Two Become One

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My parents are literally East meets West, a Chinese and an American. When they met one another in the Philippines, they were from two distinctly different cultures brought together by a common love for Jesus Christ and the desire to serve him. Now married for nearly 41 years, and still in love (more so than ever before), it is their identity in Christ — as one — that has kept them together.

While I was cleaning out old albums, I came across a published narrative of how God brought them together, and I was so blessed to read their story again. I’m hoping you will feel the same way…

“Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-24

PETER (DAD):

As I meditated on this passage one morning in December 1971, I was confident that if I asked anything in the name of Jesus, he would do it. There was great peace in my heart as  I prayed, “Lord, allow me to meet my future wife. I am tired of dating girls and wasting time.”

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20140329-180017.jpgI met Deonna in Janauary at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. She had arrived in the Philippines on November 21 as a member of the Crossroads, a musical team for Asia of the aforementioned Christian organization.

At that time, I never imaged that she was the Lord’s answer to my prayer. There were two incidents, however, which prompted me to become better acquainted with her. The first occurred when my younger sister, Beth, went shopping with her. Beth commented afterwards, “she is so simple and wise in her shopping.”

The other happened a week after our encounter. The Crossroads and I were having dinner together. As we were sharing our experiences with the Lord, I noticed that Deonna had a deep comprehension of life. She showed great spiritual discernment in what she was saying. I talked with her again at the next Friday night meeting. That evening, I asked her for a date on Sunday afternoon.

Our first date was a unique experience for me. My original plan was to show her some interesting places in the greater Manila area and get-to-know her at the same time. However, a few days before Sunday, a pastor-friend invited me to speak in his church on the same afternoon that I was to be with Deonna. I accepted the invitation. Not being well-acquainted with Deonna, I didn’t know what she would think about my acceptance of the speaking engagement. I hoped she would be willing to minister with me. I waited until Sunday to tell her. When I did, I was delighted because she welcomed the idea. She remarked that it is good to have a balance between being together and ministering together. That Sunday afternoon, she helped me by sharing her testimony at the church I spoke at.

This was how our relationship began. It was the type of relationship I prayed I would have with a girl. I had spent time with other girls but none of them had expressed a willingness to serve the Lord the way Deonna did. I was encouraged by the fact that we were closer to the Lord and to each other when we parted that evening.

After our first date, we committed the future of our relationship to the Lord. Although we saw each other frequently between the months of February and August, we had to be separated for a period of three and a half months. Deonna toured with the Crossroads in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines in March and April; then in July, I went to the U.S. for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Explo’ 72 and Lay Staff Training.

With the possibility of marriage in mind, Deonna and I thought it would be wise for me to visit her family while in the U.S. During the second week of my trip to the U.S., I spent four days in Florida with them. I discussed with her father what the Lord had been showing us in regards to our relationship. I left her family with the assurance that her parents would welcome our marriage if it were the Lord’s will.

My love for Deonna grew during the rest of my time in the U.S. For the first time in my life, I began to realize the meaning of Agape Love – an unconditional, unselfish love. I discovered within myself a freedom to love her without the fear of losing her or of becoming jealous. Regardless of her response to me, I knew I would still love her. I only desired the best for her.

In August, the Lord finally confirmed that he had chosen Deonna to be my wife. He did this through many Bible verses and through the love which He had placed within me for her. Knowing that Deonna was to be my wife, I was eager to see her. As soon as my responsibilities would allow me, I began my trip home.

I had to stop in Germany to attend to some business affairs. Although I originally intended to spend a few months in Germany to complete my business there, I was able to do everything in a week. Then, I immediately flew to the Philippines with the intention of asking Deonna to marry me.

Wasting no time, I proposed to Deonna on Sunday, the 27th of August, which was just one day after I returned to Manila. I did not know what the Lord had revealed to her concerning our future. I only knew that I loved her and that the Lord had showed me that Deonna was to be my wife. Trusting His promises me, I had the courage to ask her to marry me. But when I asked her, she did not answer me immediately. After a moment of silence, she said, “Peter, please get my Bible out of the car. I want to share with you what the Lord showed me concerning our relationship.”

I never expected her to respond this way! Nevertheless, I brought her Bible and “patiently” waited for thirty minutes while she read the many Bible verses God had shown her. When she finally finished, I asked, “Deonna, what is your answer?” Again, she surprised me by saying, “Peter, let’s pray.” Not knowing what to expect next, I bowed my head. At the end of her prayer to the Lord, I heard her say, “Father, before you and all of heaven I say ‘yes’ to Peter. I will be his wife.”

I opened my eyes and looked at her. I never though that the woman I would marry would say “yes” to me through a prayer to our heavenly Father. Yet, Deonna had done it! I was overjoyed as I thought, “I am looking at my wife to be. She is God’s gift to me.” I remember my prayer in December, “Lord, let me meet my future wife.” God faithfully fulfilled His promise to me…” Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do…” My heart was full of joy, praise, and thanksgiving to God for giving me such a wonderful woman.

I can honestly say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

God is so good. He knows what is best for His children and when it is best to give it to us. Through this experience with Deonna, I have learned that “Faith” means to trust the Lord moment by moment, one step at a time.

 

DEONNA (MOM):

A week before leaving California for Asia, my mother entered the kitchen while I was cooking my lunch. “Deonna,” she said. “I am glad that you have chosen to obey the Lord by going to Asia to minster there as a member of the Crossroads.” Then I observed tears welling up in her eyes as she continued, “But honey, you are already 25. When will you get married?”

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20140329-204257.jpgI was deeply touched by her motherly concern. However, I had already given this problem to Christ and left it for Him to solve. Because of this, I was able to encourage her by replying, “Mother, if there was only one man in the world but the Lord Jesus Christ wanted me to marry him, then Jesus would bring me to him.” Then unexpectedly I added, “Who knows, Mom, maybe I’ll marry an Asian? God might have a permanent ministry planned for me in Asia.” This last statement certainly didn’t comfort her. She burst into tears at the thought of me staying in Asia for life.

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When I left Lost Angeles airport on November 14, 1971, I did not know that Jesus was actually taking me to meet a handsome Chinese man who would be my husband. Nor did I realize that I was leaving one way of life to eventually begin a new life with him in a foreign country. Unknowingly, Jesus had given me a glimpse of my future through my statement to my mom.

The Crossroads arrived in the Philippines on November 21. Manila had been chosen as our home base since the Asian Training Center for Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) was located there. Three weeks after arriving we attended the CCC Leadership Training Institute. On the second day of the institute, the topic of marriage came up again when Becky,  a newly married Filipino staff of CCC, shared with me that months before she met Ben, her husband, she had prayed for certain qualities to be in the man she married.

The results of Becky’s prayer inspired me to do the same. After the institute, I prayerfully made the list of qualities, which I wanted to be in the man I would marry. It was my desire that each quality would be pleasing to Lord. Let me share these qualities with you. I wanted:

  1. A true Christian – a man who has trusted Christ to forgive his sins and because of this, has Christ’s Spirit living in him.
  2. One who loves God more than he loves me.
  3. A man who allows Christ’s Spirit to control him and to guide his life.
  4. One chosen by the Lord to serve Him.
  5. One who understands that the Lord’s role for a Christian husband is to be the head of his home – to lead his wife through his love and not by force.
  6. A man with leadership ability.
  7. A man who is sensitive and understanding with others and wise in human relationships.
  8. One who is intelligent, has achieved the same level of education as I have, has a positive attitude toward life, and one who enjoys sports like swimming, (something that we can do together).

Although I didn’t know where this man was, I did know that the Lord would bring me to him someday. Until that time, I was content to pray for him and to wait.

In January, just one month after I had begun praying for my future husband, I met Peter. Our first meeting was very casual, and to be honest, very ordinary. We were at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. Approaching me with a friendly smile, he said, “Hi, I’m Peter.” I smiled and returned the greeting. I remember little of the rest of our one and a half minute conversation. But, I did take note of Peter and his personality. He appeared very friendly, sure of himself, and capable of leadership.

Later the following week, Peter invited the Crossroads to dinner. It was then that I learned he was in the textile business. The next Friday night at the Crusade meeting, he asked me to go sightseeing on Sunday afternoon. I accepted his invitation. However, our date did not turn out as I had expected. Since Peter had accepted a speaking engagement during our date, we ended Sunday afternoon ministering together in a small local church.

As I listened to him preach, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to minister together like this with my husband.” At that time, I did not realize that I would be ministering with Peter for the rest of my life. Standing before me was the man I would marry and for whom I had been praying. But, I didn’t know it.

After our first date, Peter and I began dating frequently. Each time we were with each other, we were drawn closer together. God also used the two of us, a blonde American lady and a dark-haired Chinese man, to bring many people to Christ. The more I was with Peter, the more I discovered that his qualities were identical to the qualities I had prayed to have in my husband.

Then in April, Peter told me that he believed the Lord was showing him that I was to be his wife. When he told me this, I became excited, but at the same time, I felt uneasy. To be married to a man with Peter’s qualities was in my prayer. Yet, to marry Peter meant marrying outside my own race. In order to make such a decision I had to know God’s attitude towards mixed marriages. I also had to be absolutely sure that it was God’s will for me to marry Peter. So, I replied, “Peter, I believe that a marriage relationship requires a mutual confirmation from the Lord that it is his will.” He agreed.

That night I returned home and wrote a list of practical questions to the Lord Jesus. I desired to know his perspective on mixed marriages, leaving my country, the future of our children, and the type of ministry Peter and I would have. I committed these questions to Him and expected Him to answer me from the Bible.

Finally, five months later on August 24 while I was returning by ship from the Southern Philippines, the Lord directed me to passages in the Bible which specifically answered all of my questions. Although I had many questions which He answered, I will only share with you His attitude towards races. In Galatians 3:26-28, He showed me that those of us who are in Christ are children of God. The earthly classifications of individuals by race and social status are replaced by a new classification for the children of God; we are one in Christ.

After he answered all my questions positively, I was confident that it was His will for Peter and me to be married. Bowing my head, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for showing me your will and for giving me to such a wonderful man as Peter.”

Two days after this revelation, Peter unexpectedly returned from his two months trip to the U.S. The day after his return, the 27th of August, he proposed to me. I did not expect him to ask me to marry him this soon after his return. I was excited but surprised.

I wanted to first share with him all the verses the Lord had given me in regards to our relationship before I answered him. After sharing the verses, I was still uneasy about the future. Even though I loved Peter, I realized that saying “yes” to him would change the entire course of my life. That was a difficult decision for me to make. However, God had clearly shown me that this was His perfect plan; that I should be Peter’s wife. I knew that I needed to pray in order to have the courage to make such a decision. I asked Peter to pray with me. I thanked the Lord for His plan for our lives, for Christ’s power to be obedient to His will, and most of all for Peter. While still praying, I said “yes” to the Lord and then “yes” to Peter.

THIS WAS PUBLISHED ON JULY 12, 1973.

Recently, my mom gave a shortened version of her testimony before our church and I want to add what she said:

My vows to Peter were consistent to the vow I had made to God.  As Ruth had said to Naoimi  in  Ruth 1:16 “…Where you go I will go … Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”

When I first arrived in Manila, the Lord had given me a promise of blessing which I did not really understand at that time from Mark 10:29-30. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sister or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms along with persecution; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Peter and I have now been married for nearly 41 wonderful years and looking back I can see that the Lord has literally fulfilled these promises to me. He gave me a wonderful husband whom I love and respect even more then ever!  And five children and in-law children who love and serve the Lord and thirteen, going on fifteen, amazing grandchildren! Of course, I also have many spiritual brothers and sisters whom I love who are also the fulfillment of God’s promise of blessing in my life as well. Truly it is the nature of God to bless us!  And He has blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined! All by His grace!

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Facebook Issues and Marriage

This morning Edric and I had a social media issue which I blew out of proportion. I never thought Facebook would get a glorified spot in our relationship but it did.

We were biking back from the park when Edric suggested that I avoid checking the profile of a certain person. I thought he was treating me like a child and I reacted. In fact I was not looking where I was headed and I crashed my bike into the sidewalk. And then I starting blaming him for causing my fall!

What upset me was I don’t impose what he can and cannot look at or whose profiles he checks out, and here he was putting restrictions on me for something that I felt wasn’t even worth discussing.

In his words, “I am your husband and it is my duty to protect you but you also need to do your part by not putting yourself in harm’s way…”

Well, I was so annoyed, I disrespectfully stamped my foot like a bratinella and walked off into the kitchen to escape from the dialogue. My response was, “I can’t believe you are telling me this when you (do this and that)…”

I ran upstairs to take a shower and let him finish his workout alone. I began to grumble before God…”This is so unfair and exasperating!”

But the Lord reminded me, “What did you learn in your meeting last night?”

The evening before, my mom talked about humility to a small gathering of wives. Oh the timing!

She very specifically shared about listening to our husbands with a gentle and quiet spirit. This is one evidence of humility.

Amidst my irritation, I resisted for a bit. I busied myself getting ready for a seminar I had to give this morning. When I ran into Edric again at the breakfast table he was placid and calm. He didn’t even bring up my behavior or attitude.

So naturally, on the way to my seminar, I felt convicted. I knew I had to apologize. I was clearly the one at fault. Edric was sincere in wanting to protect me.

This Facebook person was someone I used to be attracted to. Even if I have ZERO x infinity feelings for him at present, Edric had every right to insist that I be mindful of my Facebook activity. I should not be so overconfident. I am not invisible. Emotional carelessness could give the evil one a “back door” entrance into my relationship with Edric.

How can I really say that feelings cannot be resurrected just because I feel nothing now? And why would I ever want to hazard that possibility at all? Marriage requires a commitment to protecting it at all costs, from all known threats, visible and invisible.

Furthermore, I ought to give Edric no reason to worry or doubt my affections for him. And if any of my actions cause him to feel otherwise, then I must be willing to change. As for his own actions, I am not his policeman or his judge so I don’t need to compare and use that as a pathetic tactic to give myself license to research, google or look up men that are attractive. (For the record, I really don’t do this as a habit!)

When I settled this in my heart, I asked for his forgiveness for being disrespectful. Stamping my foot and blurting out cutting remarks were very wrong no matter what my reasons were. His reply was, “Of course I forgive you. In fact I was waiting for you to say something.”

As a wife, I struggle with suppressing and controlling my inclination to usurp Edric’s authority over me. I want to be the one to dictate what I can and cannot do. I don’t always like it when he micromanages my life. But the root of this is pride. God gave me a husband who corrects and minds even the small things in me so I will learn to listen and grow in Christlikeness. He is the one who sees all the flaws, the ones I want to hide from everyone else. He is the one who knows me best, especially my weaknesses. God uses Edric to chisel off what mars the image of the person God is edifying me to be. So it is in my best interest to honor what Edric asks me to do…even during occasions when his suggestions seem ridiculous or his corrections aren’t given in a manner which I would prefer.

Last Sunday the message was about living in the triangle of God’s blessing: we are blessed to bless others, just like the patriarch, Abraham exemplified for us (Genesis 12). But the conditions for blessing are intimacy with God+faith+obedience.

I want God’s blessing in my life and I certainly want to bless others, too. But I need to be in the triangle of blessing first. As a wife, one of the very clear ways I can put myself in that favorable position before God is to apply faith and obedience in the context of my marriage. This isn’t about trying to manipulate a God who cannot be manipulated. This is about believing in and following the principles of a God whose nature and desire is to bless those who do so.

When I had to speak this morning I knew that God’s hand would not be upon me if I didn’t humble myself and apologize to Edric for challenging his authority. And when I did, I felt that halo of anger around my head broken, and I could minister to the families I was called to without hypocrisy.

The ridiculous Facebook issue has been resolved. Edric and I said our sweet I love yous to one another before he left for a business trip with our eldest son. As he went out the door, I thought to myself, why would I ever let something shallow and meaningless damage what is so precious to me…my relationship with the most amazing man in this world, and my relationship with the One who gave him to me?

Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly…
(Zephaniah 2:3 NLT)

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Live In the Triangle of God’s Blessing

Real Socialization

Do homeschooled children know how to relate to other children? A lot of parents ask this when they are considering homeschooling.

From an outsider’s perspective, I get it. Homeschoolers seem weird. They are at home while most children sit in populated (and sometimes overpopulated) classrooms at school. To a certain extent, homeschoolers appear to be cut-off from daily contact with their peer-aged counterparts.

But over the years of homeschooling I have learned a couple of things about children and socialization, particularly homeschooled children and how they relate to others, that will dispel the notion that they are socially-starved.

Recently, I was having a conversation with my eldest son, Elijah, who shared that people who talk to him about homeschooling almost always ask if he has any friends.

Out of curiosity I asked, “What do you say?”

“I tell them I have SO many friends! I have playgroup and coop friends, friends in my music and pe classes, and bible study friends.”

Whew.

Most homeschoolers have a network of relationships like Elijah described. They may not have typical same age, uniform social class groupings that would be more common for school-based kids. Instead, they often have friends of varied ages and backgrounds who give them a richer context for social development.

In our playgroup, for instance, my kids interact with girls and boys ages 0 to 15 years old. We represent different ethnicities and we bring our kids together on a weekly basis. Our kids look forward to this time of socialization. And of course, as moms, we look forward to the fellowship. We are like a community of families with distinct heritages, experiences, values, and expertise. So our kids learn to adjust and get along with all kinds of people and accommodate what is not familiar, too.

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I am not one of those homeschoolers who isolates her children from other kids. (Some families can be extreme, but most aren’t.) However, I am particular about whom they spend a lot of time with. Unlike a school, where parents can’t pick their children’s friends, homeschool parents can.

Some may argue that this isn’t representative of reality. Shouldn’t children learn to deal with the daily stress of bullies, peer pressure, and survival-of-the-fittest sort of scenarios?

Oh come on! Is there any parent who really believes this is going to do their child any good? Haven’t we instead seen good kids physically and emotionally wounded by the bad ones, and the bad ones spawn evil clones of themselves?

So no, I don’t think it is beneficial to subject my kids to that sort of daily social stress. Instead, I believe in teaching my children to respond appropriately and positively to people who are unkind and ill-mannered. Whether they are in school or not, my kids encounter bullies or socially disruptive sort of children. Edric and I explain to them that these kids probably don’t know Jesus and we ask our kids to model kindness and goodness to them. Since they aren’t perpetually subject to negative social experiences, they aren’t likely to adapt other children’s bad behavior or be harmed by them. But these instances give Edric and I enough of a chance to help our kids process what the proper, Christ-centered response ought to be.

I have to admit that it’s not easy to tell our kids not to fight back and take an eye for an eye. When Elijah was pushed by another child in Sunday School, I wanted to push that child over myself! Elijah was only one at the time and so was the girl that pushed him. As a first time mom many years ago I didn’t know that one year olds could be so cruel. Now that I have five kids, I know that folly is most definitely bound up in the heart of a child just as Proverbs says. My own kids pick on each other!

I also remember an instance when Edan was punched and chased by a kid in Active Fun. Edric happened to be there and he was so upset about it, he told the yaya of the boy to watch him closely. The kid still harassed Edan. By this time Edan was wailing and Edric told him to hit the kid back if necessary. (Not his proudest moment.) Edan didn’t want to but at a few moments later he jabbed the kid in the stomach in self-defense.

Edric also called out to Elijah, Titus and our nephews to protect one another and “put the kid in his place” if he went after any of them. This kid was like a wild animal. It turned out that he had special needs and Edric felt so guilty afterwards. He had a conference with our boys and nephews to address what happened and go over what should be done if they come across true bullies in the future.

But the point is, homeschool kids don’t have to be in school to experience the “real world.” In our family alone, our children are exposed to the realities of man’s fallen nature. They see our imperfections as parents. We all see one another’s imperfections and we must all practice forgiveness, long suffering and unconditional love — character traits that are indispensable to relating well with others.

My kids know that the world we live in isn’t rose-colored. But as early as now, we can teach our children to choose the right kinds of friends — friends who will cause them to love God more, who will encourage them to make wise choices that lead to blessing. If they experience what it is like to have meaningful relationships like these now, they will have a benchmark for what to look for in others when they are older. Of course the added benefit is we get to pass on to them how to develop godly convictions so they can influence others positively, too.

Relationships are important. God intended us to be in community — the family providing the first stable and secure relationship that our children need to experience. Afterwards, children can relate in healthy ways with others, and they ought to be given opportunities to do so. Children get to live out character traits in the context of interacting with others. My kids have to share when they play with their friends. They have to take turns and sacrifice their preferences. These are valuable lessons.

My son Edan doesn’t like mess and gets stressed whenever his friends come over and don’t clean up afterwards. Our family value is to leave a home arranged and not tornadoed by our five children. So when others don’t do the same, he feels upset. But I have talked with him about this. He is learning to be flexible and enjoy his friends without creating so many rules for how they will play with his toys or what rooms they can enter to play in.

Do kids need a lot of friends? Well, if you ask me I would say just give them more siblings. But that is me! My children are blessed to have one another.

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When they aren’t together, they miss each other. On Tuesdays, Tiana is home without her brothers because they have their music, art and pe classes. She is 3 years old so a nap in the middle of the morning is strange. But, she is such a social child. When her brothers, aka playmates, are not around, she tells me, “I am sleepy.” And she will curl up on a bed and fall asleep!

There are homeschooled kids who can get lonely like Tiana does. To address this, parents can provide venues for their children to hang out with other kids. But trust me, kids don’t need 100 friends and they don’t need to be with them constantly.

I was just listening to a talk by Gerry Argosino, managing director of TMA Homeschool, who presented a very interesting topic on the commonalities between child geniuses. It was observed that these children didn’t frequently socialize with their peers so they tended to be more creative. Being alone pushed them to invent, play, design, and entertain themselves using their imaginations. While children benefit from friendships, they don’t need a classroom full of friends and they don’t need to be around them all the time.

Furthermore, even though children aren’t in daily contact with other kids doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to be friendly or acquire social skills. My kids go with Edric and I everywhere, as often as possible. This allows them to meet all kinds of people. It also means they get to practice manners and develop an appreciation for other cultures and traditions. We are right there with them so it’s hands on learning.

If we notice that they don’t acknowledge a person who asks them a question, we say things like, “Please look at them in the eyes and answer them. They are asking you a question.” If they act shy and self-conscious we show them how to be friendly. We don’t let them get away with ignoring people.

When Tiana was smaller she wouldn’t respond to people who tried to get her attention. So I would take her hand and say, “This is how you say hi,” and then I would wave it in the air. I didn’t say, “Oh she is shy.” In fact, when people would say that she was, I would respond, “No, she is not,” and make sure that Tiana would reciprocate a greeting in whatever way possible. Shyness, my mom used to say, is rooted in pride. It’s thinking of yourself. Well, at one point, Tiana started waving at everyone, even strangers! Sometimes she still gets self-conscious, but we are working on this.

Having five kids and dealing with their different personalities has taught Edric and I that it is our responsibility, as parents, to teach our children how to behave in social situations and how to treat others. Politeness and deference aren’t traits they will pick up automatically. They have to see these things modeled and demonstrated. They have to be guided and mentored.

For example, saying thank you when a sales clerk helps them find something…apologizing when they accidentally bump someone while walking…modulating the loudness of their voices…giving up their seat for an elderly woman…not running around like monkeys when they are in a mall (this is a hard one)…asking for permission before going into a room when they are house guests… including a kid who looks out of place…looking at a person in the eye when they are sharing a conversation with them, etc. Our children aren’t likely to learn these behaviors when they are with their friends. They may pick up some things here and there, but learning about social graces requires intentionality from parents.

A few weekends ago, while swimming in the pool there was a boy who didn’t have any friends. Our kids were busy entertaining each other. Edric and I saw the boy swimming all alone so we asked our sons to invite him to play. The boys gladly did so.

Edan swam up to him and asked what his name was. At first the boy seemed guarded but he warmed up as Edan engaged him in conversation, asking how old he was and what kinds of games he liked to play. Edan also called Elijah over and introduced Tiana and Titus to the boy. They had another homeschool friend, Santiago, who was friendly to the boy in the pool, too.

After a while, Edan was like, “do you want to play sharks and limmos?” (He meant minnows.) The boy said he didn’t know how to play it. But Edan assured him that he would teach him the rules.

The kids included the boy in our family game of sharks and minnows. Edric and I were the minnows and all the kids were the sharks.

I watched them interact with this boy but I was most blessed when Edan came up to me afterwards and asked, “Does he know Jesus?”

It wasn’t even something that had crossed my mind, but Edan was concerned. It’s one thing to be well socialized, to be able to get along with people. But it’s another thing to care about the spiritual condition of a person — to be purposeful about being friendly and kind to others so we can tell them how much God loves them…that he wants to have a personal relationship with them.

We need to impart to our children a higher reason for being well-mannered, kind, and considerate of others. For our family, the desire to reflect Jesus Christ and glorify him pushes us to look beyond what is comfortable or default-mode in us. We want to be a light and testimony that attracts other to Christ. Cultivating a good relationship with others ought to have as it’s intention the desire to connect them to the most powerful, amazing and loving person of all so they can enter into a life-changing relationship with Him! That’s what real socialization should be about!

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21 NLT)

A Father’s Priority

My husband, as amazing as I think he is, scored 0% for his auditory skills on a learning styles assessment. This has nothing to do with intelligence. It has everything to with how a person takes in and retains information.

Up until he took the test, I could not understand why he wouldn’t remember appointments and commitments we discussed or conversations we had. I would say, “But we talked about it. You said yes.”

“Nope. I don’t remember.”

“How can you not remember? You were looking right at me when you said yes.”

“Sorry hon, I really don’t remember.”

Grr.

After he took the learning styles assessment it all made sense. I became a smarter communicator by changing the delivery mode for any pertinent decisions or content we had to discuss. I switched to texting, messaging, and emailing for appointments, schedules and reminders.

It worked! He would give his confirmation and feedback via the same channels. It also gave me physical proof to show him in case he said, “I forgot.” He he.

This past week we celebrated Edan’s birthday. A week prior Edric and I discussed that his afternoon would be blocked off for Edan. I did consider the possibility that he might not remember but I was like, “Nah, this is our son. He won’t do that.”

Well, he did. The day that Edan turned 8, Edric booked five major meetings.
I found out while I was lying in Edric’s arms sharing a moment of sweet exchange about how much we missed one another. It turned pretty sour for me when I found out that Edric had left no room in his day to spend with Edan like he said he would. For Edan’s sake, I felt hurt and disappointed.

It turned out that Edan wanted to go to the pet store with his dad to buy a falcon. Okay…a falcon. Where would we find anything remotely close to a bird of prey?! Obviously the falcon was a fantasy of an idea. He was willing to settle for a bird that he could put on his finger and hold. Edric and I were pretty confident that Cartimar would have something that matched that description.

When I discovered that Edric had back to back meetings I thought Cartimar would have to be postponed. But Edric was convinced that he could find a way to get there and back and still make his meetings. I was pretty doubtful. Cartimar wasn’t around the corner. It was in Pasay. Nevertheless, I kept things optimistic at home for Edan’s sake.

He approached me several times to ask, “What time are we going, mom?” Buying that bird was like the dream of all dreams for him. But I had to wait on Edric to do some magic with his meetings.

Edric might have messed up initially (which he admitted to and apologized for), but one of the things I really appreciate about him is he will prioritize his family. No matter how busy he gets, when he knows me or the kids need him, he will make a way to meet that need. When he saw how excited Edan was and how Edan’s anticipation was hinged on his availability, he told me, “This is important to me, I will find a way to take him.”

By 11:30 AM Edric picked us up and we headed to Cartimar. And there was no traffic! We were in and out of Cartimar in about two and a half hours, and Edric even joined us for a late lunch.

Of course we didn’t get Edan a falcon like he originally wished for. He was willing to settle for two cockatiels. One he named Beady and the other, Geedy.

A side story…In Cartimar we ran into a friend of Edric’s family who was a pet store owner himself (for dogs) and he helped us negotiate the price of the cockatiels. He was God-sent. Normally, he wasn’t around but he happened to be there that day. So we knew that we weren’t getting duped as rookie bird buyers.

Edan developed an immediate attachment to his new pets. As for me, I was so impressed with my husband. First he displayed some pretty attractive bargaining skills. But more than that it was following through with his commitment to Edan that really blessed me. Edric found a way to slide his afternoon meetings upwards.

As a boy of few words, Edan is not the kind of child who will express gratitude with intense emotion. So when he does, it means a lot. In the car, he was sitting in the front seat with the bird cage on his lap, and he swung his head around to say, “You are the best parents.”

During lunch, when I explained to him that his dad moved his meetings just to take him to Cartimar, his eyes sparkled with pride, “Daddy is the best daddy!”

I know Edan was thrilled to get his two cockatiels. (As I am writing this he is with them at home, acting the part of loving parent.) But the joy he felt when he picked out those birds wouldn’t have been complete if Edric failed to be present. I know Edan. He might have taken the big let down like a toughie but it would have curdled inside him, and his countenance would have shown it.

Sometimes parenting can seem so complicated. I get all kinds of questions from friends and readers about how to deal with difficult children. And I know what it is like to be confronted with character issues in my own kids. But it’s really not that complicated. When my kids start acting up, character-wise, I know it is often a deficiency on the part of Edric and I (in the area of our parenting).

I am not saying this is always the case but our children tend to be responders. The way we raise and treat them; what we model, praise, hold dear; how we communicate that we love and cherish them, these make impressions that lead to desirable and undesirable behaviors and attitudes on their part.

Edan’s heart, like all my other children’s hearts, is delicate and fragile. It would have been deeply wounded if Edric had not prioritized him on his birthday. Edric didn’t need to spend 24 hours with him to make him feel significant. Two and a half hours to and from the pet store, and the prize of two cockatiels in a cage were enough to send Edan to the moon. He felt really special.

A father’s time and attention will do that. I see how hard it is for Edric to balance everything he does. It’s no easy juggling for him to be a husband, dad, TV host, motivational speaker, director of a homeschool program, head of family ministry, and discipler and mentor to other men. But somehow he is able to be around when it matters most. He knows that a father’s priority is his family, and his children know for certain that they are.

I pray that Edric will remain this way. It’s only by God’s grace that he is this kind of a dad to our kids. But he is going to be a dad for a very long while yet, and there will always be something competing with his priorities. The same goes for me as a mother. Edric and I have to continually ask ourselves, what must have precedence in our lives according to God’s word?

As I watched Edan delightfully engrossed in the responsibility of caring for his birds, and listened to him chatter away as he described their personalities…Geedy is “stubborn” and “wakes up early”, and Beady “eats all the food” and “likes to sleep”, I was reminded that it is always worth it to communicate to our children that they are the most important people in our lives.

pri·or·i·ty
\prī-ˈȯr-ə-tē, -ˈär-\
noun
: something that is more important than other things and that needs to be done or dealt with first
priorities
: the things that someone cares about and thinks are important
: the condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first

(http://i.word.com/idictionary/priority)

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Go to Heaven Together

Between Edric and I, he is perceived as the “stricter” one by our children. It’s not that I’m not strict. I also set boundaries and rules for our kids. When I use the word “strict” I mean it in a positive way. Our children know our values, and why we want them to internalize them.

At the same time, we don’t want them to honor or obey us out of compulsion. We want them to develop convictions about what is right and wrong, to be discerning about their choices because they want to please God. After all, they won’t always live at home and we won’t alway be around. Someday they will be on their own. When they are confronted with moral choices in the future, no one will be looking over their shoulder. It will be between them and God.

Some nights ago, Edric walked into the kids’ bedroom to pray with the boys and they scrambled away from the IPad. I had told them earlier that they could play for a little while before going to bed. But it was 8:27 by the time they finished taking a shower and putting on their pajamas. This was just three minutes before their bedtime, so they didn’t really have time to play.

Edric asked, “What happened?” He wanted to know why they ran away from the IPad.

“We were scared.” Edan said. He thought that Edric would say no more playing on the Ipad because it was time for bed.

“Why are you scared? You don’t have to be scared. You know that whatever you enjoy, I also enjoy. I will only be concerned if you are not growing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men.” He wanted to assure them that they didn’t have to feel unnecessary guilt or fear.

The kids looked relieved and they smiled.

They conversed for a bit about playing on the IPad and Edric went on to say, “Sometimes there are things that are not good online and that’s what I want you to be careful about. You have to guard yourselves, because sometimes the devil puts things there that you aren’t supposed to see. And you know, daddy’s not going to be here all the time…”

For some reason, Edan latched on to the line “daddy’s not going to be here all the time,” and he started to cry.

When Edric asked him why he was crying, his answer was, “I don’t like it when you talk about you dying or mommy dying.” This wasn’t really what Edric was saying, but this statement created an emotional chain reaction and all three of our boys were in tears.

Edric very comfortingly said, “I finished a book today and I learned about the principle of a dot and a line. Our life is the dot and we don’t live for the dot, we live for the line, for eternity. What we do here on earth matters in heaven. And because we all believe in Jesus, we will see each other in heaven someday.

The boys’ fears were somewhat alleviated and he tucked them all in to bed and prayed with them. Afterwards, he came into our room and told me about their conversation.

As a mom, I couldn’t help it. I went to check on them, to make sure they were okay. They were buried under their covers.

I hugged each one of them. Titus looked up at me with tears in his eyes and pleaded, “Mom, can I sleep with you in your room?”

Edan and Elijah appeared from beneath their blankets and I went to each one of them. I was laying beside Edan on the bed and he seemed to be deep in thought. When I asked him if he was alright, he didn’t divulge all the details of the conversation he and his brothers had just shared with Edric. Typical. He’s a pretty mysterious fellow. But he did admit that he cried.

When I asked him why, he started to get teary-eyed again. Elijah, on the bed across from him, told me, “Edan said his one wish in all the world is that we all go to heaven together.” And with that statement, Edan bawled again. Elijah was trying to be more mature about it and control his emotions, but he was tearing up. Titus looked pretty weepy himself.

Oh these boys! So incredibly sweet and loving. My heart melted.

To lighten the mood, I said, “That’s my prayer, too! I pray that we will all be raptured together!” (I really do pray that!)

They still seemed distraught over the reality that Edric and I will die someday, so I gave them an invitation, “Do you guys all want to sleep in our room tonight?” Their eyes lit up. Of course they did! The one thing they wanted at that moment was to be with us.

So we had a slumber party in our room. The kids dragged their bedspreads and pillows through the door and slept on the floor. Edric was all for it, too.

We both looked at one another as we took in the site of our five children all around us. (Even the girls were with us.) How incredibly blessed we felt. I whispered to Edric what Edan’s one wish was – about being together in heaven – and then it was our time to get emotional. We had this knowing look as we glanced at one another, we don’t deserve these kids!

What a privilege and responsibility to have their hearts like we do. Our children want to be with us. They are happiest when they are in our company. They feel most secure when we are around. We are the people they feel most attached to. 

I’d like it to always be this way. But the reality is this earthly togetherness will change as our children grow up and as Edric and I age. And at one point, physical death will separate us here. But if we have heaven to look forward to, we need not dwell on what we will loose in this temporal world. What we enjoy on this earth as a family — the like-mindedness and like-heartedness in Christ that is our bond — is but a foretaste of what we have to look forward to in eternity. So while it is sobering to consider the passing of what we hold dear, we must cling to the hope that the joy we share can go on forever if we love and follow Jesus Christ. Edan’s wish need not be a balm of a dream. It will be a certainty if we, as parents, teach our children to make choices that mirror that hope. 

John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

 

1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

 

 

 

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Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

I received a letter from one of the persons working at our construction site asking for money for his soon-to-be-wedding. In the letter he explained that he was desperate because the fund he had allocated for the reception was stolen. Of course I wanted to help him. The guy seemed to be trustworthy and sincere. But at the same time, I had to be prudent and tell Edric about it. (I have been suckered before.)

In marriage this is called the principle of being “under cover”. Author John Bevere talks about submission to authority as a form of protection. Submission isn’t just about obeying Edric as leader. It’s also recognising that God has ordained him to look out for me, that his authority in my life is like an umbrella over me.

When he told me, “Let me handle it. I will talk to him,” I felt stressed at first because I wanted to give the guy an answer right away. I knew he was waiting. In fact he texted me to get an update. But a part of me knew I should investigate the legitimacy of his story, too. So when Edric said, “I will be the one to respond to him,” the stress was replaced by relief. Edric took on the burden and I was able to relax.

In the car, on the way to our site meeting, I told him how much I appreciated his desire to protect me and stand in “harm’s way” for my sake. He turned to me very casually and was like, “Of course. I like to protect you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” (I love this man.)

After our morning meeting, Edric met with the guy to find out more details and verified what he was saying with a co-worker. He also asked the guy why he didn’t email him directly. And he said he was embarrassed. Edric responded jokingly, “Well, the money will come from me anyway, right?”

In the end, the guy’s story checked out. He was telling the truth. So Edric told him, “We will help you.”

This incident may seem like a small matter but I wanted to talk about the blessings of this aspect of submission. In the garden of Eden, if Eve had said to the serpent, “Let me get back to you about eating the fruit. I have to go check with Adam,” I wonder what would have happened?

Maybe she would have gone to Adam and said, “Hon, there is this serpent I have been hanging out with. He’s been telling me that God doesn’t want us to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because He DOESN’T want us to be like him. I kind of see his point, but I wanted to find out what you thought about it. Do you think I should try it? I have been thinking about it alot lately. It looks really tasty.”

In response perhaps Adam would have been like, “Heck, no! And I don’t want you talking to that serpent anymore either! He is bad news. Trust me, honey, God wants what is best for us. He has given us everything else to eat. He is a good God. In fact, next time that serpent comes anywhere near you, I want you to tell me where he is and I will have a word with him!”

It’s interesting that the Serpent targeted Eve, poisoning her thoughts with his lies. Whether she was entirely alone or not can only be speculated. But from the sequence of events, it doesn’t look like she got Adam’s permission to eat the fruit. She acted on her feelings and emotions. She invested time lingering around the forbidden fruit and fantasizing about what it would be like to have it. And the Bible tells us that it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam.

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:13, 14 NASB)

As women we need to recognize that we tend to have same Eve-like vulnerability. Look at the way we fall for men who don’t treat us the right way! In my household alone, almost every single girl that has ever worked for me (and I have gone through a number) has had her heart broken by a man. (Heck, I have too!) In the group of ladies I disciple and women that I counsel, I have heard countless stories of misguided choices when it comes to men. But this is just one aspect of our lives. We fall prey to many other deceptions outside the realm of dating and relationships.

Years ago I read Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and this book opened my eyes to how much deception is going on in my own heart. The evil one still uses the same strategy he did with Eve in the garden — he is constantly lying to us about who God is, who we are, where our worth lies and what me must do to be happy. The key is to confront these lies head on with God’s word.

Married or not, we have to be feeding ourselves with Bible truth. Of course for the marrieds like me, we need to keep learning to listen to our husbands, and letting them be the protector they were designed to be.  I’m blessed to be married to a man who loves the Lord with all of his heart. So he helps me to make choices that are for my good. He helps me to discern what I ought to commit my time to and what activities aren’t profitable. He looks out for me spiritually, emotionally, physically.

After nearly thirteen years of marriage, I still like to hear him say things like, “Stay on this side of the road, hon…it’s safer.” I still like it when he reaches out his hand to hold mine so I won’t trip or fall. I still like it when he offers to open the door for me. I may be able to fend for myself, but it’s wonderful to be able to have, in Ira Gershwin’s words, “someone who’ll watch over me.” I’m so grateful that Edric has turned out to be that someone for me! 

New Years

Kids Need Their Fathers

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Some weeks ago my third son, Titus, was recovering from a cough and cold so he had to stay away from the other kids. Edric happened to see him peering out of the window, all alone. So he called out, “Do you want to go walking with daddy?” Titus was thrilled. He ran down the stairs and put on his shoes.

Edric walked with him all the way to the park and back. And Titus talked the whole time. He is not much of a talker so this was significant. Some of the things he said were, “So you and mommy have been married 5 times right, because you have five kids?” “Someday I am going to marry Tiana.” Of course Edric corrected his understanding of marriage and explained why he can’t marry his sister. It was a precious time, just the two of them.

When Titus got back home, he announced to his siblings that “dad went walking with him.” He narrated how Edric saw him at the window and called out to him. He was very proud to tell everyone.

A child’s self-worth is very much hinged on the attention and regard given by his or her parents. But, I think this is especially true for the time a father gives to a son. There is something special about the affirmation and validation a son receives from his dad.

I know a couple of guys who admitted that they tried to compensate for what their fathers’ did not give by turning to unhealthy habits and behaviors, relationships, and friendships, or pursuing ambitions in order to feel whole.

No one can give back the years that a father was absent or heal the wounds that his flaws inflicted. However, I have also seen men who did not live with the example of a godly father or receive the love and affection of a dad recover from their deep brokenness. Their new identity and self-worth came through Jesus Christ.

Two Sundays ago, I listened to the testimony of a man who was physically and sexually abused by his own father. He was betrayed and harmed on multiple levels as a young boy. As a result, he grew up without a compass. In his young adult years he turned to homosexual relationships and a decadent lifestyle to feel happy. But he was never satisfied with that life.

When he finally encountered Jesus Christ and understood how much he was loved, forgiven and redeemed by God, he became a transformed person. Today he is living for Christ. He admits that he is still tempted by sexual sin but he continues to pursue God’s design for him as a man. He has a peace and joy that he never used to.

I believe that no one is beyond God’s grasp. God can always redeem the mistakes of our parents. As this passage says, “Behold, the Lord ‘s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1 NASB)

However, let us not be the kind of parents who shipwreck the lives of our children. We may not be as bad as a father who beats and molests his children, but are we present to disciple, lead and train our children, steering their hearts toward God?

Most likely, you are a young woman or a wife or a mom reading this post. And if you are married to a husband who is neglecting your children emotionally and spiritually, hope in God. Pray for him. (Look at yourself, too, and pray about the areas where you need to change…we can all change for the better.)

When Edric and I had a smaller family, I prayed for him to step up as the spiritual leader of our home, that his heart would be turned towards our children. At the beginning he was great at prioritizing me and his work, but he didn’t really know how to be an intentional and purposeful father. But as we had more sons, he realized that they needed him. They needed him to model biblical manhood and to teach them what it means to love and follow Christ. And he couldn’t do this unless he spent time with them and built a relationship with them.

Today parenting is a team effort between us. We still make mistakes but we continue to refer to God’s word for guidance. We also ask for forgiveness from our kids when we fail to be Christ-like.

Just yesterday, Edric asked Titus to forgive him for being irritable. While I was correcting Titus and Tiana for speaking to one another with an unkind tone, I asked them, “Do mommy and daddy do that?” trying to point out that they should copy our example. Titus replied, “No, but daddy gets angry sometimes.” He clarified that daddy doesn’t shout but he can get irritated. Of course I passed on this observation to Edric. And he was very repentant about it and apologized to Titus, who readily forgave him.

Edric and I continue to pray for one another as we parent our kids. He prays for me to be the mom I need to be and I pray for him to have the wisdom he needs to lead our family. Author Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I agree with this but I also believe that whether man or woman, before God, we are all broken and need repairing. If we want to build strong children as parents, we have to recognize that we can’t do it apart from Christ.

Furthermore, if we find ourselves in a season of parenting alone as a mother, then we can be encouraged by God’s tender description of himself as father to the fatherless. What an assurance that he will provide in the areas where we cannot! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. (Psalms 68:5 NLT) Kids need their fathers, but more than a loving, godly earthly father, they need the FATHER OF ALL.

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Marriage and The Best Valentine’s Celebration Ever!

I have often said that I married a wonderful man. He is still wonderful and he gets better with age (like wine). Praise God! But marriage has always come with its challenges. We are two very different people. And these differences can polarize us when we don’t make the effort to preserve our unity in Christ.

In past entries I’ve talked about having Jesus Christ in the center of a marriage as the key to keeping it together. I’ve also written about the importance of fulfilling the biblical roles of a wife as helpmate and “lifegiver” to her husband. So I’m not going to talk too much about these two principles.

Instead, I want to share a few practical tips that have made a positive difference in my marriage. Every marriage is at a certain season and stage so not every point may apply. But I hope you will pick up something that will give you renewed inspiration and resolve to love the one you married.

Tip # 1: If it’s not going to matter twenty years from now, don’t make it an issue.

One of the hardest things for me to do as a wife is to lose an argument or a discussion. I can be such a proud person. I often want my perspective and ideas acknowledged by Edric as more valid than his. I want to “win.”

Just yesterday Edric was looking for our bee propolis throat spray. I sensed in his tone that he thought I wasn’t “on top of things.” But, my suspicion was he misplaced it. I even told him that he was the last one to have it. He didn’t admit to this. And honestly, between the two of us and our bad memories it is often hard to prove who is right when it comes to remembering where things are.

Well, I visited him in his office and lo and behold, there was the bee propolis spray sitting on his shelf. I picked it up and said, “Hey! Here it is! I knew it was with you.” Edric looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. According to him he never even realized it was there. This irked me. It was on display just a few feet away from where he was seated, how could he not have known that it was there?

To prove that he must have known, I scrolled through my text messages to find evidence. I remembered a text message he had sent me, asking me to have the propolis and throat candy delivered to his office. I showed him this text message but he was like, “I don’t know. I never received the propolis so I can’t be held responsible.”

What?! This made me want to jump up and down in irritation. Why couldn’t he just say, “Oh yah, my bad, I had it after all.”

For several minutes afterwards, I tried to pursue my point – that he was the one who had it the whole time. But when the discussion was getting nowhere, I realized it wasn’t worth deliberating about. If he honestly couldn’t remember that the propolis was given to him then so be it. I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Did I really have to fight him about it? Would it matter twenty years from now? No. Peace between us was more important. So I went for that. Plus, we found the propolis. Case solved.

Tip # 2: Be willing to accommodate each other’s preferences if it isn’t a matter of moral consequence.

There’s no way that two people, living together with different personalities can be like-minded in everything. Edric and I are similar in what is most essential…what we believe about God and his word. We may have theological debates once in a while but we refer back to God’s word and make conclusions that are based on biblical truth.

However, we can be very dissimilar in our preferences when it comes to our hobbies, interests, and habits.

For example, building our home has been an exercise in choosing to accommodate one another’s preferences.

One major point of contention between us was the master’s bathroom toilet. Yes, a toilet. Edric wanted one of those low, old-style toilets that was reminiscent of the potty we had in our tiny condo (our first home as a couple). For him this toilet epitomized comfort. I insisted that we should not get that kind of toilet. It seemed outdated and ugly to me. But he really wanted it.

After going back and forth for a while, we came up with a compromise. We would get the shape he wanted but I would help him look for an updated looking one. Fortunately, we found one that had both features. He also let me choose all the other toilets in the house. The willingness to accommodate one another’s preferences brought about unity in our disharmony. And now Edric will always be happy sitting on that toilet!

Tip # 3: CHOOSE GRACE.

When we were newly married, Edric used to drape his clothes all over the house. He would remove his clothing and then do the drape thing. It totally bugged me. There was a hamper that he could’ve put his dirty shirts and pants into but he preferred to lay his worn clothes on the back of our sofa. And then there was the matter of his socks. They were like little annoying balls left here and there. I used to get so upset until I was taught this hard-to-swallow-but-very-effective principle…Choose grace.

Choosing mercy was about keeping myself from getting irritated. But choosing grace was about picking up his things and putting them in the hamper for him.

The amazing thing is today he is much neater than me! His closet is more organized. And he has a stand where he drapes all the clothes that he wants to have accessible for the next day.

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Sometimes in marriage, choosing grace is not as simple. What if a husband is temperamental and easily angered? What if he was unfaithful?

If we were to look at ourselves very honestly, we are all recipients of God’s grace. There is no goodness in any of us apart from Christ. But we were forgiven and redeemed from sin by His sacrifice on the cross. When we choose grace, we recognize that because of what God has done for us, we can do the same. We can forgive, restore, and love by his grace.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us... (Ephesians 1:7, 8 NASB)

When we apply grace in our relationships, we experience its transforming power. I have experienced grace from Edric many times. One of the ways he is grace-filled towards me is at night, before we go to bed. Almost every night for as long as he doesn’t fall asleep out of utter exhaustion, he will tell me he loves me. Even if we have come from an evening of unpleasant dialogue because we were fighting or I was “misbehaving” as a wife by being disrespectful, he will reassuringly tell me, “I love you.” That takes supernatural grace! He says it without expectation, without trying to manipulate me. He says it just because he wants me to know that he loves me no matter what circumstance we weather together.

When Edric tells me he loves me and I know I don’t deserve to hear it, it makes me want to be a better wife. It makes me want to change and right what I have done wrong.

We should never underestimate the power of extending grace to our spouses. The effect may not be immediate. Sometimes it may take years for a spouse who is a cheat and a liar to come around, but I like the comfort that this passage offers. We need to hope in God…

1 Peter 3: 3-5 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”

Tip # 4: Give one another a CLEAN SLATE.

I would not be worth paying as an accountant. But I have an extraordinary capacity to keep a record of offenses done by my husband against me. Oh wait a minute, that is pretty common to us women, right?!

Whenever the hurt starts to pile up because I keep adding to this record, I am quick to respond with irritation or anger. It’s not the big stuff that often frustrates me, it’s the small things.

To free myself from recordkeeping, I must choose to give Edric a clean slate everyday. Otherwise, I will keep an inventory of hurtful incidences and file them under “things I don’t like about my husband.” And the more I file in that section, the more likely I am to focus on the negative. Instead I need to have this mindset: New mercies every morning, just like God is towards me.

Lamentations 3:22-23 “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”

The idea of a clean slate is like the movie, 50 First Dates. The woman in the movie lost her memory everytime she went to bed at night. In marriage, I want to apply this by having amnesia for offenses and long-term memory for the good.

Past hurt can often define the way we respond to our spouse. So the principle of giving one another a clean slate is to forgive daily and declare in our hearts, “This is a new day, a new beginning. It is my gift to you.” When we do this we liberate ourselves from bitterness and we are free to enjoy our spouse.

Tip # 5: Be positive.

We can be so exacting of our spouse that we forget to praise and affirm them. Just recently, Edric and I were counseling a couple and we encouraged them to tell one another three things that they appreciate about each other every morning. Everyday, it has to be three original things. We asked them to do this because their default mode was to be critical of one another. As a result, they struggled to communicate what was really on their hearts.

Whenever I start to hold Edric to a set of expectations or mental “checklist” of how he should behave or treat me, I lose that feeling of admiration and respect that I ought to have for him, that God’s word commands me to have. To revive it, I try to be intentional about minding the simplest gestures or aspects of his personality that I appreciate. Soon after, I can’t wait to be with him and spend time with him because I realize what an amazing man I am married to!

Tip # 6: Keep dating each other

I am crazy about our kids but it is really nice to spend a quiet evening with Edric, just the two of us. He is my best friend and my favorite person to be with. Date nights really give us a chance to talk no matter how busy our week gets.

During our dates, we will ask one another, “How can I improve? How am I as a wife? How am I as a husband?” Because of this weekly habit, we don’t have a lot of issues that pile up. They have a short life span in our marriage.

When I gave birth some months ago, date nights were hard to come by. We noticed that this really affected our intimacy. I’m not just talking about physical intimacy. I’m talking about that deep sense of connectedness that we usually share. We became more pragmatic and less romantic towards one another.

When Catalina was able to take breastmilk in a bottle after 6 weeks, we resumed our date nights again. Even though it was very soon after I gave birth, we decided that it was important to safeguard this time together. (Praise God we also found a yaya whom we could trust to take care of her.)

After so many years I still get excited when Edric picks me up to go out for dinner. I dress up for him. I look forward to our conversations and affectionate exchanges…holding hands, hugging, kissing everywhere we go like newly weds. Date nights are our designated times to enjoy one another. No paying attention to cell phones. No gadgets. Just us.

Tip # 7: Pray and wait with eager expectation.

Not all issues or problems in marriage can be solved over night. There may be circumstances that happen in the timeline of a marriage that cause deep wounds. Only God can heal these. We need to give him room to do this. The wonderful thing is God has the capacity to fix what is broken in our marriages. He invites us to turn over burdens and rest in him. “Come to Me,” He says, “all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” And He goes on…”Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

There are occasions when I have to come desperately before God and ask him to do a heart makeover in me or work in the heart of Edric. And he has always been faithful. The answers may not come right away. But when they do, the timing is perfect.

I want to end with a story that illustrates exactly what I mean.

Lately, Edric has been so busy that I wondered if he would plan anything for Valentine’s Day. Yesterday passed and we did not go out. We just hung out with the kids at home. I didn’t expect anything dramatic but I didn’t receive a card or anything.

Over the years Edric has set a very high precedent for himself. During celebrations like Mother’s Day, my birthday, and our anniversary, he will put a whole lot of effort into planning a surprise that is pretty spectacular. But I have learned to be content and cut him some slack. After all, what matters more to me is that Edric is faithful, loving, and most importantly, that he keeps God at the center of his life. These are the greater gifts that he has given me as a husband.

The only thing I really wished was that he would be around more because I missed him a lot. I felt like all his activities were cannibalizing time that we ought to have together. Instead of complaining, I just asked the Lord to guide him as the spiritual leader of our home and to keep his priorities in the right order.

Well tonight, he suggested that we go inspect our new house (which is almost done. Yeah!) Edric and I did our routine checks of the finishing work on the ground floor and then we headed upstairs. When I got to the balcony, I was completely blown away. He had set up a table for us. Music was playing. The kids were jumping up and down (they were all in on the surprise, even our househelp.) And he had flowers on the table and food for our dinner. It was a setting for two.

He blurted out, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

I started to tear. This was our first dinner in our new but unfinished home. He put together a playlist of music we both like. And he even bought outdoor furniture for us to sit on. Edric doesn’t go out and buy furniture! I do that kind of thing. He had food ordered and he asked our househelp to set up table. (The kids were given dinner in a restaurant nearby and Edric and I had the place to ourselves.)

As for the contractor, Edric had coordinated with him last week and asked that the entire second floor be cleaned up in preparation for this evening. Usually, I can sense when he has a plan cooking. But I had no idea. I never imagined that he would be able to go through all the trouble to put together a dinner with the schedule he has had as of late. He told me, “I want you to know how special you are, no matter how busy I am.”

Just when I started to feel a little bit “neglected” as a wife because Edric was so preoccupied with work, ministry, speaking engagements and his tapings for ANC, God touched his heart to do something like this for me. This was the best post-Valentine’s celebration ever! And it was a wonderful reminder that I can always hope in God for my marriage and anticipate that it will get better and sweeter as I commit to pray for it and walk with Him.

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Men Need Men to Become Men

Boys benefit from man-building activities that encourage the development of their manhood. When I say man-building activities I mean experiences that are like “man-versus-wild” kind of stuff – camping, mountain-climbing, scouting – and sports.

When Edric was growing up, my father-in-law, Eddie (Papa to me), invested time teaching him how to fly kites, scuba dive, climb mountains, boogie board, fish, sail, repel, bike, play ball, and swim…among other things. This is how they bonded, in the context of activity. Edric has always remembered these father and son occasions with fondness. And I have appreciated the attractive masculine traits that Edric acquired because of them.

Men need a good adventure and challenge, but they also need a man who has gone before them to pass on survival skills and know-how.

Our sons had the opportunity to take on a good adventure and challenge when Papa invited Edric, Elijah and Edan to climb Mt. Batulao last Saturday. Edric and the boys were thrilled. I was jealous because I wanted to go, too. But this was an experience that Edric wanted to share with the boys – just the guys. I had the other three kids to take care of anyway.

Early Saturday morning, Elijah and Edan had their hiking shoes on and were set to go at 5 AM. They packed their energy food – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, trail mix, hard boiled eggs with salt on the side, granola bars, and water. Elijah was in charge of carrying the water and Edric carried the food. They got to Batulao 2 hours later and met up with Papa.

Initially, as they began their climb, Edan complained about the prickly tall grass and fatigue. But he wasn’t being a soiled brat. This was no tiny mountain! It was two and a half hours up one way with 12 peaks!

Edric admitted that he was concerned as he watched the boys scale some of the steep inclines. They could’ve rolled off to their deaths! Sadly, some time ago there was a woman who fell off one of the peaks while trying to take a picture. She died!

Well, I’m glad I didn’t know about that story before they went on the climb. The protective mother in me might have tried to dissuade Edric from taking Edan. But he did great! He was the only 7 year old on the trail and he persevered. Even though he was bickering at the beginning, he thoroughly enjoyed the hike as he went along.

Edric called me at one point during their climb (amazingly, there was a Globe signal), and he gave me an update on how the kids were doing and how much fun they were all having. What I would have given to have been there! I wanted to see their expressions and be a part of this special moment in their lives. But without me around they were better off. There was no nurturing mother figure to turn to for sympathy when they got tired or tripped and skinned their knees. The boys had to stick it out, suck it in, and push themselves under the guidance of Edric and Papa.

When they got home, they were exhausted, bruised and cut up, but they were smiling like they just had the time of their lives. They also had a certain satisfaction in their tone when they spoke about their trek. Thanks to Papa and Edric, the boys learned to overcome their fears, weaknesses, and put in the hard work and effort necessary to achieve a goal they were proud of.

How valuable it is when fathers and grandfathers mentor their sons and set aside time to help them become men. Climbing a mountain together is not the only way to do this but it sure worked for my boys. They went up Mt. Batulao as two clueless boys but they came down as wiser, stronger, more confident young men!
 

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Stop and Pay Attention

My dad is an incredibly busy man. With all his ministry work, meetings, trips out of the country, message preparation, business concerns, and parenting and grandparenting, I am amazed at how he manages everything with such balance. It is most certainly God’s grace in his life. But he has also mastered the ability to prioritize what is most important. No matter how busy he gets, he will make time for my mom, my siblings, our spouses, and our kids.

The other day he was in the middle of preparing for his preaching series on the book of Genesis but the kids wanted to show him something.

“Angkong, come see what we made!” They were so excited to bring him to their Magnatile creation. He was practicing his message on me but he followed them into the room.
 

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They had built this amazing entrance that looked like stained glass with Magnatiles (a plastic toy for building and construction). My dad went in and out of the opening to appreciate it and applaud the kids.

I watched the way he cheerfully interacted with my kids and acknowledged their “masterpiece” even though he had to focus on his message. The kids beamed. It mattered that their creation was validated by him, that he gave them his time.

My husband Edric is also a good example to me. He is great about giving me license to interrupt him or bug him. When I call him he will answer unless he is taping or doesn’t have his phone around. If he is in a meeting, he will pick up my call and ask “Is this urgent?” If it is, he will drop what he is doing to attend to me. If it isn’t, he will tell me when he is available to talk or ask me to call him again later on. But I really appreciate it when he picks up the phone and let’s me know that I am a priority.

I want to be the same way with my kids. Sometimes, I can be dismissive towards them when I’m in the middle of an activity. Or I am half-present while typing on my laptop or surfing the Internet on my IPad.

It may not be necessary to leave every single thing I am doing when my children come clamoring for my attention. But the point is to STOP and PAY ATTENTION by putting the IPad down, turning off the TV, hitting the pause button on the remote, setting the book aside, or getting off the computer so I can look at my children in the eye and let them know that I am engaged and 100% present when they come to me. I want them to know that they are always worth my time, that they have special access to me. As the most important people in my life, they should be convinced that they are!

Praise God, They Don’t Drool Forever


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Titus used to drool everywhere. He would drool on toys, on furniture, on people, on himself…In fact, he had to wear a bib until he was about four years old! The saliva would just dribble down his chin. Good thing he was a cutiepie because his cuteness offset the drooling.

For a while I wondered if it was something neurological, so I did some research about it. There were some studies that indicated a connection to neurological disorders.  I was also a little concerned because his speech ability developed later than his siblings. He had a hard time articulating his thoughts in a coherent way. His memory was not too good either and he had difficulty holding a writing instrument.

So here was a drooling, not-too-communicative, writing and memory challenged child who was highly curious and got his hands into everything. I could have been worried and stressed but I decided to relax. I knew that these things didn’t have to define his future or his success. God had a plan for him. (He has a plan for him.)

If he had gone to a preschool he might have been labeled all kinds of things but at home, he was free to develop according to God’s time table for him.  I was able to enjoy him without feeling pressured by standards and measures. My role (and Edric’s) was to provide him with an environment and climate that encouraged his growth and was accommodating of his uniqueness.

For his drooling, I would tell him, “This is how you swallow your saliva.” And I would literally show him how to sip it in and swallow. But I did it like a game, something fun, making the sipping sound exaggerated. I taught him how to keep his jaw closed so his mouth wasn’t gaping open.

No one was allowed to make fun of him or make him feel uncomfortable and self conscious about his drooling. The kids were instructed to be understanding and I wasn’t negative about his problem. I would just remind him to close his mouth and swallow his saliva everytime I noticed that his jaw was hanging open.

Well I am happy to say that when he turned four he didn’t need a bib anymore. I know most babies outgrow bibs by two but I was thrilled when he learned to control his drool and keep his mouth closed!

As for his memory, Edric got him to memorize bible verses along side his brothers. At first it seemed impossible for him to commit verses to memory. But Edric would work with him using actions and eventually Titus was the one telling his older siblings what words came next.

When I had to teach him sight words and he couldn’t get them, I made up songs for him and it worked! Since he was inclined to music, this aided his retention.

With expressing his ideas, I tried to be extra patient when I would ask him questions. This gave him time to think through his answers. He wasn’t rushed or made to feel like his silence was unacceptable. He was allowed to process his thoughts.

Eventually he learned how to use the right words and phrases to say what was on his mind. His vocabulary expanded and he became very vocal and opinionated. Of course, he is still growing in his ability to articulate himself.

When I remember Titus as an adorable drooling baby and observe him today, I am just amazed at how much he has grown and developed. By God’s grace, he is a happy, obedient, independent, easy going, kind, intelligent, and confident 5 year old.

We still have a long way to go with training and discipling him to become the man that God wants him to be. In the meantime, I live with the continual hope that Titus’s future (like all my other kids’ futures) is full of God-given possibilities. I focus on the positive, not the negative.

When my brother was a child, he used to stutter. It didn’t manifest itself in his speech but it was apparent when he would read aloud. As a result, he was very self-conscious about reading in public. In fact, he would have a hard time reading in front of our family. When he was asked to read bible verses, he would struggle through them. However, no one made a big deal out of his problem. We didn’t even think of it as a problem. Amazingly, he preaches and teaches the Bible today. He is a great Bible teacher. Through God’s help, he was able to overcome his difficulty. 

My mom used to say, “Don’t see people for who they are now but who they can become in Christ.”

Through Christ, our children can do all things if he wills it. By his grace, they can overcome their present limitations, character weaknesses, childish thinking and behavior. So we need to connect our kids to Christ, and fix our faith on Christ who is in them. And with hopeful expectation, our part is to train them, to speak to them with life-giving words, to love them towards Christ, to disciple them in the area of character, and to use strategies that encourage their growth. If we do this then we can entrust their strides, successes, and accomplishments to the Lord. God knows exactly who our children need to become in order to accomplish his purposes.

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The Idolatry of Equality

It’s Not Fair! That’s my battlecry as a wife when I buy into the idolatry of equality.

Last week I got my nails done and accidentally messed up two toenails by snagging them on a grocery cart. They were such a pretty bluegreen color with glitter on top. When I destroyed them on the wheel of the cart, I absolutely had to return to the salon to repair the damage.

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No guy will understand how important this is. My husband certainly didn’t. I was thirty minutes late from my discussed ETA with him. He expected me to be home when he got back from his retreat and I wasn’t.

Edric doesn’t like coming home to a wife-less house. He always looks forward to seeing me. When I am not around it is a real downer for him.

When I got home, one of the first things he told me was, “You know how important it is to me that you are here when I get home. I really wanted to spend time with you and talk to you about the retreat and you said you would be back, but I came home and you weren’t.” Not the most romantic conversation after being apart for a day and a half. Plus, he was emotionally distant because he was frustrated with me.

At first I tried to explain the nail incident, but his reply was, “So what.” His perspective was if you said you would be back, then there should be no excuse.

But in my mind, I was like, So what?! I was just 30 minutes late! Really?! Hey, didn’t you just come from a retreat?! Is this the application…be irritated with your wife?

I will cut through the dramatic hours of silent treatment and fast-forward to the part where we settled the matter with apologies. I asked for forgiveness for being late and he asked for forgiveness for being over reactive.

The incident really wasn’t a big deal. But, a woman’s heart has all sorts of turns, corners and pockets where residual hurt and anger get stored if we don’t flush these emotions out.

Just two mornings later when Edric’s chirpy alarm woke me up at 5 am and Catalina started crying, I thought, It is MY turn to be grumpy. He forgot to turn off his phone alarm setting the night before. Since it was charging on the other side of the room, it went off for a while. Great, I thought, there is no way Catalina will let herself be put back down after that…especially since it went off a second time! With hardly a night’s sleep, I thought I had every right to put on an air of, This is your fault that my sleep was interrupted. You owe me now. Cha-Ching! Time to cash in on some emotional pay back time. How can I make him feel badly? (Self-centered married people are funny like that.)

First, I tried to make more noise than usual as I got out of bed. A deep sigh, creaking the bed a little, chucking the pillows back on to the bed, picking up Catalina from her crib and talking to her as I changed her diaper.

Edric didn’t notice any of this because he went straight back to sleep.

Sigh. Oh well…

I decided to take Catalina outdoors for an early morning prayer walk. That’s right, a prayer walk. So holy. Not.

The wonderful thing about prayer is I cannot come before God in spirit and in truth unless I acknowledge my sins before him. So I sought to understand the grumblings in my heart and I traced it back to this: idolatry of equality.

If Edric can get irritated at me for being 30 minutes late then why can’t I be irritated for being awoken an hour too early by his phone alarm?

And then a thought came to me. It wasn’t mine. It was delivered by the Holy Spirit. Why are you so upset? Why must everything be about equality.

Hmm…I don’t know. Because it’s my right?

If Edric holds me to a certain standard or expectation then I want to require the same of him…you know, to be fair…

I am absolutely sure that all women can identify with me, married or single.

In fact, some weeks ago I received a comment from a reader (who will probably never visit my blog again). She said she doesn’t agree with the idea that a woman must follow a man’s leading. I don’t blame her for her vehemence against the biblical concept of husband and wife relationships. It can seem “unequal” and “unfair.” It looks like a husband gets all the power and a wife gets the raw end of the deal.

However, this really depends on a person’s worldview. I have a biblical worldview so I absolutely believe that God’s prescriptions for living are for our good. I have experienced this good and observed this in others, too.

Nonetheless, I definitely understand why women want equal treatment, respect, and opportunity. Each one of us, in one way or another has experienced “unfair” treatment as a woman — being labeled, taken for granted, cast aside, or abused. And our instinct is to protect, defend and fight for what we think is due us.

However, I had an epiphany that morning as I was walking and praying. God ministered to me. My cry for fairness and equality was corrupting my heart. Unless I had it, unless I was treated the way I deemed in accordance with my worth then I was not happy.

But am I really worth anything? I am a recipient of grace I don’t deserve. Jesus died for me. He paid a debt he did not owe for a sinner like me. (Romans 5:8) So my worth is really dependent on the Lord, not me.

Furthermore, the condition for healthy, loving, and God-glorifying relationships is not equality. It’s not, “you give your 50% and I will give my 50%.” The key is to keep growing in Christ-likeness, regardless of your spouse.

Edric is a wonderful, wonderful, God-fearing and loving husband. I’ve talked a lot about this in other posts. But there are instances when I’m like, Who is this person?! How can he think and behave that way?! You can ask him and he would say the same of me. I call it carnal seepage – when selfishness leaks out of us.

If equality is the standard, the expectation in marriage, then it is doomed for sorrow. Marriage is so much about dying to self, letting God be the winner, letting him get the glory. John 12:24 says that unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it can bear no fruit.

When my marriage becomes about what I want at the expense of God’s principles and his word, I trade true and lasting joy for present gratification. For example, the act of vengeance can make anyone feel good at first. But a vengeful person is not really a happy person.

Or, what about someone who insists that they ought to be accepted and respected for their lifestyle choice – a choice that goes against God’s design and will for them? How can they be at peace deep inside? Initially, they may feel like they are living the life they always wanted. But give it time and they will meet an emptiness, a longing, and a desperate desire that can only be filled by God.

A few Sundays ago a very successful businessman shared that he once had everything a man could want — fame, fortune, women (besides his wife). He only thought of himself. But at a certain point, he realised it all meant nothing and he wanted to end his life. But God found him. He came into a relationship with Jesus Christ and his life was redeemed. His marriage was restored. The people around him whom he cared about began to want Jesus, too, because of his testimony.

I’ve heard countless stories like these that affirm a truth we must all confront sooner or later. Our greatest joy, our best life is found in Christ, in living according to his plan and purpose for us. The unchanging condition for experiencing this is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and to love and obey him with everything that we are.

When people disagree with this, I don’t lose sleep over their opposing view. If they really don’t want Jesus they can try life their own way. God gives us freedom to choose our version of happiness. Temporal or eternal? It’s like those Choose Your Own Adventure Books I used to read when I was a child. The ending was entirely my fault, in accord with my choices.

So going back to marriage. When I choose to submit to Edric, when I honor him and respect him, when I treat him with greater regard for my own preferences and it seems unfair that I have to give in, it’s not because I have a martyr complex. It’s not because I am the inferior sex in the relationship. It’s because I trust in God’s design for marriage. I believe that he is holy, loving, and good. He loves Edric and me the same. He died for both of us. He has given us the same inheritance in the faith. I know that choosing to glorify him results in my gain and not my loss. With God you never trade down, you always trade up. His ways are always better.

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As a bonus…Edric told me that his new year’s resolution is to be Christ-like in his behavior and attitudes. God has been convicting him to be more patient, loving, understanding, and considerate. He has also been asking me periodically, Have I been more Christ-like? I already had an amazing husband. Sure, he has his moments of “carnal seepage” just like I do, but with God, every year of marriage gets better.

So does it pay to insist on equality? Let’s have a higher standard. Let’s insist on being Christ-like towards our spouse, children, and others, and let God be the one to repay us as we live to please him.