Am I Your Priority, Honey?

I often equate respect for my husband, Edric, as minding my tone and attitude as a wife when I communicate with him, or trusting in his leadership when he makes decisions. But under the category of respect, there is also the aspect of making Edric my priority, of giving him importance.

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(I just had to insert this photo of Edric. I think he looks so handsome here!)

What do I mean? Sometimes Edric will assign me a task or responsibility and he expects me to get it done expediently. My problem is I get so busy with the kids and other commitments so that I either forget or delay acting upon his requests.

He will ask me, “Did you get such and such done?” and I will be like, “Ummm…oh yah, I forgot…okay I will do it.”

Other times, prioritising him is about dropping what I am doing in the present to give him attention. When I’m at the table with him, he prefers that I don’t exit the scene until he is done eating, too. He asks me to ignore all my gadgets and set them aside when we are together. When he comes home from work, he wants me to spend time with him and ask him about his day.

Edric isn’t unreasonable about his desire for respect. He doesn’t even say, “I want you to respect me by doing this and that…” But Gods’ word commands me to.

Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33, NASB)

The original Greek word for respect in Ephesians 5:33 is the word “phobeo” which means to fear, reverence, venerate, treat with deference or reverential obedience. Hmm…I must admit that reading this definition did not sit well with me, at first. It’s not that I don’t respect Edric. But the idea of revering and venerating him troubled me. I thought the passage was asking for too much.

I struggled with all kinds of questions. What if a husband doesn’t deserve respect? (not Edric…but hypothetically speaking.) What if a husband doesn’t act in loving ways toward his wife? What if a husband is tyrannical and abusive? What if…

Well, here’s something comforting…

1 Peter 3:7 also says this: Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

For husbands, the Greek word for respect used here is “time” which means to honour, value, consider precious, to defer to.

While this isn’t the point of the entry, God wants a husband to treat his wife with honour, too. God will hold Edric and every husband out there accountable for the commands he has given to them. But what is my part? God asks me to respect Edric, so that’s what I want to talk about. I can’t control what Edric does or doesn’t do. I also can’t use the excuse, “I will respect him when he has earned it.”

When King David was unashamedly dancing with joy before the ark of the Lord, his wife, Michal looked upon him with contempt. 2 Samuel 6:16 says, “As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.”

When Michal got the chance to interact with her husband she remarked, “How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!” (2 Samuel 6:20) In response David answered, “It was before the LORD, who chose me above your father, and above all his house, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the LORD–and I will make merry before the LORD. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in your eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honour.

Interestingly, verse 23 emphasizes that Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.

God withheld the blessing of children from Michal for the way she despised her husband and acted disrespectfully toward him. She could have celebrated with David when she saw the ark. Instead she judged him in her heart and spewed out verbal venom. Maybe she thought he was a bad dancer. Maybe she didn’t like the way the women looked upon him because his body was exposed. David reminded her that God appointed him as leader. He also told her that he didn’t mind making a fool out of himself before the Lord. She had interpreted his actions as disdainful and vulgar but he was rejoicing before the Lord. Unlike herself, David said the maids around him will hold him in honour.

I think this passage is rich with application for me, as a wife. I’m reminded that God sees my heart’s attitude toward Edric. If I have seeds of negative thinking growing in it, my words and actions will manifest the ugly that is inside, just like Michal. Worst of all, I forfeit God’s favor and blessing in my life. So I have to take the command to respect Edric very seriously…even in the small things.

A few days ago, Edric and I ran into a conflict because he wanted a more substantial breakfast. Cereal and bread were the picks for the day. Normally, there would have been more filling options on the table. Edric was not expected to be home in the morning since he had a men’s group meeting. However, the traffic was so bad, he decided to do a u-turn and come back. I was still asleep so I didn’t even know he was downstairs.

When he came up asking if there was anything else to eat beside cereal and bread, I was like, “Okay, I’ll fix you something.” So he waited. But I also had to prepare myself for a meeting at 10 AM. Furthermore, I was bringing all the children with me, which meant a certain amount of production was involved in getting out the door. (When you have five kids, there’s no simple way to exit the house unless they run out naked.)

As I busied myself printing materials for my meeting and putting my things together, Edric started to become impatient. He was still kind about it but I sensed that his hunger was escalating. Edric + hungry = bad situation. I should’ve attended to him right away but at the same time, there was a real sense of urgency and importance to what I was preoccupied with.

An hour later, he finally went to the kitchen by himself, but his mood had changed. I plopped my bags on the table when I was all done and ready to go, and asked, “Do you want a bagel with cream cheese?”

“Is there really a bagel?” He responded. I detected agitation in his query.

“Why would I ask you if you wanted a bagel if there was no bagel?” I retorted, unnecessarily annoyed.

“Well, maybe because you opened the refrigerator and saw there was no bagel?” (This was a nonsensical discussion.)

“But THERE IS a bagel and THERE IS cream cheese.” I fixed it for him but I was irked. And then of course this triggered the question from him, “Why are you getting upset?”

I knew what was going on. The real issue was I hadn’t taken care of his needs right away. Sure enough, he eventually remarked, “You said you would get me something to eat, and then you didn’t.”

“But you weren’t even supposed to be home for breakfast anyway, and I had to get a lot of things done.” This was my attempt at trying to side-swipe him and make myself look like the better person.

“That’s not the point. You gave me an expectation. If you couldn’t do it, just tell me. I would’ve been understanding about it. Instead I had to wait.”

I got it. Basically, Edric felt de-prioritized. I agreed to get him more food but it was the last thing I ended up doing before I stepped out of the house. Looking back, I could’ve asked our househelp to whip him up a cheese omelet or grabbed the bagel earlier so his hunger pangs would have been alleviated.

During a conference I attended last Saturday, one of the speakers (who happened to be my mom), reminded the ladies in the audience that our first ministry is to our husbands and children. One of the statements she made was, “We need to prioritize our husbands…be home when they come home, do what they ask us to do right away.” She even gave the example of being in the middle of preparing for her speaking engagement when my dad asked her if he could meet with her to discuss his Sunday message. She dropped what she was doing to spend time with him even if she really HAD TO get ready. My dad was thrilled. It meant a lot to him to have her attention and assistance.

Each husband may have specific ideas about how he would like to be respect by his wife, but I’m sure every husband wants to be prioritized — to feel like he takes precedence over the kids, ministry, career, hobbies, etc. We can interpret this as selfishness (like I used to. bad bad.), or we can embrace God’s design and say, “Absolutely! It gives me great joy to do so!”

After years of marriage, I’ve only begun to understand why respect matters so much to my husband. When I prioritize his needs, obey his requests, trust his leadership, and give him attention, he feels deeply loved. He also feels empowered and inspired to be the Christ-like leader God has called him to be.

Recently, Edric asked me very sweetly, “Hon, I hope you won’t take this the wrong way but I would really like you to hug and kiss me at the door before I leave, no matter what you are doing.” The day before, I had unintentionally ignored him when he left to go to his ANC taping. I was in the middle of an interview with a magazine. I didn’t even realize he had gone. Apparently, he felt hurt.

I could’ve taken this two ways. The first would have been to think, Seriously? My life doesn’t revolve around you, okay?! The better response would have been to say, Sure! Because it matters to you, it matters to me. You are important.

Whew. I chose the latter…only by God’s grace!

The next day, when he headed towards the door to leave, I hugged him and kissed him in a very exaggerated way for dramatic effect. “Is this what you mean?” I asked, smothering him affectionately. He reciprocated and smiled from ear to ear. The kids saw me and came running over to him as well. We enveloped him with our hugs and kisses. He was in heaven! So was I! Whenever I respect and honor Edric, there is a sweet, God-given joy that follows the choice to do so.

How can we demonstrate respect to our husbands today?

It’s not easy to respect Edric 100% of the time (just as it isn’t easy for him to love and cherish me 100% of the time!). But perhaps these questions will help you as they have helped me to think through what respect means when it comes to prioritizing my husband:

Am I eager to serve my husband or do I think of him as an interruption or inconvenience?

Does he know that he is the most important person in my life or does he have to compete with other people and my other preoccupations?

When he asks me to do something, is my response to say, “Okay, I’ll get it done, honey.”, and do I do it with a cheerful attitude?

Do I want God’s favor and blessing in my life? Do I desire to love and obey Him?

John 15:10 – 12

10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! 12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

 

 

 

 


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A Greater Purpose For Learning

I have often told my kids that language skills are important. Reading, writing, composition, and comprehension are all necessary and worth the hours of arduous study and practice required to hone them. They aren’t always eager about my pep talks. But they are beginning to experience why these are valuable beyond the discipline of learning academics.

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As often as possible, we ask our kids to speak with us when we teach at retreats or events. This gives them a venue to apply what they learn. Elijah speaks more frequently with Edric. Edan is getting his own version of speaker’s training as well. The point is to let our kids see how they can be a blessing when they develop a skill or ability that would otherwise seem insignificant to their childhood ambitions and preoccupations.

What kid likes to learn things like grammar and other tools for good communication? My children don’t naturally gravitate towards these disciplines. In fact they would prefer NOT to do their language arts subject. But nowadays they have good reason to.

A person who can read, write and speak well can be used by God to communicate his truth and bless people.

Most young children think of learning as their inescapable day to day reality. They can’t wait for semester and summer breaks. I know this because there was a season of my childhood when I was in a conventional school. I studied but I wasn’t inspired to do so. It was my duty, a responsibility that felt very much like a chore.

On the one hand, kids need to accept that they have to study well whether they like it or not. I had this conversation with Elijah this morning when he told me he wasn’t motivated to do his homeschool work. How wonderfully humbling that this surfaced right after I wrote an article on using creative ways to motivate a child to learn! He is an older child so I tread more carefully with him, trying to respect that he will soon be a young man. I don’t want to be an overbearing mother. But I did tell him that sometimes we decide with our head first and the feelings follow. We may not always feel like doing our responsibilities but we have to. So we make the choice to and God will bless the effort. By the end of the morning his mood changed. (Thank you, Lord.)

Going back to our children’s involvement in public speaking…

This is one way to get our kids to apply what they learn in a very practical manner. But the more valuable reason is we want them to see the bigger picture. Their education is profitable for the fulfillment of God’s plan. If they give their best now to train their minds, they can use their talents and abilities to make a difference for God’s glory.

The Bible tells us, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭10‬ NASB)

God invites even children to participate in the building if His Kingdom. At a young age, they can serve him and others. They can look beyond subject studies to seek a higher purpose for learning.

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“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭4‬:‭12‬ NASB)

Motivating Children To Learn

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have positively splendid learning days every single day…where our children have voracious appetites for reading, rise to the challenge of difficult assignments, and approach life with an insatiable curiosity to discover, know, and develop new skills? Wow. Wouldn’t homeschooling be a dream?! Okay, okay, every single day may be asking for too much. But I think it’s fair to expect that the good days can outweigh the tough ones.

Every homeschooling parent will encounter days when his or her child is not thrilled about studying. It’s completely normal. If this sort of de-motivated behavior starts trending, then a parent may have to take drastic measures to fix the problem. But the occasional attitude hump and bump along the way is to be expected.

Here are some helpful questions to ask…How do we kick-start our children’s internal sparkplugs? What is within our control to change, alter and improve? Could it be aspects like our perspective on our kids, the methodology we use, the materials we have chosen, or the environment we have staged for learning to happen? Is it something outside of our control? Like our children’s physical conditions, their attitudes, or heart issues that are spiritual in nature?

Answering the above questions will allow us to isolate factors that contribute to our children’s frustration or de-motivated approach to learning. For example, author George Harris, said, “When a child is given the right degree of difficulty in his studies so that he enjoys the challenge and experiences a feeling of accomplishment, he will improve in those subjects and carry those positive feelings into other areas of his life. A bored and frustrated child, on the other hand, will feel like a failure; that feeling too, will be carried into other areas of life, causing him to be afraid to try new things or learn new subjects.”

Dr. Raymond Moore says that a home teacher is confronted with the onus to make classwork and all learning for a child both challenging and exciting so they will want to return to it again and again. Is this possible? Shouldn’t our children simply swallow the bitter pill…that learning is hard work and they must accept this as their reality and get over their negative attitudes about it?

I’ve tried that approach. “Just do your work because you have to.” On the one hand, there are moments when this is applicable. But it’s very tiring to force a child to learn when he isn’t interested in doing so. Can you imagine multiplying this sort of scenario 5 days a week x 10 months in a year x 13 years of homeschooling (if I homeschool from K to 12)?! I would give up in the first year for sure!

With a little creativity, I believe every child can be ENCOURAGED to learn and homeschooling can be a positive experience for both parent and child.

After experimenting with several approaches on my kids (they tend to be the guinea pigs for all my homeschool experimenting, especially when it comes to curriculums and methods), I came up with a simple system that has been working so far. I’m saying “so far” because seasons come and seasons go. Sometimes, what works for one year won’t do for the next. What works for one child will have zero effect on another. But I praise God that SO FAR, this system is producing desirable outcomes.

For the longest time, I have placed post-it tabs in my children’s books. These tabs mark the “stop” points for each day of work. For example, if I want Elijah to cover 5 pages of his math book, I will stick a post-it tab on the fifth page. When he sees the tab, he knows what he has to cover. I also put several tabs in each of their books so they can go past the tab and proceed to the next one if they are feeling particularly inspired and energetic about their work that day.

Using tabs as markers lets my kids know their daily goals. But this school year, I added another component to this tab system:

  1. The kids complete their assigned task(s) for a certain subject area by working until they reach a tab. (The number of pages is pre-determined by me or agreed upon with my kids.)
  2. After doing so, they pull off the tab and bring it to me.
  3. I will check their accomplished work and sign the tab, indicating the date and subject area as well.
  4. They will take the signed tab and stick it beside their name on a wall chart.
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  6. This process repeats itself with every subject.
  7. By Friday, the kids count the number of tabs they have collected during the week and they can do one of the following: get 5 pesos for every tab or accumulate at least 20 tabs so they can draw from the MYSTERY JAR. (they may combine their tabs with their siblings’ so their points are higher).
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  9. The MYSTERY JAR is filled with fun rewards that they get to pick from. (1 mystery jar draw = 20 tabs.)

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Last week we didn’t get to do more than 3 days of homeschooling, so the kids pooled together their tabs and drew from the jar. They pulled out a prize that read, “Date with Mom.”

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When Friday came along, I took all the kids to High Street for lunch and we also went to the bookstore. That was our “date.” My mother-in-law joined us, which doubled the fun.

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This week, the kids collected 60+ tabs which entitled them to 3 draws, 1 of which allowed them to have an extra draw. Here’s what they drew from the mystery jar:

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Somehow this tab thing is encouraging my children to go beyond their daily requirements. They use the tabs as a means to compete with one another (in a healthy way), and they look forward to redeeming mystery prizes for their hard work.

I hear them yell out, “I want to get more tabs!” and I see them dig into their books with eagerness. It’s a lovely sight to behold for this mother of five! I’m grateful that my kids are generally easy to teach, but witnessing their added spunk and gusto energizes me, too!

Simple ideas like this one can help to motivate your child, especially when they are younger. Ideally, however, you want to get them to the point where they really enjoy learning, no matter how hard it becomes. I’m beginning to see this happen in my eldest son, Elijah. While the tab system inspires him to get his tasks done, he likes to learn with or without this system in place. As an older child, he feels fulfilled when he grows in knowledge and wisdom, and he enjoys the challenge of learning.

Eventually, I’m hoping that his younger brothers and sisters will be the same way. Edan is showing signs of progress in this area. Nevertheless, I will keep up this tab system, until I have to come up with something else. After all, my kids aren’t the only ones who need motivating. I do, too! And getting to teach motivated children motivates me!

How to Travel Without Your Baby

20140804-175657-64617754.jpgI’m not an advocate of separating a nursing baby and mother for the sake of traveling. But I believe there are occasions when it may be necessary or even beneficial for both to be a part.

For example, your husband really wants you to go on a “honeymooney” vacation with him for 3 days, just the two of you. He wants to revisit couple hood and have you all to himself. If your baby is eating solids and over six months, I would say take the trip and leave your baby at home with your parents (I’m sure they won’t mind!). A trip with your hubby can rekindle romance and intimacy which will make you both better parents!

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The biggest challenge will be keeping up your milk production while you are away and then returning to breastfeeding when you get back. If that’s your fear, then take heart. Perhaps this post will encourage you.

Edric and I were in Brazil for 11 days and we opted NOT to bring Catalina. I vacillated between taking her and leaving her, going over the pros and cons. At first I was dead set on making sure she came with me. When my parents invited us to speak with them in Curutiba, Brazil, I was like, IF WE DO GO, WE HAVE TO BRING CATALINA.

However, two weeks before the event, Edric and I really thought through the decision and we decided not to. I was anxious and relieved at the same time. There really was no perfect scenario, but here were the factors that gave us peace of mind about her staying behind with our four other kids:

  •  At nearly 1 year, she was eating 3 sizeable meals a day.
  • Her intake of breastmilk was down to 14 to 16 ounces a day or 4 to 5 feedings. Her schedule looked something like this: 6 AM, 10 AM, 2 PM, 7 PM, 10 PM.
  • She could drink milk from a cup or glass or bottle.
  • I didn’t have enough milk stored in the freezer to sustain her for 11 days but my friends, Ron and Ivy, donated theirs. Ron, in particular can pump mega amounts of milk! She’s like a beautiful cow. Thankfully, she was generous enough to send me an oversupply of frozen milk.
  • Catalina’s paediatrician, Dr. Joy Ty-Say (the best pedia in the world), advised that she stay. Looking back, I’m glad we listened because Catalina got Roseola three days after we left which means she would have had it in Brazil.
  • Catalina was on a great sleeping schedule at night that would have been shot to heck by the jet lag effect.
  • I had a fantastic nanny to care for her in my absence and my kids would be staying with my in-laws. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) have always been the best people to leave our kids with when we are away.
  • The travel time to our destination and back was going to be uncomfortably long – Almost 30 hours with layovers.
  • Since Edric and I needed to speak and minister to people during this trip, we wanted to be able to focus on doing this.
  • Edric and I were also planning to celebrate our 13th year of marriage.

Even if these reasons made us inclined to go without Catalina it wasn’t an easy decision. It’s always difficult for me to leave any of our children and this was my first time to leave one of my breastfeeding babies. If circumstances were different, I would have preferred that we had waited until next year to take this trip to Brazil. But God made it clear through people, circumstances, and his word that this was a trip he wanted us to go on.

Nevertheless, I parted with Catalina tearfully. It felt unnatural for me to be away from my nursing child for an extended period of time. Eleven days felt like forever. So how did Catalina and I survive without one another and then reunite to continue our breastfeeding relationship?

I had to pump on a regulated schedule, preferably no more than 3 hours in between pumping. It didn’t matter where I was. I found a place to sit down with my nursing cover and pump. This was a challenge. I brought a hand pump! On the one hand it was super easy to carry along and quiet. But on the other hand, I probably didn’t get as much out of me as I could have with an electric or battery operated pump. However, my Avent pump worked just fine to keep my supply going.

On the 6th day my milk decreased a little. But this was related to emotional stress and lack of water in take. My emotional stress was connected to having to give a very personal testimony about a tragic experience in my life. As for the water, it was hard to come by in Brazil. We had to keep buying mineral water and I didn’t like spending for it. Eventually, I just drank out of the tap in our hotel room. When my mom suggested that I try it since she had been doing it without getting stomach problems, I guzzled down glasses of it! (My mom has a stomach of steel. She “trained” it by drinking tap water all around the world. I’m not as brave as she is and I’m not recommending this!)

Pumping on a schedule meant doing so even during the conference sessions and while touring. But I didn’t care and nobody did either. One time, I had to stand up with my not so pretty nursing cover because Edric and I were introduced to the audience. That was a little awkward. I had one hand under the cover holding my hand pump and the other one waving. On other occasions I pumped while riding in tour buses or taxis, while eating a meal, in the mall, etc.

Unlike some of my friends who stored every ounce of milk they pumped during their travels, I dumped mine. I’m not proud of this but it was the simplest way to keep my milk production operation going. I didn’t bring a sterilizer for my pump because it would have complicated my pumping “system.”

It was hard to throw away my milk. Everytime I poured it down a sink, I felt sad. I tried to convince Edric to drink it so that someone could benefit from it. He agreed to if it was cold. But, when the cream rose to the top after I kept milk for him in the refrigerator, it was asking too much. I agreed. It didn’t look very appetizing. I couldn’t bring myself to drink it either. So I pumped and dumped.

One of my friends, Kim, took along an ice chest with her when she traveled with her husband, and she was able to keep all her milk frozen. Amazing! She paid a lot of money for excess baggage and threw out clothes she didn’t care about so she could bring home her milk!

I favored the practicality of dumping it, but there was emotional aspect to doing this. It felt wasteful. So depending on the situation, a mother has to decide what is important to her. Go through the trouble of sterilizing a pump and storing milk while traveling or pour it out after each pumping session. It’s not a moral choice but some people have very strong convictions about breastmilk. I have friends who donate their milk to babies who are in need so it would be difficult for me to say that pumping and dumping is the best way to go.

Besides pumping regularly, I kept taking my Life Oil pills (Malunggay) which I had been using for months. Two capsules a day, plus all my other vitamins and minerals. I learned a new word from my friend, Kim, who stored her breastmilk and took it home. GALACTAGOGUE.

Take a galactagogue to increase milk supply (ex. Fenugreek, oatmeal, Malunggay, Motilium). Malunggay capsules were the most familiar to me because I usually take them when I am breastfeeding. I also knew about Motilium which I had used for my children’s stomach problems in the past. When I read up on it, I found out it was safe for nursing mothers to take but I never did try it to increase milk supply. Kim told me she had tried it and it didn’t impeded her intestinal functions. Motilium comes in suspension or tablet form. Both Life Oil and Motilium are available at Mercury Drug. Both of these can be pricey. There are other brands of Malunggay capsules sold in Mercury Drug and generic drug stores like Generics Pharmacy.

When taking a trip away from a nursing baby, I wouldn’t recommend going over a week. Eleven days was pushing it for me. I would have preferred a 5 or 7 day trip if we had not attended a conference. Since we wanted to maximize our time in Brazil, we added two side trips – Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Sao Paulo was not worth it but Rio was. Sao Paulo is a massive city. There isn’t much to see in terms of tourist spots. It’s like a bigger version of Makati and way more expensive. As Brazil’s financial capital, it’s more of a business destination. As for Rio, this was our “honeymoon” part of the trip. We added this so we could celebrate our anniversary.

Most people don’t need to combine a conference and vacation in one trip. In fact, I would advise that a nursing mother focus on just one. The commitment of pumping and the emotional difficulty of being away will take its toll. At a certain point it was hard for me to Face Time with the kids and see Catalina. During one of our calls, she said “Mama” and pointed to my face on the screen and cried. That was tough!

As for the pumping, I got a plugged duct the day we left which was massively painful. At first I thought it might lead to mastitis but Edric and I prayed and 12 hours later, I was able to get rid of it. With a plugged duct, the best way to alleviate it is to keep nursing or pumping. I couldn’t do the former so I did the latter. Even if it hurt like heck, I forced myself to pump. Right after the duct unclogged itself, the pain dissipated. That was a happy moment. Previously, lifting my arm was painful!

I thought the biggest challenge of all would be returning to my breastfeeding relationship with Catalina. (That’s why I don’t recommend taking too many days away from a nursing baby.) I prayed about being able to nurse Catalina again, committing the final outcome to the Lord. Worse case, I was willing to stop breastfeeding. But that would have broken my heart. I gave my concern to the Lord and tried my best when I got back home.

My plan for reintroducing Catalina to the breast was to hold her first and be physically accessible. I was planning to try but I prepared myself to be rejected. If she turned me down then I was going to wait for her to remember that I was her milk source and pump in the meantime.

God was so good! When I got home, she expressed interest in latching on and she nursed right away! I was so happy. I thanked the Lord for affirming the decision to leave her. Since Thursday evening when we arrived, Catalina has returned to her nursing routine. Praise God!

Like I said at the beginning, I’m not saying that all mothers should leave their nursing babies and go away on a trip. But if you are put in a predicament where you need to or have to be away for a couple of days then here’s what you can do:

1. Pump enough milk two months before to store in the freezer so your baby can stay on breastmilk while you are away. Depending on the age of your baby, store enough ounces to cover your absence.

2. Have one person train your baby in advance to take breastmilk from a bottle or cup. I usually introduce a bottle to my babies when they are about a month old. Breastfeeding advocates often recommend later. But I’ve found that letting them try the bottle even two weeks after giving birth doesn’t cause confusion if the bottle isn’t given habitually. I don’t ever give the bottle myself. I have the nanny do it. But bottle feeding is always a last resort. I always prefer to breastfeed directly.

3.  Start taking a galactagogue if you feel you need to increase milk supply. Some women don’t need this and sometimes galactagogues don’t really affect milk production positively. But it’s worth trying a few weeks before you leave for your trip.

4. Avoid being away from your baby before the trip happens. It was hard not to do errands during the last few days prior to our Brazil trip, so I took Catalina with me as often as possible. This ensured that she was breastfeeding until the last possible moment.

5. Train your baby’s nanny to defrost and prepare breastmilk in the bottle so she is confident about giving it when you are gone. I taught Catalina’s nanny how to use the very simple Safety 1st Babypro Bottle Warmer.

6. Leave your baby with someone you trust. Grandparents are always a great option!

7. Pump every 2 to 3 hours when you are away. You can take a 6 hour break at night when you are sleeping so you get enough rest. But if you want to be super diligent about pumping, you can wake up once to pump. I used Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump, but I also recommend the one my sister uses which is very efficient, lightweight, quiet, and portable. She bought hers at Rustan’s: Medela Swing BreastpumpMedela Moms is very helpful if you want to consult them before buying a pump.

8. If you pump and dump, bring a bottle to store your pumped milk in until you find a place to pour it out. I went to the restrooms so I could wash out my pump and bottle each time. Since I wasn’t sterilising, I just used whatever soap was available.

9. If you want to store all your milk, bring milk storage bags, ice packs, a portable cooler (your breast pump may already come with one), a larger cooler than you can check-in, and a steriliser for your pump and bottles. Use the portable cooler and ice packs when you pump on the go. And the larger one to transport milk storage bags from one place to another. Keep the ice packs frozen by using the hotel refrigerator. If you check in your milk with frozen ice packs, they should be okay for 24 hours. It’s rare to be on a plane trip for longer than that, unless you are traveling to Brazil! According to my friend, Kim, airlines are pretty accommodating about checking in breastmilk. But, if you go over your allotted baggage weight limit, you will have to pay.

10. When you get back home, pump before you see your baby just in case she doesn’t latch on right away. If she doesn’t, stay on the bed with her and have skin to skin contact. She will most likely remember. If she is awkward about sucking at first, don’t worry. Be accessible and Lord willing, you will get back to your breastfeeding groove soon enough!

 

 

What Is This Love?

Brazilians are very much like Filipinos — warm, relational, and sincere. It’s been such a joy to interact with them and get to know their culture better. I have to gesticulate to communicate because most Brazilians don’t speak a smidgen of English. I’ve learned a few Portuguese words — obrigada (thank you), todo (total), Deus (God), minha (my), agua (water), bom (good), boa noite (good evening), oferta (special discount), saida (exit), entrada (enter)…

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Over the past week of sitting through the family conference sessions at First Baptist Church of Curutiba, I picked up a couple of insights that have been especially meaningful to me. Two days ago, Pastor Paschoal Pirigine talked about the idea of love as found in Ephesians 5:25.

The text reads, Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

What is this love that Christ demonstrated? How can we love our spouses and children in the same way? 

He shared two insights: Love must give itself completely, without limits. Love must reinvent and resurrect itself.

Interestingly, it was observed that people in concentration camps during World War II were of two kinds. The ones who were perceived to be strong, who were most likely to survive, did not. It was those who where weak but cared for others that tended to survive. Why? Because they had something to live for. They loved beyond their own capacities.

We tend to lose perspective about the fact that the God of the universe came to earth in human flesh. The endless had to “fit” into the finite. John 1:14 tells us that “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

When Jesus sacrificed himself, he died for the sins of the world. He could’ve stopped it all and come off the cross to end his suffering. Yet he gave his life with complete abandon. We may think it was easy to do because he was also divine. However, we know that he struggled with the realities of his limitations when he said, “Father if possible, remove this cup from me. But not my will but yours be done.”

We too are confronted by our limitations so often, especially in the context of a marriage and family. How does a person keep loving a spouse who is unfaithful? How does a mother keep loving a child who is impaired by a disability? How does a child keep loving a parent who is consistently angry and unreasonable?

Some of these limitations seem insurmountable. Yet true love sees beyond the impossible. Against all odds it seeks to exceed its limits for the sake of the person it chooses to love. Christ didn’t come off the cross because he loves us. He came to finish his mission — to die in our place so we might receive forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God.

Do we easily give up on our family members?

Pastor Paschoal told the story of a son who was addicted to drugs. This person was jailed thirty times! When he asked the parents if they felt like giving up, they replied, “We will never give up on our son.”

I don’t know what I would do if my son was this way! The reality is we are used to replacing and forsaking what pushes us to our limits. It’s the easier way out. But the solution to overcoming these limits is to focus on what Christ did on the cross for us.

We must seek to do as Christ did. Love must “raise and reinvent” itself. After Jesus died, he raised himself and “reinvented” his body. He was raised with a new body. We know this because his friends didn’t recognise him right away. Similarly, we must resurrect our love and reinvent it in new forms, expressing it in new ways.

Pastor Paschoal went on to share that at 15, his love for his wife (his girlfriend at the time) was to show up at the seashore to meet her. When there was a flood in their city, his love compelled him to walk through the waters to go to her. At 21, love was to sit down with his young wife and say, “no matter how much we have, we will find a way to go through life together.” Today, loving his wife is to care for her as she struggles through the pain and challenges of an autoimmune disease that is affecting her nervous system. The disease is causing her brain to shrink.

According to Pastor Paschoal love must be reinvented for every phase of life. As each year passes, it should change according to the need of the other. It must be expressed in new ways to communicate itself. It must be resurrected newly, daily, through the seasons and phases of life, through the history of a marriage and a family.

And, very often love must be resurrected through forgiveness.

I know of a couple who survived the crisis of multiple infidelities on the part of the husband. Because the wife understood Christ-like love, she chose to forgive her husband unconditionally. This resurrected their love. Today, they have a beautiful marriage and they are impacting multitudes for the Lord. Although it didn’t happen overnight, the choice to forgive gave their marriage a fighting chance.

Only love that is amplified by the grace of God allows us to experience what is humanly impossible. Until we recognise what Christ did for us, “how he loved the church and gave himself up for her,” as Ephesians 5:25 tells us, we will not be able to love beyond our limitations or resurrect and reinvent love to meet the needs of our beloved. We need to abide in this love to give of this love.

When we embrace Christ’s love and mirror it in our marriage something amazing happens. A man and a woman who are so different, who come from dissimilar contexts become one person. This is the miracle of love. God creates one person, one life, one family, one dream, one culture.

I want to end with something John Piper said in his book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” Marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. A marriage between a man and a woman was designed form the beginning to be a reflection of the covenant relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

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When I read this, it really ministered to me. It renewed my resolve and commitment to love Edric for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer. Why? Because marriage was designed to showcase the relationship between Jesus Christ and his church. Christ will never leave his church, his bride. Christ will never betray or forsake his church, his bride.

Do our marriages display the same truth for our children? For the world? It is this truth that makes a marriage sacred. To love without limitations, to resurrect and reinvent love in our marriages is to declare the gospel — that God is a good and loving God. When this happens society will pay attention and notice. This love will spread from our marriages, to our children, and to the world.

If you want to read a book on marriage that will radically change your perception and understanding of it, click this link:
This Momentary Marriage

At 11 months

Catalina is nearly 1 year old. Has it passed that quickly? It’s been 11 months of loving my baby through sleepless nights and soiled diapers.

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At the same time last year I was stressing out about the realities of giving birth to a fifth child. I got through that and then came the challenge of her first month. Confined twice, once for an unknown bacterial infection and then for pneumonia a month later. But now look at her. I am amazed at how God makes all things beautiful in his time. For all the heartaches and pains he allows in our lives, there is a season of rejoicing that follows when we hope in him.

It was this hope that kept me afloat when I was lost in the darkness of uncertainty, when I was a mother gripped by anguish at the sight of her sickly child. Had it not been for hope’s warm light illuminating the tunnel of my consciousness, I would have given in to the blackening despair.

I was the saddest I had ever been, looking listlessly at white walls, past the point of tears. Edric feared that I was disappearing, emotionally speaking. But my Savior, my harbinger of hope, in a hospital room where I thought myself alone in sorrow, broke through my night with the affirmation of his presence.

It happened in an instant, while I watched my baby wearing her tubes and monitors lying quietly in her plastic crib. I said in my heart, “Surely now you are here with me as you have promised that you would always be. I believe it and I claim it.” And then I knew he was. There was no apparition. But I was convinced that he was watching it all unfold, his eyes upon me through the tempest. They were upon my sleeping child. We were the fixed mark of his love.

Then a peace and a calm that only he could bring entered into the arena with me. I had a fighting chance against the oppressive grief. In time, those dark days ebbed away. On the hope of his presence, I survived. As the weeks became months, the joy returned. His joy.

Sometimes on the path to joy, we must pass through the pain, the loneliness, and the darkness. It is during those shadowed moments when humanity’s weighted sorrows feel larger than us that we tend to reach for God. And finding Him we find the answer to our questions, the calm to our fears, the balm to our wounds, the satisfaction to our longings, the hope to our despair, the heaven to our hell.

I do not know the rest of my child’s story. But I am enjoying where it’s at right now. This page of her history declares that God is good and faithful. His doings are often mysterious to my finite mind but they are directed towards the same end — that I should know him, obey him, love him, and serve him, and lead others to do the same.

For all its turns, valleys and precipices, its narrow ways and indiscernible paths, I would not trade this life for any other as long as God is with me. He is the Lover of my soul, my all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present Savior, Redeemer and Friend. To know him is to know joy, and in him is a life of joy!

O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts
… (‭Psalms‬ ‭95‬:‭1-8‬ NASB)

Father To Son-In-Law

This is something I should have posted last week, but here it is anyway…

We celebrated a belated Father’s Day with my dad two Tuesday nights ago. Of course we went to his favorite restaurant — Summer Palace in Shang-rila.

There are only four top hits for my dad when it comes to Chinese food…Lugang, Choi Garden, Summer Palace, and Gloria Maris.

He got his Peking Duck and steamed Lapu-Lapu fix so he was very happy. Everyone wrote him letters and cards and he read through each one aloud.

My dad has always appreciated home made cards that tell him what he means to each of us. It’s not a narcissistic thing. Like any good father, he wants to know that he made and is making a positive difference in our lives.

During the dinner, the grand kids hovered around him as he gladly received their written gifts. He was delighted to read everyone’s cards and letters, smiling and adding drama to his voice as he went through each one.

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As the night came to a close, we all asked him to give the fathers at the table his words of wisdom. This was his 3-point, very simple sharing:

1. Assume responsibility for your family’s well being – God has entrusted to you your wife and children. You are to provide physically and spiritually and you are to give direction to your family. You are responsible. Your role cannot be delegated.

2. You have to be intentional. This is about modeling Christ-likeness and spending time with your children to teach them the habits, attitudes, and life principles that will prepare them for true success.

3. Have a positive home environment. Be fun. Do not complain and grumble or focus on the small things. In other words, don’t be reactive or easily irritated.

As I listened to him I appreciated how consistent he was at applying those same things when we were kids. He has truly been an amazing father. It was because of him that all of my siblings and I became committed followers of Jesus. His example, discipline, encouragement, godly leadership, and love for the Lord made us desire to serve and follow Christ, too.

But there is something else I am really thankful for. My dad discipled his sons-in-law. (He continues to do so.) In fact, I teared up when he read Edric’s personal letter to him. Edric shared about how important my dad’s affirmation and positivity have meant to him over the years. He said he learned God-confidence from my dad.

As confident as my husband may seem, he struggled a lot with insecurity when he was younger. For example, one relative told him he was “very ugly,” which kind of scarred him. Another one made him feel like he wasn’t good enough. So he grew up with certain emotional pains that made him feel like he had to continually prove his worth. My dad helped him to understand who he is in Christ.

During a recent retreat, I heard Edric say that his life has been a story of three fathers. His first father (my wonderful father-in-law) raised him and taught him about manhood. His second father, my dad, healed him of childhood insecurities, and led him to the father of all — God the father. Edric’s third father — God — saved his life and brought meaning and purpose to it beyond his own selfish goals and ambitions.

Many years ago, my dad sat down with Edric and told him about Jesus Christ and how to have a personal relationship with him. This changed his life forever.

Before Edric married me, my dad had a “talk” with him about God’s design for sex in marriage. Sounds pretty crazy and awkward but Edric actually appreciated it.

When we got married, my dad mentored and discipled Edric. He invited Edric to join the group of men he met with weekly for accountability and the study of God’s word. And he would ask Edric regularly, “How are you doing, son?” which allowed Edric to share what was on his heart. He also gave Edric opportunities to serve along side him in ministry. My dad would affirm Edric’s gift for speaking which encouraged Edric to preach and teach God’s word to others.

My dad’s presence as a father to Edric made such a difference in Edric’s life, which ultimately, turned out to be beneficial for me and our kids! I got a husband who was mentored by two great dads — his own and mine.

In Edric’s letter to my father he wrote…Inscribed in the British pound is a quotation by Sir Isaac Newton, which reads, “If I have seen farther it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. I want to thank you, dad, for being a giant in my life.”

What a blessing a father can be to his son-in-law when he takes it upon himself to mentor and guide him in love! Thank you, dad!

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You Are My Kryptonite

Edric threw his work bag into the back of the car, and plopped himself beside me. “You are my Kryptonite,” he said, throwing his arms over his head with a smirk on his face.

“Huh?! Me?!”

“Yes, my Krypton.”

I inched over to him and hugged him. I love being Kryptonite…his “weakness,” as he calls it.

We had come from a lunch and I should’ve gone home by myself, but I turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you just come home with me?!” He didn’t have much going on at work so I hoped he would take the invitation. (Plus, if he had stayed at the office, he would have been home really late because his car was color-coded.)

“I think I will do that,” was his response, and I could hardly suppress my giddy excitement. The idea of having him around for the afternoon was such a treat!

Shortly after, he semi-ruined the romantic moment when he jokingly presented what looked like a booger to me and said, “Come on, I dropped everything for you this afternoon…take it. We are one person anyway.”

“Yes we are, but we don’t have the same boogers.”

He just wanted a reaction from me, a scream of girlish horror (which he received).

I’m glad we still have fun. We play silly games. We tease. We laugh. We exchange ideas and opinions. We argue and discuss our differences. We finish each other’s sentences.  We serve the Lord together. We cry because God is good…because it’s so amazing to raise children and watch them grow up…because we don’t deserve anything that we have…because it’s all grace.

This is grace. Right here. Right now. Having a husband who is tender and sweet towards me even after 13 years of knowing everything ugly, sinful, and complicated about me, and then calling me his Kryptonite. It’s flattering. It’s comforting. It’s scary!

If I don’t walk with the Lord I can be a stumbling block in his life. I can be a thorn in his side. I can be the devious whisperer who hisses negative thoughts and ideas into his ear…about people, circumstances, the present, the future…

So I have to guard my own heart. I must walk faithfully with the Lord and make sure that I encourage him to do the same. While he is my leader and the head of our home, he has given me the privilege of his trust. And with this comes a responsibility.

He said, “I must whisper well.”

A woman whispers into the ear of her husband and she can influence him towards or away from Christ-likeness. Take for example, Jezebel to Ahab.

1 Kings 21:25 tells us, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him.”

That’s not who I want to be to Edric! But I can certainly become this way if I’m not careful. I can have a Jezebel-spirit if I’m not filled with the Holy Spirit. A Jezebel-spirit is one who seeks to control and manipulate her husband to do what is wrong in God’s eyes, for her own gain and purposes.

Recently, I have wanted to buy more furniture for the house. But Edric has told me that we have to “tighten the belt” now. We have spent a lot for our new home so we have to temper our purchases, spread them out. My impulse is to finish decorating everything right away. But I have to mind what I say when I express this desire to him. If I pressure him, he will find a way to make more money. However, he is trying to turn down offers for added income so he can streamline his activities and be more focused. As crazy as it may sound, this is a good thing. It’s what I have prayed for.

The last six months have been tough with him traveling to so many different parts of the Philippines. God convicted him to be very selective about what he commits to. Of course this means less money. However, it also means more time for family, ministry, and spearheading the homeschooling movement. These are God-honoring preoccupations that matter in eternity.

As for the house, it’s here. It’s pretty much done. The sprucing and decorating can happen as we go along. In the meantime, I have to practice contentment and thankfulness. I’ve got to support Edric’s desire to give more time to the Lord’s work and not push him to make more money for me to spend on our house. In other words, I have to mind my whisperings as his Kyrptonite because he listens to what I have to say and values it, because my happiness matters to him, and because he loves me. Therefore, my heart has to be wholly devoted to the Lord so that I speak words that encourage Edric to make choices and decisions that honor God. I want to be a GOOD Kryptonite!

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37 NASB)

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The Magic of Unconditional Love

The kids and I spent the morning at Splash Island with my siblings and their kids a few days ago. We were having a belated celebration for one of my nieces who turned 7. It was my first time to visit Splash Island and I would give it a 6 out of 10 for cleanliness and upkeep, an 9 out of 10 for fun.

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From a parent’s perspective the hygiene and sanitation factor is important to me, especially since I have little kids who often put their fingers in their mouths and swallow pool water all the time. But my kids could care less about these things. They were laughing about the frog that was swimming in the water, which the lifeguard nonchalantly picked up and chucked out of the pool, and the dark mold which made creepy patterns in the water tube slide (according to Titus).

Regardless of how Splash Island has aged over the years, the kids had a blast. Some of them even liked it better than Imperial Palace (a beautiful, world-class water park in Cebu).

Unfortunately, two unpleasant things happened during our water park morning. Elijah lost his very expensive prescription glasses, and Edan’s old and ugly crocs were stolen. (I find it hard to believe that anyone would have wanted those shoes!)

The day began with the kids bouncing around in the huge wave pool. Since I had gone to the park with 5 kids, no yaya, and no Edric, I wasn’t very “on the ball” about certain details. One very crucial detail was telling Elijah to give me his glasses before he got into the wave pool. Initially he wanted me to keep them in the locker but I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to see anything if he got lost in the park. So I told him to keep them with him. Bad idea.

While I was preoccupied with watching my three younger children, Elijah and Edan took on the biggest waves right away. A few minutes later, Elijah’s glasses were knocked off his face by a wave. Unable to see clearly, he had no idea where they were in the water. I was at the opposite end holding Catalina so I couldn’t rush over to help him find them either.

Some moments later, my siblings and I tried to look for them, hoping they would be washed “ashore.” Nothing turned up. I prayed and prayed. I also asked Elijah to hold on to Catalina when the wave pool was turned off so I could do a more thorough search. Since I didn’t bring goggles, the life guard was kind enough to lend me his. On any normal day I wouldn’t have used a stranger’s goggles, but I was pretty desperate! I swam along the sides of the pool to check the corners at the bottom. I dove down numerous times to survey the floor. Even if the water was kind of murky at the part where the waves came from (which should have totally disgusted me), I didn’t stop my hunt until I covered every inch along that end of the pool. My siblings searched other areas of the pool as well. Sadly, it was all in vain. Visiting the lost and found twice and asking them to call or text me in case the glasses were turned in didn’t make a difference either. Sigh. I felt horrible.

In the meantime, Elijah didn’t seem to mind a bit. He couldn’t see much but he was having such a good time it didn’t really matter that the entire park was blurry from his perspective.

The kids and their cousins spent the rest of the morning on the slides while I held on to Catalina. I was kind of glum because I couldn’t believe the glasses were gone. Plus I dreaded to call Edric at work to let him know.

In the changing room, I finally phoned him. Surprisingly, Edric didn’t seem too upset. He was disappointed but he didn’t get angry. I didn’t really expect him to flip out but I thought I was in for a teaching session that might have begun with, “So what were you thinking when you told him to wear his glasses while swimming?” There was none of that.

At about 12:30 pm, I had to leave. The boys stayed with their cousins and I took the girls home. During the ride home, I profusely apologized via text, telling Edric again how sorry I was. I didn’t check my phone until a while later but when I did, I read this message…”I love you and I will always take care of you.”

What?! Wow! I texted him right back, “Thanks babe. That actually made me cry…” To which he replied, “Great, that’s the idea.”

He knows what a sucker I am for sweet, tender professions of his love for me, especially when I make a mistake and feel very ashamed and unworthy. In the grand scheme of things, losing a pair of glasses may not have been a big deal. But ever since we moved to our new home we have emphasized to our children the value of being good stewards of God’s blessings. Letting Elijah wear his glasses while running around the water park was a very irresponsible decision. I should have made it very clear that he could wear them while walking from one ride to another and then asked him to hand them to me before swimming.

While I was mulling over my impaired judgment, the last thing I thought I would receive was a text message telling me that I was precious, important, and cherished. When Edric sent me his message, I felt a sudden rush of joy. He didn’t rub salt on my mistake by giving me a lecture about responsibility. Instead he emphasized my value to him as a wife. That made my day! In fact, I was so excited to spend time with him that I dressed up in an outfit I knew he would like, dropped by the store to buy him snacks, and went to his office for an impromptu visit. He was thrilled to see me.

When we were finally in the car together, he looked at me with a big smile and said, “I like it when you give me undivided attention!” He also asked, “Did you notice that I didn’t say anything negative when you called me about the glasses? That’s my new realization. I won’t say anything if I have nothing good to say and I will wait before responding.” (Edric is such an intense person that he can be reactive when circumstances trigger his emotions.)

Of course I noticed! And I loved it! After all, he knew that I was very cognizant of my wrong. So he took a much kinder approach and reassured me that I didn’t have to fret over what happened because he loved me and would always take care of me.

I felt transported to one of those cheesy scenes where I was running towards Edric in a field of flowers wearing a white billowy dress (no braces or bangs) and everything was golden with sunshine. My, my, my, the power of words spoken in a timely fashion to soothe and calm the soul of a perturbed lover (aka me)!

This incident made me realize that spouses need to say things like this to one another more often. It’s like a magical formula for romantic feelings. It’s hard for lovey-dovey feelings to blossom when the soil of a relationship is overgrown with the weeds of fear, shame, anger, disappointment, insecurity, and unforgiveness. But when unconditional love is offered, especially to the one who is undeserving, it inspires them to change for the better and to love the giver in return.

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From a spiritual perspective, it’s the same way with God. An understanding of what He did for us on the cross should result in the desire to repent of sin, serve him, follow him, and be with him. He is the truest example of unconditional love and he invites us to rest in this love rather than hide in our shame or continue in sin. Furthermore, being filled with His love allows us to channel it to others…especially to our spouses who need it the most from us!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11 NASB)

 

Enjoying Our New Home

“We can be a family here,” was something I said to Edric tonight as we watched the kids run around the island in our kitchen. (I think I gave them too much milk tea.) He pulled me close and told me that this was his exact sentiment. We had just finished singing Chris Tomlin’s version of “Crown Him with Many Crowns.” The older boys attempted to harmonize and the two younger kids gave their all at the parts they knew…namely, the chorus.

After seven months of our nomadic lifestyle in and out of my parents’ place and Edric’s parents’ place while finishing our house, we are finally settled into our new place. It’s not completely done. The yard needs grass. Our stairs have to be rectified. Some minor fixes and painting works remain. We don’t have all our furniture in. Plus, I’ve got a few more boxes to unpack. But that’s okay. Even if settling in has come with its challenges, we are beginning to build routines that make it feel like home.

Today, the kids played basketball with Edric in the cul-de-sac in front of our house.

Two weeks ago when they were shooting hoops, it felt like we were at ground zero. When Edric called out to our children to join him for a game, Edan was braiding pipe cleaners. Braiding?! What the heck?! Titus was like, “I’m hiding!” when Edric was looking to pass the ball to him. Elijah was getting frustrated that he couldn’t shoot the ball. I accidentally knocked Tiana over and she wanted to quit. When Edan ran off for a water break, Edric called to him. “No water breaks!” This was exercise time. No one was allowed to leave the “court.” Tiana started to complain about being tired but Titus (her teammate) looked her square in the face while holding her shoulders and very emphatically said, “Tiana, we have to exercise!” Not too long afterwards Edric passed the ball to Titus and he said, “Shoot it, Titus!” Titus held the ball and threw it backwards to, um…no one.

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What a comedy. At one point some neighbors down the street were watching our very low scoring basketball game. It was embarrassing. It was a game of celebrated turnovers.

I turned to Edric and jokingly said, “my, my, the years that the locusts have eaten!” in reference to the fact that our kids spent so many years living in the city and inside our condominium.

When Edric and I were living in Bonifacio Global City, I coveted big open spaces where my kids could run around. I really wanted my children to grow up climbing trees, kicking soccer balls, playing catch, or shooting hoops in the backyard. For a long time, this was all fantasy. We tried our best to walk them to High Street and back and run around the fields that remained, but it wasn’t always very easy to get them outdoors.

But this afternoon, while Edric was spending time with the kids dribbling, passing, and shooting the basketball, I thought of how wonderfully surreal it all was. I was cooking Thai food for dinner while watching the kids enjoy themselves. (They are getting much better!) Tiana was prancing around in her leotards and tutu. Little Catalina was being pushed around in her tricycle.

I can’t thank the Lord enough for giving us this home. He blessed us with a place where we can build memories as a family.

This morning I sat on our balcony and watched the sun come up while I read my Bible. It wasn’t even 6 am. We recently got blinds that should block out the light but it still finds its way in between the panels. I don’t mind. First light is a beautiful sight. Plus, I love the sounds of morning. There’s a bird that sings a tune I used to hear when I was a child. Every morning I listen for it and remember the happy days of my childhood. Now it sings for the days of my children. I’m still pinching myself. God is good!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He (God) has made all things beautiful in his time…”

 

 

 

From Head to Heart

My second son, Edan, is reading through the Bible. But he has admitted to me several times that he finds it tedious to do so and he doesn’t feel like keeping up the habit of a daily quiet time with the Lord. I have tried to encourage him by talking about the importance of growing in his faith and the joys of getting to know God more intimately. However, it remains a struggle for him to cultivate the desire to read.

Yesterday, he expressed the same reluctancy to study the word of God. So I invited him to sit down beside me and we read a chapter in Malachi together. I explained to him the passages we studied — how they related to our own experiences as a family and how they could be applied as principles for living. He was very engaged in our discussion.

At one point, he began to tear and I didn’t know where this was coming from. So I asked him if it was something we read or something I said. He wasn’t ready to answer then but after we finished reading, he grabbed a couple of pillows, curled up on the floor and told me, “When you spend time explaining the Bible to me, I feel touched.”

Touched? Did my reserved and calculated son just use that word to express himself? It wasn’t a word he had used before.

He began to have tears in his eyes again.

For the first time, he saw how amazing God’s word can be. It had come alive to him. I suppose he had always wanted to feel like a daily quiet time with the Lord was worthwhile but he had gotten discouraged by his inability to understand the adult vocabulary. I assumed too much when I handed him an adult version of the Bible and expected him to magically absorb it all because he reads well.

Over breakfast, he added something like this, “I am happy because God tells you to take care of me.” His eyes turned red again and he was trying to express to me that the experience of shared time in the word was an example of this. As a young child struggling with the guilt of NOT loving God’s word, a solution was given to him. God sent me, his mother, to help him. What mattered to him was the Lord knew his heartfelt and secret need.

I asked him what he does when he reads through his Bible by himself. His reply was, “When I don’t know the words, I just ignore them. I just read to finish.”

There had been no joy in his encounters with truth because its meaning was unclear to him and its applications, a mystery. What a great disservice I had done him, by operating with a false assumption that he could navigate through the text. My eldest, Elijah, has a richer vocabulary so it is easier for him to comprehend what he reads. As for Edan, he was going through the motion of reading but there was no delight in it. It was becoming a ritual. Having those 20 minutes together, talking about how applicable the text was to everyday life was precious to him.

Author Tedd Tripp writes that parents need to see the Bible as a family album. The Bible isn’t a literary piece about a nation or people who bear no relation to us, it is a living text that tells us what God has done, can do and will do in our lives. It is the history of our faith in Jesus Christ and the future of it. Do our children know this?

As for me, I have a lot to improve on in this area. My children cannot be left alone to guide themselves in matters of the faith. They are dependent on Edric and I during these tender years, while under our care, to elucidate and illuminate the character of God, his principles, the warnings and promises, and stories as found in the Scriptures.

Furthermore, for faith to blossom in the lives of our children, it has to become personal. It is one thing to teach our kids about what we believe, to emphasize character, and to read Bible stories. It is a totally different and more important thing to teach them how to enjoy God, to find that their deepest longings and questions can be satisfied in him, and to discover the truth that sets them free in his word. When this happens, faith can move from cultural and traditional to convincingly meaningful so it can be embraced as completely acceptable. Faith can’t reside merely in the head, it must finds it’s way to our children’s hearts so that convictions and commitments can be formed.

This morning, Edan reminded me that we had to read together again and he eagerly brought me the bookmarked page of Scripture to go over with him. I may not be able to do this every single day but I pray that I can pass on to Edan a love for God’s word while he is still young.

O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. (Psalms 71:17 NASB)

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It Matters…

“It matters to me that you notice,” my husband, Edric, told me when he received a text message from me that told him how much I appreciate him.

It was a random text sent after I saw him up later than everyone else because he had to settle an issue with a homeschool curriculum supplier based in the U.S. Everyone else was asleep but he was working. I had gotten out of bed to get a glass of water and there he was, all alone, trouble shooting a problem. Before I climbed back into bed I composed a quick message to let him know how much I appreciate all he does. It was meant to be read when I was already sleeping but he came into the room before I dozed off again.

When he checked his phone he smiled and told me that even simple gestures of positive encouragement matter.

Recently Edric and I have been counseling two couples and we found out that both husbands feel under appreciated by their wives. This may not be an accurate statistic but I believe that a lot of husbands are affirmation-starved by their wives. Even mine!

A few weeks ago, I was in some sort of nit-picky-and-annoying-nag-mode towards Edric. He was so de-motivated and deflated by my comments and negativity. My complaints may have been justifiable but my style and approach were not. I had to check my attitude towards Edric and evaluate where this sort of behavior was coming from.

When I become a nag, also known as a life-sucker (the opposite of Genesis’ description of a wife as a helpmate or “lifegiver” as John Eldridge interprets the Hebrew text), it is usually because I am focusing on my husband and not Christ. I begin to pin my hopes, expectations, and desires on Edric and I want him to respond, do something, come up with a solution, or just acknowledge me. While Edric does carry the burden of leadership in our marriage and family, I am supposed to inspire him to fulfill this responsibility, not demand, criticize or usurp it. More importantly, I am to use the proper “channel” when I feel like he isn’t fulfilling his role. It’s called talk to God to talk to Edric.

Furthermore, I need to have the right perspective. God is present in my marriage. If I have a concern or an unmet longing, I ought to surrender it to him in faith, trusting that he will take action based on what is best for Edric and I, and for his glory.

In the meantime, as a habit that’s worth practicing, I have to look for opportunities to speak life words to Edric. There is much to commend him about, especially if I use a detective’s eye to notice even the small things.

I have told wives this before. If we were to reflect on the traits that we appreciate in the men we are married to, we would realize how blessed we are. None of us are married to perfect husbands (we aren’t either!), but there’s certainly a lot more to them and what they do that can be acknowledged and appreciated. Some women have said, “I can’t think of anything.” Well, I would like to quote what my mom has often told me, “When we look at people, we must see them not as who they are at present but who they can become in Christ.” There’s always hope if we hope in God.

Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

I have witnessed husbands (hardened by the deceitfulness of sin) transformed by the grace of God because their wives exemplify this grace at home. It may not happen overnight but I claim promises like this one when waiting gets difficult…

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.”

In the meantime, Edric’s sweet response towards a simple text message was a reminder that being positive about the small things matters. He needs me to be his strong supporter and encourager. If I don’t lavish him with sincere praise, who will? I am the one who is supposed to notice the good stuff! I wouldn’t want anyone else to have the privilege of doing so!

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