Real Wealth

We checked on the status of our house a few days ago. It was exciting to see all the bedroom furniture being assembled in the rooms. Once the bedrooms are done, we can move in even if the rest of the house isn’t completely finished yet. Well, that’s the plan. Edric’s plan. Most people have said this is the best way to move things along when you are in the finishing stages.

When we were at the site, the kids ran up the stairs to look into the rooms, eager to see their personal spaces taking form. In the boy’s room, we assigned areas.

“Elijah this will be your bed, Edan this is yours and Titus this is for you.”

The boys started cheering and Titus pointed to the floor and asked, “On the floor?” There was no disappointment in his tone. He identified a spot in between two beds and waited for me to confirm it.

I took his face in my hands and said, “Oh no honey, you will have your own bed!” And I started to tear. It probably sounds silly that I did. But if you know Titus, how candid and unpretentious he can be, then my reaction would make sense. He has never complained about sleeping on a mat, on the floor. For him this has been the manner of his place as the youngest son. He didn’t have a “real” bed because there was no room for one in our condo. But at that moment I was showing him a new bed frame and he didn’t see it. He just assumed he would be getting the floor as always.

When I corrected him, he was like, “Really? Yeah! I will have my own bed!”

And he went on to say, “You know,
Mom, I never liked sleeping on the floor…”

I went to the bathroom and composed myself because I was VERY teary-eyed by then. Edric saw me and took me in his arms. Both of us stood there in gratefulness and amazement for the house that God has given to us. It’s a big upgrade for our entire family. Previously, we lived in 137 square meters shared between 9 people (our family and two househelps).

That is still larger than 90% of what the world’s population probably lives in. So I am not saying that we had a bad deal. But I grew up in a large house and when I got married, our first home — a one bedroom condo — was relatively small.

God taught me through the years to look forward to his provision and not to worry about when it would come. Besides, I didn’t need our first home to be larger. I had to do all the cleaning so I was okay with small! More importantly, Edric was in it and that’s what mattered to me. There was love, joy, and peace…things that expanded infinitely beyond the four walls of our home.

We had friends who started off with generously sized houses when they were newly married. That was not our beginning. We did not have much, financially speaking, so our initial home was simple. In fact, when we had our eldest, Elijah, he didn’t even have a crib for a while. He slept on a mattress on the floor. When I needed to feed him at night, I would go down to the floor and sleep beside him.

It’s amazing that he didn’t crawl off! The floor was carpeted so he wasn’t in danger of hitting himself. I think we put all kinds of pillows around him to keep him safe. Well…I probably would’ve been chided by sleep safe advocates, but back then, it was our best option.

God increased the size of our home as children were added. When Edan was born, we moved to a three bedroom condo. It suited us just fine until our fifth, Catalina, came along. Thankfully, by then, we were building our house.

In September 2013, we said goodbye to our condo and had it renovated shortly after. We had most of our belongings boxed up and stored in a warehouse. In the interim we stayed at my parents, and Edric’s for a bit, too. (We are still in this nomadic state until our final move.)

Our most recent home with hardly anything left in it…

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After we finished renovating the condo, I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I was excited that we had moved out and moved on. But on the other hand, we spent 8 years in that place. It was hard for me to say goodbye. Even if it was emptied out, retouched and repainted, I still had visions of our children in the rooms, playing, laughing, growing up.

I will miss every inch of that three bedroom condo. It was cozy. It had the smells and sounds of us.

When Titus made the comment about the floor, I thought of how
God has been our faithful provider. I know others may get their house and lot dreams fulfilled much earlier. And maybe others are still waiting on theirs, but for us this is neither too early or too late.

If it had happened sooner we wouldn’t have been ready. Edric and I needed to learn simplicity, humility, gratitude, and so did our children. We are still learning these virtues. But had we skipped to the house and lot bit of our history without going through condo living and tighter spaces, we might have become casualties of too much comfort. It’s always easier to upgrade than to downgrade, to upsize than to downsize.

I like our Heavenly Father’s manner of blessing, too. He is and always will be the source of infinite resources and abundance, but he tempers and minds the valve that releases these to his children. Material things have a way of replacing our spiritual hunger for the eternal. And, there is nothing more impoverishing to the human soul than to be stuffed full of prosperity and thereby emptied of the want for God.

Edric used to tell me that this passage was one of his favorites. “O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord ?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. (Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT)

I have to admit that when he told me this was one of his “prayers” I thought, “Oh great, that’s it. We are never going to be rich.” But my mindset was all wrong. I was thinking that money would bring me security and happiness. It’s not that I wanted loads of it to spend on myself. I just wanted to know we had it, that we didn’t have to worry about where it would come from.

Well, God allowed Edric and I to begin simply to teach me not to anchor my faith on money but on Him. When I learned to live with less — less money, less space, less possessions — I found that I always had more than enough to be happy and thankful for. I like what English clergyman and writer Thomas Fuller said, “Riches enlarge rather than satisfy appetites.”

I am not saying that I have graduated from contentment. Not at all! This is a lesson that needs to be learned and re-learned depending on the circumstances that test it. Neither am I saying that money is unimportant. Edric and I have five kids! Money is necessary and very much welcome whenever it comes. What I am saying is that starting off with a small home and having a very limited budget to work with when we were newly married was a blessing. It was God’s master plan for our character development.

From this genesis Edric and I grew to understand that God always takes care of his children. We also learned that abundance is not the condition for true joy. True joy is to know God and his love for us, to be certain that his plans for our welfare are always for our good.

What is a big house without God in the hearts of those who live in it? And conversely, the tiniest of spaces could be home to the richest people on earth — people who abound with the joy of the God, who can laugh, cry, and love without fear, who extend forgiveness and grace to one another, who can sleep peacefully at night, and wake up with hopeful expectation and the gift of new mercies.

With just a few weeks left till we are finally in our “dream home”, a house that only God could’ve built and provided for, I want to remember that real wealth is the treasure of Jesus Christ. It is not the absence of struggle or the fulfillment of desire. It is the recognition and enjoyment of His presence with the ones we cherish the most, and finding that we can be fully satisfied during seasons of want and seasons of plenty because he is with us, in our home, and in our hearts.

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Go to Heaven Together

Between Edric and I, he is perceived as the “stricter” one by our children. It’s not that I’m not strict. I also set boundaries and rules for our kids. When I use the word “strict” I mean it in a positive way. Our children know our values, and why we want them to internalize them.

At the same time, we don’t want them to honor or obey us out of compulsion. We want them to develop convictions about what is right and wrong, to be discerning about their choices because they want to please God. After all, they won’t always live at home and we won’t alway be around. Someday they will be on their own. When they are confronted with moral choices in the future, no one will be looking over their shoulder. It will be between them and God.

Some nights ago, Edric walked into the kids’ bedroom to pray with the boys and they scrambled away from the IPad. I had told them earlier that they could play for a little while before going to bed. But it was 8:27 by the time they finished taking a shower and putting on their pajamas. This was just three minutes before their bedtime, so they didn’t really have time to play.

Edric asked, “What happened?” He wanted to know why they ran away from the IPad.

“We were scared.” Edan said. He thought that Edric would say no more playing on the Ipad because it was time for bed.

“Why are you scared? You don’t have to be scared. You know that whatever you enjoy, I also enjoy. I will only be concerned if you are not growing in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and men.” He wanted to assure them that they didn’t have to feel unnecessary guilt or fear.

The kids looked relieved and they smiled.

They conversed for a bit about playing on the IPad and Edric went on to say, “Sometimes there are things that are not good online and that’s what I want you to be careful about. You have to guard yourselves, because sometimes the devil puts things there that you aren’t supposed to see. And you know, daddy’s not going to be here all the time…”

For some reason, Edan latched on to the line “daddy’s not going to be here all the time,” and he started to cry.

When Edric asked him why he was crying, his answer was, “I don’t like it when you talk about you dying or mommy dying.” This wasn’t really what Edric was saying, but this statement created an emotional chain reaction and all three of our boys were in tears.

Edric very comfortingly said, “I finished a book today and I learned about the principle of a dot and a line. Our life is the dot and we don’t live for the dot, we live for the line, for eternity. What we do here on earth matters in heaven. And because we all believe in Jesus, we will see each other in heaven someday.

The boys’ fears were somewhat alleviated and he tucked them all in to bed and prayed with them. Afterwards, he came into our room and told me about their conversation.

As a mom, I couldn’t help it. I went to check on them, to make sure they were okay. They were buried under their covers.

I hugged each one of them. Titus looked up at me with tears in his eyes and pleaded, “Mom, can I sleep with you in your room?”

Edan and Elijah appeared from beneath their blankets and I went to each one of them. I was laying beside Edan on the bed and he seemed to be deep in thought. When I asked him if he was alright, he didn’t divulge all the details of the conversation he and his brothers had just shared with Edric. Typical. He’s a pretty mysterious fellow. But he did admit that he cried.

When I asked him why, he started to get teary-eyed again. Elijah, on the bed across from him, told me, “Edan said his one wish in all the world is that we all go to heaven together.” And with that statement, Edan bawled again. Elijah was trying to be more mature about it and control his emotions, but he was tearing up. Titus looked pretty weepy himself.

Oh these boys! So incredibly sweet and loving. My heart melted.

To lighten the mood, I said, “That’s my prayer, too! I pray that we will all be raptured together!” (I really do pray that!)

They still seemed distraught over the reality that Edric and I will die someday, so I gave them an invitation, “Do you guys all want to sleep in our room tonight?” Their eyes lit up. Of course they did! The one thing they wanted at that moment was to be with us.

So we had a slumber party in our room. The kids dragged their bedspreads and pillows through the door and slept on the floor. Edric was all for it, too.

We both looked at one another as we took in the site of our five children all around us. (Even the girls were with us.) How incredibly blessed we felt. I whispered to Edric what Edan’s one wish was – about being together in heaven – and then it was our time to get emotional. We had this knowing look as we glanced at one another, we don’t deserve these kids!

What a privilege and responsibility to have their hearts like we do. Our children want to be with us. They are happiest when they are in our company. They feel most secure when we are around. We are the people they feel most attached to. 

I’d like it to always be this way. But the reality is this earthly togetherness will change as our children grow up and as Edric and I age. And at one point, physical death will separate us here. But if we have heaven to look forward to, we need not dwell on what we will loose in this temporal world. What we enjoy on this earth as a family — the like-mindedness and like-heartedness in Christ that is our bond — is but a foretaste of what we have to look forward to in eternity. So while it is sobering to consider the passing of what we hold dear, we must cling to the hope that the joy we share can go on forever if we love and follow Jesus Christ. Edan’s wish need not be a balm of a dream. It will be a certainty if we, as parents, teach our children to make choices that mirror that hope. 

John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.

 

1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”

 

 

 

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Family Photo Turns Into A Billboard

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 11.05.29 PMAfter giving birth to Catalina, I asked Edric several times if we could schedule a family photo session. We never got around to doing it. Amazingly, a month ago, the brand manager of Cetaphil, Joel Andrada, got in touch with Edric and told him about the concept for their new ad campaign. Joel asked if he could feature our family.

Edric was like, “We have five kids!” He wasn’t sure if Joel would be willing to get all of us for the shoot, but the crazy thing is, he was. Even Catalina was going to be included as a “talent.” Wee little Catalina at 5 months.

Cetaphil also needed grandparents so they asked if Edric’s parents or mine could be part of the shoot. Fortunately, my mother in law and father in law were available. (They have incredible skin so they were perfect for the campaign.)

The shoot began mid-morning and was done early afternoon. It was so easy to work with the team — Jasmine Mendiola was the make-up artist who made me look better than I actually look. Check out her work at Jasmine Mendiola Ana Kalaw did the styling. She minded every detail. The talented David Fabros was our photographer. He was incredibly patient with all our kids! Of course he was also a perfectionist. He even noticed that one of my eyebrows was not as filled in as the other one. See his photography site here: davidfabros.com

I wish I could name every person that helped out on the set. But my memory for names as of late has been horrible due to lack of sleep. There was an entire team making sure the shoot came together and they were all very accommodating, understanding of our zoo-of-a-family, and professional.

I had to feed Catalina a couple of times in between photo sessions. She only went ballistic once or twice. The other kids did very well and held out til early afternoon. Apparently, the DOLE is very protective of children who do photoshoots, commercials or appear on TV. (And they should be.) Some of their rules about child labor:

1. Only 4 hours per day/20 hours per week /2 days break in between
2. 30% of earnings must go into their savings account
3. If they earn more than 200k it must be put into a trust fund
4. They cannot be forced to do work.

Parents are required to attend a seminar that orients us on the laws protecting children. And permits need to be secured for each child.

It was such a privilege to do the shoot for Cetaphil. I have always liked their products. And I discovered more products in their line up that address specific needs for every person in our family! Oily skin, dry skin, eczema-prone skin, aging skin, baby skin. Cetaphil has something that is suitable for everyone without compromising the gentleness on the skin that has been associated with its brand.

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The added bonus for me was experiencing God’s provision. We are in the final stage of building our home and sometimes it feels like we are bleeding money. But God continues to confirm that everything we have comes from him. He gives us what we need and more in big and small ways.

I thought it was pretty miraculous that Cetaphil got every single person in our family and my parents-in-law, to do this shoot. I mean, I just wanted a family photo that I could frame but God gave us a billboard on almost every major highway! He is amazing!

Thank you Lord! Thank you Cetaphil!;)

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Kids Need Their Fathers

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Some weeks ago my third son, Titus, was recovering from a cough and cold so he had to stay away from the other kids. Edric happened to see him peering out of the window, all alone. So he called out, “Do you want to go walking with daddy?” Titus was thrilled. He ran down the stairs and put on his shoes.

Edric walked with him all the way to the park and back. And Titus talked the whole time. He is not much of a talker so this was significant. Some of the things he said were, “So you and mommy have been married 5 times right, because you have five kids?” “Someday I am going to marry Tiana.” Of course Edric corrected his understanding of marriage and explained why he can’t marry his sister. It was a precious time, just the two of them.

When Titus got back home, he announced to his siblings that “dad went walking with him.” He narrated how Edric saw him at the window and called out to him. He was very proud to tell everyone.

A child’s self-worth is very much hinged on the attention and regard given by his or her parents. But, I think this is especially true for the time a father gives to a son. There is something special about the affirmation and validation a son receives from his dad.

I know a couple of guys who admitted that they tried to compensate for what their fathers’ did not give by turning to unhealthy habits and behaviors, relationships, and friendships, or pursuing ambitions in order to feel whole.

No one can give back the years that a father was absent or heal the wounds that his flaws inflicted. However, I have also seen men who did not live with the example of a godly father or receive the love and affection of a dad recover from their deep brokenness. Their new identity and self-worth came through Jesus Christ.

Two Sundays ago, I listened to the testimony of a man who was physically and sexually abused by his own father. He was betrayed and harmed on multiple levels as a young boy. As a result, he grew up without a compass. In his young adult years he turned to homosexual relationships and a decadent lifestyle to feel happy. But he was never satisfied with that life.

When he finally encountered Jesus Christ and understood how much he was loved, forgiven and redeemed by God, he became a transformed person. Today he is living for Christ. He admits that he is still tempted by sexual sin but he continues to pursue God’s design for him as a man. He has a peace and joy that he never used to.

I believe that no one is beyond God’s grasp. God can always redeem the mistakes of our parents. As this passage says, “Behold, the Lord ‘s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1 NASB)

However, let us not be the kind of parents who shipwreck the lives of our children. We may not be as bad as a father who beats and molests his children, but are we present to disciple, lead and train our children, steering their hearts toward God?

Most likely, you are a young woman or a wife or a mom reading this post. And if you are married to a husband who is neglecting your children emotionally and spiritually, hope in God. Pray for him. (Look at yourself, too, and pray about the areas where you need to change…we can all change for the better.)

When Edric and I had a smaller family, I prayed for him to step up as the spiritual leader of our home, that his heart would be turned towards our children. At the beginning he was great at prioritizing me and his work, but he didn’t really know how to be an intentional and purposeful father. But as we had more sons, he realized that they needed him. They needed him to model biblical manhood and to teach them what it means to love and follow Christ. And he couldn’t do this unless he spent time with them and built a relationship with them.

Today parenting is a team effort between us. We still make mistakes but we continue to refer to God’s word for guidance. We also ask for forgiveness from our kids when we fail to be Christ-like.

Just yesterday, Edric asked Titus to forgive him for being irritable. While I was correcting Titus and Tiana for speaking to one another with an unkind tone, I asked them, “Do mommy and daddy do that?” trying to point out that they should copy our example. Titus replied, “No, but daddy gets angry sometimes.” He clarified that daddy doesn’t shout but he can get irritated. Of course I passed on this observation to Edric. And he was very repentant about it and apologized to Titus, who readily forgave him.

Edric and I continue to pray for one another as we parent our kids. He prays for me to be the mom I need to be and I pray for him to have the wisdom he needs to lead our family. Author Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I agree with this but I also believe that whether man or woman, before God, we are all broken and need repairing. If we want to build strong children as parents, we have to recognize that we can’t do it apart from Christ.

Furthermore, if we find ourselves in a season of parenting alone as a mother, then we can be encouraged by God’s tender description of himself as father to the fatherless. What an assurance that he will provide in the areas where we cannot! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. (Psalms 68:5 NLT) Kids need their fathers, but more than a loving, godly earthly father, they need the FATHER OF ALL.

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Twelve Things I Love About Christmas

Top 12 reasons why Christmas is my FAVORITE time of the year:

1. Food. It feels like I gain an extra five pounds every Christmas but the pounds are well worth the pleasure of the food I get to eat. This season I am a breastfeeding mom so at least I get to burn off some of it without having to exercise. Thank you Lord for breastfeeding!

Breakfast Christmas morning at my in-laws…Tapa, Ham, Bangus (my dream breakfast)

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2. Going up to Baguio. A couple of days before Christmas we stay at Baguio Country Club with my parents and siblings. We invade the place with all our children!

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The kids always look forward to being with their cousins and the cooler weather. It wasn’t too cold this year…unfortunately. But we still enjoyed a bunch of activities — strawberry picking, horseback riding, zip-lining, roller blading, and buffet-eating at the club.

Tree Top Adventure in John Hay…

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Zip-lining for the little ones…

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3. Celebrating my birthday. My birthday is so close to Christmas, but Edric always manages to make it a special day for me.

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This year, he got each of the children to bring me flowers and he asked all of them to write me notes, including our househelp. Those were especially meaningful to read. He also secretly deposited shopping money into my account. Yay!
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4. Shopping for gifts. I really enjoy buying gifts for friends and loved ones. With the help of Amazon, Bath & Body, Christian Book and my sister’s mad packing skills, I received a balikbayan box full of presents to wrap early December.

5. Wrapping gifts. Because I like paper so much, I have so much fun using wrapping paper, paper bags, ribbons and gift tags to package each present. It’s therapeutic. I found a great deal for Christmas gift bags at Uniwide. P150 a kilo! Also, S and R had a buy one take one for their paper. I like the width of the bigger paper you can buy there. Easier to wrap big presents.

6. Letting the kids shop for one another. We have this tradition of giving the kids shopping money to buy toys for one another and their cousins. It makes them think of others before themselves and they learn how to work with a budget. The little ones have to resist the urge to pick out things for themselves. Of course I go bananas trying to manage them in the toy store. We went to the Toy Kingdom in Podium because it was smaller, less crowded, and more “contained.” I wasn’t worried about the kids walking around by themselves.

7. Throwing a party for our househelp. My siblings and I plan a party for all of our househelp. We organize games and buy them prizes and let them have a big feast. It is our yearly appreciation party, to let them know how much we care about them. These men and women are partners in our ministry and parenting. We value their loyalty and service very much.

Edric’s mom and dad also invite people to come to their home — people who have worked for them in the past or people who are related to those who work for them at present. There were about 40 people who came to receive gifts and money on the 25th. The kids learned to be a blessing. They were assigned to give money to each person that passed in front of them. Afterwards one of my kids said, “I am so glad we did this!”

8. Get-togethers. I am blessed to have married into a wonderful family. Edric’s parents (mommy and papa to me) and his siblings are amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better in laws. They are a joy to be with and it’s very easy to love them. They are big on traditions like Christmas morning spent together, lunches with the Mendozas and dinners with the Espiritus. My parents and siblings are less particular about the 25th, so we see each other on the 26th.

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9. Celebrating with our Bible Study Group. We have an even bigger family that is made up of dear friends. We have shared in one another’s victories, defeats, struggles, afflictions, and joys. When we get together during the Christmas season it is a reminder that we are all recipients of God’s grace. These are the people who have journeyed alongside us in our Christian walk.

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10. Edric is on vacation-mode. This means he is totally chill and relaxed. He has lots of time to give to the kids and I and he is not stressed by deadlines or commitments. I lost his wallet the day we were supposed to leave for Baguio. I told him I didn’t have it but I accidentally put it into my bag! We looked for it for an hour. He didn’t get upset at all. Finally I saw it and sheepishly told him that it was with me the whole time. He just smiled. Whew.

11. Our Children’s Excitement. The countdown to Christmas begins early for our children. I see the twinkling in their eyes when they know it’s just a few days away and I share in their anticipation.

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It is such a thrill to watch them pull everything out of their stockings and then move on to their gifts and tear at the wrapping paper (even if I laboured over each gift’s presentation). They say things like, “Yay! This is awesome! This is my favourite! Thank you mom and dad!” Of course we remind them that they are to share all their toys and we have a policy…only one present is played with at a time so they learn restraint and self-control. Otherwise, they will not appreciate what they have received. This is how we curb their materialism and gift-gluttony. Edric also encourages them to go through their old toys to give some away. (We can’t do this yet because most of their toys are stored in a warehouse until we move to our new place).

12. God’s goodness to our family. I am so grateful to the Lord for his blessings. Everything that we have and everything that we are able to enjoy is from him. We were disappointed that we couldn’t be in our new house for Christmas. Our nomadic situation (spending a good number of weeks in my parents’ and then in Edric’s parent’s place) has been humbling. Even though both sides (Edric’s and mine) have enjoyed housing our army of a family, we want to be the grown ups we are and finally settle into our own home.

Soon after we gave birth we boxed up our condo in anticipation of being able to be in our place by December. But certain uncontrollable factors have extended the end date of the finishing stage. So we have been reminded to be grateful as a family. Our true source of happiness is beyond the material things. It is the presence of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives. He is the center of our family, the center of our Christmas. He is home to us.

DSC_0610-1Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year to You All! Thank you for being a part of my life as a reader. You inspire me to keep on writing. I praise God for all of you!

“To Be Continued”

The kids love it when Edric invents stories. He tells them almost every night while the kids are tucked in their beds. On nights when he misses story-telling time, he runs a tab with the kids. Like tonight. He had to make up four stories.

I am laying down in the room with the kids while they listen, completely riveted. The stories he tells revolve around 7 characters with similar traits and names to our own family. But they each have a super power and work together on different missions. He interjects spiritual truth and character traits, too. It’s like a TV series only better because the kids have to use their imagination.

Edric isn’t the type to read a storybook but he enjoys story-telling. He is so great at creating these make believe plots that are ridiculous but absolutely entertaining for the kids. I don’t know how he does it but he sits there inventing on the fly and the kids look forward to it every night. He told me he likes the challenge of his multi-level audience and getting reactions out of them. He also likes getting to know them as he studies their responses to his comedy or serious parts.

This routine started a few weeks ago when Edric saw Edan’s achievement test results. Everything was great except for his listening skills. When we discussed how we can help him to improve in this area, he said he would try telling stories. Of course I was thrilled! Since I do most of the homeschooling, I appreciate any sort of participation and input Edric can give to our kids. So far, these stories have been a creative way to get Edan to practice attentiveness and comprehension. Since he is a visual learner, he relies more on pictures and text. His ears need to be “trained.”

Although the initial intent was to help Edan, the kids have all gotten hooked on these stories. They remind Edric every night that it is story time or they tell him how many stories he owes them.

I imagine that someday the kids will remember these entertaining evenings. And while Edric’s stories are very interesting, I know it is his time that really matters to them. He is a busy man and the nights are perfect for him to wind down and relax. But he goes out of his way to be with the kids.

In the past he would make sure to pray with them before bedtime and they always asked for this. But with the added component of a bedtime story, the kids are developing a new kind of affection for him. They know he wants to spend extra time with them and it makes them feel really special.

He ended his story # 4 tonight in the usual manner he does, “to be continued” and they gave their usual protest “What?! Why?! because they didn’t want to be left hanging. But they know that their dad will be back tomorrow night with another good tale to tickle their imaginations. And what they know even better is that he loves them.

I snapped pictures of the kids while they were listening…(Edan looks depressed but that’s just his serious face. It was probably a serious part of the story. Elijah looks like he is sleeping but that’s how he listens.)

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Family Photo Shoot


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It was a perfectly sunny Friday morning, July 19, when we headed off to Pinto Gallery for a family photo shoot. We had prayed for good weather because it had been raining that week — the unpredictable sort of rain we tend to get in the Philippines. But Friday turned out to be just the right amount of sun. Okay, there was a lot of sun. I was sweating for most of the shoot…all of us were. Yet it was worth it!

When photographer, Jay Jay, and his wife, Tine Lucas, offered to take our family photos I was thrilled. I’ve seen their work and it is pretty magical and creative. I love their concepts and how they make a story out of each photo they take and make. I say “make” because Tine is a stylist so she knows how to put together all the little details that count.

We had no idea how grand a production they were cooking up. Wow. I was blown away. They assembled a team of hair and make-up artists (Gerry Penaso), events stylist (Eve and Company), Lifestyle by Feliz (Tine’s group), and Chestknots Studios (Jay Jay’s group). Of course, there was the very picturesque and romantic setting of Pinto Gallery in Antipolo to complete the “look” they were going for.

mendoza68I had never seen Jay Jay and Tine in action with their team before and when I finally did I was incredibly impressed. First, they work so well together — a compliment to each other’s abilities. Second, they work so hard. Third, they know how to make everyone comfortable and in their element. It’s not easy to photograph a big family like ours. With 4 young children and pregnant me, there were lots of details and factors to consider. We had psyched the kids up for that morning which helped, but it was the very natural way that Jay Jay and Tine got us all to interact and behave in front of the camera that made a big difference. Of course, the props that Eve & Co. brought to the site transported us to some sort of fantasy garden setting, too.

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This shoot exceeded our expectations and it was such a fun bonding activity for our family. Edric and the boys enjoyed being outdoors, and Tiana liked all the clothes she got to wear.

mendoza84mendoza391It took about half a day to take all the photos and I just saw a lot of them posted on Chestknots’ site this afternoon. What a blessing and gift that day was. It almost made me want to get pregnant all over again…MAYBE. But if we don’t (which is probably the more likely option), we have the best photos to remember that point in time, and lots of pictures to frame for our new home.

Since I am not pressured to advertise anything on this site (and I’d like to keep it that way), I’m happy to be able to talk about products, services, occasions, people, and things that I really appreciate and would recommend to family, friends, and readers. Well, these guys are one of those things I would recommend. And they are better together. Jay Jay and his team are great photographers but each shot becomes unique when infused with Tine’s sense of style and artistry. I’m thrilled that they are doing more family-type photos. Pre-nuptial photos and wedding photos are wonderfully romantic but personally, I feel that celebrating the gift of family is even more important. Looking through the photos made me reflect on the journey that Edric and I have had as a couple — from just 2 of us, to three, to four, to five, to six and soon to be seven. The multiplied love and joy chronicled in each photo is a testament to God’s goodness, faithfulness and grace. Edric and I cannot thank Jay Jay and Tine enough for capturing in photographs the priceless memory of our children — their youth, innocence, tenderness, and happy smiles. And for making Edric and I remember how amazing 12 years of marriage have been and will continue to be for as long as Christ is at the center of it!

View the photos here: Mendoza Family Shoot

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Dominion

The boys convinced me to play the game, Dominion, with them. It is usually a boys only with dad type of activity but they insisted that I join. It is their bonding time with Edric in place of not-so-desirable options like television and tablets.

For over two months the kids have not been playing Ipad games — educational or otherwise. (The only thing they have done on my Ipad is use it to draw). After observing the effects on their concentration, desire to learn, creativity, and interest in reading, I decided to do an experiment. If the IPad was not an option, even on the weekends, how would this impact their development. So far, I have noticed that the kids are easier to teach, less preoccupied by thoughts of a virtual reality, and they have pursued more profitable activities — reading, inventing games, stories, and engaging one another in discussion and dialogue.

Prior to this, the IPad was triggering addictive tendencies in my younger kids. Elijah could rise above it but Edan and Titus were especially “attracted” to the games they would play. While they weren’t playing, they would talk about the games or think about the games. This concerned me. So one day, I said, “That’s it. No more IPad until we finish our school year.”

The kids found other ways to redeem their time and when I asked them to do their work they were more focused. It took about two weeks to “detox” and “re-wire” their appetites. Nowadays, the IPad is not that interesting to them. They don’t even look for it. Instead, we have gone back to playing strategy games as a family.

Someone sent me a link to this article: The Heart of Screen Time. In the article, author Heather Villa wrote, “How much screen time is too much? The AAP recently reported that children spend an average of seven hours a day “plugged in” to media of some sort. However, AAP recommends that children older than two years old should get no more than two hours a day of quality screen time. Why? Children need a chance to simply unwind, play outside, read a book, and relate with others. Aside from any study, screen time that trumps meaningful connections is possibly too much screen time.”

Here are some photos of the evening when we were playing. They aren’t too clear because they were taken with my iPhone (mostly by Titus). I was the WINNER. Yippee!

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Spiritual Comedy

I just had to write about this. It was too hilarious. I won’t divulge names to protect the photographer who did this. But…I’ve never seen an uglier more corpse-like picture of Edric and I in my life! Edric looks like he had 5 rounds of plastic surgery. And, I look like a nightmarish rendition of Bella from Twilight, the demon version. I want to exorcise myself! Look at those blood-stained teeth and creepy eye bags and cheekbones…not to mention the unnatural palor of the skin.

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Before my sister-in-law, Denise and her husband, Fritz, left for the U.S. some weeks ago, Edric hired a photographer to take photos of the Mendoza family. The intention was brilliant. It would be the last time we would be together for a while. But with just a few days to find a photographer, Edric hired someone we don’t really know, a recommendation through Facebook. Even though we have a number of friends who are excellent photographers, Edric didn’t want to burden anyone of them with a last minute request.

This mystery photographer was actually a nice guy. And I think he was a decent photographer. The only problem is we didn’t pay him enough to bring lights and it was a night shoot. As a result, most of the photos he took had heavy shadows on them. Maybe he thought he could fix them with post-editing, but whoa!

One of the photos had severe shadows on Edric’s face and my own. Everyone else was very visible. When we asked him to do something about it, he must have gone a little bit overboard. I saw a glimpse of my future and it frightened the heck out of me! Is this what I will look like when I’m 70? Freaky beyond recognition?! I almost jumped out of my chair! And then I laughed and laughed uncontrollably because I couldn’t believe that someone would edit photos and submit them to a client thinking they would be acceptable. It was incredulous.

In fairness to him, he wasn’t given a lot to work with and the shadows were so heavy, he had to kind of reconstruct our faces. But wow, this could’ve qualified as one of those Photoshop-gone-bad moments that would’ve given people a good laugh. I’m still laughing.

I believe there is a spiritual lesson to be learned here. This photo is an obvious reminder that our physical bodies will decay. I really may look like that years from now and worse, and no amount of photoshop editing will be able to repair the reality of time.

2 Corinthians 4:16 to 18 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

It’s a great reminder not to love the passing things of this world, including our physical bodies. Sometimes, I can be so vain and a real worrywart about getting heavy during my pregnancy. I obsess about counting each pound. In fact, I weigh myself every single morning so I can calculate how many calories I will consume. Edric tells me to relax and embrace my enlarging self. (And I think to myself, it’s easy for him to say because he doesn’t experience total body transformation and he doesn’t have to work to lose all the excess weight after.) But he is right. I really panic when I step on the scale and discover that I’ve gained a pound overnight. What?! Why?! Oh no, I ate too much rice! Oh no, I shouldn’t have eaten that cupcake!

Well, the photo was God’s way of telling me that the physical is going to fade away sooner or later. So stop focusing on it! I can still be conscious of what I eat, but don’t make weight concern an idol – something that robs my peace, controls me, makes me stressed and temporal-minded. Instead, I need to be channeling my energies towards “seeking the things above,” as Colossians 3 says it. “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

We cannot stop ageing (at best, we can delay it), and we cannot hold on to the material things of this world forever, but we can cultivate the truest life and unfading beauty of the inward person that is found in Christ.

Oh, and I hope you got a good laugh, he he.

Approachable

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Edric and I have an open communication policy with our kids. This means they can correct us and call out areas that we need to improve on. Of course, they are encouraged to do it in a polite way. It certainly keeps us on our “character toes.”

This morning, in the car, the boys were like a bunch of hyenas. They were cackling, singing loudly and Edric hit his toleration threshold. He was in the middle of composing a text message so he said, “Quiet boys, quiet!” His tone was agitated. The boys simmered down. But it was an awkward kind of silence.

Meanwhile, Edric asked me for the address of a wake we were going to attend and I offered to forward to him the text message so it would be easier for him to pass it on to friends who were going to attend the same wake. However, he thought it was simpler just to hand my phone over so he could copy it down onto a message he was already writing. I retorted with sarcasm under my breath, “It’s not simpler.” The kids looked over at me and Edric was like, “Excuse me? Did you just say something under your breath?”

Edan inched over to my side (we were all in the back and Edric was in front, in the passenger seat). Whispering into my ear, he asked, “Was dad practicing meekness?” Our bible study as a family the previous week was about being meek. And one of the examples Edric gave was responding with meekness toward family members. I suggested to Edan,“Why don’t you ask daddy?”

A few minutes later he did. “Daddy, were you being meek?” Edan stuck his head in between the two front seats to question Edric. When Edric realized he hadn’t been a good example, he asked for forgiveness from the kids and from me. But he also added, “Your mommy also needs to learn to submit and respect daddy.” I quickly apologized too and asked for forgiveness from Edric and the kids. Elijah turned towards me and gave me an approving look. He may be just 10 years old but he really internalizes these moments and watches us ever so closely. (Actually, all of them do.)

The rest of the car ride was fine. The tense atmosphere was dispelled and we went back to chatting with one another.

Whew! It’s really quite impossible to be perfect in front of our kids. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to keep moving towards Christ-likeness. Family is the best context to do this when each person is motivated by love and committed to helping one another grow in character. I really think that children are a blessing in this sense. Seeing our “issues” through their eyes makes Edric and I desire to be more careful, conscious and consistent about being Christ-like. If they can’t find Christ in our home, in our personal lives, then we can’t expect them to want Christ either. I praise God that their hearts are still tender and forgiving, and they know we are on this journey of faith together, as a team.

but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:15, 16 NASB)

 

Sunday Afternoon

I love hanging out with Edric’s family on Sundays. I am so thankful to the Lord for marrying into a family that is so wonderful. Papa spent time teaching the boys and their cousin how to use slingshots. Edric joined in the competition. They tried to hit an empty bottle and an old dustpan and this kept them preoccupied for about 45 minutes. As for me, I enjoyed watching them. Brought back memories of my own childhood — the good old outdoor fun before computers and IPads.

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Money Matters in Marriage

I am not a financial guru (that’s so obvious), but my husband seems to be esteemed as such because of his involvement as host for ANC’s On the Money program. But Edric will also be the first to tell you that he is no expert. He is learning along the way, as he interviews businessmen, financial advisors, CEOs, and the like. Nevertheless, he gets invitations to give talks on personal finance. Yesterday, he invited me to join him to give a short testimony to break up his three hour seminar. I have said no to doing talks in this season of my life (well, I have to be very discriminating) because my commitments revolve around the home. But, when Edric asks me to be his side kick for seminars he has to give, I consider this part of my role as a wife…prioritizing my husband.

So, I tagged along with him to a company that requested he give a 101 money talk that integrated family values. I am including my part of the “intermission” because his segment is paid for…mine is FREE! ;)

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Edric and I chose to get married young. We were crazy romantics like that. Well, as you all know, love does not put food on the table. Between Edric’s corporate job and my PR work, we were making P40,000, which means we didn’t have a lot of financial liberty. We started off very simply. I was very blessed to have a husband who liked to use a spreadsheet and make year long budget projections. So this is what he did…percentages, budget allocations, monitoring of our spending patterns etc.

Admittedly, I had no idea what it meant to keep a budget. My mom didn’t have to stick to a budget or so it seemed, so I thought that it was normal to be able to spend indiscriminately. She wasn’t an extravagant person so I wasn’t either. She never splurged on designer bags or shoes. My parents were not the type to buy heirloom watches or jewelry either. They invested in travel, land, properties, and businesses.

It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized how much people spend on designer clothing, bags, watches, shoes, and the like. Fortunately, because my siblings and I were not brought up to have an appetite for such things we didn’t mind not having it later on either. (My mom still shops at the tiange and gets compliments for her clothing without people realizing that she spends less than 1,000 pesos for most of what she wears! I love this about her.)

Going back to the early years of marriage, I wasn’t a major shopper but I didn’t have a concept of what it means to plan for your expenses. It was a foreign concept to me. And this is why I needed a husband like Edric. Edric is very FRUGAL.

It took me some time to realize the wisdom behind my husband’s strictness when it came to money management. But I began to appreciate it as the years went by. If I was in charge of money in our home, we would now be in dire straits.

One thing that he did give me was a discretionary fund or a “fun fund.” It was a fund for personal things – going to the parlor, buying myself clothes, eating out with friends, etc. We have often encouraged couples to have a discretionary fund that a wife can use without having to clear everything with her husband. If I bought anything outside of that fund, then I would ask for permission because he was in charge of managing our overall budget. Otherwise, my personal expenses were not audited. I had liberty, within my budget, to go shopping or treat myself.

The second money principle I learned in marriage was the concept of “living within your means (or even below, if possible).” Because I came from a family with means, I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know what it was like to have to take public transportation or have a second hand car. I knew how to do house chores, but I had no idea how hard it was to make money and make it grow. I would feel stressed when we didn’t have enough money to pay for repairs or fix things around the house.

God taught me NOT to make money my source of security. I had to learn contentment, avoid panicking that money was not in abundance, and quit comparing my state of life with siblings and friends. We couldn’t really travel out of the country. I didn’t have an unlimited budget for shopping. Even if I had a discretionary fund, it wasn’t that big. (Praise God it grew as the years went by!)

Living within our means was humbling at times and uncomfortable. I remember when I was 8 months pregnant with our first child, I was driving down McKinley to pick up Edric and I had to do a U-turn. But the car stalled in the middle of the road while I was doing the U-turn! Traffic was blocked on both sides of McKinley. I started to panic. Edric wasn’t answering his phone and I didn’t know what to do. Should I go out and push the car? I was 8 months pregnant! Cars were honking me. It was rush hour. I was so stressed…on the brink of breaking down. I prayed and prayed and after about 10 minutes, the car finally re-started. Whew. What an ordeal.

For a while I was bickering to myself and thinking, Why do I have to go through this? Why can’t we have a car that works better? I never had this problem when I lived at home! (Well, wake up honey, this is your new reality. God is working on your character.)

Although it was stressful at the time, Edric and I laugh about our adventures and the challenges we had at the beginning of our marriage. We used to park one of our cars on an incline just to make sure we could give it enough momentum to start the next day!

These comedic memories have turned into romantic memories. Seriously. When Edric and I reminisce about how God has faithfully provided for us through the years, we look at each other and say, “I am glad we went through that together.” It wasn’t easy but it made us closer. We started off without much so we had a lot to look forward to.

Many people wait so long to get married these days because of career choices, wanting to build up a piggy bank fund so they can buy a house, a nice car or two, and comforts that they are used to. My encouragement to women out there is learn to be simple and easy to please. Don’t be so high maintenance. It scares guys. They will feel like they can never afford you! Be wise and marry a man who loves God and works hard, and God will bless him financially. But be willing to adjust your own preferences. You may not get a big house right away or a shiney new car, but hey, you can look forward to those things together.

The third principle I wanted to share was lowering expectations and raising appreciation. I had to learn to be an encourager and a positive source of affirmation for my husband. Guys go out there and fight a whole different level of stress. Remember, God said that Adam would have a hard time tilling the ground!

Early on in our marriage, I didn’t know how to be a very good encourager. When Edric would tell me his issues with work and finances, I would say, “Well why did you make that decision? Maybe you should have said this or maybe you can do this…” And he would tell me, “Hon, if I need your advice I will ask you.” Oops. Verbal diarrhea in the house. In other words, what he wanted to hear was encouragement so he could go out there re-energized to get through another day.

In Genesis, the Bible talks about how God created woman to be a suitable helper to the man. A suitable helper doesn’t mean a yaya or househelp. The Hebrew word means “Life giver along side.” It is a beautiful picture of how a wife can support and uphold her husband. I am called to be a life-giver to Edric. I do this by submitting to his leadership, trusting that God has made him head of our home, and respecting him. But a big a part of being a life giver is also appreciating him, even for the little things.

When Edric would doubt whether he was a good provider, when he would feel down about not being able to give me the kind of lifestyle he thought I “deserved,” I would tell him,”Hon, I see your life. You love God, you are faithful to him. I don’t doubt that he will bless your efforts. Just keep trusting in him.” And then I would go run away to cry out to the Lord! “God, please let Edric know that you are mindful of him. Please allow him to experience your hand of blessing.”

But I made it a point to communicate to Edric that I believed in his God-given capacity, that I appreciated how hard he worked, the sacrifices he made and still makes to give us a comfortable life. Most importantly, I would tell him how blessed I was that he loves God and wants to be a godly husband and father. His face would change, he would hug me, sometimes even get teary eyed (just a little), and tell me how much my affirmation mattered…that it would inspire him to try his best.

Did I still have my dreams and longings? Of course. But instead of pressuring Edric to be the fulfiller of these things, I turned them over to God. I surrendered them and said, “Lord, in your time, your way, I know that you will give us the things we desire, if it is your will.” I would pray for Edric and commit our marriage, finances, children, and circumstances to him (I still do), and he has been faithful. I’ve received more than I dreamed of, not always what I wanted but better than I could have imagined.
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Lastly, I wanted to talk about the idea of priorities. For several years into my marriage, I was working full time and then part time to supplement our income. But, when we started having more kids, Edric and I talked about priorities and we decided that it was more important for me to be available to the kids and be at home. I am not saying that everyone has to make a life choice like this, but for Edric and I, it was a faith decision to switch to a single-income household. Who does that these days? It is not the trend.

However, we thought of what will really matter twenty, thirty years from now. I knew I cannot buy back the years of being absent from the home and missing my children’s moments. So I wanted to be present to instruct and train them. We both believed in homeschooling and that became my full time job. It doesn’t pay monetarily but it pays in eternal dividends.

And let me just say that I am never bored as a housewife. I have four kids with different personalities who keep me entertained, on my toes, and absolutely dependent on God. Plus, there is decorating, cooking, trouble shooting, and appliance fixing (I am actually pretty capable with a wrench and pliers. It doesn’t sound sexy but I am pretty proud of my handy woman abilities.)

God turned my heart towards my family and home…

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NASB)

The principle is do not neglect or sacrifice the priorities of God, spouse and children on the altar of money. If you are a working woman and your spouse still feels like he is a priority, your kids are growing in character and they are turning out just fine then you are one of those superwomen who can balance and juggle everything. Hats off to you. But, if your home life is suffering then consider how you can make adjustments.

Money can buy some things but not everything. It doesn’t buy a happy spouse, happy children, a happy home, real peace or lasting joy, especially if the most important relationships are neglected.

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We are a happy family, by the grace of God! Tiana doesn’t look too happy here, but she is. :)

Above all else, Edric and I have learned and keep learning that God must always be the center, even when it comes to our finances. He is our ultimate provider. He owns everything. We are merely stewards of what he is given us. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and all these things will be added unto you.” God delights to bless people that love him and follow him. But often times, we have it the other way around. We make money and worldly pursuits first in our lives, the center, and leave no room for God. It is a constant striving after wealth for our sense of security and peace.

Here is the good news: When you follow God and come into a personal relationship with him through his son, Jesus Christ, he not only provides for your needs and more, he gives you riches that money cannot buy. You may not become a millionaire or billionaire, you become more! You become a child of a Father who has infinite resources; who knows when to withhold and when to give; who cares about the desires of your heart but knows when to protect you from them; who never abandons you; who gives you purpose and meaning beyond the drive for worldly successes; and who gives you eternal life with HIM to look forward to.