When a Walk-in Closet Becomes a Boxing Ring

It was not so coincidental that a marital conflict between Edric and me erupted a few hours before the historic Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather fight. This one happened in our walk-in closet, with verbal “punches” in lieu of actual ones.

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PHOTO CREDIT: HBO

It began like this…a few weeks ago, Edric thought of opening up our home to friends and family who wanted to watch the live version of the fight on pay-per-view. It was a great idea and we were very excited about hosting this event. But, let’s fast forward to yesterday morning, when I was getting ready for worship service. Edric came into our walk-in closet while I was dressing up for church and asked me how many families were coming over. The count was at seven families, but equivalent to 39 persons (including kids).

His next query was, “How did you plan to seat everyone in our family room?” As the bohemian between us, my idea involved big pillows on the carpet for people to chill and lounge on. He labeled this an ill-conceived plan as people may not be comfortable about sitting on the floor. My instincts told me otherwise but I challenged him when he included the comment, “So you didn’t think this through. This is a half-baked plan. You are supposed to be the home manager.”

Whoa! Supposed to the home manager? What was he insinuating?

I am ashamed to admit that my first instinct was to react. So I jumped right into that imaginary boxing ring and put my gloves on.

But first, the thought bubble: I coordinated with the other families who were coming, went to the grocery to buy ingredients for tacos, drinks, baking supplies, made the cookies ahead of time, and instructed our househelp, giving them a detailed list of everything they had to get done to serve our guests. Hmph! Who’s the home manager? I am most definitely home managing! Plus, it was his grand idea to have everyone over in the first place so maybe he should have thought through the seating plan, too. It felt like an Adam-blaming-Eve kind of moment and I didn’t appreciate it at all.

None of the above reasons justified the lashing comments that spewed out of my own mouth defending myself and my perspective. I said to Edric in agitation, “YOU came up with this plan to have people over. So instead of blaming me, maybe you should have helped me.” Edric didn’t appreciate my tone and disrespectful attitude. He firmly replied, “Just admit that you were wrong. You didn’t really think this through.”

Does anyone remember when Mayweather pridefully said, “No, no” to Pacquiao during their boxing match yesterday? Well, that was me, at that moment, deep inside. No, no, I’m not the wrong one, you are the wrong one for making a big deal out of this family room issue. Since Edric didn’t relent, and I had to finish putting on my make-up, I chose to exit the conversation by saying, “Fine, I’m wrong. I’m sorry.” (I wasn’t really sorry at all. I just wanted to end an annoying dialogue.)

A few moments later, Edric requested for me to cut his hair and I didn’t feel like it. Sure, I’ve been his designated barber-ella for the last six months and I did say I would do it the day before, but oh, the timing…

Images of hair butchery swam in my head. But I did give my word so I pulled out the clippers from under the bathroom sink, attempting to contain my rage. Knowing me all too well, he remarked, “You can do this right? You are not going to mess up my hair because you are upset with me?”

“Of course not!” Even if I was tempted to botch up his hair I wouldn’t have resorted to a below the belt move like that! Although, hmmm…it was tempting…

Right before I turned on the clippers, we resumed the discussion again, defending our points of view. Edric knew that I wasn’t really sorry. This time he strongly encouraged me to admit that I was wrong, citing my pride as the cause of my unwillingness to do so. In my exasperation once again and knowing deep inside that he was right about my pride, I declared with tears in my eyes, “Alright, I was wrong, I made a mistake. Will you forgive me?”

God looks at the heart and my heart was not looking very good. I may have mouthed out the apology but there was no sincerity in it. So there I was, with clippers in hand, cutting Edric’s hair but grumbling inside. Bitter. That’s how I felt.

Admittedly this wasn’t one of Edric’s better haircuts. The details showed sloppiness on my part as my internal irritation distracted me from doing my best. I didn’t intentionally attempt to mess up behind his ears (which can be such a tricky part!) but I did. Edric knew it too but he wasn’t in the mood to point it out, trying to quell his own aggravation towards me.

It’s amazing how the Sunday message was aptly entitled, “Fight With God’s Power.” My brother, Paul, was the preacher and he paralleled the battle between the Israelites and the Amalekites to the spiritual battle we all face. Our enemies are sin, worldliness, and the evil one. How could I sit there in my seat and fail to be impacted by God’s Word?! I knew this message was for me.

When Moses held up the staff with his hands, the Israelites had the upper hand. When he dropped his arms the Amalekites started winning. With the assistance of two men, Moses kept his arms and staff up until the Israelites defeated the Amalekites. Moses’ staff symbolized God’s presence and power as the Lord used it to perform miracles in Egypt and in the desert on the way to the Promise Land. Holding his arms up portrayed the Israelites dependence on the Lord for victory. (Summary of Exodus 17:8-12)

At the end of the day, it is God’s presence and power that enables us to overcome the spiritual fight against sin, worldliness and the evil one, this was my brother’s point. In Ephesians 6:10 – 13 it says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

This message was exactly what I needed to hear. I saw Edric as my enemy. I wanted to throw the winning punches. I wanted to come out on top by proving that I was better. Sometimes this is what marriage feels like — a duel! Yet the real battle raging inside me was a fight against pride, against the worldly perspective that I would be the loser if I humbled myself and admitted that I could improve. Ultimately, the source of these temptations was the evil one, who took the opportune moment to attack me and I didn’t recognize him. All I saw was Edric as my nemesis. I got into the boxing ring without God’s presence or power and I was “punching” the wrong person.

How do we overcome the Amalekites in our lives, the sinful struggles we have? My brother, Paul, encouraged the audience to strategize, pray, stay in the word of God, record and remember, and give glory to God.

How should this have played out with Edric and me? I should have realized that this fight was an invitation from the evil one and not Edric. The strategy should have been to look past the attack on my person to the good intent of Edric’s comment. He sought to make sure our guests were comfortable. Second, I should’ve prayed about the hurt I felt when he seemed to insinuate that I wasn’t a good home manager. Then, prayed to calm myself down, to give a Spirit-filled response. Next, I should have obeyed the Holy Spirit’s conviction to apply passages like “humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, that he might exalt you at the proper time” (1 Peter 5:6) and “Let a wife see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33). If I had done these things, I would have experienced victory in the real battle, and given glory to God by my words and actions. I could’ve recorded and remembered what God accomplished when I “fought” in His power.

After worship, we rushed home to welcome our guests. Everyone was fine with the seating arrangements and they didn’t complain at all. They were troopers. Yet this wasn’t what really mattered. Edric and I knew we had to resolve our conflict. This wasn’t about being able to say, “See, I told you I was right.”

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Yesterday afternoon I asked for forgiveness and meant it, explaining to Edric my realization about the spiritual battle we are in. “Will you please forgive me for my disrespect and anger? I was wrong. Even if I was hurt by what you said, I shouldn’t have reacted that way. I was convicted that this was a spiritual attack.” I also explained to him all the preparations I made for the day that he didn’t know about and he apologized for implying that I wasn’t a good home manager.

Afterwards, the issue of the family room discussion was resolved and God gave us the opportunity this morning to converse over breakfast. We had other lingering issues to address. I expressed to Edric that lately, performing my role as a wife has felt burdensome and more like a chore. I don’t want it to be this way, but this has been my struggle in the past few weeks. He confessed that he has been a demanding husband so this could have something to do with it. He also assured me by saying, “We just need to rekindle the romance. I will take care of you.” This evening we will take time to be together when we have our date night.

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CHESTKNOTS

Even though I’m definitely looking forward to spending time with Edric tonight, I know that the greater problem is not the romance in our marriage or that a wife’s roles can be burdensome and chore-like. It is the enemies of my heart…the pride, self-centeredness, the obsession with self-preservation, wrong thinking, and the lies of the evil one. Therefore, my life-lesson is this: When a walk-in closet becomes a boxing ring I need to remember that Edric is not my real opponent. And, unlike the battle between Pacquiao and Mayweather which had me on edge and stressed out of my mind, it’s comforting to know that when I fight the enemies of my heart in God’s power, the victory is always His!

I love Edric with all my heart. Why do I make him the enemy? We’re in this spiritual fight against sin, worldliness, and the evil one together, as a team, with God…

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PHOTO COURTESY OF CETAPHIL

We’ve Never Gone Hungry

God continues to provide for us through the many seasons of our lives. At the beginning of this year, our reserves were running low because we finished building our home September 2014 and we traveled to the U.S., staying there for a month in December. (There’s no way to make a trip cheap when you have five kids!)

During the first quarter of 2015, we also had some pretty hefty bills to pay and taxes for Edric’s independent speaking contracts to settle. Plus there were some unprecedented doodads that were piled on to the money we had to part with. The stress mounted for Edric, yet God calmed him down with the assurance that He will always take care of us.

When you marry a man who loves God and chooses to live righteously, a great amount of fear is removed from you as a wife. You know that God will provide through your husband. It may not mean you have loads of money all the time, but you can be confident that God will bless the work of his hands and you won’t go hungry. And should you go hungry, God won’t abandon you. He promises this.

I am always encouraged by the passage in Psalm 34:10 which reads, “The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they who seek the Lord shall not be in want of any good thing.”

Amazingly, when Edric surrendered our finances once again to the Lord, choosing NOT to panic or be worried, God gave us a wonderful bonus to whisper that he is mindful of us. Galderma renewed our contract as Cetaphil ambassadors. Last year we were featured on billboards and in stores, but this year Galderma expanded their marketing efforts to television. It was a pleasant surprise and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect!

Our family thoroughly enjoyed participating in Cetaphil Philippines’ Campaign. Cetaphil is a brand we actually use and need. As a matter of principle, we prefer to take on projects that we can be authentic about. Furthermore, our family has a range of skin care needs – from oily, dry, sunburn-prone, aging to eczema. It’s great to represent a brand that meets these needs effectively.

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For example, we have all benefited from Cetaphil’s Gentle Skin Wash, which never dries out our skin. Even my husband, Edric, who doesn’t like to fuss about his skin is a believer in this cleanser. When we were taping the commercial, one of the lines he gave had to do with Cetaphil’s fragrance free characteristic. It was truthful of him to act out the part where he said, “fragrance free!” with a smile because this is sooo him! His very intelligent nose (he can smell cockroaches) dislikes strong smelling soaps, lotions, or perfumes.

 

The other day while spraying myself with perfume, Edan remarked, “Does Dad know you do that?!” The tone of his questioning insinuated that this wasn’t something Edric would like. (I wasn’t going to see Edric for a good number of hours so the scent would have mellowed by the time we were together!)

My own skin care routine is very simple but thankfully, Cetaphil has a product for every step of my routine. After washing my face at night, I use Cetaphil’s Moisturizing Cream.

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Since my skin reacts to chemicals and products, this moisturizer calms it down at night and the next day it feels renewed. Due to my mom’s Caucasian genetics, my skin is on the “thin” side so this moisturizer makes it suppler. To protect my skin during the day I use Cetaphil’s Daily Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15.

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During days when my skin is oilier than usual, I will wash with Cetaphil’s Dermacontrol Wash and use Dermacontrol Moisturizer, which also has sunblock in it. There are periods when my face is prone to breakouts so the Dermacontrol line rescues it.


009_CET_Foam_Wash_Bottle1 010_CET_OilControlMoisturizer_Bottle1If I’m at the beach, I need stronger protection, so I pile on Cetaphil’s UVA/UVB SPF 50+. It keeps me from getting burnt since I’m very prone to sun damage (due to, well, once again, being half-caucasian.)

As for my children, especially my youngest daughter, Catalina, Restoraderm has been wonderful. She has very dry skin on her legs and stomach. Restoraderm, which is also prescribed by our pediatrician for our kids’ Eczema, keeps the patchy, scaly spots from spreading to the rest of her body. It smoothens out her skin, too. Titus tends to have pretty bad Eczema when his outbreaks happen. So there are occasions when I will have to use a hydrocortisone cream and then Restoraderm on top. Of course, I’m also careful about what my kids eat which is why we avoid food with MSG, preservatives, and artificial ingredients as much as possible.

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Beyond being talents for Cetaphil’s commercial and the fact that their products do work for our family, the greater blessing for me was experiencing God’s provision. As our Heavenly Father, he knows what we need and when we need it. If He deems it for our good to open His storehouse, he will do so. He delights to take care of us. And if he should allow us to be in uncomfortable financial situations so we learn to trust him and work on our character, then we can still hold on to the truth about His person – He will never leave us or forsake us.

I elected to use the title, “We’ve Never Gone Hungry” in order to communicate a spiritual truth. The Cetaphil commercial was an amazing earthly blessing with positive financial implications, however, when we have Jesus, He satisfies something much greater than our physical needs. In John 6:35, he tells us, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me WILL NOT hunger, and he who believes in Me WILL NEVER thirst.”

I pray that the joy people see in our faces as portrayed on television will highlight something beyond a good product or grand. I pray it will reveal the joy that is in our family because of Jesus! Here’s a behind the scenes look at how much fun we had…

 

 

 

 

 

God Can Make the Most Out of Scrambled Eggs

I still have vivid memories of the evening I met Monique over ten years ago. She waltzed into our bible study, on the invitation of her twin sister, Michelle, with her voluminous hair the perfect complement to her charisma and spirited personality. She opened up to me with honesty, unabashedly talking about the condition and nature of her relationship to John, a married man she was living in with, with whom she had a one year old daughter.

At some point in the evening, there arose in me a strong impression to present to Monique the biblical viewpoint on her relationship. Looking back, there may have been a gentler way to put it. But as a young bible study leader, a rookie at dealing with colorful and complicated counseling situations, I showed her a passage in Scripture that exposed her adultery. I also admonished her to stop living in with John. Monique didn’t defend herself. In fact she sincerely pondered upon the exchange we had. I wasn’t sure if I would see her again after I showed her the bible verses and made that statement about adultery.

However, Monique continued to attend our meetings even while she remained in a relationship with John. On the one hand, she sincerely expressed interest in spiritual matters. Yet she found herself bound to John in a manner that was almost too complex to walk away from overnight. Not only did they share a child and a home, they were business partners. Furthermore, she was friends with John’s wife and acted like a mom to his first child.

In her attempt to find convergence, she brought John to one of the bible studies that Edric was leading. John interpreted this move as a big set-up. He locked himself in the bathroom with his laptop for two hours! Back then, we knew John pretty much disdained us for encouraging Monique to stop sleeping with him.

Not too long after, Monique had a second child with John. With tears she confessed to our bible study group that she was pregnant. Yet the most heartbreaking part was Monique’s discovery of John’s betrayal. He had been cheating on her with multiple women.

In pain and completely lost, Monique finally understood that Jesus Christ was the only one who could save her from her brokenness. The love and security she sought in her relationships with men could not be satiated by anyone except Christ. With complete surrender, she gave her life to the Lord.

As difficult as it was, she moved out of John’s home and committed to guard her sexual purity. It wasn’t a perfect journey but her decision to give up John had a profound impact on her spiritual life.

At the same time, the Lord began to move in John’s heart. Tired of his lifestyle and sexual addiction (he professed to have slept with over 50 women), and jolted back to reality when he lost Monique’s trust, John earnestly sought to reform his ways. He told Monique that she shouldn’t be with him because he was a sick person — spiritually and emotionally. Monique’s response to him was you need to seek Jesus.

As Monique took steps to avoid immorality and grow in her faith, she chose to forgive John, which was compelling evidence for her spiritual transformation. Furthermore, she forgave the women whom John cheated on her with. As a result, John chose to give his life to Jesus Christ, surrendering to His grace. He began growing spiritually in a discipleship group with other men under Roli Sabado.

Eventually, John also started coming to our bible studies faithfully. A genuine desire to grow in his faith marked his conversion. There were a lot of periphery issues that both he and Monique had to sort through but God plucked ungodly behaviors, attitudes, and perspectives out of them like straight pins being pulled off a pin cushion. Then he filled the holes with renewed thinking and the pursuit of holiness and wholeness in Christ.

However, the reality of their scrambled egg situation remained. At this point, John and his first wife were annulled and she was in a serious relationship with another man whom she intended to marry. He had two kids with Monique but he wasn’t married to her, and they couldn’t live in together. The most honorable recourse was to marry Monique so they could be a family.

 
We encouraged John and Monique to have a civil marriage first, and shortly after, they had a recommitment ceremony in Boracay. They asked us to be their Ninong and Ninang even if we felt underaged as 31 year olds but it was an honor as they were our “spiritual” children. During this event, Monique invited the women whom John had cheated on! Since she knew them as friends before the affairs happened, she also desired that they come into a relationship with Jesus. I don’t know too many people who would think to do this but Monique didn’t harbor any bitterness towards them. Her greater concern was for their spiritual healing.
 

Serving together in Before and After I Do

Today, John and Monique Ong  actively serve as an integral part of the CCF Family Ministry Team, contributing their expertise as business people in events, photography, and videography. They are homeschooling parents with a brood of five. They also hold weekly community worship services in their company building every Wednesday night. More importantly, their journey to Christ and the broken road that God fixed to get them there is an amazing testimony of His grace.

Some years ago I narrow-mindedly told Monique that there may be limitations to the scope of their ministry. Since John came from an annulled marriage, I thought this would be a contradiction to their desire to help people stay committed to their marriages. However, as I listened to them testify during the Before and After I Do Seminar, I realized my perceptions of their ministry’s reach had put God in a box.

 

The reality is John and Monique represent the truth about all of us. We are lost and scrambled apart from Christ — a mix of wrong choices, worldly thinking and philosophies, weary from the pain, the addictions to sin, the drive for success, money, or fame, burdened by the façades we try to manage and the chasing after the ever-elusive joy and peace that cannot be had apart from Him. John and Monique’s story also tells us that God meets us where we are at, as the messy scrambled eggs that we are, and He wants to make us whole. He CAN make us whole! He has a plan for us that is beyond what we can ever dream or imagine…

“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (‭1 Peter‬ ‭2‬:‭9-12‬ NASB)

People rarely identify with those who look like perfect eggs which is why John and Monique are especially effective as portraits of God’s love and forgiveness. As John and Monique stood before the crowd with honesty and humility about the mess they used to be, they overflowed with God’s amazing grace. I knew about their faith journey before hearing them talk so openly about it in front of the 800 men and women who attended the seminar. But to recall the people they once were when we met them, and to see the fruit of their lives that day was just WOW! Wow to the God who does the impossible and the inconceivable, who takes a sexual addict and makes him a holy, committed husband…who takes an adulterous woman and makes her honorable, healing her broken heart, and making her more beautiful inside and out!

No life, no scrambled egg is beyond the reach or redeeming power of God’s grace. When we receive His forgiveness and come into a relationship with Him through Jesus, His Son, repenting from our sins and surrendering ourselves to Him, He gives us a new beginning. We receive peace and joy in the present, hope for the future, and a story to tell about our past that brings glory to His name.

 

“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”(‭Psalms‬ ‭103‬:‭2-4, 10-12‬ NASB)

Tomorrow, John and Monique will share their story at our church, CCF, at the 9am and 12 noon services. If you have friends or family who need hope and encouragement, invite them and come along, too! You will be blessed!

CCF: Frontera Verde, Ortigas avenue corner C5, Pasig City
POST SCRIPT:
Due to the difficult questions that people have asked as a result of this post I am including more details about John and Monique’s situation before they got married.
John filed for annulment as early as 2002 when he didn’t know the Lord. He got denied. He was not a believer then. Yes, there were attempts to restore their marriage. Initially, when they parted ways, John’s wife was in another relationship, so the mother of his wife asked John to help fix the situation. John tried. He even lived in their in laws house to try to make it work. But still the outcome was still the same. John’s wife did not give him any hope of reconciling. She filed for an annulment in 2006. She was pregnant with her present husband’s child. In 2007, John came to the Lord. The court approved his wife’s annulment in March 2008 and she got married in 2009. John and Monique also got married in 2009. 
No matter what is said here, people will still question the decisions made by John and Monique, and even myself for posting this article, and Edric and I for being the couple that mentored them. Re-marriage is such a hotly debated topic and there is no way to avoid reactions to a story like this, and so I understand why I have come under fire for this post.
For those who have thought my words to be ill-chosen and the story to be an example of how divorce and remarriage is okay, that was not my intention. Please forgive me. At the same time, I have seen John and Monique’s lives since the mess they were in. And I know that they have born fruit.
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” Matthew 7:16 – 20
As I shared, but perhaps not clearly enough, we told them they were in sin from the very beginning. I also expressed that there may be limitations to the scope of their ministry if they get married because of their back ground. However, I can think of so many people in God’s word who didn’t make the best choices even after they already knew the Lord — David? Solomon? Moses? Peter? But we are still blessed by what God has done in their lives. We read about their stories in God’s Word. Do we say to ourselves, let’s copy the bad choices they made and rely on God’s grace after? I hope not!
Did David, Solomon, Moses, and Peter end well despite their bad choices? By God’s grace, yes. Sure, they should have done a lot of things better. John and Monique could’ve done a lot of things better, too. I could have done a lot of things better in my own life as well. And I’m still a work in progress.
This post isn’t about saying copy John and Monique’s wrong choices because they are turning out okay. But to say that John and Monique’s lives should NOT be used as an example of grace just because John was a divorcee and Monique used to live in with him…Shouldn’t the focus be the fruit that they are bearing now despite where they came from? Isn’t that a story that God can use to encourage those who have made their own set of bad choices verses being interpreted as a story that gives us license to make bad choices?
Nevertheless…I will be more careful in the future when I publish posts because this is a very public site and I need to be very discerning about the content I write about. And I praise God that this is a blog where clarifications and apologies can be made, and people can give their honest opinions, too. So thank you to my readers who have called out the inconsistencies and voiced their convictions. It’s very humbling to come under fire like this (and discouraging. sigh.) but I will gladly accept the criticism because writing on this site is a big responsibility and God wants me to be accountable. I shouldn’t take it lightly or ignore opinions when they are very valid. So thank you to the brave ones who commented and corrected me! And I now I’m going to move on to write other posts. You may continue the dialoguing among yourselves of course but I will now excuse myself from the commenting back and forth. :)

As For Me and My House… 

There is no guarantee that being involved in ministry as a family will ensure that our kids turn out okay in the spiritual and moral sense, but Edric and I do believe that immersing them in experiences where they can serve the Lord alongside us is good for their spiritual health.

First, ministry doesn’t take us away from them. As often as possible, they join us when we travel out of town to speak or give seminars on marriage, parenting or homeschooling. It’s a “family thing,” not just a “mom and dad thing.” Second, our children benefit from opportunities to declare God’s goodness in their lives and share their faith journeys. Telling others about what God has done makes them purposeful and productive followers of the Lord, even at a young age. Third, when they serve with us, they have the privilege of witnessing lives changed by the power of the gospel and the Word of God as first-hand observers. Fourth, they recognize that the Christian life isn’t about hogging the blessings of peace and joy for ourselves. It’s about sharing these with others so they too will be attracted to the source of it all — Jesus Christ.

Elijah and Edan are old enough to share their faith insights and experiences. So when it is relevant to, we let them stand in front of audiences to testify to what God is teaching them and doing in their lives. Since our family had a homeschooling roadshow in Baguio City this weekend, Elijah and Edan helped me present educational apps to homeschooling parents.

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During Holy Week, the kids talked about the blessings of obedience and the importance of studying God’s Word for a family retreat that was also held in Baguio. Four of them, Elijah, Edan, Titus and Tiana, recited passages of scripture for the audience to motivate parents to have family devotions with their kids and get them to memorize verses.

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We don’t want our family to be like a traveling circus, where we put the spotlight on our children and what we are doing as a family. What we do want is for our children to realize that while they are young, they have many opportunities to be fruitful and impact others. They don’t have to wait until they are older and grown up to make a difference for Christ. As followers of Jesus, wherever we go and in whatever we do, we can use our “time, talents, and treasure” (as Edric puts it when he preaches about living for eternity) to point people to Jesus Christ and glorify Him.

Edric reminds our kids that we are on this earth “to be a blessing.” Sometimes this means standing in front of an audience to give a testimony about what God has done in their lives. Other times, this may involve visiting the sick or the needy, sharing the gospel, hosting guests in our home, or using their gifts and talents to perform at an event or occasion.

I asked Edan if he still gets nervous when he speaks in front of people, and he told me, “Yes, but I love speaking. I want to be a blessing.” He just turned nine years old, and he began his public speaking experience when he was seven. If I had asked him this question two years ago, he would have confessed to his terror. It took some practice to get him to the point where he can, by God’s grace, deliver a short speech to a large audience without being as self-conscious as he used to be.

He still struggles with self-consciousness and fear. All of us do. Whenever Edric and I give a talk or seminar we pray for God’s divine help. There’s no way to do a good job unless He enables us. The other important mindset we must have is the why behind serving the Lord together, as a family. Whenever God puts a husband, wife and children in a family, he assembles a team of people to send out as his ambassadors for the gospel and His Kingdom. It’s much more effective when the work is done together, with each person contributing their abilities and strengths.

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One candle in the dark makes a significant difference, but add two, three, four, five, or more flames and the light will overpower the darkness. Similarly, God’s design for each person in a family is to be a light and testament to who He is — that he is holy, loving, awesome, and desires for every person to have a personal relationship with Him through His Son, Jesus Christ. Matthew 5:16 tells us, “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.”

Even little children have a light to shine for Jesus! When Tiana was two years old, she used to sing a song that captures the verse above: “I’m a little candle, shining in the dark, it’s the light of Jesus, shining in my heart, I will shine, I will shine…Like a candle in the dark, I will shine!”

Are we providing our children with opportunities to shine for Christ? Do they have the love of God in their hearts so they can channel this to others? How can we do this as a family, as a team?

Checkered Rainbow Cake

Whoa! This rainbow cake making business is hard stuff! No wonder people charge a lot for it! 

The kids’ culinary arts instructor, Andi Benitez, patiently taught them how to put together this amazing creation. Since a normal rainbow cake was not challenging enough, she made them do a checkered one. Argh! Andi! My perfectionist baker friend! 

Our homeschool coop class has appreciated her expertise. And my boys have thoroughly enjoyed her kitchen lessons. Today’s class challenged them in a new way. The cake didn’t turn out perfect but I thought it looked beautiful inside and out, especially because of the effort! 

First they made the cake batter, then they colored six sets of it. 

   

    

Afterwards they baked them for fifteen minutes in six inch round pans lined with butter, wax paper, and more butter. When the cakes were done, they were turned over very  carefully.     

Each cake was carefully carved into three parts, each part was frosted on the inside then reassembled with no two colors touching one another.  

 

  

  

  

Following this, the cakes were frosted on their tops and laid on one another until they formed a tower, about ten inches high. Icing was layered on it again to hold on the crumbs in place, then a final layer for the finished look. 

It’s the inside that looked so magical, revealing the intended checkered pattern. The icing was a bit of a fail and the cake tilted slightly to one side but in the end, I was so proud of their creation! I had a teeny slice to sample the cake and it was pretty yummy! 

  

 

It’s days like this one that affirm why homeschooling is so wonderful. The kids get to “have their cake and eat it too.” 

They experience a customized education at home, but still benefit from group learning activities with   friends, under the tutelage of moms who are so talented and passionate about their craft or hobby! And I get a break once a week, which is like having MY cake and eating it, too! 

 

Sometimes All I Need Is…

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It must have been three days ago when I found out that Edric is not following me on Instagram. This was a ridiculous thing to be hurt about but I had this theory that Edric is not as interested in my life as I am in his. The Instagram was a minor point to my argument which was based upon two other observations. First, Edric rarely reads my blog. Second, I take initiative to ask him about his day whenever he gets home and he doesn’t reciprocate the same.

In the grand scheme of our marriage relationship these aren’t big, life-altering issues. But one day Edric noticed that I chose to open up to my mom about a concern that I didn’t bring to his attention first. So he asked, “Why didn’t you tell me about it?” 

My frank response was, “I felt like you weren’t available and I didn’t want to trouble you with it. Plus, mom is such a good listener. I felt very encouraged after our phone conversation.” 

Edric loves my mom dearly. However, he felt slighted by my preference for her listening ear in this particular instance. Well, it wasn’t a huge deal so we moved on. But I archived that conversation as exhibit A. Hmm…Why don’t I always think to tell Edric about my feelings or perspectives on people and circumstances? I wonder if it’s because I feel he is busy and not interested anyway? This was my next judgmental thought.

The following day, Edric complained about his Instagram getting hacked. There were two strangers he was mysteriously following. I quipped with a “What about me? Are you following me?”

“Why would I be following you?”

“Because I am your wife?”

“But I am not following anyone.”

“So why do you use Instagram? It’s a social media app.” I am sorry to admit that I said this with annoyance.

He claimed that Instagram was useful for posting cool photos because of the filters. That was it. 

As for my blog, Edric explained that he didn’t think it was necessary to read all my entries because the content revolved around our family. But I was like, “What about my reflections and insights? Don’t you want to know what these are?” 

Honestly, this dimwitted conversation wasn’t worth our time or saliva, but sometimes in marriage you end up talking about all kinds of unproductive things and regret it later. I was to blame because this was my attempt to prove that he wasn’t that intentional about knowing the details of my life. Everything became connected (as they tend to do in the brain of a woman) — my perceived inability to open up to him about my feelings and perspectives, his unwillingness to follow my Instagram, his lack of interest in my blog posts, and finally, the fact that he rarely asks me how I am doing. 

So I added, “I just think that between the two of us, I am the one who makes the greater effort to know you. You hardly ask me questions about my day. It’s always me asking you how you are.”

Edric retorted while feeling less pleasant towards me, “You are right when you say I don’t ask you as much as you ask me. But I demonstrate concern for you differently. I work hard to take care of you and we have date nights to talk heart to heart. I don’t really ask you about your day because you usually ask me when I get home, and I really like that. That’s how it’s always been.”

“Did you not say that husbands should get a PhD on their wives? Don’t you preach that when we give talks on marriage? (Oh, I can be so annoying sometimes!)

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Edric looked at me like Whoa lady, you are throwing hail from every direction. What’s going on?! He stomached my statements nonetheless and I began to feel embarrassingly needy. 

“Look, if you have something you want me to know about, just tell me. I shouldn’t have to read a post of yours to find out what’s going on with you.” (Yes, that was actually a good point.)

We went into a lengthy discussion that ended up with Edric saying that he would make a greater attempt to read my entries if it mattered that much. As for me, I apologized for my judgmental and painful accusation — that he wasn’t determined to get to know me the same way I attempted to get to know him. 

Nevertheless, something was missing. Our meeting was business-like, with him sitting across the room on a chair summarizing the arguments and itemizing positive action steps to fix the issue. 

When we were done, Edric was like, “Okay, are we good?” I nodded in the outside but felt wanting on the inside. 

Edric took this as a definite yes. (We should never expect our husbands to be mind readers, by the way.) He excused himself to take a shower while I remained on the bed distracting myself with my cellphone, thinking that our exchange didn’t turn out the way I hoped it would.

However, ten minutes later he came to my side, put his arm around me and said, “I love you. You know that, right? And contrary to what you think, I know you very well. What you really need is this…” (Oh wait! Hooray! He is a mind reader after all!)  

He gave me a hug and a kiss to make sure I was really okay. Then he added with a grin, “I know you like ‘pure’ affection.” Meaning…affection for affection’s sake and not to butter me up for sexual intimacy. (He most definitely is a mind reader!)

Monday night, Edric, asked me detailed questions about my day, too! “I am trying to get to know my wife,” he inserted with a charming smile. I also discovered that I am now the one and only person he follows on Instagram. Bwahahaha! That wasn’t really the issue to begin with but it was sweet of him to make the extra effort to communicate to me that my feelings do matter to him…even when they are about something as non-essential as social media.  

When I think about our entire exchange over the weekend, it was a bunch of gibberish from my end to get the attention of my husband. Yes, it was very pathetic. The root of it all was my recent feelings of emotional neglect. We didn’t have much time to connect with one another over Holy Week since we were busy serving in ministry and dealing with pragmatic concerns. 

It’s great that we had an objective discussion to resolve our problem (even if it was silly-small), but the magic was in the three-part combo of a reassuring I love you, one extravagant hug, and a tender (unselfish) kiss. Sometimes that’s all a wife needs to silence her ridiculous ranting and quell the turbulence in her heart. And it takes a husband who knows his woman well to get this. Hey, hey, so this means Edric DOES KNOW ME, and I have absolutely nothing to complain about! And, hey, he may even read this entry. Therefore I repent in dust and ashes for my exaggerated claims because I am blessed to be a loved, hugged, and kissed wife…thank you, hon.

When Times Are Tough

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Last week, I shared this story when Edric preached in Cebu. His message was, “When Times Get Tough, Grab Onto God.” The passage he focused on was Exodus 5:22 to Exodus 7:2, where Moses asked Pharaoh to let the Israelites go and he refused. Not only did he deny Moses’ request, he became unreasonably demanding about their work output. Moses could have given up, and yet he turned to God, acknowledging his absolute dependence on Him and inadequacy to solve the problem of the Israelites.

I believe that God often uses trials and difficulties to get us to this same point of acknowledgement, where we recognize we are nothing apart from Him. His intention is not to make us feel awful and remain discouraged about our incapacities or problems, but to let us experience the fullness of his power and love in a way that being full of ourselves prevents us from ever doing.

When I was pregnant with my fifth child, I was active and busy in ministry, serving the Lord, meeting faithfully with our discipleship group, counseling couples and speaking in retreats and events on marriage, parenting, and homeschooling. Having a sickly child when Edric and I were so involved in ministry was the last thing I expected.

My pregnancy was pretty easy by God’s grace. I didn’t have any complications except that I had Group B Strep a few weeks before I gave birth. This requires me to be on antibiotics the day I gave birth to prevent the bacteria from being passed on to my daughter, Catalina.

She was born on August 11, 2013. Like all my other kids, I gave birth Lamaze and God got me through it. I expected to be home in three days, celebrating with our fourth other children. However, the day after I gave birth, the nurses came to collect Catalina in an incubator.

Edric and I were informed that she had unusually elevated white blood cells. The protocol was to confine her in the Intermediate Care Unit of St. Luke’s Global City. After a second blood test, the results showed an even higher WBC count. If the norm is 0 to 20,000 for babies, hers went up to an alarming 48,000. Our pediatrician required that she be given a round of antibiotics shortly after to avoid sepsis, meningitis or pneumonia.

When I started packing her things in the hospital, I cried. How could Catalina be this sick? What was so wrong? Was it serious?

One of the most difficult aspects of this ordeal was hearing about Catalina’s veins collapsing every other day. The nurses had to keep changing the IV and antibiotics line. It was traumatizing to hear her wail in pain each time they inserted a needle or failed to find a vein.

We asked for prayers and committed this trial to the Lord, choosing to rest in him but it was spiritually, emotionally and physically challenging for me. I didn’t want to question God’s purposes but what an ordeal it was to be in this predicament! Because Edric and I were faithfully serving the Lord, I thought we might have been exempted from situations such as this one. Of course this wasn’t a theologically accurate perspective. Just because a person follows God doesn’t mean their life will be free from pain. We still live in a fallen, imperfect world. The difference is when followers of Christ go through hardship, they can take refuge in Him.

Three days stretched to ten days. Not only was it trying to get through those days, it was expensive. But I praise God that he answered our prayers, provided for us financially, and we were able to go home on day eleven.

We thought that was the worst of it. The next few weeks were wonderful. Everytime I held Catalina in my arms, I was grateful to know she was alive and well. But a month later, she developed a bad cough and didn’t recover from it. After three days, her appetite disappeared and she looked very weak. One night I was feeding her with my milk in a dropper and she was hardly able to swallow it.

I kept praying and pleading with God. In fact I asked him if he was mad at me, if I was doing anything wrong that he wanted me to change. Edric saw me crying in my distress. It wasn’t that I was angry with God, but I felt desperate and helpless.

The next day, I noticed that Catalina’s lips were bluish so Edric and I brought her to the ER. When our pediatrician checked Catalina, it was confirmed that she had pneumonia. She needed to be confined yet again.

I broke down. This too was a first for us — a baby with pneumonia
and hospitalized. I knew this would entail an IV again and antibiotics. Her veins would be pricked once more.

The night after her confinement, I was having a conversation with God as I struggled with my emotions and attitude. Depression was a real temptation at this point. Even though I didn’t feel God’s presence I prayed out loud in faith, “Lord I know you are here. I will choose to believe that you are present right now in this room with me and you are in control.”

After I said this I had a different kind of peace – the peace of knowing that God was sovereign, that he wouldn’t allow us to go through something we couldn’t bear.

Seven days passed and we were able to take Catalina home. I praise God that we got through that second hospital stay. He healed Catalina and we experienced many miracles that I enumerated in a post I wrote during that time. Since then she has been infected with respiratory issues almost every month, but God has faithfully delivered her from each one. In fact, Catalina is a very determined and spirited one year old. It’s hard to imagine that she was once so fragile and frail.

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Perspective is always a choice. We can focus on the problems in our lives — health and financial issues, stolen joy, broken dreams or unmet longings and allow ourselves to become bitter. Or, we can give our problems to God and hang on to who he is. We can anchor our faith in the truth of His person. He is good, holy, loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. The difficulties he allows aren’t arbitrary or meaningless.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing”. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭2-4‬ NASB)

He doesn’t always remove our problems right away and this can make us doubt if he is at work or present. Yet, he gives us something far better…the opportunity to grow in Christlikeness and experience his supernatural strength and joy. Instead of becoming bitter, he helps us become better, for our eternal good. Furthermore, he can use our trials to bless others and minister to them.

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Having a baby like Catalina humbled me. I used to tell moms, “Have more kids! It gets easier!” They would look at me like, what are you talking about?! as they struggled to take care of one child. Finally, I understood that it was only by God’s grace that motherhood, up until that point, had felt easy and uncomplicated. All my uneventful pregnancies and births were made possible by Him. All the years of enjoyable parenting and homeschooling were not due to my abilities or special gifts, they were due to His enabling. I thought I was a veteran mom who could look upon pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, mothering, and homeschooling as trophies to serve my vain purposes. But I was very wrong. Everything I was, everything that I am is a tribute to the amazing God that I love, worship, serve, and obey.

Indeed it is as the book of Jeremiah says, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,’ declares the LORD.”(‭Jeremiah‬ ‭9‬:‭23-24‬ NASB)

At the end of Edric’s message he shared a quote by Dwight L. Moody which I want to conclude this entry with…

“Moses spent forty years in the palace thinking he was a somebody; forty years in the dessert thinking he was a nobody; and forty years realizing what God can do through a somebody who found out he was a nobody.”

When Kids See Mom and Dad Kissing

“Unless it’s mad, passionate, extraordinary love, it’s a waste of your time. There are too many mediocre things in life. Love shouldn’t be one of them.” – Dreams for an Insomniac

IMG_3756-0.JPGElijah caught sight of Edric and me, while we were dancing in our hallway. Edric had picked me up and spun me around and we were both laughing childishly, lost in a moment of sweet abandon. Unbeknownst to us, Elijah was in the living room, interpreting our playful exchange.

He commented, “I like it when you guys are like that.”

“Like what?” I probed after Edric had put me down.

He explained that he likes seeing us have fun together, like we really enjoy one another and love one another. Citing another example, he added, “Like when you are excited to go with dad on a date, I like that.”

Interesting, I thought. I have always assumed that our children know that Edric and I love one another. We say it all the time. But apparently, there’s added credibility to our professions when they witness the tenderness between us. They appreciate seeing “evidence” of our devotion to one another. When we kiss and hug in front of them (PG version, of course!), they smile and giggle at our cheesiness. But Elijah says it makes him feel “happy.”

The reality is our children are responders. They observe the dynamic of our marriage all the time. When peace and joy characterize our relationship, our kids feel at rest and secure. When our relational atmosphere is turbulent, their spirits are agitated.

IMG_3760-0.JPGSometimes we can forget how great our responsibility is, to mirror what love ought to be to our children. On the one hand, they understand love by the sacrifices we make for them and our commitment to their well-being. But marriage, unlike a parent and child relationship, represents a union that is vastly different in purpose and nature. I can love five children and even more, if God should add to that number, but I can love only one Edric, one husband. I am one with him in a manner that excludes all others, physically and emotionally.

If he and I treat each other disrespectfully, persist with unresolved conflicts, harbor bitterness and resentment, and hurt one another with our actions, then our children will adapt a distorted understanding of love. They may even have reservations about marriage. “Why get married? I don’t want to end up like my parents.”

The worst part of it all is when our children become collateral damage (in the spiritual sense) because of our choices. For example, if a husband leaves his wife, what impact will that make on a child’s concept of God’s love, which marriage is supposed to represent? If a woman cheats on her husband, how will a child grasp the permanence of a vow? How will they ever believe in bible verses like, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭35, 38-39‬ NIV)

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When Elijah made the remark he did as spectator to our dance, I wrestled with two thoughts. On the one hand, I was grateful to be in a marriage where I do enjoy the love I believe God intended for a husband and wife to experience. But on the other hand, I know that Edric and I leak out our imperfections to one another and we do not always exemplify to our children what divine love (God’s love) ought to be like.

To what extent have we confused the ideal? I do not know. I can’t count the number of times I have snapped back in pride when Edric is correcting me, or allowed irritation to color my countenance, or disobeyed a request of Edric when it was inconvenient to submit to him.

However, what comforts me is that despite our shortcomings, grace prevails. When Edric and I restore our relationship and we come before our children and apologize for our words and untoward behaviors, they readily forgive us.

I recall instances when I have made public apologies for my disrespectful responses towards Edric, and Edric has similarly asked for forgiveness for being harsh with me. Seated around the dinner table, with our children’s faces turned towards us, they watch our interplay — two persons who want to be accurate representations of God’s unconditional love to them, yet cognizant of how short we fall in comparison to Christ’s perfect love. And to witness the mercy that flows, the grace that extends to every person seated there as we acknowledge that apart from Jesus nothing good sits in us to boast of…well, it’s humbling and beautiful at the same time. It’s the Lord who pieces us back together and gives us the courage to try again, to move forward with hope that the future can be better despite ourselves, because of Him.

As we move past our mistakes, Edric and I try our best to be loving towards one another with the ever watchful eyes of our children upon us. We don’t do it for them, but we do consider the impact that our relationship has on their image of love. More importantly, we want to reflect how wonderful it is when two people have Jesus at the center of their marriage. There is joy, unconditional love and forgiveness, mutual respect and consideration, and hey, even tenderness and romance! At the end of the day, we want our children to be attracted to Christ and not the idea of marriage itself.

Here are some questions to reflect on…Besides saying “I love you”, do our children…

Hear us laughing together, reveling in the joys of being married?
See us being affectionate? (Holding hands, embracing, and even kissing – PG version once again)
Watch us converse like we are truly interested in dialoguing with one another?
Compliment and affirm each other?
Speak highly of each other in public and at home?
Respect one another with our words and actions? 
Humbly forgive and ask for forgiveness with all sincerity? 
Honor our God-given roles? 

“Love like there’s no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again.” – Max Lucado

‘Being in love’ — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. – C.S. Lewis

How Can I Forgive?

A few days ago I received an email with just one question on it. “How can I forgive?” It was a great question to be asked and I have written a lengthy response in this post which I hope will benefit those who may struggle with the same challenge — forgiving those who have wounded us.Sun Feb 01 2015 01-31-08 GMT 0800More than any other relationship I have, marriage has been the context for some of my greatest forgiveness “challenges.” I suppose this is because I am most vulnerable to Edric. I love him so much that I hurt worst when he makes choices or speaks in ways that are unloving. He has said the same about me. Both of us are prone to selfishness and pride. Sometimes it isn’t big offenses but the little ones, piled up together over time that are injurious — the ones that need to be forgiven over and over again.

(Early years of marriage. We look like kids!)

Last month was a particularly rough time for us. Edric was very busy and caught up with work and responsibilities. He was easily irritated with me when I didn’t meet his “standards” for wifely duties or running our home. Normally, he is gracious and looks past my inefficiencies, choosing to highlight the positive. But since his spirit was unsettled by concerns over our finances and business decisions, he was easily jostled by things I would say and do that inconvenienced him.

My problem was I put up my own version of selfishness. When he was abrasive towards me, I retaliated with my magic force field, the one that placed a safe, emotional distance between us so I would not get hurt. My methods were things like curt, unaffectionate replies, silence, retreating to my hobbies and the children, and communicating disinterest in physical intimacy.

Edric recognized my methods as feminine forms of hostility and he felt like I wasn’t supportive of him. In fact he expressed this by saying, “It’s like you only love me when I am okay, when I am lovable. But you won’t cut me slack for my reactions when you know that I am struggling with an issue.” I have paraphrased what he said but that was the essence.

His statements were justifiable. Of course, I do love him. But the reality is I intended my responses to manipulate and pressure him. I forced upon him the expectation that he should ALWAYS be a spiritual leader, that he should be better than this, that he should pull himself together. I bailed out on him emotionally when I should have applied extra grace to attend to him, minister to him, and encourage him.

One of the things I appreciate about Edric is he won’t let us spiral downward. He will take action and drop every activity to make sure our marriage is where it ought to be — with Jesus Christ at its center. And that’s exactly what happened. First, he spent time in God’s Word to renew his spirit, and then he approached me, requesting that we discuss the state of our marriage and how to improve it.

Naturally, forgiveness was part of this interchange. I was blessed by Edric’s humility as he asked for my forgiveness. It convicted me to do the same. And then we made proposals on how to avoid falling into the same predicament.

This scene has been repeated many times in our marriage. We often come to a point where we must give forgiveness and receive it. There’s no way to move forward in our marriage if we don’t do so.

In John Piper’s book, This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, he writes “Before a man and woman can live out the unique roles of headship and submission in a biblical and gracious way, they must experience what it means to build their lives on the vertical experience of God’s forgiveness and justification and promised help, and then bend it out horizontally to their spouse.” (Pg.44)

I like how he puts it. In marriage, we need to vertically experience God’s forgiveness, justification and help before we can bend these out horizontally towards our spouse. This actually makes the shape of a cross!

This past month I was tired of trying to be a “good wife.” I wanted a break. My focus was on myself and my capacities. However I was reminded that looking at myself can never be the answer. Apart from Christ, I am definitely NOT a good wife. “As it is written, ‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.'” (Romans 3:10-12 NASB)

Whether in the context of marriage or outside of it, the answer to the question how we can forgive is this: we can forgive because God first forgave us. Forgiveness is not a response to the degree of the offense so much as it is an acknowledgement of God’s forgiveness and mercy to us, then flowing that forgiveness and mercy outward, to others. Until we understand this it’s hard to forgive, especially when the offenses are serious and deeply painful.       (A few years after the rape)

Many of you who have followed this blog already know that I was once upon a time a victim of rape. Unlike a marriage where two people are of the same mind to repair it and right the wrongs suffered in it, there are forgiveness situations in life that do not involve the offending party apologizing for their sins against us. Instead we are left at a junction where we must make the choice to forgive regardless of whether the other person is sorry or not.

I knew that my rapists and abusers would not offer me their repentance. It is the same way for many of us who are betrayed, taken advantage of, deceived, or physically harmed by others. The likelihood of these persons returning to us in order to ask for an apology is slim to nil. To bank on this happening as the prerequisite to extending forgiveness only makes us a slave to a timetable of uncertainty.

Can we hope and pray that they will one day apologize, expressing deep remorse? Sure. But what are we going to do in the meantime? What is within our control?

What helped me make the choice to forgive was recognizing that I too was guilty, not of the same crimes committed against me, but of the same sinful disposition before God. Yet, God sent His Son to die for me. The Bible tells us “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8 NIV)

It also says, “In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us…” (Ephesians 1:7-8 NASB)

If God forgave me by giving his own Son to die for me, who was I not to forgive the hurt done against me? In Ephesians 4:32 it says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Therefore, I could take the same forgiveness bestowed upon me through Christ and turn it into the kindness and compassion needed to bestow the same forgiveness towards my offenders.

It’s hard to explain without sounding like a deranged person but my heart felt a miraculous compassion for my offenders when I realized that I was no better than they were before God. Anything that was righteous in me was due to Jesus Christ. However way I esteemed myself as better than they were wasn’t due to my own goodness. So I couldn’t elevate myself and think I was holier for not being a rapist, a murderer, a thief, an adulterer, etc.

I could understand the darkness that was in their hearts and how it held them captive to do what was wicked and ungodly. So this compassion I am referring to was about wanting them to come to know Jesus Christ. Why? So their lives could be transformed. So they would stop hurting others the way they hurt me. Just like them, I was once lost and dead in my sins until Jesus Christ saved me.

Ephesians 2:3-5 explains this very clearly. “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…”

We can punish people for the bad things they do to us by imposing external consequences like withholding forgiveness as a form of revenge, but this is a superficial fix to the real problem. First, people need Jesus Christ. Second, our unforgiveness is not the best form of justice if that is what we seek.

What do we hope to accomplish by clinging to unforgiveness? Is it to satisfy our sense of fairness? “You hurt me so I am not going to let you off that easily.” Or, “I want you to feel what it is like to be me.” Or, “I want you to pay for your sins before I forgive you.” We can require emotional or physical payment for the offenses done against us. But what if the persons we impose these upon are never reformed and never truly sorry for their crimes and wrong choices? Who is to know what the truthful condition of their hearts is in regards to repentance? The answer is we can’t guarantee either. This falls under the scope of God’s power and omniscience.

We need to consider, “Does UNforgiveness cause an offender to wake up to the reality of his or her wrong?” “Does UNforgiveness inspire them to pursue lasting change?” While our outcry for justice may demand penitence, might I suggest that we consider the ONE who has the power to effect change in the heart of a sinner and the capacity to execute real justice if the same sinner remains unrepentant.

“…Vindicate me, O LORD, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me. O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day. If a man does not repent, He will sharpen His sword; He has bent His bow and made it ready…” (Psalms 7:8-12 NASB)

When several of my rapists were caught and put in jail, that was a good thing. Criminals need to be jailed to protect others from being victimized. But long before this happened, I chose to forgive them for what they did to me. I did my part to meet with the police and identify the gang members as best as I could, but if they were not caught, I believed God would deal with them. As for me, I didn’t want to remain a victim twice over — first as one who lost her innocence and virginity to cruel men, and second, as one who was defiled by her own bitterness.

Bitterness is so carcinogenic to the soul. “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15 NIV)

I recall attending a woman’s conference where the speaker talked about the characteristics of bitter people. They are like a cup of perpetually hot coffee, filled to the brim. Any circumstance, even the smallest ones cause a spill that hurts! No one likes to be around people like this! I’ve caught myself on several occasions “spilling” over with irritation towards my children when Edric and I have unresolved conflicts. My frustration and anger get channeled towards my kids. So the sooner I address what’s going on inside and arrest the anger, the quicker I can halt the defiling overspill.

When the root is bitterness, imagine what the fruit might be. Woodrow Kroll

I am not trying to make pain simplistic. Some of us have been through major trauma due to people’s betrayal, physical injury, thievery, immorality, etc. But I have also seen two sides of the same coin. I have been around people who refuse to forgive and observed how it aged them, turned them ugly, and paralyzed them from true healing. And I have been around people who have chosen to forgive the most hateful persons, people who deserved no less than total unforgiveness for their crimes and sins. Yet, the forgiveness extended transformed the hurting person into someone more beautiful inside and out. Furthermore, the choice to forgive advanced them towards healing. In the process of surrendering their anger, their hearts were opened up to love others. In certain instances, God allowed this grace-extended to cause repentance and change in the life of the offender, too (although this isn’t always the case).

Bitterness and love cannot be neighbors in our hearts. They cannot co-exist without fighting for occupancy of the entire space. We either let love win or bitterness will take over.  To say we can reserve a spot of anger for certain people or circumstances and still define ourselves as loving persons is to misunderstand the deceptiveness of anger. Sooner or later anger will conquer more ground and ease love out. Forgiveness, however, extracts the bitterness and makes room for love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives a definition of love, which includes a part that says, “love does not take into account a wrong suffered.”

What if an offense is repeated over and over again? Whenever Edric and I resolve our disputes, choosing to forgive one another and release the anger, we always hope that the same situations won’t happen again. But we don’t extend forgiveness by coupling it with an ultimatum that says, “You better not repeat the same mistake!”

After all, who can really make this demand without setting themselves up for greater hurt? We can’t control people’s mistakes, past, present, or future. We can’t control how remorseful they should be either. These are demands that make us more vulnerable to disappointment when we put conditions on forgiveness.

On the one hand, forgiveness is a decision “not to count one’s trespasses against us” as 1 Corinthians 13 puts it. It is extended in reference to a known offense. On the other hand, it is a state of being that extends forward, too. I have forgiven you and I will forgive you. It’s not saying I condone your sin or approve of your wrong choices. This isn’t about giving someone the license to keep hurting us either. (If a person is being battered or abused, they need to find a way to physically remove themselves from that situation and go somewhere safe or get help from someone who can effectively intervene.)

However, we can keep on forgiving because God continues to do so for us.

“For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.” (Psalms 86:5 NASB)

In summary…

  1. Forgiveness is possible because of what God has done for us. It is not contingent upon the degree of the offense done towards us or whether the offender asks for our forgiveness.
  1. The kindness and compassion to forgive comes when we recognize that ALL people, including ourselves, are lost in the darkness of sin apart from Jesus Christ.
  1. The option to withhold forgiveness does not accomplish the heart transformation of the offender or the justice we seek. Only God can cause a person to repent wholeheartedly and deal with someone who is unrepentant.
  1. Forgiveness liberates us from the bitterness which defiles us and those around us. We cannot say we are loving if we harbor resentment and anger – there is no room for both in our hearts.
  1. We can keep on forgiving just as God continues to offer his forgiveness to us.

In closing, let me end with a passage of Scripture that puts everything into perspective, and it centers around the personhood of Jesus Christ – what He went through for our sakes, His response to offenses done against him, how He surrendered Himself to God the Father, and what His death and resurrection accomplished for us.

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24 NASB)

NOTE: If you are one who needs to ask for forgiveness, consider reading The Five Languages of Apology by authors Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas which explains that apologizing involves five aspects: expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting, and requesting forgiveness.

Love Beyond Us

It is always a privilege when Edric and I are invited to speak at retreats, give seminars, counsel couples, and lead discipleship groups as a team. Of course it isn’t always easy because we have young children to attend to. But, when God gives us a green light to accept a ministry assignment and we follow through with it, we come away from the experience more in love with Him, and with one another.

Why? Because ministry commits us to a common purpose, one that enriches our marriage and causes us to look outside of it. The ceiling for love feels limitless as we receive God’s love and channel it others.

In contrast, when our attentions and energies are directed MERELY towards our relationship, marriage can start to feel like an ingrown-toenail. Sounds pretty ugly, huh?

There’s no other person I would rather be with than Edric and I know he would say the same about me. Yet we also learned, years ago, that God brought us together for something much more abundant and more fulfilling than the mere enjoyment of one another.

When God brings a man and a woman together, happily ever after is not his main goal. While this is a part of it when we follow his principles, it’s not the chief end. The greater aspect is forming an alliance of personalities, strengths and weaknesses, experiences, and capabilities to serve him and display the glories of his love through a covenant relationship.

In Genesis 1 we read: God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭1‬:‭27-28‬ NASB)

Adam and Eve were given the privilege of bearing God’s image. They were to be His image bearers in fruitfulness and multiplication, as they filled the earth and subdued it, and as they exercised dominion over it. Through Adam and Eve, the world was to reflect the glory of God and be the blessed recipient of it.

Yet we know from Genesis 3 that Adam and Eve did not cooperate with God’s plan. As a result we are all born with the same fallen nature. While we bear the likeness of God in the sense that we can feel, reason, imagine, and create in ways that animals cannot, our spiritual genetics carry the imperfection of man’s first sinful choice. We became a corrupted form of God’s original design, separated from delightful fellowship with Him because of sin.

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭18-21

In His great love for us, God offered himself through His Son as a solution to our sinful orientation. He gave us the opportunity to become His children once again.

But as many as received Him (Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (‭John‬ ‭1‬:‭12-13‬ NASB)

In order to fulfill God’s purpose to be  fruitful, multiply, subdue and rule over the earth as image bearers of His love and glory, a man and a woman must begin their marriage reconciled to God first, as His children. This is the designated starting point, the genesis of purpose.

Years ago, I made an independent decision to repent of my sins and accept God’s gift of forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. I asked Him to be my Lord and Savior, and I committed to live for Him. Edric did the same.

As a result, we had unity of spirit before unity of flesh. We agreed upon God’s principles for marriage, parenting, and ministry. And then we agreed to pursue these principles together, in a covenant relationship, as husband and wife.

This didn’t meant we were exempt from problems. In fact, our first year of marriage was difficult because of personality clashes. However we were committed to working it out because we knew that God brought us together in marriage. We knew he could fix our relational issues.We knew he had a plan and purpose for us to fulfill.

The Bible tells us that God “reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5‬:‭18-20‬ NASB)

When I look back on the journey that our marriage has been, our highest highs and greatest joys have been shared in the context of serving the Lord’s purposes as a team. What a privilege to reconcile people to God through Jesus Christ; to invite them to be His children so they can bear His image and display His love to the world.

On the way home from one Saturday marriage seminar we spoke at, Edric turned to me in the car and reiterated how much he loves me, how much he enjoys serving the Lord together. The afternoon was coming to a close and we were headed to see our children. He asked me, “Is it possible to love you more?” Although he meant it as a rhetorical question, I will answer it here…

God multiplied whatever love we thought we had for each other when we stood at the altar on the day of our wedding. He multiplies it still. It’s not a love that surfaces or extends from our exhaustible and finite selves. It’s one that comes from Him, a love beyond us, so we can love beyond us.

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Three Times A Charm in Bataan

It was our third visit to Bataan but this one was especially fun for the family. First, we got to serve together. The older kids joined Edric on the morning talk he gave to government workers and their families. 





Then Edric and I spoke on marriage and relationships afterwards.

We were also privileged to spend time with Mayor Joet Garcia and his wife, Isabel. It was a pleasure getting to know them and witnessing the work they are doing for the city. They are public servants who truly care about bettering life for the people of Balanga. It’s always refreshing to see good governance in action by people who are God-fearing.(null)

It was our first time to stay in The Plaza Hotel, a beautiful new hotel in the city center, overlooking the square. (null)

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Early morning on Valentine’s Day we joined the Love Run to practice for our 21K run the next weekend. Running past open fields was a wonderful first for me. Incidentally, they awarded us Mr. and Ms. Love Run. I think there were more deserving others but we didn’t mind celebrating with a kiss. 





The highlight for the kids was our time in Montemar Beach Club, courtesy of our church friends, Henry and Riza Morales. Our children love sand and water! It was a relaxing way to spend our Valentine’s Weekend. 



This trip was intented to be for ministry, to serve the people in Balanga, alongside our church, Christ’s Commission Fellowship. However, we were the ones who came away blessed and spoiled by the generosity and company of Mayor Joet and Isabel, and the CCF community! (Not to mention 5 pounds heavier from all the food we feasted on!)(null)

  

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A Good Run With My Good “Pusher”

Edric got me to run in a 21K “fun” run yesterday. I know there may be readers out there who have done real marathons and triathlons who think 21K is peanuts, but it was a pretty big deal for me. 

The event was Run For Financial Fitness and Edric was dead set on us entering the 21K category. Of course, as the more calculated risk taker between the two of us, I had my apprehensions.

“But you and I are athletes,” was his argument. “We can even walk part of the way if it comes down to that.” (WE WERE ATHLETES. We may be athletic. But, that’s vastly different than being in peak condition. Plus, if you really think we are athletes, would it be acceptable to walk?!) 

 Here was my thought bubble. Edric’s body hasn’t gone through five pregnancies and the multitudinous changes that I have experienced as a mom. He has pretty much maintained the same perimeter measurements since we were first married. As for me, my ligaments, muscles, joints and organs have been stretched, moved around, and re-organized inside of me. And I’m still a breastfeeding mother! Give me a year to get back into fighting form so I can do this well. Please don’t ask me now. 

I was very cognizant of my paltry physical fitness level. In my book, short distance running in our village, a mere fraction of what 21K is, didn’t count as training for a run this long. Plus, my running philosophy is do it to stay healthy, to have meaningful prayer time. I’m not the sort of person who likes joining races to get outpaced by a hundred younger and older people bouncing past me like gazelles. 

However, my ever-optimistic husband preyed on the competitive person in me. He knew there was a hopeful bone in my body that would concede to the idea, for the challenge of it. While I vacillated between chickening out and entertaining the possibility, I finally said, “Okay, I will do it. Whichever way it turns out, we will learn something about marriage. If we make it without physically injuring ourselves then it will be a good reminder on how God blesses a wife’s desire to honor her husband’s wishes. But if it turns out badly, then it will be a lesson for you, as a husband…to think through the decisions you make, because you are responsible for me as your wife.” 

 Edric smiled and retorted, “Are you threatening me?” I didn’t mean for it to come across that way but I suppose, deep down inside, I was (in a playful way). 

 We did a test run in Balanga, Bataan the previous weekend. The mayor of Balanga City, Joet Garcia, and his wife, Isabel, were gracious enough to give us two slots in the Love Run that was scheduled on Valentine’s Day. It was just a 10K run but it gave us a good diagnostic. Of course 10 is less than half of 21, but at least we were able to work on a pace that we could use during the 21K.
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On Sunday morning, we woke up at 3:15 AM to get ready for our run. We zipped over to Bonifacio Global City where we parked our vehicle in our old condominium and made our way to the starting line. The gun went off at 4:30 AM. 

 The first 15 kilometers were fine. I was starting to feel pain in some parts of my legs, but it was bearable. At least we were running in the dark, when the weather was pleasantly cool, and cars weren’t smoking up the streets. 

Personally, the best part of it all was pacing side by side with Edric. Even though I was vehemently against the run when he first broached the idea to me, the endorphins that flooded my brain as we ran kilometer after kilometer made me grateful to have a husband that pushes me to be a better version of myself. 

 Somehow, it was even kind of romantic. We were going slow enough to dialogue and pray which meant we were probably at the bottom third of all the runners due to our turtle-like pace. But this didn’t matter. There we were, inching forward together, as a team. He looked pretty handsome in his orange Adidas shirt and gray shorts. Just a week before, we outfitted ourselves. It’s like a friend used to say, “If you can’t play, then display. If you have no form, then get a cool uniform!” If all else failed, we thought, at least we can look like runners! Edric carried our water rations on an elastic waistband and offered them to me as we started back up the Buendia flyover to Bonifacio Global City.

I was expecting that we would continue like this. 

However, during the last six kilometers, Edric began to feel a great amount of pain. He had to stop and stretch a couple of times, so we slowed down even more. Honestly, his condition surprised me. I pictured the last part to end differently, with Edric telling me, “You can do it, honey. Just a little further.” Instead, it was me who was smiling while Edric’s facial expression looked like a cross between Don’t talk to me right now because I’m suffering and I can’t believe you are so chirpy. I was pretty chirpy, trying to engage him in conversation to pass the remaining moments of our run. 

 During the last 3 kilometers, Edric had to walk for part of the way, and I found myself circling back to him so I wouldn’t have to stop my jog. During the final kilometer, I asked him if it was alright if I ran ahead. He was completely fine with this so I picked up the pace and entered the finish line alone. 

 Sigh. That was the only part that I didn’t like about our run. I had this fantasy of running through the finish line together, as a team, but I couldn’t slow down to a walking pace in order to remain beside Edric. There were a couple of times when trying to do so only heightened the pain in my joints and muscles. I was better off going with the inertia of a steady jog. So I came in before he did. To put it into perspective, I beat him

 Edric ended his run a few minutes later. On the way home, he jokingly asked me not to rub it in too much that I was ahead. We laughed because of the irony. I was the reluctant one. I wasn’t as conditioned. I had never run a 21K and he had. 

 The outcome of our run demonstrated a couple of invaluable lessons to Edric and me: 

 First, I really believe God honored me for supporting Edric’s crazy idea to do this run. It was God’s special grace that allowed me to finish (even ahead of Edric). I experienced the blessings of submission. 

Second, Edric humbly admitted that he should have been more prepared…that he should have considered how difficult a run this would be, especially as the leader in our marriage. Wow! This was exactly what I hoped he would glean from all of this. 

Third, running closely epitomizes the human life. I’ve always believed this. But it’s easy to say this until you actually experience every inch of your legs and feet hurting like heck! You want to know there is an end to look forward to — a rest to redeem all the effort. For a follower of Jesus Christ, that rest is eternity with Him, a.k.a. heaven. 

Fourth, everyone crosses life’s finish line alone. I couldn’t step over the line for Edric and he couldn’t do it for me. As much as possible we remained side by side, but as the challenge escalated, we both had to make the choice to keep going until the end. 

When the Bible says, “run in such a way that you win,” I don’t think this necessarily implies that we need to finish first. But each one of us needs to finish well, which means faithfully pressing on, no matter what. 

Fifth, and this is for all the mothers out there…God made us strong in a different way from men. I’m not knocking Edric for walking or slowing down during the last few kilometers. Had he been better prepared for this race, I would have been panting after him. However, as a woman, giving birth was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, physically speaking. Since I opted for no anesthesia for all five of my births, I felt the intense pain of every contraction. Having said that, if a woman can endure labor pains, she can run 21K even when her legs feel like they are going to fall off! By God’s grace, we’ve been design to stomach a whole lot of pain. Running 21K hurts but childbirth hurts waaaay more. 

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Edric and I made it to Sunday service by 9 AM but by the afternoon, I could barely walk. So we concluded the evening with a two-hour massage. I usually don’t like full body massages but this one was necessary!

Looking back, I’m glad we did this. It wasn’t something I would have elected to do myself, but thanks to my husband, “the good pusher”, I survived a challenge that benefited me physically, spiritually, and even emotionally!

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