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

 

 

Modeling Womanhood

Tiana, my four year old daughter, likes to copy everything I do. I am her reference for womanhood. The other day she was talking about her hair when she said, “Mom I need one of those airconditioners for the hair.” She meant a blow dryer, which she had seen me use at a hotel.

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I was blessed to have my mom as a role-model for womanhood. Ever since I was a little girl, I looked up to her. She epitomized who I wanted to be. When people told me I sounded just like my mom or I reminded them of her, it was a compliment I gladly received.

The most important example she mirrored for me was how to be a wife and mother, how to be a woman who seeks to honor God in her life and relationships, especially at home.

What was often remarkable to me was my mom’s willingness to submit to my dad’s authority. Was she an opinionated and strong woman? Definitely. But she displayed strength under the Holy Spirit’s control. She knew that God’s will was often disclosed through the leadership of my father so she chose to follow him.

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If they were not in agreement, she would pray that God would change my dad’s heart (if that was His will.) For example, years ago she wanted to home school my siblings and me when we were in elementary. She had this epiphany before my dad did. Excited to communicate to him her plan, she asked him if she could pull my siblings and me out of a Chinese school to teach us at home. His response was, “Deonna that’s a big responsibility and I know your personality so I want you to pray about it for one year.”

Even though my mom was disappointed, she surrendered this desire to the Lord and obeyed my dad. After one year, she asked him again before re-enrolling us for the next school year. Calling him in the office with her sing-song-y voice she said, “Honey, today is the day for the enrollment of the kids but I have been praying about homeschooling. What has God showed you? Can we?”

My dad gave her a flat, “No.”

After she put the phone down, my mom sat in the bathroom and cried. She had hoped to homeschool my siblings and me that year, but that dream seemed like it was not going to happen. So she decided to pray again.

After she got dressed, she ventured another attempt and phoned my dad. “Peter, I’m about to leave for the school, but I just want to check one more time, what’s your final decision?”

Between the first call and the next, which couldn’t have been more than an hour, God miraculously worked in the heart of my dad. When I asked him what changed, he explained to me that he was convicted to make a faith decision. So he replied, “Okay, let’s go for it.” My mom put the phone down and sat in the bathroom again and cried…this time for joy!

Stories like this one demonstrated to me how God uses a wife to minister, bless, support, and encourage her husband to pursue God’s will when she submits to his authority.

When I got married and struggled with submission (it’s not a genetically inherited trait to be submissive, right?!) I remembered my mom’s example. She was a reference for me.

For the record, I still struggle. But I praise God for the example my mom modeled to me. Her desire to obey God by obeying my dad resulted in His favor in her marriage and in our family.

Was she always perfect? Nope. When my parents were building a house, my mom’s strong personality would seep out as a reaction to my dad’s perspective of function over form. When it came to design they had conflicting views. There were moments when my mom wanted to convince him about her more enlightened aesthetic preferences. However, she did so in a manner that would come across as agitated. Tiles, windows, doors, ceiling heights, railings, stairs, balconies, and room configurations would sometimes became tense discussions. If she ever did get annoyed to the point of disrespect, what she did model was a humble apology to my dad and to us, kids. She would say things like, “Kids will you forgive me for speaking to your dad that way. I was wrong.”

It was certainly clear to me that my dad was my mom’s number one priority next to God. One simple way she would prioritize him was asking for his permission before booking schedules or making commitments. She would tell the persons who invited her, “Okay let me get back to you, I will just check with Peter.” I learned to do the same as a wife, verifying with Edric before scheduling any activity that will conflict with his schedule, take me away from the home, or involve his presence. When people want to get together with us or make an appointment, I don’t say Yes, Edric and I can make it unless I confirm with him first. This also applies to occasions when my side of the family invites us over or tries to make plans.

My mom tried her best to make sure that my dad came home to a well-managed and happy home. When she was first married, she cooked everything in the same color. She didn’t know a lot of recipes so my dad bought her a cookbook one day and asked, “Do you think you could try some of the dishes in this cookbook?” She gladly did so. In fact, she became an amazing cook. I spent a lot of time with her in the kitchen watching her cook and bake, and learned to do the same with her.

She was intentional about modeling and teaching home making skills to me. When I got married, Edric was pleasantly surprised that I knew how to bake cookies, sew buttons on shirts, hem pants, make throw pillows, handwash clothing if necessary, etc. (I also knew how to clean toilets and do some minor plumbing work.) These abilities especially helped in the first year of our marriage when we didn’t have househelp. There was nothing extraordinary about what I could do. Most people who don’t grow up with househelp learn these basic home survival skills. Nevertheless, Edric greatly appreciated that I wasn’t clueless when it came to managing the home. Thanks, Mom!

Instead of pursuing a career outside the home, my mom homeschooled my siblings and me for a good number of years. Even when we went to a conventional school, she remained a stay-at-home mom. We were privileged to have her available to us 24/7. She also arranged her ministry work, appointments, and activities around us so we didn’t have to compete for her attention.

Because she was present, it was natural for us to tell her about our day and discuss what was going on in our lives. I remember an occasion when I was asked by friends to try marijuana. When I got home, I told her, “Mom, my friends said I should try marijuana. They said I can’t say it’s not for me if I’ve never tried it.”

She didn’t go ballistic. She didn’t say, “Hey you are a pastor’s kid, you better not touch that stuff!” In fact, didn’t even show signs of elevated blood pressure. Instead she listened to my reasoning. That night she prayed for me and researched about drugs. The next day, she non-threateningly presented to me a Reader’s Digest article so I could have material to read. By God’s grace I never touched marijuana or other drugs as a result of her gentle intervention and influence.

My mom handled many parenting issues with grace. I don’t ever remember her shouting at me or any of my siblings. Instead, her method of correction was the sandwich approach. Pad the meat of what you want to say with a lot of sincere praise – the bread — so a person can swallow your correction – the meat – without gagging to death from discouragement. This approach came in very handy in marriage, raising my children, or ministering to others. I would imagine my mom and think, How would she say this in a way that speaks the truth in love?

It was my mom’s relationship with Jesus that made her the mother she was, and still is. She showed me what biblical womanhood is about – that a woman must desire to please God and follow his principles for her life, especially when it comes to marriage and parenting. When she does this it gives her a quality of beauty and spirit that makes her husband and children treasure her. As a bonus, her influence and ministry will reach far beyond the home. My mom may not have been a career woman but she touched the lives of women all over the world by her example and ministry.

May God receive the glory for the woman she is!

Date Your Spouse

Edric planned a surprise date for us on the balcony last night. I didn’t suspect anything until the boys said they needed to roll down all the blinds. When their bedroom and ours looked unusually dark, I asked, “What are you guys doing?”

“We, uh, we want to make the room dark.”

“Huh? Why?” They were acting weird.

“We can’t tell you.”

“What? What’s going on?”

“We can’t say, mom.”

Of course this made me even more suspicious. I went downstairs and started grilling the househelp, and they evaded my questioning with chuckles.

There was no special occasion so I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was the second floor balcony was off limits. I wasn’t even supposed to take a peek.

I called the most likely suspect in all of this — Edric. “Hon, why can’t I go out on the balcony?” He said, “Basta!” which, in this instance, meant “Don’t ask.”

When he arrived from work, he took me upstairs and explained that he brought our date night home. He had coordinated with our househelp to set the table and light candles. It was home cooked food presented in a different setting but it was the thought that counted. Since we had a busy week to deal with this was the best way to spend time with one another, away from the kids, and do what date nights are for — CONNECT AND COMMUNICATE.

Our children were thrilled that we were in the house instead of out for dinner or a movie, and they did their best to avoid visiting the balcony to give us privacy. I sat across from Edric dressed in athletic gear which had been my garb for the day, and he was in his office clothes. It didn’t matter. We spent two hours up there talking.

At a certain point the kids came out one by one in their pajamas. Tiana drew me a picture. “Mommy, I made this for you!” Edan reported to me that Titus lost the marble of his science experiment kit. Elijah conferred with Edric about a stocks option. (Ok, wait a minute, I don’t remember seeing Titus. Maybe he was hiding because of the lost magnet.) The kids disappeared as quickly as they popped in to spy on us.

It turned out that Edric and I had so much to talk about. From our personal struggles, frustrations, joys and adventures, goals, parenting, ministry, work…Of course we also asked one another the most important question we ask on our dates: “How can I improve?”

Sometimes I dread hearing the answer to this question. Of all the days in the week, this is the day we have reserved for these types of conversations. As humbling as it can be, it has become essential to preserving good communication in our marriage. We have given one another the liberty to say what areas can change for the better. After all, we know one another most intimately. We see what others do not. Furthermore, asking the question, “how can I improve?” keeps the issues from compiling and compounding between us. Even if I don’t always like what Edric has to say, I know God speaks through him.

Edric told me three things:

1. Pray for him. He came back from a U.S. trip with a renewed passion for home education in the Philippines so I am excited to see how this affects his other preoccupations.

2. Do what he asks me to do, with a positive attitude. Whenever he makes a last minute request that requires me to rearrange my own schedule, I will do it, but I must confess that I complain or give him a hard time.

3. Pay attention to details in our home so I can be more organized. Generally, he thinks the home is orderly but he notices everything now. For example, he didn’t like the soap dispenser I was using in the kitchen or the inaccessibility of the hand towel. At first I was annoyed and defensive because it seemed like he was being a nit-picker. But then I thought, okay if it really matters to him, I can change. Why not? It’s just my pride. Plus, after I examined the soap dispenser and hand towel, I realized he had a point. The dispenser wasn’t efficient and the hand towels were positioned in an awkward location.

When he asked how he can improve, I told him one main thing: Continue to be patient and spirit-filled towards me and the children. (Like don’t make a big deal out of soap dispensers! Just kidding!)

Edric likes examples and specifics so I used a recent incident. I was late picking him up for his taping at ABS-CBN because I spent a longer time in the grocery than anticipated. This was my mistake and as a result, Edric was on edge. He tried to squeeze in a quick errand with Elijah, who was with us. They were going to set up his online bank account. Unfortunately, Elijah couldn’t remember his PIN number. Because Edric was in a hurry, he reprimanded him rather harshly.

I could sense that Elijah felt badly so I nudged Edric to console him with an apology. (Elijah was seated in the front so he didn’t see our interplay.) At first Edric resisted, claiming that his response was triggered by my lateness, but a few minutes later, he very sincerely apologized to Elijah.

During our date night, Edric received my suggestion with grace and humility, which I appreciated. After all, I was the catalyst for his ire. I was late when we had agreed on a specific time. However, he still took the observation positively and agreed to improve.

Dialoguing about “how to improve” can be a sensitive discussion for many husbands and wives. So having a time and place to do so helps a lot. When Edric and I are in the state of mind to receive correction because we have agreed upon this aspect of our date nights, we tend to be more responsive rather than reactive.

I have written all of this to say keep dating your spouse. It may not be necessary to spend for a dinner out or movie EVERY week. For my parents, they take evening and morning walks. Whatever formula works for a couple, the objective ought to be improved connectedness and communication.

Here are the components of a REAL date :

– A real date can happen anywhere that’s conducive to private conversation. Venue is secondary to no kids running around vying for mom’s attention and distracting cell phones are set aside.

– A date involves open communication, where one another’s perspectives, feelings and insights are welcomed and affirmed.

– A date involves humility and grace to receive and acknowledge one another’s different perspectives, feelings, and insights!

– A date is purposeful — to connect and grow in intimacy, to get to know one another better so we can pray more effectively and love one another more deeply.

If these aspects are present during a “date,” I am certain it will be mutually enjoyable, too!

God’s intention and design for husband and wife is oneness. But we have to make the effort to safeguard this oneness. Don’t stop dating after you get married. Start having the best dates of your life!

Matthew 19:4-6
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

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The Benefits of Homeschooling With an Accredited Program

There are many ways to go about homeschooling. Sometimes I get enamoured by the idea of homeschooling without accountability. Just going about it on my own without the pressure of submitting portfolios, grades, and getting assessments. Accredited programs have requirements that need to be met on top of the actual homeschooling. This added work can be unpleasant.

For example, I would prefer not to submit portfolios (which we have to do for TMA Homeschool). But over the years of having to turn these in to show my children’s work, I have amassed a wonderful collection of their homeschool years. Their portfolios serve as memory books of what they learned and how far they have come. My kids like going through them and seeing how they have grown, too. Interestingly, when Edric and I met with a very important DepEd official, she said that portfolios are one of the best ways to assess a child’s progress. Yeah! Go TMA Homeschool! As far as I know, TMA Homeschool was the first accredited homeschool provider in the Philippines to implement this.

Even though homeschooling under a program can be more challenging, it has many valuable perks. Accredited programs provide transcripts and records which makes it easier to transfer your children to the conventional school in the future. Some programs also track your child’s progress and give you feedback on a regular basis. Others organise events to gather enrolled families together, or set-up cooperatives where families can meet together in smaller groups on a more regular basis.

There are no perfect homeschool organisations. Some may do a better job than others but at the end of the day, an accredited homeschooling program’s biggest plus is the security of knowing that your child’s work is validated. After all the effort you and your child put into the homeschooling experience, this matters a lot. With records to prove that they have moved from one level to another, these documents save a parent the hassle of having to convince schools that their child was actually receiving an education.

In a perfect world, homeschoolers shouldn’t be given a hard time when it comes to transitioning to conventional schools. Yet until that point when Philippine education catches up to homeschooling, we have to be smart about the choices we make. I am all for homeschooling, and I want to safeguard the right of a parent to teach his or her child. But there are many ways to preserve this right. One route is to find a dependable homeschool provider that allows parents enough flexibility to choose how their child will be homeschooled and what materials they will use, but dictates helpful parameters that are intended for the good of the family and their homeschooling experience. For now, this happens to be the option our family has taken.

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So far, I’ve been pleased with where we are headed. My third son, Titus, just had his moving up ceremony last week. He was promoted to 1st grade.

How do kids get promoted to the next level? At TMA Homeschool, parents submit grades for their child and these are reviewed by their Family Advisor or Academic Consultant. A kindergartener is assessed based on a checklist of skills. Being able to read is one of the more important requirements because they will build on this skill in first grade. For elementary students, a portfolio is submitted quarterly along with the grades. For more seasoned homeschoolers, a portfolio can be submitted every semester or at the end of the year (with the approval of a consultant to do so.) The consultant provides a check and balance for parents and meets with the homeschooled child during the portfolio evaluations. These evaluations are generally informal but they allow the consultant to dialogue with the child. The child is also given the opportunity to present his or her work.

At the end of the year, elementary and high school homeschoolers are given an achievement test. This becomes a diagnostic for the parent to refer to – what did we do right this year, how can we improve, what are my child’s areas of strength? of weakness? Personally, I find these assessments very helpful because they provide an objective measure of where my kids are at. (There’s no need to have kids study for these assessments, either, so it’s a more accurate portrayal of what they know and do not know so far, the way they think, problem-solve, and process content.)

Graduation for TMA Homeschoolers happens at three stages — after kindergarten, 6th grade, and Senior year.  At TMA Homeschool, graduation is unique. Besides receiving certificates, children also receive a character award from their parents. This award is announced during the ceremony.  

We gave Titus the character award of being loving. He is a kind, thoughtful, tender-hearted son who thinks about others before himself.

Another special part of the graduation is a child reads a letter of appreciation to his parents which is very sweet because they say things like, “Thank you mom and dad for homesechooling me…” which is always wonderful to hear!

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To celebrate his transition to 1st grade, we also ate out as a family. Congratulations my dear, Titus! I applaud your hard work this year!

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Do’s and Don’ts for Living with Househelp

One of the reasons why I’m writing this is because some readers thought I came across as unreasonable and demanding about my househelp in my entry, Strike 3! They cautioned me to be careful about the way I talk about helpers because it may perpetuate a perspective that encourages their ill-treatment. To clarify…I shared at the beginning of that article, we do love our helpers. However, this point may have been overshadowed by revelations of my feelings over certain issues that arose in our home. So I appreciate the intentions of readers who want to keep me accountable. Thank you! I value your candor with me.

Here’s something to redeem any negativity that may have settled in the hearts of those who thought I was being reactive. This is a practical post on how to navigate the trickiness of employees who live in your home: (Not everything may be a applicable, but perhaps these tips will give you ideas to choose from.) These are practices we have tried to be consistent with in our own home that have led to a healthy relationship between our helpers and us.

  • DON’T PAY THEM THE MINIMUM! PAY THEM MUCH BETTER! I was shocked to find out that P2,500 is the legal amount to pay househelp in Manila! Personally, I don’t think this is fair at all. Most househelp send money to their families in the province which means they are barely left with anything for all their work.
  • INVEST FOR THEM. Edric sets money aside for our helpers monthly, on top of their salaries. This is something we started last year, but it allows our helpers to have forced savings for future needs.
  • INCREASE EVERY YEAR. Most employees get an increase every year so why not our househelp? I was surprised to find out that several of the ladies who came to work for us did not receive an increase for their many years of serving their previous employers. Our mindset is, for as long as God continues to provide for us, we want to give them an increase. It is our privilege to bless them.
  • HAVE REGULAR EVALUATIONS. Every six months, we evaluate their performance so they can get bonuses. We weren’t able to do this last year because things were crazy for our household with house building and packing and a new baby. But in previous years, this was a common practice of ours. (We need to implement this again.) Edric helped me to create an evaluation tool that was similar to company KRAs. It made the expectations clear and professionalized what they do.
  • FEED THEM WELL. This sounds ridiculous to say, but it is common to have a separate menu for helpers. But in our home, our helpers eat the same meals we do (except for breakfast because we don’t like to eat a lot of canned goods and they do.) Personally, I feel this is actually simpler. Less gas is used to cook, and I don’t want them to think we have special food and they get something that is sub-standard. Unless we are eating something like steak, which is rare, whatever we eat, they can have, too. It also works the other way. My kids and I like fish. When Edric isn’t home during the day, that’s what we prefer to eat with our helpers. I’ve heard others say that helpers don’t like the food they eat. While our helpers do not have a palate for everything we eat they’ve actually learned to like Mexican food, burgers, salads, etc. Generally, we don’t cook a lot of pork at home so our helpers don’t eat that much of it either.
  • BE GENEROUS. We go through our closets periodically so we can give away what we don’t use very often. I just gave our helpers a bunch of bags and a ton of kid’s toys that they can hand out to their relatives. Some of these were unopened but our kids have more than enough toys for themselves. We want our helpers to know that we like to share with them the blessings we have received. When we can, we also sponsor their fun. There are occasions when they want to watch a movie together and we will give them money for a night out of bonding and fellowship. A few months ago, Edric got them into ABS-CBN’s Show Time. (Their next request is to watch ASAP!) When they travel with us, we let them try the same things we get to enjoy. Last year, my siblings and I paid for all of our helpers to go to an amusement park so they could take a break from work. They had a blast!

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(We alternate who gets to go on trips with us.)

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Enchanted Kingdom!

  • AVOID ADVANCING MONEY. It’s common for helpers or drivers to ask for an “advance,” which is really just borrowing money and paying it off with their next paycheck. We tell our girls not to borrow from one another or from us. But if there is a valid need, we will help them. This teaches them how to budget and work with what they have. A lot of helpers buy phones and upgrade them more often than we do! So they end up needing money when real issues arise. To avoid this, we let them present to us what they will use the extra money for.
  • DON’T BE DEPENDENT ON THEM TO SERVE YOU. I know I said that I’ve been spoiled by my helpers’ service to me. At the same time, I let them know that I can take care of my kids and the home on my own. It will certainly be difficult if this became the reality. But the point is to show them that I am not asking them to do what I can’t do myself. Some days I take all the kids out with me without asking any of them to come along. My kids may come home looking dirty and soiled but hey, we survive!
  • DAYS OFF. Our girls can take a day off once a week. They prefer to accumulate their days and do 3 consecutive days off in a month. I don’t mind this for as long as they tell me ahead of time and they plan it among themselves so they aren’t all gone in a given week. Some of my friends disagree with allowing their househelp to be away overnight because they may have boyfriends. I’ve had my share of househelp who have gotten pregnant. I tell them not to date the wrong kinds of men, but they still make their own decisions. Whether they are out overnight or not, the reality is, if they are bent on being promiscuous it doesn’t really matter what time of day they are allowed to take off. Personally, I prefer that they don’t come home late at night for safety reasons. So I actually tell them to come home during the morning if they are taking a day off once a week.
  • DAY OF REST. Since they don’t always take weekly days off, we make Sundays easier for them. I don’t require them to do cooking or clean up work, except for the kitchen. And if we don’t have any commitments to attend to on Sundays, we take our helpers out to lunch with us after church. It doesn’t have to be an expensive restaurant, just somewhere out of the house so they don’t have to serve us on Sunday.
  • A SUSTAINABLE DAILY SCHEDULE. When we don’t have visitors and if we aren’t out in the evening, our entire household goes to bed early. Sometimes as early as 9 PM. Dinner is generally at 6 PM for our family, which means that our helpers can retire early. This is great for me because Edric hands off Catalina to them at 6 AM or even earlier sometimes, and they are ready to take care of her.
  • SPONSOR A YEARLY VACATION. With helpers whose families are based in far-flung provinces, we encourage them to take a good amount of time off for a yearly vacation and we pay for this time away. This allows them to reconnect with their families and have an extended period of rest so they can come back re-charged. Only once has this backfired. One of our helpers did not come back at the time she said she would. Usually, they keep their word.
  • CELEBRATE THEIR BIRTHDAYS. As consistently as possible, we make our helpers feel special on their birthdays. A few days after I gave birth to Catalina, it was one of their birthdays. Since Catalina was confined, I went shopping for my househelp because I wanted her to know that we hadn’t forget about her. Fortunately, we lived in the Fort at the time and Catalina was confined in St. Luke’s Global, so everything was close by. Plus, I had given birth Lamaze which made my recovery much faster. Our househelp was so appreciative because she knew that it was a difficult time for us as a family. Since our helpers make many sacrifices for us, I think it matters that we also make sacrifices for them.
  • THROW THEM A PARTY! Every Christmas, my siblings and I organize a party for them with games, prizes, raffles, and food. We gather all our househelp and drivers together for this fun day, which we really enjoy planning. In fact, I’ve got to head out to Divisoria soon to buy prizes for the games! We started doing this three years ago and it has meant a lot to them. It’s our way of communicating how much we appreciate them.

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  • TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO RESPECT YOUR HELPERS. We don’t allow our kids to shout, hit, or command our househelp. If they need something they have to ask politely. Better yet, if they can do it for themselves, we want them to. We also tell our kids they need to clean up after themselves because I don’t want them to develop the habit of making a mess that others mop up for them.
  • USE PLEASE AND THANK YOU AND APOLOGIZE WHEN WE HURT THEM. We may expect our househelp to serve us because we pay them. But I still believe in saying please and thank you, even for the small things. Modeling what it means to say sorry is also important. There was a season when Edric was irritable and he asked for their forgiveness for his bad example.
  • COMMUNICATE YOUR APPRECIATION. Helpers can be some of the most underappreciated people in our lives. We need to complement their hard work. When they cook a good meal, Edric singles them out and tells them, “This is great! We should start a restaurant!” Periodically, I will say, “Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you?” We let them know they are valued, that their faithfulness allows us the flexibility to do things like ministry. My name for them is the “A Team.” When we have events in our home, I can trust that they will set-up, cook, and prepare everything according to how I have trained them. Unless I want to add a new dish or decorate in a particular manner, I don’t need to hover over them. They are a talented, intelligent, and highly capable bunch of women, and I applaud them regularly for their gifts and abilities.
  • HAVE A SYSTEM FOR ENTERTAINING VISITORS. My mother-in-law always has an efficient way of entertaining. So I learned from her. She makes a list of the menu so I copied this idea. I also add the tasks that have to get done and then I have a meeting with my girls to explain what has to happen. Each one of them assists and I keep the kids preoccupied so it’s all hands on deck and they can focus.
  • LAUGH WITH THEM. Edric and I joke around with our helpers quite often. I enjoy talking with them when we are together in the kitchen or in the car. Even though they work for me, I also share conversations with them in the context of a friendship and familiarity that comes with living in the same house. Many times we laugh about their quirks or the funny things the kids do and say. I like to keep the atmosphere laid back so they feel relaxed, too. Hearing them laugh and have fun is a good barometer of how they are doing emotionally.
  • ENCOURAGE THEM TO EXERCISE. Almost every afternoon, they play badminton with our kids outdoors (when it isn’t raining). I want them to get outside. And I’ve told them many times to use the running shoes I gave them to take walks around the village. They aren’t always motivated to do this, but they have our permission to go for a walk.
  • UTILIZE THEIR ABILITIES. Some of my helpers are so capable! It’s such a blessing. They can handle bank transactions for me, manage construction workers, and make purchases so that I can save time and energy. When we were finishing our home, I noticed that one of our girls was very good at directing the workers and keeping them on their toes. So when I had to leave the house, I would instruct her to manage the checklist of items that needed to be finished. She was great at it! Even better than me! My helpers are also better at going to the wet market than I am. So I send them and let them get what they want on top of the fruit, vegetables and fish. They have liberty to choose their snacks and toiletries. It’s not like I give them a ton of money to handle when they make a trip to the market anyway. But it’s a simple way of communicating to them that I trust them to make choices that impact our household. I do the same thing when they need uniforms, letting them select and purchase what they would like to wear for their day-to-day outfits. I used to choose them myself but they didn’t always like them. So I focused on buying the more formal looking ones.
  • LET THEM KNOW YOU ARE A PARENT WHO IS AWARE. Because of my past experience with sexual abuse, I’ve been overly cautious and protective of my children. So I tell my kids that NO ONE should ever play with their private parts. I also teach them to wash themselves and not rely on our helpers to bathe them. I communicate the same thing to the helpers, letting them know that my kids have been told to report to me any incidence of abuse or semblance of it.
  • CORRECT THEM IN LOVE. In the past, I had helpers who had conflicts with one another. It was always stressful to mediate their disputes but I had to learn to be proactive and listen to different perspectives. Usually their conflicts arose from personality clashes. Sometimes it was due to alpha female issues. I would remind them of what our family core values were and encourage them to see their issues from a spiritual perspective. At the same time, I would remind them that we care about them and want to help them grow spiritually.
  • COMMUNICATE CORE VALUES & BELIEFS. Every family has core values and beliefs it lives by, which make it able to survive and thrive. In our home it is having a personal relationship with Jesus which leads to being spirit-filled so we can honor God and love one another the way God wants us to. This is a summary of the essence. We communicate these to our helpers by modeling them and explaining their application in day-to-day scenarios.
  • LET GO OF THE BAD SEED. There are some helpers who refuse to change and get along with others. They also cause further conflict because they are contentious and gossipers. Or, they cannot be trained to espouse our core values. We have to let women like this go if they do not improve because they infect and hurt others, spoiling the dynamic of good working relationships. Of course they are also a source of unnecessary stress in our lives, and it is difficult to trust them. The better thing to do in these instances is to let them go.
  • DON’T EVER SHOUT AT THEM OR DEMEAN THEM. There are occasions when I don’t like what my helpers do or I am disappointed with their choices, but by God’s grace, I haven’t yelled at them. I pray I never do. Because Edric and I are followers of Jesus and our helpers know this, we want them to see consistency between what we say and do, who we are at home. There have been instances when we have had to apologize for our own bad examples. But for the most part, we try our best not to lose our temper with them. Our desire is that they will want to follow Jesus also.
  • EVANGELIZE AND DISCIPLE THEM. Sharing the gospel to our househelp and teaching them about biblical principles is something we also do. I believe the reason why they are such good workers is because they love God and want to please him. Edric and I are imperfect people and our kids can also test the patience of our helpers, so there has to be a greater motivation for their faithfulness. While their salaries and our treatment of them all count as motivational factors, I want it to be more than these.
  • PRAY FOR THEM AND WITH THEM. I try to be intentional about praying for our househelp. They also have families with real needs and concerns. So I pray that God will bless them and protect them, that they will love our family, our kids, their work, and be trustworthy. When they are dealing with a difficult circumstance, Edric and I also pray with them.

THINGS I WOULD LIKE TO DO…

  • GET THEM INTO CRAFTS OR A CONSTRUCTIVE HOBBY. Our helpers were into making loom bands for a bit. But I want to give them more productive outlets. My sister-in-law, Jennifer, taught her helpers to bead. They are able to make beautiful necklaces!
  • INVEST IN CLASSES OR WORKSHOPS TO ENHANCE THEIR SKILLS. My mom and dad educate the ladies who work for them. If the Lord increases our financial flexibility and when our kids are older I would like to be able to do this, too. In the meantime, I’d like them to get better training when it comes to hosting and cleaning. My other sister-in-law, Jenny, is such an amazing homemaker. I am not as detailed as she is when it comes to home management but I’d like to learn from her example and get my helpers to be trained by her.
  • GIVE THEM OPPORTUNITIES TO BE ENTERPRISING. One of our former helpers was great at adding to her income by selling load, and trading cell phones. When we lived in a condo, helpers of our neighbors were into catalog selling. Hopefully, we can come up with something that our helpers can do to supplement what they make.
  • HAVE REGULAR BIBLE STUDIES. When we were living in the Fort, it was easier to get my helpers to attend Bible Studies in Valle Verde. I’m praying to be able to find or start a bible study for them where we live that will work with our weekly schedule.

When I share these practices I don’t want it to sound like I’m glorifying what we do in our home. I’ve learned many things the hard way and I’ve been less than the ideal boss on many occasions (maybe not always outwardly but in my heart I’ve thought ill about our helpers because I have been frustrated.) The manner in which we try to live with our helpers and relate with them is largely based on biblical principles like “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and “Love one another.” Being a helper is a noble calling, one that entails humble servitude. We need to attach dignity to it, valuing them and seeking their highest good because God loves them and has a special purpose for their lives, too. He has put them in our homes not just to serve us but to be blessed by us.

IF YOU HAVE IDEAS TO SHARE ON HOW YOU RELATE WITH YOUR HELPERS THAT CAN SERVE AS A BENEFICIAL TIP FOR OTHERS, PLEASE SUGGEST THEM!


 

Strike 3!

Dealing with househelp issues. Sigh. Not my favorite.

Here I am trying to deal…

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I really appreciate the ladies who work for us. They are an amazing blessing, one of the reasons why I don’t EVER want to live in the U.S. or any other country where I have to do everything. I admit it. I’m spoiled in this way. Having household help has allowed me liberties that would be difficult to enjoy if I wasn’t in the Philippines. And we have a great bunch of gals who love our children and ourifamily. We love them, too.

However, I don’t like the “Okay-lang-yan-mentality.” When they are careless and wasteful because we can afford to replace broken things, or they assume that money comes easy for us, it bothers me. Thankfully, I don’t have expensive jewelry, watches, bags or anything that is really worth stealing. Plus, Edric and I don’t keep wads of cash at home. So I don’t worry that people who work for us will be tempted to take our stuff.

But recently, they’ve demonstrated bad stewardship and questionable behavior in terms of trustworthiness…

Strike 1. Two days ago, one of them cooked nearly 40 pieces of boneless chicken thighs for Adobo. Forty pieces of chicken to feed five young children and two adults! I was incredulous. Sure, they made it for themselves, too, but we ended up having Adobo for dinner, Adobo flakes for breakfast, and then Adobo for lunch the next day. Thankfully, Edric didn’t complain. He was a good sport about it.

I, on other hand, was a bad example to my children because I slammed the freezer door in irritation (which is really the worst thing to slam because it hardly makes a sound. So that probably makes it a good thing to slam? Okay, I shouldn’t be promoting slamming…of anything).

“I can’t believe it!” I mumbled to myself after I saw the empty space where two large packs of chicken should have been. Half of each pack would have been sufficient for a meal. Forty for one meal?! I was really annoyed.

Elijah confronted me later on in the afternoon and said, “Mom I need to talk to you about your attitude. You were angry earlier.” I had to apologize to him, the other kids, and Edric. But admittedly, I had a difficult time getting over the 40 pieces of chicken. Skinless, chicken thighs, too. Expensive stuff. Plus, we live so far away from civilization now that getting out of the house to go to the grocery is something I don’t want to do every five days.

Strike 2. I went outside to check on the herbs I bought two weeks ago, and my Rosemary plant was dead. My favorite one…the most aromatic of them all. I gave a simple instruction, please water these herbs and take care of them so I can use them for cooking. My Rosemary plant had turned into dried Rosemary, the kind that ends up in a McCormick bottle! When I brought this to their attention, I didn’t get the penitent disposition I expected. Grrr…

Strike 3. Several items went missing in our house – Elijah’s P 1,500, an Ipod shuffle, a kid’s watch, and Ikea handtowels and washcloths that matched the bath towels in the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms. I didn’t want to suspect my househelp. But they were the most likely suspects.

They know where everything is kept in this home. At the very least, they are responsible for putting our belongings away and keeping track of things like washcloths and hand towels since they do the laundry. It’s not complicated. We use a washing machine and dryer. For a few months they were using a clothes’ line to air dry everything. But it’s a simple process – take the laundry down to the laundry room, do the laundry, hang it out to dry or use the dryer then bring it all back upstairs. Unless the washing machine has an evil stomach I don’t know about, there’s no reason why things should disappear.

And why take hand towels and washcloths?! It matters to me that washcloths and hand towels match their counterpart bath towels. I want hand towels, washcloths and bath towels to be together, folded on the same shelf like a family. Don’t break up the towel family! You just don’t do that. You don’t kidnap members of the towel family! This probably angered me the most.

After giving the ladies a chance to return these items by asking them to look for them, they remained unfound. I plopped myself on the couch in the playroom and expressed that I was deeply upset. I’ve never yelled at my househelp and I don’t plan to, but this was one of those occasions when I wanted to fire all of them.

Once I lose confidence in someone — their ability to carry out a task or to be trusted – my default response (internally, at least) is to take over or get rid of them. Was this a case of irresponsibility or thievery? Was I too nice of a boss? I was confused. So I cried on my bed by myself. I didn’t know if I could trust our househelp but I wanted to be able to. I was wrestling with all kinds of judgmental thoughts but I also wanted to be gracious and understanding.

I prayed about how I was feeling, but I also called the one person I knew would give me perspective…Edric.

He had just come from a speaking engagement with Elijah when I started sobbing over the phone, telling him about the missing items, that I didn’t want to accuse the girls but who else would have taken them?

Edric assured me that he would help me settle this. Even though he was really tired, he came home and set up four chairs in the guest room for our househelp to sit on. And he brought in a chair for himself. Rounding them all up, he requested that they gather in the guest room where he was going to talk with them. I wasn’t allowed to enter.

Twenty or so minutes later, he called out to me, “You can come in now,” and I entered into a room of tearful faces. What did my husband do? Was my first thought. Edric encouraged me to share what I was feeling. This was like an AA meeting.

Very honestly and openly I expressed to the girls that I was disappointed and concerned. I didn’t want to be the kind of boss that was suspicious of them. Operating from a point of distrust wasn’t the kind of relationship I wanted to have with them. They were important to me and I appreciated their hard work. However, if we were to move forward and get past this, I needed to know that they were going to be better stewards and help me manage the home well. I needed to know that I could trust them to take care of our home and everything (and everyone) in it. In closing, I told them that Edric and I wanted them to love Jesus and have a personal relationship with him above all else. It is this relationship that defines us and our family culture, and we desire the same for them.

Although we shared the gospel with three of the four of our househelp before, Edric took the opportunity to do so again. One of the ladies had not heard it and we wanted to make sure that she understood what it meant to give her life to Christ. He prayed for them, our home, what happened, and the future.

I found out later on that Edric talked to them about four things when I wasn’t in the room. Here is a summary of his “Four-point Lecture”:

  1. We trust you. We will continue to trust you.
  1. Take care of my wife. I love her and I don’t want her to be stressed. When she called me crying, I decided to step in and talk with all of you, to remind you to take care of her and help her manage this home well. Don’t make it difficult for her. 
  1. If you take care of our home, we will take care of you. For as long as it is in our capacity to do so, we will help you. (They know Edric meant this because there have been occasions when their family members had problems and we gave money, or they needed to pay for something and we helped them out. We don’t advance money because we don’t want them to develop the habit of borrowing. We tell them, if the need is valid, we will help you.)
  1. You are accountable to God for the choices you make. We cannot watch you all the time, but God is watching you. If you decide to ever take anything from us or if you have malice, that’s between you and God. Just remember that you are the sum of your choices.

Edric was firm but he made sure that our household help knew that we value them.

When Edric and I were alone, I hugged him and thanked him. He didn’t have to talk to our household help. This problem fell under my scope of responsibility. But he repeated what he often tells me. “I like to rescue you.” Plus he knows that my Filipino is horrible when I’m in a state of panic or stress. It’s pretty useless. I would’ve blundered through my attempts at articulating what needed to be said.

I don’t think we will ever recover the items we lost. While this remains an unfortunate reality, I believe that God had a purpose for the incidences that preceded the conference with our household help. The meeting turned out to be an opportunity to minister to them on a spiritual level. We all left that time together healed in some way. I let go of the anger I was harboring and the girls knew that we weren’t going to hold what transpired against them. We were going to move forward and past the circumstances in a positive manner. And best of all, we brought the issue before the Lord together so he could be the one to convict their hearts and cause them to mature and grow spiritually.

As for me…well…I decided to do a massive cleaning of our house, room by room, to make sure I know where everything is. I’ve only finished three rooms so far, but going through each drawer, shelf, and cabinet has made me feel like a better home manager already! This domestic crisis inspired me to be more organized and more aware, to do what I can to be a better steward of God’s blessings. After all, I need to model stewardship to our househelp if I want them to internalize this.