Have Intentions vs. Expectations in Marriage

When author and speaker, Casey Carstens of the World Needs a Father Movement, joined our family for dinner during his recent trip to the Philippines, we had the opportunity to ask him about his relationship with his wife, Jenny. He was honest and humble about his shortcomings as a husband, as well as his past tendencies towards being harsh and temperamental. The operative word was “past”. What radically changed his marriage, according to him, was the principle of intentions versus expectations.

“The secret to a good marriage is to have no expectations of your spouse. Instead it is to have intentions…intentions to bless, to help them grow in her faith and walk, to become all she can be for the Lord, and to pursue Christ-likeness. It’s not about an exchange, I do this for you so that you can give me this or that. Or, I won’t do this unless you do this for me. Instead, it is, I will commit to think, speak, and act in a manner that intends your highest good. If I am about to think, speak, or act in a manner that has any hint of self-centeredness then I will not think, speak or act in that manner.”

Edric and I have chewed on this principle for a while, trying to digest how it applies to our marriage. Well, this past week we better understood how problematic expectations can be and why these can’t be the focus of our marriage.

Edric and I were in the middle of worship when the speakers sounded really loud on our side of the auditorium. To muffle the sound, he asked for tissue to plug his ears with. I usually have tissue in my bag. But when I felt for it, the only thing that remained was the plastic for the tissue. No more tissue.

When I leaned over to explain this to Edric, he looked disappointed. I shouldn’t have made a big deal out of his facial expression, but I confronted him with, “What? Are you upset?”

This spiraled into a ridiculous discussion while we were standing singing praise songs with the congregation. Goodness. Eventually we apologized to one another towards the latter part of the service, however this wasn’t the end of our conflict.

The next thing that happened was I gave him bad directions while he was driving back home from a party. We ended up getting stuck in traffic on a Sunday. Sensing his irritation I challenged him once again, “What’s wrong? Are you upset?!”

I didn’t understand why he had to be annoyed. It wasn’t like we were in a rush to go anywhere. So when he kept asking me to “waze” how long it would take us to get home, I let out a disrespectful, “Wait!”

I didn’t like him pestering me. Of course he didn’t appreciate my tone or attitude at all.

Two days later, when we were getting ready to go to bed he thought he might be coming down with something and asked for Manuka Honey for his throat. I responded with resistance.

Instead of saying, “Sure, hon,” I mumbled, “I’m already in bed and tired.” Truthfully, I was. And I didn’t think he was deathly ill to need me to get it for him.

When he acted disappointed with me, I offered to get the honey for him just to avoid a conflict but he muttered something about not wanting to be an inconvenience. I retorted, “It is inconvenient to serve you. But that’s how marriage is, right? Being inconvenienced for each other?”

He thought I was trying to instigate a conflict so he retaliated with stone cold silence at first and then we ended up discussing this idea of expectations in marriage again. We couldn’t find a resolution that satisfied both of us. It was more like, I didn’t like feeling like he was so easily disappointed with me, over small things, and he was struggling with not feeling embittered with me, over small things.

So for the duration of three days, Edric and I were not okay. On the outside we seemed fine, but underneath we were upset with one other, masking our frustrations with busy-ness and ban-aid fixes like cheap apologies. At a certain point he got dramatic and said, “I don’t know what to do. I am confused about what I should expect from you or if I should expect anything at all.”

It wasn’t like he didn’t want to fix this. He just didn’t get what Casey Carstens meant about having no expectations, especially in the area of wanting to be served by me. Frankly, neither did I. It seemed like a rather unrealistic concept to be faithful to.

Therefore, it wasn’t until Wednesday morning that Edric decided on a conclusion to end our strife. But first he sat down with a group of older men who are mentors to him in order to get their wisdom.

He asked them what they thought of the principle of intentions vs. expectations. They could relate to his struggle and added their insights. One of them shared that after he battled cancer, he learned to appreciate his wife more and not demand so much from her. My dad, one of the men in this group, also added, “I can relate. I also like to be served.”

He admitted that having no expectations of my mom was hard for him as well. (I also know this because my mom and I have conversations about how similar Edric and my dad can be when it comes to wanting to be served.)

Edric phoned me shortly after his meeting. His tone was kind. According to him, listening to the men encouraged him. He very sincerely asked me for forgiveness, adding, “I realize that I have been selfish. Instead of thinking of what you should be doing for me and not reacting when you don’t serve me the way I want to be served, I want to serve you. I remembered the Christ has a lavish love for His bride, the church, which ought to be how a husband loves his wife.”

Back in July he had this same realization, but the impact had sort of worn off, so he re-emphasized his need to be this kind of husband.

Of course, I was overjoyed!!!

I am not excusing my own behavior and disrespect. I also had to apologize to him and really mean it.

Since we have restored our relationship and I can now speak about it with a good conscience, I want to praise the Lord for working in the heart of Edric. He has since been extra patient with me, choosing to serve himself when he notices that I might be busy or preoccupied. Last night, he came into the bedroom with yoghurt and he jokingly asked, “Do you notice this? See, I can serve myself.”

He has also been very encouraging and appreciative, telling me that I’m doing a good job as a wife and mom. That makes my day!

This afternoon, he brought Titus and Elijah to the dentist, something that I usually have to do. Since I had an all-day shoot for Friso, a milk brand I am a brand ambassador for, Edric volunteered himself for their appointment. In his words, “Don’t worry, hon, I will take care of you.”

He’s been using that line a lot since Wednesday. In response, I’ve been inspired to serve him more. There’s this deep sense of gratitude for his efforts to be flexible and less demanding.

Sometimes, in a marriage, one person has to adjust first and choose humility before the other recognizes his or her wrong. If both refuse to submit to the Lord and remain hard-hearted and prideful, the marriage isn’t going to get better, and conflicts will remain unresolved and a source of increasing pain.

There are days when God prods me to be the catalyst for healing and other days when he speaks to Edric to initiate the healing (like he did during this past week). This principle of intentions vs. expectations is still sinking in for Edric and me as we try to grasp its implications in our marriage. However, we both know it definitely has something to do with us seeking out the good of the other before thinking of ourselves, and relying on the Holy Spirit for the capacity to do so.

Ultimately, what comforts me is that God is at work in our marriage. We continue to be imperfect and to wound each other when selfishness takes over, but the curve is still looking like it’s headed upwards, by God’s grace!

The principle that Casey Carstens shared with us may not be explicitly stated in the Bible, but there is a passage that somewhat captures the essence of it…

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:3-5‬ ‭

Smile at Your Husband

I had a meeting in Edric’s office that he wasn’t aware of, so when I tapped on the glass of the conference room he was in to wave hello he looked pleasantly surprised. After both our meetings were done, he found me and pulled me close to him to say, “It made my day to see you!”

This is not a cheesy entry to the beginning of a sappy romance novel, but it felt kind of like one of those moments that made me gushy inside. I still get that. Sigh. I’m a secret romantic. What can I say? When my husband takes me in his arms and flashes his dimpled smile at me like I’m the best thing he’s seen all day, it doesn’t matter what kind of stress I’ve had. I feel safe, special, and loved.

I think we all need to smile at our spouses more often. Why? Communication, as we have so often heard, is primarily non-verbal. If we don’t smile, our spouse will naturally assume that we aren’t happy with our relationship or happy with them. When we do smile it changes the climate of our relationship and the mood of the moment.

Okay…let me be honest, although I enjoy being with Edric and he’s my favorite human (I have to say human because God is my favorite person), there are days when his personality and decisions frustrate me and it’s really hard to smile! So yes, sometimes I have to think positive thoughts about him to squeeze out that smile. However, more than that, I have to focus on my own relationship with the Lord.

Like today, in the car, on the way back from a talk that Edric and I gave on “Leading from the Home,” I reacted towards Edric for asking me to hand our oldest son, Elijah, a plastic bag for his trash. Elijah had finished his packed lunch in the van and he needed a place to put it. Edric turned to me and asked, “Can you help him?”

Since I was the middle of something and he was already holding the plastic bag, I replied, “I’ve been helping everyone with their lunch,” hoping he wouldn’t rely on me. It wasn’t a nice comment, and I let it out because I felt like he was in the better position to hand Elijah the plastic bag.

Well, Edric didn’t understand why my tone and statement sounded so self-righteous, and we went back and forth discussing my claim that “I was helping everyone.” So I definitely wasn’t smiling and neither was he. However, I praise God for the spiritual spankings he gives me when I’m in the wrong. He told me to humble myself and apologize. I resisted for a bit but then I did. And no surprise here…the smile came! Edric also softened up and forgave me.

Now, all is well. He’s on his computer and I’m here, typing this entry. In fact, I just told him, “I love this! You, men, together doing things we enjoy.” He did just say I was weird for finding this moment so pleasurable, but I’m sure he meant that in a good way. (Think positive thoughts.)

If we aren’t smiling at our spouses it’s because there is probably something misaligned in us, on the inside. And more likely than not, I am pretty sure it has to do with our focus being off. We are looking at our husbands and depending on them to make us happy. Naturally then, our smiles will be few and far between. The great news is that we can be happy because of God is the source of our joy!  I really like what Proverbs 31:25 has to say about a woman who fears the Lord. It declares, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.”

If our husbands got the privilege of being around wives who smiled at the future, think of the impact it would make on them!

For those of you who can remember the days when you were dating your spouse, you know that your smile communicated 1. You were happy to see your man. 2. You enjoyed his company.

I could charm Edric over with a smile when we were dating. But guess what? It still works! And I’m not saying that because I manipulate Edric with my smiling. Today, the same is still true. When I’m with Edric and I smile, it communicates 1. I am happy to see him. 2. I enjoy his company.

For example, when Edric comes home and I greet him with a big smile and a “Hi, babe,” he smiles generously back at me and his instinct is to spend time with me. The opposite is true. When he comes home and I act moody or disinterested in him, forgetting to smile, then he will, more often than not, quip, “I guess you’re too busy,” and avoid me.

If we want a more satisfying relationship with our husbands, let’s smile, ladies! It’s a natural face-lift to make us look younger, and you will really appreciate this…Ron Gutman, the author of Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act wrote that “British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.” (Source: Psychology Today) What a ridiculously wonderful amount of endorphins!

So try it. Right now. If you are with your husband, smile. Feeling generous? You can even add, “Hon, I really enjoy being with you.”

If you’re struggling, remember the golden rule for relationships, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” (Luke 6:31) Do we want our husbands to smile at us? Then let’s smile at them!

Setting Yearly Goals for Our Children Part 1

With the New Year fast approaching, it’s time to think through setting yearly goals for our children. This post is divided into two parts to make it more “digestible.”

Our family likes to use the Luke 2:52 approach, which states how “Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man.” In this passage, we see four areas to consider for our children. The first is the mind (wisdom), followed by the body (stature), then spirit (favor with God), and relationships (favor with man).


Edric has a spreadsheet for our kids that includes columns labeled with each of these areas. At the beginning of the year, he and I will discuss our goals for our children, and he will fill in the columns and target dates.

This may sound like a nerdy way to set goals for our children, however, it has helped us to be purposeful. Some families may not opt to set goals in this manner. They may want to use a simple list that covers the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual development of their children.

Whichever method they implore, the key is to be purposeful. Successful companies have annual planning meetings to assess where their companies are at, project profits, and to determine direction. As parents, we ought to be as intentional and even more so about the way we raise our children.

Many giants of the faith were faithful followers of God who performed miracles, prophesied, and influenced cultures and nations. However, they neglected their first ministry – their families. Take for instance, Samuel, a judge and prophet who was personally called by God in his sleep to serve Him. It is said of Samuel that “the Lord was with him and let none of his words fail. All Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was confirmed as a prophet of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 3:19-20)

He advised the first king of Israel, Saul, and anointed the great King David. Yet, we know from the Scriptures that Samuel’s sons were not godly men. “And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel…His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.” (1 Samuel 8:1,3)

How is it that one of the most faithful messengers of God to His people failed in his fathering?

On the one hand, he had a bad example in Eli, who played the role of a pseudo dad as he mentored Samuel. Samuel lived with Eli when he was weaned from his mother, Hannah, who had dedicated him to the Lord. From a young age, Samuel’s ideas about fathering were modeled by Eli. Eli, while succeeding at raising Samuel, failed as a father to his own sons. His sons were described as “worthless men who did not know the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:12) Their sin was very great because they “despised the offering of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 2:17) Though Eli tried to speak with them to correct their behavior, it was too little too late. His sons “did not listen, and the Lord intended to put them to death.” (1 Samuel 2:25)

There are other clues to Samuel’s father issues. In 1 Samuel 7, there is an insert about Samuel’s ministry, explaining that he “used to go annually on circuit to Bethel, Gilgal, and Mizpah, and he judged Israel in all these places. Then his return was to Ramah, for his house was there, and there he judged Israel, and he built there an altar to the Lord.” Traveling these distances every year naturally consumed much of his time, besides executing the duties of judge to the people. No doubt this took away opportunities to disciple his own kids.

Perhaps Samuel also had a tendency to look at appearances rather than the heart. We see this when he was tasked to go to the house of Jesse to look for a successor to King Saul. His instinct was to choose based on appearances and God specifically told him to look at the heart. It’s possible that as a parent, he didn’t do his due diligence in seeing the hearts of his sons. His focus may have been on the appearance of goodness in his children while failing to recognize unchecked character issues that blossomed into dishonesty, bribery, and perversion of justice.

It’s sobering for us to consider this reality as we raise up our own kids. If great men of God can fail at parenting, how much more susceptible are we to do the same! This is why we need to think through what our children will grow up to be like. A thriving ministry, as well as workplace and business success cannot compensate for lack of intentional discipleship in the home. We can’t assume that our faithful service to God will, by virtue of osmosis, be embraced by our children. Neither should we content ourselves with our kids finishing college and getting good jobs or starting up businesses. While these are important, the greater measures of success are whether they will turn out to be men and women of integrity who know how to serve others, stay faithful to a spouse, raise godly children, and make a positive difference for Christ in this world.

Therefore, let us not be shortsighted as we set our goals, assuming that our job is done when our kids complete their schooling years. Luke 2:52 is included as a description about Christ when he was at the age of twelve. After this time, he makes his appearance in public ministry at the age of thirty. Up until this point, he continued to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. Similarly, every year, we ought to envision and plan for our children to do the same.

For those of us with older children, goal-setting may involve asking them what they are interested in and what they would like to accomplish in the year. Encouraging them to be involved in the planning also makes them more committed to achieving yearly goals.

We would like to share with you some of the ways our children are growing in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. Since these examples are personal, may God help you to think through what can apply to your own children and family context.

Growing in Wisdom

Wisdom is the ability of a person to apply knowledge and make right choices. Ultimately, we want our children to have godly wisdom. When they are out of our sights or when they eventually leave our home, will their decisions honor God and please Him?

Knowledge and wisdom have to go together. Solomon asked of God, “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can rule this great people of Yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10) He knew that knowledge in the sense of facts and information was not enough to make him a good leader. He needed the combination of wisdom and knowledge.

As our children acquire knowledge through the study of subject areas, we need to balance this out with an understanding of who God is and what His principles for living are. A brilliant mind that doesn’t fear God or have a conscience can be a dangerous weapon!

Take for instance, our son, Elijah, who has always been interested in and become very capable in the area of technology. At the age of twelve, he was tinkering with gadgets and figuring out how to jail-break old Ipads and phones. We allowed him do so and paid for online programs so that he could learn programing. A year later he was building apps and websites. At a certain point the idea of hacking interested him as well as the ability to circumvent restrictions so that he didn’t have to pay for apps or movies. We told him to stop doing this because it wasn’t legal. Thankfully, he is a young man who fears God so he exercised restraint and self-control!

He is learning to channel his knowledge to worthwhile pursuits. Very recently, he created a forum for homeschooler friends where they discuss math problems, science, and exchange ideas. It’s a much wiser application of the knowledge he has acquired! He isn’t aspiring to hack anymore. Whew.

Considering our child’s interest is also a good starting point for planning out goals because it’s an integrative approach to learning. For example, instead of our kids studying math or reading as separate subjects, why not give them opportunities to exercise the usefulness of both?

Last year, Titus wanted to start his own stock portfolio as an eight-year old. His older brothers had already done so when they each turned nine, but Titus expressed the desire to get involved in investing earlier to compete with Elijah and Edan. It was a great way for him to apply math, reading, research, and critical thinking skills. So Edric included this goal in our yearly plan for Titus. Before the end of 2016, Titus attended a three-hour seminar by COL Financial where he learned the basics of investing in stocks. Edric asked him to think through which companies he would like to invest in, and he got his portfolio up with stocks from Pure Gold, Ayala Corporation, Rockwell, and SMPH. He now knows how to go online to research and purchase stock options on his own, too.

Our second son, Edan hopes to travel the world someday and talk to people about Jesus, so he asked if he could do foreign language studies this year. At present, he uses apps and travel books to teach himself Spanish and Chinese. During the day when he wants to work on his language studies, we set aside time for him to do this as well. He’s still at the beginner levels but his motivation keeps him going. Lord willing, this desire to share the gospel around the world will be fulfilled in the future. 


Growing in wisdom may often supersede yearly subject area requirements. While it’s beneficial to cover minimum learning competencies as outlined by the Department of Education, these do not have to restrict us from identifying loftier goals for our children that take into account their gifts, interests, and dreams.

Stature

We want our kids to develop their physical abilities such as their artistry, musicality, and athleticism, and we want them to be healthy and fit. Since each of our kids is at different stages of ability and capacity, we have to be specific about what activities we expose them to.

This past year, one of our aims was to help our sons find sports they wanted to focus on. Elijah let us know that he was open to training on a swim team and continuing with tennis. Our four other kids are also doing tennis. Since paid classes are usually once a week and our boys need more physical activity, Edric revised the specifics of our yearly stature goal to include an exercise regimen for our sons. Edric also participates in this fitness program with them as a way of bonding with our boys. The girls, on the other hand, are pressing on with their ballet.

As for music and art, two of our kids play violin, and two others are doing piano. All of them are enrolled in a painting class. We also make time for art at home.  Since their preferences may change as they discover what they are really good at, we ask them at the beginning of each year if they are open to sticking to the same music and art classes or switching to something else.


Edan used to take violin but didn’t develop a love for it. We really hoped he would stick it out, imagining a future when our three boys would be “jamming” on their violins together. However, he emphatically told us he would like to take up piano instead. Allowing him to let go of violin to focus on piano was one of the best decisions we made. After one year of piano playing, Edan progressed quickly. From simple pieces, he tackled compositions like “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Since he was so excited to learn an instrument that he actually enjoyed, he pushed himself to practice and work hard.

To continue, read: Setting Yearly Goals for Our Children Part 2

 

Setting Yearly Goals for Our Children Part 2

This is the second part of Setting Yearly Goals for Your Children. Previously, we covered Growing in Wisdom and Stature. If you haven’t read about these yet, please start here: Setting Yearly Goals for Our Children Part 1

Favor with God

Favor with God means that our kids seek to know, love, serve, and obey God. In pursuit of this, we encourage our older children to finish reading their Bibles every year, or at least attempt to do so. Elijah is re-reading his Bible for the seventh time, while Edan is on his second round. Titus has yet to finish but he’s on his way. Tiana is starting to but she still needs a lot of help with big words. Catalina just began reading so she merely pretends to understand what’s going on when she’s holding a Bible. A few days ago, she mouthed out her own rendition of Genesis, combining some parts with the story of Solomon, making it completely inaccurate. She’ll get there eventually.

Another important goal is that our kids develop Christ-like character. Each year comes with it’s unique challenges. This past year, our kids had to grow in kindness towards one another. They tended to use harsh words when they were frustrated and didn’t like to share.

During our weekly Bible studies with our kids, Edric included lessons on how to relate to one another in more loving ways. They memorized Bible passages and shared how they could improve and what they could apply. For the older boys, Edric challenged them to take charge of a study once a month so they got to practice teaching their siblings. His secret agenda was to get them to think through what they needed to work on.

The other night, Titus’s verse was Hebrews 13:16. He asked us all to memorize the passage: “Don’t forget to do good and to share with others. These are the sacrifices that please God.”  Afterwards, we talked about how the passage applied to us. Each of our kids admitted that they can be better at treating one another kindly.

We also provide our children with opportunities to serve with us in ministry as much as possible. Since Edric plans out most of our speaking engagements, ministry trips, and activities at the beginning of each year, he can determine when our kids can participate as he plots out our schedule. Most of the talks will fall under the categories of marriage, parenting, or financial stewardship since Edric and I have a shared burden to minister to families. Therefore, we find ways to integrate our children into our seminars so they can experience being a blessing to and serving others.



During our trip to Singapore last August, where we were invited to facilitate a family retreat, we asked our boys to prepare testimonies that we could include in our talks. At the end of the family retreat, our kids also sang a hymn for the audience to close the retreat. Exposure to ministry at young ages allows them to see how they can serve God, too, even while they are young and make a difference for Him.

Recently, we also added sharing the gospel to thirty-three people from now till December as part of our goal for the year since our church challenged us to do so. Our kids got excited about the commitment and have been passing out gospel tracts whenever they can. We still have to practice one-on-one evangelism with them since passing out tracts doesn’t really count!

Favor with Man

Our children also need to grow in their relationships with others. Favor with man is the ability of a person to relate to and reach out to others, to be a positive influence. It’s more than socialization, which is how a child conforms to the social group he is in. Our children have to be trained to look out for the needs of others.

The family context often provides a great training ground to do this since it can be difficult to unconditionally love and forgive one another, as well as get along with siblings. However, relationships with other children outside of the home are also significant. These teach our kids how to accommodate people from different backgrounds and cultures, as well as how to communicate, understand, and influence. 

Early this school year, we realized that our sons were looking for more opportunities to interact with friends. It was especially important to our second son, Edan, who enjoys connecting with others. As a natural leader, he benefits from opportunities to exercise this gift. Of all the days in the week, his favorite ones are often the days when he gets to be with his friends. He directs their play, organizes activities, and comes up with fellowship ideas.

As for Elijah, who tends to be very content being alone and on a computer or with a book, we recognized that he had to look outward and invest in developing relationships with others. So we enrolled him in art class and an Algebra 2 tutorial class in order for him to interact more with other high schoolers.


Here are some other ways we get our kids to connect with other children: We created a culture in our couple’s bible study group that encourages kids to come with their parents. During the week, we set aside a day for them to be at the Homeschool Global office so they can hang out and play with their friends in between their art, music, and pe classes. Apart from this, we open up our home so friends can come over in the afternoons. Or, we schedule visits with their cousins and friends.

We used to think that our kids would do fine without too much social interaction apart from family, relatives and a few close friends. However, our perspective changed a year ago when our second son declared, “I’m a social person. I like being with friends.” In response to this, we’ve tried to be more creative about providing opportunities for our kids to spend time with other kids. Although they enjoy their relationships with one another and with us, they also benefit from being with friends of all ages.

The goal isn’t so that they will have many friends, but that they would learn how to reach out to and be a blessing to others, and to apply character traits and relational skills like deference, forgiveness, kindness, cooperation, etc.  

In summary, the Luke 2:52 framework of wisdom, stature, favor with God, and men is one way to accomplish yearly homeschooling goals. It’s certainly not the only way since all families are unique. The point is to have a plan and to follow through with it. There may be revisions as the year progress, too, which is perfectly fine. We need to flex according to the needs of our children as they grow, develop, and encounter challenges. May God give us all the insight to craft our yearly goals and align them with his purposes for our kids. And may He supply us with the ability to commit to these! In the meantime, let us “Commit our ways to the Lord, and trust also in Him…” (Psalm 37:5)


 

 

Anya Resort

We spent the last two days at Anya Resort in Tagaytay. It was our first time to visit this place as a family thanks to our friends, Lou and Thea, whose wedding Edric had the privilege of officiating. They got us two Veranda Villa Suites to accommodate our family. (Thanks guys!)

What a beautiful resort! I just had to post photos and do this review because the kids thoroughly enjoyed our stay, and Edric and I were pleasantly surprised by our experience. 

Suites were very spacious with extraordinarily large bathrooms. I love big bathrooms! 

They also had a kitchenette area (but no stove). A generously sized living room area gives kids ample space to romp around.

The kids hung out in the living room before their swim…

There were nice decorative touches in the bedrooms. Edric noticed details like the Bticino switches, Samsung flat screen tvs, Koehler and Grohe bathroom fixtures, and Mitsubishi ACs. His comment, “Wow, they didn’t scrimp.” 


Each Viranda Village Suite has a balcony area as well. Although this place doesn’t have a view of the Taal Lake, it is a cozy and classy oasis of a resort, and it’s great for families. 

Service was quick, and staff were very attentive as well. They proactively asked if we were comfortable and needed anything. Upon arrival, a security guard greeted us with a big smile and said, “Welcome Home!”
The personalized touch is one of the reasons why I often prefer the smaller resorts to big hotel chains. They make you special and prioritized. Plus there’s the element of privacy which Edric and I appreciate. 


There were several areas to eat meals, but I didn’t get the chance to photograph these. The only meal we ate was the breakfast buffet. Yummy! 

Of course, Edric and I found time to check out their gym. It’s not a big gym, but it’s got a great selection of key equipment, like the kinesis one that Edric is using, which uses resistance cables that you can adjust to do a total workout. I used the weights and mat for floor exercises. 


One of my favorite places (as well as the kids’) was the library. Floor to ceiling shelves were lined with curated books arranged by color… always a good idea. We enjoyed lounging around. The kids checked out the books, played chess, colored, drew, and Edric busied himself with homework for his education course. 


Tastefully lit up at night…

We were sad to say goodbye but we hope to be back! 

Here’s my rating for the different aspects that matter to our family. I am going to start doing this since we do a fair amount of traveling:

Amenities (Considers kids’ interests and safety, well-maintained, encourages family time, has a nice pool, gym) – 4/5

Food (taste, priced well for families) – 4.5/5

Service (attentiveness and responsiveness) – 5/5

Accommodations (comfort, cleanliness, spaciousness, privacy, tastefully decorated) – 4.5/5

Price (family-friendly) – 4.5/5

Overall feel (I can’t explain this. It’s just that something special that makes you like a place) – 5/5

For more details, check out their site, Anya Resort

Enjoy Stillness and Quiet

It’s a real sickness of our day and age to have almost zero time for stillness and quiet, except of course when we are asleep, and some of us don’t even get a good amount of it. I see this tendency to want constant activity, stimulation, and entertainment not just in me but in the lives of my own kids.

On some days, my kids will come to me in the afternoon when there isn’t much going on and ask, “What Am I Going to Do?” My reply sounds something like this, “I don’t know. I’m sure you will figure it out.” (Smiley face.)

Here is what my kids need to understand. I am not responsible for entertaining them or thinking up activities to fill their day, everyday. While I take charge of their homeschooling in the mornings, and remind them about their responsibilities, what they do with their discretionary time afterwards ought to be their look out. If they get bored because they don’t get to use a gadget, watch a program, or have their friends over, I don’t make it my problem to keep them busy. It’s their problem. And it’s a good problem.


My kids need to deal with down-time… “screenless-ness,” quietness. They can invent, create, build, do pretend play, read or even just sit and think! After all, they have supplies, toys, games, objects in their environment, a ton of books, as well as each another to stay preoccupied.

And guess what? Whenever I tell them that they can figure out how to entertain themselves, they usually do, anyway. Tiana was the one who asked the question about what to do today. After thirty minutes of leaving her alone, she came back and presented to me a miniature model of a room using the top of a cardboard box. There were three pieces of furniture in the room – a bed with a blanket and donut pillow, an area rug, and a table. It was adorable! (She’s also just pulled out her paintbrushes and told me she will be doing art.)
Titus, my nine year old, finished a five hundred plus page book over the last few days which was kind of a miracle! He’s just started to get into novels so I was so proud of him for persevering and using his discretionary time wisely. 

Kids need a little boredom sometimes to become un-bored and productive. I reckon it’s the same for us, as adults, too. We don’t always need to default to our phone to mindlessly surf through social media feeds or sites, or to install a new app to entertain ourselves with. 

According to research, sensorial overload on the brain burdens the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for high-order thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving. This leads to mental fatigue, focus and problem-solving issues as well as the inability to generate new ideas. However, the brain can restore itself when stimulation is removed, and it is allowed time to rest. (Source: Huffington Post)

Silence also regenerates brain cells. Hmm…there’s hope for me!

A study done on mice who were exposed to two hours of uninterrupted silence versus mice who were exposed to noise, experienced the creation of new brain cells. “The area affected was the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is responsible for encoding new memories.” (Source: Why Silence is Good for the Brain )

No wonder why I have short-term memory problems! What’s this article about again?!

The truth is many of my eureka moments for articles and entries come to me when I am not overpopulating my mind with external stimuli.

This is me trying to look like I am thinking about something profound…
Quiet isn’t just about detaching from our phones or avoiding Netflix. It is also about saying no to too many activities. I got a horrible cold because Edric and I traveled four times in September, and we had late evenings in the past week with people. Most of these nights were about ministry, but they took a toll on my body. If there’s one predictable cause for body-breakdown for me, it’s disrupted routines. I’m recovering now and thankfully, the rest of October should be less hectic for Edric and me.

Edric and I also decided to turn down invitations for speaking engagements that weren’t previously scheduled for the balance of the year because we need a season to learn and enrich ourselves. Our plan is to benefit from the quiet by growing in wisdom and physically recharging through rest so we can ready ourselves to give more to others next year.

The most valuable thing about quiet which I pray my kids eventually internalize is enjoying God’s presence and His truths. King David was a great example of this as many of his Psalms speak of him meditating on God’s principles and who God is.

“Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” Psalms 4:4

“I will meditate on all Your work and muse on your deeds.” Psalms 77:12

My inward being as well as your inward being needs to be nourished and watered. Since we aren’t one dimensional but body, soul and spirit, we aren’t healthy when we are neglectful of our inner persons. If we are always moving about, jetting from one place to another, consumed by our work or activity-centered lifestyles, as well as defaulting to entertainment and stimulation via media, apps, the internet and social media platforms, the part of us that really matters doesn’t get fed and doesn’t grow. 

The counterintuitive thinking that God’s word also demonstrates is that the Lord can accomplish much on our behalf and for us when we trust Him by resting in Him. I have said this before but I will say it again. When I don’t carve out time to soak in God’s Word and pray, I run on limited energy and capacity. In fact, on days when I forget to read my Bible because I am rushing here and there, I am a bad version of myself — irritable, harried, anxious, and reactive. My focus is not spiritual. Instead it is about what is material and in front of me. Yet, it’s amazing how giving the Lord the first part of the day positively affects every part of who I am and what I do. God fights my battles for me.

I am reminded of the story of Moses and the Israelites who were overwhelmed by the pursuing Egyptians. But here’s what Moses told the people. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” ‭‭(Exodus‬ ‭14:13-14‬)

Paraphrasing the last part: “Joy, I got you. You need only be still and quiet in my presence.”

Isn’t that so reassuring?! 

So enjoy the stillness and quiet, and let’s teach our kids to be able to do the same. Our minds and inward persons need a break to recharge, to grow, and to be more productive. And in the moments when we feel like nothing is happening, God is always doing something in us and for us! 

Family Exercise

Edric started a routine of early morning exercise with our sons about a month ago after we discussed their need for physical fitness. He took it upon himself to research a program and modify it for himself and our boys so they could participate in it together. So far, it seems to be working. Our sons are stronger. Elijah even has an eight pack! (This is also due to the fact that he is on the thin side to begin with.)

The daily routine encourages bonding time for the boys with Edric, and it helps to regulate the activities during the day. They need to sleep early to wake up by 6 AM, and it helps to kickstart their minds and bodies for the academic rigor that begins at 8:30 AM. Since we have been traveling this schedule has been affected but they will be getting back to it.

I appreciate that Edric followed through with his commitment to be on top of the boys’ physical development. One of our family values is to be good stewards of our bodies and that means healthy food, rest, and exercise, not just for Edric and me but for our kids, too. Because they get to be with their dad, the boys are motivated. Plus, they compete with one another. They do push-ups, use elastic bands, very light weights lifted many times (super light so they don’t affect their growth), ab workouts, and high intensity interval training.  One of the reasons why Edric initiated this exercise regimen was because our boys didn’t have a PE program or sport that they were doing daily. There was also a season when they were starting to get lazy as well as paying too much attention to screens rather than getting outdoors. One of our sons started to get soft in the middle, too. Thankfully, his belly is not so “jelly” anymore. 

I did take him to a pediatric endocrinologist just to check if he is on the right track for his height. The good news is he is fine so far, but what I most appreciate about her is that she confirmed how important it is that kids get daily exercise and good nutrition. She confessed to me that she gets discouraged when kids come into her clinic with adult issues — heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances even before the age of twelve! So she re-emphasized what we have been telling our kids…avoid lots of sugar, get good sunlight, exercise, drink lots of water, and eat healthy food. 

To supplement my kids diet as they workout, I let the boys drink Friso (which is more for my girls rather than for them), because of the protein in it.  My pediatrician also recommended Animal Parade Liquid vitamins from Healthy Options for Titus since it helps with weight gain. He is very thin.  I had to stop him from eating red and brown rice, and switch him to white rice to get more calories into him.  Well, I praise God that Edric has been on top of our sons’ daily exercise. I can’t do what he is doing for them.

Here’s a Wednesday to Saturday sample of what the boys do. Edric had them write it down some time ago so the writing is faded 😊:

The Woman in the Elevator

Edric isn’t the type of guy to ogle at other women, but when we travel, he does notice attractive foreign women. Who doesn’t?! Even I do. At times, we even have conversations about beautiful women we see. “Did you notice her eyes?” Or, “Wow, she’s pretty!”

However, there are occasions when I know his eyes are drawn to women who exude sexiness, the kind of women who stick out in two prominent directions (front and back) and who like to flaunt their assets. You know what I mean…

(By the way, I have the permission of my husband to publish this very article. Please bear with me…this is a long one.)

A few weeks ago, Edric and I were out of the country in a restaurant having breakfast when a curvy woman walked into the buffet area. As wives we have special sensory organs for the sort of woman who attracts our husbands’ attention. My husband also has very big eyes so it’s always obvious when he glances in another direction, especially when we are engrossed in conversation. I saw him look over my shoulder so I quickly turned my head to see what distracted him. I didn’t need to gaze long to realize what he was looking at. Thankfully, he didn’t stare but I did ask him jokingly, “Were you checking her out?”

He looked reassuringly into my eyes and professed, “Don’t worry, baby, I have eyes only for you.”


It was a romantic and sweet pledge. But what did that sentence mean? Did the sentence “I have eyes only for you” mean that he would never use his eyes to notice another woman? Or did it mean that even if he noticed other women with his eyes, he had programmed them to desire me only?

Not wanting to latch on to his declaration with naïve gushy-ness, I cautiously accepted it with a smile and breakfast went on. We travel quite often and I knew better than to believe that this statement meant he would never ever look at the millions of gorgeous women in the world!

However, since I had been dealing with growing insecurity about my physical shape and form as well as Edric’s perceptions of me in the past few months (my secret has been revealed), I felt especially slighted when this disproportionately curvy woman kept distracting him. He claimed that she looked fake and that he wasn’t checking her out, but it certainly appeared as though his eyes kept being diverted in her direction. Maybe the word “check out” had a different connotation to him. (Men’s vocabulary can be very different from ours.) Whatever it was at the time, I felt like, in comparison to her, she was a spring chicken and I was, well, an autumn chicken.

What intensified my jealousy further was when Edric rushed to the elevator as we exited the buffet when that same woman entered into it. Sure, he hurried off to make sure we didn’t have to wait for another elevator, but it wasn’t characteristic of him to prefer an elevator that already had people in it when time wasn’t a factor. Both of us like to have lots of elbow room in enclosed spaces.

For the next twenty-four floors of our descent, I used my expert peripheral vision (which all women also have) to watch him closely. Had he not turned to notice the woman again, I would have jumped up and down inside and said to myself, “What a guy! Yes, he certainly has eyes only for me!”

Well, as you can probably guess by now, he still tried to look at her, albeit with as much discretion as he could apply, ahem…being the gentleman that he is. I kept my cool, ahem…being the lady that I am, not wanting to admit that I felt threatened in any way.

When we finally entered our hotel room to prepare for the series of talks we were scheduled to speak that afternoon, I casually asked, “Hey, so did you rush into the elevator because that woman was in there?”

There was no aggression in my tone…at first. Yet, when Edric replied, “No, of course not” just as casually as I had asked my question, I felt irritated, judging him as untruthful.

“Are you sure? Because you still looked at her while we were in the elevator, and you usually don’t try to catch an elevator that’s got people in it when we aren’t in a rush to go anywhere.”

Once again, he denied having any hidden agenda.

Since his response seemed inconsistent with his actions I persisted. Naturally, this annoyed him terribly so he became quiet. For the rest of the morning, as we prepared to speak on marriage and parenting, we stayed on opposite sides of the room and avoided speaking to one another. We busied ourselves with our notes and slides, but it was obvious that we hadn’t settled the issue.

When it was finally time for lunch, we were sitting in Nandos, a place we have enjoyed multiple times in the past for its South African deliciousness. I wasn’t too excited about eating in it this time around since Edric and I weren’t okay. On the outside everything seemed fine.


The waitress energetically placed one of Nando’s large, juicy chicken skewers on our table, oblivious to the tension between us. We thanked her politely, of course, not giving away the fact that this huge skewer, which obstructed our view of each other’s faces, very aptly symbolized our emotional divide.

“Why do you seem upset?” This was my dumb way of initiating conversation.

“I don’t like being treated like a child. You were treating me like a child,” he quipped, referring to how I badgered him about the woman in the elevator.

“I just wanted to know if you went into that particular elevator because she was in there, because you were checking her out.”

“Are we really going to talk about this? What’s the real issue anyway? Did I go into the elevator because she was in there? No. But was it more interesting that she was in the elevator? Yes.”

What’s the difference?, I thought. He is making this about semantics! So, I said, “Can’t you just admit that you have a problem, that you have an issue with disciplining your eyes. After you said that you have eyes only for me, you still kept looking at the girl. It seemed inconsistent, and I have experienced this during our other trips.”

“Okay, you know what this is? This is the devil trying to divide us before we do ministry this afternoon. This is not a big deal.” Edric tried to take the higher, spiritual plane as he uttered these words.

However, since I was choosing to linger on the lower, very carnal plane, I disrespectfully replied, “So don’t be the devil!”

Where did that come from? I don’t know. Oh wait, yes I do. I thought he was being the devil for being the source of my pain. I felt hurt and jealous. Had he just been consistent about having eyes only for me this wouldnt have happened! 

Needless to say, Edric felt very disrespected. This was the first time he had been called a devil by me from across the table, with the half-eaten chicken skewer still dangling between us. He was about to say something he probably would’ve regretted, but surprisingly, he breathed in deeply and closed his eyes instead.

What in the world?! Oh, my goodness, he was praying!

Not the prayer card! He’s getting all spiritual! (Can you believe I was thinking these things?!)

When he opened his eyes again his expression changed from defensive to humble, and he very sincerely said, “You know what, you are right. I do have a problem. I can improve. I can be more disciplined about my eyes.”

Wow.

Okay, obviously, the devil doesn’t do things like that! He wasn’t the devil. I was!

Out of guilt, I apologized to Edric for my disrespect. He dealt with our conflict with such spiritual maturity that I felt I needed to humble myself, too, but my heart wasn’t right with the Lord just yet. How do I know this? When Edric suggested that I pray for our event, I dismissed him. “You already prayed. I don’t have anything to pray about.”

Admittedly, my reaction to what transpired at the buffet and in the elevator was ridiculous, especially to people who may read this who actually deal with infidelity in their marriages. So Edric looked at a beautiful woman more times than he usually does when he sees someone attractive…big deal…so what?! It wasn’t like he was going to abandon his vow to me for this total stranger.

Why did the event make me so hostile? I was looking to Edric to affirm me and make me feel unparalleled and unrivaled in his eyes. Yes, I know it was such a self-centered desire, but for someone like me who has struggled with body esteem issues over the years, the pain felt so real. I actually had this achy feeling in my heart as I thought, This is so NOT Disney anymore! Things have changed…the romance, the undying love and affection, and eyes-only-for-you-professions! Blah, blah, blah. Whatever!”

How could I have been thinking these thoughts before a talk about biblical marriage and parenting?! This was the sadder part of it all. I was so broken over a trivial episode when so many people in the audience were actually hurting from real problems in their marriages and families!

Edric proceeded to the venue to set up his computer and I took a detour by stopping at the toilet. I knew that I couldn’t walk into that hall with all the emotional and spiritual junk I had in my heart. I couldn’t possibly face all the people and speak with integrity, knowing that I hadn’t settled the restlessness in me.

In the women’s restroom cubicle, I teared in frustration for acting like the kind of wife I never wanted to be – distrusting, insecure, demanding, and unpleasant to be around. Thankfully, the toilet was so private, like a prayer cell that was walled in on all sides. I stood in that toilet, in the quiet, thinking I was all alone in my ridiculous pain, when I heard God’s voice in my head say to me, Why are you so upset? Do you not know how much I love you? Don’t you know that I am the only one who will ever love you the way that you want to be loved, the way you long to be loved? I love you more than Edric ever will. What you want from him only I can give you.

Instead of assuring me that Edric loved me, God reminded me that HE (GOD) loved me. That’s all He had to whisper to me. For the first time in a very long while, I recognized that my disappointment with Edric wasn’t due to him looking at another woman. It was due to a flaw in my focus. I wanted Edric to make me feel beautiful, cherished, and important.

On the one hand this desire was a natural consequence of giving myself wholly to him in marriage. I gave my heart to him, after having evaluated that he was the safest person on this planet to give my heart to. However, it came with an unspoken expectation – Edric, you better make me feel special. I better be the most special woman to you. I think it was short of saying, “Worship me as the queen of your heart.”

Yikes.

For as long as I enjoyed the attention of Edric, for as long as I was certain that he had eyes only for me as he claimed to have, then I felt good about myself. Since the foundation of my peace was built on something so fragile and so easily stolen, I got upset with a minor incident that made me feel like I wasn’t the most special woman to him when it came to physical attractiveness. The reality of aging, feeling like an autumn chicken compared to this perky spring chicken of a woman made feel dethroned in my husband’s eyes, and it was so injurious to my ego that I absolutely needed to hear what the Lord said to me in the toilet.

Here’s my paraphrase of what the Lord was basically telling me…Joy, just stop it! Stop being so needy for the love and adoration of your husband. I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, SO PERFECTLY, JUST AS YOU ARE, FLAWS AND ALL, AND I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU COMPLETELY AND NEVER MAKE YOU FEEL COMPARED TO ANYONE.

After this moment with the Lord, I just had to tell all the women in the audience the same message! Before doing so, I spoke to Edric in private and asked him for forgiveness (a real sorry this time) and I got his permission to share what happened between us. Many women came up to me afterwards thanking me for telling the story.

Whether single or married, all of us women need to find our worth in the Lord, not in people, circumstances, beauty, or achievements. Possessions, fame, the way we look, and our accomplishments will always be trumped by another person eventually. Yet God’s love for us will never change. It won’t change when we fail, make mistakes, get cast aside, forgotten, or even when we grow old.

The very next day, on the plane ride home, God gave me a special verse in Isaiah which read, “…I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. ‘To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal?'” Isaiah 46:3-5 NLT

What a tender image of God’s fatherly love for His children! For me! For you!

For the last two weeks, I have dwelt on this passage and let it wash over my heart and mind to renew my perspective on Edric, myself, and my marriage.

Who can love me like the Lord can, like the Lord does? No one. Until I embrace this truth, I will always be striving to feel good enough, to feel worthy, even in my husband’s eyes. My comfort is that God doesn’t love me because I have something special to offer Him. Instead He makes me special because He loves me. He gave His life for me as proof that He does. There is no guy, no Edric on this earth who has the power or the perfection to do that for me.

In his book, The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller writes, “He (Jesus) loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely.” (pg. 109)

He also explains, “Each of us comes to marriage with a disordered inner being. Many of us have sought to overcome self-doubts by giving ourselves to our careers. That will mean we will choose our work over our spouse and family to the detriment of our marriage. Others of us hope that unending affection and affirmation from a beautiful, brilliant romantic partner will finally make us feel good about ourselves. That turns the relationship into a form of salvation, and no relationship can live up to that…If I look to my marriage to fill the God-sized spiritual vacuum in my heart, I will not be in a position to serve my spouse. Only God can fill a God-sized hole. Until God has the proper place in my life, I will always be complaining that my spouse is not loving me well enough, not respecting me enough, not supporting me enough…” (pg. 72 – 73)


My conflict with Edric ended when I stopped focusing on what I wanted him to do for me to make me feel good about myself, and when I started focusing on what God has done for me so I could do good to others, especially to Edric. Edric has made his own resolutions with the Lord about guarding his eyes, which I appreciate, but that’s between him and the Lord. If he does his best to have eyes only for me even as I age then what a wonderful bonus! If he struggles here and there, my hope is in God as 1 Peter 3 reminds me… “This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God…” (v.5)

I don’t know where you are at in your marriage, or whether this entry resonates with you somehow, but I hope you will answer the question, Who is God in your life? What you and I think about Him will profoundly impact how we view ourselves, as well as our relationship with our spouses. We can’t love our spouses unconditionally if we don’t understand how deeply and perfectly loved we are by God. And, we won’t be happy in our marriages if we keep replacing God with our spouses, ourselves, and other things.

A Culture of Contentment at Home


For this past Sunday’s message, Edric was tasked to speak on the pitfall of materialism, so he asked me to share some practical ideas on how we try to instil contentment in the hearts of our children. I have to say that we are a work in progress as a family and we keep learning what it means to be content in the Lord, but here are some tips that have working so far…

WAIT.

There’s no surprise here, but wait, there’s more!

Waiting is something children ABSOLUTELY NEED to learn early. We have this symbol that we do with our kids, especially for our younger ones. It’s called “the hand.” We calmly say, “Wait,” when they want something and want it now, and we give them the hand symbol, palm facing towards them.

If anyone of our kids doesn’t receive this positively or they act up, like our youngest daughter used to do (and sometimes still does), then we tell them, “If you fuss, you will not get it at all.”


She now knows that the correct response is a respectful and cheerful, “Okay, mommy” Or, “Okay, daddy.”

It could be a snack, a toy, a gadget, anything that our kids feel they are entitled to at that moment, but if their attitude is demanding or we sense that it can be a training opportunity, we encourage them to wait.

One way we have done this is by practicing delayed gratification with Christmas presents and birthday presents. Since we have five kids, they get a ton of presents from relatives and friends. Although we let them unwrap each one, they don’t get to play with all of them. They can choose one or two and then the rest get put away for the next week or the weeks after.

Since I homeschool, it also works to my advantage because I use their gifts as motivational prizes. I say, “If you get your work done, you can play with a new toy!”

For our older kids, we challenge them to save up to buy a gadget or earn an app (virtual possession) that’s important to them instead of handing them the latest device or paying for a game that they want.


When our oldest son, Elijah, was eyeing an IPad some years ago, Edric gave him jobs to do like speaking in public during road shows or seminars. So he earned and saved up enough money to pay for 75% of his Ipad Air. He also had to canvas for the IPad and find the best deal himself. By the time he bought the IPad, it was after months and months of hard work, saving up, and researching.

Our second son, Edan, is one of those people who can obsess about something he likes. Last year he had his eyes set on a certain board game called Sushi Go Party. We made him wait for many weeks, maybe even months because the game wasn’t available locally. He wrestled with the waiting, but God knew he needed the lesson. Edan admitted that the desire for the game was so intense in a bad way that it was healthy for him NOT to get it right away. The protracted amount of time it took for him to wait for the board game taught him that he could be perfectly happy without it.

Because our older kids don’t like toys anymore and gravitate towards educational apps, books, and strategy board games, we have created guidelines such as, “Will this help you to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men?” (This is based on the passage in Luke 2:52 that describes how Jesus Christ matured.)

This verse enables our children to filter through their emotions and excitement so they can discern whether a game (a virtual possession) will be profitable for them intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

STEWARDSHIP.

To weed out the tendency of our kids to be selfish, we remind them that God owns everything. We are entrusted with blessings as His stewards. So when they are given a material possession, we tell them, “You are a steward of this. You are assigned to take care of it. You don’t own it.”

As they get older, this reality sinks in and they are more likely to share and not utter statements such as, “No, this is mine!”

If our kids fight over an object, toy, book, or food and refuse to share, we take it away and explain, “Since you are fighting over this, no one gets to have it.”

Most of the time, they will apologize to one another when the source of their conflict is removed and they come to their senses. Suddenly, their capacity to share kicks in and they say to one another, “Okay, you can have it.”

Since the Lord owns everything, we also encourage our kids to give by tithing. Our kids don’t get an allowance as homeschoolers so they have to tithe from jobs we give them, garage sales, or gifts. It’s not always easy. In fact, I remember an instance when they barely made money from a business idea they had, but they still chose to tithe. Their faithfulness ministered to me because they struggled to make the money they did. He wonderful bonus was that God allowed to sell all of the stocks that remained after their event so they ended up making much more! (And they tithed from that amount, too.)

GIVE TO OTHERS.

Besides tithing, we do periodic clean-ups at home where we ask our kids to comb through their belongings and give away or garage-sale their stuff for dirt cheap. Edric and I do the same. It’s like a massive exodus of items from the home that go out in boxes and large bags. The purging experience always has a positive effect on our entire family. We realize that we can be content with less and be a blessing to others, too. Plus, it keeps us from accumulating and hoarding, as well as getting overly attached to material things.

Tiana and me…going through my side of the closet.


When there are opportunities to participate in ministry outreaches to the less fortunate, we also get our kids involved so that their focus and giving can be directed outside of themselves. When they recognize how destitute other people are, it encourages them to contribute to the lives of others rather than mere takers.

“Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” (1 Timothy‬ ‭6:17-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

VALUE SIMPLICITY.

I grew up with parents who didn’t buy luxury brand clothes, shoes, or watches which protected my siblings and I from developing an appetite for these things. They also taught us not to develop a sense of identity or worth from what we had or owned. Observing their spending decisions encouraged me to be conscious of mine as well, and challenged me to find my identity in Christ, not in what I possessed.

I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy shopping or buying things. However, I learned, from their example that clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, make-up, while fun to have, don’t bring lasting joy. Neither do they define who I am.

“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke‬ ‭12:15‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Since I have two girls, I have to be mindful about the way I spend on myself or even for them. With my three boys, it’s easy. They aren’t into fashion and they could care less about pretty things. However, with my girls, it’s a little more challenging.

In the car ride the other day, my daughter asked me when we were going to decorate her room and I answered, “Tiana, let’s wait, okay.”

I also added something like, “Why? Are you excited?” to which she replied with a big grin on her face, “Yes, because girls like things, right!?”

At first I laughed because she said this so honestly and innocently, but I realized that I need to be especially careful with her because, she DOES LIKE THINGS. When she sees sparkly, beautiful or cutesy thing, she gushes and exclaims, “Ooohhh, that’s so nice! Can I get it mommy?”

If she witnesses me being extravagant, it would be difficult for me to say, “No, or not right now..” However, I try my best to curb my own appetite so that I can exemplify simplicity for her and for my youngest daughter.


When I talk of simplicity I don’t mean neglect, or not trying, or being a plain Jane, or abandoning all forms of adornment. Simple in the beauty sense can mean elegant and tasteful, celebrating natural beauty versus the contrived, overly made-up, and flashy. Simple in the attitude sense can be about being appreciative rather than demanding, the ability to be content with a little rather than perpetually looking to stuff and material upgrades for happiness. 

While fashion and beauty, as well as pretty things aren’t sinful in and of themselves (for example, we should try our best to look our best at whatever season we find ourselves in), it’s the focus and emphasis on these above the more important aspects of a person such as character and love for the Lord that can be spiritually dangerous.

1 John 2:15-17 very clearly states, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

It is also the motivations that drive our purchases and the acquiring, such as lust of the eyes (the incessant coveting) or the boastful pride of life (the desire to prove oneself and promote oneself), that we ought to guard our hearts against. The issue isn’t about whether we are lavish spenders or do bargain shopping, rather the weightier question is what is our purpose for the material things we spend our money on?

Working hard and striving for excellence are part of being stewards of the talents, opportunities, and abilities God has given us, and Proverbs tells us that God makes rich and adds no sorrow to it, but it’s also necessary to consider the reasons behind our lifestyle choices. 

“For the covetous heart, stuff always comes first. In a consumer culture, the obtaining and maintenance of stuff can determine our job choice, our leisure pursuits, our friendships, our house size, our local church. It can actually dictate the course of our lives…Covetousness chains the heart to things that are passing away.”  (God, My Heart, and Stuff by Dave Harvey)

WISELY EVALUATE INFLUENCES.

Edric and I find that being selective about whom we follow on social media, as well as paying attention to what we watch and listen to helps with cultivating a contentment culture at home.

Since we don’t want our children to have sub-cultures that compete with the values we are trying to instill in them, we don’t expose them to the social media phenomenon at early ages, too.

Till this day, our older sons don’t have social media accounts, and they don’t feel like they are missing out on an essential part of their youth. Eventually, they may need to connect with people online, but for now, they prefer to spend time with people face-to-face. Since they are homeschooled, we know most of their friends (and their friend’s families) very personally, and we know that they share similar values to us. Therefore it isn’t as difficult for us, as a family, to stick to our convictions on matters such as money and spending. We are on the same team. 

Many parents tell me that the pressures their children feel to acquire more and have the latest of everything are partly due to the peer exposure they have. Whether it’s online peer pressure or relationships with classmates and friends, we need to instruct our kids to filter through these influences wisely, and help them choose the friends they want to surround themselves with as close confidants. 

Let’s not discredit the fact that the TV shows, online programs, and music they watch and listen to also become a source of “peer pressure.” Young people glorifying materialism through their music videos, lyrics, and shows will inevitably influence our children and program their value system.

The same goes for us, as parents. If we are constantly watching, listening to, and filling our minds with images and/or having frequent interactions with people who tempt us to keep grabbing for more, then how can we expect to have the courage and conviction to live simply and model this to our kids?

When I was regularly entertaining myself with visits to fashion sites, or following people who promote physical beauty and the latest trends, I started to feel like my wardrobe was outdated and that it needed continual upgrades. This is one of the reasons why I subscribe to very few people and organizations on Instagram. I don’t want my account flooded with images that make me feel like I need more material things to be happy and fulfilled. (Edric only follows one person on Instagram. Oh, that’s me! Yey!)

I would caution restraint when we do online shopping, too. Amazon is my Waterloo. If I am scrolling through deals everyday, chances are I will buy most of the stuff I keep adding to my cart! Online shopping is amazing but there’s no end to what we can buy. Plus, there is such minimal effort involved in clicking the checkout symbol! So I have to flee the urge to window shop on Amazon by keeping myself from having too much idle time on my phone. 

I don’t want all of this to sound legalistic. The point is that we need to positively challenge ourselves and our kids to be discerning about what we continually expose ourselves to, whether it be through media or friends, because they will profoundly impact our value system. 

PRAY WITH THANKSGIVING.

Last year, our family was approached by an ad agency that proposed an endorsement deal guaranteeing we would be flown to Europe as a family. We signed with the company they represented in good faith. However, as the months progressed, we discovered that the trip, though approved by the local company, wasn’t approved regionally. As a result, the trip didn’t push through. Of course, the kids were disappointed.

Yet, I told the kids, “If God wants us to go, we will still get to go. If not, He has something better and we can trust Him.”

After all, just getting the endorsement deal was wonderful and something to be grateful for. Therefore, the trip, though implied throughout the preliminary discussions, would be a bonus if it ever happened.

Well, we didn’t get to go on the Europe trip in the month that we hoped to, however, it was a blessed year still. As we prayed for God’s will and trusted Him, we learned to be thankful and grateful for the many other opportunities and experiences He allowed us to share as a family.

God doesn’t always reward us with an amazing material blessing when we choose to trust Him. What He does reward us with is the gift of His presence, His joy, and His peace…infinitely better things. God’s greater will for us as found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is that we would experience what it means to rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks all the time!

There are still instances when it’s tempting to compare what we don’t have with what others do. I struggle with this and I’m sure Edric and the kids do, too. However, we are all growing in area of trusting that God’s will is always what’s best for us. 

This also means that God’s will is what is best for others, too. When our kids notice that their cousins or friends have more possessions than we do because they have greater financial flexibility, we tell them, “Let’s rejoice for them!”

After all, God loves each person so much and so personally that He knows exactly when to give and when to withhold. This perspective liberates us to quit comparing and to rejoice when others are blessed.

When we choose to be content in the Lord, less becomes more! We grow MORE in our character, in our faith, in our dependence upon the Lord, and in our capacity to empathize and relate to other people’s struggles. We also have MORE opportunities to experience God’s abounding faithfulness and grace!

“When covetousness seeks to chain our hearts to things passing away, grace empowers us to enjoy the One who is not only necessary, but enough.” (God, My Heart, and My Stuff by Dave Harvey)
 

 

 

 

 

 

Kiddo TV

Do you have kids who enjoy music, art, science, and magic? I can’t think of a child who doesn’t like at least one of these things. My kids like all four!

 

When I was asked to review Kiddo TV, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that they have episodes for a range of ages and shows that appeal to different learning needs and interests.

 

Younger children will enjoy the nursery rhymes and the Fitzy Monster show, where a lovable character named Fitzy teaches toddlers and early elementary-aged kids skills like how to brush their teeth, table manners, exercising, and much more.

 

Catalina sat on my lap and watched a couple of these. These videos were super short, and they were easy to watch.

 

Older kids (aged 6 to 10) might gravitate towards Easy Magic, where Max demonstrates how to dissect tricks that kids can wow their family and friends with.

 

There are also Art Lessons by Teacher Miki who is an energetic artist! She explains to a group of kids how to do simple but fun artwork with easy to find materials.

Then there’s Stroosh, who came from another planet and needs to be educated about the earth and how humans relate with one another. During each video, his friend Luca explains concepts to Stroosh that can scientific in nature or historical in nature, or he talks about values.

 

The only red flag I saw in the Stroosh shows was the one episode where Luca promoted meditation (not as a religious activity) but as a means to focus and relax. Luca was well-meaning and wanted to help Stroosh get a grip of his emotions. However, I did spy a miniature Buddha on his table as a prop. It was subtle and would probably miss this.

The great thing about Stroosh is that he is very teachable, proving to be a good example to kids. He is mild-mannered and wants to learn, receiving correction humbly.

There's also a cartoon Halloween video that might have some scary images for little kids but other than that, KIDDO TV is one of those channels that promotes safe edutainment for children and it is appropriate for their developmental ages. Easy Magic and Art Lessons take about fifteen minutes per episode since they cater to older kids and they are instructional, but the rest of the shows are short to keep little kids engaged. (Catalina is watching one of the nursery rhymes right now and thoroughly enjoying it!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hon, You Have to Be a Better Homemaker”

When my husband, Edric, told me I had to be more involved in the home as a “homemaker,” meaning, “to put my whole heart into it,” I felt offended. He didn’t intend to put me down, but I reacted to his correction, primarily due to pride.

By my estimation, I was doing a decent job. Although I wasn’t a Martha Stewart or the kind of wife that put a whole lot of effort into making her home look Pinterest-worthy, our home was clean and our household help had a schedule that they followed, I had a meal plan, the kitchen cupboards and refrigerator were stocked with food, and there was a system in place for the day to day affairs. Plus, much of my personal time was consumed by home schooling, child-rearing, ministry, my writing, and projects/work commitments, so it wasn’t like I was lazing about as a woman.

However, Edric’s expectation for my homemaking went beyond the practical management. He hoped that I would put effort into beautifying our walls, making it feel “homey” by giving it a more lived-in look and adding personal touches, plants, paying more attention to details and upkeep issues, and finishing projects like my paintings and woodworking with the kids.

Although I didn’t agree with his perspective when he first made the comment, God convicted me that there was A LOT of room for improvement in this area of my life.

Edric is my leader. If he sees an area that I ought to better myself in then why not gladly receive it? I lose nothing by responding positively to what he asks me to do, especially since becoming a good homemaker is a means for me to be a greater blessing to him and my kids, as well as people who enter our home. I remember an insight I got from my very wise mother, “God uses our husbands to mold our character and prepare us for heaven.” Her spiritual perspective often ministers to me.

Edric and my dad are similar in the sense that they are teachers and like to help people be their best by pointing out areas they can improve in. Well, when I react to Edric’s teaching personality it’s usually because I’m proud and don’t like him telling me how I should change. However, he is almost always right. The issue is, when it comes to his correction (and only his for some reason), I get defensive. Yet, if God is using him to prepare me for heaven, then hallelujah, I should listen! After all, Proverbs 26:12 warns, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.”

Furthermore, mediocrity isn’t becoming of a follower of Christ. I should be faithful at everything I do, everything that falls under my scope of responsibilities, which includes home-managing and home-making. Not every wife has the opportunity to stay at home so I understand that some of us have time constraints. Yet in my case, there really is no excuse. God has gifted Edric and me with a wonderful home to steward. How can I expect the Lord to entrust me with more important responsibilities if I’m not being faithful with what he has laid in front of me?

Truthfully, my home can use some attention, MY attention. (It’s different when a wife and mom personally sees to the details of her home rather than delegating these to household help.)

I can start by taking care of the small issues that I’ve been ignoring…left-over construction materials hidden in the backyard…a disorganized storage room…a broken kitchen clock (just fixed this)…lightbulbs that need replacing…family photos that need to be hung (did this yesterday! Woohoo!)… (As I make this list, I’m realizing how pathetic it is that I’m not attending to these things!)

Lastly and most importantly, I’m supposed to be my husband’s strong supporter, his Ezer Kenegdo, his “helper” as Genesis 2:18 puts it. By not embracing what he is asking me to do as a homemaker wholeheartedly, I’m not fulfilling my role as God has called me to.

Three months ago I borrowed a book from my mom, Becoming, which had an amazing chapter in it about a woman’s role written by Chrystie Cole, titled We Are Ezer. The word, Ezer, as found in the Genesis text was used a descriptor for Eve and Chrystie Cole explains that it meant "ally, aid, someone who brings support and relief" (the same word used to describe the Lord twenty-one times in the Old Testament).

It is adjoined to the word, Kenegdo, which means "corresponding to or suitable to." The two words together reveal that women are supposed to be the essential counterpart, indispensable companion, or corresponding strength to the people in our lives. Whether single or married, this is a God-given identity to us as women, fully realized in the context of our relationships with others. We were designed to strengthen and support the people in our lives with our talents, gifts, abilities, and encouragement. Since I am a wife and a mom, I am to be an Ezer to Edric and my kids.

According to Chrystie Cole, “A good illustration of this strength can be drawn from a 12th-century architectural innovation known as the flying buttress. Commonly used in Gothic architecture, a flying buttress provides essential support hat preserves the architectural soundness and integrity of a building. These buttresses bear weight and relieve pressure from the walls, allowing for higher ceilings, ornate latticing, and extra windows. Like these powerful structures, a woman provides an undergirding strength within the context of relationship that empowers others to become and achieve things that might have otherwise been impossible. She is an essential counterpart providing necessary, load-bearing support.”

Is that a beautiful example or what?! I nearly teared when I first read this! Thank you Chrystie Cole!

When I asked my husband earlier this year, “How can I support you as a wife?” (Be warned…this is a dangerous question to ask your husband if you aren’t ready and willing to humbly receive the answer!) His response was, “Take care of the home and do the things I ask you to.”

Even back then I knew that he wanted me to delight in being at home and managing our home wholeheartedly, but I would get distracted and fill up my calendar with other things to do, and simply delegate the homemaking to my household help. Now I better understand that he notices the difference between my full engagement and presence as a homemanager, and my convenient detachment from it.

I started this article a few days ago, but yesterday, when Edric came home, he found me using a power tool (oh yeah), a drill, to make holes in our wall to hang our family photos in the hallway upstairs. I also hung up one of my paintings, which had been stored in the linen closet for over a year. Elijah ably assisted me with the drill, too.

Together with the kids, I started a garden project in the yard, which is something Edric wanted me to be on top of. The kids and I also kickstarted their story-book writing for the seven character books that Edric’s been asking us to do for the last two years, Plus, I spent about an hour trimming all the bamboo that was overgrown and looking hideously neglected instead of waiting on Edric to do the gardening. During my mad-bamboo-cutting-spree, I got bitten at least twenty times by red ants. Yet after a day of wholehearted homemaking, I felt very fulfilled! The kids enjoyed helping me as well, which was a wonderful bonus, since it got them outdoors and encouraged them to be productive and learn new skills.

I didn’t mean to brag in the last part by talking about everything I did yesterday, but I didn’t want to end this article by “preaching” about things that I need to apply myself. So I got crackin’ on my home-making!

There remains a list of things to do that will probably never end, and I’m still not a Martha Stewart by any measure, but I’m thankful that God is using my teacher-husband to refine me in the very best way. Without his corrections and suggestions about how to be better I would stagnate as a person and never achieve my fullest potential as an Ezer to him, my kids, and to others.

If you have a husband like me or persons in your life who challenge you to grow and improve, let’s praise the Lord together! This is going to be good for us! We need this!

 

 

 

 

 

God-Confidence in Kids

I am not an advocate of getting kids into modeling at a young age because it can make them focused on their external appearance as well as derive their sense of identity and worth from the way they look and how others perceive them.  However, I also believe that carefully chosen modeling or acting opportunities can be beneficial for kids, to break them out of their shells so they can shine for the Lord. 

From time to time our family gets offered endorsement opportunities and I praise God that these normally involve all of our kids and Edric and me, or some of our kids and Edric or me. In other words, it’s usually a family endorsement and more importantly, a product or service that is aligned with our values and principles. 

The milk brand, Friso Four, which is for kids above the age of three years old (past the breastfeeding age) is one such product. Their cows are hormone and antibiotic free, and they are cared for by farmers who are personally invested in their farms. Farmers basically own Friesland Campina, the mother company behind Friso. So they love their cows! 

Our family’s contract with Friso involved our daughters and me engaging one another through outdoor activities and play, and promoting the importance of nature in the lives of our kids — eating healthy, good sunlight, exercise, and exploration. 

For the shoot today, Tiana was tasked to memorize many lines. When she first saw the script she felt nervous and concerned about her ability to memorize and execute what was required of her. However, we prayed together and dedicated the shoot to the Lord, and her courage increased. She got through each part so well, and without compromising her personality as a sweet and demure girl. 

I was so proud of her! As a younger girl, Tiana struggled with self-consciousness and she worried about what people’s opinion of her. Sometimes she still does. However through the years I have encouraged her to consider the needs of others and bravely attempt to make friends and reach out to people instead of focusing on herself. It’s taken some time but in the last few months, I have seen her grow and mature in this area. She is friendlier towards kids, like her ballet classmates and art class friends, and she has a better understanding of God-confidence. 

God-confidence, as opposed to self-confidence or self-esteem, is knowing that God is the one who gives us the ability and capacity to do things that are difficult or out of our comfort zones. Self-confidence or self-esteem is believing in one’s strengths and who they are to accomplish what they want and need to. A God-confident person relies on Him to meet the challenges He calls him or her to. 

For example, I don’t like speaking in public. It’s still stressful for me to prepare a talk and muster up the courage to stand before an audience even if I have been involved in public speaking for years. Yet this is something I do as unto to the Lord, giving seminars and talks alongside my husband on relationships, marriage, parenting, and homeschooling. I have to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about being a blessing to others, a vessel to communicate God’s principles on these topics in order to help people. But I have to depend on the Lord and not myself if I am to be effective. 

Therefore, I am also teaching Tiana how to exhibit God-confidence when she is asked to do something that is beyond what’s comfortable for her. There were several instances when she teared today, primarily because she didn’t like it when she couldn’t do an excellent job with her lines or with the acting. Catalina assisted by wiping her forehead and handing her tissues when she would tear. The crew and I assured her that she was doing a wonderful job and that it was okay to fail. That’s what retakes were for. Plus, I told her I loved her no matter what and I was there for her. We prayed together several times. 


When she finished the difficult takes, she felt a sense of accomplishment, which is also why I encouraged her to complete her job even if it wasn’t easy. I didn’t force her. I just gave her a pep talk to calm her nerves. We also chatted about how I used to get scared and cry and we had a good laugh about it. 

Kids need to be conditioned to do hard things. For as long as these “things” aren’t abusive, against God’s Word, or imposed upon them because a parent is trying to live out their dreams through them, then kids can benefit from positive pressure, healthy competition, real world challenges, and difficult character-building tasks. However, it matters how we process the experiences with them, reminding them that motivations, purposes out to be for the Lord, and empowering ought to come from the Lord. 

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”‭‭ 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭

When I asked Tiana, “How were you able to do all your lines and acting?”, her sweet response was, “I have Jesus in me…”