Virginity

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My beautiful sister, Candy, is visiting from the U.S. with her family. She gave her testimony about purity to a group of young people two weekends ago. I asked her for a copy of what she shared for the benefit of all my single readers. May this post bless you!

CANDY: Growing up my parents always talked to us about staying pure, guarding our hearts and bodies from sexual sin, and saving ourselves for marriage. They said we have to make the choice ahead of time to stay pure and abstain from sex before marriage. If you don’t decide ahead of time, when the temptation comes, it will be harder to say no.   This applies to other areas of our lives…. Whether it be saying no to drinking, to smoking, to drugs, and even sexual orientation.

As a teenager, I actually struggled with the thought, what if I become a lesbian someday?  I played a lot of sports and I women from opposing teams were hitting on me…even while I was playing basketball against them! I talked to my mom about this and confessed my fears. I said I don’t want to be a lesbian because I know it’s against God’s word but I’m afraid I might become one. She said it is a choice. I just need to decide ahead of time to follow God’s design and trust in Him.

Amazingly, when I decided I would never become a lesbian or even experiment with things of this nature, I had a peace that came over me. The worry vanished. (I’m so glad I communicated with my Mom what was going on in my head, too, because she was able to help me.)

Another way my parents helped me was encouraging me not to be in an exclusive dating relationship until I was ready to get married. So in high school, I never had a boyfriend. However, when I started attending college, I told my parents that I needed to start dating so I would know what kind of man I wanted to marry. To me, that sounded logical and I thought I knew more than my parents about this subject. Their ideas were old fashioned to me.

Instead of reacting or belittling my ideas, we openly discussed this train of logic. I soon realized I had it backwards. First, to pray and decide what kind of man I wanted to marry… and then ONLY date the man that fit my criteria, a man who had the godly characteristics I longed for. I didn’t need to date a lot of guys to figure that out. It would be a waste of my time and open me up to more temptation.

Because I was able to internalize this truth while talking to my parents, God protected me from a lot of heartache, wasted relationships and time, and potential immorality. I still remember my Dad telling me… “someday there will come a point where you think you know more than me, but I will still know more than you.” Now that I’m an adult and have my own children, I full-heartedly believe that parents do know more than their children since they have the added wisdom of experience.

However, even though I believed my parents and wanted to protect my purity, I didn’t always listen to their advice. One of the guidelines my parents taught me was never be in a room alone with the opposite sex. Until dental school, I had never kissed a guy.  However, there was a man who started courting me. He was handsome, musical, and smart. One night we were in my room alone and before I knew it we were kissing. I remember feeling guilty afterwards and realized I shouldn’t have done that. I had wasted my first kiss on somebody that I wasn’t sure I was going to marry. Even though I knew this in my head, there was a strong temptation to be physical with him.

I finally shared with my parents what was going on with me and this guy. Being accountable to my parents gave me renewed strength to put boundaries when it came to the physical aspect. I also asked my parents if they could meet the guy because I didn’t want to get into a serious relationship unless they approved of him.

As my parents sat down with him and asked them questions about his plans and life goals, his answers made me realise that he wasn’t God’s best pick for me. With difficulty but conviction, I was able to end the dating relationship.  I praise God that my parents lovingly intervened to help me process and think through my affections for this guy. Because of their wisdom, it was apparent that I shouldn’t be with him.

After this experience, I committed to honor my parents and marry someone they approved of.  Second, I knew what kind of man I wanted to marry… someone who really loved the Lord and had a mature relationship with Him. In time, God brought His best choice to me with the full blessing of my parents. In fact, he was a man whom my father identified as someone I should consider. When my dad broached the idea to me this man, Jeff, had a girlfriend. But soon after Jeff broke up with her and began expressing interest in me.

Even though I had given my first kiss away, I was able to stay a virgin and give Jeff that gift when we got married. Seven years ago, we got married and today we are blessed with a growing family — three boys — Corban, Levi and Joshua. We are both dentists, serving the Lord together, and we share a burden for dental missions.

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God’s way is the Best Way. There is no better life lived than one that obeys and follows the Lord. God’s will for us is to be pure and to guard ourselves against sexual sin.  It takes commitment to be pure and holy, to preserve one’s virginity, and to set guidelines in order to avoid the temptation that is out there.  The decision must be made long before a relationship is in the picture. Furthermore, letting our parents have a say about a major choice like who we date and marry may not always turn out the way we hope, but he uses their wisdom and experience to protect us and help us make wise choices. I am so glad I didn’t continue in my relationship with the guy I was seeing before Jeff. If I hadn’t heeded the advice of my parents, I would have missed out on the blessings God intended for me.

To those who aren’t virgins, make the decision today to be pure. My husband wasn’t a virgin when we started dating. He had slept with his first girlfriend and deeply regretted what he did. I praise God that he was a changed man before we dated. He and I decided NOT to have sex together until we got married. So you can say that he was a spiritual virgin in our relationship.

Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart oh Lord, my God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

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MY POST NOTES…

As Candy’s older sister, I’ve witnessed first hand how God has directed the course of her life because she sought to honour him and his principles. By His grace, she was preserved from the heartaches that many women experience today. She bypassed the broken heartedness, deceit, betrayal, and depression that are very often the aftermath of sexual sin (not to mention the possibility of pregnancy and STD’s, too). As a bonus, God led her to a man who respected her for her convictions and who wanted to honour them. Yes, these men still exist in the world! Jeff is a man who loves God and Candy deeply. He is also intelligent, wise, successful, and good-looking. He may not have had a perfect past (none of us do), but when he gave his life to the Lord, he too committed to purity.

I have yet to meet a woman who celebrates her sexual exploits and experiences outside the context of marriage.  Sooner or later women come to a point of recognition — that sex as portrayed by a world that has rejected its DESIGNER, is a fleeting pleasure that doesn’t satisfy the greater longings for love and happiness. It may be fun at the onset, but the reality is we do not gain by giving away what is precious to us to a man who is not our husband. It is never a fair trade to exchange our bodies for the promise of their love and devotion. An honourable man will not expect a woman of worth to do this for him. This is a privilege reserved for the security and sanctity a marital relationship provides.

In contrast, I have met many women who committed to purity who are enjoying marriage as God intended them to. They do not carry the ugly baggage that sexual sin attaches to their souls. Although it is common to think casually about sex and to lose one’s virginity early, the blessings of purity are worth the wait — peace, joy, protection, and God’s favour.

When everyone is saying that sex is okay outside of marriage and giving hearty approval to those who engage in it, it’s easy to buy into the same perspective and do the same. So the company one keeps is important.Whether it is family members or a group of friends who share the same convictions, accountability makes the commitment to purity more plausible.

It’s also necessary to be sensitive to the values we are exposed to. From billboards, advertisements, TV shows, movies, internet sites, music, and even people we look up to and see as role-models, we are developing appetites and patterns of thinking that impact our concept of right or wrong. If we are constantly bombard by messages that tell us sex outside of marriage is the norm then we will believe this. Furthermore, what is to prevent us from remaining faithful to our spouse in marriage? Whatever habits we form before marriage will be difficult to undo later on.

So my dear young people, I would like to encourage you to make God’s word the standard. Sexual purity isn’t about staying a virgin, it is much more than this. Virginity is first and foremost a condition of the heart towards God. It is about seeking to be holy in our thoughts and actions as He is holy.

1 Corinthians 6:20 “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

For those who have made choices that have not glorified God, there is hope. Purity is a byproduct of what we fill our minds with and what we believe about God and ourselves. Don’t focus on pursuing purity. Pursue God and his will for your life and he will be the one to purify you inside and out.

Some people have said, but what about the guys? Are there any guys out there who will save themselves for us? That’s God’s department. I was blessed to marry a guy who was a virgin. (I can talk about this in another post.) There are men out there who love God, who have also committed to purity, but I doubt you will encounter them at common social venues that one might expect to. Forget about bars, for instance. Broaden the horizon. I like what one pastor said and I will paraphrase it here… “If you want to find God’s best, run as hard and as fast as you can towards God, then look to your left or right. If you see someone running in the same direction, grab their hand.” Some of the sweetest marriages have happened when two persons who give themselves to God’s work find one another in the context of serving God. How amazing it is when we recognise a shared passion to build God’s kingdom in the heart of another. How greater still when this recognition leads to a marital union that makes two better as one!

 

 

Beware Of the Bladderwort Woman

Deceitfully beautiful yellow flowers, that’s a Bladderwort.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here we go…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just A Little MORE Respect

I am on a role with this respect series so I am going to go ahead and post what I just shared at a couples’ retreat in Baguio…

At the beginning of my marriage I struggled in the area of respect. (For those of you who have followed my blog, you have heard me say this a number of times.)

I thought I had married the man of my dreams. He was (still is) but in our marriage, certain realties presented themselves.

Edric had temper issues. I didn’t see this when we were dating. But my father-in-law jokingly told me once, “Edric can be a monster.” I laughed because I thought it was an exaggeration. This couldn’t possibly be true, I thought.

However, a few weeks after we got married I began to see what my father-in-law meant. Edric had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to him. When he was in good spirits he was the most fun person to be with. He was energetic, intense, and passionate. But, when he was uncomfortable due to heat, hunger, fatigue, or stress, he was the binary opposite. If his expectations were not met he tended to be critical. Furthermore, as the only son in his family, he wasn’t used to being flexible with inefficiencies and changes in plans. He admitted that he was used to being treated like a PRINCE. Naturally, in marriage, he graduated to KING and wanted to be treated that way.

I began to entertain thoughts like, “Is this the man I married? Is this how marriage is going to be?”

One of the mistakes I made was I compared Edric to my dad. Even though I didn’t vocalize this, it was like I had a mental chart in my head with two names on it..Edric versus my father. And then I went down the list of “categories” and said things like, “Why can’t Edric be more even-keeled like dad? Why doesn’t he make choices like dad in this area? Why isn’t he a better provider?”

So I made it my mission to help Edric be a better husband and leader. I thought I was doing him a favor by correcting and pinpointing areas for improvement. But this didn’t work. It only lead to more conflict.

Edric would be driving down Edsa and if someone cut him off, he would try to chase the person down and antagonize him. This would deeply annoy me, so I would say things like, “Why do you have to get angry? You shouldn’t do that. That’s not a godly response.”

He would react with greater irritation at my attempts to teach him, and tell me to back off and leave him alone, that it wasn’t the time or place to correct him. According to him, he already knew he was wrong and he didn’t need me to say it.

This sort of scenario and many others repeated themselves over and over so that I developed a resentment toward Edric. I became an expert at rolling my eyeballs, deep sighing, snide remarking, contradicting and arguing, the silent treatment, even withholding sex at times, and a host of other tactics to communicate my disappointment in his leadership and choices.

I even kept journals where I enumerated my frustrations and hoped that he would read them. He didn’t. He had no idea what kinds of ugly feelings inspired me to fill pages and pages of my notebooks. After a while, I worried that if my children or others ever read my journals in the future they would think I had such an awful marriage which wasn’t true. But since I tended to write more when I was upset at Edric, my journals reflected this!

I praise God for couples’ retreats and seminars, the advice of wise women who have gone before me, and for God’s word where I learned and relearned about my role as a wife. I had failed to respect Edric because I thought of it as conditional. My perspective was, If he was deserving I would respect him. And what about me? What about being cherished and treated with respect?

God showed me that I was neck-deep in ugly pride and bitterness, and these hidden sins of my heart were making me a contentious and unpleasant wife. I mistakenly thought I was the better half in our relationship, the one who was more spiritually mature. But I wasn’t! My attitude was turning Edric’s heart away from me and it wasn’t inspiring him to grow spiritually either.

I realized that respect was one of Edric’s needs and desires, and I wasn’t meeting it. More importantly, I was disobeying God’s command to respect Edric as the head of our marriage and family. God convicted me to look at the many ways that I needed to change. How could I be a better helpmate? Edric’s strong supporter? A life-giver along side him? What did I have to stop doing and start doing?

I determined to do four things:

The first was I PRAYED for Edric and SURRENDERED him to the Lord. Instead of nagging Edric, I began to beseech God, presenting to him very specific requests about Edric, myself and our marriage. As I came before the Lord in dependence and brokenness, I experienced God’s peace, assurance, and security. The burden to change Edric was turned over to Jesus and I relaxed as a wife.

For the first time I began to understand what it meant to be a gentle and quiet spirit. It was resting in who God is amidst circumstances, amidst the urge to manipulate or control Edric, or fight for my rights as a wife. It was knowing that I was heard — my hurts, longings and desires — by the ONE who knew me best and loved me most.

Second, I FORGAVE Edric and chose to apply the principle of a CLEAN SLATE. If Jesus had died for me and forgiven me completely, who was I not to do the same for my husband?

The Bible tells us the God’s mercies are new every morning. Similarly, I needed to let go of the compounded hurt that kept stealing my joy. Instead of thinking, “he’s never going to change”, or “see he’s going to do the same thing again,” I said to myself each day is a new opportunity to love and forgive Edric.

Third, I asked Edric “HOW CAN I BE A BETTER WIFE? This is, of course, a dangerous question to ask! I discovered I had to improve a lot! I needed to speak in a more gentle way, I needed to do what he told me right away (as often as possible), I needed to prioritize his want for companionship, attention, service, and intimacy. So I humbled myself and asked for forgiveness for my disrespect and the things I had done to hurt him. I still have to do this when I repeat the same mistakes.

Fourth, I learned to BE A MORE AFFIRMING AND ENCOURAGING WIFE. Instead of telling him how he should lead spiritually, I affirmed his love for God and desire to follow him. Instead of second-guessing and challenging his decision-making, I expressed confidence in his leadership. Instead of wishing we had more money, I thanked him for working hard and trying his best to provide for our needs. Instead of focusing on what he was doing wrong, I tried to pay closer attention to instances when he made godly choices.

When I chose to be more positive, I realized what an amazing man I was and am married to. There were so many things that I didn’t see when I was focused on the negative aspects of his person (which were really minimal in light of all his great facets). When I was zoning in on his faults and criticizing them, I had tunnel vision for the bad that blackened out his wonderful traits.

Slowly but most certainly, Edric began to transform. It wasn’t overnight but God worked in his heart and made him a more selfless, patient, and Spirit-filled man. Today I see the old Edric less and less. If I had the beta version when we got married, God has upgraded him to version 10.0 x 10.0. God keeps on upgrading him!

For example, in the mornings I get my baby from her room and breastfeed her in ours. This is early in the morning. Sometimes, I get her at 5 or 5:30 am. Afterwards, she doesn’t go back to bed again. She is fully awake. In the past, Edric would have ordered me to bring her out so he can get more sleep. But he is the one who lovingly takes her and brings her downstairs to our househelp so I can rest. It’s a sweet gesture that demonstrates how different he has become. From expecting to be treated like a KING, he is willing to serve me and inconvenience himself for me.

A few weeks ago we were enjoying our date night when he asked me, “How can I improve and change as a husband?” I had to think long and hard and I replied, “Honestly, you have been great! I can’t really think of anything.”

Photos from that date night…

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Years ago I would have jumped at the opportunity to bullet point all the ways I wanted him to change. But by God’s grace he is a transformed person because of Christ’s continued work in his life. He is truly a godly leader, a loving and understanding husband, and a good provider. He is a man that I admire and respect with all my heart.

While I still struggle with respect and Edric still struggles with impatience from time to time, the secret to victory, romance and joy in our marriage is keeping Christ at the center of our relationship. When the motivation to keep improving wanes or when we are tempted to return to the selfish version of our Christ-less selves, Jesus becomes our superseding why, compelling us to press on in obedience and hopeful expectation.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me
. (‭Galatians‬ ‭2‬:‭20‬ NASB)

Serving together at the CCF Couples Retreat in Baguio. I love this man!

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The Respectable Husband/Father

With permission from my husband, Edric, I am writing this entry.

“If I want my family to respect me, I need to be respectable.” His exact quote.

He said this in reference to an activity that he believed he needed to give up. It was a hobby that was neither wrong or sinful, however he felt like it wasn’t a profitable use of his time. Furthermore, he was concerned about being a good example to our kids, especially our sons.

Since two years ago, I intentionally kept silent about my own perspective on this hobby because I didn’t want to be a nag about it or force him to change. I tried that approach and it usually ended up in some sort of marital version of world war. So I prayed about it. Finally, I accepted it as one of those unchangeable aspects of his person that I would be positive about. In fact, I asked him every once in a while, “When are you going to hang out with the guys again?”

However, he had his own epiphany about it. He discerned that he needed to spend “every centavo and hour for the cause of Christ.” Furthermore, he communicated to me that there are more meaningful ways to use his time.

Praise God! Incidences like this one are proof that God is continually at work in the lives of those whom I love. When I surrender them and trust that God will do the changing and transforming, he certainly works in ways that amaze me.

My husband has loved this pastime for many years. It was a source of conflict between us in the early part of our marriage because I thought it was juvenile and a waste of valuable time. But my attempts to convince him were futile. His arguments were more valid than mine.

First, it wasn’t anything immoral. Second, guys need “healthy” outlets for their pent up testosterone and for their stress. Third, he enjoyed hanging out with his like-minded guy friends — GOOD family guys who shared the same values and perspectives on marriage and parenting. So I stopped talking.

When he came to his own conclusions about this hobby I knew that the activity had run its course and proven to lack the draw it once had on Edric. He had changed and matured spiritually and emotionally. The pastime was no longer congruent with the greater sense of purpose that gripped him. This didn’t mean he would never revisit it. But he did not justify it the same way he used to.

Edric’s change of heart convicted me. (This is what happens when a husband/father demonstrates spiritual leadership in the home. Even though I respected him before this, I respected him even more for being an example to emulate in the area of time management.)

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Over the past year, I have been indulging in my own form of unprofitable hobby-ing. Watching TV series. I don’t even like to watch television! But a friend of ours gave us a hardrive with TV series like Elementary, Nikita, Arrow, Men Who Built America, and so on. This began after I have birth.

Some of these shows were a convenient and entertaining way for me to pass the time while breastfeeding in the evenings. I would watch several episodes in one sitting. This pushed my early sleeping hour to near midnight and sometimes later.

With the disruption in my normal sleeping habits, I woke up tired. To recuperate, I needed a few more hours to rest. As a result, early morning runs were sacrificed, bible reading became less consistent, and my homeshooling began later than usual. It was like a snowball effect. I wanted to stop but I was hooked on the story threads.

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭3‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

These verses tell me I can’t engage in habits that make my body unsuitable, unhealthy, and unfit for God’s work and purposes. In the Old Testament, the temple was treated as holy and sacred because God’s presence dwelt in it. 1 Corinthians makes this analogy because we are to treat our bodies the same way.

It is a deception to think that I can participate in activities that seem neutral because they don’t have a DIRECT effect on my spiritual walk. Edric and I have discovered that this is a fallacy. All our choices set us on a course toward a destiny. All our choices have spiritual implications.

The Bible tells us, “So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”(‭Psalms‬ ‭90‬:‭12‬ NASB)

What am I able to present to the Lord after hours and hours of watching these TV series? They did not make me wiser, not in the godly sense. If I were to be very honest, they made me tired, unhealthy, foggy headed, distracted, addicted to entertainment, more self-centered, more materialistic, less effective at teaching my kids, and a bad model of how to use my time.

So goodbye TV series watching!

I began this entry with Edric’s quote about “being respectable” because I hope it encourages husbands to be mindful of their choices, even when it comes to the area of hobbies and pastimes. The way a husband/father chooses to spend his discretionary time sets an example for his wife and children to follow. What he enjoys and takes pleasure in communicates to them what is valuable and important — what is deserving of the investment of his time, talent, and treasure. I praise God that Edric recognizes that having the respect of his family is more than a position. It is a privilege and a trust given by God to husbands/fathers.

With this privilege and trust comes a responsibility to distinguish between good things, better things, and the best things so that wives and children are encouraged to do the same. Pursuing the best things is God’s will. Jesus came to give people the “abundant life.” Anything less than this is settling for a substandard experience of joy, peace, fulfillment and fruitfulness. If a husband/father wants his family to have an appetite for what is best, he must consider this…

The best things will…

…make him a more effective witness for the gospel of Christ.
…make him more like Christ.
…qualify him to say to his wife and children, “Copy this in me.”

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Not In Front of the Kids

For the most part Edric and I avoid “SHAMING” one another in front of our children. We don’t make each other look bad so that our kids are forced to pick a side when an argument or conflict ensues between the two of us. In fact, we avoid contradicting each other when our kids are around. I said, “for the most part.” There are occasions when we don’t follow this rule because we forget to be more prudent. Unfortunately, our kids end up being spectators to our back and forth dialoguing about who’s perspective is right.

Some weeks ago, the kids joined the Biz Kidz event of TMA Homeschool. Edric encouraged the kids to participate, so the boys and I conceptualized a business idea for their origami hobby. Prior to the Saturday event, the boys and I slaved away. We put together the book they authored and illustrated, had it printed, and worked on the origami products they were planning to sell.

When Saturday came around, we were exhausted. I was frazzled as I finished topping their cupcakes with their origami designs. About two hours before we had to pack up the van, Edric started interrogating me with questions like, “Did you calculate your profit?” “What was the kids’ business proposal?” “Are you guys going to make ANY money?” He went on to criticise my planning skills.

While he thought he was being helpful, his timing couldn’t have been worse. We were about to load the van. I was dead tired from lack of sleep the night before. The kids were excited about the effort they had put into their projects and products. But at that moment, they looked on with discouragement as Edric made his inquisitions and negative comments.

I felt hurt. I couldn’t believe he was cutting me down in front of the kids! Plus, if it mattered to him so much that the kids do a good job on this, then why was he coming in at this point, when we couldn’t do anything about his suggestions? I was discouraged and irritated. His very valuable business perspective could have helped us a lot…two weeks before! These were some of the thoughts raging through my head as I distracted myself with packing our products.

Edric got the inkling that I wasn’t too thrilled about the things he said. I praise God that he has a sensitive gene built in to him that knows when I’m hurt. So he came up to me. I quietly expressed to him how I was feeling…that he had shamed me in front of the kids and that he was discouraging all of us. I praise God that he was humble enough to respond with a public apology. Immediately, he turned 180 degrees around to say sorry to our children.

He repaired his mistake by saying something like this, “Kids will you forgive daddy for saying those things to mommy? I am so proud of you guys and mommy for working so hard!”

That changed the tone of the morning and we went off to Biz Kidz together. He also promised to assist us with the set-up of our booth during the event.

Although, the kids didn’t make a ton of money, they bagged the MOST PROMISING BUSINESS IDEA award. Edric and I were very proud of them.

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I wanted to write this article because I’ve counseled people in the past who feel like they are caught IN-BETWEEN the conflict of their parents. It is very difficult for children to feel pitted against one parent by the other, or forced to take a side. I’ve also witnessed spouses cut-down, embarrass, and criticize their husband or wife with their children present. This sort of family culture breeds contempt, hurt, and stress. It also increases the likelihood that sons and daughters will grow up to do the same to one another, and to their future spouses (and children).

I’m reminded that we need to create a climate of respect for one another in our homes, where we treat our spouses with dignity and honour, and do the same to our children. We may not always favour our spouses’ methods, perspectives, and personality quirks, but we can address these sort of differences privately. And if it isn’t an emergency to get our point across, we can sort out the issues during a more appropriate time.

Yesterday, I came across a poster on Pinterest which read: THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK. It proposed very thoughtful questions about the things we say and how we say it.

Is it true?

Is it helpful?

Is it inspiring?

Is it necessary?

Is it kind?

1 Peter 5:5 “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

 

 

 

Love Beyond Poetry And Passion

When I was married in my 20s, I knew only of young love — the kind that inspired poetry and passion. But now that love has aged with me and for me in the heart of Edric, I prefer this version of love – one that feels young but old at the same time.

There are moments when Edric looks at me and I know he beholds me as one who is familiar. But then his eyes glint with a curiosity, as though he is meeting a part of me for the first time.

It’s a wonder that he remains committed to discovering that there can be more to me. More to the face he has seen ten thousand times. More to the person he has shared ten thousand conversations with.

I blush under his affectionate scrutiny and blurt out, “Why are you looking at me like that?” He replies, “I’m getting that feeling again.” And he will tell me how much he loves me.

After 13 years of marriage, I am grateful to be loved like this — loved beyond the poetry and passion…where Edric and I can celebrate honesty as two unmasked, unraveled persons. This is intimacy. And intimacy blossoms in the context of permanence and security, where a man is as Christ to his wife and a wife as the church to Christ. The fruit of intimacy is a sacred and profound love where husband and wife choose to need, want, and give to the other through the changing seasons of life’s landscape. Perhaps I can share this better through a story…

When I was a child, my siblings and I made whirlpools in a circular kiddie pool at the clubhouse we frequented as a family. We collaborated to run around the edges as fast as we could, forcing the water to spin in one direction. Then came the most fun part — letting ourselves float along and be dragged by the current.

My life as of late has felt like a spinning whirlpool. Unlike those glorious days of childhood where it was okay to be pulled around and around for the fun of it, whirlpools in adulthood are stressful and maddening. I blame mine on the centrifugal force of busyness.

When Edric and I got back from Brazil, we jumped right back into our activities. Two days after we arrived, still recovering from jetlag, we went on an out of town trip. During the same week we entertained guests and attended social events. I was confronted by all the make-up work my kids and I had to get done for homeschooling. Furthermore, I accepted several commitments and appointments that were crammed into an already packed schedule following our arrival. All of these were good things in and of themselves. But when I saw no hope for a pause, I grew anxious.

There are super women out there who live, breathe, and eat stress. It them stronger. But I don’t have that kind of power. Busyness is my kryptonite. My immunity drops and my emotions go south.

So I lost it…emotionally. Edric had no inkling apart from a few exchanges where I made quips like, “I think we were doing too much again.”

It was 12 AM on Thursday night when Edric turned over to his side to fall asleep after his “good night and I love you, hon.” I lay on my side feeling lost and confused, praying honestly to the Lord about my frustrations. While I wallowed in self-pity, clutching my pillow a little too melodramatically, Edric heard my quiet sobbing and asked if I was alright.

“No. No I’m not. I don’t feel like anyone understands what I’m going through right now.” (Of course these sort of statements are never true.)

“What’s wrong?”

He saw me get out of bed with my disheveled hair, oversized Florida Gators T-shirt, doing like a Frankenstein walk over to my desk in the darkness. I was feeling for my laptop in the darkness having suddenly remembered that I had to send an email to a couple we were counseling.

“What are you doing?” He followed me to my table. “Stop it. You look like a crazy person. I want to show you something.”

He pulled me to himself and walked me over to the large floor to ceiling glass sliding doors that opened up to our balcony. The lights of the city illuminated the quiet night like a canopy of colorful stars. In the distance I could make out the outline of the mountains set against the cloudless expanse of the sky. It was a spectacular view.

“Look at this. Do you remember when I surprised you for Valentines Day and prepared dinner for you on this balcony, when the house wasn’t finished yet? And we looked forward to moving in? Can you believe that we are actually living here now?”

He invited me to sit with him outside so we could talk. I was reluctant to at first but his persistence prevailed. There was no getting away from this. He wasn’t going to leave me alone. We sat out there with the crickets as background music to a monologue of my thoughts. When the mosquitos wouldn’t quit biting Edric’s legs, he decided to be more practical and said we could continue this on our bed.

Edric listened until he could interpret my emotional driveling and concluded, “I think you have been through some major life events as a woman this past year and you have had no time to process all the changes. And you need that. I know you.”

I nodded then sobbed like a little child with my head tucked under my arm. Yes, that was it! What a relief to be psychoanalyzed so correctly.

Then he asked me to come even closer to him so that I was completely in his arms and he whispered, “I will take care of you. I think I haven’t given you enough attention lately. Do you want me to take the afternoon off tomorrow? I can come home early. You know that I like to rescue you…”

I wanted to be taken care of. I wanted to be rescued. At that moment I was the epitome of spiritual and emotional weakness.

The next day, Edric finished off a meeting in the morning and came home to do his work in the dining room. Every time I saw him, I had one of those puerile, giddy, girly smiles. We didn’t have to be joined at the hip that afternoon but knowing that he was around gave me inspiration as I tended to the kids and managed home affairs.

I’m the kind of woman who will climb off the balcony of a three-story home to get to another balcony to find a way into a study room to fix a jammed door. (I had to do that about two months ago and the workers saw me doing my acrobatics from our back yard while my children looked on in terror. “Mom! You might die!” The workers were pointing and making comments like I was insane. I assured them that I knew what I was doing. To my children I said, “You are NOT allowed to do this. EVER.”)

The point is I can take care of myself if I need to. I can deal with my emotions and process them with the Lord so I don’t dump them on Edric every single day. But there are times when I need his perspective, his friendship, his understanding, or a hug and a kiss, and the calm of his voice when he says, “everything is going to be alright.”

God didn’t create women to be helpless creatures who are dependent on men for their survival and happiness. Heck, we bear the physical pain of birthing children on our own. We find fulfillment in the work of our hands, in the pursuit of our God-given talents and abilities, and in the relationships we keep. However, there is something about the strength of a man, the assurance of his presence, and his desire to take the lead and protect that settles us and allays our fears.

Is it just me?

People have criticized me for saying this. But I think they’ve missed the point. I’m not saying that a woman needs a man to feel complete or satisfied with life. At the same time, it would be ignorant for someone to say that a woman NEVER needs a man. (Hello…sperm + egg = person.)

I suspect that most of the women who say this don’t really believe this deep inside. But they have been hurt and disappointed by men. So have I. At some point, we have all been victims or casualties of men’s wrong choices. (As they have been of our own sinful decisions, too.)

To protect myself, I concluded that I would not let myself be vulnerable to a man. I wanted to be in control, independent, and capable of looking out for myself. But then I married a man whom I could trust, who invited me to a relationship with no pretenses. There was no promise that he would never hurt me, but I knew with certainty that he was a man who loved God. So God gave me peace — the peace of knowing that Edric would be the one to keep my heart.

I let myself be honest…honest about needing him. I’ve chosen to need him as he has chosen to need me. We need one another for different reasons, but in this truthful surrender of independence, we found that the journey together was better.

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In a recent event for my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary, they sang an edited version of Adam Sandler’s song, “I Want to Grow Old With You.” Their rendition reminded me that marriage isn’t about growing past each other’s imperfections. Sometimes the areas that we don’t like about our spouse or ourselves still remain. But when we choose to need, want, and give to the one we married as the years go by, God provides the filter of grace. This filter distills the flaws and harsh realities, removing the impurities that would otherwise poison and corrupt our hearts with selfishness, bitterness, fear, pride or regret. And meltdown moments at 12 AM, when held as one’s beloved, wearing an ugly t-shirt and haloed by unkempt hair, bear image to the sweet irony of love. For in loving beyond the poetry and passion we find that we return again to these.

Happy Anniversary, Edric Mendoza! This one was for you.

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Caught On Camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Complement, Don’t Complicate

“Complement, don’t complicate me.” That’s what Edric said to me at 35,000 feet in the air, on the plane home from Brazil.

I was nagging him about a certain commitment which I was afraid he would de-prioritize when we got sucked into the vortex of our busy lives in Manila. He didn’t appreciate my attempts at “helping” him. Apparently he had already set in motion important details that would affect the commitment in a positive way. I was just jumping in again, eager to MAKE SURE he made the right choices.

This is when I get into trouble relationally with Edric…when I try to MAKE SURE he makes the right choices. My duties have been delineated — keep the home in order, the children are mannered, disciplined and homeschooled, and the monthly expenses are managed well. Focusing on these responsibilities liberates him to give his time and attention to business and ministry. I don’t need to be a hover craft to his decision making.

If he wants my input and insight, he will ask for it. He usually does. Otherwise, I need to let him steer the wheel of this mothership we call our family.

I apologized for nagging and asked, “How can I support you?” That’s when he very tenderly told me, “Babe, I need you. You know that, right? But I need you to complement me, not complicate me.”

A complement is a wife who fills in the gaps and the holes that fall under her responsibility. She is her husband’s strong supporter.

A complicator, on the other hand, looks at her husband’s holes and tries to fill them for him. She also weighs him down with her emotional and spiritual immaturity.

Sometimes being a complement to Edric is manifest in the simple things…like serving him with joyfulness. He told me he felt like crying when my mom cheerfully said to my dad, “It’s my privilege to serve you.”

This happened one morning when we were in Brazil together. My dad asked for fruit from the buffet table, and my mom practically bounced out of her chair with eagerness to get him some. In contrast, I was hoping Edric wouldn’t ask me to get him anything! All I wanted to do was eat my cheese, butter and bread without being interrupted.

Edric could sense this so he told me that afternoon what an impact my mom’s statement had made. “Really?! You felt like crying?!” I asked him. My next thought bubble was, I must be pretty bad in this area!

Apparently, during the trip he felt like I didn’t DELIGHT to serve him, that I would get annoyed when he inconvenienced me with a request.

For example, we were standing in front of Copacobana Palace Hotel waiting for our tour bus when he asked me if I had his granola bar because he wanted to eat a snack. We didn’t get to eat lunch so snacks were the next best thing. (My husband has the fastest metabolism of anyone on earth that I know of. Every two hours he gets hunger pangs.)

“Did you put it in my bag?” I asked.

“Just check your bag.”

“But did you put it in there? Because if you answered that question then I would know whether to check for it or not.”

“If I knew that I put there I wouldn’t ask you.”

I didn’t want to remove my backpack and go through the contents because I had stuffed it full. My breast pump was in there and extra clothes in case it got cold. Having to sift through the contents would be troublesome. But I stuck my hand in anyway when I realized he was getting frustrated with my attitude. I didn’t find the granola bar the first time I tried because I didn’t try very hard.

“It’s not here.”

“You’re sure?”

“Did you put it in here?” I asked again with irritation in my tone.

“Did you check for it well enough?” He replied, equally annoyed.

I was infuriated with our back and forth questioning. My logic was, if you remember that you put your granola bar in my bag then I will trouble myself to thoroughly look for it.

Edric felt hurt. He didn’t understand why I was so reactive. Since he had expressed to me that he was hungry, he thought I would try my best to find the granola bar.

Looking back, the basis for my reactive spirit was silly. Why did I give him such a hard time? Why was I so nasty? I was just thinking of myself and not prioritizing him.

It turned out that the granola bar was in the front pouch of my backpack! Whether he put it there or not is secondary to the fact that he asked me to look for it and I should have done so with a better attitude because I love him.

This is one of several incidences in Brazil that revealed how much I have to improve in the area of serving Edric. One of the best ways I can be a complement to Edric is to serve him with gladness, to consider it “a privilege” as my mom said to my father. It is something he longs for me to do.

So a few nights ago, at 12 AM he was hungry and asked if there was anything he could eat. My initial thought was, Now? Why?! But I remembered how much my service matters to him. He had a long day and he needed me to take care of him.

So I went downstairs, made some grilled cheese sandwiches and took them up to him. His eyes lit up! But I also detected disbelief mixed in with his delight.

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“Wow, what did you do with my wife?!” He asked.

Yes this wasn’t a dream. I wanted to apply what I learned about being his complement.

Edric was in heaven with his cheese sandwiches. He was so sweet and grateful. I felt ashamed of myself. Goodness gracious, have I set the bar so low?! Ecstasy over grilled cheese?!

We hung out in bed and he had his tray of food beside him to happily munch on. Since we were jetlagged we did exactly what we shouldn’t have done and watched 3 episodes of Arrow. It was a lot of fun but our bodies were so confused the next day! I woke up close to 10 am, which I never do! Ever!

My mom’s example made me desire to change. I ought to act and behave in a way that captivates Edric’s heart and ministers to him. If I embrace the role of being a complement to him, I will meet his longings and desires so he feels empowered and inspired to be the man God wants him to be.

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Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭2‬:‭18‬ NLT)

Sunrise On Copacobana Beach

A couple of nights ago, Edric told me he was feeling lost. (With the number of hats he has to wear, juggling his responsibilities can get overwhelming.)

Maybe it was the jet lag and the cold weather that got to me because I felt annoyed as he was going on and on about how he couldn’t handle a particular ministry he was in charge of. I was like, “What?! You committed to it. You can’t just back out of it.”

According to him, he didn’t anticipate the commitment level it would entail. We went back and forth discussing the reasons why it was challenging. Instead of drawing him out and asking him questions, I wanted him to skip over to the park where he resolved to keep going no matter what the cost. For me it was a matter of principle and duty. Since this didn’t happen and I was falling in and out of consciousness while I fought the urge to sleep, I said, “If that’s how you feel, then quit. Just quit.”

This was the least helpful thing I could have said. First of all I didn’t even mean it. Second, it was an insensitive way of closing the conversation because I was too tired to go on.

It wasn’t a surprise that Edric’s response was a frigid “GOODNIGHT.”

The next day we joined my parents for breakfast and my dad asked him how things were going. (When he gets the chance to, my dad invites Edric to update him. He likes to know how he can pray for Edric and mentor him as a father.)

I watched and listened to my dad as he sat through sentences and sentences of Edric’s concerns about his responsibilities and time management. My dad patiently interacted with him without lecturing or cutting him off. It was a marvelous site to behold because I had done the complete opposite the night before.

As Edric shared what was on his heart, he seemed to receive greater clarity. My dad asked him questions that got him to think through his motivations. By the end of that hour Edric felt encouraged and built up.

I wish it had been me that inspired these feelings in him. But I had missed out on the opportunity to do so.

As we headed back to our hotel room, I admitted to my mom that I had to work on my listening skills. Sometimes I get impatient when people want to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, especially when they revisit the same issues again and again. For me, if you know the right thing to do then do it, don’t paddle around the pond of feeling, circling round and round. Or quit walking into the muck of despair when you can take the more solid, higher ground.

I sound awful and mean when I say this but I think it has more to do with a personality type. Even though I feel things deeply I like to process emotions expediently. Edric prefers to express his emotions freely and he takes a while to come to a conclusion. But once he gets to that point, having journeyed through many degrees of feeling, he emerges with resolve and conviction that is unparalleled. It’s actually one of the things I appreciate about him. But in marriage, when I am thinking only of myself I end up responding in a manner that hurts Edric when he is in that “emotional-cocoon-state-of-mind.”

As I observed my dad over breakfast, I learned a valuable lesson about good communication. I mentally archived it as a template. First, he asked questions. Next, he paid attention. Third, he shared experiences and struggles that resonated with what Edric was going through. Fourth, he acknowledged Edric’s feelings without belittling them. Fifth, he gave constructive suggestions that Edric could act on. Sixth, he helped Edric decipher what was going on in his heart.

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I am so thankful to the Lord that Edric and my father have a wonderful relationship. And I am also thankful that my dad has improved in the area of communication over the years. In the past, when someone would open up and get emotional with him, he tended to be more left brain in his response.

For example, years and year ago, during my dad’s birthday celebration, Edric very vulnerably expressed to him how much he looked up to him as a father. He talked about what a positive difference he made in his life. After Edric’s tearful speech, my dad said, “good job.” Oh, and he did include some sort of pat on his back after giving him a half-hug. Good job?! Good job?!

After that incident my very concerned mom talked with my dad in private and told him that Edric might have gotten hurt by his lack of responsiveness. When my dad realized this he apologized to Edric as soon as he could and best of all, he changed for the better. His present default mode is to listen, dialogue, empathize, and encourage.

With Edric, God gave me the opportunity to remedy my failure. While we were in Rio, at 4:30 in the morning (we both woke up thinking it was 7 am), he asked me to rate our marriage. This is an exercise we do with couples we meet with to gauge how they are doing.

In the darkness of our hotel room I said, “Probably a 9.” He gave us a “7.” Of course I was curious to know why. And he enumerated three ways I had upset him during this trip.

1. I didn’t serve him with enthusiasm. My expectation was he was going to serve me on this trip and take care of me.
2. I didn’t seem interested in talking to him because I would whip out my phone and write.
3. I was self-deprecating on several occasions about myself. Sometimes I make negative comments about my post-baby-body hoping that Edric will reply with adulation for it. But this often backfires. (Gals, my mom used to say don’t ever point out your flaws and turn them into a discussion with your husband. It’s unattractive and unbecoming. Most of the time a husband doesn’t notice every pimple, dimple, wrinkle and crinkle unless you start spotlighting them.)

I stapled my mouth shut as I listened to him, making the effort to apply what I remembered from my dad’s example. When he asked me, “Are you okay?”

“Not really. But I feel like talking about my perspective will not be helpful.”

I got up to use the toilet to buy myself some thinking time, and then I sat back down beside him. “I am sorry babe. I will change.”

He wasn’t expecting this. And he added, “What about me? How can I improve?”

“Honestly, I think you are great. You are a good husband, you take care of me, you have become much more patient…”

“Are you playing mind games with me?” He kidded.

“What? Of course not.” I was serious.

Then we went over each of the three points that he raised and identified how I can change and be more understanding towards his needs. Edric enjoyed and appreciated our conversation. So did I. It was refreshing to take the gentle and quiet spirit approach. (God reminded me that I really need to continually humble myself and do this more often!)

By 6:30 am we prayed and took a walk on Copacobana beach as we watched the sunrise. It was cloudy and rainy when we arrived in Rio, but the sun was breaking through. For the first time we got to see a more picturesque beach which had looked dull when it was overcast.

The scene was emblematic of our marriage. Our relationship is not a perfect one. We have stormy and dark days from time to time, but when we apply God’s principles, the forecast looks bright! He is the light of our marriage!

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What Is This Love?

Brazilians are very much like Filipinos — warm, relational, and sincere. It’s been such a joy to interact with them and get to know their culture better. I have to gesticulate to communicate because most Brazilians don’t speak a smidgen of English. I’ve learned a few Portuguese words — obrigada (thank you), todo (total), Deus (God), minha (my), agua (water), bom (good), boa noite (good evening), oferta (special discount), saida (exit), entrada (enter)…

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Over the past week of sitting through the family conference sessions at First Baptist Church of Curutiba, I picked up a couple of insights that have been especially meaningful to me. Two days ago, Pastor Paschoal Pirigine talked about the idea of love as found in Ephesians 5:25.

The text reads, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

What is this love that Christ demonstrated? How can we love our spouses and children in the same way? 

He shared two insights: Love must give itself completely, without limits. Love must reinvent and resurrect itself.

Interestingly, it was observed that people in concentration camps during World War II were of two kinds. The ones who were perceived to be strong, who were most likely to survive, did not. It was those who where weak but cared for others that tended to survive. Why? Because they had something to live for. They loved beyond their own capacities.

We tend to lose perspective about the fact that the God of the universe came to earth in human flesh. The endless had to “fit” into the finite. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

When Jesus sacrificed himself, he died for the sins of the world. He could’ve stopped it all and come off the cross to end his suffering. Yet he gave his life with complete abandon. We may think it was easy to do because he was also divine. However, we know that he struggled with the realities of his limitations when he said, “Father if possible, remove this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done.”

We too are confronted by our limitations so often, especially in the context of a marriage and family. How does a person keep loving a spouse who is unfaithful? How does a mother keep loving a child who is impaired by a disability? How does a child keep loving a parent who is consistently angry and unreasonable?

Some of these limitations seem insurmountable. Yet true love sees beyond the impossible. Against all odds it seeks to exceed its limits for the sake of the person it chooses to love. Christ didn’t come off the cross because he loves us. He came to finish his mission — to die in our place so we might receive forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God.

Do we easily give up on our family members?

Pastor Paschoal told the story of a son who was addicted to drugs. This person was jailed thirty times! When he asked the parents if they felt like giving up, they replied, “We will never give up on our son.”

I don’t know what I would do if my son was this way! The reality is we are used to replacing and forsaking what pushes us to our limits. It’s the easier way out. But the solution to overcoming these limits is to focus on what Christ did on the cross for us.

We must seek to do as Christ did. Love must “raise and reinvent” itself. After Jesus died, he raised himself and “reinvented” his body. He was raised with a new body. We know this because his friends didn’t recognise him right away. Similarly, we must resurrect our love and reinvent it in new forms, expressing it in new ways.

Pastor Paschoal went on to share that at 15, his love for his wife (his girlfriend at the time) was to show up at the seashore to meet her. When there was a flood in their city, his love compelled him to walk through the waters to go to her. At 21, love was to sit down with his young wife and say, “no matter how much we have, we will find a way to go through life together.” Today, loving his wife is to care for her as she struggles through the pain and challenges of an autoimmune disease that is affecting her nervous system. The disease is causing her brain to shrink.

According to Pastor Paschoal love must be reinvented for every phase of life. As each year passes, it should change according to the need of the other. It must be expressed in new ways to communicate itself. It must be resurrected newly, daily, through the seasons and phases of life, through the history of a marriage and a family.

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

I know of a couple who survived the crisis of multiple infidelities on the part of the husband. Because the wife understood Christ-like love, she chose to forgive her husband unconditionally. This resurrected their love. Today, they have a beautiful marriage and they are impacting multitudes for the Lord. Although it didn’t happen overnight, the choice to forgive gave their marriage a fighting chance.

Only love that is amplified by the grace of God allows us to experience what is humanly impossible. Until we recognise what Christ did for us, “how he loved the church and gave himself up for her,” as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, we will not be able to love beyond our limitations or resurrect and reinvent love to meet the needs of our beloved. We need to abide in this love to give of this love.

When we embrace Christ’s love and mirror it in our marriage something amazing happens. A man and a woman who are so different, who come from dissimilar contexts become one person. This is the miracle of love. God creates one person, one life, one family, one dream, one culture.

I want to end with something John Piper said in his book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” Marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. A marriage between a man and a woman was designed form the beginning to be a reflection of the covenant relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

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When I read this, it really ministered to me. It renewed my resolve and commitment to love Edric for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. Why? Because marriage was designed to showcase the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church. Christ will never leave his church, his bride. Christ will never betray or forsake his church, his bride.

Do our marriages display the same truth for our children? For the world? It is this truth that makes a marriage sacred. To love without limitations, to resurrect and reinvent love in our marriages is to declare the gospel — that God is a good and loving God. When this happens society will pay attention and notice. This love will spread from our marriages, to our children, and to the world.

If you want to read a book on marriage that will radically change your perception and understanding of it, click this link:
This Momentary Marriage

Just You & Me, Baby!

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

The perks of childless traveling…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vomit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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