Why Do You Still Love Me?

Edric is a very demonstrative person. He often tells me things like, “I love you.” Or, “You are the highlight of my day.” Or, “I miss you. I just want to be with you.” This is partly because he grew up in a family where his parents and siblings vocalized their love for one another. They were “huggy” and “kissy” and very sweet to each other. (They still are, which is something I appreciate about my in-laws.)

I don’t think I am as lovable as Edric thinks me to be. This is primarily because I know my flaws and weaknesses as a person, as a wife. Sometimes it baffles me to think that after all these years, his affections haven’t waned. In fact, he told me recently that his love has grown deeper and more profound. We must have been on a date when I challenged him with the question, “Why do you still love me?” and he gave that answer. 

This is both the mystery and miracle of marriage when Christ is present in it. I have said it many times that we don’t have a perfect relationship. We still suffer through our conflicts and general annoyances towards one another. However, Edric is right. I feel the same way about him. The love I feel is an eyes-wide-open kind of love, where I know everything about him, the wonderful and the frustrating, and yet, I would still declare without hesitation, that he is the person I would marry all over again. 

We are past the stage where the physical ranks high to both of us. Initially, I have to admit that this mattered a lot. We were very physically attracted to each other. But as we aged and gravity kicked in, we realized that this can’t be the magnetizing factor between us. We still try our best to stay fit but we know the truth about where our bodies are headed! 

Of course, when I first got serious about Edric 18 or so years ago, we connected on more important levels beyond the physical, too. Conversations were easy. There was mutual trust and agreement about values, principles, and faith. 

In this season of our marriage, however, it’s the history, memories, companionship, shared passions, common goals, and oneness in the Lord that matter most. The truth is Edric and I are such polar opposites in a way that ought to repel each other. We discovered this to a greater extent in marriage. 

He is full of energy and highly excitable. I am chill and not as free with my emotions. He’s spontaneous and engaged in every moment. I tend to be cautious and reserved. He likes food to have variety, to be presented in a palatable, intentional way. I can eat tuyo or Paksiew na Bangus out of a pan every day. He is lofty and bold with his ideas. I prefer to be conservative in my estimations. When he gets into a sport, it’s about the competition. Sports are a form of exercise to me. He is accustomed to being served and catered to in the home. I was raised to self-serve. He can get up on a stage and lose all track of time as he speaks. I freak out when he does this, especially when we speak together. He is confident and friendly. I can be insecure and quiet. He sees the big picture. I look at the details. His nose can smell the faintest scents. I have olfactory issues. He gets OC about his desk in the office and his study room at home, and likes to draw imaginary boundaries which designate where his space is. That’s all too complicated for me. When he’s hurt, he feels it for a long time. I move on too quickly and can be insensitive. He generously expresses love. My version can be too economized. He holds himself to a high standard and labors to help others excel. I like high standards when it comes to work ethic, personal growth, and outcomes, but I don’t always know how to inspire this in others apart from my kids. He is more critical. I am more affirming. He likes to fix his closet and organize his stuff. I don’t always know where to find the stuff in my closet.

With such dissimilar personalities, it’s a wonder that we haven’t aggravated one another to the point of falling out of love. That love can grow, bloom, and root itself so deep into our hearts is clearly the doing of God. There can be no other rational explanation. I find all those difference between Edric and me to be a source of irritation. And I know he would echo the same sentiment. However, I told him the other day, “Even if we are so different, I am thankful that we are fundamentally the same.” 

It’s the fundamental sameness that counts, that binds us and cleaves us to one another, that makes us one. Edric and I love the Lord. We are committed to obeying Him and following His principles for our marriage and parenting. The more we pursue the aspects that make us one, the more we love one another, the more delight we find in our relationship. And yes, there is still a lot of romance. Thank you, Lord. 

I don’t think our differences will ever go away completely. Sometimes they kind of spill over and contaminate his personality or my personality so that we take on certain traits that originally didn’t belong to either of us. Or, we imitate what we like about each other. Yet for the most part, it’s a take it or leave it thing. Either I accept that Edric isn’t like me and vice versa, or we both end up miserably disappointed because those differences remain. 

Therefore, my encouragement to all married, soon to be married, and considering-marriage people is to think through what differences and similarities are present in the relationship you have. If the similarities supersede the differences because they cover important areas like faith, purpose, priorities, goals, and values, then you can enjoy the differences as the spice in your relationship. And if you are married and you keep defaulting to how aggravating the differences are, then work towards achieving sameness in faith, purpose, priorities, goals, and values. 

Here are some questions you can discuss together:

1. FAITH – What do we believe about God, the universe, mankind, and ourselves? Are they consistent with the truth in God’s Word?

2. PURPOSE – What are we on earth for? 

3. PRIORITIES – How will we prioritize our marriage and family? 

4. GOALS – What should we accomplish as a team, given the strengths, abilities, and burdens that God has given us? How will we continue to grow and improve our sleeves? 

5. VALUES – What principles about marriage, parenting, and money will dictate how we fulfill our roles and how we make wise choices? 

It’s the fundamental things in a marriage — faith, purpose, priorities, goals, and values — that make its foundation shakable or unshakable. So when your relationship begins to feel unstable and rocky, revisit the foundation. If you need to rebuild, then do it! As impossible as it may seem in certain situations, let’s be encouraged by this passage: “But He said, ‘The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.'” Luke‬ ‭18:27‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Don’t Settle Now Because It Will Matter Someday

After declaring to a group of friends that I hardly get sick, I was hit with a strange virus that left me physically weak and mentally impaired. It was two days of fever where my body crashed and I had no will to rise from my bed except to relieve myself in the bathroom. It was followed by a stomach bug that gave me abdominal pain and diarrhea. And then my entire body was peppered by a rash that turned itchy on the 6th day. The itching kept me up for two nights.

So for 7 days I found myself perpetually exhausted, sneaking in naps throughout the day to regain my strength. I still do not know what I got which was passed on to two of my kids and one of our household helps. But it was a week of forced stillness for me.

When you can’t do much but lie in bed it certainly makes you think about your life. Because I had to slow down and literally do nothing, it nearly drove me crazy with boredom. I couldn’t even think straight. It hurt my eyes and my head to do brain work. So there I was, bed-ridden like I haven’t been in years.

The good news in all of this was how Edric came to my rescue. He came home early from work during my sickness to be by my side. He had food brought to the room to encourage me to eat. And then he relieved me of certain responsibilities to alleviate my stress. Although he had many commitments this past week, he never complained or made me feel like an inconvenience for being sick.

As much as I hated being helpless and dependent while I recovered from my viral attack, I enjoyed his affections. In an age when the independent and self-reliant woman is celebrated, I am not going to pretend that I don’t like being rescued by my man. I love it!!! In fact it matters to me more today than it did in our dating stage. 

It matters more now because Edric has had years of repeated exposure to all my flaws and imperfections. Sometimes you wonder if this sort of reality will have a radioactive effect on your relationship. You wonder if your husband is going to grow tired of you or if his affections will dissipate because he’s seen all the ugliness. 

And yet, Edric remains committed to my well-being. Last night, he even facilitated a discussion with our household help on my behalf. (This isn’t something that normally falls under the list of things he likes to do.)

One of our helps is leaving us to go back home to her province so he assembled all of them for closure. Everyone got to air their concerns and voice out their problems with one another. In the meantime, I was upstairs resting, unaware that this meeting was transpiring.

As he replayed the conversation with our household help to me, he emphasized, “I told the girls to ‘take care of you because I love you very very much.'” He even had tears in his eyes as he said this. He’s a masculine guy but when it comes to declarations of love, he can actually get sappy. 

I am not awesome or interesting enough to captivate Edric’s affections forever. However, he remains committed to me just like he promised on our wedding day. Have there been occasions when he hasn’t felt loving feelings towards me? Yes, of course. Yet somehow this commitment to love me has been like a gravitational force that keeps him from falling out of orbit. At the core of this love is no doubt his love for the Lord. Like I said, it’s not me that keeps his love.

The longer I am married and the more couples Edric and I encounter through counseling and our social circles, the more I appreciate the gift of having a husband who has kept his promise to me, to the Lord. For richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health, till death do us part… 

I knew Edric was a wonderful man when I married him. But he’s version 15.0 now, fifteen years later, and still upgrading every year. 

Young ladies ask me about their relationships with guys via Facebook or through email, and I tell them, “Don’t settle.” Don’t settle for a guy who doesn’t love the Lord with all his heart. From this side of the fence, that’s what counts. 

This sincere love for God has got to be hard wired into a man’s person for him to be a good husband. It’s the one aspect of his person that will determine his motivation to improve and change for the better, and to keep his promise to you. I wish all women would get this and realize how significant a truth it is. 

Furthermore, you will know if a guy really loves God by the way he thinks and acts, by his habits and the people he surrounds himself with, the way he uses his time, treasure, and talents, his dreams and ambitions, and by the fruit of his life. There are many “posers” out there who can put on a show of godliness just to win the heart of a woman so be discerning, ladies. A man who loves God is worth saving your heart for! In the meantime, be the kind of woman a godly man will look for…

To all of us… “May the Lord direct your (our) hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:5‬ ‭

Speak Life Words to Your Spouse

For the last few months, Edric and I have been on this romantic high. It’s been amazing to cross the 15 year marriage mark and still feel like it’s the honey moon stage. This is God’s grace.

However in the past two weeks, Edric and I have been in a state of conflict. Nothing explosive, just frequent annoyances with one another.

For example, last Saturday Edric and I were discussing ministry priorities and he began to share how frustrated he was with certain people we were ministering to. I have heard this same tune before. At first I gave suggestions on how he can reach out to people more intentionally and I felt like he was resisting my proposals. As for me I was thinking, Why is this an issue again? Ministry is messy. People are messy. This comes with the territory of serving the Lord. It’s never going to be easy.

But I failed to acknowledge his feelings by jumping in with my ideas too soon. As I listened more to Edric go on and on, I felt increasing agitation. So I kept throwing suggestions his way.

Edric didn’t like my opinions. First of, he was opening up to me and hadn’t invited me to give my perspective yet (there would’ve been a moment for that later on). But I wanted to cut through all the emotional stuff and just help him fix the issue. (And to think I don’t like it when he does the same to me!)

I was giving my unsolicited advice while portraying him as problematic — a failure as a leader. Naturally, this irked him. He felt hurt. Especially when I lost it and finally mouthed out, “You know what? Just man up and move forward and do what you have to do!” (Wrong, wrong, wrong!)

He very calmly replied, “I would like to say expletives to you right now but I won’t. But what you are saying is hurtful.”

And then he corrected me about how I need to improve as a listener…How I tend to be opinionated at the wrong time. I didn’t take this well.

I retorted in a bad way, “Have you ever thought about how you don’t like me being opinionated because it’s your pride? Do you really want me to be the kind of wife that just keeps quiet and has no opinion? Because I can be like that. I will just be quiet all the time and not say anything contradictory.”

Of course this wasn’t his point, I was just being difficult and prideful.

Had I put myself in his shoes and attempted to understand him, he could have walked away from that conversation refreshed and recharged. Instead, he said something like this, “Opening up to you was a mistake. I don’t feel like I accomplished anything. In fact I feel worse.”

So we parted tensely without a resolution. a few hours we had to minister to a group of couples and this was the state we were in.

I was willing to discuss our differences after that meeting but Edric very humbly apologized to me IN FRONT of the couples. He normally doesn’t want to do any sort of ministry work if we aren’t okay as a couple so this is probably why he spontaneously apologized to me. Of course I was compelled by his humility and asked for his forgiveness for saying the things I did that were so disrespectful. Yet this sort of combative spirit lingered in me.

Throughout the days that followed I continued to challenge his ideas and get irritated for the smallest things. It came out in the way I talked and related to him…like rolling my eyeballs, burying my face in my hands in exasperation, sighing to signify my disappointment, looking away when I didn’t agree with what he was saying, challenging the integrity of his facts, or spitting out opinions that were laced with disdain or sarcasm. The most hurtful things were the words I spoke, ill-chosen and uncensored.

I really praise God for being merciful to me and telling me loud and clear, Joy, you are supposed to be a life giver along side Edric! You are not his shrink or his teacher. Sure, you may not always agree with him, and you may want to change the way he thinks. And yes he may be wrong at times. But it doesn’t give you license to step outside the bounds of the role I have given you, especially with the things you say. You are called to be his encourager. To pray for him, to speak life words into his heart so he will be motivated to follow Me and love Me.

In the Old Testament, Michal was a wife who criticized and scorned King David, her husband. When David danced before the Lord with all his might, stripping himself of his royal garb because he was delighted at the rerun of the Ark, she “despised him in her heart.”

She clung to this contempt and sarcastically said to David, “How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!” Rather than rejoice at the arrival of the Ark of God, she mocked her husband’s honest display of joy.

David resented her reproach and declared that he was not ashamed before the Lord. Bible
explains that “Michal had missed the essential significance of David’s career, that in spite of his failures he was a man after God’s own heart. As Alexander Whyte put it, ‘What was David’s meat was Michal’s poison. What was sweeter than honey to David was gall and wormwood to Michal…. At the despicable sight [of David dancing] she spat at him, and sank back in her seat with all hell in her heart…. Michal is a divine looking-glass for all angry and outspoken wives.'”

Michal didn’t give birth to children after this as a consequence for her scorn. Reading about her again showed me
an example to avoid as a wife. She did not honor God in her heart, therefore she did not honor her husband. Similarly, I did not honor Edric last Saturday or the past few days because I had not been honoring God in my private life. I wasn’t actively seeking to be intimate with Him. Busyness took over and I was too caught up in my own pursuits to minister to Edric.

Almost every time that I am reactive and annoyed with Edric, this disposition can be traced back to a lack of intimacy with the Lord on my part. I am not ready, spiritually, to minister to my husband in the way that he needs me to.

Edric and I have settled our issues and apologized to one another which is why I can write about this now. But I know that my propensity to be contentious towards him will not go away. It will continue to be a weakness that I struggle with unless I forsake my pride and ask the Holy Spirit to fill me.

Marriage so often reveals the areas where I need to grow as a person, and in this season it is to fully embrace what it means to be a life-speaking wife to Edric…not someone who reminds him of his mistakes and highlights his inadequacies under the guise of “helping him to be a better man.” It’s the Holy Spirit who makes him a better man. My role as a wife is to gently remind him that God loves him, that I love him, that God will give him the wisdom to make the right choices, and that I am here to prayerfully support him. Historically speaking, this has always proven to be the more effective way to open communication between us, too. When Edric feels affirmed and encouraged, he tends to want to hear my perspective and insights. So it’s a win-win approach!

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, but the mouth of fools spouts folly. A soothing tongue is a tree of life, but perversion in it crushes the spirit.” Proverbs‬ ‭15:1-2, 4‬ ‭

From Arch Enemy to Friend

My daughter, Tiana, and her cousin, Teegan, are only months apart. Teegan is the big American version and Tiana is the petite Filipina one. There is something about those Arian bones! The difference in height and size between them is significant.

But I don’t really want to talk about genetics. I wanted to write about their journey to friendship.

Three years ago when Teegan came to the Philippines to live, she was excited to be with all her cousins, the majority of whom are based in Manila. Tiana was looking forward to Teegan coming too but when they encountered each other, things didn’t turn out the way we hoped.

Teegan came across very strong and dominant and Tiana was totally frightened by her imposing nature. Unfortunately, Tiana backed away and Teegan was bent on asserting herself all the more in the face of weakness. She semi- terrorized Tiana by scaring her with growling sounds that made Tiana cry. It was her attempt to play but she also knew it wasn’t the kindest thing to do. She intentionally terrorised Tiana to get a reaction out of her.

Thankfully my brother, Peter, and sister-in-law, Jennifer, tried their best to tell Teegan to stop bullying Tiana and they disciplined her when she did. Teegan began to improve.
Tiana also gained greater confidence as we let them play with one another more frequently.

The fighting between became more and more infrequent. It was good for both of them to learn how to adjust to one another. As for me, I had to relax as a parent and refrain from developing a critical attitude towards my niece or her parents. I love my brother, Peter, and sister in law, Jennifer. I didn’t want this issue to come between us. After all, Teegan was only 3 at the time and had a lot of maturing to do. So did Tiana.

For as long as Teegan wasn’t pushing her or hurting her I figured that they would both grow out of this and get along eventually. It was a team effort on the part of all the parents involved, too.

We used positive reinforcement. I would say things to Teegan like, “Tiana likes it when you share with her. That is very nice of you.” Or I would tell Tiana, “Don’t be scared of Teegan. She wants to play with you and be your friend.”

We also implored positive training. We demonstrated to both Teegan and Tiana how to relate to one another and play together.

It took about a year for them to get one another. And lo and behold, the two have become such good friends. They are together as often as possible and they have loads of fun! Teegan is such a sweetheart today. She embraces Tiana every time she sees her and makes her cards for her birthdays. They have make believe games and cute little conversations about girl stuff.

It’s a joy to see them relate to each other so well, especially because I remember the season when they were like arch enemies. I remember my mom sharing a principle to me that has always encouraged me about people and the capacity to change. She said, “Don’t see people for who they are today. See them for who they can become in the Lord.”

Whenever we encounter difficult, trying people, it’s tempting to reject them right away or avoid them to safeguard ourselves. Who wants to willingly make themselves susceptible to getting hurt?! However, not all difficult, trying people are beyond hope. And we may miss out on the opportunity to discover just how amazing these people can actually be, especially when the Lord gets a hold of their hearts.

Teegan changed significantly in terms of gentleness and Tiana changed significantly in terms of confidence because they are two young children who have a relationship with Jesus. He continues to transform them daily just as He will transform every person we know, including ourselves to become the persons he wants us all to be. But we have to believe that with Him in our lives and in the hearts of others there is hope for positive change.

Philippians 1:6 tell us, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” If the work is started by Christ we can be CONFIDENT that He is committed to making our kids, other people and ourselves more and more like Himself. So let’s be encouraged, and let’s not be ones who zone in on the things we don’t like about those around us. Let’s be the ones who recognize that Jesus transforms people!

Respect Issues – It’s Not Cute When a Toddler Calls You By Your First Name

Of all my children, Catalina, my youngest, was the one child who exhibited disrespect through her words and actions. Sometimes, I would think, My goodness! Who spawned this child?

During one particular incident I was leaning over the kitchen island when she tried to ask me about eating chocolate. Since I was engaged in a conversation with one of my other children, I couldn’t attend to her immediately. Instead I carried on with my dialogue. So she came up to me, smacked my behind, and voiced out, “Joy! Get me chocolate!”

Standing at about 34 inches tall, this two year old of mine, with her beady black eyes and dark wavy hair has always packed in a lot of fire into her tiny frame. In this particular instance, she probably did not realize that she had done something very disrespectful. To everyone else who saw and heard what happened, it was very tempting not to break out into laughter. But all of us knew that she had “crossed the line.”
Edric also experienced something similar when she addressed him as “Psst, hoy! Edric!” while sitting on the toilet.

Both of us talked to her and explained why her words and actions were not acceptable. We demonstrated how to speak to us in a courteous and honoring way. And we also warned her that if she did this sort of thing again she would be disciplined for it.

It must have been a week later when I instructed her to do a task and she retorted with a “No!” This time her defiance was very clear. So I took her to our bathroom and reminded her that we had a rule about disrespect and she broke it. In this instance, she received a spanking. A big hug followed and a sorry from her.

She now thinks twice about dishonoring us. Still, it hasn’t been easy to train our youngest. She’s like a bull. A cute one. Very strong-willed. Intense. Easily upset. But no child is too tough inside to train or disciple. Some kids may take longer than others. However, God calls us, as parents to train our children in Proverbs 22:6, and we have to believe that He will provide the grace and ability to make it to happen.

Here are some practical tips we have picked up from God’s Word, other parents who have raised their children successfully, and our own experience with being parents to five kids:

  • Start disciplining and training early. The earlier, the easier it is to prevent bad attitudes and behaviors from becoming habits that are difficult to deal with.
  • Establish your authority. Edric and I love our kids and they know this. However, they also know that we are God’s appointed authority in their lives. He has entrusted to us the responsibility of training and teaching them to learn the importance of obedience and submission to the Lord by learning to obey and submit to us.Our kids have a lot of fun with us but they also have a healthy fear of defying us. They understand that we mean business. For example, we don’t ask your kids, “Would you like to go to bed now?” when we want them to go to bed. We tell them. “It’s time to go to bed.” Period. If they stick out their tongue, throw a fit, say no, or delay their obedience, then we follow through with a consequence.
  • A consequence can come in the form of spanking, withdrawal of privileges, confiscation of a toy or gadget, or a “time out.” We stick to spankings during the younger years which has worked very effectively. And no, our kids don’t have psychological issues as a result of this form of discipline. Whatever you decide to use as a form of discipline, be sure to follow through. Consistency is key.
  • As a wife, I also have to model respect to Edric so that my kids see what it looks like and I don’t undermine what we are trying to accomplish. They have to see that I also esteem my authority. Furthermore, Edric builds me up as their authority by reminding them that they are to honor me. He has had to sit our older boys aside one or two times and address the way they communicate with me. Very sternly, he let them know that they are not to use a tone that is impolite when talking to me.
  • Complement the discipline with instruction. For example, we explained to Catalina why it’s not okay to use our first names. We also taught her how to respond when we give her a command. She must reply, “Okay, mommy or okay, daddy,” with a good attitude. I actually wait for her to change her facial expression or her tone so that it’s joyful. I don’t let her run off with a grumpy and angry face. When it comes to the boys, Edric teaches them how to be gentlemen – to show deference for people. Sometimes it’s about holding the door open for ladies, shaking the hand of an adult, acknowledging a person when they ask a question, or minding their own noise pollution in public places or tight spaces.
  • Be on the same page with your spouse and people in the home. As husband and wife, Edric and I need to share the same principles for respect, and disciplining for disrespect. Since we have house help, we also ask our house help to let us know when our kids don’t treat them nicely or kindly. We let our kids know that they aren’t allowed to disrespect the house help. Another thing that has helped is welcoming the reports of friends or family members who tell us when our kids are misbehaving. We are on an all out war against disobedience and disrespect in the hearts of our kids so we need all the help we can get!
  • Enlist the aid of older siblings to be an example of right behaviors and attitudes. The power of older siblings to influence younger siblings is incredible.
  • Commend positive character. When Catalina obeys or responds to us with respect, I call it out and affirm her. She smiles bashfully but she loves to hear the encouragement and is more likely to repeat the right thing she did. I don’t just say, good job honey. I yell out, “Wow! I am so proud of you!”
  • Spend a lot of time with a child who is unruly, acting up, or having issues such as disrespect. This will allow you to find out what’s going on in their hearts and strategize how to train them and minister to them. Disrespect reveals a more serious heart issue. That’s what you want to uncover. For example, when my older son, Elijah starts talking to me with a tone that is condescending or sarcastic, I look at him and gently ask, “Is there something wrong?” and we find time to have a heart to heart conversation about what’s bothering him. Sometimes the problem is I have done something to offend him or hurt him so I need to apologize for this, or he feels stressed and pressured, or perhaps he is struggling with some inner conflict or sin that he needs to repent from. When the root issue is tackled, the right behavior follows.
  • Don’t model disrespect among family members. A child can easily mimic shouting, criticizing, negative talk, and bad attitudes from parents or siblings. If we don’t want our kids to treat us this way, we can’t give ourselves a reason to act that way towards one another either. We need to cultivate a culture of respect for each another in the home, even towards our own kids. This entails being polite when we talk to each other and to them, being appreciative and kind, and using the magic words, please and thank you. Let’s model what it’s like to be a blessing to the people so our kids can copy us.
  • Pray for tenderness in the hearts of our children. The bible says that the hearts of kings are like channels of water in the hands of God and he directs it where he wishes. Similarly, the hearts of our children are like channels of water in his hand. He can orient these little hearts in the direction they should go. I bank on this truth for my kids. Surely, God can take a hard heart and tenderize it!

In conclusion, let’s not lose hope, retaliate, or be intimidated when our children are rude or ill mannered, especially towards us. There’s no quick cure but with patience, gentleness, teamwork, consistency, positive modeling, and God’s help you and I can train our children to be courteous and honorable towards others. This is God’s will for them and it’s a goal that we can achieve by His grace!

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

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.


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.


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.

“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