Fight for Your Marriage

In the past weeks, Edric and I have been counseling different couples about issues in their marriages, ranging from minimal to major. From our vantage point as counselors, the one thing that has been a consistent predictor of successful outcome in these relationships has been the individual choices of the persons involved to fight for their marriages by obeying God’s Word. 

Last night we spent time with a husband and wife who are emerging from a dark time in their marriage. Edric and I sat beside them in wonderment as we listened to the strides they have made since we first heard of a betrayal that could have (and should have) destroyed their relationship. As they spoke honestly about the challenges and the victories they have experienced in the last month it was like listening to two entirely different people – people who have been radically transformed by the grace of God.

We knew them to be great people before this difficult point in their history, but today there is 360 degree healing taking place in them that is clearly the handiwork of the Holy Spirit. Only God can search out the hidden wounds and cure the unseen hurts that have left us unable to know the abundant life that is described in John 10:10. In our discussion with this couple last night, I was reminded as the woman spoke of completeness, that it is God’s intention to mend and fix EVERYTHING that is broken in us. He’s not a God of partial healing. He is a God who specializes in COMPLETE HEALING. 

However, we cannot taste of this healing if we do not invite the grace of God into our hearts and minds by humbling ourselves to the point of repentance. About two months ago, I was dealing with anger issues towards Edric. Everytime he would do some thing that reminded me of our personality differences, I would feel agitated and think to myself, “Here he goes again. Why is like that?!” 

These thoughts would invade my consciousness often, and they were accompanied by discreet eye-ball rolling and snarly looking faces from me. It wasn’t until I had an outburst where I threw a toilet paper roll at him that I realized I had a serious problem. I was angry with Edric.

Yes, I loved him and I was committed to our marriage, but I also entertained negative thoughts, prideful comparisons, and bitter judgments about him. This made me susceptible to the influence of the evil one.

During one afternoon, I sat in on a bondage breaker session, which is basically a time when you identify areas in your life that have made you susceptible to demonic influences or oppression. The session wasn’t actually scheduled for me but for a friend who asked me to sit in with her to pray with her.

The list of areas to reflect on and revisit historically during a bondage breaker session is quite comprehensive. It includes things like sensuality, immoral relationships, pagan practices, witchcraft, sexual abuse, addictions, and emotional sins (as categories). Underneath each category are detailed experiences that a person may have knowingly or unknowingly participated in or been impacted by because of their ancestors. In the process of going through the list, a person is encouraged to name each of the sins, confess them in Jesus’ Name and renounce any demonic oppression that they may be suffering from due to these sins. It’s about acknowledging past and present sins and claiming victory in Christ over darkness. But it’s effective only if a person is truly repentant.

Even if the session wasn’t for me, I got really convicted when we crossed the part about anger. Edric’s name came to my mind. As we ended that time together, I prayed for the women who were with me and I also prayed for myself, confessing my anger aloud. 

Afterwards I had a discomfort in my stomach that stayed with me through the evening and into the morning of the next day. I kept feeling the need to burp. I don’t like to make a big deal out of demonic manifestations but I have seen some that were stomach-related. 

I also know that spiritual oppression can surface in physical ways and that spirits can terrorize us physically, even as followers of Jesus. If Jesus Christ is in us, an evil spirit cannot occupy the seat of our hearts because it belongs to Christ, but we are susceptible to demonic harassment due to sin. For some reason, my gutt was affected after I prayed with my two friends. Does this mean I was demonized or had been demonized somehow? Only God really knows. 

As for me, I did what was in my control. The next day, when I got up to run by myself, I declared out loud, “If there are any evil spirits oppressing me because of my anger, I cast you out in Jesus’ Name. If there are any spirits of anger in me, be gone in Jesus’ Name and do not return.” The uneasy feeling in my stomach went away. But the more important effect of the power of Jesus’ Name to liberate me from this anger was to be seen in the days and weeks to come.

Instead of feeling deeply aggravated at Edric each time he did something that bothered me, I felt unusually calm and unaffected. I’m not saying that I wasn’t tempted to react in irritation, but the incense that would typically inhabit me wasn’t there anymore.

In fact, instead of rage I actually felt sweet feelings toward Edric! This was the handiwork of the Lord. Surely the evil one couldn’t have placed those positive feelings in my heart for Edric since Edric was still doing the same sort of things that usually irked me.

Let me get to the point. This part isn’t so much about demonic oppression as it is about opening our eyes to the reality of spiritual warfare. We need to see what’s really going on. The evil one is hell bent on destroying our marriages. That’s been his game plan since God presented Adam and Even as husband and wife. He hates marriages. Marriage between a husband and wife is God’s showcase of His love. It’s intended to be a parallel to the relationship we have with him. As author and speaker John Piper so beautifully stated it, “marriage is the doing of God and the display of God.”

As Christ is to the church, so ought the man to love his wife and as the church is to Christ, so the woman is to submit to her husband. The evil one doesn’t want us to understand any of that. And once he breaks up a marriage, he is able to “kill several birds with one stone” very effectively – the couple, the children, and society. Think of all the lost and wounded people inhabiting this earth who are also hurting others because they have been victims of broken homes. It’s an epidemic. 

As Edric and I ended our conversation with the couple I referred to at the beginning of this post, my heart was overwhelmed with joy and hope. Sometimes we focus on the vast number of unhappy and unhealthy marriages out there and we tend to feel discouraged. But God is doing amazing things in marriages today.

Is it really possible to have a loving marriage that lasts a lifetime? Or are we going to resign ourselves to the common marriage story that begins as a fairy tale, plays out like a drama in the middle, and ends like a horror film?

By God’s grace, it doesn’t have to be that way. God’s grace is there. It is powerful. It is present. 

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews‬ ‭4:14-16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The couple we were counseling should have become a statistic…another failed marriage, another broken home. But against all human reason, they are more happily married than they ever were. They have a renewed love for one another. Communication with their kids has improved significantly. And their sex life is unexplainably amazing! What?! How is this possible?!

It’s possible because they both chose to respond to God’s grace. Very specifically, they chose to:

  • Humbly confess and acknowledge their sins against God, against one another, and others. 
  • Repent and renounce any addiction or sin that was standing in the way of their relationship with Christ and each other.  

2 Corinthians 7:10 says, “For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret to that kind of sorrow. But the worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.”

  • Identify the history of hurt and problems in their individual lives and marriage. They were completely honest with one another and with us.
  • Forgive each other unconditionally and forgive themselves.
  • Commit to change the areas that they needed (and need) to.
  • Pursue intimacy with God by reading His Word, praying fervently, and meeting with other couples for accountability.
  • Hope in God’s good plan for their lives, marriage, and family.
  • Seek to minister to other couples in order to help them have Christ-centered marriages, too.

I wrote this to encourage everyone of us to do whatever it takes to fight for our marriages. Some us may think we cannot do this. Perhaps this is because our threshold for enduring a difficult marriage is adjusted to our own preferences, what we want for ourselves. And perhaps it’s because we have misunderstood what marriage is all about when we first committed to it. But our situation, as unique as it may seem, is not more painful than what every other couple is going through at this very moment. 

Marriage is HARD. It’s hard for everybody. There will always be irreconcilable differences and things we just don’t like about our spouses. They will do things that make us want to quit. And no matter how wonderful our spouses are there will be times when we want to decapitate them (and probably have the right to.) 

Yet, instead of sulking and pitying ourselves when it gets tough, and thinking we ought to be happy and deserve someone better, let’s not look for or imagine the nearest exit. What we want for ourselves will not be beyond those exit doors. Temporarily maybe. But it’s not going to cure what’s inherently wrong with us or our marriages. 

What’s inherently wrong is our hearts. We don’t know God well enough or seek Him intimately enough to understand that He loves us, that He is for us, that He wants to bless us, that our marriage is not about us but about Him. 

The question is are we willing to do whatever it takes to fight for our marriages? Are we willing to wait patiently on Him and obey Him UNTIL we see the blessings of doing so? 

Fighying for our marriages is saying that I will no longer live for myself but for Christ

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians‬ ‭2:20‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It is saying…

I will stay in my marriage not for myself but for Christ.

I will love my spouse because I love Christ.

I will reject the habits, desires, and selfish and sinful actions I do that hurt my marriage because I don’t want to hurt Christ.

I will obey God’s design for my life and marriage because I want to obey Christ.

I will fulfill my role as a husband or wife because Christ asks me to.

I will be and I CAN BE a better husband or wife because Christ is in me.

To those of us who are married, we must DO EVERYTHING IT TAKES FIGHT FOR OUR MARRIAGES not for pride’s sake but because the name of the Lord is at stake and the lives of people around us are at stake. We are responsible to our spouse, to our children, to a lost and dying world. (If you don’t want this responsibility then don’t get married in the first place.) But if you are married like me and you profess to be a follower of Jesus then you and I must be committed to having Christ-centered, Christ-glorifying marriages, NO MATTER WHAT! And the amazing thing is, when we follow God and obey Him, His glory in our lives becomes our greatest happiness! 

Let me end this what what John Piper said…

The greatest joy is joy in God. This is plain from Psalm 16:11: “You [God] will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Fullness of joy and eternal joy cannot be improved. Nothing is fuller than full, and nothing is longer than eternal. And this joy is owing to the presence of God, not the accomplishments of man. Therefore, if God wants to love us infinitely and delight us fully and eternally, he must preserve for us the one thing that will satisfy us totally and eternally; namely, the presence and worth of his own glory. He alone is the source of full and lasting pleasure. Therefore, his commitment to uphold and display his glory is not vain, but virtuous. God is the one being for whom self-exaltation is an infinitely loving act. 

John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God

The Good Things vs. the Great Things


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Early on in my marriage, my husband, Edric, was into computer games. It took some years for him to wean himself away from this addiction. Although I must say that his addiction wasn’t like the very destructive kind that paralyzes a lot of young people (and grown-ups) today. Apparently, some kids cut their classes to play computer games. That’s a different level of addiction. Edric’s was mild in comparison.

However, I had a brother who played computer games obsessively until a few years ago when God got a hold of his heart and convicted him to change for good. So I’ve nursed a little bit of paranoia that leaked out of me whenever Edric’s interest in computer games got piqued.

As a young wife and mother, it bothered me immensely whenever I would see him seated on our living room couch, fixated on the screen, with his eyes hardly blinking and his fingers moving furiously. I would think to myself, How can this person lead our family?! Worst of all, I would say cutting and disrespectful statements in the attempt to make him stop.

Eventually, I learned to pray for him instead of nagging which resulted in miraculous intervening from the Lord. As a result, I am happy to say that he generally avoided computer games for the majority of our marriage. Although there were some seasons when he would get into it again, they were short-lived. He got busier and busier through the years, leaving little room for this sort of entertainment. He got to the point where he preferred to channel his attentions towards the kids and me, and find ways to hang out with us.

A few months ago, however, he decided to join an NBA2K league again with his good friends. His main purpose was to reach out to them and have some clean, boyish fun. So he purchased the NBA game while we were in the U.S. in the first quarter of the year, and started practicing for this league.

At first, it didn’t bother me. Edric didn’t have much time to practice so he reserved this for the late evenings or days when he wanted to unwind after a grueling day at work. His practice sessions didn’t really interfere with family time. It wasn’t like he was neglecting his priorities.

However, as the tournament drew closer, his competitive bug kicked into full gear and I noticed that he disappeared more frequently during what should have been “family times.” I mentioned my concern on a few occasions but I knew this was a sensitive topic so I avoided saying too much. Plus, he also assured me that he was renewing his game-playing just for the tournament season.

Instead of making a big deal out of it, I continued to pray that God would give him wisdom as the leader of our family. After all, I knew Edric’s heart, that he sincerely and truthfully loved God and had a relationship with Him. Therefore, if he was straying from the course that God would have him on, then surely God would get his attention in an effective way to correct his trajectory.

On Friday before his tournament, the kids had their music recital. It was the culminating activity for the quarter, covering a little over two months (about the amount of time that Edric had been playing computer games again.)

Many years ago, Edric and I agreed that MAPE classes would fall under his department for our homeschooling. I would focus on the academics. So, technically speaking, making sure the kids practiced for their violin performances was his lookout. But Edric hadn’t been very aware of what was going on with the kids over the last few weeks because his default mode was to come home and “practice” for the big tournament day.

Before the recital I mentioned to Edric that the boys were struggling through their pieces and were ill-prepared for their recital. I was terrified for their sake. They obviously hadn’t practiced hard enough. Yet at that point, there was nothing I could really do to salvage the situation except allow them to learn from their choices.

When the boys played on stage, Edric turned over to me, with a mortified and shocked look on his face. Our kids got through their songs but our two younger boys squeaked through their pieces. (The violin instrument is probably the most unpleasant instrument to listen to when played incorrectly.) Edric couldn’t believe how unprepared they were.

Afterwards, he decided to have a talk with the boys which began by asking them, “How do you think you did, boys? Did you do your best?”

Titus confidently declared, “Yes!” (This made us laugh because his answer revealed more about his half-full vs. half-empty kind of perspective on life rather than his ability to accurately access his own performance.)

Our two older boys were more realistic and admitted that they hadn’t practiced the way they should have.

Edric concluded by encouraging them to do their best in everything that they pursue, for God’s glory. He attempted to be gracious while insisting that practice was a non-negotiable part of their daily disciplines.

Well, the day ended with the kids learning a life lesson, and the next day was Edric’s NBA2k tourney. He woke up totally excited and energized for the event. I stayed home with the kids as he road away with one of his close friends.

During the rest of the day I assumed that all was well until I received a call from him at 2 PM. These were his words: “I lost EVERY. SINGLE. GAME.” He sounded upset and humiliated.

According to him, he did so horribly that some of the guys weren’t even looking at the screen while competing against him! But he did include a positive note about sharing the gospel with one of the men who joined the tournament.

In an attempt to diffuse his disappointment over losing, I welcomed him home with a good dinner spread. I also knew that he must have come away from the experience with wonderful reflections and I was eager to hear these.

He told me, “God reminded me that I must replace the good things in my life with the great things. Hanging out with the guys playing computer games isn’t a bad thing. It can be a good thing when it’s about reaching out to guys to build relationships to win them over to Christ. But computer game playing is not a great thing, either. After I watched the kids violin performance yesterday, I was convicted about how my attention was diverted by my own ‘practice’ sessions. Had I been more zoned in to what was happening with the kids, I would have recognized that they slacked off with their violin practices. I would have stepped in to do something about it. But I was distracted. I wasn’t there.”

I am able to write about this experience now because I have my husband back…every part of him! Hooray! Today he told me how excited he was to spend time with the kids. His plan is to take them outdoors to go biking or running this afternoon.

As I shared in the beginning of this entry, it’s only by God’s grace that Edric doesn’t have major issues when it comes to computer gaming. However every single person in our family needs him to be present, wholly there. And for him, computer games is one of those things that takes him away from us. This detour from his more-often-than-not engaged husband and father mode caused some funkiness to develop in our kids. Maybe even in me! Yet, I’m thankful to the Lord that He nipped the issue quickly!

The game playing could have progressed to something really unhealthy for Edric and our family had he won the tournament and emerged as the champ. The win would have affirmed the time he spent training for the tournament. It would have given him cause to defend his title for the next one. But no such thing came to pass. God’s kindness to him was allowing every single defeat in order to send a loud and clear life principle: Choose the great things over the good things.

As for me, I’m rejoicing because I know God loves Edric so much that He protects him from going off-course. Even the slightest of Edric’s missteps are visible to the Lord. I want to continue to pray that God will not let him slip.

“Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad. Who keeps us in life and does not allow our feet to slip.” (Psalm 66:8-9 NASB)


God loves every single man in our lives. If there is anything that troubles or unsettles us about the men we love (be it a husband, boyfriend, father, brother, etc.), we can be assured that God sees the areas that they need to improve on to become more like Him.

Sometimes, it’s very tempting to get in the way and nag them to death or try and manipulate circumstances so we can facilitate their growth process faster. However, we must learn to rest in God’s love for them and avoid rushing into the scene to “fix” things.

If we continue to pray for the men we love and surrender them to the Lord, doing our part to obey God, too, then we can be confident that God will intervene in His way and time. He will direct them and order their steps in accordance with His will.

How do we know this? Because He loves them immeasurably more than we can ever love them. And He is faithful and able to transform their hearts to desire and pursue what pleases Him — the great things.

“This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭48:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Don’t Sweat the People Stuff

My parents come under fire for things every now and then as church leaders. People criticize them and scrutinize what they do which comes with the challenge of leading others.


I have often wondered how they handle the people stress in their lives with such grace. Certain things that would send me into an emotional tailspin hardly phase them. It’s not because they are immune to hurt or stress, rather it’s the way they process hurt and stress. They remain joyful and hopeful in the Lord.

Over the many years of watching their lives up close and learning from their examples, I have come to observe that there are three effective perspectives for “the people stuff” (aka difficult people in your life) that we can adapt:

You can’t please everyone. Not everyone is going to applaud you and give you a handshake for what you do. There will always be those who find something about you to complain about or pick on. As one person said, “‘Pharisees’ are still alive today.” Sometimes you and I are the Pharisees, too!

We can’t rid the world of judgmental people. (Let’s not contribute to the pool by being one of them, either). However, living our lives to please people isn’t going to solve the problem of disappointing them or failing to meet up to their expectations.

There have been occasions when my blog entries weren’t digestible to everyone. People simply didn’t agree with the biblical perspectives I wrote about, particularly on marriage and parenting. Sometimes, their comments were an all-out personal assault. The prideful me wanted to retort with scathing remarks. However, I realized that there was no point in fighting battles against people with completely opposite world-views. That wasn’t the route to take to win them over to the Lord.

Instead, I was reminded to hold to my convictions, and to focus on pleasing God…not people. I like how Galatians 1:10 puts it, “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

It’s impossible to please everyone. That’s a universal truth if we haven’t figured it out yet. The good news is, it’s possible to make choices that honor God. In the process my hope is that people will see the logic behind choosing to follow God, not because I argue them to death to prove my point, but because they see actual evidence in my life that ministers to their hearts.

While I think that apologists are badly needed in this day and age for the defense of faith in God, I also believe that the most convincing argument for the truth of God’s Word is transformed lives. Do we testify to the love, joy, peace, and grace that are found in Jesus Christ? Do we exhibit a contagious faith?

Listen with humility. God uses people to refine our rough edges or do massive work-ups on our hearts. Sometimes the very people who correct us, as well as those whom are difficult to get along with, are the very people we need in our lives to develop Christ-like character.

Are we willing to listen to what they have to say? We don’t have to make them our closest confidants or best friends, but is our default response to run away and shut them out of our lives or is it to love them still and be grateful for the way God is using them?

Furthermore, not all of what they say may be accurate or true, but is our disposition to be humble or is it to be combative and defensive? God reminds us that the humble have his favor. Psalm 25:9 tells us, “He leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way.”

In my years of ministry, I’ve made many mistakes with people. I’ve hurt people along the way because of my personality or lack of sensitivity. After I gave birth to my fourth child, Tiana, a group of ladies I had known for a very long time confronted me and told me the areas I needed to change and improve on. It was deeply humbling as I sat there with a panel of women in front of me expressing their frustrations towards me. Some were in tears, some were less emotional, but all of them had something to say about how I had wounded them.

It wasn’t easy to listen to them because some of it sounded like it had been blown out of proportion. However, I did my best to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. The fact that their feelings were pretty unanimous meant there was definitely something I could change to be a better person.

Still, some of them lingered in the hurt I had caused and pulled away from me. At that point, I didn’t want to pursue them relationally. I wanted to back off and give up. Yet, God taught me through this trying season of ministry that I must pursue people with His love. Even if I don’t feel like it, His love compels me to.

The rebuilding part was a challenge because I had to win back their hearts. It didn’t happen right away. For some, it took a number of months and even years. However, today, it is by God’s grace alone that I can say that my relationships with those women have been healed. I love them more today than ever. Furthermore, I know that God used them (and still uses them) to teach me how to be more loving, more giving, and more selfless.

People aren’t the real enemy. The evil one plants seeds of divisiveness in our relationships all the time. He likes to tear marriages, families, and organizations apart. So we need to recognize his handiwork and modus operandi. He turns our focus towards people and their offenses against us rather than towards the Lord and our walk with Him.

Instead of seeking out God-honoring resolutions, we end up being pawns in the evil one’s chess game. His ploy is to make us casualties by planting resentment and bitterness in our hearts, which keeps us from following and obeying God, and ultimately destroys us and those around us. Bitterness occupies the place of grace when we invite it into our hearts.

“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.” Hebrews 12:15

Sometimes, when Edric and I help to facilitate reconciliation between people, we hear them make statements that are incongruent with their profession of faith. They will say, “Yes, I’ve forgiven them,” yet in the same breath will continue with, “but I’m not ready to meet with them or to be with them.”

For followers of Christ, we can’t have this attitude. Hebrews 12:14 commands us to, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)

Living at peace with others is paired with living a holy life. Our relationships with people impact our intimacy with God and vice versa. If we are not walking intimately with the Lord, we will not process people problems properly. Peace with others will not be a priority. Rather, our responses will favor things like self-preservation and/or revenge.

I know this temptation all too well as a wife! There are times when Edric is the source of my people stress (thankfully, it’s not often). When he is, I plot out ways to get back at him in my head. However, I have to resist this urge as a child of God.

Matthew 5:9 says, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” A true child of God “works for peace.” A true child of God doesn’t burn bridges, leave issues unresolved without doing their best to restore their broken relationships, neither do they gossip and slander others, or nurse bitterness and distrust.

I know it’s hard to commit to peacemaking, especially when betrayal is involved. It almost seems stupid to allow ourselves to be vulnerable when there’s a very high possibility that we can get burned by doing so. So my encouragement to myself and to others is to trust in God and entrust people to God.

Realistically speaking, we can’t control people and force them to act and behave in ways we want them to. Instead we must remember that God is sovereign and in control. For example, He can bring wrongdoers, offenders, and those with mal-intent to justice. In Deuteronomy 32:35 God says, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back. In due time their feet will slip. Their day of disaster will arrive, and their destiny will overtake them.”

Another comfort is that God exposes the secrets of a man’s heart. Luke 8:17 tells us, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

God is not blind to the ills and sins of people. But sometimes we act like he is when we panic and take justice into our own hands. Are we greater than God’s hand? Do we know more than He does? Of course not. These are rhetorical questions. Our best resource when it comes to difficult people is to acknowledge the capacity of God to do something by praying! People can fool us with their pretenses but they can’t fool God.

Best of all, God can change the people who wound us the most and transform them completely. When the apostle Paul encountered God, he was radically changed. From a murderer of Christ-followers, he became a torchbearer of Christianity.

My parents have repeatedly told me, “See people for who they can become in Christ. Don’t focus on who they are now with all their issues and shortcomings.”

In the meantime, when it comes to problematic people stuff, let’s be accountable to the Lord for what’s in our own hearts. As Psalm 139:23-24 puts it, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

The other day I had a conversation with my dad about some people issues that he has been facing at the moment. When I asked him how he handles everything, he told me (paraphrased), “I sleep very well at night. When people say negative things about me, it makes me evaluate what areas I have to change. If there is something there, then I work on it. If there is no merit to what is being said, then I leave it up to the Lord to handle.”

He also added that his energies are directed towards seeking God and serving people which protects him from being consumed by people issues.

In conclusion, let’s not sweat the people stuff! We can’t please everyone so let’s focus on pleasing God. Let’s learn to listen and be humble because there’s always room for improvement. God uses people to refine us. Remember, people aren’t the real enemy so let’s not become a puppet of the evil one by participating in his divisive schemes or adapting divisive mindsets. Instead, let’s surrender difficult people to the Lord and trust that He is in control. He possesses the power to effect change in their hearts and our own. Our part is to be reconciled to others as much as possible by seeking to be  peacemakers, and to walk in obedience and faithfulness to the Lord.

Sometimes this will mean feeding our enemies and clothing them, or extending a handshake or a hug, or writing a letter that expresses an apology or reaches out to a person, or choosing to forgive even without receiving a sincere sorry from an offender, or showing acts of kindness, withholding words that will provoke someone to anger, or praying for those who have hurt us, or sharing the gospel with them.

___

Matthew 5: 43 – 48

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

 

 

 

Siblings as the Best of Friends

When Elijah arrived from his Holy Land Tour last Tuesday it was 12:30 AM so his younger siblings had to wait till the morning to see him. They had been counting the days!

(Elijah took this trip with my parents who took him for his 13th birthday)
Elijah was pretty exhausted so he slept in longer than my other kids did that morning. The cute thing is that Edan sat at the foot of Elijah’s bed, patiently waiting for him to wake up. He just watched Elijah, anticipating the moment when his eyes would open.

As soon as he did, all of my kids pounced on Elijah, hugging him repeatedly. They all started chatting in a lively manner, trying to get his attention, trying to tell him stories about things they did while he was away. At the breakfast table, they spent two hours laughing and engaging one another in conversation. It was obvious that they missed their older brother a lot. Even our two-year old, Catalina said so.

Homeschooling has played a big part in cultivating our children’s deep love and affection for one another. Edric and I almost always get the socialization question when we do Q and A portions in our seminars on homeschooling. Because I am a homeschooling mom, I don’t quite understand why people think that socialization is an issue for homeschoolers. Sure, they may not get to hang out with same-aged peers every single day, but they don’t lack opportunities to have great relationships with other children, especially their siblings.

Most of us have been conditioned to believe that the school setting is where children ought to make friends. Eyebrows of concern are raised when a parent removes a child from this environment and keeps them at home to learn. What friends will they possibly have is a question that a lot of parents worry about as they weigh the pros and cons of home education.

However, let’s be comfortingly realistic. In the Philippines it’s hard to imagine that a homeschooled child can grow up isolated, lonely, and socially awkward just because they don’t go to a school and have classmates. First of all, even without counting siblings, the number of cousins most Filipino kids have is astounding! Furthermore, Filipinos naturally congregate and get together. For example, there isn’t a week that goes by without the celebration of someone’s birthday.

Plus, homeschoolers also meet with other homeschooling families and form coops or playgroups that meet regularly. Most homeschool families I know have to tone down their social activities in order to get their academics done!

Therefore socialization really isn’t an issue at all. Sadly, I think the greater issue is that children are herded together in classrooms in a very unnatural way. After all, when a child leaves school and moves on to work or start a business or pursue a profession, they are almost never in a predicament that looks or feels like a classroom.

So, while children need relationships, let’s not make the mistake of thinking that they are better off developing these outside of the home. A study by The Family Pediatrics said that “when the family environment enables their (children’s) needs to be met, children generally turn out well, both socially and psychologically…The ability to cope with and adjust to life problems and demands is based upon psychological foundations of early family experiences.” (www.kon.org/urc/v5/mahalihali.html )

Personally, I believed that home provides the most natural context for children to grasp and enjoy the beauty of relationships…what it means to love, forgive, accept, and sacrifice for one another. Socialization has actually become a compelling reason for Edric and I to keep homeschooling. It gives our children the opportunity to practice relationships principles day in and day out.

Tonight, Edric and I went out on a date and came home early. It was 7:45 PM and we spied on our children as we snuck up the stairs to avoid announcing that we had arrived. We saw them huddle together over a game in our homeschool room, enjoying one another’s company and totally unconscious of our presence. It was a sweet sight to hear their unscripted laughter.

My kids may not have hundreds of friends. They have a good number of friends (most of them homeschooled, too), but for me what’s more important is that they have one another. Although they still squabble and work through their differences as brothers and sisters, they are embracing more and more the wonderful truth that siblings make the best of friends.

I enjoyed the same blessing growing up and today, I still call my siblings my best friends…

Give Priority to Your Spouse

Edric and I seem to get busier year after year, but one thing I appreciate about him is that he prioritizes me. If I were to tell him that I needed him, not in a crying-wolf sort of way, but genuinely and sincerely, he would drop everything for me.

The past two weeks were spent traveling, speaking, counseling and meeting with people about various issues, plus a section of the rip-rap of our house collapsed. By Tuesday afternoon, I didn’t want to attend another event. I just wanted to go home.

It takes me a while to get to this point of emotional and spiritual exhaustion. However, people issues can quickly do this to me. As much as I enjoy dealing with people and seeing God transform their lives, there are periods when it’s deeply discouraging, too.

For example, when I can’t force people to make the right choices (although I sometimes wish mind-control was a super power I possessed), and I see them make decisions that are against God’s will, it saddens and frustrates me. I have to wait on the Lord to speak to them and bring conviction to their hearts. In the meantime, it wearies me when people stew in their wrong emotions instead of actively pursuing God-honoring solutions or listening to biblical advice.

Yet this is what ministry is all about, patiently dealing with the messiness of imperfect people (myself included, of course), and pointing each other to God’s love and grace so that we might all be radically changed by it.

Compared to what church leaders have to contend with, I think that I’ve been exposed to the softer side of the battle. When I think of what my parents have to contend with on a daily basis as they shepherd a mega church, I know that my own dealings with people issues are quite minor. Nevertheless, it’s important that I seek out ways to recharge.

First, when I start to feel burdened and anxious, I return to my anchor – Jesus Christ. Prayer, filling my mind with His truth, and recognizing that He is present takes my focus off people and onto Him. As Hebrews 12:2 puts it, we need to keep “fixing your (our) eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith…”

Second, I’m thankful to God that I have my husband, Edric, to turn to. Whether it’s holding my hand, embracing me, praying with me and for me, offering words of comfort, or helping me to have the right perspective, he brings much needed calm to my spirit.

I can’t run away from the storms that come with the terrain of ministry, and I know I can’t run away from people because God’s Word tells me to love people, even when they display themselves as unlovable. But sometimes, I just need a break.

That Tuesday afternoon, before we were supposed to attend another ministry event, I expressed to Edric how tired I was. At first, he gently attempted to convince me to go to it. In fact, I was dressed for it as I sat in his office waiting for him to finish up with work. However, as he listened to me and took in the sight of my demeanor and posture, he sensed that I wasn’t alright.

So he reassuringly said, “I’ll take care of you.” Then he called in his assistant to inform her that we would be passing on the dinner affair. He requested that she ask if we could get out of our commitment to the person who invited us, and to send our apologies.

His sensitivity to recognize that I was running on empty meant a great deal to me. His consideration spelled L-O-V-E. Even if it was important for us to be at the gathering, he knew that ministry to me, as his wife, took precedence. When we got home, I went to bed a little past 7:30 and slept for about 12 hours!

Edric and I aren’t the type to beg off from a ministry activity we’ve said yes to so this incident was an exception rather than the norm. Lest this be interpreted as an example of why it’s okay to break commitments to people when your spouse needs you, this isn’t what I intended by this entry.

Indeed, there may be occasions when this may be necessary, but the point I’m trying to make is that prioritizing one’s spouse is one way we can affirm our love for them.

Sometimes it’s putting the gadgets away and out of reach when you are having a conversation with your husband or wife so you can give them your full attention. Or…

It’s letting go of a habit or activity that takes time away from your spouse…

It’s going on that much needed date night so you can be together, just the two of you, and leaving the kids at home…

It’s avoiding a course of action that you know will wound your spouse…

It’s honoring your vow to stay pure and keep the marriage bed holy…

It’s taking the time to listen to your spouse’s feelings even when you would rather do something else or be somewhere else…

It’s taking your spouse’s call while you are in the middle of a meeting…

It’s doing your best to resolve a conflict between the two of you because you know that lingering in the hurt isn’t healthy for your marriage…

It’s purposefully praying for one another…

It’s keeping your promise about something you told your spouse you would get done for him or her…

It’s speaking your spouse’s love language whether it be words of affirmation, gifts, time, acts of service, or affection…

It’s seeking to meet their heartfelt needs even if it requires sacrifice from you…

I don’t know what giving your spouse priority might mean in your marriage, but I do believe it’s one of the most convincing ways to communicate, “I love you.” Bold and grand gestures of devotion are great, but there’s nothing that can top the consistency of letting your spouse know every single day that they are the important, that second to the Lord, they have priority over your earthly relationships and pursuits.

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Many things in our lives will scream IMPORTANT, so let us pray for the wisdom to sift through the things that demand our attention and ask, which ones will destroy our relationship with God, our marriage and family if we neglect them or engage in them?

I don’t know who Brandon Sanderson is but he said something very insightful: “The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” If we want to have a good, solid marriage (and even a romantic one), we must recognise it as a vital thing and commit to treat it that way EVERY DAY.

 

When Teaching Math Makes Me Crazy

Arrrrrrggggghhhh. Teaching math to my five year old daughter makes me go crazy sometimes!

Why is it so hard for her to get math?! Is it me? Is it her? It’s flabbergasting!!!

After successfully teaching three boys basic math, I feel like she should be able to get it just as easily. But this hasn’t been the case. It’s been a challenging year trying to help her learn fundamental math skills.

This level of math is so elementary it frightens me to think of what it’s going to be like when we tackle more difficult skills. A few days ago, I called in reinforcements that came in the form of my husband, Edric. He very patiently asked her to bring her dolls into his study room so he could experientially demonstrate subtraction.

As I vented to him in private, he calmly reminded me, “This is exactly what you talk about in your seminars. Every child is different. Don’t compare. You are going to have to adjust your teaching style just like you tell parents to.”

He’s absolutely right. My problem is I want to be able to explain things to her a few times and expect that it converges sensibly in her brain. But it doesn’t. I know she doesn’t have a learning disability…although I have wondered if she does.

In fact, I looked up dyscalculia — a brain-based condition that makes it difficult to understand number sense and math concepts. It’s like missing the logic behind math. Yet Tiana doesn’t quite fit the definition of this disability.

At the end of the day, it’s me who has to change and improve my methods (and expectations). Children can’t be taught using a cookie-cutter approach.

The reality is, as Edric emphasized, each child is unique and different. Tiana needs more attention when it comes to math. I can’t breeze through material with her. Deep down, I know this. But two things poison my teaching:

1. Worrying that she will get left behind people her age.

2. Feeling too lazy to modify my teaching and present material creatively.

Why does #1 concern me? Because I am proud! I want my children to excel and be ahead of their peers. Yes, homeschool moms struggle with this, too!

But #2 is an issue because I am busy. When I get busy and when I feel harried, I don’t enjoy the process of learning and discovery. This is something I preach and believe in — make learning a lifestyle. However, when I am pressed by deadlines or when I have something else that is urgent, I rush through lessons with my kids.

After stepping back and evaluating why I was stressed and annoyed, I came to the conclusion that Tiana has no problems learning. Sure, she may take longer to “GET” certain concepts. But she can do it if I am committed to being the kind of teacher who truly enables her.

In a recent seminar I attended, I learned that the goal of teaching is life change. The goal of instruction is application. Until a person applies what you taught him or her, your job isn’t done as a teacher.

As a homeschool mom, this translates to this: Until my kids reach the point where they can confidently apply what they have learned, then I must remain committed to helping them do so. I cannot give up, quit, turn-over the responsibility, or resign to the frustration. If they don’t learn well it’s not my children’s fault. It’s mine — my perspective is wrong, my approach is not appropriate or effective, or I am focusing on my limitations and my child’s shortcomings.

So what am I going to do about it? Throw a book out a window, lose my temper, say mean things in my irritation, or crawl under a rock and say, forget it! (Those are some of things I feel like doing!)

I can’t do any of the above. That’s a defeatist mindset — the kind that is unproductive, unhealthy and damaging to my kids and me. So I praise God for Edric’s levelheadedness at the moment when I was about to lose it mentally and emotionally. He reminded me that I am responsible.

For Tiana, I can…

1. Use more hands-on experiences (i.e. games, manipulatives)

2. Connect math to life. Show how math can be applied to everyday situations (I.e. Baking, shopping)

3. Make math fun by being more creative in the way I present concepts and test for learning

4. Research on techniques to equip myself better

5. Be encouraging, positive, and patient

6. Pray!

For all my homeschooling friends out there and non-homeschooling friends, if you are a parent like me let’s say this together: WE ARE RESPONSIBLE.

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It’s no accident that God gave us the child or children we have with their strengths and weaknesses. That was His plan and design to teach us what it means to love and forgive unconditionally, to depend on Him, and to become more like Him in character.

Homeschooling is actually life-schooling for me! Everyday I need to work on my parenting skills and grow the fruit of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. (Galatians 2:22-23) I don’t think that non-homeschooling parents are exempted from this either.

Lastly, our relationship with our children is far more important than their academic perfection. At the end of everyday do our children know that we love them no matter what? Do they go to bed affirmed by this truth?

I will leave you with the lyrics of Sara Groves from her song, You Cannot Lose My Love. It’s about God’s love towards us but I want to be the kind of parent who sings the same message to my kids:

“You Cannot Lose My Love”

You will lose your baby teeth.
At times, you’ll lose your faith in me.
You will lose a lot of things,
But you cannot lose my love.

You may lose your appetite,
Your guiding sense of wrong and right.
You may lose your will to fight,
But you cannot lose my love.

You will lose your confidence.
In times of trial, your common sense.
You may lose your innocence,
But you cannot lose my love.

Many things can be misplaced;
Your very memories be erased.
No matter what the time or space,
You cannot lose my love.
You cannot lose,
You cannot lose,
You cannot lose my love.

Listen to Sara Groves’ song here

 

Your Husband is Special

On rare occasions I get to step into my husband’s work-world and experience what it’s like to do what he does. Today was one of those times. I got a glimpse of what taping for tv shows entails.

Last year I was invited to host a show (I will announce it eventually), and I am in the process of taping the episodes. It’s an interstitial show so the episodes will be short. But each one takes about two hours to film, besides all the setting up and prep work that is involved to stage each scene.

The best part of this experience is meeting people and learning from my guests. I have thouroughly enjoyed talking with some amazing women. However, I am a total rookie at this so I am still adjusting to the learning curve.

Since this is something outside of my comfort zone, it can be emotionally and physically draining…maybe even slightly terrifying for a closet introvert like me. I’ve been praying a lot to prepare myself. But for the first time, I understood what my husband goes through whenever he tapes his On the Money shows. It seems easy to sit and interview people when I watch him on tv but it’s actually quite exhausting!

I have only taped two episodes and he’s done over a thousand! Today’s experience taught me to appreciate my husband. I tell him I do but now I mean it more than ever. Stepping into his “world” for a change doubled my respect for him.

When he walked through the door after he got home from the studio, I looked at him with new admiration. Wow, I thought, I am so blessed to be married to this guy!

Sometimes I am tempted to think he’s lucky to have me, but that’s when I am focused on myself. The reality is I am blessed to have him. He is a special guy.

I believe all wives need to say that about their husbands. Each one of us is married to a special man. We can forget this sometimes. In fact, we married them because we knew they were one of a kind, uniquely gifted and amazing — the one person we wanted to love forever. However, the realities of marriage and our own selfishness (I am speaking for myself at least), can cloud over how special they are because we zone in to their MINOR flaws.

When I had time with him alone, I profusely thanked him. “Hon, I just want you to know how much I appreciate you. You are amazing, what you do and what you go through. I am so thankful to be married to you.”

When I asked him if it matters to him that I say these things, his reply was, “Super! It super matters. It emboldens and empowers me as a man!”

He also added, “In general, I deal with a lot of criticism and correction from people, so it’s nice to hear you say that.” His smile was from ear to ear.

Like I have said before, husbands can be the most under appreciated people in the world, and it’s up to us, as wives, to build them up and encourage them. We are the ones who can uniquely minister to their hearts in this way. Let’s make the most of that privilege!

Have you complimented and affirmed your man today? Tell him how special and wonderful he is. And give him a kiss to prove it, too! I am sure it will make his day.

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“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another…” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭

“An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.” Proverbs‬ ‭31:10-12‬

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why Children Learn Best at Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fight with Gentleness

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

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

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

   

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Submission to My Husband Is a Heart Issue

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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