Marriage and a Cramped Hotel Room

I chose a hotel that didn’t have a gym or restaurant because it’s fairly new so Edric was frustrated that I didn’t do my due diligence. He was right but I didn’t like his negativity so our evening was a little tense after we checked in to the hotel that had already been paid for in advance (we couldn’t rebook somewhere else without forfeiting the money).

In the past he probably would have stayed upset until the following morning, but last night, after going out for a bite to eat, he came back to the hotel room with a big bottle of water for me, to apologize for, in his words, “making me feel discouraged.”

His tone was sweet and understanding. It was like a Jekyll and Hyde instance where he left our room acting like the latter and came back as the former.

Truthfully I could have done a better job at picking the hotel when I had my assistant book the place. I merely scrolled trough Booking.com to select an option that was well-reviewed (which it was), and near the Hongkong Convention Center we had to be at everyday. However, Edric and I do enjoy our workouts and of course, we never skip out on breakfast. So these two were important considerations that I should have looked into. Plus, there was the space factor. It was the smallest hotel room we have ever stayed in. Ever. Like, if we had tripped in the room, we would have merely fallen against the wall instead of onto the floor because it wasn’t wide enough or deep enough to injure ourselves in!

Initially, Edric researched online to find another hotel to pay for even if it meant spending for two places since we couldn’t forfeit our reservation. That’s how upset he was.

Thankfully Edric forgave my mistake. I really prayed that God would speak to him when he left the hotel room because arguing about it would have escalated the issue into something ugly. Well, I am glad that the Lord ministered to his heart while he was out eating dim sum and noodles.

When he returned as a changed man, he explained, “I didn’t want to be a spoiled brat. That’s what God convicted me to think about. Why not be flexible and make the most of the situation?”

So that’s what we did.

The next morning, God allowed us to find a breakfast restaurant called The Flying Pan which served big American-type breakfasts on exceptionally large plates. Edric was in heaven. The next day we explored further and found the Brunch Club on Peel Street which was more my speed, quaint and tucked away. So one of our problems was solved — breakfast food.

As for the absence of a gym, we tried finding fitness clubs where we could pay per day but then decided to save money. After all, we did so much walking around. Edric managed to do push ups on the small space beside the bed. And I worked out my abs by the entrance to the bathroom.

Edric is the kind of person who tries to be thorough and exacting with himself. So when others mismanage his expectations it’s hard for him NOT to feel frustrated and disappointed. However, God gave him a wife like me, whose shortcomings he has to accommodate and be patient with.

As for me, I don’t like being around negative, demanding, and unappreciative people. Edric can sometimes fall into these behaviors when things aren’t to his liking or standards. However, I am happy to say that he is more often than not a positive person, especially in comparison to the Edric version 1.0 at the beginning of our marriage. Nevertheless, I need someone like Edric who refines me and keeps me from getting puffed up with pride. He is able to correct me areas of my life that others may not see. He also pushes me to keep improving and growing, which I need to do.

So there you have it…Two people who don’t always like each other’s opposing personalities, especially when circumstances highlight these differences. Yet we both know that God has given us to each other to chip away and cleanse the parts of us that need to be smoothened and purified. For Edric it’s his impatience. For me it’s my resistance to correction. (There are more undesirable qualities in us that God continues to reveal as well.) Therefore, both of us are better off with each other than without.

Perhaps I can summarize all of this with insights from Timothy Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage, where he writes the following…

The first part of making your marriage into a relationship that enhances growth is to accept this inherent feature of married life. Marriage by its very nature has the “power of truth” — the power to show you the truth about who you are. People are appalled when they get sharp, far-reaching criticisms from their spouses. They immediately begin think they married the wrong person. But you must realize that it isn’t ultimately your spouse who is exposing the sinfulness of your heart — it’s marriage itself. Marriage does not so much bring you to confrontation with your spouse as confront you with yourself. Marriage shows you a real, unflattering picture of who you are and then takes you by the scruff of the neck and forces you to pay attention to it…Don’t resist this power that marriage has. Give your spouse the right to talk to you about what is wrong with you.

Keller points out that marriage allows us to see ourselves for who we really are, then he explains that it also allows us to see whom our spouses can become.

When people first begin to see the flaws in their spouses, some flee marriage. Others withdraw, downscaling their expectations of happiness almost completely and just learn to get along. Others go into a long period of fighting and blaming their spouses for their unhappiness. All of these approaches share one thing in common, however. One spouse looks at his or her spouse’s weaknesses and says, “I need to find someone better than this.” But the great thing about the model of Christian marriage we are presenting here is that when you envision the “someone better,” you can think of the future version of the person to whom you are already married. The someone better is the spouse you already have. God has indeed given us the desire for a better spouse, but you should seek it in the one to whom you are married. Why discard this partner for someone else only to discover that person’s deep, hidden flaws? Some people with serial marriages go through the cycle of infatuation, disillusionment, rejection, and flight to someone else — over and over. The only way you’re going to actually begin to see another person’s glory-self is to stick with him or her…Do you obsess over your partner’s external shortcomings, or can you see the beauty within, and do you want to see it increasingly increased?

There are moments when I fall back into feeling resentment towards the parts of Edric’s personality that affront me. No doubt, he feels exactly the same way about me. Yet, I have seen God transform him in so many remarkable ways that these changes affirm why it’s worth it to stay married to your spouse.

Selfishly speaking, spouses upgrade! You get a better version of your spouse with each passing year as the Lord works on his or her character. Of course you and I have to cooperate with His principles so we can be instrumental to this upgrading and not a block to it.

The other, more important reason is not so much about what your spouse becomes for your own benefit, but what Christ is making you into. None of us, married or single, will ever grow in substance or character unless we experience heat and pressure likened to what coals go through in their pre-diamond state. Even though the process can feel ugly, God uses people (our spouses for the married) and circumstances to refine us till we shine with the beauty that is Him. So marriage is a lifetime of preparation for future glory! Isn’t that a comforting thought when incidences and personality differences irk us?

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Edric and I discovered that our cramped hotel room was a divinely appointed, diamond-making space of a place when we changed our perspective and attitudes. This is what happens when we adopt the mindset that the apostle Paul challenges us to have. “Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For we died to this life, and our real life is hidden with Christ in God.” When we recognize this and live this way, someday, “when Christ, who is our life, is revealed to the whole world, we will share in all his glory.” (Colossians 3:2-4)

Smile at Your Husband

I had a meeting in Edric’s office that he wasn’t aware of, so when I tapped on the glass of the conference room he was in to wave hello he looked pleasantly surprised. After both our meetings were done, he found me and pulled me close to him to say, “It made my day to see you!”

This is not a cheesy entry to the beginning of a sappy romance novel, but it felt kind of like one of those moments that made me gushy inside. I still get that. Sigh. I’m a secret romantic. What can I say? When my husband takes me in his arms and flashes his dimpled smile at me like I’m the best thing he’s seen all day, it doesn’t matter what kind of stress I’ve had. I feel safe, special, and loved.

I think we all need to smile at our spouses more often. Why? Communication, as we have so often heard, is primarily non-verbal. If we don’t smile, our spouse will naturally assume that we aren’t happy with our relationship or happy with them. When we do smile it changes the climate of our relationship and the mood of the moment.

Okay…let me be honest, although I enjoy being with Edric and he’s my favorite human (I have to say human because God is my favorite person), there are days when his personality and decisions frustrate me and it’s really hard to smile! So yes, sometimes I have to think positive thoughts about him to squeeze out that smile. However, more than that, I have to focus on my own relationship with the Lord.

Like today, in the car, on the way back from a talk that Edric and I gave on “Leading from the Home,” I reacted towards Edric for asking me to hand our oldest son, Elijah, a plastic bag for his trash. Elijah had finished his packed lunch in the van and he needed a place to put it. Edric turned to me and asked, “Can you help him?”

Since I was the middle of something and he was already holding the plastic bag, I replied, “I’ve been helping everyone with their lunch,” hoping he wouldn’t rely on me. It wasn’t a nice comment, and I let it out because I felt like he was in the better position to hand Elijah the plastic bag.

Well, Edric didn’t understand why my tone and statement sounded so self-righteous, and we went back and forth discussing my claim that “I was helping everyone.” So I definitely wasn’t smiling and neither was he. However, I praise God for the spiritual spankings he gives me when I’m in the wrong. He told me to humble myself and apologize. I resisted for a bit but then I did. And no surprise here…the smile came! Edric also softened up and forgave me.

Now, all is well. He’s on his computer and I’m here, typing this entry. In fact, I just told him, “I love this! You, men, together doing things we enjoy.” He did just say I was weird for finding this moment so pleasurable, but I’m sure he meant that in a good way. (Think positive thoughts.)

If we aren’t smiling at our spouses it’s because there is probably something misaligned in us, on the inside. And more likely than not, I am pretty sure it has to do with our focus being off. We are looking at our husbands and depending on them to make us happy. Naturally then, our smiles will be few and far between. The great news is that we can be happy because of God is the source of our joy!  I really like what Proverbs 31:25 has to say about a woman who fears the Lord. It declares, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.”

If our husbands got the privilege of being around wives who smiled at the future, think of the impact it would make on them!

For those of you who can remember the days when you were dating your spouse, you know that your smile communicated 1. You were happy to see your man. 2. You enjoyed his company.

I could charm Edric over with a smile when we were dating. But guess what? It still works! And I’m not saying that because I manipulate Edric with my smiling. Today, the same is still true. When I’m with Edric and I smile, it communicates 1. I am happy to see him. 2. I enjoy his company.

For example, when Edric comes home and I greet him with a big smile and a “Hi, babe,” he smiles generously back at me and his instinct is to spend time with me. The opposite is true. When he comes home and I act moody or disinterested in him, forgetting to smile, then he will, more often than not, quip, “I guess you’re too busy,” and avoid me.

If we want a more satisfying relationship with our husbands, let’s smile, ladies! It’s a natural face-lift to make us look younger, and you will really appreciate this…Ron Gutman, the author of Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act wrote that “British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.” (Source: Psychology Today) What a ridiculously wonderful amount of endorphins!

So try it. Right now. If you are with your husband, smile. Feeling generous? You can even add, “Hon, I really enjoy being with you.”

If you’re struggling, remember the golden rule for relationships, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31) Do we want our husbands to smile at us? Then let’s smile at them!

Just Say Sorry

Lately, I have been practicing how to say sorry when I make mistakes, especially in marriage. I often expect my husband, Edric, to humble himself first and apologize to me. My stupid reason is, well, he’s the spiritual leader. So being the one to initiate reconciliation is not my default mode. I assume that it should be his.

Edric is a very good apologizer, too. There is no such word as apologizer but I couldn’t think of another descriptor. Usually, he will recognize that he is wrong soon after (when he is in fact in the wrong), and ask for my forgiveness soon after he wounds my feelings or does something to offend me. This convicts me to ask for his forgiveness, too, for my ugly responses and negativity.

However, waiting on him to make the first move allows me to get away with pride. It’s the selfish way of saying sorry. I don’t want to budge until he does because I keep thinking, he should repair this as the man.

I praise God that He is a loving Father who is committed to changing me everyday. So His recent character project is teaching me how to say sorry as immediately as possible versus letting me get so comfortable with my hostile silence.

Take for instance a few nights ago, after a meeting with friends, where Edric corrected me for cutting him off and contradicting him in front of others. At first I over explained myself and pointed out his errors, trying to avoid the root issue of my disrespect. Finally, God told me, “Just say sorry. Why do you have to excuse your behavior and try and shift the blame to him?”

He was right.

So I turned to Edric in the car ride and asked for his forgiveness. “Will you forgive me for my disrespect?”

He accepted my apology, but he wasn’t sweet towards me right away. I had to wait for his emotions to settle which annoyed me initially. Then I thought, Why should I be upset? Since I already apologized, I am liberated. Whether or not he says sorry to me for what he can improve on, and whether or not he treats me with kindness afterwards is no longer my problem. I am free! I did my part.

By the evening, however, our relationship was back to normal and we went to bed at peace before God and toward one another. Edric also identified areas that he could change in himself. There was no residual bitterness. Thankfully, our conflict was resolved pretty quickly, which is also why I believe I need to say sorry as soon as possible. It ministers to Edric’s heart when I do so and the hurt doesn’t linger into the next day. 

It’s still hard to say sorry first but once I manage to utter the words, “Will you forgive me,” it’s like unplugging a stuck up drain. The rest of what I need to say follows, and that release feels so spiritually cleansing and so right for our relationship.


I used to think that saying sorry before Edric does was the weak thing to do. But it’s not. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit manifested in us. Although Ruth Graham once said, “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers,” I also think a happy marriage is the union of two good apologizers. Forgivers and apologizers similarly require humility and both are necessary for healthy communication, conflict resolution, and intimacy in marriage.

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭

It’s Not About the Status

Our church, spearheaded by my friend, Riva, challenged married couples to mentor singles through an intimate gathering called Truetorials. These are randomly scheduled, informal meetings where singles can connect with couples to ask them questions about life, love, work, and pretty much anything that a couple host is willing to answer. 

We had one such event at our place this past weekend, where we had the privilege of getting to know 20 somethings and 30 somethings, men and women (mostly women), who were curious to know about things like…

“Does the guy have to be a spiritual leader before I commit to him in a relationship?” 

“How do I tell a girl that I am interested in her and when should I tell her?

“What if the guy I like has a different perspective on certain convictions that are important to me?”

“What if it’s hard for me to be friendly to guys?”



As Edric and I listened to them, I realized how complicated being single can be at times because of societal pressures and expectations. There’s so much emphasis on the importance of being with someone, in a relationship, or headed towards marriage, that the amazing state of singleness and the options available to someone who is “free” are overshadowed by the idea that marriage is somehow a better status to be in. 

So let me tell you, from the vantage point of a married woman that if you are single, you have God-given liberties and opportunities that I cannot have. And in this sense you are better off to maximize your time, talents, and treasures for the Lord. I am tied down. Being a wife and mother necessitate that I consider, at all times, my husband and children’s needs. I cannot, for example, go to China on a mission trip for an indefinite period of time, something I once thought I ought to do. Who will attend to my husband and kids if I go? I cannot up and leave with girlfriends to go on a spontaneous beach trip, either. 

Similarly, I can’t invest as much time in relationships with people because this will sacrifice the time I have with my family. So there is often a ceiling to what I can offer and give to others as a married person because I need to focus on building relationships with my husband and children. 

“…The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭7:34‬ 

The kinds of friendships I have with others always have to factor in how I am bound to my husband exclusively. As a single woman, I had many guys friends, and I could enjoy these friendships. I hung out with male buddies on a regular basis and that was perfectly fine. Having guy friends was a super fun part about being single. Since I am now a wife, I have to set boundaries in my dealings with guy friends, and some of these friendships I have let go off, too. 

My pursuits are largely impacted by my roles as wife and mom. Instead of focusing on how I can make an impact outside of the home, I have to filter through what I will spend energy and effort developing in myself to better fulfill my roles. Will these contribute to my becoming a better wife and mom? 

In the past I was part of the music ministry. I actually sang with the prompters on stage many many years ago. As much as I enjoyed the fellowship with the team and band, as well as learning from expert musicians, I had to stop because of my priorities. 

Being a wife also means I am under my husband’s authority. I praise God that Edric is a wonderful husband who loves the Lord. Nevertheless, what he asks me to do, I am compelled to obey to honor his headship over me (even when I don’t like to.) It’s not easy to choose to obey Edric but I entered into marriage knowing that this was going to be the dynamic of our role. I can express myself and give my opinion, but at the end of the day, if we disagree on a matter, I can’t stage a coup to rebel against him. God tells me to obey and submit myself to his leadership. 

Finally, I am in this marriage for better or for worse. There is no exit. Edric and I are bound together for life. “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.” (Romans‬ ‭7:2) I can’t just ‬leave him even when our differences seem irreconcilable. There must be a constant effort on both our parts to improve ourselves and make the marriage work. I praise God that Edric and I know Him so there is always a sense of hopefulness when we don’t like each other very much. But for those who are in very difficult and painful marriages, there is a sense of feeling trapped and suffocated.  

‭I am not trying to discourage people from wanting to be married because it is, when lived out biblically, an amazing thing. However I think our culture and society have elevated it to a point of making those who aren’t married feel that they are somehow incomplete or inferior in status. For example, if a person is single for a long time or not dating then the usual assumption is something must be wrong. At the same time, there is the other extreme which says, “I don’t need to get married because it’s so overrated and I want my independence.” 

Both of these make status the focus rather than giving preeminence to Christ and our relationship with Him. If you and I wholeheartedly seek after Christ and understand how loved and complete we are in him, both marriage and being single are equally beautiful states to be in, and both are right for us. Neither trumps the other. There is no need to compare or want what the other has (singles, the married life, and marrieds, the freedoms of single life). 

Let’s want the life we have right now! 

In Christ, the curse of sin which makes us a slave to wrong perspectives, desires, and behaviors has been broken! “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John‬ ‭8:36‬) We are free to enjoy the states we are in, single or married! God wants us to experience fullness of life just as he declared, “I came that you may have life to the full, a satisfying life!” (John 10:10 paraphrased)

I think we all need to do heart checks and ask ourselves, “If I feel unhappy and wanting now, why is this so? Is it my state in life as a married or single person dictating my happiness and feeling of wholeness, or is it my relationship with the Lord defining these for me?” It’s not about the status of being single or married. It’s about the direction my heart is pointing to. If it’s pointing in the right direction, seeking after Christ, then I will embrace the divine purpose of my status. 

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If you are interested in connecting with other singles, check out www.discovernewcircles.com for all kinds of events and activities that give you the opportunity to enjoy and maximize this season of your life. 

Walk in Love

 Titus, my third son has been wearing expanders for his upper and lower teeth for a good part of the year. He has large front teeth and his jaw is narrow, so his dentist, Dr. Marla Valenzuela, suggested that he get expanders to enlarge his jaw. These expanders are not cheap. They have also seen many adventures as Titus has, on different occasions, left them in places where he shouldn’t have, broken parts of them accidentally, and gotten them dirtied. During our recent trip to Singapore these expanders ended up in the trashcan of a Chinese restaurant, but I will get to that in a moment.

My husband, Edric, spoke on a series of topics during a retreat while we were in Malaysia on the theme “Radical Love Begins at Home.” 


His culminating message was preached at CCF Worship Service in Singapore with the challenge to “Love More.” Our kids spoke with us during different messages of the retreat and the day that Edric spoke at church, we spent time with the leadership team over lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

Titus, along with my four other kids, occupied tables with children of the leaders’ where they merrily engaged one another and played games. As for Edric and myself, we were caught up in conversation with the rest of the adults, exchanging stories about our faith journeys, marriage, parenting, and ministry. Since Titus forgot his expander’s case, something I’ve repeatedly reminded him not to do, he placed his expanders on a wad of tissue next to his plate before eating his lunch.

Caught up in his interactions with new friends, he didn’t notice that the waitress innocently swept his expanders (and the wad of tissue in rested in) off the table onto a tray that was cleared into a trash bin. Edric and I had no idea either as we were seated separately from him during the meal. As the lunch came to a close for us we excused ourselves from the gathering to rush off to a bookstore before our flight home to Manila. We had promised Edan a trip to Kinukoniya, his favorite bookstore, to buy a science book. Intending to keep our commitment to him before leaving for the airport, we collected our children and bid farewell to everyone.

It was at this time that Titus whispered to me that his expanders had vanished.

“What happened?!” I asked, dumbfounded, that he didn’t realize this earlier.

“I left them on a tissue, on the table, and then now they are gone…maybe they were thrown away by the waitress.”

I glared at him for a moment, unimpressed by his simplistic deduction of the situation.

“Hon, this is serious. How could you have lost your expanders?”

Titus, looking clueless and helpless at this point, made it difficult for me to be upset. He obviously needed a solution, not a lecture. Yet, I feared that Edric would react in an irate way when I passed the problem on to him. After all, we were in a rush and tight schedule before our flight home. I was going to propose that we leave the expanders buried wherever they were. I wasn’t about to go digging through the trash with my bare hands to sift through all the used tissue, dirty food, and mysteriously sticky goo! Most certainly Edric wasn’t going to do it either, not dressed in his Sunday shirt, and especially because he gets more disgusted by icky things than I do (or so I thought).

Amazingly, Edric level-headedly assessed the situation, spoke to the waitress and asked to be directed to the trash. Without hesitating, he dug his hand into it and felt for the retainers, pulling napkins and objects out of the trash to examine them one by one.

Was this my husband who was bent over the trashcan, sorting through the waste without making a single comment about how inconvenienced he was?!

It most certainly was! What a dad!

I suppose he saw what was really going on. This was a divinely appointed moment to apply four straight days of speaking about Christ-like love, and how it ought to impact our relationship with the family first. This was love in action.

After five minutes of consistent digging, he got one expander, then the other, as our friends looked on and cheered. Titus smiled in relief, almost too happy to realize that he shouldn’t put his expanders back on right away before disinfecting them!

I’m sure the experience profoundly affected Titus. Over the years he has gotten himself into a number of predicaments that required our intervention and problem-solving. Sometimes these occasions have been deeply aggravating because of how ridiculous they are. From getting his head stuck between rails so that we needed to carry his body and push it through in order to free him, to snipping his hair off so that his forehead was grossly exposed and exaggerated, to destroyed different electronic equipment in the home because he wanted to examine what was inside of them, to locking himself in a storage room so that the door had to be broken down, to swallowing a marble so that his intestinal area had to be x-rayed and I was told to examine his poop everyday with a stick to anticipate the exit of the marble, well, let’s just say that God has used him to teach Edric and I patience and grace. 


We do love him immensely and nothing will ever change that (something we’ve repeatedly told him), but these occasions do tempt us to react with irritation.

He knew that losing his expanders was a big deal. However, Edric’s gracious gesture quelled whatever stress he might have been feeling. (It certainly alleviated my anxiety, too! I didn’t want to have to pay for new ones!)

As we walked to the train station, Edric put his arm around Titus to let him know that everything was okay. He was forgiven.

If we want our children to be loving, they have to know what love is, to experience being loved, especially when they make mistakes. When the temptation to get annoyed, to be reactive, to lash out, to inflict pain with our words is strongest because we are disappointed, frustrated or angry, then we must tell ourselves, “This is the best time to demonstrate to my child what love really is.” 

I’m not saying that we should ignore our responsibility to discipline them. But there will be times when instead of a lecture, they may need us to listen. Instead of making them feel guilty, we can remind them that God gives grace. Instead of harboring hurt or bitterness against them, we ought to unconditionally forgive them and hug them. And rather than acting selfishly, we can imitate our Savior as Ephesians 5:1-2 tells us, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”
 

It’s Possible 2 Be 1 

Every husband and wife-to-be with their glinting eyes, standing at the altar on their wedding day, believes their love is special.  

I felt that way. I felt like a princess in a fairytale sashaying down the aisle to my prince charming with my billowing gown (I wanted a poufy one just to feel like royalty). My wedding was magical and dreamy, better than I had imagined it to be, and I bet most brides would say the same about the day they got married.  

However, in time, all of us married people will have to wrestle with the annoying personality quirks of our spouse, poor communication leading to poor intimacy, mismatched priorities, busyness and pragmatism that ease out the romance, neglected roles, and unmet longings that chafe at the desire to stay faithful to the promises that we made. 

Those of us who have been married for at least five years know what I am talking about. Edric and I recently celebrated sixteen years of marriage. To this day, it’s still a challenge to love and forgive one another unconditionally. While each year gets better in many ways, other aspects of our relationship get harder. In other words, there has never been a year of marriage when it’s felt like twelve months of pure bliss.

However, I would tell you in a heart beat that Edric is the only man I would ever want to be married to, and yes, there it still plenty of cheesy romance and intimacy between us. Despite the imperfections of married life, we stand in awe of God every year as he preserves us and upholds us so that we are able to declare, “This was our best year ever!”


Early on, Edric and I were blessed to have mentors who taught us biblical principles on marriage and how to pursue God’s design for it. We attended numerous seminars and retreats, and read helpful books. Furthermore, we tried our best to apply what we learned. When and where we failed, we asked for forgiveness and changed for the better. However, the principles, positive role models and life pegs, as well as the seminars, retreats and books would have made little difference had Edric and I not begun our relationship by confronting our spiritual brokenness. 

Tim Keller, in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, writes, “If our views of marriage are too romantic and idealistic, we underestimate the influence of sin on human life. If they are pessimistic and cynical, we misunderstand marriage’s divine origin. If we somehow manage, as our modern culture has, to do both at once, we are doubly burdened by a distorted vision. The trouble is not within the institution of marriage but within ourselves.” 

 I wholly agree with Keller that the problem lies within us. Each person, single or married, is sinful and spiritually broken. Neither the state of being without a spouse or being with one makes us any better off inside. In fact, those of us who have never acknowledged our spiritual desperation and need for saving are likely to experience greater misery married rather than single. As one pastor in our church aptly put it, “Marriage magnifies what is in our hearts.” Unresolved heart issues get uglier in marriage. 

Therefore, we need to experience the grace and love of our Savior first. As John Piper explained, “Since Christ’s new covenant with this church is created by and sustained by blood-bought grace, therefore, human marriages are meant to showcase that new-covenant grace. And the way they showcase it is by resting in the experience of God’s grace and bending it out from a vertical experience with God into a horizontal experience with their spouse. In other words, in marriage you live hour by hour in glad dependence on God’s forgiveness and justification and promised future grace, and you bend it out toward your spouse hour by hour — as an extension of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help.”

Let me put this simply…Our horizontal relationship with our spouse is dependent upon our vertical relationship with God. If we have not embraced our need for His grace and forgiveness, there’s no way we can be gracious and forgiving towards our spouse. Why? Our default mode as human beings is self-centered and selfish.

In the beginning of our marriages, we are sustained and exhilarated by the pleasures of young love, sweet love. We keep the rose-colored glasses on. Yet, weeks, months, and years into the relationship, when the novelty wanes and issues arise, the predisposition to selfishness emerges. The glasses come off and our tendency is to prioritize and preserve “me, myself, and I”.

“Destructive to marriage is the self-fulfillment ethic that assumes marriage and the family are primarily institutions of personal fulfillment, necessary for us to become whole and happy.” (Duke University Ethics Professor, Stanley Hauerwas) 

How did this play out in my own marriage? When I began to notice that Edric wasn’t always the prince charming I hoped he would be, then I retaliated and became very un-princess-like. My self-centered thoughts were, “If you aren’t going to treat me the way I think you should then I am not going to put up with it. I am not going to be a doormat in this relationship. No way!”

Where did that get me? Edric and I had lots of fights in the first year of our marriage. Sometimes it was over the most inane, insubstantial things like not covering the toothpaste tube properly or leaving clothes on the floor. Other times it escalated to conflicts over priorities and sinful behaviors. Because we were both self-centered, also known as prideful, we wanted to win every argument over preserving the relationship. One of us ended up wounded and hurt more than the other.  

At the end of the first year, Edric and I were emotionally exhausted. We wanted our marriage to work, we knew we loved one another, but the gushy, tender feelings that once pulled us together had dissipated. Our differences polarized us. Since we were followers of Christ, annulment and divorce weren’t something we would ever consider. However, we wondered why we got married in the first place.

Thankfully, and by the grace of God, He spoke to both of us apart from the other. He whispered hope that our relationship could be redeemed and restored according to His beautiful design. Yet the challenge we had to wholeheartedly accept was this: Were we willing to surrender ourselves completely, along with our desires, expectations, dreams, and longings to the Lord? Were we willing to say, “Lord whatever you want me to do in my own life, whatever it takes to really follow you, I will do. I will focus on you and not my spouse. I surrender my spouse to you.”

The Bible gives us hope that all marriages can be rebuilt and restored no matter what state they are in. I firmly believe this, not because people can fix their relationships on their own but because God makes all things possible. 

When Christ used the statement, “With God all things are possible,” it was in the context of a conversation with a religious leader who asked him what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ answer to the religious leader culminated with the challenge to sell all he owned, give everything to the poor, then follow Him. The rich man’s countenance fell, unable to surrender his earthly possessions to do so. He thought he had been pious enough to earn eternal life, but Jesus knew his heart best and targeted his question to address the one thing that he couldn’t let go of. Sadly, the religious leader walked away disappointed, and Christ remarked, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 

Those who heard this reacted, “Then who in the world can be saved?” 

He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” (Luke 18:22-27)

Although the rich man’s question was not about marriage, many of us married, soon to be married, or hoping to be married people have a similar question. “What we can do to have that happily-ever kind of marriage?”

Ephesians 5:21-30 and 1 Peter 3:1-7 gives us the formula — wives honor, submit to, and respect your husbands, and husbands, love, nourish, and cherish your wives, and seek to understand them. However, many women have criticized me for highlighting what we need to do to enjoy God’s design, scoffing at these principles like it’s anti-feminist to come under the authority of a husband and to be his helpmate. 

The resistance to our roles points to the deeper issue of selfishness and pride that plagues all of us. We don’t want anyone dictating what we should do or how we should live or love. Therefore, we throw out the Bible and call it outdated and irrelevant to our times because it’s inconvenient to follow it. We draw the line when we have to give up something precious, when we have to change. So, we walk away just like the rich man did, shaking our heads and thinking to ourselves, “What God is asking for is not plausible! I can’t do that!”

Truthfully, no one can. No one can abide by the biblical principles for marriage without supernatural help. That’s why Christ’s encouragement to us was, “With God all things are possible.”

Edric and I have witnessed miraculous healings of marriages by Christ — the seemingly irreparable and irreconcilable transformed into loving, joy-filled, and God-honoring relationships when individuals were willing to humble themselves. They set their “selves” aside in order to receive Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives and marriages. Whether it’s was an issue of adultery or other sexual sins, exasperation over personality differences, never-ending conflict over priorities, and bitterness and un-forgiveness, God’s grace covered all and abounds in their marriages today.

Some of these very persons are in our present discipleship groups. The smiles on their faces and the affectionate exchanges with their spouses today are a testament to the power of God to do the impossible. Our deep joy is seeing them help other hurting marriages, too!

If you are at the point where your marriage feels impossible or you know a couple who is desperate about the state of their marriage, please consider the 2Be1 retreat on September 28 to October 1, 2017. It’s an Executive Couple’s Retreat in Baguio Country Club facilitated by my parents, Peter and Deonna Tan-Chi. The retreat isn’t a cure-all for marriages but it’s very often a catalyst for healing. It’s also an eye-opening experience that results in life-changing decisions for those who are suffering from personal brokenness or those who have abandoned God’s design for marriage. For Edric and myself, as well as our couple friends, it is a time to renew our commitment to the Lord, and to one another and get fresh perspective on our relationships with our spouses.

We hope to see you there!

Registration Link: 2Be1 Registration

Contact Information:

Ellen Lopez
Christ’s Commission Fellowship
E-mail: ccf2be1@gmail.com
Telephone: +632 866-9911

Retreat organizer: Kelly Liuson – 0918-990-5577

My Speechless Husband

Our home has been more quiet than usual since the ENT banned Edric from speaking for a week. He has nodules in his larynx that may require surgery if he doesn’t rest his voice completely. So he writes the kids and I notes or communicates through sign language. Thankfully, he is a man of many talents and knows how to sign the alphabet. Consequently, I have been forced to learn it as well. I am still very slow.

It’s strange to be married to such a silent husband. Between the two of us, Edric is the talker. Meals are always more exciting when he is present because he engages everyone and likes to joke around with the kids and me. We usually spend our evenings chatting about his day and telling each other the highlights and lowlights. 

Now, I must avoid overwhelming him with questions that require him to answer through tedious writing. So our relationship has been about being together physically and paying attention to each other’s body languages, as well as appreciating shared stillness. 
His forced silence has also been such a great example of what it means to control the tongue. On Saturday when the movers destroyed part of the piano we had delivered to our home and chipped the new tiles we had installed last week, I knew that Edric was fuming inside. Yet, he couldn’t vocalize his anger. I mean, he could have, technically speaking, used his voice but he chose not to. His eyes did enlarge to twice their size and he breathed in very heavily to control himself. I thought he might combust from the internal pressure of so much restraint! 

Amazingly, his frustration subsided which allowed me to keep my cool, too. Needless to say I was so upset at the movers’ horrible service because their damages will be costly. Beyond this, I found it incredulous that they had nothing to say for themselves and didn’t think it a big deal that they were so unprofessional in their handling of the piano, besides chipping our tiles. When I eventually explained to them how disappointed I was at their service they did apologize but they were obviously in no position to remedy their mistake as hired hands. Thankfully, we have a wonderful friend, Architect Michael Doria, who is helping us do renovation works and he will send his guys to fix the tiles again. 

Yet another incident happened this evening to annoy Edric but he kept quiet. Our neighbor’s guest blocked the road with their cars thereby preventing us from getting home. Edric was tired from a two hour drive but he couldn’t voice out his frustration as we waited for at least ten minutes for the vehicle to be moved out of the way. 

Normally, Edric would have lots to say about the two incidences that I just shared. He would have spoken his mind with liberality and included heightened emotion in his tone. However, the need to preserve his vocal chords triumphed his desire to express irritation. 

I find his unusual situation to be a fitting illustration for how we should all guard our tongues. If we internalize how important it is to preserve our testimony and honor God with the words we speak, then I am sure we wouldn’t be so careless about the things we say. 

The book of James expounds on the difficulty of controlling our speech and I can completely relate to this because I often err with my tongue. 

“Indeed, we all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way…And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” James‬ ‭3:2, 6-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Here’s are three insights I have gotten from Edric’s speaking haitus:

1. Even though taming the tongue is so difficult Edric’s self-control tells me it is possible to guard the tongue when the motivation is strong enough. The question is what should our motivation(s) be

Personally, the motivation is two-fold. God has redeemed my tongue for his glory, to be used as a blessing, to praise Him, to declare His gospel message, and not to hurt, curse, slander, or injure others. 

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength.” (Psalm 19:14)

Secondly, I fear God and I am accountable to him for the words I speak.

“But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew‬ ‭12:36-37‬)

This verse always comes to mind when I speak ill about someone. It deeply convicts me because I know that I will be held accountable. Someday, everything that I thought was whispered in private will be announced and brought to light.

When I was in high school I remember talking about someone behind her back and she was actually behind my back, sitting on a seat just inches away from me!  I was mortified! Had I realized that the person was there I wouldn’t have spoken the words I did. 

Well, since I know that God hears everything I say in public and private then shouldn’t that make me extremely cautious about speaking negatively about anyone, even if he or she isn’t around? 

2. Since signing and writing are much slower for Edric, and acting to communicate take so much more energy, he evaluates what is worth saying and not saying. Similarly, if I just took a thoughtful pause before I let words out of my mouth, especially when they have to do with another person or in reaction to a person, I bet I would avoid a lot of inappropriate and un-Christlike statements. 

Often, it is the unbridled tongue that lights a fire. Whenever Edric thinks I am crossing the line by divulging too much information or complaining about something or someone, he looks over at me and chimes, “Loose lips sink ships.” Or, he simply warns, “Hon, be careful.” Then I get the picture and stop myself. 

“Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” (Proverbs 21:23)

The passage talks about guarding our mouths which means that our tongues have criminal potential! It’s one of those body parts that can quickly go out of control if we aren’t checking on it regularly. Before letting it lose, we need to ask ourselves, “Do I have any junk in my heart that’s going to come out in an ugly way when I speak?”

Heart junk is stuff like anger, bitterness, insecurity, fear, anxiety, and the like, which we need to deal with and speak to the Lord about first before speaking to others. 

3. Edric can’t even whisper. It’s actually worse than speaking. Since he cannot vocalize any sort of sound, there is no agitated tone coming out of his mouth at any moment of the day. I am so sensitive to tone and this is an area where we have conflict. When his tone is abrasive I get hurt easily. For the past few days, however, I have heard no such tone! Our marriage has been very peaceful! 

It just got me thinking about how big a difference tone makes when we are communicating with one another. Guarding our tongues isn’t just about the words we speak or don’t speak. It’s also about how we say what we say. 

The secret to guarding our tongues is of course spiritual in nature and not a vocal chord injury. It’s being filled with the Holy Spirit. When we are controlled by the Spirit then we can “speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:19-20‬)

I miss having conversations with Edric and we have a few more days to go before they stick a strobe into his throat to check his larynx. Lord willing, the nodules will shrink and nothing alarming will be found. In the meantime, I have to stay by his side as much as possible everywhere we go in order to translate for him and be his mouth piece. 

As much as I enjoy his sweet messages through his phone or the way he signs statements like, “I love you,” and as much as I appreciate the insights that his silence is teaching me, I can’t wait to hear his voice again! I don’t think I can get used to a speechless husband! 

“Hon, You Have to Be a Better Homemaker”

When my husband, Edric, told me I had to be more involved in the home as a “homemaker,” meaning, “to put my whole heart into it,” I felt offended. He didn’t intend to put me down, but I reacted to his correction, primarily due to pride.

By my estimation, I was doing a decent job. Although I wasn’t a Martha Stewart or the kind of wife that put a whole lot of effort into making her home look Pinterest-worthy, our home was clean and our household help had a schedule that they followed, I had a meal plan, the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator were stocked with food, and there was a system in place for the day to day affairs. Plus, much of my personal time was consumed by home schooling, child-rearing, ministry, my writing, and projects/work commitments, so it wasn’t like I was lazing about as a woman.

However, Edric’s expectation for my homemaking went beyond the practical management. He hoped that I would put effort into beautifying our walls, making it feel “homey” by giving it a more lived-in look and adding personal touches, plants, paying more attention to details and upkeep issues, and finishing projects like my paintings and woodworking with the kids.

Although I didn’t agree with his perspective when he first made the comment, God convicted me that there was A LOT of room for improvement in this area of my life.

Edric is my leader. If he sees an area that I ought to better myself in then why not gladly receive it? I lose nothing by responding positively to what he asks me to do, especially since becoming a good homemaker is a means for me to be a greater blessing to him and my kids, as well as people who enter our home. I remember an insight I got from my very wise mother, “God uses our husbands to mold our character and prepare us for heaven.” Her spiritual perspective often ministers to me.

Edric and my dad are similar in the sense that they are teachers and like to help people be their best by pointing out areas they can improve in. Well, when I react to Edric’s teaching personality it’s usually because I’m proud and don’t like him telling me how I should change. However, he is almost always right. The issue is, when it comes to his correction (and only his for some reason), I get defensive. Yet, if God is using him to prepare me for heaven, then hallelujah, I should listen! After all, Proverbs 26:12 warns, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Furthermore, mediocrity isn’t becoming of a follower of Christ. I should be faithful at everything I do, everything that falls under my scope of responsibilities, which includes home-managing and home-making. Not every wife has the opportunity to stay at home so I understand that some of us have time constraints. Yet in my case, there really is no excuse. God has gifted Edric and me with a wonderful home to steward. How can I expect the Lord to entrust me with more important responsibilities if I’m not being faithful with what he has laid in front of me?

Truthfully, my home can use some attention, MY attention. (It’s different when a wife and mom personally sees to the details of her home rather than delegating these to household help.)

I can start by taking care of the small issues that I’ve been ignoring…left-over construction materials hidden in the backyard…a disorganized storage room…a broken kitchen clock (just fixed this)…lightbulbs that need replacing…family photos that need to be hung (did this yesterday! Woohoo!)… (As I make this list, I’m realizing how pathetic it is that I’m not attending to these things!)

Lastly and most importantly, I’m supposed to be my husband’s strong supporter, his Ezer Kenegdo, his “helper” as Genesis 2:18 puts it. By not embracing what he is asking me to do as a homemaker wholeheartedly, I’m not fulfilling my role as God has called me to.

Three months ago I borrowed a book from my mom, Becoming, which had an amazing chapter in it about a woman’s role written by Chrystie Cole, titled We Are Ezer. The word, Ezer, as found in the Genesis text was used a descriptor for Eve and Chrystie Cole explains that it meant "ally, aid, someone who brings support and relief" (the same word used to describe the Lord twenty-one times in the Old Testament).

It is adjoined to the word, Kenegdo, which means "corresponding to or suitable to." The two words together reveal that women are supposed to be the essential counterpart, indispensable companion, or corresponding strength to the people in our lives. Whether single or married, this is a God-given identity to us as women, fully realized in the context of our relationships with others. We were designed to strengthen and support the people in our lives with our talents, gifts, abilities, and encouragement. Since I am a wife and a mom, I am to be an Ezer to Edric and my kids.

According to Chrystie Cole, “A good illustration of this strength can be drawn from a 12th-century architectural innovation known as the flying buttress. Commonly used in Gothic architecture, a flying buttress provides essential support hat preserves the architectural soundness and integrity of a building. These buttresses bear weight and relieve pressure from the walls, allowing for higher ceilings, ornate latticing, and extra windows. Like these powerful structures, a woman provides an undergirding strength within the context of relationship that empowers others to become and achieve things that might have otherwise been impossible. She is an essential counterpart providing necessary, load-bearing support.”

Is that a beautiful example or what?! I nearly teared when I first read this! Thank you Chrystie Cole!

When I asked my husband earlier this year, “How can I support you as a wife?” (Be warned…this is a dangerous question to ask your husband if you aren’t ready and willing to humbly receive the answer!) His response was, “Take care of the home and do the things I ask you to.”

Even back then I knew that he wanted me to delight in being at home and managing our home wholeheartedly, but I would get distracted and fill up my calendar with other things to do, and simply delegate the homemaking to my household help. Now I better understand that he notices the difference between my full engagement and presence as a homemanager, and my convenient detachment from it.

I started this article a few days ago, but yesterday, when Edric came home, he found me using a power tool (oh yeah), a drill, to make holes in our wall to hang our family photos in the hallway upstairs. I also hung up one of my paintings, which had been stored in the linen closet for over a year. Elijah ably assisted me with the drill, too.

Together with the kids, I started a garden project in the yard, which is something Edric wanted me to be on top of. The kids and I also kickstarted their story-book writing for the seven character books that Edric’s been asking us to do for the last two years, Plus, I spent about an hour trimming all the bamboo that was overgrown and looking hideously neglected instead of waiting on Edric to do the gardening. During my mad-bamboo-cutting-spree, I got bitten at least twenty times by red ants. Yet after a day of wholehearted homemaking, I felt very fulfilled! The kids enjoyed helping me as well, which was a wonderful bonus, since it got them outdoors and encouraged them to be productive and learn new skills.

I didn’t mean to brag in the last part by talking about everything I did yesterday, but I didn’t want to end this article by “preaching” about things that I need to apply myself. So I got crackin’ on my home-making!

There remains a list of things to do that will probably never end, and I’m still not a Martha Stewart by any measure, but I’m thankful that God is using my teacher-husband to refine me in the very best way. Without his corrections and suggestions about how to be better I would stagnate as a person and never achieve my fullest potential as an Ezer to him, my kids, and to others.

If you have a husband like me or persons in your life who challenge you to grow and improve, let’s praise the Lord together! This is going to be good for us! We need this!

 

 

 

 

 

Does Your Child Know You Like Her?

Most kids know that their parents love them, but they may not always feel like their parents LIKE them or LIKE being with them. This is an area of my own parenting that I have tried to work on, especially with my daughter, Tiana, who really looks up to me.

We just came from Niqua's Factory where both of us attended their bag making workshop with other friends and relatives and their daughters. What a fun activity!

Tiana did the wristlet bag (leather) for P950 and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience! It wasn't very easy but she persevered and she was very focused. I was so proud of her.

Edric has activities that he does with our three sons to bond with them and I am finding it necessary to be intentional with Tiana, too. Catalina is only four, and she naturally demands my attention, but Tiana is more soft-spoken. With her, I need to initiate building a relationship with her by engaging her through activities she enjoys.

Recently she expressed that she would like to do more arts and crafts which is why I jumped on the opportunity to go to Niqua with her after learning about their workshop from my friend, Mich. On the way to the workshop, Tiana spontaneously revealed, "I like being with you, mom."

She said this while sitting beside me in the car, with her legs crossed like a little lady. What a sweetheart!

Many years ago I learned about the principle of magic moments — spontaneous, unplanned moments when your child opens up his or her heart to you. These occasions happen when kids know that you find joy in being with them, participating in the activities that are important to them. During magic moments, kids believe their parents genuinely like them so they respond with trust and the willingness to be open and vulnerable.

Tiana feels liked by me when we do art together. That's when she comes alive and let's me into her world. Today, she worked diligently to finish her bag, which I thought she made for herself. Yet in the car, after the morning ended, she handed it to me. "I made this for you, mom."

I know how hard she labored to assemble the bag and hammer in the studs. Her fingers got sore at one point so it was very special when she offered the bag to me. When I asked her why she insisted on me having it, her response was, "Because I love you."

The older my kids get, the more convinced I become that raising kids isn't that complicated. Oh, I get how kids can get very complicated. When my children's needs aren't met, when they don't feel loved, important, or cherished, and when there isn't consistent discipline and discipleship from Edric and me, they act up, disobey, have bad attitudes, and antagonize each other. They are also susceptible to negative peer influence and ungodly media influences (which is also why we homeschool.) However, when Edric and I spend quality time with our children so we can invest in teaching, training, and building relationships with them, they are such a delight! They act very differently, in a positive way, when they experience what it means to be liked by us.

We can take a cue from Christ. When the disciples were preventing the parents from bringing their children to be blessed by Jesus, he stopped the disciples. Instead of seeing the children as an interruption or a bother, he gladly received them into his arms. (Mark 10:13-16) He honored them and gave them significance.

This is one of those tender passages about Christ that demonstrates how we, as parents, should treat our own kids. No matter how busy or hectic our lives may get, our kids need us to bless them. They need us to LIKE them and LIKE being with them.

Don’t Judge Your Spouse

Before the weekend of our 16th wedding anniversary, it was fasting week for our church. As a result I was in a totally different zone mentally, emotionally, and physically. Having slowed down my activities significantly to quiet my soul and spend time with the Lord, I actually forgot about our anniversary!

The day of our anniversary, Edric and I had ended our fast, and we got ready to go to a homeschool event — Family Fun Day, not greeting one another that morning. It slipped my mind. (I assumed it slipped his, too, when I whispered to him in the later part of the morning, "Happy Anniversary.")

Honestly, the day didn't start out right for us. Edric nagged the kids and I to leave by 7 AM to make it to Family Fun Day by 8 AM. Note that this was supposed to be a FAMILY event and we were supposed to go TOGETHER. However, I left my phone and realized it three hundred meters away from our home, so we did a u-turn to go back and Edric was visibly annoyed.

After speeding home to retrieve it, I jumped out of the car and Edric insisted that the kids and me all ride in another vehicle with the driver. He quickly left us without saying goodbye and without giving me to time to comment about this plan. The kids and I stood in the driveway in shock as he took off hurriedly on his own.

FAMILY FUN DAY wasn't staring out to as a family thing or fun!

Inside I was peeved. I didn't want to mouth this out in front of the kids to disrespect Edric behind his back. So I messaged him instead…

"I don't know why you did that. The kids don't understand either. Do you think it was necessary? ESP since they wanted to ride with you?"

No reply.

When the kids and I arrived at the venue, I semi-ignored him until I realized that it was our anniversary! That's when I whispered, "Happy Anniversary" when I finally locked eyes with him. But I mouthed it out with a sarcastic look on my face.

I felt hurt by the way he dismissed us that morning, so I was nursing it, entertaining all kinds of thoughts like, "Why couldn't he have been more patient? Why does it seem like he can't be inconvenienced? If I had been in his shoes, I would have wanted the family to be together, on the way to a FAMILY fun day." (Let it be said that the reason why he was running late in the first place was because of the kids and me, so we weren't exactly innocent. And he made a commitment to the team to be at the event early so he could pray with them and check on things.)

Anyway, there I was, with Catalina on my lap at the venue, feeling like the "righteous," good mother of our five children…the one who was dutifully taking care of them while he attended to business concerns.

Well, it turns out I was the unrighteous, judgmental one.

When Edric sensed that there was tension between us, he pulled me close and said, "Fine, since you are being so difficult, I am going to tell you that I have a surprise for you, for our anniversary. That's why I have been so preoccupied. That's why I left you guys earlier. Don't ask anymore questions. Just know that I love you."

"Really?!!!" Big smile on my face, followed by an apology for being so reactive. Boy, did I feel stupid and childish for misinterpreting his actions.

Later in the afternoon, Edric got home ahead of the kids and me and set up this sweet surprise which involved me walking down the stairs with my eyes covered to the end of the hall beside the living room. He decorated the massive wall with all our kissing photos, scenes from various places of the world that we traveled to.

He also included a timeline of photos from courtship to marriage to one, two, three, four, five children, and the present. Of course I teared as I took in the sight of it all, and I was humbled, ashamed, feeling very small and unworthy, and just amazed at how thoughtful his gift was. Edric is an extremely busy man but he painstakingly sorted through thousands of photos, coordinated with our friends, Jessie and Mags David to print out the photos on canvas, he solicited the help of our older sons to edit and caption the photos, he rearranged furniture to create a wall space for the photos, and had someone drill holes into our wall so he could arrange all the photos.

As for me, what did I have to offer him for our anniversary…nothing. I hadn't prepared a single gift, not even a card, because I had been so wrapped up in being "spiritual" that I forgot all about the most important person in my life, next to the Lord — my husband. Nearly one week later, I ended up buying him an exercise program that he wanted. Yet it was a pitiful offering in comparison to his gift for me. The contrast certainly revealed the disparity between our heart conditions. He was thinking of me, and I was thinking only of myself.

When I reviewed the video that my son took of Edric and me I teared again. And when I asked Edric, "Why did you do this?", his reply was, "God reminded me during this fasting week, that I must love you like Christ loved the church, be 'all-in' as a husband, and keep the 'husband bar' high for myself."

He also added, "Christ has a lavish love for His church, I want to have a lavish love for you."

(Gulp. Oh, someone stab me now for being such an emotional criminal!)

I messed up. I judged him and assumed the worst about him! The Lord dealt with me and my pride, and taught me through this magical anniversary surprise that I have a lot to work on as a wife, as a person. Deep inside, I can be this vicious person who entertains such negative thoughts about my husband and imagines these flame-throwing scenes where I scorch him with my words!

It's just wrong. So wrong. I desperately need God's grace to change me so I can be a better wife.

DO NOT JUDGE YOUR SPOUSE. That's what I learned. Do not judge people, for that matter.

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2)

Some weeks ago my husband made a statement after counseling a couple who seemed to misinterpret each other's words and actions which led to much conflict in their relationship. Edric surmised, "Out of the heart, the ears hear," and, I will add, "out of the heart, the eyes perceive."

In other words, if you and I have spiritual and emotional junk in our hearts, be it fear, anger, insecurity, and the like, we are going to manifest this in the way we interpret what people say and do. We will hear and see others negatively.

One of the tests of a heart that is pure-hearted and right with the Lord when we can choose to think well of others instead of judging them.

Well, I stand guilty!

The good news is that there is a remedy, and it is found in the rest of the verses after Matthew 7:2, "Don't look at the speck in someone else's eye. Pay attention to the log in your own! Don't be a hypocrite! Judge yourself first so you can perceive others properly." (That's my paraphrase of the next verses.)

Before coming to conclusions about Edric or any other person so rashly, I ought to examine myself to determine if my thoughts, my words, and my actions are innocent of selfishness and pride. Are they Christ-like, or are they self-centered? If Christ is my focus, then I can choose to believe the best about my husband and others.

What if people are so obviously awful and don't want to admit it. Here's something comforting to hold on to: God sees every person's heart, and as an all-knowing and all-powerful God, He can expose people for who they really are. Therefore, let's leave the judging to Him.

"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." (Luke 8:17)

"The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

He’s Not the Same Man I Married

I got that title idea from Rose Fres Fauto when she recently interviewed Edric and I for her Facebook page, FQ Mom. During the interview I shared that one of Edric’s endearing qualities was his willingness to change. She looked surprised and said with a smile, “Really? I always thought Edric was a stubborn person.”

This comment got Edric and I laughing, and I explained that he is stubborn about his convictions, which is a good thing. However, when he recognizes that there’s a valid area to change in his personality, he will do it. In fact, he declared this commitment in his vows to me when we got married. He didn’t promise to be the perfect person but to be willing to change and improve for the better.

Rose interjected, “So he’s not the same man you married…”

“Exactly! And what a great title for an entry! I will use that!”

Truly, Edric is a different man. Every year he has become a better version of the man I married. In the first years of our marriage, I used to get so annoyed at his temperamental personality…the irony, me getting temperamental about him being temperamental! We had numerous conversations about this, sometimes over frustrating tears from both of us as we struggled to understand and adjust to each other. (It’s never easy to change a personality trait.) Edric’s reasons for his temper were often due to the high standard he held for himself and then imposing high expectations on those around him, including me.

I had to come to understand this as a strength of his, but he also learned to lower expectations of others and raise appreciation, and to verbalize praise when people did a good job. However, the more compelling reason for his change was his love for God. He knew that as a husband, God called him to “live with his wife (me) in an understanding way.”

Here’s where that principle comes from: “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.” 1 Peter‬ ‭3:7

When the Bible says “weaker vessel” it is referring to the physical frame of a woman versus that of a man. It’s not saying that we are less important. This is not to say that women can’t develop muscles or even be more “fit” than a man either. Yet genetically speaking, most men are larger in bone structure than women. This is one of the reasons why it’s not fair for women to challenge men in Olympic sports, for example.

Given that a woman is the “weaker vessel”, God calls a husband not to look down on her but to honor her as a fellow recipient of His grace.

Considering that the text was written during a time when women were treated as second-class citizens, this tells us that God’s heart has always been turned towards us. And he required husbands to treat their wives with respect and to value them.

In fact, God blesses the husband who treasures his wife, who considers her vulnerabilities, and her need for care. Not all husbands may realize that this is God’s mandate but I am glad that Edric discovered this for himself as he walked with God. I couldn’t, after all, preach this passage of scripture to him to force him to change. I had to utilize the secret weapon — prayer! I prayed for him and gave the Holy Spirit room to work in his heart instead of standing in the way by being contentious and demanding.

Honestly, it was hard and there were occasions when I failed miserably. I, too, needed to improve as a wife, with my respectfulness and tone. God also worked in my own heart over the years to show me that I was called to respect and honor Edric. (This is something I need to re-learn and apply over and over again.)

I want to encourage women who are praying for a future husband and give madried women hope. When I look at Edric today, sixteen years later, I think to myself, God gave me the greatest husband in the world! Whatever disappointment I felt at the beginning of marriage has been replaced many times over by a renewed appreciation for him and for the man he continues to become.

I know many women who are waiting for the perfect guy to come along. Well, the bad news is there is NO perfect guy. No one guy can fulfill every hope, expectation, need, and dream of a woman he marries. The good news is you can look for a guy who has the seed of potential. That’s what I saw in Edric.

Pray for eyes to detect the seed of potential in a man, someone you can come alongside to support so that he can reach his fullest potential. For example, he doesn’t have to be rich, but he should be hardworking and willing to do what it takes to support a family. He doesn’t have to be a bible teacher, but he should be someone who loves God with all his heart as evidenced by his convictions and the fruit of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t have to have everything figured out yet but does his internal compass point in the direction of pleasing God? Does he have a general idea of where he wants to go, at least a five year plan? He doesn’t have to be the smartest person in the world but he should be humble enough to listen to wise counsel and surround himself with people who will encourage him to make right choices.

A few days ago, a guy emailed me asking if he should pursue a girl who is from a wealthy family when he is just a simple guy. I included Edric in the response and told him something like this, “If she can’t see you for who you are inside and will base her judgements on what you can give materially then she isn’t worth it. There’s so much more to you as a man who loves God than your economic status.” (He was someone who was also working very hard and doing his part to earn what he could do bravo for him.) Edric encouraged him to “be himself” since he had nothing to prove. I totally agree!

When God made Adam he had much to do and much to accomplish to become all that God planned for him to be. He was still “in the raw.” God elected for him to have a helpmate and strong supporter to rule the world and subdue it. He created Eve. Similarly, there is a guy out there for you who may be a diamond in the rough at present, to use the cliché, but God is molding and shaping him into someone who will do amazing things for God’s glory, who will be an amazing husband, and an amazing dad. So you can pass him by because he doesn’t sparkle yet or you can be there as an enabler in his life and be witness to the transformation.

To us married women, there’s a gem of a man in every husband, too. Had I focused on the layers I didn’t like, that buried my gem of a husband and hid him from view, I wouldn’t have had the privilege of seeing him shine for the Lord now. Edric is not the same man I married. By God’s grace, he’s a better man every year because of the Lord.

It takes faith to wait on the Lord’s transformative work in a spouse. Edric, too, chooses to be patient as God changes me. We are sticking around, that’s for sure, to be present for the process in each other’s lives and in our own. There’s a wonderful reminder from Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”


Do we have faith to believe that God can do mighty things in our spouses and in our marriages? That God can take our imperfect selves and change us into someone completely different, someone more like Him? 

Love Your Sibling(s)

My kids learned to love one another better this year. It probably sounds funny to put it that way…love one another better…but there’s always room to grow in the area of love in our home. Previously, they spoke harshly with each other when annoyed, and they had conflicts over inane things — toys, things, and personality quirks. 

About two months back, my second son, Edan, was assigned to lead our family devotion night, and he asked his siblings to memorize the passage, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:32‬) He asked each of his brothers and sisters how they would apply the verse and they were all honest about the need to be more considerate and accommodating of one another. 

I want to applaud Tiana and Catalina for choosing to get along in a much friendlier manner as of late, as well as Elijah and Edan for minding their words and attitudes towards each other. Titus, who is in between the two pairs, has always been the easy-going guy, never really ruffled by anyone and very forgiving. 

Today, at the dentist, I witnessed the kids’ concern for one another played out, especially by Catalina for Tiana. Tiana needed to have a tooth extracted since her permanent one was growing behind her milk tooth. While she sat in the chair fretting, Catalina told her not to worry, that she would hold her hand while the anesthesia was injected into her gums. Even if Catalina is three years younger, she’s a little toughie. 


Edan and Elijah also came over to encourage Tiana. Edan talked her through what to expect since he had the same procedure done before. Tiana teared a little but she bravely endured the ten minutes that it took to pull her milk tooth out. 

Dr. Marla Valenzuela, who has been our family’s dentist since Edric and I got married, let the kids hover around her. She’s such a wonderful dentist and always lets them play in her clinic and watch her work. In fact, Catalina expressed to her that she wanted to be a dentist someday. We shall see…


Tiana, feeling the love and support…


Elijah, my eldest, finally got his braces, too! It was a big day for our family’s teeth! 

He’s doing Turbo Braces, a new braces technology which will take less than a year. Woohoo! It requires visits to see Dr. Marla twice a month but it’s so much more efficient than traditional braces. (In case you have a teenager who needs braces…here’s Dr. Marla’s assistant’s number: Nicole: +63 922 848 3776. Her clinic is in Bonifacio Global City.


Anyway, people often ask me if socialization is a problem for my kids who are homeschoolers, and my reply is, “If parents can teach their kids to love the people in their home, then their kids can love people outside of the home. Forgiveness, unconditional love, thinking about the needs of others, sharing, being flexible and thoughtful, these are difficult to apply at home, amongst siblings. Children aren’t born with these instincts. But if kids can be taught to internalize these principles when dealing with their brothers and sisters then they will be able to carry these over into their other relationships.” 
Until some months ago, Catalina used to tell her siblings things like, “You are ugly. I don’t like you. You aren’t my brother (or sister) anymore!” Where did she learn to speak such painful words?! 

Edric and I had to train her and discipline her for unkindness. There was a point when she would even say, “You are sooo ug, ug, ug…” because she knew she wasn’t allowed to say the word “ugly.” Ay! 

I praise God she’s changed so much! Now, she tries to get along with her siblings and control her tongue. She’s turning out to be such a sweet three year old to her brothers and sister. 

It’s taken some years for Edric and I to instill relationship principles in all of our children and they are still a work in progress (so are we), but moments like today, in the dental clinic, were an encouraging reminder that brothers and sisters can genuinely care for each other if they are taught to do so.