Before and After I Do (19th Edition)

BID3

One of our passions (Edric and I) is equipping soon-to-be married couples and young married couples with biblical principles for successful marriages. We’d like to think of this as a preventive approach to the challenges people will face in their marriage. It’s much harder to go the prescriptive route, when couples come to us with major issues in order to heal what is broken.

BID4

These Before and After I Do seminars first began with our friends, John and Monique Ong of ImagineNation Photography who thought of inviting their clients to a marriage preparation event. Having come from broken relationships themselves, they were burdened to help couples start their marriages out with God at the center. Over the years, we have continued to partner together to mount this seminar, and we’ve recruited several of our friends to team-teach with us as well.

Manny and Lisa Manansala, for example, were once upon a time on the verge of giving up on their marriage. But, after applying God’s principles, especially in the area of husband and wife roles, their marriage was revived. Today, they serve in the Family Ministry of our church.
MANNY LISA

Edric and I, and our friends, do this because we want to equip couples with bible-based principles for a successful marriage. (None of the fees for the event go to any of us. The amount couples pay for covers lunch, materials, and venue use.) Our collective desire is to see healthy marriages giving birth to healthy families who will impact the world positively for Jesus!

EDRIC&JOY

BID2

Marriage can be the most amazing relationship on earth or it can be like, pardon me, but I have to say it, LIKE HELL. The good news is no matter what stage a marriage is at, God is a master rebuilder. What we may describe as “beyond hope” can be pieced back together by Him. I’ve seen this happen over and over again. Here’s the even better news…if a marriage has the opportunity to begin the right way, a husband and wife can be spared from the heartaches that so many relationships get shipwrecked by.

The Before and After I Do Workshop is a one day seminar that targets soon-to-be weds and newly married couples. It will be held on April 18 (8 AM to 5 PM) covering four key topics — God’s Design for Marriage, Marriage Roles, Communication, and Forgiveness. Check out more information on this event and other related seminars at CCF’s Family Ministry site and Before I Do’s site. You can also contact Hanna at 0927-614-2582 or 866-9900 loc. 8828.

before-i-do-without-perforation

before-i-do-3rd-version-back-2

 

 

 

How Can I Forgive?

A few days ago I received an email with just one question on it. “How can I forgive?” It was a great question to be asked and I have written a lengthy response in this post which I hope will benefit those who may struggle with the same challenge — forgiving those who have wounded us.Sun Feb 01 2015 01-31-08 GMT 0800More than any other relationship I have, marriage has been the context for some of my greatest forgiveness “challenges.” I suppose this is because I am most vulnerable to Edric. I love him so much that I hurt worst when he makes choices or speaks in ways that are unloving. He has said the same about me. Both of us are prone to selfishness and pride. Sometimes it isn’t big offenses but the little ones, piled up together over time that are injurious — the ones that need to be forgiven over and over again.

(Early years of marriage. We look like kids!)

Last month was a particularly rough time for us. Edric was very busy and caught up with work and responsibilities. He was easily irritated with me when I didn’t meet his “standards” for wifely duties or running our home. Normally, he is gracious and looks past my inefficiencies, choosing to highlight the positive. But since his spirit was unsettled by concerns over our finances and business decisions, he was easily jostled by things I would say and do that inconvenienced him.

My problem was I put up my own version of selfishness. When he was abrasive towards me, I retaliated with my magic force field, the one that placed a safe, emotional distance between us so I would not get hurt. My methods were things like curt, unaffectionate replies, silence, retreating to my hobbies and the children, and communicating disinterest in physical intimacy.

Edric recognized my methods as feminine forms of hostility and he felt like I wasn’t supportive of him. In fact he expressed this by saying, “It’s like you only love me when I am okay, when I am lovable. But you won’t cut me slack for my reactions when you know that I am struggling with an issue.” I have paraphrased what he said but that was the essence.

His statements were justifiable. Of course, I do love him. But the reality is I intended my responses to manipulate and pressure him. I forced upon him the expectation that he should ALWAYS be a spiritual leader, that he should be better than this, that he should pull himself together. I bailed out on him emotionally when I should have applied extra grace to attend to him, minister to him, and encourage him.

One of the things I appreciate about Edric is he won’t let us spiral downward. He will take action and drop every activity to make sure our marriage is where it ought to be — with Jesus Christ at its center. And that’s exactly what happened. First, he spent time in God’s Word to renew his spirit, and then he approached me, requesting that we discuss the state of our marriage and how to improve it.

Naturally, forgiveness was part of this interchange. I was blessed by Edric’s humility as he asked for my forgiveness. It convicted me to do the same. And then we made proposals on how to avoid falling into the same predicament.

This scene has been repeated many times in our marriage. We often come to a point where we must give forgiveness and receive it. There’s no way to move forward in our marriage if we don’t do so.

In John Piper’s book, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, he writes “Before a man and woman can live out the unique roles of headship and submission in a biblical and gracious way, they must experience what it means to build their lives on the vertical experience of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help, and then bend it out horizontally to their spouse.” (Pg.44)

I like how he puts it. In marriage, we need to vertically experience God’s forgiveness, justification and help before we can bend these out horizontally towards our spouse. This actually makes the shape of a cross!

This past month I was tired of trying to be a “good wife.” I wanted a break. My focus was on myself and my capacities. However I was reminded that looking at myself can never be the answer. Apart from Christ, I am definitely NOT a good wife. “As it is written, ‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.'” (Romans 3:10-12 NASB)

Whether in the context of marriage or outside of it, the answer to the question how we can forgive is this: we can forgive because God first forgave us. Forgiveness is not a response to the degree of the offense so much as it is an acknowledgement of God’s forgiveness and mercy to us, then flowing that forgiveness and mercy outward, to others. Until we understand this it’s hard to forgive, especially when the offenses are serious and deeply painful.       (A few years after the rape)

Many of you who have followed this blog already know that I was once upon a time a victim of rape. Unlike a marriage where two people are of the same mind to repair it and right the wrongs suffered in it, there are forgiveness situations in life that do not involve the offending party apologizing for their sins against us. Instead we are left at a junction where we must make the choice to forgive regardless of whether the other person is sorry or not.

I knew that my rapists and abusers would not offer me their repentance. It is the same way for many of us who are betrayed, taken advantage of, deceived, or physically harmed by others. The likelihood of these persons returning to us in order to ask for an apology is slim to nil. To bank on this happening as the prerequisite to extending forgiveness only makes us a slave to a timetable of uncertainty.

Can we hope and pray that they will one day apologize, expressing deep remorse? Sure. But what are we going to do in the meantime? What is within our control?

What helped me make the choice to forgive was recognizing that I too was guilty, not of the same crimes committed against me, but of the same sinful disposition before God. Yet, God sent His Son to die for me. The Bible tells us “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8 NIV)

It also says, “In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us…” (Ephesians 1:7-8 NASB)

If God forgave me by giving his own Son to die for me, who was I not to forgive the hurt done against me? In Ephesians 4:32 it says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Therefore, I could take the same forgiveness bestowed upon me through Christ and turn it into the kindness and compassion needed to bestow the same forgiveness towards my offenders.

It’s hard to explain without sounding like a deranged person but my heart felt a miraculous compassion for my offenders when I realized that I was no better than they were before God. Anything that was righteous in me was due to Jesus Christ. However way I esteemed myself as better than they were wasn’t due to my own goodness. So I couldn’t elevate myself and think I was holier for not being a rapist, a murderer, a thief, an adulterer, etc.

I could understand the darkness that was in their hearts and how it held them captive to do what was wicked and ungodly. So this compassion I am referring to was about wanting them to come to know Jesus Christ. Why? So their lives could be transformed. So they would stop hurting others the way they hurt me. Just like them, I was once lost and dead in my sins until Jesus Christ saved me.

Ephesians 2:3-5 explains this very clearly. “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

We can punish people for the bad things they do to us by imposing external consequences like withholding forgiveness as a form of revenge, but this is a superficial fix to the real problem. First, people need Jesus Christ. Second, our unforgiveness is not the best form of justice if that is what we seek.

What do we hope to accomplish by clinging to unforgiveness? Is it to satisfy our sense of fairness? “You hurt me so I am not going to let you off that easily.” Or, “I want you to feel what it is like to be me.” Or, “I want you to pay for your sins before I forgive you.” We can require emotional or physical payment for the offenses done against us. But what if the persons we impose these upon are never reformed and never truly sorry for their crimes and wrong choices? Who is to know what the truthful condition of their hearts is in regards to repentance? The answer is we can’t guarantee either. This falls under the scope of God’s power and omniscience.

We need to consider, “Does UNforgiveness cause an offender to wake up to the reality of his or her wrong?” “Does UNforgiveness inspire them to pursue lasting change?” While our outcry for justice may demand penitence, might I suggest that we consider the ONE who has the power to effect change in the heart of a sinner and the capacity to execute real justice if the same sinner remains unrepentant.

“…Vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me. O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready…” (Psalms 7:8-12 NASB)

When several of my rapists were caught and put in jail, that was a good thing. Criminals need to be jailed to protect others from being victimized. But long before this happened, I chose to forgive them for what they did to me. I did my part to meet with the police and identify the gang members as best as I could, but if they were not caught, I believed God would deal with them. As for me, I didn’t want to remain a victim twice over — first as one who lost her innocence and virginity to cruel men, and second, as one who was defiled by her own bitterness.

Bitterness is so carcinogenic to the soul. “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)

I recall attending a woman’s conference where the speaker talked about the characteristics of bitter people. They are like a cup of perpetually hot coffee, filled to the brim. Any circumstance, even the smallest ones cause a spill that hurts! No one likes to be around people like this! I’ve caught myself on several occasions “spilling” over with irritation towards my children when Edric and I have unresolved conflicts. My frustration and anger get channeled towards my kids. So the sooner I address what’s going on inside and arrest the anger, the quicker I can halt the defiling overspill.

When the root is bitterness, imagine what the fruit might be. Woodrow Kroll

I am not trying to make pain simplistic. Some of us have been through major trauma due to people’s betrayal, physical injury, thievery, immorality, etc. But I have also seen two sides of the same coin. I have been around people who refuse to forgive and observed how it aged them, turned them ugly, and paralyzed them from true healing. And I have been around people who have chosen to forgive the most hateful persons, people who deserved no less than total unforgiveness for their crimes and sins. Yet, the forgiveness extended transformed the hurting person into someone more beautiful inside and out. Furthermore, the choice to forgive advanced them towards healing. In the process of surrendering their anger, their hearts were opened up to love others. In certain instances, God allowed this grace-extended to cause repentance and change in the life of the offender, too (although this isn’t always the case).

Bitterness and love cannot be neighbors in our hearts. They cannot co-exist without fighting for occupancy of the entire space. We either let love win or bitterness will take over.  To say we can reserve a spot of anger for certain people or circumstances and still define ourselves as loving persons is to misunderstand the deceptiveness of anger. Sooner or later anger will conquer more ground and ease love out. Forgiveness, however, extracts the bitterness and makes room for love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives a definition of love, which includes a part that says, “love does not take into account a wrong suffered.”

What if an offense is repeated over and over again? Whenever Edric and I resolve our disputes, choosing to forgive one another and release the anger, we always hope that the same situations won’t happen again. But we don’t extend forgiveness by coupling it with an ultimatum that says, “You better not repeat the same mistake!”

After all, who can really make this demand without setting themselves up for greater hurt? We can’t control people’s mistakes, past, present, or future. We can’t control how remorseful they should be either. These are demands that make us more vulnerable to disappointment when we put conditions on forgiveness.

On the one hand, forgiveness is a decision “not to count one’s trespasses against us” as 1 Corinthians 13 puts it. It is extended in reference to a known offense. On the other hand, it is a state of being that extends forward, too. I have forgiven you and I will forgive you. It’s not saying I condone your sin or approve of your wrong choices. This isn’t about giving someone the license to keep hurting us either. (If a person is being battered or abused, they need to find a way to physically remove themselves from that situation and go somewhere safe or get help from someone who can effectively intervene.)

However, we can keep on forgiving because God continues to do so for us.

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” (Psalms 86:5 NASB)

In summary…

  1. Forgiveness is possible because of what God has done for us. It is not contingent upon the degree of the offense done towards us or whether the offender asks for our forgiveness.
  1. The kindness and compassion to forgive comes when we recognize that ALL people, including ourselves, are lost in the darkness of sin apart from Jesus Christ.
  1. The option to withhold forgiveness does not accomplish the heart transformation of the offender or the justice we seek. Only God can cause a person to repent wholeheartedly and deal with someone who is unrepentant.
  1. Forgiveness liberates us from the bitterness which defiles us and those around us. We cannot say we are loving if we harbor resentment and anger – there is no room for both in our hearts.
  1. We can keep on forgiving just as God continues to offer his forgiveness to us.

In closing, let me end with a passage of Scripture that puts everything into perspective, and it centers around the personhood of Jesus Christ – what He went through for our sakes, His response to offenses done against him, how He surrendered Himself to God the Father, and what His death and resurrection accomplished for us.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24 NASB)

NOTE: If you are one who needs to ask for forgiveness, consider reading The Five Languages of Apology by authors Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas which explains that apologizing involves five aspects: expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting, and requesting forgiveness.

Fathers and Children

Wed Jul 31 2013 03-39-36 GMT 0800

A long while ago I wrote an article called “The Lost Boys,” in reference to men who have grown up without the guidance of their fathers…No one to tell them what it means to be a man. No one to model this path for them. Many times these men navigate through life on a trial-and-error basis or they attempt to fill the void carved out by their father’s absence or lack of affirmation.

lost-boys

There is a female version to the lost boy syndrome…Women who never had their fathers tell them they were treasured, special, beautiful inside and out, or stand as protector to them. Interestingly (and sadly), a study of women whose fathers were absent showed that these women tend to seek after the affections and attentions of men in a negative way.

“During the interviews, participants expressed difficulties forming healthy relationships with men and they associated these difficulties with their experiences of father absence. The interviewees also revealed a strong need for attention and affection from men which was also associated by the participants with the lack of affection received from their fathers. The desire for affection made these females more vulnerable to male attention which put them at higher risk of being exploited by any male who expressed any positive interest in them. Some of their poor relationship decisions were attributed to this vulnerability. One of the participants, when describing her first sexual relationship, stated that the sexual encounter with a friend’s father occurred because of her desire for affection and attention from a father figure.” Source: East, L., Jackson, D., & O’Brien, L. (2007). ‘I don’t want to hate him forever’: Understanding daughter’s experiences of father absence. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, 24, 14-18.

Whether boy or girl, a child needs a healthy emotional relationship with their father. While I believe that women and men can, by God’s grace, rise above the effects of their unfavorable childhood experiences, the point is this: what a father says and does bear significant weight when it comes to building up the sense of security and identity of a child.

I am a wife and mother but it still matters to me that my dad thinks about me and expresses concern about my well-being. It matters that he still passes on spiritual truth to me. It matters that I can still hop on over to my parents’ house, run up to my dad’s study room and interrupt whatever he is doing. I know he will set everything aside and give me his undivided attention. He doesn’t have to talk to me for an hour. Just the sight of his big smile and his melodic, “Hey!” as I bounce through the door tell me that I am welcome.

Over and over again, I have witnessed the same dynamic between Edric and our children, too. When he gives our children purposeful attention, they are built up. Their sense of worth and value soars.

A week ago, we were celebrating Elijah’s birthday with family. Everyone around the table shared something they appreciated about Elijah. But it was Edric’s letter that made a big difference. The letter was personal, filled with spiritual encouragement, praise, and positive expectation. Half way through it, Edric started to tear and so did Elijah. By the end, Elijah threw himself into Edric’s arms to hug him — a tender display between father and son. He lingered there and looked oversized as a big, grown boy of twelve years old sitting on his dad’s lap.

 

 

 

Why did Edric’s letter seem to matter more than my litany of words similarly directed towards encouragement, praise, and positive expectation?  It has nothing to do with how much Elijah loves me or his dad. Rather it has everything to do with the fact that a father’s words bear a special kind of weight. When Edric tells our children, “I am proud of you…I am blessed by you…God has given you amazing talents that you can use for His glory…I enjoy spending time with you…” they really latch on to these statements. Of course mothers need to affirm their children, too! But it’s much more powerful when the affirmation comes from dad.

This is especially true for sons. In Robert Lewis’ book, Raising A Modern Day Night, he writes, “Every dad begins fatherhood clothed in garments of praise. It usually happens naturally and effortlessly. He possesses an authority that is both inexplicable and awesome. For this reason, few things are more important to a boy — or a man — than a touch, or a smile, or a word of encouragement from Dad.” (p. 34)

He goes on to use Bo Jackson, the former baseball and football star as an example, quoting Bo’s statements in an issue of Sports Illustrated. “Jackson made this painful admission: My father has never seen me play professional baseball or football…I tried to have a relationship with him, gave him my number, said, “Dad, call me. I’ll fly you in.” Can you imagine? I’m Bo Jackson, one of the so-called premier athletes in the country, and I’m sitting in the locker room and envying every one of my teammates whose dad would come in and talk with them after the game. I never experienced that.” (p. 35)

All of us long to know we are precious to dad even as adults (and mom, of course! But this is a post about dads.) So here are some thoughts I want to end with:

For single ladies, do your future children a favor by marrying someone who has an authentic love for God and desires to lead his family to do the same. If he loves God, he will, at some point, choose to be involved and present in your childrens’ lives. If he loves God and follows his principles, your children will be blessed, too! Proverbs 20:7 tells us, A righteous man who walks in his integrity- How blessed are his sons after him.

For us married women who may nag our husbands to spend more time with the kids, let’s pray for their hearts to be turned towards our children. Only God can do this – restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers… (‭Malachi‬ ‭4‬:‭6‬ NASB)

For the rest of us who may feel like we are lost in some way as a result of our father’s absence, lack of encouragement, attentiveness to our needs, or even the abuse they inflicted upon us, there is hope for us to have the best father of all…a Heavenly Father.

“For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” (Isaiah 63:16 ESV)

No matter how forgotten or wounded we may feel, no matter what choices we have made that were wrong and miserable because we didn’t know how loved we ARE, God wants to have a personal relationship with you and me, as Father to child. He wants to redeem us for Himself. Think of how amazing it must be when an orphan is hand-picked and chosen by a family who has committed to love them. (According to Roman law of biblical times, orphans could never be disowned.)

God loves us so much, He made it possible for us to become His children through Jesus Christ His son. Although we were once separated from Him because of sin (lost), Christ gave His life to set us free, to give us new lives as His adopted sons and daughters.

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father.’ Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4-7)

Robert H. Stein explains that “Abba was a term not only that small children used to address their fathers; it was also a term that older children and adults used to address their faithers…It is through the finished work of Christ that God invites us to call him ‘Abba, Father.’ It is thorugh Christ that grace and peace have resulted and we have become God’s children.” (Source: The Fatherhood of God from biblestudytools.com)

One of my favorite songs which I play often on my Spotify account was written by Stuart Townend, and may it bless you today! Listen to the modernized version of this song by Nichole Nordeman:How Deep the Father’s Love For Us

Love Beyond Us

It is always a privilege when Edric and I are invited to speak at retreats, give seminars, counsel couples, and lead discipleship groups as a team. Of course it isn’t always easy because we have young children to attend to. But, when God gives us a green light to accept a ministry assignment and we follow through with it, we come away from the experience more in love with Him, and with one another.

Why? Because ministry commits us to a common purpose, one that enriches our marriage and causes us to look outside of it. The ceiling for love feels limitless as we receive God’s love and channel it others.

In contrast, when our attentions and energies are directed MERELY towards our relationship, marriage can start to feel like an ingrown-toenail. Sounds pretty ugly, huh?

There’s no other person I would rather be with than Edric and I know he would say the same about me. Yet we also learned, years ago, that God brought us together for something much more abundant and more fulfilling than the mere enjoyment of one another.

When God brings a man and a woman together, happily ever after is not his main goal. While this is a part of it when we follow his principles, it’s not the chief end. The greater aspect is forming an alliance of personalities, strengths and weaknesses, experiences, and capabilities to serve him and display the glories of his love through a covenant relationship.

In Genesis 1 we read: God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭1‬:‭27-28‬ NASB)

Adam and Eve were given the privilege of bearing God’s image. They were to be His image bearers in fruitfulness and multiplication, as they filled the earth and subdued it, and as they exercised dominion over it. Through Adam and Eve, the world was to reflect the glory of God and be the blessed recipient of it.

Yet we know from Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve did not cooperate with God’s plan. As a result we are all born with the same fallen nature. While we bear the likeness of God in the sense that we can feel, reason, imagine, and create in ways that animals cannot, our spiritual genetics carry the imperfection of man’s first sinful choice. We became a corrupted form of God’s original design, separated from delightful fellowship with Him because of sin.

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭18-21

In His great love for us, God offered himself through His Son as a solution to our sinful orientation. He gave us the opportunity to become His children once again.

But as many as received Him (Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭12-13‬ NASB)

In order to fulfill God’s purpose to be  fruitful, multiply, subdue and rule over the earth as image bearers of His love and glory, a man and a woman must begin their marriage reconciled to God first, as His children. This is the designated starting point, the genesis of purpose.

Years ago, I made an independent decision to repent of my sins and accept God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I asked Him to be my Lord and Savior, and I committed to live for Him. Edric did the same.

As a result, we had unity of spirit before unity of flesh. We agreed upon God’s principles for marriage, parenting, and ministry. And then we agreed to pursue these principles together, in a covenant relationship, as husband and wife.

This didn’t meant we were exempt from problems. In fact, our first year of marriage was difficult because of personality clashes. However we were committed to working it out because we knew that God brought us together in marriage. We knew he could fix our relational issues.We knew he had a plan and purpose for us to fulfill.

The Bible tells us that God “reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭18-20‬ NASB)

When I look back on the journey that our marriage has been, our highest highs and greatest joys have been shared in the context of serving the Lord’s purposes as a team. What a privilege to reconcile people to God through Jesus Christ; to invite them to be His children so they can bear His image and display His love to the world.

On the way home from one Saturday marriage seminar we spoke at, Edric turned to me in the car and reiterated how much he loves me, how much he enjoys serving the Lord together. The afternoon was coming to a close and we were headed to see our children. He asked me, “Is it possible to love you more?” Although he meant it as a rhetorical question, I will answer it here…

God multiplied whatever love we thought we had for each other when we stood at the altar on the day of our wedding. He multiplies it still. It’s not a love that surfaces or extends from our exhaustible and finite selves. It’s one that comes from Him, a love beyond us, so we can love beyond us.

IMG_3282.JPG

How They Love One Another


I know my kids love one another but there are moments when this love is demonstrated in ways that amaze me. In the past week I can think of two outstanding ways they communicated this love. 

The first was over the weekend. Elijah and Edan were side-kicks to Edric’s speaking engagement for a consumer goods company. They each had a part to play in his talk. Afterwards, the organizers were so enamored by them, they gave Elijah and Edan four gift cards from Toy Kingdom worth P1,000 each. 

Interestingly, when they arrived home in the early afternoon, their first instinct was to tell Titus and Tiana that they were going to share the gift cards with them. They proposed a plan to go on a group shopping trip (with our permission) so each of them could buy a toy worth P1,000 or they would make adjustments if one person wanted something that worth more than P1,000, for as long as they didn’t go over P4,000. Catalina was too small to join them but they promised to get her something, too. 
I don’t remember being that generous as a child! Of course I loved my siblings (and still do), but if I had worked hard and gotten paid for it, I  don’t think it would have occurred to me to share my “winnings” with my brothers or sisters when I was their age! 
Edric and I brought the kids to SM Aura’s Toy Kingdom on Monday evening. On the way up to the floor where it was, the kids organized themselves into pairs. Elijah took Titus’ hand and Edan held Tiana’s as they went up the escalator. These were the pairings they decided on. Elijah and Titus would look for toys together and Edan and Tiana would do the same.
When they got to the store, they calculated the costs of the toys they were interested in purchasing. Tiana asked Edan if she could buy a puppy with long blue hair. He looked at the price and said, “Ok!” Tiana was thrilled! 
The three boys gravitated towards the science toys section and selected two boxes of experiments for Edan and Titus. Finally, Elijah got a K’nex kit. They included a Minnie Mouse doll for Catalina. Their spendings were just under P4,000. Titus and Tiana thanked their older brothers for the toys and we all headed back home. 
My second encounter with their love for one another was today, for Elijah’s birthday. I woke up a little later than usual and caught sight of Edan in the playroom working on an art installation of origami cranes. He was meticulously arranging them and lining them up by color. On a piece of paper he wrote “Happy Birthday, Elijah…” 
For several days Edan folded paper cranes and implored the assistance of Titus and our household help. He created an assembly line system to accomplish the task of folding 160 cranes in various colors. This feat took him several hours over several days. It certainly was a commitment! 
This morning, when I surveyed his finished work, it was beautiful! What a testament to the love Edan has for his older brother, Elijah. (It was very sweet of him to include Titus and the names of our household help in his Happy Birthday sign, too. I suppose this was his way of giving them credit for the shared effort.) 



When I asked Edan why he presented this gift to Elijah, his reply was, “WE love him.” He added that he wanted Elijah to know that he is special.
“Is he your best friend?”
“Yes. But Titus, and Tiana and Catalina are also my best friends…” 
I was very blessed by the tenderness with which my kids love one another. They don’t always get along because of their differences. And sometimes their selfishness leads to conflicts which require my mediation. However, I know they are truly best friends. And I believe this deep love for one another is a reflection of their relationship with Jesus Christ. I don’t think they would get along this well and be as devoted to one another if they didn’t know Jesus. He is the one who enables them to love like this — to forgive and to accept and to enjoy one another.
May this Bible passage encourage you today: 
We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. Our actions will show that we belong to the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before God. (‭1 John‬ ‭3‬:‭16-19‬ NLT)




A Good Run With My Good “Pusher”

Edric got me to run in a 21K “fun” run yesterday. I know there may be readers out there who have done real marathons and triathlons who think 21K is peanuts, but it was a pretty big deal for me. 

The event was Run For Financial Fitness and Edric was dead set on us entering the 21K category. Of course, as the more calculated risk taker between the two of us, I had my apprehensions.

“But you and I are athletes,” was his argument. “We can even walk part of the way if it comes down to that.” (WE WERE ATHLETES. We may be athletic. But, that’s vastly different than being in peak condition. Plus, if you really think we are athletes, would it be acceptable to walk?!) 

 Here was my thought bubble. Edric’s body hasn’t gone through five pregnancies and the multitudinous changes that I have experienced as a mom. He has pretty much maintained the same perimeter measurements since we were first married. As for me, my ligaments, muscles, joints and organs have been stretched, moved around, and re-organized inside of me. And I’m still a breastfeeding mother! Give me a year to get back into fighting form so I can do this well. Please don’t ask me now. 

I was very cognizant of my paltry physical fitness level. In my book, short distance running in our village, a mere fraction of what 21K is, didn’t count as training for a run this long. Plus, my running philosophy is do it to stay healthy, to have meaningful prayer time. I’m not the sort of person who likes joining races to get outpaced by a hundred younger and older people bouncing past me like gazelles. 

However, my ever-optimistic husband preyed on the competitive person in me. He knew there was a hopeful bone in my body that would concede to the idea, for the challenge of it. While I vacillated between chickening out and entertaining the possibility, I finally said, “Okay, I will do it. Whichever way it turns out, we will learn something about marriage. If we make it without physically injuring ourselves then it will be a good reminder on how God blesses a wife’s desire to honor her husband’s wishes. But if it turns out badly, then it will be a lesson for you, as a husband…to think through the decisions you make, because you are responsible for me as your wife.” 

 Edric smiled and retorted, “Are you threatening me?” I didn’t mean for it to come across that way but I suppose, deep down inside, I was (in a playful way). 

 We did a test run in Balanga, Bataan the previous weekend. The mayor of Balanga City, Joet Garcia, and his wife, Isabel, were gracious enough to give us two slots in the Love Run that was scheduled on Valentine’s Day. It was just a 10K run but it gave us a good diagnostic. Of course 10 is less than half of 21, but at least we were able to work on a pace that we could use during the 21K.
(null)

(null)

(null)
On Sunday morning, we woke up at 3:15 AM to get ready for our run. We zipped over to Bonifacio Global City where we parked our vehicle in our old condominium and made our way to the starting line. The gun went off at 4:30 AM. 

 The first 15 kilometers were fine. I was starting to feel pain in some parts of my legs, but it was bearable. At least we were running in the dark, when the weather was pleasantly cool, and cars weren’t smoking up the streets. 

Personally, the best part of it all was pacing side by side with Edric. Even though I was vehemently against the run when he first broached the idea to me, the endorphins that flooded my brain as we ran kilometer after kilometer made me grateful to have a husband that pushes me to be a better version of myself. 

 Somehow, it was even kind of romantic. We were going slow enough to dialogue and pray which meant we were probably at the bottom third of all the runners due to our turtle-like pace. But this didn’t matter. There we were, inching forward together, as a team. He looked pretty handsome in his orange Adidas shirt and gray shorts. Just a week before, we outfitted ourselves. It’s like a friend used to say, “If you can’t play, then display. If you have no form, then get a cool uniform!” If all else failed, we thought, at least we can look like runners! Edric carried our water rations on an elastic waistband and offered them to me as we started back up the Buendia flyover to Bonifacio Global City.

I was expecting that we would continue like this. 

However, during the last six kilometers, Edric began to feel a great amount of pain. He had to stop and stretch a couple of times, so we slowed down even more. Honestly, his condition surprised me. I pictured the last part to end differently, with Edric telling me, “You can do it, honey. Just a little further.” Instead, it was me who was smiling while Edric’s facial expression looked like a cross between Don’t talk to me right now because I’m suffering and I can’t believe you are so chirpy. I was pretty chirpy, trying to engage him in conversation to pass the remaining moments of our run. 

 During the last 3 kilometers, Edric had to walk for part of the way, and I found myself circling back to him so I wouldn’t have to stop my jog. During the final kilometer, I asked him if it was alright if I ran ahead. He was completely fine with this so I picked up the pace and entered the finish line alone. 

 Sigh. That was the only part that I didn’t like about our run. I had this fantasy of running through the finish line together, as a team, but I couldn’t slow down to a walking pace in order to remain beside Edric. There were a couple of times when trying to do so only heightened the pain in my joints and muscles. I was better off going with the inertia of a steady jog. So I came in before he did. To put it into perspective, I beat him

 Edric ended his run a few minutes later. On the way home, he jokingly asked me not to rub it in too much that I was ahead. We laughed because of the irony. I was the reluctant one. I wasn’t as conditioned. I had never run a 21K and he had. 

 The outcome of our run demonstrated a couple of invaluable lessons to Edric and me: 

 First, I really believe God honored me for supporting Edric’s crazy idea to do this run. It was God’s special grace that allowed me to finish (even ahead of Edric). I experienced the blessings of submission. 

Second, Edric humbly admitted that he should have been more prepared…that he should have considered how difficult a run this would be, especially as the leader in our marriage. Wow! This was exactly what I hoped he would glean from all of this. 

Third, running closely epitomizes the human life. I’ve always believed this. But it’s easy to say this until you actually experience every inch of your legs and feet hurting like heck! You want to know there is an end to look forward to — a rest to redeem all the effort. For a follower of Jesus Christ, that rest is eternity with Him, a.k.a. heaven. 

Fourth, everyone crosses life’s finish line alone. I couldn’t step over the line for Edric and he couldn’t do it for me. As much as possible we remained side by side, but as the challenge escalated, we both had to make the choice to keep going until the end. 

When the Bible says, “run in such a way that you win,” I don’t think this necessarily implies that we need to finish first. But each one of us needs to finish well, which means faithfully pressing on, no matter what. 

Fifth, and this is for all the mothers out there…God made us strong in a different way from men. I’m not knocking Edric for walking or slowing down during the last few kilometers. Had he been better prepared for this race, I would have been panting after him. However, as a woman, giving birth was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, physically speaking. Since I opted for no anesthesia for all five of my births, I felt the intense pain of every contraction. Having said that, if a woman can endure labor pains, she can run 21K even when her legs feel like they are going to fall off! By God’s grace, we’ve been design to stomach a whole lot of pain. Running 21K hurts but childbirth hurts waaaay more. 

— 

Edric and I made it to Sunday service by 9 AM but by the afternoon, I could barely walk. So we concluded the evening with a two-hour massage. I usually don’t like full body massages but this one was necessary!

Looking back, I’m glad we did this. It wasn’t something I would have elected to do myself, but thanks to my husband, “the good pusher”, I survived a challenge that benefited me physically, spiritually, and even emotionally!

IMG_2905-1.JPG

Dealing With Meltdowns

When my kids have their once-in-a-while “meltdowns” during our homeschooling, I am faced with two options. The first is to be annoyed, which is a very real temptation that may involve a response like, “Get over it and do your work. I have no time for your drama.”

Obviously, this would be counterproductive as it is unfair to expect my children to turn their emotions on and off like a switch does to a light bulb. So I usually go for option two, which is to give my children space to feel the emotion that is overwhelming them, to process what they are feeling, and then to pray about it. After all, I have several children to teach so having one absent from our homeschool room actually makes my life easier! But the more important objective is giving my kids the opportunity to hear from the Lord, and allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to them more effectively than I can, especially when the meltdown is at its peak. This type of response is more effectively applied with older children who have a relationship with Jesus Christ because they are Holy-Spirit-equipped to process their circumstances.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Elijah, pushed his IPad away while muttering, “I can’t do this! I got everything wrong! I don’t like math anymore!”

“Are you okay?” I asked calmly, attempting to diffuse his frustration.

“No, I am not and you can’t help me. Nobody can help me.” (He tends to use superlatives in his sentences when he is emotionally charged.)

It wasn’t the most respectful thing to say to me, but I knew where he was coming from as a perfectionist. So I requested that he take a break from his Khan Academy work and go to his room. He got up, huffing and puffing about what a failure he was and threw himself on to the bed to cry.

When Elijah makes mistakes, his morale plummets due to the high standard he expects of himself. Even if I tell him, mistakes can be positive when we learn from them and it’s okay to make mistakes, mistakes are part of growing, that’s not what he wants to hear. More often than not, the best recourse is to back off and give him space to cool down.

After thirty minutes, I lay beside him on the bed and gave him a big hug and kiss. “I love you.” I assured him. And then I listened to his ranting about how upset he was and how he didn’t want to try because he couldn’t do his math well.

When he quieted down I asked him if his mistakes were due to an understanding issue or just carelessness. He admitted that it was the latter. I suspected it was probably so because he prefers to solve math problems mentally, without writing down the solutions.

Since it wasn’t a matter of understanding the formulas involved, I didn’t think it was a big problem. He just needed to slow down and take time to review how he arrived at the answers he did. Furthermore, I asked him if I could sit beside him and do the problems with him.

He really perked up with this suggestion! The idea of sitting side by side to tackle the work gave him renewed incentive to try again. (He is a time person.) So that’s what we did, as a team.

With each problem, we raced to see who would get the answer first. When I needed to review my math formulas I asked him to help me, which he enjoyed doing. In fact his mood changed completely. He was enthusiastic as he demonstrated how to solve the problems and as we compared our answers. I let him take the lead and he gladly did so, assuming the role of instructor as I played the part of student. In the process he answered every problem correctly. What began as a meltdown turned into a fun bonding and learning experience.

(null)
When we finished, Elijah turned to me and said, “Thank you, mom. Thank you for listening and not lecturing me. And I really like it when you are with me.”

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19‬ NASB)

One of the sweet privileges of homeschooling is being able to ask my kids to take a pause from their “school” work in order to assess and pray about their emotions and attitudes. This gives the Holy Spirit room to convict them and minister to them. It also allows me to think through how I should respond so I avoid the default reaction of irritation when my kids say, “I don’t want to do my work, mom.” After the beneficial pause, which lasts between five to thirty minutes, I can come along side my children to walk them through the challenge of a difficult assignment.

This wouldn’t be realistic in the conventional school model, so I praise God my kids aren’t in a classroom. We aren’t rushed to finish course work during the day when it’s more necessary to stop and address a heart condition or encourage the love for learning. I also get to know my children better — what enlivens them, what demotivates them, what they need to improve on. Best of all, I see the grace of God at work as he helps them deal with their struggles and come out of them positively. God works in my own life, too, teaching me what to say and what to AVOID saying (which is my number one area of improvement in life…keeping quiet and being gentle!)

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭16‬:‭32‬ NASB)

I once read that parenting needs to be about long term goals rather than short-sighted ones. Short-sightedness is stressing out when my children aren’t eager to do their homeschooling work or when they don’t seem to get the material as expediently as I hope they will. I can fall into this mode of parenting which turns me into a tyrannical teacher, one who is pressured to MAKE my kids succeed academically. Or, I can set my sights on the long term goal of parenting.

My long term goal is to raise my children to love God with all that they are and to develop their gifts and abilities for his glory, so they can effectively declare the gospel. When that is my fixed mark, the kids and I can set aside the homeschooling task at hand because there is a more redemptive cause at stake — recalibrating my children’s hearts to adapt Christ-centered perspectives and attitudes. I want their minds primed for instruction rather than forced to receive it. I also want them to know that my love and acceptance will cushion their failures.

When these elements are present as we homeschool, the joy of purposeful learning and teaching returns and the atmosphere is one of peace and calm. But everyday births a new challenge or resurrects an old one so it’s only by God’s grace that we survive each year of homeschooling to pursue another one!

(null)

Say, “Thank You, Hon.”

I woke up to a husband who called me to his bedside just to tell me, “I appreciate you, hon. All you do as a wife and mother. If I don’t tell you enough I want you to know that I am so blessed by you.”

Wow! What an unexpected surprise! It certainly set the tone for the rest of my Sunday.

Edric knows that I am a words kind of gal. Encouragement makes me feel loved. Really loved.

The great thing about positive words is it’s the EASIEST way to communicate to your spouse that they are important to you, that they are special and appreciated. You don’t have to exert physical effort to say I love you or I appreciate you. You don’t have to spend money to speak life-giving statements.

You do, however, have to notice and pay attention. My mom used to say, “have a detective’s eye for praise-worthy character in your children.” This is applicable in marriage, too.

Edric told me he noticed that I woke up to attend to Catalina last night, that I inconvenienced myself to get out of bed when I heard her coughing. Nobody has to call out this sort of sacrifice. I don’t wake myself up to check on Catalina and feed her in the hopes that someone in my family will give me a pat on the back for effort. Like all other moms, that’s what we do. But when Edric or the kids interrupt my autopilot mom-mode to say thank you, it feels pretty incredible! Duty turns into inspiration!

Even husbands can benefit from our words of praise. When we were in the U.S. for a month Edric helped me with chores and the kids. It was a matter of survival! We couldn’t leave poop in a diaper! We couldn’t ignore big bags of trash inside the house!

Up until that point, I had never seen my husband hold a broom and dustpan so many times in his life, get out of bed to help me catch Catalina’s vomit, marshall the kids to do their responsibilities, vacuum the car, haul trash, fix the bed, carry Catalina…I could go on.

IMG_1607.JPGHis domesticity and fathering were impressive! And so I told him so many times. When I would commend his kitchen skills like sweeping the floor, he would beam, hold up the broom like a weapon of war and shout out triumphantly, “This is my floor!”

Do we notice the wise choices, the acts of service, or the sacrifices our spouses make or do we treat these as a given? No applause needed because they are supposed to be doing these things? When was the last time we said, Thank you, hon?

So many of us fail to say thank you and I appreciate you enough. If you are living with an approbation-starved spouse, revive them today with your appreciation. Make them eager and excited to fulfill their role as husband/father or wife/mother. And, hey, if you are feeling extra gracious, do something sweet and give them
a “trophy.”

Edric and the kids got me these magnetic mini-Oscars for my birthday two weeks ago. Pretty cute, huh? These are the best thank you awards I have ever received!

IMG_1713.JPG

Love and Joy

I need someone like Edric in my life, someone who is spontaneous, quirky, silly, and totally corny. Contrary to what my name implies, I can be serious too often. Edric doesn’t let me be that way. He is a great counterbalance to my tendency towards melancholy and introspection.

He plays tricks on me, like hiding behind doors to scare me, even though he knows I hate this. One time he surprised me in the shower and I screamed and cried. When he realized my tears were real, he totally apologized and hasn’t done the shower surprise since. But he certainly loves to get a reaction out of me.

Sometimes he will call and pretend to be another person. Or he will come up to me when I am shopping and act like a stranger who is hitting on me. He is also a big tease and will playfully prey on my insecurities. And he will flirt with me in public which often makes me awkward, and then say, “What?! We are married! We have five kids!”

I have never really given it much thought but, boy, would it be boring if he was a serious, uptight and always proper Edric more often than his emotionally-liberated self. Don’t get me wrong. He is well-mannered and knows how to be a gentleman. However I am glad he knows how to be a fun husband and a fun dad, too. Let me rephrase that. HE IS a fun husband and a fun dad.

At the dinner table, he acts out a character called “Mini-rat” which is a horror version of Mickey Mouse when the kids don’t eat their food right away. He will crawl under the table and “attack” them. The kids will squeal and shout in delight as he does this dialogue with an imaginary cast of characters. Mini-rat is the star of the show. The kids really get a kick out of it.

I have often watched Edric laughing during these ridiculous moments and wondered why I am not that way. I tend to be the observer on the sidelines, the one to tell the story afterwards. My problem is I can be too detached and not invested enough to join in the craziness. Edric teaches me to be otherwise.

God knows how to put two people together. When I was younger I thought I would fall in love with the quiet, brooding type — the talented artist or the fascinating intellectual, someone who hopefully looked like a Marlboro Man, gruff and scruffy and very manly (sans the smoking, of course!) I was never the kind of girl who liked the poster boy jocks or the men with perfect faces. Typical was not attractive to me.

When I met Edric, he happened to be the right combination of everything I was looking for and wasn’t looking for. I am not just referring to the physical. Yes, I thought he was very good-looking. But I was drawn to him in an unexpected sort of way — to his unpretentiousness and charm, to his protective and gentlemanly nature, to the ease at which we were able to communicate, to the many similar values and spiritual perspectives we shared, to his bent towards heroism, to his natural leadership and passion for a cause. But it wasn’t really until marriage that I discovered how fun a person he was. It was a delightful bonus.

Marriage should be fun. Imagine being with someone for decades and decades and taking everything so seriously? That’s probably what would have happened if I married someone I picked! Thankfully, God chose Edric for me. He tailor-fit him to my personality, to my strengths and weaknesses.

Being married to Edric has taught me another way to live — to relax and enjoy a bit of healthy silliness. I laugh more now. I crack dumb jokes. I know how to play a prank or two. I even like corny. (I am still working on the spontaneous part.) But one thing is for sure…I am a better version of JOY because God gave Edric to me.

To the laughs we share through richer or poorer, for better or worse…

IMG_1853.JPG

Cozy Cabin Honesty

It’s a miracle when twenty-three people can live in a cabin together for four days and not go crazy. Soon after Christmas day, my parents along with four of us siblings and our families traveled to Tahoe Donner.

IMG_1496.JPG
We rented a beautiful, huge cabin that had five large rooms to house all of our families. It came with a Jacuzzi, too!

The weather was perfect – super cold so the kids could experience a “real” winter, and it snowed the day before we left.

I went sledding for the first time and threw a couple of snowballs. I didn’t realize how much a snowball could hurt! One of my nephews got a bloody lip (not by my doing!)

The highlight for me was sitting around the dinner table with my siblings and parents, and our spouses as we shared about our marriages. My parents try to do this with us periodically in Manila but we are all pretty busy so it’s not a consistent activity. This vacation we were stuck in the house together so the opportunity presented itself when the kitchen was cleaned up and the kids were busy entertaining one another.

Each one of us gave insight into our relationships. I shared that Edric and I don’t have any major issues except that I react to his impatience and irritation when these traits are manifest. It’s not often that he will get upset but I noticed that he was edgier during this trip. This was the first time he had to do chores and help me take care of all of our kids. I know he learned a lot about sacrifice and service. He would say this vacation made him a better man and I wholeheartedly agree. However, there were a few incidences when he lost his cool.

Thankfully, we resolved whatever issues we had between us, and we were able to come before my parents and siblings to openheartedly hear their perspectives on our marital issues. As the more intense person between us, Edric is more prone to irritation when he has to deal with inefficiencies and inconveniences. But my mistake is challenging his responses and correcting him when he is upset which snowballs the situation into an unnecessary argument or unhealthy discussion.

For example, Edric was stern with Elijah for playing with his baby cousin, Joshua, near the garage door. When Edric walked through the door, he accidentally knocked Joshua on the head and blamed Elijah for sitting in the way. This time I pounced back by throwing the Tupperware I was putting away into the cupboard. Edric noticed this and challenge me by asking, “What?!” To which I replied while stooped behind the kitchen island and away from Elijah’s vista, “Don’t talk to him (Elijah) like that.” He mistakenly heard, “Don’t talk to me.” So he countered, “No, you don’t talk to me,” which doubly irked me. However, I stopped inciting Edric because neither of us was in the right frame of mind to resolve our altercation at that moment.

That evening Edric and I had a date night with my sister, Candy, and her husband, Jeff. They were holding hands while strolling through the streets of Old Sacramento, unaware that Edric and I had a tiff with one another earlier that day. Edric and I were walking about two feet apart behind Jeff and Candy. I leaned over to Edric and asked, “Do you have something to say to me?” insinuating that I had received no apology for his earlier behavior. He replied, “Nope. Do you have something to say to me?”

Seriously?! I thought. He was the prime instigator of our conflict earlier! I kept silent wishing he would put his arm around me and apologize because we were walking in 7 degree Celsius weather that night. Plus, I wanted to maximize this date night since we hired babysitters who weren’t cheap!

Still, Edric didn’t budge, so I proudly held my own position, shivering inside. After a few minutes, he wandered off to buy a mistletoe from a street vendor who was raising money to help his sister travel to Washington D.C. (Edric is drawn to random attractions that other people don’t always notice.) I don’t know if Edric was planning to hold that mistletoe over my head in the hopes for a kiss but that was the last thing I wanted to do.

In the meantime, Jeff, Candy, and I were seated in the restaurant talking about our marriages. I volunteered to confess that Edric and I were kind of fighting. (Usually I won’t do this until I work it out with Edric first.) Candy’s advice was exactly what I didn’t want to hear but needed to. She suggested I apologize to Edric for reacting to his outburst. Even if he was not right for getting unnecessarily upset, she told me to humble myself because that’s what God would want me to do.

When Edric came into the restaurant (without the mistletoe because he didn’t have small change to buy it with), I immediately volunteered, “I’m sorry, hon, for earlier. Please forgive me.” He wasn’t expecting to have been the topic of conversation and looked perturbed. “So what were you guys talking about?” He asked with suspicion.

That dinner turned out to be an interesting one for all of us as Edric and I addressed the day’s dramatics right there and then, with Jeff and Candy looking on. And all was well again as we apologized to one another. For the rest of our evening, we dialogued about how our marriages were doing and I appreciated the time to be able to be honest with one another.

When we were in Tahoe we did the same thing with my other siblings and their spouses. Each one gave their own spiritual insights and solutions, which was great because Edric and I don’t get to sit down with counselors or mentors that often. Our ministry targets young families and couples so we need to grow in our own marriage, and that means receiving feedback and guidance from those who know us best.

Edric was advised that he needs to think through the pattern of behavior that leads to unwanted outbursts. I was advised that I ought to stay quiet instead of reacting to his negativity. Although I already knew this, it was a good reminder to apply being gentle and quiet when I am tempted to fight back. During moments when I’m not the first to commit the “crime” I can be like the whiplash that adds trauma to injury. The reality is, spirit-filled silence has always worked better but sometimes I intentionally forget this when I’m dealing with my own version of anger.

After Edric and I shared, each family member did the same – identifying areas of improvement in their own persons and marriages, and what aspects they appreciated about one another. It was a blessed discussion that left us all a little wiser and closer to our spouses and one another as a family.

It’s not always easy to bear our weaknesses with others or to listen attentively to the suggestions that are offered to help us better our relationships. But no marriage is an island. Sometimes we may feel like we don’t have problems or it is nobody’s business to know what our marital issues are, but every marriage can improve to become sweeter, more loving, and more Christ-like.

IMG_1836.JPG

I’m blessed to have family members (on my side and Edric’s side) who are committed to strengthening our marriage in Christ. We all share the same mind when it comes to biblical principles and their applications in husband and wife relationships. But the secret is each one of us has a relationship with Jesus Christ first. Therefore we can commune about our marriages openly, and digest each other’s advice without becoming embittered. I’m not saying it’s easy to do this but the context is, Hey, it’s okay to have these struggles in your marriage. All of us do. What counts is that we all want to please God in our relationships. We share the desire to change and improve because we love God, our spouses, and one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as also you are doing.”

IMG_1517.JPG

Respond With Grace

It’s unusual for our driver not to pick up our calls. However, last night, after a dinner in Tao Yuan, Resorts World, he was unreachable. Edric and I must have phoned him 12 times. Desperate to contact him, we walked around each of the 7 parking floors, suspecting that he might have dozed off. After unsuccessful attempts at car-hunting, we returned to the mall. This must have been 45 minutes later.

Walking up and down and around the parking…

IMG_0423.JPG

IMG_0421.JPG
Uncertain of what to do, we meandered around the shops for a bit, killing time in the hopes that our driver would at some point see our text messages or registered missed calls.

The next plan was to survey the parking building adjacent to the mall. Edric suggested that I find a coffee shop to sit comfortably in while he looked for our car. (I was in heels and my feet were beginning to throb.)

Thankfully, we ran into friends who offered to shuttle us all the way home if necessary. At least we had an option. Edric and I were seriously considering their offer when I made one last attempt to get in touch with our driver. Five rings and then he picked up! Wow, it felt like a miracle when he did!

“Ma’m, I am sorry I fell asleep,” He confessed with humility. I could tell he was embarrassed as he waited for instructions, probably expecting a scolding, too. I requested that he meet us right away at the mall’s entrance.

In a few minutes, he pulled up the car and we hopped in, relieved to be able to head home. While I appreciated our driver’s honest admittance about falling asleep, I knew he might receive a lecture from Edric for his inefficiency. But I praise God that Edric responded the opposite of what I expected.

I know Edric wasn’t happy that we had to wait when he already had a tiring day of meetings and two weeks of pre-Christmas season busyness. But he sought to understand our driver’s tiredness. After all, he chauffeured Edric everywhere and into the late evenings the days and nights prior. Instead of lashing out at him, Edric calmly asked, “What happened? interested to hear our driver’s side of the story. He also expressed concern about our driver’s well-being and added that it wasn’t like him to be unreliable.

Years ago Edric might have vocalized his disappointment in a harsher manner and I would have sat there embarrassed to be present during the conversation. But last night he provided me with a Christ-like example to emulate. I really appreciated this.

The bible says that husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, to “sanctify her,” “cleansing her by the washing of the word,” and “presenting her in all her glory without a spot or wrinkle, that she would be holy and blameless.”(‭Ephesians‬ ‭5‬:‭25-27‬ NASB) This sounds a lot like discipleship to me — a husband being charged with the responsibility of his wife’s spiritual well-being. A very effective way for Edric to do this is to model Christlikeness to me. His spiritual maturity encourages me to be spiritually mature, too.

Lately, I am ashamed to say that I have been snappy with the kids and Edric, and easily annoyed when inconvenienced. Edric’s understanding and kindness towards our driver blessed me with a model to follow — to respond with grace and quiet strength when circumstances are stressful and disappointing, and to speak with gentleness but honesty when correcting a person’s mistake.

Proverbs 16:32 is a great passage to meditate on when it comes to self-control: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty. And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”

We Are Brothers

When I shop for my kids, I like to get them matching outfits. It’s easier when you have to buy clothes for five kids. Plus, I think it’s adorable when they all sport the same look in a Sound of Music sort of way. It wasn’t until a friend asked, “So you still dress them alike and they don’t mind it?” that I began to wonder if it was totally corny of me to make them look uniform.

I decided to ask my kids what they thought of wearing matching clothes, and the response I got was, “It’s fun. We like being matching because we are brothers.”

“Yah, we like it! We feel sad when we are not matching.” Another one piped in. (Sometimes I can’t buy three versions of one item.)

“What if other people think it’s silly?” I probably shouldn’t have inserted this but I was curious to know their perspective.

“Why is it silly? We like it, that’s what matters. It’s a brother thing.” Elijah replied with conviction while the others concurred with him. The three of them were sitting in the back of the van wearing orange t-shirts they picked out together, smiling at me.

I don’t know how long my boys will approve of their coordinating outfits. Perhaps at some point they will gravitate towards particular styles that are varied from one another. In the meantime, they will be looking matchy-matchy. It may not be the “cool” way to dress but I am so glad my homeschooled sons don’t care. What they do care about is being associated with one another because they are brothers…they are a team…they are united…they are each other’s best friends.

Thank you to their Tita Danie for these outfits…

IMG_0099.JPG