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! 

Fourteen Is Better Than Thirteen

I sat across from Edric at a cafe this morning, studying his face like I hadn’t seen it a million times. Has it really been 14 years since we were standing at the altar, speaking our vows? Are we really parents to five amazing kids?

 Apart from the peppering of his hair and the smile lines at the edges of his eyes, he doesn’t look much older than he did in college. I actually think he is a more handsome version of his younger self. I like the way he is aging. It’s attractive to me.

The cafe was an unplanned departure from our original schedule. He should have been at the office and I should have been with the kids. But our vehicle needed a battery-change, so there we were, making the most of the opportunity to share breakfast and talk.

“Is this what you imagined?,” He asked me. “Is this what you imagined marriage would be like?”

It was an unexpected question but the moment called for it. We were tucked away in the corner of the cafe, and it was the day after our anniversary. Our overnight date at the Marco Polo hotel was coming to a close. So I said, “I didn’t think this far when I was single, but I knew that you were the person I loved and wanted to share my life with.” 

“It’s better than I imagined,” he added, like he meant to answer his own question. “I used to be afraid that our relationship would change as we got older, as we aged, when our bodies were no longer in their prime. How would this affect the way we perceived one another? But then I realized that marriage has stages to it. During the early years, the physical aspect seemed to be a large part of our intimacy. Yet as the years went by, I discovered a depth beyond the physical…like this, right now, being here with you and enjoying it. We are stuck here because of a car battery problem, but it’s totally fine because we are together. There’s no other person I would rather be with, raise children with, and serve the Lord with.”

I smiled as he took my hand, possibly in between chewing my tuna melt sandwich. (I was graceful about it, trying not to ruin the moment.) 

Fourteen years may be few compared to couples who are celebrating their silver anniversaries, but for us it feels like a lot of history. We have weathered many seasons together. It dawned on me, as I was reminiscing and recalling the early years of our marriage, that this history matters. The longer we stay married and honor the commitment we vowed to, the more palpable the oneness feels. 

When the Bible says that two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), I started thinking about the word ‘shall.’ While oneness is symbolized by the event of sexual union between a husband and wife, oneness is also a process. Oneness happens over time, memories, pain, and joy. The person I am today feels so intensely entwined into the person Edric is. 

   
 From two separate threads as single people, we became a tightly wound chord of three – the Lord, Edric and me. I may not have imagined what fourteen years of marriage would be like, but I know for sure that I can’t imagine life without Edric. Not now. Not after fourteen years of oneness. 

How does a relationship become like this? Where two people can be vulnerable and honest and naked and unashamed…and you can say “I love you no matter what, even if I know all your imperfections”…and you laugh at things that no one else finds funny…or signal mysterious codes across a room full of people and get each other’s message because an eyebrow was raised, or a mouth twitched, or a wink was sent your way…and you can lie in the stillness and quiet, closing your eyes to the events of the day, the good and the bad, and feel safe because the arms that are embracing you are familiar, and you fit so comfortably in each other’s spaces…and, yes, you also have three boys and two girls who act and speak like little versions of yourselves, but are way cuter, who need you both as dad and mom and need you to stay together because you are a family…and you navigate through the storms in your relationship and outside of it, hand in hand, looking to Christ to walk you through them, to heal the wounds that hurt like heck but make you stronger…and you may fight and disagree and really NOT like each other sometimes but you know that this is forever and you will commit to work it out because this is the person whom you chose to love and will continue to love in spite of, just because, and most certainly till you are old and wrinkled and maybe even toothless. 

As Edric and I live out the vows we once made to each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer til death do us part, my desire to be his and his desire to be mine increases all the more. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Solomon 6:3a) 

It’s hard to explain this when so many people quit on their marriages emotionally or legally soon after the difficulties confront them. And I know why they do. There’s always a reason that pushes them to do so. I’ve wrestled with some of these reasons myself. But from this vantage point, and not as one who professes to be an expert at mouthing out advice on relationships, but as one who has chosen to stay married for fourteen years (so far), my observation is this: fourteen years of marriage was way better than the first thirteen, and by God’s grace, I think fifteen will be better than fourteen. And by faith I believe that the best is yet to come, not next year or the next, but decades down the road! 

Why? Because this is the beautiful mystery of oneness – God’s design for a husband and wife – to journey together into the endless, vastless and unfathomable depths of love, His love. After all, it is not our exhaustible human love that binds us to one another. I love Edric because God first loved me. Edric loves me because God first loved him. As 1 John 4:19 put it, “We love because He first loved us.” It is the strand of God’s eternal love in our relationship that keeps us from unraveling, that strengthens our resolve to remain committed to each other through each passing year, that pulls us forward when we struggle to go on. 

As I end this entry, I want to say, stay. Don’t go. Stay through the seasons that are difficult, that feel unending, when human love has lost its feeling, and promises have been broken. Stay and see how God can renew and rebuild what is damaged in us and in our marriages, and meet our unmet longings with His amazing love. God is the author of marriage and His love is its keeper and healer. 

And to my husband, Edric, I thank you for staying with me. I love you more today than ever. Happy Anniversary!
“(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a)

   
 
 

Pursuing Peace at Home

Sometimes managing household help and a driver is stressful for me when their inter-personal relationships get complicated. When unsettled issues linger, their work and the environment of our home is affected. But my greater concern is their spiritual health and what lies behind the conflict.

For several months our household help and driver were embittered with one another. Their dissension began with minor irritations over personality differences. But the hurt escalated until they started name-calling and criticizing. When I asked each one of them what the issue was, the problem between them had become so convoluted, Edric decided to set a meeting to settle their conflict once and for all.

This morning, he mediated a nearly two hour discussion. First we prayed together and then he gave each person the opportunity to share their frustrations. He didn’t let emotions escalate and he prevented the higher-strung individuals from butting in and making snide comments. When everyone had the opportunity to speak up, he helped them identify the main issue.

The main issue was pretty simple — our driver was hurt because one of our household help was moody towards him. So he was demotivated to assist our girls when it came to chores outside the scope of his driving responsibilities. This angered the women who interpreted his attitude as laziness. They began to incite him with comments like, “you just sleep and eat,” which gave him reason to disdain them. Months passed and the angry feelings increased until they became noticeable to Edric, me, and our kids.

Today, Edric ably sorted through the mess with them and encouraged them to pursue peace. The two hour meeting turned out to be a wonderful time of healing for our household help and driver.

Edric asked all of them to say what they appreciated about each other, and what they could improve on. Tears were shed. Humility and forgiveness were present, and reconciliation took place.

At the end, I reminded them that our home represents Christ because we are followers of Jesus and so are they (each one of them has a personal relationship with Him). Therefore I concluded my little part of the speech I was allowed to inject, thanks to Edric, with the reason why we need to be at peace with one another. We want to glorify Christ in our relationships and in our home. They wholeheartedly agreed.

To give them a practical application, Edric went over Ephesians 4:29 which reads, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NASB‬‬

He made them read this passage and internalize it so they would remember to speak in ways that edify and not wound one other. We also prayed together to conclude our meeting. Afterwards, everyone was smiling and the atmosphere had changed from tense and chilly to warm and sunny!

I decided to write this entry because I was blessed by Edric’s leadership today. He sounded like a frog because he was battling a bad cough and laryngitis but he prioritized this peace-keeping mission to restore the relationships that were broken in our household. He could have left the problem to me to fix, but he knew that I needed his intervention to facilitate the meeting in Filipino and to assert his headship. The women were flaming some some pretty hot emotional fires but because they deeply respect Edric and have a healthy fear of him, they listened to his counsel and guidance. Edric also assured me that he knew the culture and how to steer the course of the discussion so it would remain focused and productive.

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When all was quiet again and we had a moment together, I thanked him profusely for coming to my aid. 1 Timothy 3:2-5 talks about the qualifications for an overseer as one who is “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” ‭‬‬

I know this passage is especially for church leaders, but in the verses which precede it, the encouragement is to aspire for church leadership. This means that every person ought to consider putting on the qualities that describe a leader. And being a good leader includes managing one’s household — ordering it and taking charge of it.

I used to think this was about making sure that our kids are well-behaved and obedient. But it was brought to my attention again today that the responsibility is greater. Edric and I need to disciple our household help and driver. They don’t just work for us to serve our family. We must be committed to their spiritual health, too. God has placed them in our lives so we can bless them and minister to them. Sometimes, this means Edric, as the head of our home, has to steer them towards Christ-likeness like he did today.

I may have been able to set up and oversee the meeting today, but I know it wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did so I praise God for the wisdom and initiative he gave Edric. What an amazing difference it makes when a man embraces his God-given position of authority in the home!

Tue Jul 01 2014 09-12-43 GMT+0800

Have Fun With Your Spouse

Our Thursday night group is on the third session of Craig and Amy Groeschel’s DVD marriage series entitled “From This Day Forward.” The most recent topic was especially relevant and practical as the Groeschel’s shared about how to have fun as a couple.

They suggested three simple concepts that are well-worth applying to ignite or reignite passion in marriage:

1. Face to Face Fun. Do you and your spouse set aside a date night during the week when you can speak face to face, heart to heart, and connect intellectually, emotionally and spiritually?

When Edric and I were newly married, we enjoyed long, drawn out conversations as we sought to get to know one another. Real effort was made to discover what he liked, what I liked, what our dreams, passions and peculiarities were. As the years passed, pragmatism defined our interactions. Busy-ness overtook quality time. To remedy this, we religiously safeguarded an evening in the week to have that face to face fun time. No cellphones to interrupt or distract us, no children clamoring for our help or attention, and no business-talk as much as possible. We asked one another how our marriage was, what we felt like we could improve on independently and as a couple.

It is rare that we miss our date night during the week. But there were a couple of instances in the last few months when our schedule made it difficult to go out of the house for dinner. So Edric called our househelp and asked them to set up a table and chairs on the balcony so we could have a private dinner. The kids were not allowed to disturb us. Catalina was more challenging since she kept pressing her face against the glass doors and managed to come out several times. Finally, she was carried downstairs by one of her siblings, crying all the way down to the kitchen. Although tempted to rescue her, Edric insisted that we continue with our plans to talk. She survived just fine without me.

The point is connecting as a couple is important. It needs to be prioritized. I once read that couples naturally grow apart through the years and not closer. Without effort invested to get to know one’s spouse and connect with them regularly, feelings of love fade. Therefore speaking face to face must become a habit. We must intentionally seek to know what is going on in one another’s hearts to cultivate intimacy.
Here are some face to face questions we can ask our spouse…

– how can I pray for you?

– what’s been on your heart lately?

– what was the highlight of your day/ week?

– is there anything I can do to make you feel more loved and special?

– how can I improve as a spouse?

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Please note that once a week face to face fun time may not be enough if that’s the only opportunity we have to be with our spouses. It’s like starving ourselves during the week and eating a buffet once to make up for the deprivation! A marriage can’t stay healthy if a husband and wife have zero relationship in the week and expect the face to face fun time during date nights to work. The Grosechels encourage on-going conversation. And here’s the reality…”men like headlines but women like details,” so let’s remember that this habit of communicating may take some getting used to because of our God-designed differences but the benefits will outweigh the cost of adjustment. (Wait till the end to understand what this means.)


2. Side to side fun.
The next principle is about sharing activities together. Guys, for instance, are more likely to open up in the context of activity. I remember this about my dad and brothers. They would always bond with one another during sports.

One of the wives in our Thursday bible study group took up golf because she realized she was becoming a “golf widow.” So she purposefully played golf to engage in her husband’s world and her husband really appreciated it.

When our husbands are participating in an activity they thoroughly enjoy, they are relaxed and stress-free. A lot of times this is when they are willing to be more detailed and communicative, too. Craig Groeschel actually said there are two occasions when a husband is more inclined to share what’s on his mind and heart — in the context of activity and after sex! (True or false?)

Not every wife may find it realistic to get involved in the same activities her husband enjoys but there can be a fix to this. For example, Edric used to turn to basketball with friends as his recreational outlet. But when he realized that this was something that took him away from me, he decided we should find a sport we could both get into.

Years ago, when badminton was still a fad and clubs were sprouting everywhere, we competed as a team. I never considered badminton a real sport at first. Real sports to me were like basketball and soccer (football). Well I was wrong. Badminton turned out to be a pretty challenging sport. Plus, I burned a ton of calories in the process which helped me loose post-pregnancy weight. Edric and I looked forward to our weekly/bi-weekly badminton games and the talking rides to and from the clubs where we played at.

These days we work out or run together. But we also serve in ministry as a team which adds an even more meaningful dimension to our relationship. Working together towards a goal or ministering along side one another gives us insight into each other’s personalities. Furthermore, the experiences we encounter (both good and bad) provide us with more topics to talk about and connect on.

3. Belly button to belly button fun. Leave it to Craig Groeschel to come up with a phrase like that! He was offering a word picture for sexual intimacy. I want to talk more about sexual intimacy in marriage because it’s definitely essential to a marriage and deserves a future post all of its own. But in the meantime, I am only going to highlight what Craig Groeschel said (paraphrased) which had me laughing till the point of tears…”Men work on your approach — be tender, romantic, bring a gift. Stop making everything sexual! As for the ladies…make an approach! Any approach! Get some lingerie, be romantic, prepare the hot tub, light some candles…”

We know that men and women view sex very differently and need it very differently, too. But it is integral to a marriage. Whenever Edric and I counsel couples one of the questions we ask is how is your sex life? Almost all of the time there is a correlation between poor communication and poor sex. Those who admit that sex in marriage is non-existent or rare have major communication problems between them. And sometimes these communication problems stem from deeper issues such as infidelity, pornography, or unresolved conflicts  that need to be healed first.

Face to face fun, side to side fun and belly button to belly button fun. That is the ideal sequence. Enjoy the first two points and the third follows naturally. And let us always remember that sex in the context of a marriage between husband and wife is God-designed and beautiful! Look at what Proverbs 5:18 says…”Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Now read verse 19 on your own and be pleasantly surprised at how God celebrates sex in marriage! Yes that’s in the Bible!

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Photo credit: Mayad Beginnings

You Cannot Pray and Stay Upset With Your Spouse

I darted out the door for a 10 PM run a few evenings ago after Edric and I had a conflict. The cause of our dissension isn’t worth mentioning because it was, once again, something silly and trivial. It reached a climactic point when I declared in my exasperation while riding in the car beside him, “This is irritating, you are so irritating. Why are you making a big deal out of this?!”

In all my marriage, I have never insulted Edric this way. We teach about expressing frustration with “I feel” statements but I did exactly what we tell couples not to do — I criticized him.

Edric restrained his anger and kept silent. We were nearing the bend that turns into our home but the chilly air between us stretched the time to an eternal minute.

Where did I go wrong? Not too long before this, we were enjoying the company of friends, engaged in lively discussion, and exchanging spiritual insights. What a contrast to the oppressive atmosphere that put miles between us. I looked out the window, consumed by my ugly thoughts, stewing in a toxic mix of rage and apathy.

After writing an article entitled, Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences, there I was thinking, I am tired of this. We just don’t get each other. I need to run this off.

As soon as I got home, I changed, grabbed my running shoes and snuck out the front door. If Edric had seen me, he might have dissuaded me because it was late in the evening. Guiltily, I tiptoed out, leaving the door unlocked so I could slip back in unnoticed. Yes, I know, I was in bad spiritual shape! Criticizing my husband and then sneaking out of the house like a rebellious teen! My, my!

Even if my motivation was to get away from Edric to process my feelings, the run afforded me something better…time to pray. I soon discovered what is consistently true about prayer and conflict. It is impossible to pray and stay mad at your spouse!

As I communed with God, a strong conviction rose in my heart to humble myself. I didn’t want to give in to the prodding but how could I keep praying without recognizing my wretchedness and wrong? In the presence of a holy God, my sinfulness was made obvious.

God reminded me that it didn’t matter that there were actions or words spoken by Edric that hurt me. There was no excuse for my own behavior and response. These things were within my control. He asked me to initiate an apology, to go up to Edric after my run and sincerely ask for his forgiveness.

Prayer has a way of recalibrating my heart and mind so that my attention is drawn towards the Lord and away from my carnal perspective. This is one of the reasons why I am convinced that prayer is absolutely necessary for my spiritual survival and a healthy marriage. God reveals to me so many areas I need to change to become more Christ-like when I pray.

On the one hand, there is His Word and the support of friends and family who tell me when I am not living out His principles. But when I pray, God ministers to me in an intimate way.

God showed me once again that my thoughts, words, and actions are emblematic of my theology. When I resist being submissive or respectful to Edric, the real problem is my relationship with God, not Edric. Sure, Edric may have areas of improvement and he would say the same about me for sure. But the bigger issue is I don’t trust that God has my best interests at heart. I start thinking of his principles for marriage as unfair and unrealistic. My focus is no longer following God’s and pleasing Him, but giving in to the dictates of my emotions.

When I got home I found Edric sitting in the family room unwinding in front of his laptop. He didn’t realize I had been gone for the last thirty minutes. I meekly approached him asking, “Will you forgive me for disrespecting you, for saying that I was so irritated, and for being so angry? I am so sorry.”

The next day, Edric also asked for my forgiveness for being selfish and self-focused and all was well between us again.

Very often, I think of how prayer can change circumstances and people around me. But God is teaching me that prayer changes me most of all. Whenever I come before God, he reveals to me a sin I have to confess, a command I have to obey, a word of encouragement, an insight from His truth, the assurance of His presence, or the hope I need to keep pursuing His will. When I don’t pray, I become vulnerable to the schemes of the evil one who darkens my thinking with untruth.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples, anticipating his impending death on the cross, the told them, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38 NASB) He knew what challenges lay ahead of them in the days to come, how their faith would be shaken like never before. Clueless, the disciples didn’t listen but fell asleep!

Many times in my own marriage, I know that I am supposed to commit my relationship to Edric to the Lord by praying regularly and vigilantly. However, I’m not as intentional about it as I should be. Sometimes, I fall asleep in the spiritual sense, forgetting that every marriage is under continual threat from the divisive maneuverings of the evil one who wants to destroy marriages and tear spouses apart. The spiritual battle is real.

Last week, our church held a five day prayer and fasting time which did wonders for my relationship with Edric. Being in the spirit of prayer made a huge difference, not just for me but for Edric as we came together to pray each night of our fast.

Prayer put a spiritual shield around our marriage. Edric was especially patient and understanding towards me, and I found myself better able to receive correction and deal with issues between us with a gentle and quiet spirit. MIRACLE! What an affirmation to the power of praying to the Lord!

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Experiencing this victory affirmed why I need to make prayer a habit in my life and marriage.  As authors and speakers Craig and Amy Groeschel put it, “Seek the One with your two.” Translated: Seek God with your spouse by coming together in prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated…pray during meal times, pray about shared concerns, and pray for each other.

I began with the title, “It’s impossible to pray and stay upset at your spouse,” but the more positive perspective is, “It’s possible to keep loving your spouse when you are committed to praying to the Lord about yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.”

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Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences

 After fourteen years of marriage, I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot change Edric to become like me (you’d think I would’ve figured this out sooner!). It really just hit me recently, that this endless attempt to make him completely understand my personality is a futile preoccupation. First, he is a man and that already makes him Martian to my Venus-ity. Second, the family context and culture in which we were raised was unlike each other’s. Third, I actually appreciate Edric the way he is even if sometimes, the way he isn’t like me can be infuriating. Fourth, the point of marriage is not to become like one another but to become more like Christ and to exalt Him and not us. This aim takes our differences and unifies them under a common purpose and goal.

 Nevertheless, the struggle remains…how to get along and remain faithful to that commitment to love one another. Let me illustrate this…

The other morning I prepared what I thought was a pretty amazing breakfast for Edric — a bowl of oatmeal, a plate of cheese, prunes, and walnuts, toast with honey and butter, scrambled eggs, sliced oranges, and malunggay tea. I giddily arranged everything, expecting him to be amazed and delighted at how beautifully plated his food was. I waited for him to say, “Wow! Thanks hon!” Instead, he sat himself in front of his breakfast and asked rather tersely, “What’s this in my oatmeal? Did you put evaporated milk?”

I took this reaction as a complaint instead of a mere question so I retaliated with a comment that went something like this, “That’s all you have to say after I made all of that?”

Edric didn’t appreciate my interpretation of the situation, especially because I muttered it in front of the kids. I should have been more prudent and more respectful. But I thought his question expressed ungratefulness. Annoyed with me, he corrected my attitude and judgmental spirit on the spot (also in front of kids). “The problem is you had expectations and so you thought my question was negative. I just wanted to know if you put evaporated milk in my oatmeal.”

It was unusual for him to correct me with the kids present because we tend to take up our issues with one another in private. With the kids spectating, I felt just cause to add, “Are you going to do this with the kids here?” Well, he corrected me even more! So I stopped, afraid that our interchange wouldn’t benefit the kids. I didn’t want to put our conflict on display. Plus, Edric was getting more and more frustrated with me for challenging him. I apologized to our kids, but inside I was a volcanic mess.

When we were finally alone, Edric and I got to talk. He called out my tendency to hyperbolize any sort of negativity from him — whether it be a comment, an expression, or his tone of voice — if it looks or sounds like the opposite of positive, my defenses kick in and I retaliate. Admittedly, I am overly sensitive when it comes to Edric’s opinions and assessments of my duties and responsibilities as a wife. When he communicates his displeasure, I feel deeply discouraged. My problem is I am allergic to even the most subtle portrayals of irritation from him. Instead of looking past his method to the intent of the correction, for my good, I fight back. Sigh.

I attempted to explain that this response is due to my upbringing, because my home was a positive, cheery environment. Think sunshine and sparkles. People appreciated one another and applied grace towards imperfections. Initially, Edric took this to mean that I was making a comparison to our present family culture. But I assured him that my past merely provided a reference for how we ought to relate to one another. I praise God that after several turbulent exchanges where our emotions began to escalate, we were able to sort through the hurtful comments properly. Edric led us to good conclusions.

  1. I need to be more humble when correction comes my way (no matter how it is delivered).
  1. Edric will make a conscious effort to apply gentleness of tone when he corrects me.

He also called our children into the kitchen and sat them around us. “Kids, will you forgive me for the way I talked to your mom? I was trying to correct her but I should have said it in a sweeter way.”

“You weren’t so nice,” Edan observed. (I wanted to clap but I didn’t!)

“Yes, you are right and I want you all to know that I shouldn’t talk to your mom that way. And you shouldn’t either. If you see something that she needs to change, you need to say it in a polite way.”

Edric explained to them that they had to respect me and speak to me in a manner that honored my position as their mother. The kids understood and returned to their play. I really appreciated this. Edric didn’t have to emphasize his own error but he did, and very humbly, too. This restored our family to authentic oneness.

We have been at this point many times as husband and wife. Our disagreements often feel like marital dejavú! We still wrestle with similar issues that irked us about each other at the beginning. They can even be called irreconcilable personality differences.

Thankfully, God has protected our marriage from some of the major problems that many relationships have to work through, such as infidelity, addictions, abuse, etc. I am not saying that it isn’t vulnerable to the same things. Yet by God’s grace, our conflicts revolve around personality differences rather than conviction-based ones.

Even so, if we weren’t committed to resolving our conflicts, small issues would most definitely distance us. They would pile up and make it easier for greater hurts to infect our marriage. For example, if Edric and I didn’t address our differences constructively, we might resort to quiet tolerance. Neither of us would be able to express genuine feelings. Untouchable subjects would naturally cause our communication to suffer. And then we might be less inclined to connect sexually because we don’t feel that spiritual or emotional oneness that ought to precede healthy intimacy. As we continue to drift apart, having made this manner of relating to one another a habit, we would seek out people or activities to satisfy unmet longings. This vulnerable state would put us in a position to make choices that could really harm or destroy our marriage.

The point is that Edric and I must continue to pursue oneness in Christ, accepting that there are aspects we cannot change about one another. That’s what commitment is…applying God’s grace and forgiveness when those differences sting, and going back to the ONE who holds us together. We both want to honor and obey Him. We want to glorify Him in our marriage. We want to live out His principles and not insist on the personal preferences that polarize us.

Is it hard? Is it challenging? Is it maddening at times? Yes, yes, yes. Yet after each conflict that is resolved we find ourselves saying that we love one another still. The even more amazing thing is, when we work through our issues by pursuing oneness in Christ, we discover that love can be better, bigger, and deeper than the love we knew in the year that passed.

My encouragement to young married couples is don’t let your irreconcilable personality differences pull you apart so you become two separate people over the years. Let those differences draw you closer to the Lord. The best parts of being married are yet to come. Don’t bail out emotionally and spiritually when conflict arises.

About two weeks ago I was visiting with my dad in his study room, where I have enjoyed many one-on-one conversations with him about life. He told me something that changed the way I think about the differences Edric and I have. He said, “Differences don’t really go away. Take for instance your mom and me. The same things that bothered us about each other at the beginning continue to be there. But we have learned to grow in grace.” 

He said it so beautifully I wanted to cry. Okay, I’m crying a little bit now. The truth is no marriage can survive without God’s grace and every marriage blooms with it. So if you are feeling discouraged today, receive God’s grace in your life and choose to give it to your spouse!

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭24‬ NASB)

 

People Are More Important Than Things

My second son, Edan, is very conscientious about his things. As an orderly and organized person, he tends to keep track of his belongings, and he likes to keep them in good condition. When his toys get broken or his plants (oh my, his plants!) don’t grow properly, he is deeply affected.

The other day, Titus, accidentally dropped Edan’s drawing art set. The cover of the set fell off and the contents of the kit tumbled out. Three of the charcoal drawing tools cracked. Uh oh. For a slightly obsessive person like Edan, this was going to be major. His set was now imperfect! Horror of horrors!

Edan wasn’t just upset, he ran off to cry on his bed in total frustration. Titus bawled too because he felt badly. This drawing kit was very new. Edan hadn’t even used it yet.

After Edan calmed down and processed his feelings, he came back out to the study room. His eyes were bloodshot and he was quiet. I empathized with him, but then I gently reminded him, “You know, Edan, I know you feel sad about what happened, but your relationship with Titus is more important than your art set.”

I decided to take advantage of the teachable moment and went on to explain that some family members fight over possessions and property. They let these issues come between them when they should love one another. Why can we love and forgive? Because Jesus has done this for us.

He nodded and acknowledged the truthfulness of what I was saying, but of course this was a difficult challenge for him. I know Edan loves Titus. However, feelings of frustration and anger lingered after he surveyed the damage done to his charcoal tools.

I didn’t force him to accept Titus’ apology. In fact, I left the situation alone first, hoping that the Lord would be the one to speak to both their hearts. Later on, I investigated to find out what happened. Edan told me, “I forgave him, mom. I told him he was more important to me than my art set.” I told Edan I was so proud of him. He had done the right thing.

Often times, as a mother, I have to wait on the sidelines of my older children’s lives when they make their choices. On the one hand, I do my best to instruct, teach, and disciple them. However, I need to leave room and space for the Holy Spirit to minister to them and convict them to make choices that please God. I can’t impose my will. I’m after heart-change in my kids and not external change.

Edan’s art set isn’t perfect anymore like he hoped it would stay. But I saw him playing with Titus this morning and all was well between them. They were enjoying one another’s company without the residual or lingering frustration that was present in Edan’s heart two days ago. It was a more beautiful scene than any art set could’ve drawn.

This situation exemplified a very minor  conflict that can arise between siblings and how love triumphed in the end. However, the sad reality is that many grown up siblings can’t stomach one another.  Very often, the issue that breaks them apart is money. I’m sure there was a point in time when these same angry family members were little children playing together and enjoying one another’s company like my kids were this morning. But along the way, the nature of the relationship changed when money problems came into the picture. This is a common story in the Philippines. Relationships are so often the casualty of fights over property and inheritance.

The Bible tells us, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36) It’s never worth it to let our soul rot in bitterness over mere things…things that have no value in eternity, that we cannot take with us. What gain is monetary wealth at the expense of relationships, especially at expense of the bond between siblings? Real poverty is to have everything in the world but to live in the absence of Christ’s love – His love for us, and His love in us toward others.

My prayer for my kids is they will preserve the bond of unity they share in Christ, that they will love one another the way Christ loves them. The art set was a small thing but I want my children to recognize that it lies in them, in all of us, to make things more important than people. The antidote is to this tendency is to love.

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions.” Proverbs 10:12

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Invest In Your Marriage


It’s been sometime since Edric and I have been able to talk about our relationship and reminisce about its beginnings. We maintain our weekly date night, but sometimes the few hours together aren’t enough to get into a deep dialogue about how we are doing emotionally and spiritually. Last night, we spent a good amount of time sitting around the kitchen island recounting the way we met and laughing about our awkward moments.

“So what did you like about me?” Edric asked, fishing for a compliment. “Well, let me see…I really appreciated your unpretentiousness, that I could trust you, that you loved God and were a good guy.” I meant all of this, too. One of the most outstanding aspects about Edric’s personality when I first met him was his amazing ability to make me feel at ease and safe.

I asked him the same question and he used words like “intrigued and captivated.” I liked that! It was a little vague but it sounded compelling!

We lingered into the evening, which was unusual because I didn’t rush off to feed Catalina or attend to the kids. Edric had tucked the kids into their beds earlier and so there we were, just the two of us. Hmm…this is different, I thought to myself. Since giving birth to my fifth child, Catalina, I usually excuse myself from the dinner table or put her to bed almost immediately after because she still breastfeeds. She’s almost 2 years old but she keeps nursing, at least twice a day. I am a total breastfeeding advocate and I will keep going for as long as I can. The only downside is I have to leave Edric alone in the early mornings to go to the girls’ bedroom and be absent before we go to bed in the evenings. Sometimes, when I go to bed, Edric is already asleep.

Last night was different. Edric asked me NOT to feed Catalina who was already sleeping, so I skipped her nighttime feed. At first, I was anxious. As much as possible, I don’t do this. But I acceded to his request and God blessed our time together.

This got me to think about how important it is to put effort into enjoying moments of togetherness. Date nights are one thing, but making it a point to meet each other’s heart-felt needs is about exhibiting a much higher level of effort to work on our marriage.

Truthfully, a lot of times I expect Edric to cater to my needs. I want him to be sensitive to me and attentive to my needs. But I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t very often consider what I can do for him, how I can make him feel special.

Interestingly, when I exert more effort into doing so, it’s not so much the appreciation from Edric that I receive from him which matters. My investment in serving him, giving him more affection and meeting his needs for intimacy, as well as spending time with him (without the kids clamoring for my attention), creates a new kind of love in me. The Word of God is so accurate when it says, where your heart is, there your treasure shall be. (Matthew 6:21)

For example, why does my heart have so much space in it for my children? Why do I treasure them so much? On the one hand, it’s because they are, by God’s grace, pretty adorable! And I know that they are God’s gifts to me. But these are not the main reasons. I believe it’s because I invest in my relationship with them. I am very intentional about meeting their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual needs, as most mothers tend to be. Prioritizing my kids by teaching, training, and caring for them makes me love the more. The more I give of myself to my children, the more the love in me grows and expands towards them.

I suppose this is why it feels like a big deal when I’m not around the kids. As a mother, I feel their absence more deeply than Edric probably does. I don’t have grown up kids yet, but I can imagine the future heartache of letting  them go, too.

Some years ago, Edric and I took our first lengthy trip to the Holy Land away from our kids. I was a wreck during the first few days, bawling in the airport and crying at the mere thought of the kids. We took two other long trips since then without our tiddlywinks and it was still hard. But they survived! They missed us, but they were fine. 

We left them under the loving care of my parents-in-law. I did outline an entire schedule for them and I wrote the kids letters for every single day that we were away during each of those trips. (My mother-in-law, one of the sweetest women I know, was a good sport about it and she actually followed the proposed schedule, which included homeschooling them, too! I love her!)

Some months ago, when we traveled to Cebu without the kids Edric reminded me, “when the kids are gone, it will just be the two of us, okay?” He said this when I began to mention that I felt badly because the kids weren’t with us. He wanted me to focus on enjoying his company. The statement was a valid one. It was sobering, too. I have to remember that my world can’t revolve around my kids. As much as possible, I avoid child-centric parenting because I know it’s unhealthy for my children and myself. But being a mother necessitates that I do invest a great amount of time and effort into meeting my children’s needs, and this naturally turns my heart towards them. If I can do this with my children, I can certainly do the same and even better with Edric who ought to be my number one priority, next to the Lord.

My mom was counseling a lady once who complained that she was bored with her marriage, with her husband. In response, my mom very bluntly (but lovingly) told her, if you are bored, then you are boring. Her message to this woman was put effort into your own relationship. In other words, When was the last time you did something meaningful for your husband?

It’s a good question for us, as wives, to think about. Sure, it’s great when our husbands plan romantic get-aways, take us out on dates, give us a shopping budget, serve us, compliment us, or give us their undivided attention. But what are we doing to strengthen our marriage? A healthy marriage requires investment, which often entails sacrifice. We can’t give our left over time and energy and expect that our relationship will bloom and grow under those paltry conditions. Furthermore, we can’t leave the romancing to our husbands. 

Do we demonstrate our own commitment to the marriage? Do we attempt to satisfy their longings for respect and appreciation? Do we initiate sexual intimacy and show interest when they look for it? (I have been trying to improve in this area!) Do we seek to meet their language of love? Do they know they have priority over the kids? Are we praying regularly for our husband and our marriage?

A quote from the Unveiled Wife site goes like this, “Ignite passion in your marriage by investing into your husband joyfully.”

“She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭12‬ NASB)
  

 

 

Disciplining Children Revisited

 
This is a follow-up article to the one I wrote on disciplining my 1-year old daughter, Catalina, which resulted in some eyebrow raising because I talked about spanking. Let it be said that I’m not an advocate of spanking for EVERY wrong behavior that needs correcting. I believe there are different ways to apply healthy correction that produce right thinking and behavior in the hearts and minds of our children. However, I refuse to accept the notion that spanking is the same thing as physical abuse, as some have so quickly labeled it.

First of all, let’s make some clarifications about spanking. Spanking is…

…NOT whacking my child in anger, repeatedly, for every wrong action or behavior.

…NOT a random consequence dependent on how I feel about the situation.

…NOT to be administered before a child understands “NO” or exhibits defiance.

…NOT as effective after the age of 6.

…NOT as effective when a parent uses it as a threat to coerce behavior.

…NOT about using an instrument that will break the skin or bruise it.

…NOT the only way to discipline a child.

…NOT to be used as a method of disciplining if a parent doesn’t have a good, loving relationship with his or her child.

…NOT to be used as a method of disciplining if only one parent applies it and the other doesn’t.

…NOT to be used if the rule that was broken wasn’t clearly explained to the child.

 

 Research shows that…

  1. The most aggressive children tend to be those who are never spanked.
  2. Of the many parents who spank, a minuscule number actually wind up abusing their children. Sweden outlawed parenting spanking in 1979. A decade later, Bob Larzelere conducted a follow-up study in which he found that child abuse had increased significantly since the ban.
  3. Diana Baumrind (considered the foremost researcher in the area of parenting style outcomes) has found that parents who are philosophically opposed to spanking are more likely to overreact to their children’s misbehaviour than parents who have no such philosophical objection. (For example, some parents resort to yelling at their children in order to control their behavior.)
  4. The more often a child is spanked, the less effective the spanking becomes. (A parent needs to consider their overall approach to discipline.)

The above information is taken from John Rosemond’s book, Parenting by the Book (pg. 216 – 219.)

I’ve said this before but I will say it again for the sake of those who may misunderstand spanking. I can count the number of times I’ve spanked each of my children over the course of their early childhood years. In other words, Edric and I haven’t had to spank our children a lot. If a parent spanks very often they need to revisit their parenting in general. Furthermore, there may be other factors that are undermining their attempts to discipline and disciple their kids such as…

…unresolved conflicts within the marriage

…frequent and hurtful displays of anger in the home

…hypocrisy (telling their children to do one thing but modeling the opposite)

…an insubordinate spirit on display, where a wife doesn’t model submission to the authority of her husband

…different parenting styles and philosophies on raising children between husband and wife

…application of unhealthy parenting styles like child-centrism

…relatives or househelp who contradict parents’ rules

…allowing children to have regular exposure to people or media content that opposes the values and character traits that a parent is trying to instill

 

Here are some common issues that parents may have to deal with and suggestions on how to discipline for these:

Dealing with eating issues – A parent can remove snacks in between meals, take away child’s plate so they get hungry by the next meal, or disallow a fun activity that should’ve followed after meal. We’ve had to do this with Titus. Of all the kids, he isn’t allowed to eat anything in between meals because he takes a long time to finish his food and he gets distracted while eating.

Tantrums and fussiness – Speak to your child calmly and let them that you will not give in to their behavior until they stop. Example, “Mommy will not carry you until you stop.” Don’t give in or pick them up to encourage their behavior. When they stop crying or stop making a scene then you can take them and say, “Very good, you stopped, now mommy will carry you.”

We encourage our kids by reminding them of our rule, “No being fussy.” Even our little 20 month old daughter knows this rule. Unless she makes her requests with a smile and a “please,” we don’t give in to her fussing or tantrums. She can pout all she wants (which ends up being very short-lived because no one will pay attention to her doing so). Most of the time, she will change her whining to a sweet “please” and a smile. However, if she screams in disrespect and continues to do so even after being told to stop, Edric and I will spank for this.

Impatience – Teach children to wait before you give them an object or an item that they are clamoring for. Until they stop demanding for it, they don’t get it. I’ve also observed that limiting time on gadgets and playing games on the computer or IPad increases my children’s ability to wait. In contrast, the instant gratification they receive from gadgets and playing games conditions them to be impatient so less is better when it comes to gadges like IPads.

Not sharing/selfishness – Confiscate the toy that two or three children are fighting over if asking them to take turns is not working. When my kids are unable to share a toy, I say, “I have to take it away because you guys aren’t sharing. When you are ready to share, I will give it back to you.”

Fighting with siblings – I sit them down together and we review bible verses on loving one another and treating one another with kindness. Then I ask them, “Are you behaving in a way that pleases God?” and let them come to their own conclusions about their attitudes towards one another. I follow up with a question like, “How can you improve or act in a more loving way?”

When it’s a toddler who bullies or hits their older sibling or other children, I take them aside and talk with them, demonstrating what it means to be gentle. However, if the hitting will put another child in danger (like my 8 month old nephew over Christmas), Edric and I will spank if our child disobeys a command like, “Don’t hit your cousin.”

Interestingly, spanking doesn’t cause a child to be confused when they are disciplined properly (not in anger, not using the hand). The focus is on spanking for disobedience of the command. Occasionally, Catalina will whack her siblings when they pull a toy away from her, as an act of self-defense and frustration. These moments are becoming fewer and far between because she can now articulate herself better. At the same time, I let my older children know that grabbing from Catalina causes her to react in anger so they should ask her nicely before they borrow the toy she is playing with.

As for Catalina, I ask, “Do you want people to hit you?” She will actually reply with a “No” and apologize to her siblings. The point is to let her think about what it will be like to be on the receiving end of a slap on the shoulder from her own siblings. Even if she is just a one year old, she understands! I wouldn’t recommend this as a full-proof solution to children who hit others since it’s hard for them to reason this way at such a young age. But I also think even very young children should start learning the golden rule, “Do to others as you would have them do unto you.” (Luke 6:31)

Teaching kids to get along doesn’t happen overnight and it involves giving them the opportunity to acknowledge their wrong and ask for forgiveness from one another when they hurt each other. We tell our kids to hug and express a sincere apology when they have conflicts. There’s something about requiring them to hug that softens their hearts and there’s something about making sure they say, “Will you forgive me?” that expresses the kind of humility that repairs their relationships. Sometimes, my kids are required to hug for at least 10 seconds so their hard faces turn into smiles!

Destroying objects or toys or losing them – When kids destroy their toys, don’t get them new ones to replace them. Let them realize that they need to practice good stewardship. If they were keen on breaking a toy, they can live with it broken or buy themselves a new one.

Children tend to lose objects and toys, too. One of our sons really liked a marble toy that he got for Christmas a few years back. It came with special, metal marbles. But he would misplace the marbles often. As a consequence, he wasn’t allowed to play with the toy until he found the marbles. Did he do his best to find them? Yes.

Messiness – It took a number of years for our kids to internalize the importance of cleaning up after their mess. But Edric and I refused to let them move on to the next toy or another room to mess up until they cleaned up the one they were first playing in. I don’t mind if they make a mess while they play for as long as they pick up afterwards. Afterall, mess is part of the fun (for as long as they aren’t doing something reckless like drawing on the walls or pulling the stuffing out of their pillows).

When they go to other people’s houses, they aren’t allowed to leave it without picking up the toys they played with. Even if we are in a hurry to leave, Edric and I will give them time to fix up. Some years ago, my sister-in-law temporarily banned them from using her kids’ playroom because they made a big mess and ruined some toys. I thought it was a great way to communicate to my kids that they need to be mindful of the way they play and deal with their mess in other people’s houses.

Being loud and obnoxious – If there’s one thing my children sometimes do that can drive me nuts it’s their boisterousness. For some reason, riding together in a vehicle gives them the prime opportunity to talk and laugh loudly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because they are thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. But tight spaces and public ones aren’t the best places for them to kick up the volume of their voices. It can be rude and assaulting to the senses.

To deal with this, I talk to them with a serious tone and explain why it’s not appropriate. Most of the time, they respond to this positively because they have learned to obey. If they don’t, I apply a consequence like withdrawal of a privilege. For younger kids, this can be tough. Catalina screamed like a banshee in her car seat for a good number of hours when our family drove from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was completely unpleasant! But, we had to keep her in that seat for safety reasons so we 1. Let her cry until she got tired. 2. Sat her beside an older sibling who could entertain her. 3. Distracted her with toys or the IPad.

Running off in public places – My kids know that they aren’t supposed to run off while we are in public spaces. With all their expendable energy waiting to be released, this can be really difficult for them. They love to run down mall aisles and hide behind clothing racks. So I let them know our rules for going out together (especially since I don’t bring househelp when it’s just the four older kids). Before we leave the vehicle, I will ask them to repeat what our rule for being in public is. “Stay close to mommy.” They know the risks of getting separated or taken by strangers. But I still remind them, “If you don’t stay near me, you won’t get to come with me the next time.” This usually works because they know I have every intention of implementing this consequence if they don’t follow the rule.

Lying – My personal conviction about a child who lies habitually is they may not yet have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. John 8:44 says, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

If a child already has a relationship with Jesus but is still young, they may not fully understand what lying is. So a parent needs to explain what truthfulness is and make their child feel like home is a safe place for honesty and confession.

Some children may lie because they are afraid that they will be scolded, lectured, shamed or punished if they admit to their mistake or fault. If this is the case then a parent needs to consider whether they encourage open communication in their home or make it challenging for their children to speak the truth. Do our children feel the liberty to share what’s really going on in their hearts?

Dr. Harold Sala, author of The Parent Map, outlines 10 guidelines for successful discipline (pg. 151 – 161). I will summarize them here, but if you have the opportunity to, grab a copy of his book at OMF Literature. It’s one of the most complete books I’ve read on parenting.

1. Establish clear limits of behavior. Dr. Haim Ginnot wrote that children “need a definition that tells them clearly what constitutes unacceptable conduct and what substitute will be accepted. The limits must be stated firmly so that it carries only one message, ‘This prohibition is for real. I mean business.'” Dr. Sala encourages us to expect our children to comply immediately. We shouldn’t be counting 1, 2, 3 and so on before they obey.

2. Enforce boundaries with consistent discipline. Spouses need to agree on the same rules and hold their children accountable for them without contradicting one another.

3. Discipline in private. I’ve made the mistake of correcting one of my sons in public one too many times. By public, I mean at the dinner table, in front of his siblings. He does much better when I take him aside and talk to him in private, one-on-one.

4. Establish responsibility for wrongdoing. Asking our children questions like “Why did you do what you did?” or “What did you do?” will allow them to identify their error, versus asking a question like, “Did you__________?” which warrants only a yes or no answer.

5. Show grief over the offense. Whenever our children disobey us, Edric and I express how it hurts us. We don’t go on and on about how sad we are. But we do let our kids know that it grieves us when they make choices that are displeasing to the Lord because that’s the real issue — we want them to make choices that please and honor God.

6. Discipline should be commensurate with the offense. Dr. Sala states that the “measure of discipline should be in relation to the severity of wrongdoing — neither too severe nor too light.” A mom told me that she put hot sauce in her four year old’s mouth for speaking unkindly to the househelp. She cried afterwards because she accidentally poured too much of it into his mouth and he was traumatized afterwards. On the one hand, he got the message loud and clear, but looking back, she realized it was a little severe.

7. Practice common-sense discipline with a purpose. A parent can use restrictions, time outs, writing assignments, and physical discipline. Restrictions would be things like reducing the amount of time on a gadget, or temporary suspension from a favorite activity. When Elijah was using his IPad to do a lot of research about apps, I gave him a time limit. He actually appreciate it because he wanted to know his “boundaries” when it came to IPad use. Time-outs work better for older children. I’ve asked my older sons to spend some time thinking about their wrong attitudes and praying about how they can change and they will come back to me with renewed spirits and an apology. Physical discipline, according to Sala, should be used only when a child is rebellious or defiant.

8. Allow a child to vent his emotions, then talk about what has happened and how to better handle the situation in the future. Edric and I have done this a number of times with our kids. We let them share their feelings or frustrations and then steer them gently in the direction of right thinking and right actions.

9. Once a matter has been dealt with, consider it forgiven. In other words, parents shouldn’t hold on to the offense of their child and use it against them in the future. We need to forgive as God has forgiven us.

10. Balance discipline with personal attention. I really like this point because children who are consistently problematic probably need a lot of attention from their parents. Dr. Sala writes, “Nothing is a greater gift to your child, nor will anything contribute more to his good behavior, than the gift of yourself.”

So, when is it appropriate to use spanking as a form of discipline?

This is where we have to carefully consider the nature of the offense and the context. Sometimes children make mistakes of the mind. They forget about a rule without intending to break it out of defiance. A mistake of the heart, on the other hand, is making a conscious choice to go against the will of a parent.

For example, one day, I called out to Catalina, asking her to come to me, and she purposefully walked away while looking back at me with a face that spelled, “I don’t have to listen to you, I can do what I want to.” I know that’s the look she was giving because I am with her everyday, therefore I am well acquainted with her personality, expressions, and tendencies. This moment was clearly a mistake of the heart and I couldn’t let her get away with disobeying and disrespecting me. It wasn’t about trying to control her for my own purposes. It was about teaching her to obey authority, for her future good.

Imagine what would happen if we were walking on the sidewalk of a street and she refused to stay beside me and hold my hand, choosing instead to run off? And what if a vehicle was headed her way and she didn’t know it, and she attempted to make her way on to the street itself. I would have to call out, “Catalina, wait for mommy!” or, “Catalina, stop!” or “Catalina, come here!” And if she chose to defy me as the vehicle zoomed past, she would most probably die! So, am I willing to inflict a measure of pain in the present to convey the importance of obedience? The answer is yes.

The point of this article is to say that spanking shouldn’t be quickly labeled as an abusive form of discipline, especially when it can save a child from future hurt and pain. Can it be abusive if done inappropriately? Yes (please refer to the clarifications stated at the beginning about what spanking is NOT). However, it can also be one of the best ways to teach life-saving obedience when a child is very young. Nevertheless, spanking isn’t the only form of discipline that a parent can and should implore to deal with the undesirable behaviors their child exhibits. There are a variety of disciplinary actions a parent can apply to train a child. Depending on the circumstance and the issue, a parent must be committed to the aim of discipline, which is to produce the fruit of righteousness in their child. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit ofrighteousness. (Hebrews 12:11) Proper discipline will be about “heart modification” (a term author Tedd Tripp uses), and not just “behavior modification.”

Let me close with a quote from Dr. Harold Sala’s book, “Discipline is an integral part of love…God instructed parents, fathers in particular, to discipline their children in order to save them from heartbreak and anguish.” (The Parent Map, pg.143,145)

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So…to spank or not to spank? I’ll leave that up to you to pray about and decide. May the Lord give us the wisdom and the resolve to never give up and never surrender to the challenge of training our children! “Discipline your son, for there is hope, do not set your heart on putting him to death.” (Proverbs 19:18)

 

 

 

How A Patient Husband Can Inspire His Wife

IMG_3268.JPGIt’s high time I wrote an entry about how wonderfully Spirit-filled my husband, Edric, has been as of late. Sometimes my posts about our marriage have something to do with his intensely spirited personality and my not too commendable reactions towards him. So I wanted to acknowledge the recent change I have seen in him, especially in the area of patience.

He would call it “being Spirit-filled.” This has been the phrase he has recited to himself repeatedly over the past week as he has met with unfavorable or challenging circumstances, sometimes in the form of yours truly!

But what does it mean to be Spirit-filled? Galatians explains it for us by affording a contrast between the flesh (our human nature) and the fruit of the Spirit.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭19-25‬ NASB)

A person who is flesh-filled thinks, speaks, and acts in a manner that is carnal and selfish. In contrast, a Spirit-filled person exhibits Christlike character traits such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. A true follower of Jesus ought to produce this kind of fruit.


Image courtesy of Pinterest

It’s not surprising that marriage is the perfect petri dish to test for evidence of the Spirit-filled life. Any honest married person would attest to the fact that a husband-and-wife-relationship can get fiery at times, which can bring out fleshy behaviors like agitation, impatience, anger, etc. Therefore I really appreciated the manner in which Edric exemplified control over his emotions this past week, particularly two Thursday mornings ago.

On that morning, I came down to the kitchen with feelings of frustration while our children and Edric chatted around the breakfast table. Normally, I enjoy mornings and I am the one greeting every child that comes bounding down the stairs. But that day, I opened my drawer and pulled out two halves of one brassiere. Yes. My bra looked like it had been torn in two by an animal.

I suspected that someone stuck it in the washing machine against my orders. So I took the two ridiculous looking halves and plopped them on the kitchen counter, calling out the name of the person responsible for this destruction. It was our sincere but sincerely wrong househelp who will remain unnamed.

In the meantime, Edric and the kids were trying to get my attention while laughing and playfully interacting around the breakfast table. Edric chirpily addressed me with a good morning but I was in the middle of correcting the mistake made by our househelp, reminding her that my under garments should be hand-washed only. She offered an apology which I really appreciated but there was no way to repair my damaged bra so I chucked the two halves into the trash and joined Edric and the kids for breakfast.

This is when Edric took it upon himself to enlighten me about the affairs of the morning, “I ordered pandesal because all we had to eat for breakfast was watered down oatmeal.” He offered this information very pleasantly, smiling at me. My disposition changed. Edric took the initiative to order pandesal instead of griping about the awful breakfast?! It was weird but oh so nice!

He aded that his bible reading for the day was about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Not so coincidentally, our water heater broke down that morning, too. Uh oh! So he stood in the shower with cold water running down his back as he chanted and breathed in deeply, “Be filled with the Spirit!” He was still smiling at me!

I began to laugh because Edric’s default mode is to at least make some sort of constructive comment about how to run the home better when things like this happen. First there was the watered-down oatmeal, and then the cold shower. And still, his countenance remained pleasant and his temper was even and controlled. I was very impressed.

He went off to the work and instructed the driver to inform me that he had to be picked up from the office by 11:30 am to be at ABS-CBN for the taping of his show at 12 noon. For some reason I absent-mindedly thought he meant that he needed the driver by 12 noon. Edric didn’t get picked up until 12:15 due to traffic. He called me a little bit upset (but not angry) when the driver was late. This was a problem because he had 7 shows to tape that afternoon with VIPs. 7 shows!

Arriving at the studio at the time he committed to was imperative. Because of me, he didn’t make it to the studio at the hour he told his producer he would. Still, he texted me, “I am sorry for not being filled with the Spirit. Will you forgive me? I love you.” (He said this because he felt like the way he spoke to me on the phone was agitated.)

Wow! Who was this amazing man that exhibited such patience with me?! I told Edric how blessed I was at his responses that day. And his attractive factor was bumped up several notches higher in my estimation!

 I know my role as a wife shouldn’t be contingent on the way Edric treats me as my husband. However, there’s a divine principle in effect when he is a Spirit-filled husband. His love toward me, manifested in the grace and kindness he applies when I make mistakes or fall short in areas where I should not, inspires that feeling of respect towards him that he also looks to receive from me as a wife.

In Ephesians 6, this principle is revealed. “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless…Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭25-27, 33‬ NASB)

The manner in which Edric embraces his role as Christ to the church (me), where he loves me the way Christ does, encourages me and motivates me towards holiness. In this particular instance, his demonstration of this love was the act of patience and self-control.

It’s really a simple formula for couples although the challenges are undeniably present. Afterall, who likes to respond with happiness to watered-down oatmeal, a cold shower, and being made late to 7 tapings for a TV show?

It’s not easy and it takes being Spirit-filled versus flesh-filled. But the blessing is this…When a husband is the Spirit-filled leader of a marriage and home, God uses his example and headship to till the “soil” and make it fertile for the spiritual growth of the entire family. And this is the point I want to highlight. Yes, I can choose to be a submissive and respectful wife by focusing on the Lord and not Edric’s role as a husband, but how much more delightful and joyous it is to fulfill my role in the context of a marriage where my husband chooses to be the husband God calls him to be.

Because Edric’s attitude and actions conjured up feelings of romance too, I tried my best to serve him with better breakfast meals (still healthy). Tadah!

The Power of Time

Every child needs time with his or her parents. Time = love to them. Sometimes I assume that homeschooling is equivalent to quality time spent with my kids. But one day my son asked, “Why are you so busy, mom?” 

“Busy? Me?!” I thought, No way! I give so much time to my kids, how could my son be asking this?

However I took his question to heart and started analyzing how engaged I am when I am with my kids. Sometimes when I am homeschooling, I am working on a project or an entry for my blog, or checking social media. It has become a bad habit. In fact, there are occasions when I feel like they are interrupting me while I try to kill ten birds with one stone during the same hours when I ought to be devoting my full attention to my kids.

Lately, I have tried to change this by being more disciplined about my homeschooling. Yet this isn’t enough. Each one of my kids desires special time with me (and Edric), which means I have to understand what they perceive as fun and engage in these activities with them. Whether it is story time, doing dancing with the Xbox 360, going to the grocery or bookstore, sleeping in our room on the weekends, watching movies, playing games, gardening, doing art, etc, these activities mean a lot to them.  

Some weeks ago, Tiana and I did painting together. She chatted the whole two hours, making all kinds of comments and sharing her insights. But the most curious part of all was hearing her ask questions. We were listening to music while we painted and she started singling out words and wanted to know their definitions. Our acrylic painting session became a lesson on vocabulary words! She kept going, asking me what this and that word meant as we heard each song. And she also told how much fun she was having. 

 
  
 

    
I have encountered this sort of responsiveness from my other kids in similar contexts — while they are enjoying personalized time with me, they are much more teachable. So my observation is this…if my kids are acting up emotionally or they seem unresponsive to my teaching, the cure is not to lecture them or force them to learn, instead I must consider whether they lack my time and attention. Each one of my kids is different in their looks, personality, abilities and interests, but the need of their hearts is the same. They yearn to have a loving and close relationship with me and Edric, which can only happen when we invest time to fellowship with them, get to know them, enjoy them, and minister to them. 

As child development psychologist, Dr. Gordon Neufeld so aptly put it, “We were never meant to influence minds whose hearts we do not have.” 

What can we do to capture the hearts of our kids? What do we need to stop doing and start doing or continue doing to spend quality time with them?

When a Walk-in Closet Becomes a Boxing Ring

It was not so coincidental that a marital conflict between Edric and me erupted a few hours before the historic Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather fight. This one happened in our walk-in closet, with verbal “punches” in lieu of actual ones.

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PHOTO CREDIT: HBO

It began like this…a few weeks ago, Edric thought of opening up our home to friends and family who wanted to watch the live version of the fight on pay-per-view. It was a great idea and we were very excited about hosting this event. But, let’s fast forward to yesterday morning, when I was getting ready for worship service. Edric came into our walk-in closet while I was dressing up for church and asked me how many families were coming over. The count was at seven families, but equivalent to 39 persons (including kids).

His next query was, “How did you plan to seat everyone in our family room?” As the bohemian between us, my idea involved big pillows on the carpet for people to chill and lounge on. He labeled this an ill-conceived plan as people may not be comfortable about sitting on the floor. My instincts told me otherwise but I challenged him when he included the comment, “So you didn’t think this through. This is a half-baked plan. You are supposed to be the home manager.”

Whoa! Supposed to the home manager? What was he insinuating?

I am ashamed to admit that my first instinct was to react. So I jumped right into that imaginary boxing ring and put my gloves on.

But first, the thought bubble: I coordinated with the other families who were coming, went to the grocery to buy ingredients for tacos, drinks, baking supplies, made the cookies ahead of time, and instructed our househelp, giving them a detailed list of everything they had to get done to serve our guests. Hmph! Who’s the home manager? I am most definitely home managing! Plus, it was his grand idea to have everyone over in the first place so maybe he should have thought through the seating plan, too. It felt like an Adam-blaming-Eve kind of moment and I didn’t appreciate it at all.

None of the above reasons justified the lashing comments that spewed out of my own mouth defending myself and my perspective. I said to Edric in agitation, “YOU came up with this plan to have people over. So instead of blaming me, maybe you should have helped me.” Edric didn’t appreciate my tone and disrespectful attitude. He firmly replied, “Just admit that you were wrong. You didn’t really think this through.”

Does anyone remember when Mayweather pridefully said, “No, no” to Pacquiao during their boxing match yesterday? Well, that was me, at that moment, deep inside. No, no, I’m not the wrong one, you are the wrong one for making a big deal out of this family room issue. Since Edric didn’t relent, and I had to finish putting on my make-up, I chose to exit the conversation by saying, “Fine, I’m wrong. I’m sorry.” (I wasn’t really sorry at all. I just wanted to end an annoying dialogue.)

A few moments later, Edric requested for me to cut his hair and I didn’t feel like it. Sure, I’ve been his designated barber-ella for the last six months and I did say I would do it the day before, but oh, the timing…

Images of hair butchery swam in my head. But I did give my word so I pulled out the clippers from under the bathroom sink, attempting to contain my rage. Knowing me all too well, he remarked, “You can do this right? You are not going to mess up my hair because you are upset with me?”

“Of course not!” Even if I was tempted to botch up his hair I wouldn’t have resorted to a below the belt move like that! Although, hmmm…it was tempting…

Right before I turned on the clippers, we resumed the discussion again, defending our points of view. Edric knew that I wasn’t really sorry. This time he strongly encouraged me to admit that I was wrong, citing my pride as the cause of my unwillingness to do so. In my exasperation once again and knowing deep inside that he was right about my pride, I declared with tears in my eyes, “Alright, I was wrong, I made a mistake. Will you forgive me?”

God looks at the heart and my heart was not looking very good. I may have mouthed out the apology but there was no sincerity in it. So there I was, with clippers in hand, cutting Edric’s hair but grumbling inside. Bitter. That’s how I felt.

Admittedly this wasn’t one of Edric’s better haircuts. The details showed sloppiness on my part as my internal irritation distracted me from doing my best. I didn’t intentionally attempt to mess up behind his ears (which can be such a tricky part!) but I did. Edric knew it too but he wasn’t in the mood to point it out, trying to quell his own aggravation towards me.

It’s amazing how the Sunday message was aptly entitled, “Fight With God’s Power.” My brother, Paul, was the preacher and he paralleled the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites to the spiritual battle we all face. Our enemies are sin, worldliness, and the evil one. How could I sit there in my seat and fail to be impacted by God’s Word?! I knew this message was for me.

When Moses held up the staff with his hands, the Israelites had the upper hand. When he dropped his arms the Amalekites started winning. With the assistance of two men, Moses kept his arms and staff up until the Israelites defeated the Amalekites. Moses’ staff symbolized God’s presence and power as the Lord used it to perform miracles in Egypt and in the desert on the way to the Promise Land. Holding his arms up portrayed the Israelites dependence on the Lord for victory. (Summary of Exodus 17:8-12)

At the end of the day, it is God’s presence and power that enables us to overcome the spiritual fight against sin, worldliness and the evil one, this was my brother’s point. In Ephesians 6:10 – 13 it says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

This message was exactly what I needed to hear. I saw Edric as my enemy. I wanted to throw the winning punches. I wanted to come out on top by proving that I was better. Sometimes this is what marriage feels like — a duel! Yet the real battle raging inside me was a fight against pride, against the worldly perspective that I would be the loser if I humbled myself and admitted that I could improve. Ultimately, the source of these temptations was the evil one, who took the opportune moment to attack me and I didn’t recognize him. All I saw was Edric as my nemesis. I got into the boxing ring without God’s presence or power and I was “punching” the wrong person.

How do we overcome the Amalekites in our lives, the sinful struggles we have? My brother, Paul, encouraged the audience to strategize, pray, stay in the word of God, record and remember, and give glory to God.

How should this have played out with Edric and me? I should have realized that this fight was an invitation from the evil one and not Edric. The strategy should have been to look past the attack on my person to the good intent of Edric’s comment. He sought to make sure our guests were comfortable. Second, I should’ve prayed about the hurt I felt when he seemed to insinuate that I wasn’t a good home manager. Then, prayed to calm myself down, to give a Spirit-filled response. Next, I should have obeyed the Holy Spirit’s conviction to apply passages like “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6) and “Let a wife see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). If I had done these things, I would have experienced victory in the real battle, and given glory to God by my words and actions. I could’ve recorded and remembered what God accomplished when I “fought” in His power.

After worship, we rushed home to welcome our guests. Everyone was fine with the seating arrangements and they didn’t complain at all. They were troopers. Yet this wasn’t what really mattered. Edric and I knew we had to resolve our conflict. This wasn’t about being able to say, “See, I told you I was right.”

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Yesterday afternoon I asked for forgiveness and meant it, explaining to Edric my realization about the spiritual battle we are in. “Will you please forgive me for my disrespect and anger? I was wrong. Even if I was hurt by what you said, I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I was convicted that this was a spiritual attack.” I also explained to him all the preparations I made for the day that he didn’t know about and he apologized for implying that I wasn’t a good home manager.

Afterwards, the issue of the family room discussion was resolved and God gave us the opportunity this morning to converse over breakfast. We had other lingering issues to address. I expressed to Edric that lately, performing my role as a wife has felt burdensome and more like a chore. I don’t want it to be this way, but this has been my struggle in the past few weeks. He confessed that he has been a demanding husband so this could have something to do with it. He also assured me by saying, “We just need to rekindle the romance. I will take care of you.” This evening we will take time to be together when we have our date night.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CHESTKNOTS

Even though I’m definitely looking forward to spending time with Edric tonight, I know that the greater problem is not the romance in our marriage or that a wife’s roles can be burdensome and chore-like. It is the enemies of my heart…the pride, self-centeredness, the obsession with self-preservation, wrong thinking, and the lies of the evil one. Therefore, my life-lesson is this: When a walk-in closet becomes a boxing ring I need to remember that Edric is not my real opponent. And, unlike the battle between Pacquiao and Mayweather which had me on edge and stressed out of my mind, it’s comforting to know that when I fight the enemies of my heart in God’s power, the victory is always His!

I love Edric with all my heart. Why do I make him the enemy? We’re in this spiritual fight against sin, worldliness, and the evil one together, as a team, with God…

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CETAPHIL