whom he assumed was tasked to babysit her because she was last seen with him. Elijah darted off in tears, looking for Catalina, feeling terrible. The other kids said, “Why did dad shout?”

I glared at Edric for losing his cool in front of the children and went hunting for Catalina. She wasn’t lost at all. I found her playing with her cousin in the dining area, unaware of the distress her momentary disappearance had caused everyone. 

In the car, there was an icy silence as Edric and I anticipated who would apologize first. He began by identifying who was to blame and commanded me to say sorry to everyone for being the main person responsible for Catalina. After I did, I retorted, “You need to apologize, too, for shouting at Elijah. Shouting doesn’t help anyone solve a problem. You simply agitated everyone with your response. It wasn’t right.” 

I usually keep quiet and let the Holy Spirit convict him, but I was so annoyed that I let the words roll off my tongue without restraint. He didn’t appreciate this at all, but he did ask for our forgiveness to be a good example. Neither of us were satisfied with each other’s apology. We sense the lingering frustration and anger between us. (It’s only by God’s grace that we are able to recover from these situations.)
When both ended up re-doing our apologies with sincerity and we also chose to forgive one another and let go of the resentment. We applied the principle of “numbering our days.”

First, we were un-Christlike examples to our kids. And living passionately for the Lord must be evident to our most sensitive audience first — our children. Edric spoke to Elijah and really humbled himself before all of us. I also asked for forgiveness for being disrespectful towards Edric. 

Second, loving completely means I needed to forgive Edric as he needed to forgive me. We didn’t feel like it. AT ALL. We were thoroughly aggravated with one another for the mistakes we made. But God asks us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. After we did so, the anger dissipated. 

Third, we learned humbly by acknowledging our wrongs to one another. When Edric was correcting me and criticizing me for neglecting Catalina, I wanted to defend myself and list down the many ways I took care of her during the trip. I felt like he took that one moment and gave me a rating of “F” for my mother skills. But I apologized because it only takes one accident or careless instance to lose a child and I did mess up. I did not keep a diligent eye on her and assumed that Elijah was entertaining her with an educational game. Furthermore, I made Edric look badly in front of the kids with my tone and words when I could have spoke to him in private about raising his voice. This was wrong. 

I praise God that by the end of our journey all was resolved and our relationships were restored.
We all need to number our days, to consider how we want to spend the time God has gifted us with. Are we living passionately for Him, loving others completely (especially our spouse and children), and learning humbly by choosing to become more like Christ? 

God will hold us accountable for the manner in which we invest each moment, each hour, each day, each year, and each lifetime. May He find us faithful and wise, people who understand the brevity of life and make choices that please Him! 

  
““The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’” Matthew‬ ‭25:21‬ ‭

Forever Spring


  We buried my angkong today. It was a tearful goodbye but the joy of knowing he entered into eternity with the Lord superseded the sorrow of his parting.

“He is in heaven with Jesus,” Catalina said after I explained to her that it was merely his body that we were looking at inside the casket. He also lived to be 96 years old and passed rather peacefully, dying of old age rather than sickness. What more could we have asked for? God was gracious to him.


   Furthermore, he spent the last six years living with my parents after the calamitous flooding of Typhoon Ondoy struck, which gave our side of the family special time with him. My parents diligently cared for him. They also interacted with him daily, took him traveling, brought him to worship services, family gatherings, and events.

Dad believed in honoring his father this way. I remember my dad quoting angkong, who told his children, “Be kind and do good to us (your parents) while we are alive, and don’t do things like build a mausoleum for us when we are dead, when it won’t matter.” My dad took this to heart. He didn’t want to live with regret. More importantly, he respected his parents very much.

When I found out that angkong died last Sunday, I grieved his departure. Although he deteriorated significantly in the last year and I knew he would probably go soon, his death still saddened me. It’s never easy to lose a family member. And I know it was sobering for my parents. Seeing them cry wasn’t easy.

To honor angkong, I decided to write a memoir that can be passed on to my children. I want them to remember the man he was and the legacy he left behind. Piecing together information from my aunt who flew in from Canada (the oldest sibling), my dad, and eulogies given by relatives during the wake services, I highlighted the salient details of his life.

Angkong, formally known to others as Ernesto Tan-Chi Sr., was born in the year 1919, in Fujian province in China. He grew up in a town, YongChun, which means “Forever Spring.”


Forever spring. What a fitting phrase to describe my angkong — a man who exuded life and positivity. Angkong radiated confidence and he captivated people, strangers included, with his charm and friendliness.

In the early 1940s he met my grandmather, Luisa, whose family was from Fujian as well. Ama, as we called her, studied at a prestigious university in Shanghai but grew up in Manila. She was born into a traditional Chinese family. I discovered that her mother (my great grandmother) had incredibly tiny feet because they were bound when she was younger. According to my aunt, the smaller the feet the more desirable. Apparently, rich families practiced feet binding. (Thank God that painful practice stopped with my great grandmother!)

Angkong and ama found each other in the Philippines. Angkong migrated to the Philippines and first worked as a caragador. Then he got a break as a salesman in Divisoria, selling fabric. His beginnings were humble, but he was intelligent, hard working, and gifted with business acumen. Some years later, he began his own trading company, where he was exposed to importing cotton. This opened the door to a bigger venture, a textile corporation that he named Riverside Mills.

Riverside Mills controlled the importation of cotton sourced from Egypt and California. Angkong built the first fully integrated textile company with factories spanning an area so large you couldn’t walk around it in a single day. The facilities operated machines that separated seeds from cotton, combed it, stretched it into thread, wove it, and turned it into fabric, plain or printed. Afterwards, the mills could also manufacture clothing and other goods. It was an end-to-end operation. Eventually, Riverside Mills also opened a polyester plant.

At the height of his business success, angkong was a tycoon, playing golf with high ranking public officials, traveling the world, holding office in the 34th floor of the Empire State building in New York City, and cultivating friendships with world famous people like the Rockefellers. An article in Reader’s Digest in the 1960’s included him in the list of Who’s Who In Asia.

When I was a young girl, my earliest memories of Riverside Mills included Judo lessons. My brothers and I went there weekly, wearing our white gis. I never cared too much for the sport but it was certainly a fun adventure entering the sprawling facility that housed the mills.

Some years into the government administration during the 1970s, the business underwent a hostile take-over. Furthermore, a series of bad decisions led to its demise, coupled by smuggling issues that gave competitors an unfair advantage.

In the end, angkong’s textile empire collapsed and my dad, who ran operations for the polyster company was fired by a man connected with one of the former presidents of the Philippines, a man who used to be his comrade and golfing buddy. Looking back, my dad saw this as God’s divinely appointed way of removing him from a world that would’ve corrupted him spiritually. Although my dad came to know Jesus as a young man, it was the humbling experience of losing his family’s wealth and power that changed the trajectory of his life for the better.

From the pinnacle of worldly success, angkong and his children found themselves trying to salvage whatever remained of his investments and smaller companies. The Tan-Chi name was defamed and mocked for the heights from which it had fallen. And yet there’s more to be told of the story, the more glorious part that speaks of an enduring heritage, of success beyond money, power, and prestige.

If there is anything I hope my children will remember, it is the man who was a father, husband, grandfather, and great grandfather. Beyond the history of his success to the eventual end of his textile business, angkong’s greater heritage was his character.

Live simply. Even though angkong was incredibly wealthy, he didn’t buy luxury goods. Although my ama had an eye for jewelry, she and angkong were sensible spenders. For angkong, paying a ridiculous amount of money for branded products was like assigning false value to items that were made to project an image. His background as a hard working salesman, exposure to trading, and his ownership of a textile company gave him an eye for the true value of goods. So he bought what he was willing to pay for, what he needed. He preferred to invest in land, stocks, travel, and business opportunities. Therefore, when he lost so much of his wealth, it wasn’t difficult to adjust to less. He didn’t develop an appetite for over-priced material things. Thankfully, his children inherited the same mindset. Till this day, my dad doesn’t wear branded clothing, watches, or shoes. He and my mom never raised us to desire those things either.

Love people. Angkong made friends everywhere he went. He was genuinely interested in people. He cared for their well-being. According to my dad, he always tried to help his relatives out financially. But even more important was his concern for others on a deeply personal level.

During one of the trips that my brother, Paul, took with angkong to his hometown in China, angkong kept asking Paul to share the gospel with people. Whether it was people angkong and Paul met for the first time or family and old friends, angkong would tell them, “My grandson has something good to share with you.” And Paul would look at them, unable to fully articulate himself in Mandarin, and proceed to share whatever he could of the good news of Jesus’ salvation because angkong would insist.

Some years prior, angkong had also given his life to Jesus. Although he believed in the teachings of Confucius in the past, and proudly called him “older than Jesus Christ,” he prayed to accept Jesus as His Lord and Savior after a conversation with Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Be disciplined. Every morning, angkong would wake up early and encourage his own children to do the same. Some of them appreciated it and other did not, but today, my dad and his siblings are wired the same way. They all go to bed early and wake up early. They have routines and schedules.

Angkong also lived by the mantra, “everything in moderation,” so he never overate. In fact, he measured fullness by percentages. “Angkong, do you want some more food?” He would reply, “I’m okay. I’m 80% or 90% full.” He also exercised daily, whether it was golf or walking around outdoors, angkong found ways to stay fit and healthy.

Relax, don’t worry. Angkong never hurried or rushed through an activity. He liked to take his time, to revel in the moment. When my dad traveled with him, he would get anxious about making it to the boarding gate of a flight they had to catch. But angkong would tell him to relax and not worry. He was such an easy-going guy, never harried or stressed out. He enjoyed hanging out, observing people, and taking in the sites of places he visited. Maybe this is also why he lived to a ripe, old age without many health complications! He didn’t sweat the small stuff and he knew how to enjoy himself.

Don’t criticize and don’t harbor anger. When angkong lost Riverside Mills, he never blamed it on others. He didn’t hold a grudge against people who betrayed him or turned against him, nor did he speak ill of them. He thought the best of people and circumstances, too. His positivity was remarkable. My dad said he never heard his father slander others or belittle them.

Be faithful to your spouse. For eighteen years of her life my ama (grandmother) was debilitated. For the last years of her life she was practically a vegetable. She suffered complications from multiple strokes and type 2 diabetes. But angkong didn’t womanize. He took care of her and honored her. That was God’s grace! His example demonstrated to us what commitment to one’s spouse ought to be like.

Angkong has passed from this earth, but his legacy lives on. Someday, I hope my children will realize how privileged they were to have a great grandfather who modeled noble character. More precious than the money he could have left behind or the businesses he could have bequeathed to his sons and daughters, he gave our clan a good example to follow. His Christ-likeness was his great inheritance to us. So thank you, angkong, for the choices you made – the attitudes, perspectives, and deeds that defined you as amazing to me. You will be missed but I thank God that this isn’t the end. I will see you again where it is eternally and forever spring…

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.

 — 

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

Respect Your Husband, Respect Your Wife

 When I was newly married, my struggle was how to respect my husband. (Okay, sometimes it still is!) I believed that I had married the man of my dreams (he still is) but in marriage, I began to see his flaws (he also saw mine!) I didn’t like it when he would get irritated easily or criticize me. So I retaliated by challenging his leadership. Having seen the chink in his armor, I began to question his capacity to lead me.

This spilled over into everything. When he would make decisions, I would contradict him. When he was driving I would say things like, “Do you know where you are going?” In short, I made him feel like he was inadequate. I aggravated him further by nagging and pressuring him to be a spiritual leader. Some of my comments would be like this: “Are you even reading your Bible? How can you grow if you don’t read your Bible?”

In Proverbs 25:24 it says, “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”  I often instigated the strife in our relationship. I was that contentious woman!

My disrespect towards Edric only pushed him away emotionally and spiritually. He didn’t feel inspired to love me. God had to teach me to look at my own life and work on the areas I needed to change. He prompted me to pray for Edric instead of attempting to transform him with my cutting words. Firthermore, God convicted me to use statements that would build up and not tear Edric down.

A couple who was married for many years was interviewed about the secret to their marriage and this is what they revealed: They kept a list of traits they appreciated about one another on their bathroom mirror. This list reminded them to be thankful for each other everyday and to focus on the positive.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs‬ ‭18:21)‬ ‭

Words are powerful…the ones we think of and speak forth. As a woman, I often erred with my words. So this was an area I knew I had to change in to be more respectful towards Edric. Instead of zoning in on the negative, I elected to be attentive to the positive. For example, one time, when Edric opened my door, I said, “Wow I really appreciate it when you do that. It makes me feel important and it makes me feel very attracted to you.”

He perked up and his face lit up. “Really?” He replied with a smile as he puffed up like a peacock then filed that compliment for future reference. This was probably 12 years ago and he still remembers! Men are simple. They respond to affirmation and appreciation. “Of all the people in the world,” Edric once told me, “You have the greatest capacity to wound me and hurt me, because of all the people in the world, it is your perspective of me that matters most.” Every man longs to be honored and held in high regard, especially by his wife.

Some women have argued that men have such tender egos and that’s the problem. But instead of getting annoyed about how sensitive they can be to our disrespect, let’s think about the positive affect our words of praise can have on their sense of self-worth!

Another way we can respect our husbands is to put energy into our sex lives, to respond to them sexually, and to initiate interest in being intimate with them. I have said this before but o recently came across a book where author Barbara Rainey said, “Something magical happens in a man’s spirit when he knows his wife desires him. When you desire to be intimate with your husband he is able to take on the world because he knows he matters to the most important person in his life.” When Edric and I have meaningful intimacy, he announces, “This is going to be a great day!”

I asked Edric some time ago “how often is often enough for you?” And he told me he can’t last longer than three days. What did he mean by this? After three days without sex he starts noticing everything that resembles the female body. It’s hard for him to stay pure in heart and mind. So it’s part of my responsibility to meet this need with joy and not selfishness.

The other day a friend of mine proudly announced, “I have been having sex with my husband every night for the past week!” Naturally, I wanted to know if this had a profound effect on her marriage, to which she revealed, “My husband was so happy he took me kitchen shopping and didn’t complain the entire time!” She also confessed that she had been neglectful of her husband’s sexual needs in the past. Did she have sex with her husband in order to go kitchen shopping? Of course not. But her responsiveness and willingness to meet this need blessed her husband so much he cheerfully brought her to do something he would have otherwise hated to. Kitchen shopping?!

As a wife, it’s also part of my responsibility to put effort into looking my best for Edric. I have to take anti-gravity measures like exercise to fight the effects of age on my weight and I have to be more discriminating about the food I eat (except for butter. He he) Honestly, keeping a healthy weight is not something I do just for Edric. I also want to take care of my body because it’s the right thing to do. The bonus benefit is that Edric appreciates it when I take care of myself. 

Here’s my little bit of advice…keep an outfit from your first year of marriage and use that as your body weight goal. We all had our womanly form by then so it’s an achievable standard.

I keep one pair of pants from college and push myself to fit back into them after each baby. This last pregnancy has taken me longer. I am one size away from it and it’s taking forever! (Maybe I should remove the butter!)

What about Edric’s version of respect for me? I know that the Bible specifically tells wives to respect their husbands, but sometimes to love a wife as God instructs a husband to also involves respecting her.

For example, Edric guards what he watches and what he listens to. If he isn’t careful and lets his eyes wander or programs his preferences with the smut that porn is made of, I am sure it would be very disappointing for him to see me naked. And I wouldn’t want to be naked around him! It would make me feel vastly inadequate to meet the impossible standard of the porn-peg.

Instead, Edric “honors our marriage bed” as the Bible calls him to, and he honors God by choosing to be holy. In the process, he honors me as his wife by directing his eyes towards me and conditioning his sexual appetite to desire me. In turn, this makes me feel safe and secure with him. It makes me want to give myself to him physically because my heart (and my body) trust him. 

Another way that Edric shows me respect is by treating me like a lady. He protects me, gives me preferential treatment and is attentive to my needs. When I am carrying a heavy bag, he offers to bear its burden. When I am crossing the street he ushers me to the safe side. When I get in and out of the car, he has made it a habit to hold the door open for me. When I sit down and stand up from a table, he USUALLY gets up to pull my seat out. Through these small gestures, he ascribes worth to me as a woman.

At home, Edric also instructs our children to speak to me politely and he is quick to correct them when they forget to. He elevates my position in their eyes so they are careful with their tone and language when they interact with me. But I believe he exemplifies this first by modeling it in the way he communicates and converses with me. There have been occasions when he has humbly said, “Kids, will you forgive me for speaking to your mom that way? I need to be more gentle with my words.”

Before it looks like Edric and I have a picture-perfect relationship this isn’t the case at all. And if you have been following this blog you would know this already! Our marriage is a continual work in progress and we have many things to improve on, but by God’s grace every year that passes is the better year for our marriage as we keep Christ at the center of our relationship. And keeping Christ at the center challenges us to apply principles like respecting and honoring one another.
In conclusion, the Bible tells us, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” (Romans‬ ‭12:9-10‬)

How can we honor our spouse today? Perhaps by speaking a word of encouragement? Rearranging our schedule so we can prioritize them? Committing to purity? Using a tone of voice that is kind and gentle? Speaking highly of them in public? Thinking about the traits we appreciate? Being attentive to their needs? 

And if we feel like our spouse may not deserve respect, here’s  something to think about it… 

Christ died for us when we didn’t deserve it! He considered us worthy of His sacrifice and love. Let His character and example inspire us to do the same for others, especially our spouses. 

A Strong Man Needs A Strong Woman

My father was a temperate man, not the kind of person who was very affected by emotional swings. So it was challenging to be married to a man who could switch between extremely excited and extremely frustrated from one moment to another, depending on the circumstance or trigger. 

  As Edric grew in his understanding of what it means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, he changed. He was less moody, less irritable, and more conscious of how his reactions affected those around him, especially the kids as me. This was the Lord’s work in his life. 

However, I had a listening problem. Because I didn’t grow up in a family that “coddled” emotions like anger, irritation, disappointment, and the like, I tended to be less tolerant when Edric exhibited any of these things to whatever degree. My perspective was (and sometimes still is), get over it. That’s not a correct feeling. You can choose to be spirit-filled. This insensitivity would get me into trouble with Edric because he felt like I disrespected him when I made statements like, “Why are you feeling that way? You shouldn’t feel that way.” It sounded a lot like I was putting him down when I spoke those words and this hurts his feelings. 

Thankfully, God worked in my heart, too. I learned to listen to him when he was being vulnerable and to encourage him. However, this past week, I reverted to my old ways. 

It must have been a Monday or Tuesday afternoon when he plopped himself on to the bed beside me and randomly asked, “Do you think God loves me?” 

This question was an invitation into meaningful dialogue but I took it like this…Whoa. He just preached a sermon that highlighted the love of God and he is asking this question? 

He started to say something like, “I haven’t been experiencing any wins lately,” explaining that he was discouraged with work, with people, with ministry, with finances, etc. 

Instead of drawing him out with questions like, “Oh really, why do think that is?,” I went straight to, “Are you really asking if God loves you? Why would you even ask that? You just preached about God’s love!” (Not a good start to open communication.)

Since my words and tone had already delivered the damage, he stood up from the bed and emphatically said, “Forget it!” and walked off to get ready for our outdoor run. I called out after him but he was no longer interested. In short, I ruined a perfectly good moment to wear what I have called “the best friend hat.”

Shortly after this, we went running with the boys while he pushed the girls in a double stroller. He didn’t talk to me even when I injected comments here and there to get a gauge of how annoyed he was with me. 

About twenty minutes into our run I apologized for my response and asked if he wanted to talk about it, but he didn’t want to resume the conversation and dismissed me with sarcasm. With a smirk he said, “It’s okay, I don’t have any problems. I don’t have any weakness. I am invincible. That’s what you want, right? A husband who is always strong. No weakness.” 

“Do you really mean that? You know that’s not what I meant. Is that how you want to resolve this, by saying that?” 

“Yup.” 

“And that’s what you would counsel couples to do to resolve a conflict? (Dismiss it)” 

“Yup.” 

Well, he was being ridiculous on purpose so I replied, “Fine,” and ran faster. Naturally, he couldn’t go as fast because he was pushing our two girls up a hill. Since it seemed like he didn’t want to be around me, I retaliated by leaving him behind. 

I was in the living room starting on an ab workout when Edric arrived and joined me in silence. The boys didn’t know that we were in the middle of a spat and they did abs with us, too. Perhaps Edric had not gotten over our conflict, so his frustration spilled over to all of us. Titus started tearing because the workout was so hard for him, and Edric said, “There’s no crying during this workout!” 

Oh my goodness. Edric was not himself. But I kept quiet because the kids were present. 

The next day, Edric realized that he hadn’t been Spirit-filled so he apologized to me and the kids. At some point we also got to talk about how I could improve in the way I listen to him and support him. And he was right. 

Our conversation would have taken a completely different and more positive turn if I had begun with empathy and gentleness. My response belittled and rejected his feelings when he needed me to minister to him. 

Husbands may be strong, but there will be days when they need us to be spiritually strong for them. The Bible tells us, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”” ‭‭(Genesis‬ ‭2:18) God used the same word “helper” to describe the way he comes to our aid. “Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭54:4‬) 

Our role is both beautiful and important. God designed us to meet a need in a man that no other created thing can. We are to be life sustainers and rescuers alongside our husbands. (This is the more accurate definition of the word “helper” in Hebrew.)
How can we be helpers to our husbands? 

    1. We can encourage them to hope in God when they are dealing with their many challenges.

    2. We can assure them that we are present to support them. 

    3. We can affirm their efforts with gratitude and appreciation. 

    4. We can pray with them and for them. 

    5. We can look to God as our source of strength, peace, love and joy and channel these virtues toward our husbands. 

    6. We can use our gifts and abilities to help them accomplish God’s purposes.

I sometimes forget the kinds of battles Edric has to face as a man — to love, lead and provide for our family, and to serve in ministry. So if he needs to express how stressful it is or talk about the doubts he has every now and then, then the least I can do is hug him and tell him I love him…tell him that, by God’s grace, we’ll get through the tough spells in our marriage and family together as a team.

Thankfully, a few nights ago, God gave me a second chance to be Edric’s helper. He began to open up to me again about some of his plans and the obstacles he was facing. I complimented him for being so thorough in his planning. This made him eager to listen to my perspective. And then I offered a suggestion which he was so grateful for. (Yeah!) When we had more time to talk, we had another fruitful discussion which left him hopeful about the future, gave him clarity of direction, and motivated him to go out there again and be the man God has called him to be. 

So be strong, wives! Not in ourselves, but in the Lord so we can enable, enrich, encourage, revive, connect and reconnect the hearts of our husbands to God, and inspire them to love, follow, and obey Him faithfully!  

 

Helping A Child Overcome Shyness 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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