Cozy Cabin Honesty

It’s a miracle when twenty-three people can live in a cabin together for four days and not go crazy. Soon after Christmas day, my parents along with four of us siblings and our families traveled to Tahoe Donner.

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We rented a beautiful, huge cabin that had five large rooms to house all of our families. It came with a Jacuzzi, too!

The weather was perfect – super cold so the kids could experience a “real” winter, and it snowed the day before we left.

I went sledding for the first time and threw a couple of snowballs. I didn’t realize how much a snowball could hurt! One of my nephews got a bloody lip (not by my doing!)

The highlight for me was sitting around the dinner table with my siblings and parents, and our spouses as we shared about our marriages. My parents try to do this with us periodically in Manila but we are all pretty busy so it’s not a consistent activity. This vacation we were stuck in the house together so the opportunity presented itself when the kitchen was cleaned up and the kids were busy entertaining one another.

Each one of us gave insight into our relationships. I shared that Edric and I don’t have any major issues except that I react to his impatience and irritation when these traits are manifest. It’s not often that he will get upset but I noticed that he was edgier during this trip. This was the first time he had to do chores and help me take care of all of our kids. I know he learned a lot about sacrifice and service. He would say this vacation made him a better man and I wholeheartedly agree. However, there were a few incidences when he lost his cool.

Thankfully, we resolved whatever issues we had between us, and we were able to come before my parents and siblings to openheartedly hear their perspectives on our marital issues. As the more intense person between us, Edric is more prone to irritation when he has to deal with inefficiencies and inconveniences. But my mistake is challenging his responses and correcting him when he is upset which snowballs the situation into an unnecessary argument or unhealthy discussion.

For example, Edric was stern with Elijah for playing with his baby cousin, Joshua, near the garage door. When Edric walked through the door, he accidentally knocked Joshua on the head and blamed Elijah for sitting in the way. This time I pounced back by throwing the Tupperware I was putting away into the cupboard. Edric noticed this and challenge me by asking, “What?!” To which I replied while stooped behind the kitchen island and away from Elijah’s vista, “Don’t talk to him (Elijah) like that.” He mistakenly heard, “Don’t talk to me.” So he countered, “No, you don’t talk to me,” which doubly irked me. However, I stopped inciting Edric because neither of us was in the right frame of mind to resolve our altercation at that moment.

That evening Edric and I had a date night with my sister, Candy, and her husband, Jeff. They were holding hands while strolling through the streets of Old Sacramento, unaware that Edric and I had a tiff with one another earlier that day. Edric and I were walking about two feet apart behind Jeff and Candy. I leaned over to Edric and asked, “Do you have something to say to me?” insinuating that I had received no apology for his earlier behavior. He replied, “Nope. Do you have something to say to me?”

Seriously?! I thought. He was the prime instigator of our conflict earlier! I kept silent wishing he would put his arm around me and apologize because we were walking in 7 degree Celsius weather that night. Plus, I wanted to maximize this date night since we hired babysitters who weren’t cheap!

Still, Edric didn’t budge, so I proudly held my own position, shivering inside. After a few minutes, he wandered off to buy a mistletoe from a street vendor who was raising money to help his sister travel to Washington D.C. (Edric is drawn to random attractions that other people don’t always notice.) I don’t know if Edric was planning to hold that mistletoe over my head in the hopes for a kiss but that was the last thing I wanted to do.

In the meantime, Jeff, Candy, and I were seated in the restaurant talking about our marriages. I volunteered to confess that Edric and I were kind of fighting. (Usually I won’t do this until I work it out with Edric first.) Candy’s advice was exactly what I didn’t want to hear but needed to. She suggested I apologize to Edric for reacting to his outburst. Even if he was not right for getting unnecessarily upset, she told me to humble myself because that’s what God would want me to do.

When Edric came into the restaurant (without the mistletoe because he didn’t have small change to buy it with), I immediately volunteered, “I’m sorry, hon, for earlier. Please forgive me.” He wasn’t expecting to have been the topic of conversation and looked perturbed. “So what were you guys talking about?” He asked with suspicion.

That dinner turned out to be an interesting one for all of us as Edric and I addressed the day’s dramatics right there and then, with Jeff and Candy looking on. And all was well again as we apologized to one another. For the rest of our evening, we dialogued about how our marriages were doing and I appreciated the time to be able to be honest with one another.

When we were in Tahoe we did the same thing with my other siblings and their spouses. Each one gave their own spiritual insights and solutions, which was great because Edric and I don’t get to sit down with counselors or mentors that often. Our ministry targets young families and couples so we need to grow in our own marriage, and that means receiving feedback and guidance from those who know us best.

Edric was advised that he needs to think through the pattern of behavior that leads to unwanted outbursts. I was advised that I ought to stay quiet instead of reacting to his negativity. Although I already knew this, it was a good reminder to apply being gentle and quiet when I am tempted to fight back. During moments when I’m not the first to commit the “crime” I can be like the whiplash that adds trauma to injury. The reality is, spirit-filled silence has always worked better but sometimes I intentionally forget this when I’m dealing with my own version of anger.

After Edric and I shared, each family member did the same – identifying areas of improvement in their own persons and marriages, and what aspects they appreciated about one another. It was a blessed discussion that left us all a little wiser and closer to our spouses and one another as a family.

It’s not always easy to bear our weaknesses with others or to listen attentively to the suggestions that are offered to help us better our relationships. But no marriage is an island. Sometimes we may feel like we don’t have problems or it is nobody’s business to know what our marital issues are, but every marriage can improve to become sweeter, more loving, and more Christ-like.

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I’m blessed to have family members (on my side and Edric’s side) who are committed to strengthening our marriage in Christ. We all share the same mind when it comes to biblical principles and their applications in husband and wife relationships. But the secret is each one of us has a relationship with Jesus Christ first. Therefore we can commune about our marriages openly, and digest each other’s advice without becoming embittered. I’m not saying it’s easy to do this but the context is, Hey, it’s okay to have these struggles in your marriage. All of us do. What counts is that we all want to please God in our relationships. We share the desire to change and improve because we love God, our spouses, and one another.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as also you are doing.”

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Bike, Scooter, Rollerblades

During our vacation Titus learned to bike, use the scooter, and rollerblade. “Hey, mom! Look at me!” He would say as he whirred past on a bike, or scooter and eventually, rollerblades.

A few years ago, he tried all three but his body wasn’t ready. Plus, he needed someone to keep him steady. This time he took off very naturally.

He usually surprises me with his capacity to learn skills and pick up concepts without much instruction from Edric or me. A lot of it has to do with his willingness to try and experiment. Fear is not his first impulse. To attempt is, and persistence one of his shining characteristics. Eventually, he receives the reward of his laboriousness and relishes in the sweet victory of effort.

I have always been fascinated by Titus. Although my heart is inclined to all five of my children in the same way and I have no favorites, each of their peculiarities intrigues me in a different way. Titus’ penchant for exploration and discovery is more pronounced than his siblings’. He is rarely restrained by the kind of self-consciousness that often keeps people like myself from enjoying a moment without suffering the burden of a thousand thoughts.

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His approach is “see then figure out by doing.” I have asked him many times, “how did you learn to do that?” in reference to a new ability or conquest he has acquired or undertaken and he will nonchalantly reply, “I just saw it and then I did it, or I just thought about it and then I did it.”

This type of response often elicits laughter from me as he responds to the world around him with a delectable spontaneity that I sometimes wish belonged to me. He has little regard for the risks involved which means that he also learns through bruises and falls. On the other spectrum is someone like myself, who quietly calculates the effort, plausibility, appropriateness, and consequences of committing to any sort of task or adventure.

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When we were living in a cabin in Tahoe for a few days, Titus was intrigued by the light switches. He could not resist pressing each one to see which lights they corresponded to. We were in the middle of dinner on one occasion, when he turned the lights on and off. For a second, 24 people sat in darkness as he got his fidget-fix. All was well as he ably switched them back on when family members exclaimed in unison, “Who is doing that? Stop it!” They were gentle enough, especially when they realized it was none other than our curious Titus pouncing upon a cause-and-effect opportunity.

Thankfully, he is learning to control his inclinations towards taking things apart or touching things he isn’t supposed to. It took several years of repetitive intervention on my part and Edric’s to encourage him to filter through his choices. As any parent ought to know, parenting requires adjusting to each child’s uniqueness with grace and patience. Only God can supply the grace to successfully teach and train our children the way he wants us to.

In our family, we share the same goal for each of our kids, but we have to customize the instruction and discipline aspects. No two children get the same plan, and all five require careful observation and study.

This extended vacation provided many opportunities to get to know our children better. Edric, in particular, probably benefitted the most from 24/7 contact. It was a rare 30+ days of investment in time with our children. Even though he was intentional about discipling them before, I am pretty sure he can profile them more accurately now.

It’s been a joy to be more informed about how Titus thinks and responds to situations, and to celebrate his successes. He teaches me to “chill” as a mom, to relax and avoid the type of over-concern that infects my children with fear and self-doubt. Yes, he may fall and injure himself as he boldly attempts to balance, climb, catapult, cross over, lean, crawl, bounce, jump, etc, but that’s the way a Titus-person learns best. For as along as he isn’t injuring others or taking fatal risks, I am now able to sit back and applaud his courage, curiosity, and relentlessness for what they are — unique gifts from the Lord that can be channeled positively for His greater purposes.

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Forty Years From Now

I watched them embrace one another, old friends…people my dad referred to as “antique” friends, which could have been interpreted as politically incorrect. However, both parties understood what he meant. There are some friendships that stand the test of time. In their case, over forty years.

Over forty years ago, my mom was a singer for a group called Crossroads. They traveled the world bringing Christian music and the gospel of Jesus Christ to people. Chuck and Sandy were part of this group and knew my mother as a single woman – a blond-haired, blue-eyed belle that hailed from Florida.

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Burdened to give her life to serve the Lord, my mom left the comforts of America and her boyfriend to minister to people all over Southeast Asia. Naturally, at one point, this landed her on the shores of the Philippines. At a bible study, she met my father, a Chinese businessman who loved God and had a passion for the gospel. It was an unlikely but God-ordained romance that blossomed in the context of a shared desire to reach the world with the message of Christ’s love.

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Chuck and Sandy were part of my parents’ history. They were witnesses to God’s orchestration, privy to the process of discernment that my mom went through. When she received confirmation to marry my dad, she asked Sandy to hold her accountable. “God has told me to say yes to Peter and I want you to be a witness that I am supposed to.” These were my mom’s words to Sandy.

While marriage is always a life-altering decision, my mom’s choice to say yes to my dad came with other considerations. This would be a cross-cultural marriage (very uncommon back then). He was a businessman (she was a missionary), and she would have to leave her home for good. Ironically, she told herself she would NEVER marry a businessman. God has a sense of humor.

I’ve always marveled at my mother’s faith. When she married my dad, she looked to the biblical example of Ruth who declared to her mother-in-law, “Where you go, I will go. Your people will be my people. Your God will be my God.” Similarly, my mom was willing to follow my dad wherever he would lead her.
)

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They have been married for nearly 42 years, and by God’s grace, their love grows stronger and more beautiful still. In a world where marriages have shorter and shorter expiry dates, they might be considered a miracle. So it is always refreshing and encouraging to encounter couples who are just like them, who have chosen to keep Christ as the anchor of their relationship.

I had heard Chuck and Sandy’s names names mentioned in stories and seen the sepia and black and white pictures slipped into browned sleeves of old photo albums. But meeting them in person helped me to better understand who my parents are. After all these years, Chuck and Sandy were like a piece of a puzzle that I never knew was missing.

My parents don’t dwell on the past too much. They were never really the type to sit down and narrate every detail of their life histories, so any chance I get to see or hear more about the people they once were is really interesting and entertaining to me. As my parents enter into the winter season of their lives, I want to make sure I know everything I possibly can about them.

They hadn’t seen Chuck and Sandy in over forty years so this was a pretty historic get-together. My parents sat in their living room, which was decorated with wood carvings from the Philippines and other Asian-inspired pieces that looked comfortingly familiar. For an instant I had the same feeling I used to have when I stepped into my grandparents’ home in Pensacola, Florida. The carpeted flooring, the overstuffed sofas and lazy boys in the family room with toys set aside for the grandkids. It was reminiscent of the coziness I always loved when we visited my grandparents during the summer.

We spent a couple of hours in Chuck and Sandy’s home since my parents had decades to catch up on. All four of them have aged significantly since they last saw one another but it was like the old days as they engaged one another in conversation, trading jokes, updates, and exchanging ministry ideas.

When we left I had this sense to write about our time together because I was reminded of the friendships Edric and I share with the people in our discipleship group. Of all people in this world, we walk shoulder to shoulder with them as brothers and sisters in Christ. Forty years from now, what will we be like? What will define the decades that we live?

I pray we will all finish well — that no matter where God leads us we will cross life’s finish line still passionate about loving and serving God, with our marriages unbroken, and our children following Jesus.

Our discipleship group in the Philippines…our bigger family in Christ!

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Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified. (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭9‬:‭24-27‬ NASB)

Birthday Blessings

I turn 38 this week. Hoowee. That sounds old. It’s hard to believe I am almost 40!

Edric asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told him I already have everything my heart desires. By God’s grace, that’s the truth. Sure, there are things I WANT — Catalina NOT to have asthma, a baby grand piano, six pack abs, zero cellulite, anti-gravity solutions for my body, an unlimited house-decorating budget, more homeschooling resources… But 2014 was an incredible year and I am grateful.

On the one hand, it was one of the hardest seasons of my life in terms of parenting, homeschooling and ministry. But on the other hand, God blessed me with so many opportunities to enjoy my family, experience his provision, and serve Him. Here are my top 10 highlights…

1. Catalina turned 1 year old and we dedicated her to the Lord, celebrating her life with family and friends.

2. God gave me multiple occasions to share my testimony about tragedy and His healing. (It was televised on Tanikala during Holy Week; I got to speak to abused women at C.R.I.B.S.; I shared it for the first time in another country — at a conference in Brazil; and it was featured in Good Housekeeping in October.)

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3. We finished our home and moved in! This was a miracle! God provided the funds and the suppliers to complete this project when we came to him with our “five loaves and two fish.”

4. I started a playgroup with other homeschooling moms in our bible study which has multiplied to accommodate over 30 kids. It’s still growing!

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5. We opened up our home to a weekly bible study group with couples who are our neighbors. )

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6. Throughout the year, Edric and I spoke on marriage and parenting (topics our hearts really beat for) at events like Before I Do, UECP Family Retreat, TMA Homeschool Roadshows, ACCF Family Retreat, Executive Couples Retreat, Counterflow Parenting Conference, Jubilee Couples Retreat, Saturdates, CCF outreach churches, etc.)

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7. Almost every month we got to go on out of town trips as a family to places like Cebu, Palawan, Montemar, Boracay, Tagaytay, Baguio, Pico de Loro, etc.

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8. I got to continue writing for my site and counseling online as much as possible despite a hectic year.

9. The kids and I finished our homeschool year! We hobbled through the end line but praise God we were done by September. Tiana is now starting Pre-school, Titus transitioned to Grade 1, Edan to Grade 3, Elijah to Grade 6, and, well, Catalina still disrupts us whenever she can.

10. I am still happily married to Edric and privileges to be mom to our five children.

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This year was very challenging for me emotionally, spiritually, and physically, but God was faithful. Even though I stumbled through a lot of 2014, I am amazed at all God did for me and my family. All glory goes to Him as He is the reason I am turning 38 with a smile on my face!

As I end this entry, I want to thank all of you readers for the joy you bring with your emails, messages, and words of encouragement. In many of my low moments this past year I have opened my gmail, Facebook messages or visited comments on my blog and been refreshed by your insights and positivity. Please forgive me if I am not able to respond immediately to all your questions but I want you to know that God has blessed me through your friendship from afar. May He be the light of your heart and home, and the hope that keeps you pressing on. Most of all, may you experience His everlasting love for you!

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the God of gods,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. To Him who alone does great wonders,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting; To Him who made the heavens with skill,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting; To Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting; To Him who made the great lights, For His lovingkindness is everlasting: The sun to rule by day,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting, The moon and stars to rule by night, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(‭Psalms‬ ‭136‬:‭1-9‬ NASB)

Family Time in Disney and Universal

This was the first time our kids went to Disneyland and Universal Studios. They had a blast. I pushed the stroller around and waited during most of the rides since Catalina was too young to ride but I lived through my kids’ fun vicariously. My greater joy was seeing their responses and reactions. Tiana was adorable when she witnessed the parade of Disney characters. She exclaimed, “I knew I would see princesses! Are they real mommy?”

The passes were my dad’s treat. He wanted to spend time with all of us. So he got tickets for my sister’s family and Edric and I, plus all our children. My dad has this great way of bonding with his grandkids. His method is to take on the grandchildren in manageable doses. One or two families at a time on a trip or vacation with him and my mom. My parents have 15 grandchildren so it’s pretty chaotic when the kids are in complete attendance. (This will happen next week!) Furthermore, the kids gravitate towards one another when they are all present which makes it more challenging to get to know them individually.

By the end of the trip, my kids were holding on to their grandma’s and Angkong’s (grandpa’s) hands. They wanted to sit beside them during meal times. And my parents got to observe and profile their personalities better.

This was a magical time for our family. I was very thankful for the small “fortune” my parents invested to pay for all our park tickets and hotel stays, but the best part for me was being with one another. It’s such a blessing that my mom and dad care to be with our children and disciple them. They want to connect with them and build memories. Edric’s parents are the same way so we have the privilege of having an extra set of parents on both sides looking out for the spiritual, emotional, physical and social well-being of our children.

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We Are Brothers

When I shop for my kids, I like to get them matching outfits. It’s easier when you have to buy clothes for five kids. Plus, I think it’s adorable when they all sport the same look in a Sound of Music sort of way. It wasn’t until a friend asked, “So you still dress them alike and they don’t mind it?” that I began to wonder if it was totally corny of me to make them look uniform.

I decided to ask my kids what they thought of wearing matching clothes, and the response I got was, “It’s fun. We like being matching because we are brothers.”

“Yah, we like it! We feel sad when we are not matching.” Another one piped in. (Sometimes I can’t buy three versions of one item.)

“What if other people think it’s silly?” I probably shouldn’t have inserted this but I was curious to know their perspective.

“Why is it silly? We like it, that’s what matters. It’s a brother thing.” Elijah replied with conviction while the others concurred with him. The three of them were sitting in the back of the van wearing orange t-shirts they picked out together, smiling at me.

I don’t know how long my boys will approve of their coordinating outfits. Perhaps at some point they will gravitate towards particular styles that are varied from one another. In the meantime, they will be looking matchy-matchy. It may not be the “cool” way to dress but I am so glad my homeschooled sons don’t care. What they do care about is being associated with one another because they are brothers…they are a team…they are united…they are each other’s best friends.

Thank you to their Tita Danie for these outfits…

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I Love This Chick

Edric and I locked ourselves in the bedroom this morning to share a private conversation. He sat on one end of the bed and I sat on the other. The kids attempted to knock their way in and Titus spied on us from the balcony. (He peered through the blinds, grinning mischievously. Typical Titus.) But Edric was adamant, “Mommy and Daddy have to talk,” shooing them away gently.

We needed this conversation.

Lately, our relationship felt functional and our intimacy waned. Concerned about my unresponsiveness and general indifference, Edric insisted that we identify why I was emotionally distant. He invited me to psychoanalyze myself as he propped himself against a pillow and folded his hands, looking very much like an attentive psychologist.

I mouthed out all kinds of superficial issues that skirted the deeper longings of my heart…

I feel blah. I need intellectual and spiritual feeding…

You and I have been so pragmatic with one another. We are together often but I haven’t felt connected to you…

Sometimes I feel tired of following God’s principles for marriage. Like I’m trying to imagine how I can keep on submitting as a wife and resisting the tendencies of my personality and it’s tiring to think of what the next years will be like…

I also feel like I am disappointing you as a wife and homemaker, like there’s always a detail that I miss and fail at…

Edric was silent. Unusual for my intense and talkative husband. He motioned to me to come lay on his chest. “Come here, I know what you need…” His voice trailed off.

At first I didn’t want to be vulnerable, but Edric was persistent, so I relented and inched toward him, resting my head against his arm.

It was his turn. “I want you to know how much I appreciate you, as a wife, as a mother to our kids. Lately, I have been so self-absorbed and selfish. Will you forgive me? Of all the people in the world, you are the most important to me. And I think you are feeling a lot of the things you are because I haven’t affirmed you enough. I could counteract every statement you made but all you need to know right now is that I love you so much. I don’t know what I would do without you.” He held me closer.

“Do you really mean that?” I asked, latching on to every word and hungry for more of this tender interchange.

“Of course!” He cradled part of my face and smiled. “I love this Chick!”

And just like that I felt a renewed inspiration to be Mrs. Edric Mendoza. Before this day, I evaded Mr. Mendoza, announcing excuses each time he wanted to be alone with me. I would say, “Okay but I have to take care of such and such first.”

I am pretty easy. Just give me a concentrated dose of positive words and I perk up immediately. It’s like Edan’s bean plant experience. When he noticed it languishing, with its withered leaves drooping low and sad, he transferred it to a place where it could receive a softer version of the sun. The next day he declared with pride, “Mom! My bean plant is okay now! Look at the leaves! Come see!” Sure enough, it was standing up tall.

Like the bean plant I deteriorate without encouragement from Edric. This past week, I felt like he was nitpicky and easily agitated. Admittedly, I did have my shortcomings. On Thursday, I packed him lunch so he could eat on the way to his ANC taping because he was running late, but I forgot to put cutlery in the bag. I apologized profusely when he called me befuddled by my forgetfulness. The poor guy had to find a spoon and fork at a gasoline station, which delayed him further. So yes, I will not make false claims about myself and say that I am always on top of things. But, everyday this last week, there seemed to be a failure to highlight and after a while, I retreated to activities and busyness so I could avoid interacting with Edric.

In contrast, when Edric affirmed me this morning, it was like being injected with an adrenaline shot of love. I stood tall once again!

The Bible says, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does this church…(Ephesians 5:28-29)

Previously, the passage of Ephesians highlights that a man is to be the head of his marriage. Verses 28 and 29 expound on what it means to love his wife. I interviewed Edric so he can teach about this part (in case you wives hand this article to your husbands!)…

To nourish, he began, is enabling a wife to maximize her potential. It is placing her in an environment where she can bloom into the woman God wants her to be. This means equipping and enabling her with the tools and opportunities to develop her gifts and abilities.

In our marriage, Edric studied me well. (He still does.) He knew I gravitated towards writing and enjoyed it, so three years ago he provided the means to start a blog site. When we moved into our home, he kept prodding me to do acrylic painting again. He bought me large canvases to paint on so I could resurrect this hobby.

Edric has reiterated on many occasions that one of his responsibilities is to help me grow and mature as a person. (He actually has a spreadsheet where he indicates yearly, 5-year, and 10-year goals for each person in the family!)

The word, cherish, he expounded, is to make a wife feel convincingly loved and valued. Does my wife feel secure in my love and affections? Does she believe that her concerns are important to me? Do I treat her with kindness and patience, seeking to understand her?

Interestingly, Edric and I were at an event today where we were one of the guest speakers. At the end of our talk, we were asked, “How can a husband prioritize his wife when he is so busy?”

Here are some tips that we shared (and more)…

  • Block off date nights where you can talk heart-to-heart, address issues in your relationship, and enjoy one another.
  • Put the gadgets away when you are spending time together, especially at the dinner table.
  • Learn your wife’s language of love. Edric knows that words of affirmation matter to me. Gary Chapman names four others – time, touch, gifts, and service. A woman whose language of love is met by her husband is an inspired woman eager to fulfill her role as wife and mother!
  • Remember special events – birthdays, anniversaries, mother’s day, etc. Edric writes me long letters that I’ve kept through the years. He doesn’t always give me extravagant gifts, but his gestures are extravagant and these matter more to me.
  • Be a gentleman. More often than not, Edric opens the door for me, pulls out my chair before I sit down, makes me walk on the safe side of the road, and carries my shopping bags. I hope he does these things forever!
  • Make sacrifices that communicate concern and thoughtfulness. Early in the morning, when Catalina wakes up, Edric takes her down to our househelp so I can rest. I know other husbands who give bottles to babies and change diapers in the middle of the night so their wives don’t shoulder the burden of caring for an infant. These small acts of kindness are exclamatory statements of love.
  • Compliment your wife in public. My dad is a businessman but he also preaches the Bible. During worship services when he is giving a message, he singles out my mom if the context makes sense and declares how much he loves her and appreciates her. Edric does the same when we are with others. He will compliment me when we are with friends and family. He will say things like, “My wife is the best…My wife is amazing…” I don’t want it to seem like I’m tooting my own horn here. The point is that he finds ways to make me feel special.
  • Be generous. I don’t shop that much because I really don’t need to. I’m at home most of the time. However, when I want to get something and it is out of my budget, Edric will usually say, “Sure. I want to bless you.” (I think the key for the wife is not to be extravagant either! My sister rarely shops for clothes so her husband actually tells her to go shopping!)
  • Listen to and acknowledge your wife’s feelings. This is a challenging one. Women can be dramatic and emotional. Edric listening to my morning rant about nonsensical issues was not pleasant for him but he made me feel like I could tell him anything.
  • Say I love you everyday. I once heard a speaker say “Tell your wife you love her before someone else does!”
  • Pray for your wife. Wives need prayer! We can’t manage everything we have to without supernatural enabling by the Lord. When Edric prays for me, I feel empowered by the Holy Spirit.

It may take time for a husband to change and learn what it means to nourish and cherish his wife. But take heart. The Bible says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it whoever He wishes.” (Proverbs 21:1 NASB) A husband’s heart is not so out of reach that God cannot minister to it or direct it. Edric and I have counselled many couples and seen God transform husbands from insensitive, selfish, and unloving to the complete opposite!

“And Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'” (Matthew 19:26) This passage was given right after Jesus’ disciples asked how anyone can possibly be saved. If we look to people only, change seems implausible. Therefore we must hope in Christ to do the unimaginable work in our hearts and the hearts of others!

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Assume the Best About Your Spouse

I ran over my littlest toe with a grocery cart Sunday afternoon while I was in a mad rush to prepare for a party in our home. We were hosting the yayas and drivers Christmas event for the Tan-Chi side of the family. Nearly forty people were coming over in three hours and I hadn’t prepared my part of the food contribution, finalized all the game mechanics, or finished decorating. My toe was the unfortunate causality of my flurry.

During the party, I was the game master by default. Naturally, after two hours of standing on my feet yelling out instructions, my toe swelled uncomfortably. I actually thought I might have broken it when I began to feel the pain and it turned black and blue.

Edric came down to check on the party, and I showed him my toe. He was very sympathetic and concerned, asking if I was alright. Even though I appreciated his pity, there was no time to baby my toe because I had to head to the kitchen. We had another set of guests arriving for dinner, around thirty people, and I didn’t want to take my househelp away from their party.

While Edric shared a short bible study with the yayas and drivers, I cooked a pasta dish, put a salad together, and made dip for the chips with my mom. (My sisters-in-law and my mom helped with food as well so it wasn’t like I had to do everything.)

The yayas and drivers with their families after the games…

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By 7 PM, the guests were settled in and dinner was served. The party had come to a close downstairs and our househelp could finally assist me in the dining room. My toe had been throbbing so I resorted to limping to alleviate the pain. It felt great to be able to sit down after so many hours and relax with our company. Finally, I can enjoy myself, I thought.

However, shortly after I was engaged in an interesting discussion with the women at the table, Edric asked me to serve him. This really annoyed me. Even though I didn’t manifest it, I emphasized my displeasure by hobbling more obviously. He didn’t notice because he was equally engrossed in a conversation with the men, at the other end of the table. Our table is fairly huge so he was a significant number of feet away. But still…I grumbled to myself…I told him earlier that my toe was in bad shape, and he knew I had been on my feet for a good number of hours hosting the party and getting dinner ready. How could he be insensitive like this?! If he was really mindful of me, he would serve himself.

My mom was at the “buffet” table and I made the mistake of whispering, “I’m annoyed because Edric asked me to get him something when my toe is in bad shape.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. Edric and I tell couples not to do this! It’s a good thing my mom isn’t the type to take sides just because I am her daughter. She will set me straight by offering another perspective. In fact she said, “It’s okay. He works hard all day.”

I knew that she was trying to be encouraging, but the judgemental thoughts began to percolate in my head and I felt hurt by Edric. I didn’t bring it up that evening because I was dead tired and crashed when the guests left. But last night, over an unimpressive slice of carrot cake at an unnamed coffee shop, while Edric and I killed some time before a dinner engagement, I commented, “I think if I contributed income to our family, you will be more reasonable about me serving you.”

Edric had no idea what I was talking about. He gave me a scowl that translated into the statement, “Whoa, whoa, what do you mean by that? We need to talk about this.”

I don’t know why I drew the conclusion I did but I suppose my main point was I wanted to be treated with more respect and courtesy. And as illogical a connection as I had made, I thought there might have been some merit to saying if he knew that I worked hard everyday because I had a desk job that he esteemed instead of housework, homeschooling, parenting, and hosting dinner parties, then perhaps it would increase his mindfulness of me. Perhaps he wouldn’t ask me to get up during dinner when my toe is hurting to bring him a bowl and spoon for his ice-cream!

So it was just a bowl and spoon but the timing of his request made me feel like he was totally inconsiderate of me. Of course, Edric requested that I clarify my ill-stated observation. I finally blurted out, “You asked me to serve you when you knew my toe was hurting me.”

With sincerity, Edric replied, “I’m so sorry hon, I totally forgot. I was so caught up in the conversation that I didn’t think about it when I asked you. You should have signaled me somehow or reminded me about your toe and I would have gotten the bowl myself. I hope you realize that I am not that much of jerk…that I would not knowingly ask you to serve me if you were in pain. You don’t think that about me, do you?”

My reply was, “I guess you left me no choice because I had just informed you about my toe and then you still asked me to serve you. So to me, even the forgetfulness was hurtful.”

“Okay, there’s no excuse for my forgetfulness either. Will you forgive me for that?”

This was part one of our dialogue. I’ve rephrased some of the statements but this was the gist of it. The next part continued while we were running this morning…

I began with, “So let’s just be clear…What if I was very tired because you knew that I was busy with preparations for a dinner event or activity in our home, would you still expect me to serve you? This question was posited as we ran up a hill.

His reply was, “Yes. I’ve equipped you with an army of household help and a driver so the answer is yes. It’s not like we are living in the U.S. where you and I have to do everything. Our circumstances are very different. Managing the home is your department, so you need to be on top of these things.”

“Wow, it’s like there’s no margin of error with you. Isn’t marriage also about teamwork? Like we are a team and we help one another out?” I countered.

“Give me some credit. When we were first married and didn’t have househelp I was in charge of the dishes.”

“You would leave the dishes for days in the sink.” I snickered.

“Still, I did them.” Edric said.

It’s amazing how much physical fuel you get from a marital discussion. I felt like each exchange pumped energy into my muscles to run!

“I suppose I just want to know that you will respond positively if there is an exemption. Like that night when the yayas and driver were enjoying a party? What about those instances?” I was looking for some reassurance.

“Well then tell me ahead of time so I can adjust my expectations, because in my mind, this is your department. So you need to manage parties we host in our home. But yes, I will rescue you.”

“I’m not sure I believe you.” I was skeptical.

“Well if you are going to think that way, we aren’t going to make any progress.” He began to sound annoyed. (I was being kind of annoying.)

“How come it seems like your tone is antagonistic?” This was unnecessary but I’m allergic to harsh decibel levels. We were now headed back home.

“So I have to say this in a sweeter tone for your to believe me?”

I was quiet. My thought was, YES.

In a sweeter manner Edric announced, “I-WILL-RESCUE-YOU.”

We smile at each other and he raced me home. He beat me.

At home, the third part of our dialogue ensued while working out our abdominals on the floor.

He was lying on his gray yoga mat and I was sprawled out on my purple one when he proposed, “We have to practice what we preach. What do we teach other couples about roles?”

“Do your part.” I must confess that I said this without too much enthusiasm!

“That’s right. So don’t worry about my responses. You do your part. I will worry about my role.”

I’m going to cut the story here because I’ve covered the most essential parts of it. My preconceived notion was HE KNEW about my toe. His honest confession was HE FORGOT. My interpretation of his forgetfulness was HE WASN’T MINDFUL OF ME. His sincere explanation was HE WAS DISTRACTED. My argument was WHAT IF I AM REALLY TIRED will you be reasonable about your expectations for service? His response was, generally, NO BECAUSE WE’VE DELINEATED ROLES AND I’VE EQUIPPED YOU WITH THE PERSONNEL TO HANDLE THE DIFFICULT WORK SO YOU CAN FOCUS ON ME. However, he did add that if I really needed him to be flexible, of course HE WOULD UNDERSTAND AND RESCUE ME, especially if I managed his expectations by communicating my need before hand.

So that was the end of the tale of my injured toe and the ice cream bowl and spoon, and here is what I learned/re-learned about marriage:

My initial inability to receive Edric’s confessions as true – that he had simply forgotten about my toe and he was distracted — told me that I had pent-up notions about Edric that assumed the worst rather than the best of him. I had judged him without hearing his perspective. Overnight, I cooked up some pretty destructive emotions.

Yes, Edric can have a bad memory. Yes, he can be insensitive. However, I’m accountable to the Lord for the thoughts I entertain. Edric’s uncommendable behavior (which isn’t frequent by God’s grace!) cannot be an excuse for me to harbor resentment towards him, leading me to forgo my desire to serve him and meet his needs as a wife. In the future I must be careful of poisonous presuppositions that begin with, “If Edric loves me he won’t…If he loves me he will…”

Edric loves me. Period. There’s no need to fill in the blanks.

Is it always a perfect love? Certainly not. I can’t promise him a perfect love either. But in marriage, he and I must begin with the assumption that we love one another and we mean well. To assume the best and not the worst is to hope in the heart transforming work that God is doing in Edric’s life and in mine. Christ is causing us to love one another the way we should.

Furthermore, I would like Edric to believe that when I make a mistake as a wife and he is the unpremeditated victim, I don’t will-fully want to injure his heart. Similarly, Edric would like to believe that when he messes up as a husband and I get hurt in the process, it’s not because he wants to be unloving towards me. It’s when he or I formulate judgmental conclusions based on appearances that we develop hostile feelings which eclipse our love and trust for one another.

“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.” Luke 6:37

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What if a spouse makes wounding choices consistently? Wouldn’t it be logical to assume that this spouse doesn’t love her husband or his wife? Might I propose a different perspective? When a spouse thinks, acts, or speaks in habitually hurtful ways it’s not because they don’t love their husband or wife. It’s because they haven’t experienced the love of Christ, nor do they love him in return. Love’s starting point is not Christ but the self. A love whose source is the self will miss the mark — the higher standard of Christ-like love.
A husband and wife must therefore strive to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength first (Matthew 22:37), after which they can love their neighbor (Matthew 6:38), also known as one another!

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The Braces Marriage Lesson

It must have been about 10 years ago when I mentioned to Edric that I would like to get braces. At the time, our expenses were diverted to other concerns so we didn’t have a lot of flexibility. He did say that I could have them eventually but there was no specific time frame.

Admittedly, my teeth weren’t in bad shape. There was slight crowding which Edric thought wasn’t a big deal. However, every year, when I would run my tongue across my front upper teeth, I noticed that the ridges in between my teeth were beginning to feel more pronounced. I really believed that it was best to get braces put on in my twenties. However, since Edric assessed my case as a non-priority, everytime I asked him, “Can I get braces?” he would tell me to wait.

This bothered me. I didn’t feel like I was asking for much. I wasn’t the type of wife who expected designer jewelry, bags, watches or shoes from her husband. In fact, my perspective on the braces request was, “I’m not a high maintenance wife. I just want to fix my teeth.” Even though I didn’t verbalize this, I began to develop a sense of entitlement about getting braces. In fact, I kept a corner of resentment in my heart for a number of years.

As God began to bless us more financially, I thought Edric would accede to my desire. Yet he remained convinced that I entertained phantom issues about my teeth. Eventually, I surrendered the wish to the Lord. I was convicted to trust that if God really wanted me to get them, he would soften Edric’s heart towards the idea. So I parked the braces issue and moved on. Afterall, imperfect teeth didn’t debilitate me. I could live and function just fine without them. It was spiritually healthier for my ego, too, not to make the pursuit of physical beauty my source of joy or happiness.

Fast forward to 2014. I was probably too old to get braces, but one day I was at Dr. Marla Valenzuela’s clinic for a prophylaxis, when she broached the idea of Fast Braces. As the official distributor of Fast Braces in the Philippines, she was offering a significant discount for them. Through the years of taking such wonderful care of our family’s teeth, Dr. Marla knew I had wanted braces for a good long while. She presented me with a flyer from her office.

Without insisting, I asked Edric again if it was alright for me to get braces. This time he said, “Sure.”

What?! Sure?! I was thrilled! Furthermore, my brother and my two sisters-in-law were going to get Fast Braces, too! It became a family affair.

Last April, Dr. Marla cemented the initial four brackets on my incisors. Three weeks later, all brackets were completed on my upper teeth. After an interval of three more weeks, the lower braces were done, too. They were painful but not unbearably so. Usually the pain would subside after the first week of adjustments. Plus, I needed to lose post-pregnancy weight anyway. For those who know what bracket adjustment discomfort is like, eating isn’t too exciting.

Results were immediate. Every week, I saw an improvement in the spacing of my teeth. The physics of Fast Braces allow them to move teeth optimally without compromising the roots. According to Fast Braces’ website, it is a “patented bracket design that is triangular in shape so that the crown and the root of the teeth can move at the same time. This gives patients the results with less sensitivity, in about a year, and in some cases, just 3 months.”

Furthermore, Fast Braces don’t require extractions so teeth aren’t forced to deviate far from their original positions. I do have to say that the results may be different than conventional braces in the sense that conventional braces fit every tooth beside each other so they are flush. I’m not an expert but this is probably due to the space extractions afford. To learn more, Fast Braces’ site gives comparative results and findings between conventional braces and their own: http://www.fastbraces.com/how-it-works/research-technology

I’m very happy with the results of my teeth. At the end of the day, I was comfortable with Fast Braces because I trusted my dentist. Furthermore, since Fast Braces is new in the Philippines, there is strict accountability. Dr. Marla was in continual contact with Fast Braces in the U.S. to update them on my progress and get feedback. Every check-up I had with her, she took photos and emailed them to the U.S. so she could consult with the dentists there. I also had to get pre and post panoramic x-rays to verify that my roots were just fine.

This experience was a 10-year-in-the-making-lesson for me as a wife. Had I forced Edric to afford braces for me earlier on, I would have worn traditional ones for at least a year and a half. Maybe even 2 years. Plus, it wouldn’t have been as easy for us to pay for them. Since I surrendered my yearning to get my teeth fixed to the Lord, he worked it out so that ten years later…

  1. Edric gave me the go signal without feeling hostage to my demands.
  2. I got a significant discount on my braces.
  3. I wore my braces for just 6 months!
  4. The retainer I was given was super cool. It’s a clear mold that fits my teeth! No awkward wire!

I am wearing my retainer in this photo…

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I must admit that there are times when I don’t like Edric’s decisions. When he denied me braces years ago, I wasn’t happy at all. But I’ve learned too many times in life that God speaks through Edric. This braces story was yet another reminder to wait on God. Sometimes I am tempted to coerce Edric or force him to give into what I want, when I want it. But God’s timing is always better and he uses Edric to guide me to the right person, place, and circumstance for my greater good. When I have issues with obeying and following Edric, it’s not because Edric is the problem, it’s because I don’t trust God. I don’t want to embrace God’s will for me as a wife, which is to listen to Edric. So it’s worthwhile to meditate on passages like Jeremiah 17:7. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.” If I want to be blessed, I need to honor God’s principles, and honoring God’s principles as a married woman translates to obeying and following Edric.

Now that my braces are off, we are celebrating together! Edric is very glad to have the metal out of my teeth!

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It’s Your Mess: Deal with It Darling

By the end of our homeschooling morning, our “classroom” usually looks like someone threw a grenade into it. I’ve tried to manage the mess by cleaning up as we go along, but there’s no better way to keep this room straight than to have the kids take responsibility for it.

Today they wanted to dye eggs as an art activity, but I told them, “If you want to do art, you have to clean up the room.” So they pulled out a broom from the hallway closet, picked up markers and colored pencils, and wiped the paint off the floor.

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My kids can get presumptuous about our househelp cleaning up after them so I have to remind them to straighten their own rooms, organize their toys, and mop their spills. They aren’t always motivated but a helpful trick is to tell them they can’t move on to the next activity until they straighten up their clutter.

Yesterday, they wanted to watch the Muppets movie. They were all plopped in front of the television enjoying themselves when I went upstairs to check on their rooms. Titus and Tiana had pulled out blankets and re-arranged furniture. They also had stuffed animals thrown around. Elijah and Edan had played with Citiblocks and constructed “trees”.

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I went back down, turned off the television and told them that their rooms had to be spotless if they wanted to continue watching the movie. They complied and got to work. After ten minutes, Elijah and Edan bounded back down the stairs. Titus and Tiana struggled to restore the girls’ room to what it looked like before they messed it up. I told them they were responsible for the disorder and had to fix it.

Elijah, Edan, and I finished the movie but Titus and Tiana never came down. I went looking for them, wondering what ever became of their commitment to put their mess away. And I found them lying on the couch in the study room, ASLEEP! They must have gotten tired trying to figure out what to do.

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Well, they resumed their clean up duties and got the job done after they woke up.

I want my kids to understand that they are responsible for their things. It’s easy to make a mess. In fact, it’s pretty fun to do so. But if my kids get into the habit of letting others inherit their mess, it’s going to have a negative effect on their character. They have to learn faithfulness in the small areas, like putting away toys or wiping up spills, so it will carry over to bigger areas in the future. If they “mess” up relationships, or make wrong decisions, they need to own up to the consequences and do what is honorable – deal with the mess and do their best to fix what they can.

Life Has Detours

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That’s what we were taught in school, isn’t it? In any geometric problem, you can count on this unchanging fact…That’s an important principle in the world of science and math…But in our spiritual life? Hardly anyone has found it to be true…There are invisible variables, hidden goals, purposeful processes that can’t be measured by human means. So on our journey with God through this life, we rarely walk a straight line.” Phil Tuttle, Author and Speaker

On the path towards where and whom God would have us be, he often includes character-building experiences and circumstances which Tuttle calls “DETOURS.” All of us would prefer the straight line. We want the blessed and abundant life that God promises without the unpleasant twists and turns that he may include along the way. Who wants to experience financial distress, business or work problems, relationship issues, abuse, sicknesses, loss, or betrayal? Any normal person would say, “Not me!”

In his book, Detour, Tuttle focuses on the the historical figure of Joseph. Young Joseph had vivid dreams of power and leadership, of people bowing down to him. This was his point B. Yet the line between his childhood (point A) and that fixed mark was bent in and out of shape. On many occasions, Joseph’s circumstances made his dreams about rulership seem completely ridiculous and implausible. From favored son, he was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, framed for sexual assault, thrown into prison, and forgotten. This didn’t look or feel like the path he was supposed to be on.

“We see in the life of Joseph, as well as many other biblical characters, that this process is not the exception, it’s the norm. This is how God works. It may be excruciating at times, but there is purpose in it. He is writing a bigger story and fitting us into it in ways we cannot yet see.” (Introduction, Detour)

Sometimes it can be confusing to reconcile God’s love with the pain he allows. I know God is good and I know that he is in control, but why does he have to use difficult circumstances as part of the process? Isn’t there a gentler way to produce the same desired effect in us?

The reality is God permits the consequences of a fallen world to impact us. We experience suffering because of the wrong choices of others or our own sinfulness and disobedience. As a result, our dreams are broken and stolen. Yet we can take comfort in the unseen but greater reality that God’s plans are not derailed by man’s failings.

I like what Tuttle said about Joseph. “Nothing from Joseph’s past disqualified him from reaching the place God had called him. Nothing that came against him could thwart what God was doing…Detours, no matter what the cause, will ulrimately serve God’s purposes.” (Detour, pg. 41)

Joseph provides us with an example of how we should respond to the detours in our lives. To get to point B from point A when the line zigzags, curves, or warps, we need to have faith that there’s a bigger picture. How do we manifest this faith? We cling to God’s promises. We hope in what he will do. We choose to love and forgive. We obey him and glorify him. We press on.

Our own family went through a major tragedy when I was 15. To the outside world it may have seemed like God was caught by surprise, that something so terrible couldn’t have possibly been part of his plan for our family. My parents were teaching a bible study the night our home was robbed, when my friends and I were raped. Yet we all chose to believe this wasn’t an accident but part of God’s divine purpose.

The Bible tells us, “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

God intends for all of us to live an extraordinary life – to be extraordinary for his extraordinary work. He wants each one of us to be “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” When Joseph was instated as ruler of the land, second only in rank to Pharoah himself, he was emotionally, physically, and spiritually prepared for the task. Everything he had been through made him the best candidate for the job. He was put in that position of influence by God himself. How else could a forgotten, condemned man be tasked to run the affairs of the most powerful nation at that time? When the moment was ripe, God honored Joseph for his faith and obedience. God used Joseph to save Jacob, Joseph’s father, and the same brothers who betrayed him. Through Joseph, the nation of Israel was preserved during the seven year famine.

Inspired by Joseph’s life, Edric and I named our second son Edan Joseph. The name Joseph means “God will increase.” When Edan was born to Edric and me, we were at a juncture in our young marriage when finances were really tight. It was an especially difficult time for Edric who wrestled with feelings of insecurity as the provider of our family. He liked his job and he put in his best effort, but he was frustrated with certain aspects of it. Sometimes he wondered if money wasn’t overflowing because God wasn’t happy with him. As a wife, it pained me to see Edric so discouraged. I would remind him that God isn’t that kind of a father. He delights to bless us and there is a bigger picture that isn’t always visible to us.

Despite our monetary status, I believed that Edric had God’s favor. We didn’t have luxuries that our peers or other family members had. However, I knew Edric loved the Lord. He was a faithful husband and a good father. Therefore I was confident that if he and I kept following God and honoring him, he would surely take care of our needs. I knew that he would provide for our family through Edric.

When I look back on the early years of our marriage, I am glad the journey wasn’t a predictable, straight line. Edric and I learned how to trust God with our finances instead of anchoring our security on money. God taught us not to look to wealth to define who we are. Had we been spared from the challenges that marked the earlier years of our marriage, we would have missed out on the more important growth and maturity that we both needed. We would have been ill-prepared to steward the material blessings or positions of influence that God has given us today.

My dad told me, “None of us can live a storm free life but we can learn to be storm proof.” The storms of life are inevitable. We can become better or bitter. We can become a curse or a blessing to others.

Earlier I said it can be confusing to contemplate why a loving God allows pain. If I didn’t know who Jesus was and what he has done, the detours and storms in my life would be senseless. But God gave you and me his Son, Jesus, who entered into this world to be ridiculed, persecuted, betrayed, forsaken and then nailed to the cross for our sins. Isaiah 53:5 tells us “He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.” Because of Him, we have the power to break free from the past, we can live victoriously despite our mistakes or tragedies, and we can fulfil the greater purpose of reconciling the lost to Himself.

You and I may not know the future turns He has in store us. Or we may be at a season in our lives that feels like a detour we shouldn’t be in. Let us be encouraged by Joseph’s example, but better yet, let’s look to Jesus who gives us reason to hope against hope that there is a point B to look forward to!

I’m putting this photo taken by Sheila Juan-Catilo for Mommy Matters. This was shortly after Catalina had been confined in the hospital twice which felt like a major detour to me. But I’m genuinely smiling here because God used one of the most difficult experiences of my life as a mother to teach me more about himself and to help me grow in my faith.

For every detour in life, we must believe God gives us a story to tell that will minister to others.

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Let me end with this quote: The cost of your journey may be high; the detour may seem meaningless. But regardless of the pain, the challenges, and the adversity, the glory of your story will be worth it in the end.” (Detour, pg. 163)

Find purpose when life doesn’t make sense…

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What Homeschooling Is Really About

I talk a lot about homeschooling, but I want you to know that my children aren’t always cooperative, there are days when I don’t feel like teaching, and sometimes I am the less than perfect mother who gets annoyed with her kids.

Two days ago, I was teaching Titus from his Singapore Math book and he couldn’t get subtraction using number bonds. I could tell he was guessing so I elevated my pitch and my tone was agitated. As I explained to him the concept of regrouping by 10, subtracting the ones from each other, and adding what was left, he was confused. I probably did a bad job of communicating this process and I expected it to click in his head right away. Well, it didn’t. I gripped the pencil he was holding and circled and scratched on his book for emphasis as I went over each problem.

Titus began to tear. I thought, Why can’t he get it?! Is there something wrong with him?! It’s not complicated! 

Well, there was something wrong with me. I was making homeschooling about me. What I wanted…my desired outcome…my teaching…my time…my effort…my way…my disappointment…OH, MY!

When I saw him struggling to stay composed, I felt horrible. Immediately, I apologized to him and hugged him, asking for his forgiveness. “Will you forgive me for being irritated? Mommy was wrong.” He readily accepted my apology and we pressed on. By the end of the session he figured out how to approach his math problems with confidence.

As for me, I was reminded that I am prone to reactiveness and impatience when my heart is in the wrong place. The key is to remember why I am homeschooling, to keep sight of the goal, which is to teach my children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

While teaching a subject like mathematics may be important, this is really a minute aspect of the real objective. Edric and I share a daily responsibility to nurture, encourage, and meet the needs of our children to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. (Luke 2:52) Therefore, our homeschooling isn’t about 4 hours of the day when they are seated in our study room for lessons. It’s a lifestyle that ministers to our children’s spiritual, social, mental, and physical persons.

 

SPIRITUAL

Homeschooling is discipleship. While academics have a place, the greater emphasis is teaching our children to have a personal relationship with Jesus, love God’s word, submit to authority, and develop Christ-like character.

When our second son was little, he was nicknamed the “chairman” for being a very serious and grumpy boy who would often say no. Edric and I talked about his attitude and realized we had failed to be intentional about sharing the gospel to him. A few weeks after Edric did so, our son was a transformed child. His heart became malleable and teachable. He would even tell me, “Jesus is my best friend.” More importantly, he became a kinder, more considerate boy.

Today, Edan initiates reaching out to other children, organizing activities and games for them, and he is also assistant teacher to my younger kids. While he still has character issues from time to time, I can see the fruit of God’s work in his life.

Discipleship is the key to homeschooling. It’s impossible to teach a child who doesn’t want to listen. When my children don’t have the right attitudes there’s no point in proceeding with lesson time unless I address their attitudes first. Otherwise, it will be a battle of the wills between my children and me.

There have been instances when I have asked my older children to excuse themselves from our study room so they can have a moment to prayerfully consider their heart issues. While I don’t believe in asking little kids to stand in a corner for “time outs,” I do believe in asking older children who have a relationship with Christ to take the time to think through their feelings and actions in light of God’s Word.

Are they acting and behaving in a way that pleases God? How can they change and improve if they aren’t?

I prefer to proceed when they are spiritually ready, when they have returned to me after the Holy Spirit has ministered to them. Almost always, he convicts them about the wrongfulness of their responses to the task at hand, to me, or to others. It is amazing how a moment of purposeful reflection leads them to God-honoring conclusions. (Of course I also pray that they will be attentive to what God has to say to them during that period of pause.)

 

SOCIAL

Parents’ apprehensions about homeschooling often center around the socialization question. “What about their socialization?” I’d like to quote Elijah, my eldest. Once upon a time, a friend suggested he should go to school so he could have friends. His spontaneous relply: “I have so many friends, I can’t even count them!” He wasn’t exaggerating. Like my other kids, they aren’t friend-starved.

While we don’t focus on making friends, we do focus on how to be a friend. The emphasis is on social development — training our children to look beyond their insecurities and comfort zones so they can be a blessing and channel of Christ’s love. Furthremore, in the context of family, there are numerous opportunities to practice relationship principles like unconditional love, forgiveness, humility, or “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” In fact, the family is often the hardest place to apply these principles! As much as we all love one another in our family, there are days when we don’t like each other. The challenge is to transcend this feeling by availing of the grace that Christ supplies.

Social development happens most naturally at home. Between a husband and wife, siblings, parent and child, each member of a family must die daily to selfishness and self-centeredness. They must choose to love, forgive, make sincere apologies, and grow in their understanding of one another. A child who can relate to others in this manner will not be in want of good company.

Furthermore, a child who has received love, appreciation, who is accepted for who he or she is, and allowed to fail and make mistakes will be inspired to learn. I remember an instance when Titus came to me in fear. His face was half-visible behind the sliding glass door that separated the room from the bathroom.

“Mom I did something.”

“What is it?” I asked. He was hesitant to confess his deed at first, but then I prodded him to do so.

“I hit the shuttlecock into our neighbor’s yard.”

That’s it?! I thought. Why couldn’t he tell me that right away?!

“It’s okay. I forgive you. It was an accident.” I said reassuringly.

“Why were you afraid to tell me that?

“I thought you would be mad.”

“Do I get mad a lot?” (I had to check.)

“No.”

“Well, I want you to know something. I love you no matter what and I will always forgive you.” I repeated it again until I was sure he internalized this.

He flashed a big smile and then ran off to play again.

I may not lose my temper with my kids and yell at them, but I do get irritated from time to time. So I have to be careful and mindful of the way I relate to them. I need to ask myself this question: Am I cultivating a relational climate that gives my children the liberty to express their heartfelt longings, fears, ideas, or confess their mistakes? The relationship I have with my kids impacts my ability to instruct their hearts and their minds. If they can trust me with who they are, they can trust me to teach them who they should become.

 

MENTAL

What is our schedule like when it comes to lessons?

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

7:00                – Bible Reading (as a family)

7:30                – Breakfast

8:30/9:00      – Lessons

12:30/1:00    – Lunch

2:00                – Nap/Play/Exercise

6:00                – Dinner

8:30                – Bedtime

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On Wednesdays, we get together with other homeschool families. A good number of ladies in my discipleship group are homeschooling their kids and they have women in their groups who are also homeschooling. Wednesdays is the day we have designated to hold classes so our kids can interact and work with other kids. I’m so blessed by the moms in this group who lend their expertise and creativity to teach art, music, bible, character, science, etc. We also asked an awesome physical trainer to teach our kids sports and fitness.

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When my kids and I are at home, our lessons happen around a large table. I assign tasks to my children and act the part of a facilitator. Elijah and Edan can do a lot of work on their own. Titus and Tiana need more attention from me. Catalina is “exiled” so we can focus. She is entertained by our househelp. (Praise God for househelp!)

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Ideally, it would be nice if all my kids sat around the table and stayed put, but I’m a pretty laid-back homeschooling mom. They can do some work on the floor or on the couch. They can even migrate to different rooms if this will help them accomplish their tasks. Sometimes, we even homeschool in the car if I absolutely have to do an errand in the morning!

My philosophy when it comes to teaching is simple: a child needs to master the essentials so he will become a self-directed learner. I am more particular about skills like math, reading, comprehension, logic and reasoning, rather than science, history, Filipino, social studies, etc. If my kids are confident with the essentials, they will have the building blocks to learn whatever they want to. I don’t want them to be held back by me. As much as possible, I try not to hover around them all the time. In fact, I tell them, “you can figure it out.” (Sometimes I have to say this because I don’t know how to explain it either!)

Unless they are really stumped, I encourage my kids to rise up to the challenge of a difficult task. This is one of the reasons why my boys are turning out to be good at math even if I’m terrible at it! I also encourage them to study what they are interested in, beyond what we are covering during their lessons. Since I don’t canabilize the day with instruction, they have a lot of free hours to pursue topics that are meaningful to them. Instead of burdening myself with the responsibility of teaching them EVERYTHING, I zone in on the basics and point them in the right direction by giving them access to a multitudinous number of books, and supplementing their learning with educational apps and internet sites that are pre-approved.

For example, some months ago my older sons memorized the periodic table of elements, just for fun. It wasn’t part of their science requirements to do so, but they were fascinated by it. So I let them use an app (Toca Lab) that helped them to understand all the elements and their abbreviations. When they weren’t using the app, they would play a game where they named all the elements and gave the symbols to match them. I don’t even know the periodic table of elements! I kept getting the symbol for Iron wrong when they would “quiz” me! It’s Se right?!

The point is I am very aware that I have cognitive limitations as their teacher so I don’t pressure myself to be the expert. If they want to learn about a topic that I’m not familiar with, I find out what resources I can connect my children with or to so they can become the experts.

 

PHYSICAL

The physical aspect of homeschooling has to do with developing our children’s talents, inspiring productive hobbies, giving them lots of play time to explore, build, create, and making sure they get adequate exercise and rest. Our children are enjoying a “relaxed” childhood. They don’t have to rush off to school, spend hours in traffic, or come home exhausted only to do more work.

 

CHECKLIST

We evaluate our children’s progress and growth by asking these questions:

IS MY CHILD…

  • Living a transformed life because of his/her relationship with Jesus Christ?
  • Developing a love for God’s Word?
  • Rooted in God’s Word?
  • Submitting to my authority with an attitude of respect?
  • Growing in Christ-like character?
  • Secure in my love for him/her?
  • Loving others, especially his/her siblings?
  • Thinking of others as more important than his/her self?
  • Mastering essential skills that will enable him/her to reason and defend his/her faith, and effectively communicate the gospel truth?
  • Developing his/her talents?
  • Playing and enjoying his/her childhood?
  • Pursuing productive interests and hobbies?
  • Getting enough exercise and rest?

Edric and I keep these questions in mind as we homeschool our kids so we know if we are pointing them in the right direction. When we sense that they are off-course, we re-evaluate and re-calibrate so we can correct where they are headed. We also look at our own lives and examine if we are exemplifying the values and principles we want them to internalize.

Like I said earlier, it’s not a perfect lifestyle. It can be challenging and tiring to keep training and teaching our children. It can be discouraging when we fail as parents. However, I am constantly amazed at the daily grace God provides to keep us going.

I remember an instance when I was stressed about homeschooling, and my older son, Elijah, commented, “You know John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, had 19 children.” In other words…mom, if she could do it then so can you. You’ve got it pretty easy with just five! More importantly, Susanna Wesley was a woman of faith and spiritual excellence. If I want to raise children who will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, I have to love God with all that I am first. That’s the secret to successful homeschooling.

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READ ABOUT SUSANNA WESLEY HERE: http://susanpellowe.com/susanna-wesley.htm