You Cannot Pray and Stay Upset With Your Spouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Be An Honorable Parent

As a mom, one of the principles of parenting that has stood out to me the most is modeling – how my children copy my example whether I want them to or not.

I’m not proud to say this, but a few years ago, I made the mistake of losing my temper in a very bad way in front of four of my five kids. They lost pieces to an educational material that I needed to teach them mathematics. In my frustration, I dramatically threw the box on to the floor, letting all the parts fall out with a loud crash, and I raised my voice, scolding my kids about how they needed to be better stewards and more responsible.

After the drama, I looked at my children and they were all tearing…from the oldest to the youngest. This was the first time they had seen me get angry in this way and it scared them. It scared me too when I realized how easily I can snap and wound the hearts of my kids.

I asked for their forgiveness and had to talk with each one of them because they were deeply affected. It was a very humbling moment. I couldn’t take back what I had done so I just hoped they wouldn’t remember it as time passed.


Recently, as I was encouraging my kids to be kind to one another and speak respectfully to each other, I asked one of my sons this question, “Do you see mom getting angry or shouting at you guys?” I hoped he would say, “No, you don’t mom, we should be like you.” Instead, his very honest answer was, “No, you don’t lose your temper but,” he continued with emphasis, “there was THAT ONE TIME…” (referring to when I threw the box on the floor!)

Even just one ugly display of anger leaves an imprint on my children. My children can very easily become casualties of my bad example if I make losing my temper a habit.

IMG_9230While my dad was preparing for his Sunday message, he went over his points with me and emphasized the need for parents to be honorable. We commonly understand honor as something children are commanded to do for their parents, and he has preached on this topic many times. But during our conversation he added, “Parents shouldn’t make it difficult for their children to honor them. In fact, they should make it easy.” 

As I gave this perspective more thought, I recalled my own experience as a child. Even if my parents weren’t perfect, I wanted to obey them and honor them. I didn’t struggle with feelings of bitterness or resentment towards their authority. Were their times when I didn’t always agree? Certainly. But at the end of the day, I wanted to obey them. It wasn’t because my parents epitomized perfection, but they modeled consistency in one area that I want to highlight.

I saw the fruit of the Spirit in their lives – the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. Even if their ministry was very public, they were the same Spirit-filled people outside of the home as they were in private, with my siblings and me. They weren’t hypocritical, instructing people to do one thing and then giving themselves license to be selfish, temperamental, moody, or demanding at home. In fact, of all people in their lives, they were most gracious and considerate towards us, their children.
Up till this day, I am very grateful that my parents modeled being Spirit-filled to me, and they continue to do so. I would like to share with you two recent experiences with my parents where they encouraged me once again with their examples. 

 I will start with my mom. Some months ago, my mom and I tried to get into the CCF building using the same entrance we always do. We were headed up to the 8th floor for a leader’s meeting, when a very strict guard who was on duty that day stopped us. Apparently, there was a new policy about using IDs and this guard was a new employee who was very eager to enforce the rules. My mom didn’t know about the change in protocols. She always went up and down using the same entrance because it’s the easiest way to get to my dad’s office or to the floors where she has meetings with the other pastor’s wives.

With an interrogative tone, he questioned where she was going. My mom tried to explain that we had an elder’s wives’ meeting. When he wasn’t convinced, she politely tried to say that she was Pastor Peter’s wife. Still skeptical, he asked, “Can I see your ID?” She pulled out her wallet, looked for her driver’s license and showed it to him. I don’t know if he was looking for proof of marriage but his skeptical expression seemed to imply this. He looked over her license and back at her, and pulled out a radio. “Nandito ang asawa ni Pastor Peter?” It was phrased in a question form, so neither my mom nor I were too sure what he was trying to confirm.

In the meantime, I looked over at my mom who was a picture of calm and cooperation. Since the guard seemed to be well meaning even if he was a little bit clueless, my mom didn’t insist on using that more convenient entrance. She and I walked to the opposite end of the building so we could comply with the new security measure of wearing IDs before accessing the office floors during weekdays.

She didn’t get upset about being inconvenienced or make any remarks about the guard’s not too courteous behavior. Furthermore, she didn’t act like she was “above the policy” as the wife of CCF’s senior pastor. My mom’s example reminded me that we are all servants. Leaders should never have a sense of entitlement or expectation that they deserve special treatment. She modeled for me how leaders should be humble and willing to submit to authority, following rules with a positive attitude.

By God’s grace, I am also blessed to have a dad who is a good role model of being spirit-filled. Earlier this week, I asked him if he could visit the sick father of a close friend of our family’s. In fact, I really begged him to because this man’s lung cancer had spread and multiplied, and his body was becoming unresponsive to treatment. His lung doctor gave him a very negative prognosis. So I requested that my dad go to see him in the hospital so he could share the gospel and pray with him.

My dad’s free day was Tuesday evening. But Tuesday is normally his most hectic day, since he has back-to-back meetings with church leaders. However, he told me he would make himself available at 6 PM so I confirmed this schedule with him and my friend. For some reason, I thought the hospital we had to drive to was in St. Lukes, Quezon City, so we headed in that direction. Edric and I were with him in his van, instructing the driver where to turn using the Wayz app so we could avoid the evening traffic. When we were a minute away from the hospital, I called my friend to let her know, and she said, “Okay, so you are near Global (referring to St. Lukes, Global City)? I will come down to see you in the lobby.”

“Global?!” I panicked. “I thought you said St. Luke’s Q.C. Oh no, wait a minute, I will call you back!” I had to excuse myself from the conversation and put the phone down to check my text messages. Sure enough, my friend had specified St. Luke’s Global. I don’t know how I missed this! I called her back to apologize and explain that I made a mistake.

My dad heard the entire conversation, but he very calmly said, “It’s okay. We can go tomorrow night.” I couldn’t believe it! There was NO trace of annoyance in his voice or in his body language. He even added cheerfully, “This is great, I can be home earlier and have dinner with your mom.” Not only did he refrain from embarrassing me or making me feel stupid, he saw the unfortunate mistake from a positive perspective!

After my dad dropped Edric and me off so we could ride in our own vehicle, I started to cry. This was partly because I was frustrated at myself for inconveniencing my dad and my friend with an idiotic mistake. But even more stirring to me was my dad’s graciousness. (The next evening he made time again to go with me all the way to the right hospital…St. Luke’s Global City.) 

 The point I wanted to make about parents being honorable is this: Honorable parents honor God in their responses. They represent Christ to their children in such a way that their children want to have a relationship with Him, too. To the best of my recollection my parents were like this but if there were occasions when they weren’t, they asked for our forgiveness and how they could improve.

As parents we need reflect on some hard questions. Do our children see evidence of the Holy Spirit in us when we encounter stress, trials, unpleasant circumstances or relationship issues? Do they see convincing proof that we are followers of Jesus Christ in the way we handle our time, money, or choose our habits, attitudes and values? If not, what can we change? If yes, then praise God!

I pray that all of us will seek to honor God in our lives so we can lead our children to do the same. God has given us the unique privilege and responsibility of primary influence so let us be honorable parents in the way that the apostle Paul said to his spiritual children, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

Family Values

When I married Edric, I had no idea what kind of a father he would be to our future children. I hoped that he would be intentional, committed and present in their lives, but there was no way to be certain until we actually started to have kids.

I still remember the incalculable joy that lit up his face when our first son, Elijah, was born. By God’s grace I gave birth Lamaze, so I was cognizant and alert when Elijah came into this world. From behind the gauze mask, Edric’s eyes started to tear as he stomached the gravity of God’s gift to us. He was now a father.

Edric and I fumbled through our parenting in the early years of being a dad and mom. However, with the help of biblical principles from God’s Word, advice from mentors like our parents and other men and women of God, the accountability of family and friends, and good books, our understanding and application of parenting improved through the years.  (We have to keep improving still!)

I used to pressure Edric to be more involved and to be a spiritual leader to our kids, but all my yakking wasn’t what ordered his priorities. As Edric grew in his love for the Lord, God put it in his heart to ponder upon his place and purpose in our children’s lives. It was prayer and encouragement that made a difference, not nagging. Furthermore, he came across a passage of scripture that really convicted him to embrace fatherhood as a sacred trust. 

“We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (‭Psalms‬ ‭78‬:‭4-8 NASB) 

Today, Edric is the one who reminds me to be more intentional! Very recently, he came up with a code of Mendoza Family Values. It begins with this statement: “A Mendoza f.o.l.l.o.w.s. JESUS.”
F – FORGIVE one another
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O – OBEY God and authorities 

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L – LOVE one another unconditionally and love people to Jesus

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L – LEARN God’s Word and His Truths

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O – ONE (Live for the Audience of One – God’s glory)

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W – WORD (Keep your word)

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S – STEWARD (Be a good steward of your talents, abilities, opportunities, time and resources.)

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Edric has based our family devotions on these values in the last few months, giving a bible passage that corresponds to each trait for our children to internalize and memorize.

Every family needs to have a sense of identity that is rooted in their belief system. For our family, our identity is rooted in Jesus Christ and we want to follow Him faithfully. But what does this mean, in practical, everyday situations, especially for our kids? 

The list is something our kids can refer to again and again as they make choices. It isn’t an exhaustive list and there are many other character traits and principles our children need to learn, but this list helps to give them an image of a Christ-follower. Of course the bigger challenge is that Edric and I need to role model The Mendoza Family Values ourselves! 

Have you given thought to your family identity? What values will define your family? 

Don’t Give Up On Irreconcilable Differences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Invest In Your Marriage


It’s been sometime since Edric and I have been able to talk about our relationship and reminisce about its beginnings. We maintain our weekly date night, but sometimes the few hours together aren’t enough to get into a deep dialogue about how we are doing emotionally and spiritually. Last night, we spent a good amount of time sitting around the kitchen island recounting the way we met and laughing about our awkward moments.

“So what did you like about me?” Edric asked, fishing for a compliment. “Well, let me see…I really appreciated your unpretentiousness, that I could trust you, that you loved God and were a good guy.” I meant all of this, too. One of the most outstanding aspects about Edric’s personality when I first met him was his amazing ability to make me feel at ease and safe.

I asked him the same question and he used words like “intrigued and captivated.” I liked that! It was a little vague but it sounded compelling!

We lingered into the evening, which was unusual because I didn’t rush off to feed Catalina or attend to the kids. Edric had tucked the kids into their beds earlier and so there we were, just the two of us. Hmm…this is different, I thought to myself. Since giving birth to my fifth child, Catalina, I usually excuse myself from the dinner table or put her to bed almost immediately after because she still breastfeeds. She’s almost 2 years old but she keeps nursing, at least twice a day. I am a total breastfeeding advocate and I will keep going for as long as I can. The only downside is I have to leave Edric alone in the early mornings to go to the girls’ bedroom and be absent before we go to bed in the evenings. Sometimes, when I go to bed, Edric is already asleep.

Last night was different. Edric asked me NOT to feed Catalina who was already sleeping, so I skipped her nighttime feed. At first, I was anxious. As much as possible, I don’t do this. But I acceded to his request and God blessed our time together.

This got me to think about how important it is to put effort into enjoying moments of togetherness. Date nights are one thing, but making it a point to meet each other’s heart-felt needs is about exhibiting a much higher level of effort to work on our marriage.

Truthfully, a lot of times I expect Edric to cater to my needs. I want him to be sensitive to me and attentive to my needs. But I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t very often consider what I can do for him, how I can make him feel special.

Interestingly, when I exert more effort into doing so, it’s not so much the appreciation from Edric that I receive from him which matters. My investment in serving him, giving him more affection and meeting his needs for intimacy, as well as spending time with him (without the kids clamoring for my attention), creates a new kind of love in me. The Word of God is so accurate when it says, where your heart is, there your treasure shall be. (Matthew 6:21)

For example, why does my heart have so much space in it for my children? Why do I treasure them so much? On the one hand, it’s because they are, by God’s grace, pretty adorable! And I know that they are God’s gifts to me. But these are not the main reasons. I believe it’s because I invest in my relationship with them. I am very intentional about meeting their physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual needs, as most mothers tend to be. Prioritizing my kids by teaching, training, and caring for them makes me love the more. The more I give of myself to my children, the more the love in me grows and expands towards them.

I suppose this is why it feels like a big deal when I’m not around the kids. As a mother, I feel their absence more deeply than Edric probably does. I don’t have grown up kids yet, but I can imagine the future heartache of letting  them go, too.

Some years ago, Edric and I took our first lengthy trip to the Holy Land away from our kids. I was a wreck during the first few days, bawling in the airport and crying at the mere thought of the kids. We took two other long trips since then without our tiddlywinks and it was still hard. But they survived! They missed us, but they were fine. 

We left them under the loving care of my parents-in-law. I did outline an entire schedule for them and I wrote the kids letters for every single day that we were away during each of those trips. (My mother-in-law, one of the sweetest women I know, was a good sport about it and she actually followed the proposed schedule, which included homeschooling them, too! I love her!)

Some months ago, when we traveled to Cebu without the kids Edric reminded me, “when the kids are gone, it will just be the two of us, okay?” He said this when I began to mention that I felt badly because the kids weren’t with us. He wanted me to focus on enjoying his company. The statement was a valid one. It was sobering, too. I have to remember that my world can’t revolve around my kids. As much as possible, I avoid child-centric parenting because I know it’s unhealthy for my children and myself. But being a mother necessitates that I do invest a great amount of time and effort into meeting my children’s needs, and this naturally turns my heart towards them. If I can do this with my children, I can certainly do the same and even better with Edric who ought to be my number one priority, next to the Lord.

My mom was counseling a lady once who complained that she was bored with her marriage, with her husband. In response, my mom very bluntly (but lovingly) told her, if you are bored, then you are boring. Her message to this woman was put effort into your own relationship. In other words, When was the last time you did something meaningful for your husband?

It’s a good question for us, as wives, to think about. Sure, it’s great when our husbands plan romantic get-aways, take us out on dates, give us a shopping budget, serve us, compliment us, or give us their undivided attention. But what are we doing to strengthen our marriage? A healthy marriage requires investment, which often entails sacrifice. We can’t give our left over time and energy and expect that our relationship will bloom and grow under those paltry conditions. Furthermore, we can’t leave the romancing to our husbands. 

Do we demonstrate our own commitment to the marriage? Do we attempt to satisfy their longings for respect and appreciation? Do we initiate sexual intimacy and show interest when they look for it? (I have been trying to improve in this area!) Do we seek to meet their language of love? Do they know they have priority over the kids? Are we praying regularly for our husband and our marriage?

A quote from the Unveiled Wife site goes like this, “Ignite passion in your marriage by investing into your husband joyfully.”

“She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.” (‭Proverbs‬ ‭31‬:‭12‬ NASB)
  

 

 

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.”