Whom Do You Love More?

For all my young readers out there, this post is for you. I shared it during this morning’s church service and I hope it will bless and encourage you! 


Ever since I was a child I cared about what people thought about me. I was a self-conscious person and a people-pleaser. This character weakness was tested especially in college, when I was no longer homeschooled or in a Christian school.

After graduating from an American school for missionaries called Faith Academy, most of my friends left for the US or Europe after high school, and I had to make friends from scratch. I didn’t know people in college like most students did. 

Eventually, however, I had a group of friends I started hanging out with who kind of took me “under their wing.” They were a great bunch of friends – intelligent, beautiful, kind-hearted, and fun to be with. However, they also belonged to a crowd who enjoyed going out to bars and clubs on Wednesday nights and the weekends.

When I first started frequenting bars with my college friends I thought I would never drink alcohol. It didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t grow up in a home where alcohol or cigarettes were common. And the high school I went to didn’t allow students to have either. So I would sit around and watch everybody with some sort of booze in their one hand, most often beer, while they checked each other out and chatted each other up. A lot of it was flirting between guys and girls, or sitting around with your group of friends while some guy treated you all to drinks.

At the beginning, I thought, What am I doing here?! This is a slow way to die, inhaling all this second hand smoke! It was almost intolerable, but I would go anyway, to be with my girl friends. Almost always, I would feel out of place, uncomfortable about connecting with people in an environment that seemed to be the worst place to engage in genuine conversation.

Nevertheless, I wanted to fit in somehow. So I thought, Why not try just a little alcohol? It’s not like the Bible says that drinking is sinful. To be honest I didn’t like the taste at all at first, but participating in the same things my friends did made me feel closer to them, more accepted, and this mattered to me.

The tipping point for me was going on an out of town trip for a football match. Our team went to a bar afterwards to celebrate, and getting a buzz from my cocktails gave me an exhilarating sense of freedom. I felt more confident, more gregarious. I do recall receiving surprised and concerned looks from people who knew me to be the conservative Christian. But I rationalized, “Hey, I can do this. I am still in control and I’m not doing anything stupid.”

I would rarely drink to the point of tipsiness, but there were a few times that I got carried away and did some ridiculous things.  One time I kissed a friend in public (someone I would never ever have kissed) while wearing my angel outfit and halo at a halloween party. The irony. My girl friends rushed over to pry me away, scolding our friend when it wasn’t even his fault. Another time, I got drunk and threw up out of a window of a moving vehicle. Yet another time, I danced like an idiot on the ledge of a club that had a lot of lecherous looking old men in it. In Europe, on a month-long trip with my friends (which was a blast), we would be out every night we could dancing with strangers and going out with people we hardly knew.

Thankfully, this season of my life was short-lived. After a while, I thought to myself, Why am I doing these things? Do I really want to be this person? I don’t even like alcohol! Furthermore, I recognized that my root problem was not the actual drinking or nights out, but the desire to have people’s approval.

Amazingly, when I told my parents about my night time adventures and the places I went go to they were NOT reactive. They didn’t scold me or condemn my friends. They didn’t pressure me to live up to the expectations of a pastor’s kid (which would have probably incited me to rebellion). Instead, their style was to spend time with me and ask me questions like, “So why do you like to drink?” They tried to understand my motivations so they could better disciple me. After all, it wasn’t my behavior that was the issue to them. It was my heart. So they prayed faithfully for me. They prayed a lot! And they reminded me that I was accountable to God.

Since they weren’t the kind of parents who were suffocatingly strict and unreasonable, or the kind of parents who micromanaged every choice their kids made, I appreciated and respected their input. More importantly, their talk-less, listen-and-dialogue-more method of mentoring me gave the Holy Spirit the space to speak to me and convict me.

I began to be deeply disturbed about the trajectory I was headed in. I knew I was a follower of Jesus. Yet my motivations revealed that I valued what people thought about me more than God’s opinion of me. Did I really love Jesus with all my heart?

Furthermore if I really loved Jesus then I would live to please him above all else. My goal would be to glorify Him, and to pursue Christ likeness and righteousness. But at that point I couldn’t confidently say that my life inspired others to follow Christ. Living with this dichotomy — professing to love God yet having little fruit to show as evidence, troubled me. I didn’t have peace.

So I went back to the convictions that my parents passed on to me when I was younger — truths that hooked me back into the will of God before I wandered too far off course. I made the decision to honour God and glorify Him. If I truly loved Him, this would be a priority to me.  It wouldn’t even be about whether drinking was okay or not. (Sometimes we can be so legalistic and judgmental as followers of Christ, equating spirituality with this image of someone who doesn’t drink, smoke, dance, go to clubs or maybe even movie theaters! Nevertheless, I do believe that everyone who likes to do things like drink or smoke should assess why they do. And if their reasons signal red flags like addiction, dependence, peer acceptance, or remedies for stress, etc…then it may very well benefit them to ask the same questions I had to.)

For me the more important questions were, “How do I live in such a way that people will be attracted to Jesus Christ in me? What does God see when He looks into my heart?” In response, I changed my Wednesday and weekend habits. I stopped going to bars and clubs in order to “fit in.” 

This didn’t mean that I lost all my friends either. I loved these girls. I still do. And when we can, we get together for meals or coffee, occasions when we can really connect and talk.

Another, more serious test came when I had my second boyfriend, the same boyfriend who eventually became my husband whom you know as my one and only, Edric Mendoza. We struggled in the area of physical purity. We didn’t have sex but we pushed things to the absolute limit. I knew that I was making compromises that were not pleasing to God, but a part of me also wanted to hold on to Edric’s affections for me. There were moments when I would deceivingly think, this isn’t so bad. It’s not like we are having sex. But I had lowered my standards for holiness and purity by comparing my actions to what “other people are doing.”

Once again, I had to ask myself the same question, Do I really love Jesus more than I love Edric? 

Because the struggle with purity continued no matter what tricks we tried to avoid temptation, we were compelled to consider breaking up. Edric also loved God and wanted to do what was right. So we broke off the relationship without any timetable for getting back together. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do and Edric would say the same thing, but it was also one of the best decisions we ever made.

Edric was an idol in my life whom I had to surrender to God. When I did so, my passion for the Lord was rekindled. Prior to this, my struggle with purity had put a wedge and cap on my ability to grow spiritually. Edric also grew deeper in His faith.

Eventually, God allowed us to get married with the approval and blessing of our parents, and after full disclosure to them. By this time our hearts were prepared to love each other the way God called us to. We understood that in any relationship, Christ must be the center. A husband and wife must love Jesus first to love each other the way they should.

Not all love stories may end this same way, but I do believe that when we love God with all that we are He gives us His best in return, which is first and foremost Himself. Everything else is a bonus!

Mendoza_119Today I am happily married to Edric. We have five children. And we are serving the Lord as a team and teaching our children to love Him. The stories that I shared are almost twenty years old, but they remain significant because they were turning points in my life, when I made a conscious choice to love God and obey Him over something else or someone else that was important to me.

John 14:21 says, He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

We may have to sacrifice and experience challenges as we love God with all that we are, but He promises fullness of joy!

“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” ‭‭John‬ ‭15:9-11‬ ‭NASB‬‬

By God’s grace, the best and sweetest years of my life so far have been those that I have given wholeheartedly to loving, following, obeying, and serving God. When I am tempted to replace this love for God with something else (because struggles still exist), I tell myself, Nothing is better than Christ. And nothing will ever satisfy me more than to seek Him and obey His will! 

Number Our Days

Edric spoke on numbering our days during the Sunday Service two days ago. It was an inspiring message that challenged the audience to consider how we use the time we have.

Psalm 90:12 says, So teach us to number our days that we may present to You (God) a heart of wisdom.

Life is short. Our friend, Steve Reed, passed away at 30. Another friend of the family, Jay Lucas, died of cancer shortly after it relapsed. And my grandfather (Angkong) departed at 96. None of us know the length of our days on this earth. It can be a few years or many, but in the end, it’s merely a dash between the year we are born and the year we die. 

Therefore, Edric challenged us to adopt the perspective of Kerry and Chris Shook in their book, “One Month to Live.” Edric read this back in 2008, but it tied in perfectly with his New Year’s challenge for us. 

If each of us had only one month to live, what would we do differently? Why aren’t we doing these things now? 

He pulled out three points from their book: Live passionately, love completely, and learn humbly. 

Live passionately for the Lord. This is about building God’s kingdom and not our own. Do we look to meet the spiritual needs of those around us and minister to them? Or, are we too busy pursuing the temporal things — money, fame, power?

Personally, I need to improve on sharing the gospel with people in a one-on-one context. I talk about Jesus on my site, the gospel story is in my book, and I insert the gospel message when I speak in front of audiences, but sometimes, I am too preoccupied to strike up a conversation with a sales lady, clerk, beautician, massage therapist, etc, and I forget that these are missed opportunities to tell them that they are infinitely loved by God, that He wants to have a personal relationship with them. Instead, I am thinking about whether they are serving me the way they ought to, or if I am getting my goals accomplished. People become a means to an end. But God wants me to consider their end. My mom, who talks about Jesus as often as she can, says, “When we don’t share the gospel, it’s like telling people to go to hell.” 

Very recently, I read Ezekiel again, and I highlighted the passage that speaks about how we are accountable to tell people the truth. Whether they receive it isn’t our problem, but if we don’t declare God’s Word He will hold us responsible as His “watchmen.”

“”Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand.” Ezekiel‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭

Living passionately for the Lord is also about being contagious Christians. Do we do our best at work, home, ministry? Do we use our talents, gifts and abilities to glorify God? If people were to examine our lives closely, would they be able to conclude with absolute certainty that we are followers of Christ? Would they be attracted to the joy, peace and love they see, and desire the same for themselves? 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭

Love completely is about forgiving and unconditionally accepting the people in our lives. If we were to number our days, knowing that life is too short to squander on anger and bitterness, would we choose to end our days with unresolved conflicts or issues in our marriages, with our children, siblings or others? 
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.‭‭” Colossians‬ ‭3:12-14‬ ‭

Learn humbly involves the willingness to change, to listen and receive correction and criticism, or to seek to grow and mature in areas of weakness. 

  God gave Edric and me the perfect opportunity to apply all three aspects of numbering our days. We traveled to the beach with the kids without yayas. Catalina is two so I am trying to help her become more independent. But it’s never simple to travel with five kids. It’s a lot of fun but it requires Edric and me to be hands-on at all times. Thankfully, our older sons are a big blessing. They give us breaks and take over when they can. Yet like I said, family vacations can be a good test of living passionately, loving completely and learning humbly. 

  Just today, on the way home from the beach, we nearly lost Catalina who walked off to go exploring in the hotel. Edric panicked and raised his voice at Elijah, whom he assumed was tasked to babysit her because she was last seen with him. Elijah darted off in tears, looking for Catalina, feeling terrible. The other kids said, “Why did dad shout?”

I glared at Edric for losing his cool in front of the children and went hunting for Catalina. She wasn’t lost at all. I found her playing with her cousin in the dining area, unaware of the distress her momentary disappearance had caused everyone. 

In the car, there was an icy silence as Edric and I anticipated who would apologize first. He began by identifying who was to blame and commanded me to say sorry to everyone for being the main person responsible for Catalina. After I did, I retorted, “You need to apologize, too, for shouting at Elijah. Shouting doesn’t help anyone solve a problem. You simply agitated everyone with your response. It wasn’t right.” 

I usually keep quiet and let the Holy Spirit convict him, but I was so annoyed that I let the words roll off my tongue without restraint. He didn’t appreciate this at all, but he did ask for our forgiveness to be a good example. Neither of us were satisfied with each other’s apology. We sense the lingering frustration and anger between us. (It’s only by God’s grace that we are able to recover from these situations.)
When both ended up re-doing our apologies with sincerity and we also chose to forgive one another and let go of the resentment. We applied the principle of “numbering our days.”

First, we were un-Christlike examples to our kids. And living passionately for the Lord must be evident to our most sensitive audience first — our children. Edric spoke to Elijah and really humbled himself before all of us. I also asked for forgiveness for being disrespectful towards Edric. 

Second, loving completely means I needed to forgive Edric as he needed to forgive me. We didn’t feel like it. AT ALL. We were thoroughly aggravated with one another for the mistakes we made. But God asks us to forgive, just as He has forgiven us. After we did so, the anger dissipated. 

Third, we learned humbly by acknowledging our wrongs to one another. When Edric was correcting me and criticizing me for neglecting Catalina, I wanted to defend myself and list down the many ways I took care of her during the trip. I felt like he took that one moment and gave me a rating of “F” for my mother skills. But I apologized because it only takes one accident or careless instance to lose a child and I did mess up. I did not keep a diligent eye on her and assumed that Elijah was entertaining her with an educational game. Furthermore, I made Edric look badly in front of the kids with my tone and words when I could have spoke to him in private about raising his voice. This was wrong. 

I praise God that by the end of our journey all was resolved and our relationships were restored.
We all need to number our days, to consider how we want to spend the time God has gifted us with. Are we living passionately for Him, loving others completely (especially our spouse and children), and learning humbly by choosing to become more like Christ? 

God will hold us accountable for the manner in which we invest each moment, each hour, each day, each year, and each lifetime. May He find us faithful and wise, people who understand the brevity of life and make choices that please Him! 

  
““The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! ’” Matthew‬ ‭25:21‬ ‭

Forever Spring


  We buried my angkong today. It was a tearful goodbye but the joy of knowing he entered into eternity with the Lord superseded the sorrow of his parting.

“He is in heaven with Jesus,” Catalina said after I explained to her that it was merely his body that we were looking at inside the casket. He also lived to be 96 years old and passed rather peacefully, dying of old age rather than sickness. What more could we have asked for? God was gracious to him.


   Furthermore, he spent the last six years living with my parents after the calamitous flooding of Typhoon Ondoy struck, which gave our side of the family special time with him. My parents diligently cared for him. They also interacted with him daily, took him traveling, brought him to worship services, family gatherings, and events.

Dad believed in honoring his father this way. I remember my dad quoting angkong, who told his children, “Be kind and do good to us (your parents) while we are alive, and don’t do things like build a mausoleum for us when we are dead, when it won’t matter.” My dad took this to heart. He didn’t want to live with regret. More importantly, he respected his parents very much.

When I found out that angkong died last Sunday, I grieved his departure. Although he deteriorated significantly in the last year and I knew he would probably go soon, his death still saddened me. It’s never easy to lose a family member. And I know it was sobering for my parents. Seeing them cry wasn’t easy.

To honor angkong, I decided to write a memoir that can be passed on to my children. I want them to remember the man he was and the legacy he left behind. Piecing together information from my aunt who flew in from Canada (the oldest sibling), my dad, and eulogies given by relatives during the wake services, I highlighted the salient details of his life.

Angkong, formally known to others as Ernesto Tan-Chi Sr., was born in the year 1919, in Fujian province in China. He grew up in a town, YongChun, which means “Forever Spring.”


Forever spring. What a fitting phrase to describe my angkong — a man who exuded life and positivity. Angkong radiated confidence and he captivated people, strangers included, with his charm and friendliness.

In the early 1940s he met my grandmather, Luisa, whose family was from Fujian as well. Ama, as we called her, studied at a prestigious university in Shanghai but grew up in Manila. She was born into a traditional Chinese family. I discovered that her mother (my great grandmother) had incredibly tiny feet because they were bound when she was younger. According to my aunt, the smaller the feet the more desirable. Apparently, rich families practiced feet binding. (Thank God that painful practice stopped with my great grandmother!)

Angkong and ama found each other in the Philippines. Angkong migrated to the Philippines and first worked as a caragador. Then he got a break as a salesman in Divisoria, selling fabric. His beginnings were humble, but he was intelligent, hard working, and gifted with business acumen. Some years later, he began his own trading company, where he was exposed to importing cotton. This opened the door to a bigger venture, a textile corporation that he named Riverside Mills.

Riverside Mills controlled the importation of cotton sourced from Egypt and California. Angkong built the first fully integrated textile company with factories spanning an area so large you couldn’t walk around it in a single day. The facilities operated machines that separated seeds from cotton, combed it, stretched it into thread, wove it, and turned it into fabric, plain or printed. Afterwards, the mills could also manufacture clothing and other goods. It was an end-to-end operation. Eventually, Riverside Mills also opened a polyester plant.

At the height of his business success, angkong was a tycoon, playing golf with high ranking public officials, traveling the world, holding office in the 34th floor of the Empire State building in New York City, and cultivating friendships with world famous people like the Rockefellers. An article in Reader’s Digest in the 1960’s included him in the list of Who’s Who In Asia.

When I was a young girl, my earliest memories of Riverside Mills included Judo lessons. My brothers and I went there weekly, wearing our white gis. I never cared too much for the sport but it was certainly a fun adventure entering the sprawling facility that housed the mills.

Some years into the government administration during the 1970s, the business underwent a hostile take-over. Furthermore, a series of bad decisions led to its demise, coupled by smuggling issues that gave competitors an unfair advantage.

In the end, angkong’s textile empire collapsed and my dad, who ran operations for the polyster company was fired by a man connected with one of the former presidents of the Philippines, a man who used to be his comrade and golfing buddy. Looking back, my dad saw this as God’s divinely appointed way of removing him from a world that would’ve corrupted him spiritually. Although my dad came to know Jesus as a young man, it was the humbling experience of losing his family’s wealth and power that changed the trajectory of his life for the better.

From the pinnacle of worldly success, angkong and his children found themselves trying to salvage whatever remained of his investments and smaller companies. The Tan-Chi name was defamed and mocked for the heights from which it had fallen. And yet there’s more to be told of the story, the more glorious part that speaks of an enduring heritage, of success beyond money, power, and prestige.

If there is anything I hope my children will remember, it is the man who was a father, husband, grandfather, and great grandfather. Beyond the history of his success to the eventual end of his textile business, angkong’s greater heritage was his character.

Live simply. Even though angkong was incredibly wealthy, he didn’t buy luxury goods. Although my ama had an eye for jewelry, she and angkong were sensible spenders. For angkong, paying a ridiculous amount of money for branded products was like assigning false value to items that were made to project an image. His background as a hard working salesman, exposure to trading, and his ownership of a textile company gave him an eye for the true value of goods. So he bought what he was willing to pay for, what he needed. He preferred to invest in land, stocks, travel, and business opportunities. Therefore, when he lost so much of his wealth, it wasn’t difficult to adjust to less. He didn’t develop an appetite for over-priced material things. Thankfully, his children inherited the same mindset. Till this day, my dad doesn’t wear branded clothing, watches, or shoes. He and my mom never raised us to desire those things either.

Love people. Angkong made friends everywhere he went. He was genuinely interested in people. He cared for their well-being. According to my dad, he always tried to help his relatives out financially. But even more important was his concern for others on a deeply personal level.

During one of the trips that my brother, Paul, took with angkong to his hometown in China, angkong kept asking Paul to share the gospel with people. Whether it was people angkong and Paul met for the first time or family and old friends, angkong would tell them, “My grandson has something good to share with you.” And Paul would look at them, unable to fully articulate himself in Mandarin, and proceed to share whatever he could of the good news of Jesus’ salvation because angkong would insist.

Some years prior, angkong had also given his life to Jesus. Although he believed in the teachings of Confucius in the past, and proudly called him “older than Jesus Christ,” he prayed to accept Jesus as His Lord and Savior after a conversation with Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.

Be disciplined. Every morning, angkong would wake up early and encourage his own children to do the same. Some of them appreciated it and other did not, but today, my dad and his siblings are wired the same way. They all go to bed early and wake up early. They have routines and schedules.

Angkong also lived by the mantra, “everything in moderation,” so he never overate. In fact, he measured fullness by percentages. “Angkong, do you want some more food?” He would reply, “I’m okay. I’m 80% or 90% full.” He also exercised daily, whether it was golf or walking around outdoors, angkong found ways to stay fit and healthy.

Relax, don’t worry. Angkong never hurried or rushed through an activity. He liked to take his time, to revel in the moment. When my dad traveled with him, he would get anxious about making it to the boarding gate of a flight they had to catch. But angkong would tell him to relax and not worry. He was such an easy-going guy, never harried or stressed out. He enjoyed hanging out, observing people, and taking in the sites of places he visited. Maybe this is also why he lived to a ripe, old age without many health complications! He didn’t sweat the small stuff and he knew how to enjoy himself.

Don’t criticize and don’t harbor anger. When angkong lost Riverside Mills, he never blamed it on others. He didn’t hold a grudge against people who betrayed him or turned against him, nor did he speak ill of them. He thought the best of people and circumstances, too. His positivity was remarkable. My dad said he never heard his father slander others or belittle them.

Be faithful to your spouse. For eighteen years of her life my ama (grandmother) was debilitated. For the last years of her life she was practically a vegetable. She suffered complications from multiple strokes and type 2 diabetes. But angkong didn’t womanize. He took care of her and honored her. That was God’s grace! His example demonstrated to us what commitment to one’s spouse ought to be like.

Angkong has passed from this earth, but his legacy lives on. Someday, I hope my children will realize how privileged they were to have a great grandfather who modeled noble character. More precious than the money he could have left behind or the businesses he could have bequeathed to his sons and daughters, he gave our clan a good example to follow. His Christ-likeness was his great inheritance to us. So thank you, angkong, for the choices you made – the attitudes, perspectives, and deeds that defined you as amazing to me. You will be missed but I thank God that this isn’t the end. I will see you again where it is eternally and forever spring…

Dying Young, Living Forever

Edric and I were on the way up to Baguio for the recently held Executive Couple’s retreat when my brother, Paul, phoned us. He called to relay the shocking news about his brother-in-law, Steve’s, untimely and tragic motorcycle accident. Edric choked down the tears and turned over to me in disbelief, trying to take in the reality as he struggled to say, “Steve died.”

“What?” I cried out, stunned as the tears came uncontrollably.

We found out that Steve’s motorcycle swerved off the road, and a head-on collision with a pole killed him instantly. He passed away a day before his 30th birthday.

I am ashamed to say that Edric and I were in the middle of a silly discussion about our communication issues in marriage when we received the call from Paul. The news broke through the trivialness of our argument and crushed us both to the core. How could Steve be gone? How could he have died like this? How could Edric and I have been upset over such small things when my sister-in-law just lost her brother?

We sat in the silence as Steve’s death eclipsed every feeling that seemed so big and important just moments before. Steve would have shared Christmas with my side of the family in the Philippines. Over the years of knowing him and seeing him grow up, he certainly felt like part of the family. His easy-going spirit and passion for God and people were contagious, too. It was impossible to encounter Steve without being impacted by his charisma. Edric and I were always convinced that Steve was a great guy with a great future.

 For the rest of the ride to Baguio, I kept thinking about Steve. Edric and I were scheduled to speak at the retreat but I had little motivation to. The tragedy of his unexpected death hung heavy in the air. My thoughts were restless until I had more information, more details. How was Jenny taking all of this? How was the rest of the Reed family?

Paul and Jenny were back in Manila, trying to schedule a flight to Seattle. Edric offered to adopt their kids for the time being. That was the least we could do. Neither of us got to speak to Paul or Jenny face to face before they left, but we stayed in touch online to keep them updated about their kids. A few days after, Paul also sent us a short video of his parents-in-law, Nelson and Linda, who delivered a beautiful, impromptu reflection during one of their church’s evening services.

Nelson explained that when Steve was born he held him up in his arms and thanked the Lord for the gift that he was. At the same time, he also surrendered him and dedicated him to God. As Steve grew up, Nelson didn’t stop him from being adventurous or doing things like riding a motorcycle. He trusted that his life was in God’s hands. As someone who is a personal friend to the Reed family, I know that the idea of surrendering Steve (and their three older children) wasn’t about neglecting their role to instruct him in the ways of the Lord. Nelson and Linda intentionally discipled all their kids. Nelson’s point was that he didn’t try to control Steve. And since he surrendered and dedicated Steve to the Lord as a baby, he and Linda were able to accept Steve’s passing as God’s will. Nelson professed all of this with peace even as he hurt as a father. Furthermore, he challenged the audience to surrender their spouses, children and even themselves to the Lord. As the Psalms says, “The earth is the Lord and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” (Psalm 24:1) The act of surrender is acknowledgement that we don’t own our loved ones or even our own lives. Sometimes, God may elect for us to go through tragedy. Will we trust His sovereignty and His love?

  Even if it is difficult to grasp the reality of the grief a parent or sibling is left with after a son or brother is gone, I have been so blessed by the grace and faith-filled responses of Paul and Jenny, Nelson and Linda and the rest of their family. Collectively, they have chosen to process this tragedy with spiritual lenses. Without diminishing the pain that Steve’s absence has marked their hearts with, they cling to the hope that one day, they shall see Steve again. Steve was a man who walked intimately with God and he most certainly is living eternally with God.

Here’s a tribute to his life and death, written by Nelson, which I requested for permission to post here. I believe it will strengthen and encourage all of us to ponder upon the purpose for which we were created and to look forward to eternal life, which God has destined for all those who are His children through Jesus Christ.

 — 

ALIVE FOREVERMORE!

Stephen John Reed entered heaven the afternoon of September 16, 2015, a day before his 30th Birthday. Medical examiners said he was probably dead before his body hit the sidewalk.

If what the examiners said is true, Stephen’s Lord and Savior took him in the “twinkling of an eye” to be with Him forevermore!

Anyone who knows Stephen knows that he lived “larger than life.” A few snapshots from Stephen’s abundant life will help explain the phenomena.

Stephen became a Third Culture Kid when born into a missionary family in the Philippines. He grew up forging close relationships with children from the nations. Swapping lunches and clothes with his buddies, he developed a palate for every cuisine and fashion on earth. He lived multicultural abundance!

Turbulent times rocked the Philippines the first decade of Stephen’s life. Yet fear never enslaved him; rather he flourished in love and adventure with his family and friends. Life was to be lived on the streets, not behind walls!

 Speaking of family, God graced Stephen with three older siblings – Jenny (Tanchi), Becky (Mangin) and Ben. All three trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior before they reached the age of six. Influenced by them, he too sought the Lord at a young age, not wanting to be entangled by sin and miss the blessed life the rest of the family enjoyed. Fast forward 25 years, a month before he died a summary of his journal entries reveal, “Live large, God is for me!”

Stephen thrived by surrounding himself with friends; not to get for himself, but to give. For example, his coach would get so upset when he didn’t “close” a breakaway, but would pass the basketball to his teammates so they could score. He was comfortable in his skin, liberated to encourage others in theirs.

During his high school years, Stephen began to blossom into his own person, less the little brother. Mom remembers times Stephen expressed desires to become great. As a young adult, “excellence” became his passion. He explained it like this, “Jesus promised an abundant life. I seek to excel in everything – spiritually, socially, in business, in fun and adventure! I believe this is what Jesus wants!”

Stephen started two businesses and was involved in several other enterprises. One month before he died he wrote of his walk with Jesus in the market place, “What ever I (Jesus) call for, I provide for!”

Motorcycles were another passion. God used a motorcycle crash to usher him home to glory. He was ready for eternity in every way, but we are sure he was surprised when he woke up in heaven.

All through Stephen’s life, his desire was that his friends would come to know the assurance and joy he had in an intimate personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, his confidence in the loving care of his heavenly Father seemed to take fear and anxiousness off the table for him. He wanted others to see that freedom comes from knowing God, not running away from Him. Though Stephen is dead, his voice and life still speak. He is alive forevermore in the presence of His Lord and Savior.

Friend, what about you? We write to you as “Friend” because Stephen would see you as his friend and we want to be like our son!

In your heart, is the Spirit of God calling you into a closer personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you have the assurance that Stephen has, that if you were to die today that you would be ushered into the Lord Jesus Christ’s presence?

You can have this assurance by simply confessing your rebellious and sinful heart toward God and by faith believe that because of God’s love for you He gave His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for your sins; and by believing that God the Father raise Jesus up from the dead to be the firstfruit of all those who would be saved unto eternal life.

Stephen prayed this prayer about 25 years ago. Two weeks ago today Stephen began to literally live eternal life . . . Alive, Alive, Alive Forevermore with his heavenly Father.

Christian friend, what is God saying to you? Please open your heart wide to the Spirit of God to fill you with His love and comfort. Cast off every sin and weight that keeps you from going deeper into the joy of God’s presence and living fully to His glory here on earth (Hebrew 12:1-4).

We want to hear from you, especially if you struggle to make sense of Stephen’s tragic accident. We ache in our hearts for the loss of our precious son, but at the same time we are experiencing the comfort and strength from our Heavenly Father. He is enfolding us into His love and goodness. So Dear Friend, do not hesitate to call or email us if you have concerns. We sincerely mean that. May God bless you!

Lovingly,

Nelson & Linda Reed
425-984-5724, n.reed@actionintl.org; linda.reed@actionintl.org;

Click to watch Stephen’s Memorial Service; also click to watch “Dream Big – A Video Tribute to Stephen Reed” by Chris Storer

Respect Your Husband, Respect Your Wife

 When I was newly married, my struggle was how to respect my husband. (Okay, sometimes it still is!) I believed that I had married the man of my dreams (he still is) but in marriage, I began to see his flaws (he also saw mine!) I didn’t like it when he would get irritated easily or criticize me. So I retaliated by challenging his leadership. Having seen the chink in his armor, I began to question his capacity to lead me.

This spilled over into everything. When he would make decisions, I would contradict him. When he was driving I would say things like, “Do you know where you are going?” In short, I made him feel like he was inadequate. I aggravated him further by nagging and pressuring him to be a spiritual leader. Some of my comments would be like this: “Are you even reading your Bible? How can you grow if you don’t read your Bible?”

In Proverbs 25:24 it says, “It is better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman.”  I often instigated the strife in our relationship. I was that contentious woman!

My disrespect towards Edric only pushed him away emotionally and spiritually. He didn’t feel inspired to love me. God had to teach me to look at my own life and work on the areas I needed to change. He prompted me to pray for Edric instead of attempting to transform him with my cutting words. Firthermore, God convicted me to use statements that would build up and not tear Edric down.

A couple who was married for many years was interviewed about the secret to their marriage and this is what they revealed: They kept a list of traits they appreciated about one another on their bathroom mirror. This list reminded them to be thankful for each other everyday and to focus on the positive.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs‬ ‭18:21)‬ ‭

Words are powerful…the ones we think of and speak forth. As a woman, I often erred with my words. So this was an area I knew I had to change in to be more respectful towards Edric. Instead of zoning in on the negative, I elected to be attentive to the positive. For example, one time, when Edric opened my door, I said, “Wow I really appreciate it when you do that. It makes me feel important and it makes me feel very attracted to you.”

He perked up and his face lit up. “Really?” He replied with a smile as he puffed up like a peacock then filed that compliment for future reference. This was probably 12 years ago and he still remembers! Men are simple. They respond to affirmation and appreciation. “Of all the people in the world,” Edric once told me, “You have the greatest capacity to wound me and hurt me, because of all the people in the world, it is your perspective of me that matters most.” Every man longs to be honored and held in high regard, especially by his wife.

Some women have argued that men have such tender egos and that’s the problem. But instead of getting annoyed about how sensitive they can be to our disrespect, let’s think about the positive affect our words of praise can have on their sense of self-worth!

Another way we can respect our husbands is to put energy into our sex lives, to respond to them sexually, and to initiate interest in being intimate with them. I have said this before but o recently came across a book where author Barbara Rainey said, “Something magical happens in a man’s spirit when he knows his wife desires him. When you desire to be intimate with your husband he is able to take on the world because he knows he matters to the most important person in his life.” When Edric and I have meaningful intimacy, he announces, “This is going to be a great day!”

I asked Edric some time ago “how often is often enough for you?” And he told me he can’t last longer than three days. What did he mean by this? After three days without sex he starts noticing everything that resembles the female body. It’s hard for him to stay pure in heart and mind. So it’s part of my responsibility to meet this need with joy and not selfishness.

The other day a friend of mine proudly announced, “I have been having sex with my husband every night for the past week!” Naturally, I wanted to know if this had a profound effect on her marriage, to which she revealed, “My husband was so happy he took me kitchen shopping and didn’t complain the entire time!” She also confessed that she had been neglectful of her husband’s sexual needs in the past. Did she have sex with her husband in order to go kitchen shopping? Of course not. But her responsiveness and willingness to meet this need blessed her husband so much he cheerfully brought her to do something he would have otherwise hated to. Kitchen shopping?!

As a wife, it’s also part of my responsibility to put effort into looking my best for Edric. I have to take anti-gravity measures like exercise to fight the effects of age on my weight and I have to be more discriminating about the food I eat (except for butter. He he) Honestly, keeping a healthy weight is not something I do just for Edric. I also want to take care of my body because it’s the right thing to do. The bonus benefit is that Edric appreciates it when I take care of myself. 

Here’s my little bit of advice…keep an outfit from your first year of marriage and use that as your body weight goal. We all had our womanly form by then so it’s an achievable standard.

I keep one pair of pants from college and push myself to fit back into them after each baby. This last pregnancy has taken me longer. I am one size away from it and it’s taking forever! (Maybe I should remove the butter!)

What about Edric’s version of respect for me? I know that the Bible specifically tells wives to respect their husbands, but sometimes to love a wife as God instructs a husband to also involves respecting her.

For example, Edric guards what he watches and what he listens to. If he isn’t careful and lets his eyes wander or programs his preferences with the smut that porn is made of, I am sure it would be very disappointing for him to see me naked. And I wouldn’t want to be naked around him! It would make me feel vastly inadequate to meet the impossible standard of the porn-peg.

Instead, Edric “honors our marriage bed” as the Bible calls him to, and he honors God by choosing to be holy. In the process, he honors me as his wife by directing his eyes towards me and conditioning his sexual appetite to desire me. In turn, this makes me feel safe and secure with him. It makes me want to give myself to him physically because my heart (and my body) trust him. 

Another way that Edric shows me respect is by treating me like a lady. He protects me, gives me preferential treatment and is attentive to my needs. When I am carrying a heavy bag, he offers to bear its burden. When I am crossing the street he ushers me to the safe side. When I get in and out of the car, he has made it a habit to hold the door open for me. When I sit down and stand up from a table, he USUALLY gets up to pull my seat out. Through these small gestures, he ascribes worth to me as a woman.

At home, Edric also instructs our children to speak to me politely and he is quick to correct them when they forget to. He elevates my position in their eyes so they are careful with their tone and language when they interact with me. But I believe he exemplifies this first by modeling it in the way he communicates and converses with me. There have been occasions when he has humbly said, “Kids, will you forgive me for speaking to your mom that way? I need to be more gentle with my words.”

Before it looks like Edric and I have a picture-perfect relationship this isn’t the case at all. And if you have been following this blog you would know this already! Our marriage is a continual work in progress and we have many things to improve on, but by God’s grace every year that passes is the better year for our marriage as we keep Christ at the center of our relationship. And keeping Christ at the center challenges us to apply principles like respecting and honoring one another.
In conclusion, the Bible tells us, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” (Romans‬ ‭12:9-10‬)

How can we honor our spouse today? Perhaps by speaking a word of encouragement? Rearranging our schedule so we can prioritize them? Committing to purity? Using a tone of voice that is kind and gentle? Speaking highly of them in public? Thinking about the traits we appreciate? Being attentive to their needs? 

And if we feel like our spouse may not deserve respect, here’s  something to think about it… 

Christ died for us when we didn’t deserve it! He considered us worthy of His sacrifice and love. Let His character and example inspire us to do the same for others, especially our spouses. 

A Strong Man Needs A Strong Woman

My father was a temperate man, not the kind of person who was very affected by emotional swings. So it was challenging to be married to a man who could switch between extremely excited and extremely frustrated from one moment to another, depending on the circumstance or trigger. 

  As Edric grew in his understanding of what it means to be controlled by the Holy Spirit, he changed. He was less moody, less irritable, and more conscious of how his reactions affected those around him, especially the kids as me. This was the Lord’s work in his life. 

However, I had a listening problem. Because I didn’t grow up in a family that “coddled” emotions like anger, irritation, disappointment, and the like, I tended to be less tolerant when Edric exhibited any of these things to whatever degree. My perspective was (and sometimes still is), get over it. That’s not a correct feeling. You can choose to be spirit-filled. This insensitivity would get me into trouble with Edric because he felt like I disrespected him when I made statements like, “Why are you feeling that way? You shouldn’t feel that way.” It sounded a lot like I was putting him down when I spoke those words and this hurts his feelings. 

Thankfully, God worked in my heart, too. I learned to listen to him when he was being vulnerable and to encourage him. However, this past week, I reverted to my old ways. 

It must have been a Monday or Tuesday afternoon when he plopped himself on to the bed beside me and randomly asked, “Do you think God loves me?” 

This question was an invitation into meaningful dialogue but I took it like this…Whoa. He just preached a sermon that highlighted the love of God and he is asking this question? 

He started to say something like, “I haven’t been experiencing any wins lately,” explaining that he was discouraged with work, with people, with ministry, with finances, etc. 

Instead of drawing him out with questions like, “Oh really, why do think that is?,” I went straight to, “Are you really asking if God loves you? Why would you even ask that? You just preached about God’s love!” (Not a good start to open communication.)

Since my words and tone had already delivered the damage, he stood up from the bed and emphatically said, “Forget it!” and walked off to get ready for our outdoor run. I called out after him but he was no longer interested. In short, I ruined a perfectly good moment to wear what I have called “the best friend hat.”

Shortly after this, we went running with the boys while he pushed the girls in a double stroller. He didn’t talk to me even when I injected comments here and there to get a gauge of how annoyed he was with me. 

About twenty minutes into our run I apologized for my response and asked if he wanted to talk about it, but he didn’t want to resume the conversation and dismissed me with sarcasm. With a smirk he said, “It’s okay, I don’t have any problems. I don’t have any weakness. I am invincible. That’s what you want, right? A husband who is always strong. No weakness.” 

“Do you really mean that? You know that’s not what I meant. Is that how you want to resolve this, by saying that?” 

“Yup.” 

“And that’s what you would counsel couples to do to resolve a conflict? (Dismiss it)” 

“Yup.” 

Well, he was being ridiculous on purpose so I replied, “Fine,” and ran faster. Naturally, he couldn’t go as fast because he was pushing our two girls up a hill. Since it seemed like he didn’t want to be around me, I retaliated by leaving him behind. 

I was in the living room starting on an ab workout when Edric arrived and joined me in silence. The boys didn’t know that we were in the middle of a spat and they did abs with us, too. Perhaps Edric had not gotten over our conflict, so his frustration spilled over to all of us. Titus started tearing because the workout was so hard for him, and Edric said, “There’s no crying during this workout!” 

Oh my goodness. Edric was not himself. But I kept quiet because the kids were present. 

The next day, Edric realized that he hadn’t been Spirit-filled so he apologized to me and the kids. At some point we also got to talk about how I could improve in the way I listen to him and support him. And he was right. 

Our conversation would have taken a completely different and more positive turn if I had begun with empathy and gentleness. My response belittled and rejected his feelings when he needed me to minister to him. 

Husbands may be strong, but there will be days when they need us to be spiritually strong for them. The Bible tells us, “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”” ‭‭(Genesis‬ ‭2:18) God used the same word “helper” to describe the way he comes to our aid. “Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is the sustainer of my soul.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭54:4‬) 

Our role is both beautiful and important. God designed us to meet a need in a man that no other created thing can. We are to be life sustainers and rescuers alongside our husbands. (This is the more accurate definition of the word “helper” in Hebrew.)
How can we be helpers to our husbands? 

    1. We can encourage them to hope in God when they are dealing with their many challenges.

    2. We can assure them that we are present to support them. 

    3. We can affirm their efforts with gratitude and appreciation. 

    4. We can pray with them and for them. 

    5. We can look to God as our source of strength, peace, love and joy and channel these virtues toward our husbands. 

    6. We can use our gifts and abilities to help them accomplish God’s purposes.

I sometimes forget the kinds of battles Edric has to face as a man — to love, lead and provide for our family, and to serve in ministry. So if he needs to express how stressful it is or talk about the doubts he has every now and then, then the least I can do is hug him and tell him I love him…tell him that, by God’s grace, we’ll get through the tough spells in our marriage and family together as a team.

Thankfully, a few nights ago, God gave me a second chance to be Edric’s helper. He began to open up to me again about some of his plans and the obstacles he was facing. I complimented him for being so thorough in his planning. This made him eager to listen to my perspective. And then I offered a suggestion which he was so grateful for. (Yeah!) When we had more time to talk, we had another fruitful discussion which left him hopeful about the future, gave him clarity of direction, and motivated him to go out there again and be the man God has called him to be. 

So be strong, wives! Not in ourselves, but in the Lord so we can enable, enrich, encourage, revive, connect and reconnect the hearts of our husbands to God, and inspire them to love, follow, and obey Him faithfully!  

 

Helping A Child Overcome Shyness 

My fourth child, Tiana, might be labeled as shy by people who first encounter her, especially when she clings on to me during social gatherings. She is very sweet and such a darling but she isn’t always confident around people she doesn’t know. I have come to understand that the root of her behavior goes beyond the shyness. She has a fear of people, something I used to struggle with as a child.

My fear of people crippled me at times. I worried about acceptance. I got intimidated by people who were smarter, more popular, more beautiful. I was scared to try new things because I didn’t want to be ridiculed. I preferred the comfort of certain friends rather than mingling with unfamiliar people. I was concerned about the impression I made on people. The real issue was self-consciousness and self-centeredness.  

It wasn’t until much later on in my life that I learned the principle of choosing to be a blessing, to look past myself and see the needs of people around me. My mom taught me this. She said, “Whenever you are with people, seek to be a blessing.” This advice changed me.  

I stil have to make a conscious effort to put on this mindset because it goes against my predisposition. But it has made a big difference when I go to a social gathering, an event, or meet with people to spend time with them or get to know them for the first time. It’s not about what can they do for me or how they will respond to me, but how I can minister to them?

Furthermore, when I am overwhelmed by the social situation, I pray! I ask God to help me be a blessing. And He does! He gives me a heart for the people I am with so that the focus is not on myself or my insecurities. Instead, I am challenged to think of how I can reach out, and make others feel special and important. 

The Bible says, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Like my mom helped me, I am helping Tiana move past her “self-consciousness.” For example, the other day she was crying when I told her she had ballet class. This may not be a big deal to most little girls who love to wear tutus and dance, but for Tiana it was like a nightmare! She was afraid to be with people she didn’t know. However, I gently informed her she had to obey. Plus, we were going to get through this as a team. She nodded her head with tears in her eyes. 

I reminded her that she just learned a bible verse during our family devotion that went like this, “Do not worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” (Philippians 4:6) So I asked her to pray when I saw that she was about to cry again. And she did. We prayed together. 

When we got to her class, we arrived early. Young girls her age started to trickle in to the dance room. Tiana did not pay attention to them. She sat at the end of the room drawing on a piece of paper. So I assisted her. I asked one of the girls what her name was and introduced her to Tiana. And then I asked them to play together before class started. Initially, Tiana didn’t want to, but I insisted. So she asked if her two year old sister, Catalina, could accompany her. 

 Catalina tends to be more outgoing, so she gladly obliged. She was the one shouting out, “Come, Tiana!” Tiana, her new friend, and Catalina ran back and forth across the room. It was a senseless game but at least it got Tiana’s mind off her self. 

  Tiana started to warm up to her new friend. But when class was about to start and other girls were around Tiana, she began to tear again but I gave her an encouraging look that said, “You can do it!”
  

 She got through the entire class splendidly! Every once in a while she looked over at me and I met each glance with a smile, silently mouthing the words, “Good job!” 

When she was done, she ran over to me and exclaimed, “I had sooo much fun, mom! And I made new friends! They are so nice.” Afterwards, I asked her how she was able to get over her fear and she replied, “Have no fear, Jesus is here!” It was the cutest thing to hear her say that rhyme. 

Will Tiana be able to go to her next ballet class alone? That may be a stretch, but now she knows that there is nothing to be afraid of. 

 As a mom, it is my responsibility to help Tiana work through her fears by teaching her to turn these over to the Lord. The next level will be teaching her to initiate friendliness rather than waiting for others to seek her out or include her. She will get there, by God’s grace! 

Fourteen Is Better Than Thirteen

I sat across from Edric at a cafe this morning, studying his face like I hadn’t seen it a million times. Has it really been 14 years since we were standing at the altar, speaking our vows? Are we really parents to five amazing kids?

 Apart from the peppering of his hair and the smile lines at the edges of his eyes, he doesn’t look much older than he did in college. I actually think he is a more handsome version of his younger self. I like the way he is aging. It’s attractive to me.

The cafe was an unplanned departure from our original schedule. He should have been at the office and I should have been with the kids. But our vehicle needed a battery-change, so there we were, making the most of the opportunity to share breakfast and talk.

“Is this what you imagined?,” He asked me. “Is this what you imagined marriage would be like?”

It was an unexpected question but the moment called for it. We were tucked away in the corner of the cafe, and it was the day after our anniversary. Our overnight date at the Marco Polo hotel was coming to a close. So I said, “I didn’t think this far when I was single, but I knew that you were the person I loved and wanted to share my life with.” 

“It’s better than I imagined,” he added, like he meant to answer his own question. “I used to be afraid that our relationship would change as we got older, as we aged, when our bodies were no longer in their prime. How would this affect the way we perceived one another? But then I realized that marriage has stages to it. During the early years, the physical aspect seemed to be a large part of our intimacy. Yet as the years went by, I discovered a depth beyond the physical…like this, right now, being here with you and enjoying it. We are stuck here because of a car battery problem, but it’s totally fine because we are together. There’s no other person I would rather be with, raise children with, and serve the Lord with.”

I smiled as he took my hand, possibly in between chewing my tuna melt sandwich. (I was graceful about it, trying not to ruin the moment.) 

Fourteen years may be few compared to couples who are celebrating their silver anniversaries, but for us it feels like a lot of history. We have weathered many seasons together. It dawned on me, as I was reminiscing and recalling the early years of our marriage, that this history matters. The longer we stay married and honor the commitment we vowed to, the more palpable the oneness feels. 

When the Bible says that two shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24), I started thinking about the word ‘shall.’ While oneness is symbolized by the event of sexual union between a husband and wife, oneness is also a process. Oneness happens over time, memories, pain, and joy. The person I am today feels so intensely entwined into the person Edric is. 

   
 From two separate threads as single people, we became a tightly wound chord of three – the Lord, Edric and me. I may not have imagined what fourteen years of marriage would be like, but I know for sure that I can’t imagine life without Edric. Not now. Not after fourteen years of oneness. 

How does a relationship become like this? Where two people can be vulnerable and honest and naked and unashamed…and you can say “I love you no matter what, even if I know all your imperfections”…and you laugh at things that no one else finds funny…or signal mysterious codes across a room full of people and get each other’s message because an eyebrow was raised, or a mouth twitched, or a wink was sent your way…and you can lie in the stillness and quiet, closing your eyes to the events of the day, the good and the bad, and feel safe because the arms that are embracing you are familiar, and you fit so comfortably in each other’s spaces…and, yes, you also have three boys and two girls who act and speak like little versions of yourselves, but are way cuter, who need you both as dad and mom and need you to stay together because you are a family…and you navigate through the storms in your relationship and outside of it, hand in hand, looking to Christ to walk you through them, to heal the wounds that hurt like heck but make you stronger…and you may fight and disagree and really NOT like each other sometimes but you know that this is forever and you will commit to work it out because this is the person whom you chose to love and will continue to love in spite of, just because, and most certainly till you are old and wrinkled and maybe even toothless. 

As Edric and I live out the vows we once made to each other, for better or worse, for richer or poorer til death do us part, my desire to be his and his desire to be mine increases all the more. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Solomon 6:3a) 

It’s hard to explain this when so many people quit on their marriages emotionally or legally soon after the difficulties confront them. And I know why they do. There’s always a reason that pushes them to do so. I’ve wrestled with some of these reasons myself. But from this vantage point, and not as one who professes to be an expert at mouthing out advice on relationships, but as one who has chosen to stay married for fourteen years (so far), my observation is this: fourteen years of marriage was way better than the first thirteen, and by God’s grace, I think fifteen will be better than fourteen. And by faith I believe that the best is yet to come, not next year or the next, but decades down the road! 

Why? Because this is the beautiful mystery of oneness – God’s design for a husband and wife – to journey together into the endless, vastless and unfathomable depths of love, His love. After all, it is not our exhaustible human love that binds us to one another. I love Edric because God first loved me. Edric loves me because God first loved him. As 1 John 4:19 put it, “We love because He first loved us.” It is the strand of God’s eternal love in our relationship that keeps us from unraveling, that strengthens our resolve to remain committed to each other through each passing year, that pulls us forward when we struggle to go on. 

As I end this entry, I want to say, stay. Don’t go. Stay through the seasons that are difficult, that feel unending, when human love has lost its feeling, and promises have been broken. Stay and see how God can renew and rebuild what is damaged in us and in our marriages, and meet our unmet longings with His amazing love. God is the author of marriage and His love is its keeper and healer. 

And to my husband, Edric, I thank you for staying with me. I love you more today than ever. Happy Anniversary!
“(Love) bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a)

   
 
 

Pursuing Peace at Home

Sometimes managing household help and a driver is stressful for me when their inter-personal relationships get complicated. When unsettled issues linger, their work and the environment of our home is affected. But my greater concern is their spiritual health and what lies behind the conflict.

For several months our household help and driver were embittered with one another. Their dissension began with minor irritations over personality differences. But the hurt escalated until they started name-calling and criticizing. When I asked each one of them what the issue was, the problem between them had become so convoluted, Edric decided to set a meeting to settle their conflict once and for all.

This morning, he mediated a nearly two hour discussion. First we prayed together and then he gave each person the opportunity to share their frustrations. He didn’t let emotions escalate and he prevented the higher-strung individuals from butting in and making snide comments. When everyone had the opportunity to speak up, he helped them identify the main issue.

The main issue was pretty simple — our driver was hurt because one of our household help was moody towards him. So he was demotivated to assist our girls when it came to chores outside the scope of his driving responsibilities. This angered the women who interpreted his attitude as laziness. They began to incite him with comments like, “you just sleep and eat,” which gave him reason to disdain them. Months passed and the angry feelings increased until they became noticeable to Edric, me, and our kids.

Today, Edric ably sorted through the mess with them and encouraged them to pursue peace. The two hour meeting turned out to be a wonderful time of healing for our household help and driver.

Edric asked all of them to say what they appreciated about each other, and what they could improve on. Tears were shed. Humility and forgiveness were present, and reconciliation took place.

At the end, I reminded them that our home represents Christ because we are followers of Jesus and so are they (each one of them has a personal relationship with Him). Therefore I concluded my little part of the speech I was allowed to inject, thanks to Edric, with the reason why we need to be at peace with one another. We want to glorify Christ in our relationships and in our home. They wholeheartedly agreed.

To give them a practical application, Edric went over Ephesians 4:29 which reads, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NASB‬‬

He made them read this passage and internalize it so they would remember to speak in ways that edify and not wound one other. We also prayed together to conclude our meeting. Afterwards, everyone was smiling and the atmosphere had changed from tense and chilly to warm and sunny!

I decided to write this entry because I was blessed by Edric’s leadership today. He sounded like a frog because he was battling a bad cough and laryngitis but he prioritized this peace-keeping mission to restore the relationships that were broken in our household. He could have left the problem to me to fix, but he knew that I needed his intervention to facilitate the meeting in Filipino and to assert his headship. The women were flaming some some pretty hot emotional fires but because they deeply respect Edric and have a healthy fear of him, they listened to his counsel and guidance. Edric also assured me that he knew the culture and how to steer the course of the discussion so it would remain focused and productive.

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When all was quiet again and we had a moment together, I thanked him profusely for coming to my aid. 1 Timothy 3:2-5 talks about the qualifications for an overseer as one who is “above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?)” ‭‬‬

I know this passage is especially for church leaders, but in the verses which precede it, the encouragement is to aspire for church leadership. This means that every person ought to consider putting on the qualities that describe a leader. And being a good leader includes managing one’s household — ordering it and taking charge of it.

I used to think this was about making sure that our kids are well-behaved and obedient. But it was brought to my attention again today that the responsibility is greater. Edric and I need to disciple our household help and driver. They don’t just work for us to serve our family. We must be committed to their spiritual health, too. God has placed them in our lives so we can bless them and minister to them. Sometimes, this means Edric, as the head of our home, has to steer them towards Christ-likeness like he did today.

I may have been able to set up and oversee the meeting today, but I know it wouldn’t have turned out as well as it did so I praise God for the wisdom and initiative he gave Edric. What an amazing difference it makes when a man embraces his God-given position of authority in the home!

Tue Jul 01 2014 09-12-43 GMT+0800

Have Fun With Your Spouse

Our Thursday night group is on the third session of Craig and Amy Groeschel’s DVD marriage series entitled “From This Day Forward.” The most recent topic was especially relevant and practical as the Groeschel’s shared about how to have fun as a couple.

They suggested three simple concepts that are well-worth applying to ignite or reignite passion in marriage:

1. Face to Face Fun. Do you and your spouse set aside a date night during the week when you can speak face to face, heart to heart, and connect intellectually, emotionally and spiritually?

When Edric and I were newly married, we enjoyed long, drawn out conversations as we sought to get to know one another. Real effort was made to discover what he liked, what I liked, what our dreams, passions and peculiarities were. As the years passed, pragmatism defined our interactions. Busy-ness overtook quality time. To remedy this, we religiously safeguarded an evening in the week to have that face to face fun time. No cellphones to interrupt or distract us, no children clamoring for our help or attention, and no business-talk as much as possible. We asked one another how our marriage was, what we felt like we could improve on independently and as a couple.

It is rare that we miss our date night during the week. But there were a couple of instances in the last few months when our schedule made it difficult to go out of the house for dinner. So Edric called our househelp and asked them to set up a table and chairs on the balcony so we could have a private dinner. The kids were not allowed to disturb us. Catalina was more challenging since she kept pressing her face against the glass doors and managed to come out several times. Finally, she was carried downstairs by one of her siblings, crying all the way down to the kitchen. Although tempted to rescue her, Edric insisted that we continue with our plans to talk. She survived just fine without me.

The point is connecting as a couple is important. It needs to be prioritized. I once read that couples naturally grow apart through the years and not closer. Without effort invested to get to know one’s spouse and connect with them regularly, feelings of love fade. Therefore speaking face to face must become a habit. We must intentionally seek to know what is going on in one another’s hearts to cultivate intimacy.
Here are some face to face questions we can ask our spouse…

– how can I pray for you?

– what’s been on your heart lately?

– what was the highlight of your day/ week?

– is there anything I can do to make you feel more loved and special?

– how can I improve as a spouse?

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Please note that once a week face to face fun time may not be enough if that’s the only opportunity we have to be with our spouses. It’s like starving ourselves during the week and eating a buffet once to make up for the deprivation! A marriage can’t stay healthy if a husband and wife have zero relationship in the week and expect the face to face fun time during date nights to work. The Grosechels encourage on-going conversation. And here’s the reality…”men like headlines but women like details,” so let’s remember that this habit of communicating may take some getting used to because of our God-designed differences but the benefits will outweigh the cost of adjustment. (Wait till the end to understand what this means.)


2. Side to side fun.
The next principle is about sharing activities together. Guys, for instance, are more likely to open up in the context of activity. I remember this about my dad and brothers. They would always bond with one another during sports.

One of the wives in our Thursday bible study group took up golf because she realized she was becoming a “golf widow.” So she purposefully played golf to engage in her husband’s world and her husband really appreciated it.

When our husbands are participating in an activity they thoroughly enjoy, they are relaxed and stress-free. A lot of times this is when they are willing to be more detailed and communicative, too. Craig Groeschel actually said there are two occasions when a husband is more inclined to share what’s on his mind and heart — in the context of activity and after sex! (True or false?)

Not every wife may find it realistic to get involved in the same activities her husband enjoys but there can be a fix to this. For example, Edric used to turn to basketball with friends as his recreational outlet. But when he realized that this was something that took him away from me, he decided we should find a sport we could both get into.

Years ago, when badminton was still a fad and clubs were sprouting everywhere, we competed as a team. I never considered badminton a real sport at first. Real sports to me were like basketball and soccer (football). Well I was wrong. Badminton turned out to be a pretty challenging sport. Plus, I burned a ton of calories in the process which helped me loose post-pregnancy weight. Edric and I looked forward to our weekly/bi-weekly badminton games and the talking rides to and from the clubs where we played at.

These days we work out or run together. But we also serve in ministry as a team which adds an even more meaningful dimension to our relationship. Working together towards a goal or ministering along side one another gives us insight into each other’s personalities. Furthermore, the experiences we encounter (both good and bad) provide us with more topics to talk about and connect on.

3. Belly button to belly button fun. Leave it to Craig Groeschel to come up with a phrase like that! He was offering a word picture for sexual intimacy. I want to talk more about sexual intimacy in marriage because it’s definitely essential to a marriage and deserves a future post all of its own. But in the meantime, I am only going to highlight what Craig Groeschel said (paraphrased) which had me laughing till the point of tears…”Men work on your approach — be tender, romantic, bring a gift. Stop making everything sexual! As for the ladies…make an approach! Any approach! Get some lingerie, be romantic, prepare the hot tub, light some candles…”

We know that men and women view sex very differently and need it very differently, too. But it is integral to a marriage. Whenever Edric and I counsel couples one of the questions we ask is how is your sex life? Almost all of the time there is a correlation between poor communication and poor sex. Those who admit that sex in marriage is non-existent or rare have major communication problems between them. And sometimes these communication problems stem from deeper issues such as infidelity, pornography, or unresolved conflicts  that need to be healed first.

Face to face fun, side to side fun and belly button to belly button fun. That is the ideal sequence. Enjoy the first two points and the third follows naturally. And let us always remember that sex in the context of a marriage between husband and wife is God-designed and beautiful! Look at what Proverbs 5:18 says…”Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth.” Now read verse 19 on your own and be pleasantly surprised at how God celebrates sex in marriage! Yes that’s in the Bible!

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Photo credit: Mayad Beginnings

You Cannot Pray and Stay Upset With Your Spouse

I darted out the door for a 10 PM run a few evenings ago after Edric and I had a conflict. The cause of our dissension isn’t worth mentioning because it was, once again, something silly and trivial. It reached a climactic point when I declared in my exasperation while riding in the car beside him, “This is irritating, you are so irritating. Why are you making a big deal out of this?!”

In all my marriage, I have never insulted Edric this way. We teach about expressing frustration with “I feel” statements but I did exactly what we tell couples not to do — I criticized him.

Edric restrained his anger and kept silent. We were nearing the bend that turns into our home but the chilly air between us stretched the time to an eternal minute.

Where did I go wrong? Not too long before this, we were enjoying the company of friends, engaged in lively discussion, and exchanging spiritual insights. What a contrast to the oppressive atmosphere that put miles between us. I looked out the window, consumed by my ugly thoughts, stewing in a toxic mix of rage and apathy.

After writing an article entitled, Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences, there I was thinking, I am tired of this. We just don’t get each other. I need to run this off.

As soon as I got home, I changed, grabbed my running shoes and snuck out the front door. If Edric had seen me, he might have dissuaded me because it was late in the evening. Guiltily, I tiptoed out, leaving the door unlocked so I could slip back in unnoticed. Yes, I know, I was in bad spiritual shape! Criticizing my husband and then sneaking out of the house like a rebellious teen! My, my!

Even if my motivation was to get away from Edric to process my feelings, the run afforded me something better…time to pray. I soon discovered what is consistently true about prayer and conflict. It is impossible to pray and stay mad at your spouse!

As I communed with God, a strong conviction rose in my heart to humble myself. I didn’t want to give in to the prodding but how could I keep praying without recognizing my wretchedness and wrong? In the presence of a holy God, my sinfulness was made obvious.

God reminded me that it didn’t matter that there were actions or words spoken by Edric that hurt me. There was no excuse for my own behavior and response. These things were within my control. He asked me to initiate an apology, to go up to Edric after my run and sincerely ask for his forgiveness.

Prayer has a way of recalibrating my heart and mind so that my attention is drawn towards the Lord and away from my carnal perspective. This is one of the reasons why I am convinced that prayer is absolutely necessary for my spiritual survival and a healthy marriage. God reveals to me so many areas I need to change to become more Christ-like when I pray.

On the one hand, there is His Word and the support of friends and family who tell me when I am not living out His principles. But when I pray, God ministers to me in an intimate way.

God showed me once again that my thoughts, words, and actions are emblematic of my theology. When I resist being submissive or respectful to Edric, the real problem is my relationship with God, not Edric. Sure, Edric may have areas of improvement and he would say the same about me for sure. But the bigger issue is I don’t trust that God has my best interests at heart. I start thinking of his principles for marriage as unfair and unrealistic. My focus is no longer following God’s and pleasing Him, but giving in to the dictates of my emotions.

When I got home I found Edric sitting in the family room unwinding in front of his laptop. He didn’t realize I had been gone for the last thirty minutes. I meekly approached him asking, “Will you forgive me for disrespecting you, for saying that I was so irritated, and for being so angry? I am so sorry.”

The next day, Edric also asked for my forgiveness for being selfish and self-focused and all was well between us again.

Very often, I think of how prayer can change circumstances and people around me. But God is teaching me that prayer changes me most of all. Whenever I come before God, he reveals to me a sin I have to confess, a command I have to obey, a word of encouragement, an insight from His truth, the assurance of His presence, or the hope I need to keep pursuing His will. When I don’t pray, I become vulnerable to the schemes of the evil one who darkens my thinking with untruth.

When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples, anticipating his impending death on the cross, the told them, “Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Mark 14:38 NASB) He knew what challenges lay ahead of them in the days to come, how their faith would be shaken like never before. Clueless, the disciples didn’t listen but fell asleep!

Many times in my own marriage, I know that I am supposed to commit my relationship to Edric to the Lord by praying regularly and vigilantly. However, I’m not as intentional about it as I should be. Sometimes, I fall asleep in the spiritual sense, forgetting that every marriage is under continual threat from the divisive maneuverings of the evil one who wants to destroy marriages and tear spouses apart. The spiritual battle is real.

Last week, our church held a five day prayer and fasting time which did wonders for my relationship with Edric. Being in the spirit of prayer made a huge difference, not just for me but for Edric as we came together to pray each night of our fast.

Prayer put a spiritual shield around our marriage. Edric was especially patient and understanding towards me, and I found myself better able to receive correction and deal with issues between us with a gentle and quiet spirit. MIRACLE! What an affirmation to the power of praying to the Lord!

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Experiencing this victory affirmed why I need to make prayer a habit in my life and marriage.  As authors and speakers Craig and Amy Groeschel put it, “Seek the One with your two.” Translated: Seek God with your spouse by coming together in prayer. It doesn’t have to be complicated…pray during meal times, pray about shared concerns, and pray for each other.

I began with the title, “It’s impossible to pray and stay upset at your spouse,” but the more positive perspective is, “It’s possible to keep loving your spouse when you are committed to praying to the Lord about yourself, your spouse, and your marriage.”

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Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences

 After fourteen years of marriage, I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot change Edric to become like me (you’d think I would’ve figured this out sooner!). It really just hit me recently, that this endless attempt to make him completely understand my personality is a futile preoccupation. First, he is a man and that already makes him Martian to my Venus-ity. Second, the family context and culture in which we were raised was unlike each other’s. Third, I actually appreciate Edric the way he is even if sometimes, the way he isn’t like me can be infuriating. Fourth, the point of marriage is not to become like one another but to become more like Christ and to exalt Him and not us. This aim takes our differences and unifies them under a common purpose and goal.

 Nevertheless, the struggle remains…how to get along and remain faithful to that commitment to love one another. Let me illustrate this…

The other morning I prepared what I thought was a pretty amazing breakfast for Edric — a bowl of oatmeal, a plate of cheese, prunes, and walnuts, toast with honey and butter, scrambled eggs, sliced oranges, and malunggay tea. I giddily arranged everything, expecting him to be amazed and delighted at how beautifully plated his food was. I waited for him to say, “Wow! Thanks hon!” Instead, he sat himself in front of his breakfast and asked rather tersely, “What’s this in my oatmeal? Did you put evaporated milk?”

I took this reaction as a complaint instead of a mere question so I retaliated with a comment that went something like this, “That’s all you have to say after I made all of that?”

Edric didn’t appreciate my interpretation of the situation, especially because I muttered it in front of the kids. I should have been more prudent and more respectful. But I thought his question expressed ungratefulness. Annoyed with me, he corrected my attitude and judgmental spirit on the spot (also in front of kids). “The problem is you had expectations and so you thought my question was negative. I just wanted to know if you put evaporated milk in my oatmeal.”

It was unusual for him to correct me with the kids present because we tend to take up our issues with one another in private. With the kids spectating, I felt just cause to add, “Are you going to do this with the kids here?” Well, he corrected me even more! So I stopped, afraid that our interchange wouldn’t benefit the kids. I didn’t want to put our conflict on display. Plus, Edric was getting more and more frustrated with me for challenging him. I apologized to our kids, but inside I was a volcanic mess.

When we were finally alone, Edric and I got to talk. He called out my tendency to hyperbolize any sort of negativity from him — whether it be a comment, an expression, or his tone of voice — if it looks or sounds like the opposite of positive, my defenses kick in and I retaliate. Admittedly, I am overly sensitive when it comes to Edric’s opinions and assessments of my duties and responsibilities as a wife. When he communicates his displeasure, I feel deeply discouraged. My problem is I am allergic to even the most subtle portrayals of irritation from him. Instead of looking past his method to the intent of the correction, for my good, I fight back. Sigh.

I attempted to explain that this response is due to my upbringing, because my home was a positive, cheery environment. Think sunshine and sparkles. People appreciated one another and applied grace towards imperfections. Initially, Edric took this to mean that I was making a comparison to our present family culture. But I assured him that my past merely provided a reference for how we ought to relate to one another. I praise God that after several turbulent exchanges where our emotions began to escalate, we were able to sort through the hurtful comments properly. Edric led us to good conclusions.

  1. I need to be more humble when correction comes my way (no matter how it is delivered).
  1. Edric will make a conscious effort to apply gentleness of tone when he corrects me.

He also called our children into the kitchen and sat them around us. “Kids, will you forgive me for the way I talked to your mom? I was trying to correct her but I should have said it in a sweeter way.”

“You weren’t so nice,” Edan observed. (I wanted to clap but I didn’t!)

“Yes, you are right and I want you all to know that I shouldn’t talk to your mom that way. And you shouldn’t either. If you see something that she needs to change, you need to say it in a polite way.”

Edric explained to them that they had to respect me and speak to me in a manner that honored my position as their mother. The kids understood and returned to their play. I really appreciated this. Edric didn’t have to emphasize his own error but he did, and very humbly, too. This restored our family to authentic oneness.

We have been at this point many times as husband and wife. Our disagreements often feel like marital dejavú! We still wrestle with similar issues that irked us about each other at the beginning. They can even be called irreconcilable personality differences.

Thankfully, God has protected our marriage from some of the major problems that many relationships have to work through, such as infidelity, addictions, abuse, etc. I am not saying that it isn’t vulnerable to the same things. Yet by God’s grace, our conflicts revolve around personality differences rather than conviction-based ones.

Even so, if we weren’t committed to resolving our conflicts, small issues would most definitely distance us. They would pile up and make it easier for greater hurts to infect our marriage. For example, if Edric and I didn’t address our differences constructively, we might resort to quiet tolerance. Neither of us would be able to express genuine feelings. Untouchable subjects would naturally cause our communication to suffer. And then we might be less inclined to connect sexually because we don’t feel that spiritual or emotional oneness that ought to precede healthy intimacy. As we continue to drift apart, having made this manner of relating to one another a habit, we would seek out people or activities to satisfy unmet longings. This vulnerable state would put us in a position to make choices that could really harm or destroy our marriage.

The point is that Edric and I must continue to pursue oneness in Christ, accepting that there are aspects we cannot change about one another. That’s what commitment is…applying God’s grace and forgiveness when those differences sting, and going back to the ONE who holds us together. We both want to honor and obey Him. We want to glorify Him in our marriage. We want to live out His principles and not insist on the personal preferences that polarize us.

Is it hard? Is it challenging? Is it maddening at times? Yes, yes, yes. Yet after each conflict that is resolved we find ourselves saying that we love one another still. The even more amazing thing is, when we work through our issues by pursuing oneness in Christ, we discover that love can be better, bigger, and deeper than the love we knew in the year that passed.

My encouragement to young married couples is don’t let your irreconcilable personality differences pull you apart so you become two separate people over the years. Let those differences draw you closer to the Lord. The best parts of being married are yet to come. Don’t bail out emotionally and spiritually when conflict arises.

About two weeks ago I was visiting with my dad in his study room, where I have enjoyed many one-on-one conversations with him about life. He told me something that changed the way I think about the differences Edric and I have. He said, “Differences don’t really go away. Take for instance your mom and me. The same things that bothered us about each other at the beginning continue to be there. But we have learned to grow in grace.” 

He said it so beautifully I wanted to cry. Okay, I’m crying a little bit now. The truth is no marriage can survive without God’s grace and every marriage blooms with it. So if you are feeling discouraged today, receive God’s grace in your life and choose to give it to your spouse!

Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭24‬ NASB)