From Head to Heart

My second son, Edan, is reading through the Bible. But he has admitted to me several times that he finds it tedious to do so and he doesn’t feel like keeping up the habit of a daily quiet time with the Lord. I have tried to encourage him by talking about the importance of growing in his faith and the joys of getting to know God more intimately. However, it remains a struggle for him to cultivate the desire to read.

Yesterday, he expressed the same reluctancy to study the word of God. So I invited him to sit down beside me and we read a chapter in Malachi together. I explained to him the passages we studied — how they related to our own experiences as a family and how they could be applied as principles for living. He was very engaged in our discussion.

At one point, he began to tear and I didn’t know where this was coming from. So I asked him if it was something we read or something I said. He wasn’t ready to answer then but after we finished reading, he grabbed a couple of pillows, curled up on the floor and told me, “When you spend time explaining the Bible to me, I feel touched.”

Touched? Did my reserved and calculated son just use that word to express himself? It wasn’t a word he had used before.

He began to have tears in his eyes again.

For the first time, he saw how amazing God’s word can be. It had come alive to him. I suppose he had always wanted to feel like a daily quiet time with the Lord was worthwhile but he had gotten discouraged by his inability to understand the adult vocabulary. I assumed too much when I handed him an adult version of the Bible and expected him to magically absorb it all because he reads well.

Over breakfast, he added something like this, “I am happy because God tells you to take care of me.” His eyes turned red again and he was trying to express to me that the experience of shared time in the word was an example of this. As a young child struggling with the guilt of NOT loving God’s word, a solution was given to him. God sent me, his mother, to help him. What mattered to him was the Lord knew his heartfelt and secret need.

I asked him what he does when he reads through his Bible by himself. His reply was, “When I don’t know the words, I just ignore them. I just read to finish.”

There had been no joy in his encounters with truth because its meaning was unclear to him and its applications, a mystery. What a great disservice I had done him, by operating with a false assumption that he could navigate through the text. My eldest, Elijah, has a richer vocabulary so it is easier for him to comprehend what he reads. As for Edan, he was going through the motion of reading but there was no delight in it. It was becoming a ritual. Having those 20 minutes together, talking about how applicable the text was to everyday life was precious to him.

Author Tedd Tripp writes that parents need to see the Bible as a family album. The Bible isn’t a literary piece about a nation or people who bear no relation to us, it is a living text that tells us what God has done, can do and will do in our lives. It is the history of our faith in Jesus Christ and the future of it. Do our children know this?

As for me, I have a lot to improve on in this area. My children cannot be left alone to guide themselves in matters of the faith. They are dependent on Edric and I during these tender years, while under our care, to elucidate and illuminate the character of God, his principles, the warnings and promises, and stories as found in the Scriptures.

Furthermore, for faith to blossom in the lives of our children, it has to become personal. It is one thing to teach our kids about what we believe, to emphasize character, and to read Bible stories. It is a totally different and more important thing to teach them how to enjoy God, to find that their deepest longings and questions can be satisfied in him, and to discover the truth that sets them free in his word. When this happens, faith can move from cultural and traditional to convincingly meaningful so it can be embraced as completely acceptable. Faith can’t reside merely in the head, it must finds it’s way to our children’s hearts so that convictions and commitments can be formed.

This morning, Edan reminded me that we had to read together again and he eagerly brought me the bookmarked page of Scripture to go over with him. I may not be able to do this every single day but I pray that I can pass on to Edan a love for God’s word while he is still young.

O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds. (Psalms 71:17 NASB)

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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 can be home to the richest people on earth — people who abound with the joy of the Lord, 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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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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Sweet In The Arms Of…

Catalina reached out to me for the first time today. She is five months, going on six. It was a wonderful feeling to be wanted. Her little arms stretched out and she motioned toward me. Moments like these are sweet rewards for being a mom.

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While I was holding her, I thought of the parallels between what it is like to be a mother and the heart of God as our Heavenly Father. When my baby girl extended her arms, lunging forward towards me because she wanted to be held, I didn’t say, “Oh well that’s so cute, keep doing it and maybe I will pick you up.” Of course not! Immediately, I dropped everything to take her in my arms and hug her, whispering tender things in her ear. I was thrilled to pick her up.

If I am like that as a mom, flawed as I am as a human being, then what more the delight of a perfect God when we reach out to him, call out to him and turn to him with all sincerity? If he put in me a desire to be good to my children, then how much greater must his goodness be?

He eagerly waits for us to recognize that he loves us, just like I wait for the point in time when all my kids know that I love them and they can reciprocate. One of my highlights as a mom is hearing my children say, “I love you, mom” for the first time, without being prodded or coerced to.

In the meantime, I do all I can to communicate to them that they are special to me, hoping that one day they will want to have a relationship with me. Similarly, God has done everything to make it possible for us to have a relationship with him.

The Bible tells us “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love –not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Our actions and circumstances do not change who God is. He remains a loving Father even if we reject this truth about him.

So we have to ask ourselves, what keeps us from reaching out to him in faith, with outstretched arms, so that he can be the father he wants to be to us? Is it the disappointments and pains of a fallen world? Is it our refusal to give up sin and follow his design for our lives? Is it our own misconceptions about who he is and our lack of intimacy with him? Is it our busy-ness and the constant striving after personal ambition? Is it the pride of personal success?

If we really knew how deeply, magnanimously, and unconditionally loved we are by the God of the universe, we would all throw our arms up into the air with abandon and say, “Lord, take me. Take all me! I want to be your child.”

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12 NASB)

Catalina dosed off to sleep in my arms while I held her. (When she is with me, she has everything she needs — company, affection, protection, milk! At least for now…) She looked so peaceful and content. In a small, earth-bound sort of way, this is what it is like to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father. There is no sweeter experience than to be held by him. But unlike me to Catalina, he is the source of everything we need and will ever need, forever and ever!

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Tooth-ful Lesson

I want to commend my son, Edan, for allowing me, his non-dentist mother, to pull out his two front teeth. He triumphed in the area of bravery yesterday. There was a lot of back and forth wrestling, emotionally speaking, but when he finally said, “Ok,” I knew he wholeheartedly committed himself into my care. Whew.

Praise God my method worked! I popped one out with blitzkrieg force and the other took a little more tactical ingenuity. I used dental floss to lasso that sucker and yanked it out unsuccessfully at first. Oops. But my dear son still let me have a go at it. Finally it came out and he let out a nervous and delighted laugh.

“Yay! You’re the best dentist, mom!”

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What a sweetie! I know Edan was terrified. I could see it in his eyes. But he told me after the ordeal he knew I could do it. If a corruptible, flawed, imperfect person like me can earn the trust of a 7 year old boy to inflict a measure of pain to get his teeth out, then why is it so hard to give our lives to an almighty, all-knowing, all-loving God?

Well, I think the answer is simple. We do not trust God because we do not know him intimately. To some he is a mere concept, or a religious figure head, distant and impersonal, or he does not exist. And until we encounter him personally, we won’t be willing to give our lives to him.

Edan knew it would hurt when I pulled out his teeth but he had faith in me because he knows me. He knows I love him. He knows I want what is best for him. Plus, I had pulled his tooth out before.

His trust was a beautiful reminder of the kind of child-like faith we should have in God. The difference is (unlike my bogus dentist self) God is perfect. God makes no false claims. He is who he says he is. He does what he says he will. What a comfort!

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31, 32 NASB)

When I was a young girl I had a German shepherd who was very unoriginally named Princess. Whether she was purebred is highly debatable, too. But I loved her and played with her everyday. One day she went missing. We didn’t know what happened to her. And I was in tears. I was devastated.

My dad encouraged me to pray and ask God to help us find her. Up until this point I had never really had an experience that tore me up emotionally. So I begged God that she would be found.

The next morning, in faith, we decided to go looking for her. We walked up and down the winding hills of Valley Golf in Antipolo to do so.

I kept calling out her name, “Princess, Princess!”

Amazingly, during our trek up one of the steep hills I heard a yelping sound. I followed it with my parents. The yelping came from a manhole. Could this be her?! My heart was racing as I ran to the edge of the hole. And there, jumping up and down was Princess, alive and well! She must have fallen inside during one of her adventures and gotten trapped. We rescued her and brought her home.

It was an incredible faith-affirming moment for me. It left an indelible imprint on my understanding of who God is. In that instant he became personal. In that instant I knew he cared about the desires of my heart.

Since that tender age I have prayed for many things and God hasn’t always answered them with a yes. But I have believed through each trial and difficult circumstance that his character remains the same. He loves me. He is faithful. He is good. I can give my life completely to him. My future is secure no matter what happens.

I want to leave you with the best promise that God has given all of us — the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13 NASB)

Do you have a hard time trusting God? Pray for an encounter with the immeasurable height, depth and breath of his love. This is a prayer God delights to answer because he wants to have a personal relationship with you!

The Greater Tragedy

Almost everyday, I watch the early morning news on the aftermath of Hurricane Haiyan (Yolanda to us). In fact, I feel guilty as I sit there with my healthy baby, Catalina, kicking in her bouncer and cooing. Seated in a comfortable chair in a house with electricity, a comfortable bed, food and clean water seems excessive at a time when so many have lost everything.

Initially, the apocalyptic images were unsettling. But far grievous to me have been the personal stories of loss.

It is spiritually and emotionally troubling to hear about tragedies that resonate with my heart as a mother, as a parent. I was told of a mother and father who lost their 1 month old baby, their first child…a man who was found dead with his arms around his four year old son…a mom who is still waiting to hear from her husband and two children who lived by the shore-line while she was working in Manila…babies who have no milk because their mothers were killed.

Yesterday, I kept tearing as I went up and down the aisles of the grocery, shopping for the children of a lady who works for us – Catalina’s yaya. Her children have no access to food but she was too embarrassed to ask me for help until she was really desperate. When I asked her if she was okay, she started to cry. Shopping for her family was such an emotional event for me. I kept thinking about how diligently she had been taking care of Catalina while she feared for the well-being of her own children!

I was also heartbroken last Sunday, while singing songs during worship about the faithfulness of God. I kept thinking about the people who have been affected by the storm. Plagued by images of their horrifying circumstances, I was distracted as the congregation went through song after song.

I don’t doubt that God is faithful but I know it is one thing to stand in an air-conditioned church auditorium singing worship songs and another thing to be praising God when you are in the eye of a storm like Typhoon Haiyan. And what about afterwards, while assaulted by the stench of decomposing bodies, overcome by desperate thirst and hunger, and confronted with the reality that you no longer have a home to go back to or the resources to rebuild it?

In the most timely manner, however, last Sunday’s message given by Dr. Harold Sala ministered to me. He said, “When people asked, where was God during the storm?” his answer was, “The same place He was when His son was crucified.” It hurt God to watch his own son pay for the sins of the world but he stood aside and let it happen.

This was comforting because on the one hand, God is not far removed from our tragedies. He is not a distant spectator or unconcerned about the details of our pain. He is present. But it is sobering to consider that on the other hand, he may sometimes stand aside and allow suffering to crystalize the truth about sin. There are consequences to sin. He is so intolerant of it that he let Jesus, his only son, die to save us from it.

Death and destruction were never his original plan for mankind but he permits them to exist. So how do we reconcile what is true about God as loving and what happened 11 days ago when the most powerful storm to make landfall ravaged us?

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PHOTO CREDIT: www.ibtimes.co.uk

It’s worth pondering these passages in Deuteronomy, “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-3)

“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known.” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28)

People may not agree with me but I believe our actions must be called into account for the curses that befall us. Could we have been accomplices to a murder of mass scale? Have we not abused the environment we were created to care for, ignored the poverty-stricken, celebrated immorality, sold innocent children to sexual predators, committed idolatry by worshipping materialism and success, cheated one another, and stolen from those whom we are supposed to serve under the pretense of good governance? And even after a storm pulverized our landscape there were those of us who pillaged and raped the fallen!

God has not abandoned us, but we have, in many ways, abandoned him – his Word, his principles, his prescriptions for an abundant and blessed life. So when there are consequences to our choices, we cannot say that he is not loving or absent for allowing us to reap what we have sown.

God has not moved. His offer of salvation through His son, Jesus Christ, still stands. His arms are ever open to receive those who repent and want to have a personal relationship with him. And his promises remain the same to those who believe in him — especially the promise of everlasting life with Him.

Tragedy causes an uncomfortable stirring in our souls that makes us more conscious of spiritual realities. Senseless dying and mass devastation are not pleasing to God. But if these things cause us to turn away from sin and run towards him, then they accomplish a salvific purpose, in the eternal sense of the word. We can trouble ourselves with the thought that it isn’t fair when innocent and good people have to perish. What of the thousands whose lives were taken away by the shoreline of Tacloban? I would like to hope that they had a moment to give their lives to Christ like the thief on the cross to whom Jesus said, today you will be with me in paradise. God’s grace is beyond our scope of understanding so who is to say where they are now.

But for those of us who live on, we must consider the consequence of eternity in hell as infinitely worse than the effects of a super typhoon. Hell is the one place where you cannot say to a tormented soul, “It’s going to get better.”

Perhaps this storm ought to be taken as a much-needed wake-up call, a kind of divine sideswipe to get our attention. We need to reflect on what course we are on as a nation. Are we becoming more Christ-like as a people? Is God really the center? Are we living in accordance with his word? What values are becoming commonplace in our homes and do they glorify him?

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Packing relief goods and organizing relief operations are important to meet present physical needs but we need a cure that is beyond the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter. We need Jesus Christ to heal our nation. He cannot merely be a cultural figurehead or a symbol of religion to us. We must receive him as Lord and Savior. His life, death, and resurrection warrant nothing less.

When I think of the fury of a 600 KM-wide tropical storm pulverizing an area like Tacloban, I cannot imagine the wrath God poured out upon Christ at the cross because of our sin, and I dread to think of what his wrath will be like at judgment.

The real threat to our nation is not the superstorms that may come again, but the state of our inner, spiritual lives and the effect they have on our country. Do we have God’s favor because we are committed to righteousness and holiness? Or, are we inviting trouble by making sinful choices?

Everyone around the globe wants to help us move past this disaster so we can restore what once was. But it would be a greater tragedy if each of us did not look into the depths of our hearts and ask, “Is Jesus Lord and Savior of my life?” If he is then I need not fear the trials to come or lose hope during the trial I am in. But if he isn’t, I have no real security and I hazard everything, especially my eternity.

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Photo credit: Arlynn Aquino EU/ECHO, Leyte, Philippines, November 2013.

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NASB)

Catalina’s Name

Edric and I have jokingly said that it’s ironic how Catalina’s name means “pure” when she has been bacteria-ridden since the day she was born. She has been zapped with a total of 6 different antibiotics in a span of 40 days just to clean out her system. Thankfully, she is now recovering at home from her pneumonia and no longer needs oxygen or the IV. She still has to take oral antibiotics and use a nebulizer, but there has been significant improvement in her breathing and eating.

The meaning of Catalina’s name may seem ironic given the circumstances but I think it is symbolic of what God has been doing in our lives as of late.

For a good long while Edric and I were kind of floating around in this happy bubble. Apart from the challenges that came with his work and the challenges of being a homeschooler and homemaker, we did not have any major problems. I am not saying this to boast. It was God who allowed us this season of protection from trials.

When Catalina was hospitalized a day after she was born this bubble popped. And it was just the beginning. Edric and I had multiple sources of stress (big and small) that occurred during the month. From delays in the house construction, car trouble, unprecedented expenses, two cell phones getting water-logged, having just one yaya for a period of time, dealing with a newborn and sleepless nights, losing a part of my breast pump so I had to buy a new one, and then our kids getting sick and being orphaned by us while we were at the hospital, and Catalina ending up with serious infections, not once, but twice…well, let’s just say these things took their toll on us physically, emotionally and spiritually.

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I don’t think this was some cosmic experiment to test our breaking point. I know that God is not this kind of father. He doesn’t delight in the afflictions of his children. But I do believe he orchestrated and allowed every single unpleasantry that took place this past month. He used these trying experiences to refine us.

In the Bible God is referred to as a refiner. His word says, “… For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2, 3 NASB)

According to gold traders on how to refine gold, “refining with flame is one of the oldest methods of refining metals. Mentioned even in the bible, refining by fire is the preferable method for larger quantities of gold. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a hot fire with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal.”

As the master craftsman, God puts us through the same process of discomfort to remove the impurities in our lives. Sometimes these impurities may be blatant sins but other times they may be hindrances, habits, behaviors, attitudes or perspectives that do not meet God’s standard for Christ-likeness.

Taking out these impurities hurts. Who likes 1,000 degrees of heat?! Who likes trial after trial? No one. But just as the heating process is necessary to perfect gold, so also the fiery furnace of life is necessary to cleanse the soul.

Of the many lessons I learned during this past month, I will highlight one. God knew I had to grow in the area of compassion. For example, I used to think that moms who claimed to have difficult babies and were weighed down by the responsibilities of parenting were just making excuses for not showing up at a ministry activity or bible study. I would think, why do you let your baby dictate what you can and cannot do?

I had no idea! For the most part, God allowed my previous pregnancies, births, and the taking-care-of-a-newborn-stage to be relatively easy. And then came Catalina — always wanting to be held, emotionally sensitive and needy. Most difficult of all was her confinement in the hospital, not once, but twice. For the first time I understood what it meant when a mom says, “I can’t be there, I can’t make it,” or “I can’t volunteer” or “I am always tired because of my baby.” Oh honey you bet I understand now!

My compassion meter started working again! (Moms out there, forgive me…)

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Sick but smiling with her oxygen tube

More importantly, this compassion extended to sharing the gospel. Previously occupied with my own comfortable world, I was not as tuned in to the spiritual needs of people around me. Sure, I was involved in ministry and I was vocal about Christ in my blog, but I was complacent about sharing the gospel one-on-one.

After experiencing brokenness before God — the kind that left me down on my knees crying out to him — the attentiveness towards the hurts of others was peaked. It was like unclogging a fat-lined artery that should have been working better.

Being in a hospital full of sick people, some of whom were dying, all of whom were hurting and hoping for relief, made me think about how short and fragile life is. I was compelled to reevaluate what my priorities are. I began to recognize how many opportunities I had missed out on in the past to tell others about Jesus. But God gave me new ones — the nurses in the hospital, a street vendor, a woman at the parlor, and a new yaya, among others.

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Leaving the hospital

A few days ago, after we were discharged from the hospital, I had a conversation with my dad. He was seated on his lazy boy in the bedroom reading a book. When I came in, he asked how I was doing. I shared with him the doubts I had when Catalina was hospitalized for pneumonia.

“Dad, it was hard for me. I wondered if God loved me…if I was doing something in my life that was displeasing to him, that removed his favor.” And he said, “I felt like that in Europe when we lost our suitcases.” (My parents’ bags weren’t recovered until they got back to Manila.) He explained that when God gives us problems it is to build our faith and character. I suppose I already knew this but it was comforting to hear it again.

The wounds that God allows in our lives are calibrated to be purposeful. He may use big or small events to awaken our spiritual consciousness. Everything happens according to his time table and plan. There are no accidents or miscalculations.

This is so reassuring to me. It is easy to be afraid when you are holding a sickly baby in your arms, wondering if she is going to be okay, aching to take her place so she doesn’t have to suffer. The helplessness feels very real from that microscopic vantage point. But when you step back and see the bigger picture, the hidden hand of God becomes visible. You realize he was holding you, never removing his gaze, cradling the entire circumstance with his love so that nothing happened that was outside of his knowledge, protection, or reach.

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Like a watchful master craftsman who knows just how much heat is necessary to purify gold, he minds the temperature of each event in our lives. And when the impurities that poison the integrity he desires in us come to the surface he removes them so we can shine with authenticity for him, so we can better tell of his gospel of love. The process is, more often than not, uncomfortable and even painful. But the end is beautiful — Christlike behavior and character, refined by fire, set apart to do God’s will.

Catalina’s name will forever tell me that it is God who makes pure the vessels he intends to use to proclaim his name. He is committed to purifying us again and again for as long as necessary. Although we may fear what this could entail …sickness, financial trouble, business failure, the loss of a family member or friend…we can be comforted that what follows is an encounter with a father who always rescues, strengthens, redeems, and restores those who call upon his name.

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. (Psalms 51:6-13 NASB)

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Back in the Hospital

My daughter, Tiana, curiously asked me one morning, “Where is God? How come I can’t see him?” This was a follow up question to a discussion we were having about Jesus’ death and resurrection. She had watched a clip of The Passion that showed Christ on the cross. Concerned and troubled, she wondered if Jesus was still there and dead. I explained to her that he came back to life and didn’t stay dead because he is God. But she wanted evidence…physical evidence.

It is not easy to convince a 3 year old that God is present even if we cannot see him. Her grasp of what is real is the tangible world she sees, feels and hears. So a description of the spiritual world left her perplexed and baffled.

“But WHERE is he?”

She couldn’t grasp the concept. I had to look up another clip of the movie that showed the resurrection part so she could be appeased. I found something on YouTube and that seemed to pacify her for a bit, but whew, what a discussion.

Interestingly, I had the same discussion with the Lord last night as I looked over at my baby, Catalina. She was lying in a plastic crib with a tube in her nose for oxygen, a second tube in her hand for IV and antibiotics, and a third chord attached to an oxygen, pulse and breathing monitor. Her breathing was slightly labored but she was sleeping. It must have been close to 3 am.
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Admitted yesterday morning for pneumonia, Catalina is back in the hospital again. We brought her in to the ER of Cardinal Santos as advised by our pediatrician after I communicated to her that Catalina was lethargic, not eating, and her cough had worsened. It sounded tight and deeply obstructed.
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I’ve gone through some major crises in my life but none has ever compared to the pain of seeing my children suffer. If I knew what it was like to get my heart torn out of my chest, well, that would be it. Apart from the loss of a loved one, I cannot imagine a greater hurt in this world than seeing the afflictions of my children and feeling helpless to save them.
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The hope I had for Catalina’s recovery grew dim as she struggled through Monday night to find comfort. I could provide no remedy. I had suggested to Edric that he sleep in the kids’ room because the AC was turned off in ours. (He had already dealt with so much interrupted sleep in the past month. Getting to sleep on the floor of the kids’ room was a luxury!)

Of course this meant that I was alone in our room. I cried and cried out to God that he would heal Catalina, pleading with a desperation I had not felt before. Edric came in to check on me and he saw me bawling. His words of assurance were sweet and tender but I was lost in my grief.

Is this what it was like to be Hannah in the Bible? She was consumed with the desire for a child and no one could comfort her for being denied one, not even her husband. And I felt the same kind of obsessive desire, wailing for help, asking to have my child back. I wanted her back to being demanding and needy if that’s what it would take to have her healthy again.

God gives an instinct to mothers that makes her keen at interpreting tell-tale signs of distress and peculiar behavior in her children.

I recognized that something was gravely wrong when Catalina became uncharacteristically quiet and disinterested in feeding. Having grown accustomed to her demands to be carried and nursed frequently, I knew her cough and cold took a turn for the worse.

When our pediatrician confirmed that we should bring her to the hospital the next day, I felt both anxious and relieved. I suppose I knew what was ailing her but I suspended my thoughts until Dr. Joy checked her. The prospect of getting a confirmation was almost comforting. I wanted to know what we could do to cure her.

Edric cleared his schedule so we could do this together. I always say that Edric is my knight in shining armor because he is consistently present when I need him most. He will take charge and do whatever he can, sacrificing his own time, comfort, and needs to be there for me or the kids.

On the way to the hospital, I asked him if Catalina’s lips appeared bluish but he said it was probably the lighting inside our van. I didn’t think so. I had looked at those lips for the last 36 days of her life and knew what color they ought to have been.

We got to Cardinal Santos pretty quickly, avoiding the traffic because we left after school started. Since our pediatrician, Dr. Joy, is a friend, she made sure we were well attended to as soon as we got to the ER. Her residents were on standby and she came almost immediately after we arrived. At her instruction, Catalina was given a tube for oxygen. She was not getting enough air into her lungs. If the normal reading is 95 above, she was only at 81%. The oxygen helped to bring back the pink in her lips and cheeks.

I observed Dr. Joy’s expressions as she placed the stethoscope on Catalina’s chest. She didn’t seem pleased with what she heard. She had this way of coupling objectivity with deep concern that softened the blow of her initial diagnosis. When she said there was phlegm in Catalina’s lungs and that it was most likely pneumonia, I broke down. She hugged me and said, “Don’t worry. I will be here. This is treatable.”

I knew what this would entail for Catalina. We had been through this when she was born…tubes, needle pricking, blood tests, antibiotics, living in the hospital. Edric and I did not like that part, but knowing that her pneumonia would be arrested and treated was good news. It was caught in the early stages, occupying just the inner lungs.

Where is God when these things happen? When crisis seems to negate the promise of his blessing upon those who follow and obey him, what is the impact? I seemed to have found myself asking the very question that my 3 year old Tiana was, “But where is he, how come we cannot see him?”

In faith I believed that God would heal Catalina while we were at home. I didn’t expect to be in the hospital again. Yet here we are. And I have been honest with God. I expressed that I was hurt and grieved that he allowed this. There was a dark moment when I felt unloved and unconsidered. But last night while I watched Catalina sleeping, I believed with all certainty that God was present. He had not abandoned us or forgotten his promises.

He made his presence felt in a number of ways:

- He caused my maternal instinct to kick in, to respond with a sense of urgency when I realized something was wrong. Had I waited too long, Catalina would have been deprived of oxygen.

- Dr. Joy’s commitment to care for our daughter was and has been of great assurance.

- We happen to be staying with my parents as we transition to finish our new house, so our four other children are not alone. They are with their grandparents and with their cousins.

- God has also embraced us and covered us with the prayers of family and friends, their well wishes, and kind words.

- When the doctors needed to find a vein for Catalina’s IV and it seemed impossible because many of her veins were unusable due to her previous confinement, Dr. Joy asked her friend, Dr. Apples (an anesthesiologist) to find one and she did…on her first try!

- Had she been sick soon after her stay in St. Lukes, giving her antibiotics would have been complicated because the bacteria might have developed a resistance.

- The stage of her pneumonia is early and treatable. Some people have big spots of the bacteria in their lungs, Catalina’s occupies just 1/3 of hers.

- So far, her first blood culture has showed nothing, and her CBC has no elevated white blood cells.

- Last night, she slept peacefully in intervals of about two hours which allowed me to rest, too.

- We are in a room right beside the nurses’ station so they respond quickly to our needs.

- Personally, I have been very blessed by Edric. He has repeatedly communicated to me that he will take care of me and be here for Catalina and I.

What an eventful first month of motherhood I have had! So much pain, joy, fatigue, faith, worry, frustration, hope, darkness, and deliverance personally packaged to help me grow in character. I do not know what else is in store for me, for Catalina, for our family. I sent a text message to Edric this morning because he has been out today for work:

“I miss you but it’s good to be alone to process all of this. I feel very broken — emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I know God is present through all this and this comforts me but it still hurts that he allowed this to happen. It’s like the weariness of being in a war where the victory is certain but the fighting is necessary.”

His response…”I love you babes. I will take care of you.” (Awww)

I read this passage in Psalms today and I know it was for me — to declare and praise God. Whatever is happening now doesn’t change what I know to be true about God’s character. He is good. And I will praise him whether smiling or in tears, whether joyful or afflicted.

But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and of Your salvation all day long; For I do not know the sum of them. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, Yours alone. O God, You have taught me from my youth, and I still declare Your wondrous deeds. For Your righteousness, O God, reaches to the heavens, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? You who have shown me many troubles and distresses Will revive me again, And will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. (Psalms 71:14-17, 19, 20 NASB)20130918-154629.jpg20130918-154647.jpg20130918-154703.jpg20130918-154654.jpg20130918-154709.jpg20130918-154715.jpg

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Live with Anticipation

Yesterday was my first attempt at homeschooling four kids since I gave birth to Catalina. She wailed several times during the morning so I had to teach while breastfeeding. Had my four older kids been more cooperative, this wouldn’t have been such a bad set-up. But, they got used to the liberties they had while I was busy with Catalina this past month. It was hard for them to settle into study-mode.

Edan seemed so disinterested, Elijah was distracted, Titus kept gravitating towards the IPad, and Tiana didn’t want to do her Sing, Spell, Read, and Write material. I sat there, on the bed, with my disheveled hair, nursing bib, Catalina in one arm, and the tears started to fall. This wasn’t going well.

“Why is your face red, mommy?” Titus asked in his curious way. Elijah said sorry because he knew why I was upset. Edan looked over, quiet and concerned. Tiana was clueless.

I didn’t want them to worry about me. So after admitting that I was having a hard time, I shifted emotional gears, sucked it in, and continued.

I proceeded to teach Tiana her numbers. She kept getting confused with numbers 1 to 10. So we tackled just 2 numbers — number 1 and number 2 but even that was hard for her to grasp.

My impatience started to kick in. What?! She doesn’t know her numbers?!

Tiana’s face began to show signs of distress. “Mommy, don’t be mad.” She could tell I was agitated so I had to apologize and watch my tone.

Edan actually said it was his fault for not teaching her so well this past year. He was supposed to be my teacher’s assistant. Of course I didn’t blame him. He is 7 years old! I’m supposed to be on top of these things. I really didn’t do much with Tiana this past school year in terms of academics. Therefore, she is at ground zero.

For the remainder of the morning, I homeschooled while sitting on a bed and surprise, surprise…My kids actually got through science, world history, local civics, and some Filipino (for the older boys). Edan squeezed in a little bit of math. Titus and Tiana did their phonics and math. It was a bumpy morning but we survived.

This is going to be a fun year. I’m trying to be very positive because I know it’s going to be incredibly challenging.

I like what my mom says. “Live with anticipation.” She is a model of what it means to smile at the future and anticipate what God is going to do — how he will solve and fix a problem or issue.

Years ago, she had symptoms indicative of multiple sclerosis. The doctor told her she most likely had MS. She left the hospital imagining that she could end up in a wheel chair in the near future but when she got into her car, she said, “Thank you Lord (in advance) for what you are going to do. I know you are going to take care of me.” Her nervousness was replaced with faith and calm as she applied the verse,
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6, 7 NASB)

When we found out what she was up against we were all concerned, especially my dad. But we all prayed and committed her health to the Lord. She also did a lot of research on how to combat her nerve degeneration with natural remedies. After a few months her symptoms did not progress and she got well! We all believe that God cured her, but my mom said the key was applying the “thanksgiving” part of Philippians 4:6-7. She lived with anticipation that God was going to do something miraculous and he did!

I may not be battling a sickness or disease, but I find myself at a point in my own life where I must live with anticipation, trusting that God will give me favor as I homeschool. Yesterday was a foretaste of my new normal. It’s not going to be easy to give each of my kids the attention they need, but I am excited. I’m looking forward to how the kids and I will grow and mature this year. God has something special in store for us.

This passage ministered to me…
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (Hebrews 10:35-39 NASB)

Snapshots of the kids at work…

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No, You Cannot Feed the Lions

Some weeks ago we hand-fed giraffes in the Singapore Zoo, which was especially fun for Tiana who loves animals. When we got to the lions, she asked, “Can I feed the lions?” She was innocently insistent on it so I had to respond, “If you feed the lions they might eat you!” It probably wasn’t the most prudent thing to say to a little child who could potentially develop an inordinate fear of big cats. However, at the time, I just needed her to understand that it wasn’t a good idea. Lions were not the cute kitty-kitties she perceived them to be.

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Today, as I remembered that dialogue, I thought about how we can be as clueless when we ask things of God. Without realizing it, we make petitions and requests and want a yes, but God, in his infinite wisdom and perfect love, says wait or no. And unless we trust him and believe in his character we can mistakenly think that he does not want what is best for us.

For example, after Edric and I had Elijah we wanted to have another child. Thinking it would be easy to do so, we kept trying but to no avail. It was disappointing to get my period month after month. Having to wait on God’s timing was a struggle. But when we finally did conceive it ended up being just the right time. We had a three year gap between both boys which turned out to be a blessing. Elijah was old enough to be a helpful and accommodating older brother. We were also able to afford the move into a bigger apartment.

Another example was my bout with bad skin. One of the consequences I experienced after struggling with impurity in my relationship with Edric (in college), was acne. For the first time in my life, I had breakouts that were horrible. And it was very humbling for me because I could not fix my skin. I went to a dermatologist but God did not allow my skin to be healed right away. This happened when Edric and I were broken up. I felt really ugly and I prayed so hard for my skin problem to go away. But God said, no. In fact, I was left with some scars afterwards.

Was it wrong to ask to be healed? No. Yet, God was teaching me to be humble. He wanted me to remember that his forgiveness is always available but there are consequences to my choices. I still have these scars and I don’t have perfect skin. I wish I did. Edric does and so do my kids! As for me, I get occasional breakouts in my 30′s! I don’t have acne anymore but whenever I see my scars I recall what God said to me, “This will be a reminder to you that you are never to use your physical body as an instrument for unrighteousness.”

God is always more concerned about our character than our comfort. He is molding us into Christ-likeness and needs to empty us of ourselves so we can be spiritually fit for his purposes.

The Bible tells us…Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:20-22 NASB)

During worship this morning, the pastor, Ricky Sarthou, invited his wife, Aggie, to share her testimony. At the beginning, she talked about how God did not answer her request to take away her cancer. But she made the choice to surrender her life, dreams, and desires to him. When she decided to rejoice and find hope in Christ through her battle with cancer, God healed her for his glory. Even the doctors could not explain how she could have survived. It was a miracle for her to be delivered from stage 4 cancer of the breast that had metastasized to the bones. She has been cancer-free for the last 10 years! And the best part of all, she has used her cancer as a platform to effectively minister to others.

God always answers our prayers. Whether it is a yes, wait or no, he always has a better plan — for his glory amounting to our greater good.

Pastor Ricky said, “We pray to surrender.” I cannot agree more. The key to effective prayer is to say, “Lord, not my will, but yours be done. You know the desires of my heart, but you know best, so I trust you with my life.”

Post notes on the skin thing…

When I got back together with Edric after our breakup period, I was so self-conscious about my skin. This was a season when he was doing a lot of commercial modeling, too, and he was around all kinds of attractive people. But, he did not date anyone during our break-up and he also saw past my skin. He admits that he was surprised when he saw me, but when I asked him what he thought about it later on, he explained, “I loved you for who you were. The longing to be with you was greater than the physical.” Shortly after this he proposed to me and we got married, too. Yeah!

Even though God did not answer my prayer about my skin clearing up right away, I believe God used it for good in my life. First, he taught me not to depend on outward appearances but to work on my character. Second, he wanted me to really internalize the reality that there are consequences to sin. And third, he allowed me to see that Edric truly loved me for the person he saw inside which was incredibly reassuring.

God continues to teach me to look at his heart and his greater purposes when I don’t understand why he allows circumstances or why he says no when I want a yes. And being a mom and having to say no or not now to my own children when their wants are not for their ultimate good (like Tiana and her feeding-the-lion-request) has helped me to recognize that God’s perspective is always higher and more complete than mine could ever be…and I need to rest in the truth of that.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 NASB)

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The Unexpected Gift

It’s amazing how God demonstrates how personal he is, how thoughtful he is of his children. Alot of times it’s in the small ways that I see this attribute of him manifested. Like a few days ago…

I was doing my on-line baby shopping (which I enjoy much more than actual shopping in a store), and one of the things I was canvassing for was a thermoscan for taking the kids’ temperature when they are sick.

For many years, I used the digital kind and it worked fine but I thought it would be great to upgrade to something more accurate. However, since I had already put a bunch of stuff in my virtual cart, I felt like I would be exceeding my budget to include a thermoscan. So I didn’t think about it anymore and stopped looking at reviews and comparing prices.

The very next day I was asked to be present at a ladies lunch where my mom invited me to co-teach with her about marriage and a little bit about parenting. I wavered on the decision because I had been trying to slow down my activities. With my delivery date so close, I didn’t want to have too many commitments outside of the home. However, for this particular opportunity I was prodded by the Lord to go, to choose to be a blessing.

I ended up being the one so blessed by the hearts of the ladies and their hunger for God’s word. And the wonderful bonus at the end was the host came up to me and said, “I have something for you.” She handed me a Braun Thermoscan! I couldn’t believe it! In fact I told her I was wanting to buy one just the night before but had decided not to. And Braun is the best one, too. I’ve read the reviews. ;)

The greater marvel to me was how God allowed someone to be an instrument of his mindfulness. I don’t think it was coincidental that this person gave me the Thermoscan. God used her to let me know that he is intimately involved in my life, that he knows me personally. He truly is a loving father to his children. He is that way towards all who seek and serve him.

I had several kids sick since I got the device so it has come in very handy!

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Thank you, Lord, and thank you, Jessica Chan, for the unexpected generous gift of the Braun Thermoscan!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. (Psalms 139:2-6 NASB)

The Sacredness of a Promise

“I believe in the sacredness of a promise, that a man’s word should be as good as his bond, that character—not wealth or power or position—is of supreme worth.” John Rockefeller

My dad has said a number of times, “A man of honor, his word is his oath.” Aside from the fact that it is a matter of integrity — a principle my dad espouses because he wants to please God — this is one of his defining traits as a person. He has often encouraged my siblings and I to be the same way. “If you say you will do something, do it.”

The Bible says, Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. Matthew 5:37 (NLT)

Yesterday, I was blessed to experience my dad’s dependability again. Earlier in the day, I asked him if I could take a photograph of him with a birthday greeting sign for someone in our church who had requested it. He was busy preparing a message for Sunday Worship, but he said I could. However, he was in casual house clothes and asked if I could wait until he put on a decent shirt. Since I had to accompany my mom to meet with some interior designers, my dad said we could take the photo when we saw each other again in the afternoon. In light of everything he had to do, the photograph really wasn’t major but he knew it was important to me.

I went off to the meeting with my mom. Half way through it, I received a call from my dad. He explained to me that he could still pass by to meet me but he also needed to go to the church office to finalize his Sunday message. Basically, he was giving me the option to decide. If I really wanted him to meet me, he would, just so I could take his photo. I knew it was more of a priority for him to go the church office so I said, “Dad, go on ahead to the office. I will just talk to your assistant to take the photo.” And sure enough, within 2 hours, the photo was emailed to me. I got a text message from my dad, “Sent the picture already.” I texted him back, “You are the best, Dad. You are so reliable and thoughtful. Love you.” My dad inconvenienced himself to keep his word to me.

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Whether he makes a big or small commitment, my dad binds himself to it and treats it as sacred. I have always admired him for this, especially since people tend to make statements they never quite follow through with (this includes me!).

You know, like when you say, “I will be there” but end up flaking out or canceling at the last minute. Or, “I will deliver by such and such date” but expectations are not managed. It’s rare to meet people who consistently stick to an agreed time or even a time-table.

Let’s call it what it is. A person who does not keep his or her word is a liar. When I tell my kids, I will be home by 3 PM but I am an hour late, I told a lie. When I tell my husband, I will get your request done by today but fail to do so and make excuses when he asks me about it, I am a liar trying to look like a good person.

I want to grow in this area. I want to copy my dad’s example. His dependability has been a blessing and I want my kids to see the same faithfulness in me. But he has also modeled another trait that I have picked up on – be wise about what you commit to.

The Bible says to be very careful when you make a vow. If you are not sure that you can keep a promise or follow through with a statement you have made, then manage expectations sooner than later. Or better yet, just keep quiet.

I remember an incident where my dad asked me to edit a paper for him and I told him I would. After weeks, I had left the paper alone and got busy with other concerns. One day he called me about it thinking that I had already looked through it. I was embarrassed to say that I had not edited it. And he told me, “Next time, if you can’t do it then let me know rather than say you can but won’t get it done.” He wasn’t angry but he was disappointed. For a split second I thought of several excuses to rationalize my failure but instead, I apologized and used that situation as a learning experience. Speak less, do more.

The principle of keeping one’s word makes me think about God as a father. Imagine what it would be like if God did not keep his promises? What if he lured us with all kinds of enticing statements about his goodness and didn’t live up to the impression he painted of himself? What if we staked our lives on false hopes about forgiveness, salvation, or eternity? Where would we anchor our faith if we could not know with certainty that God’s word is true?

Thankfully, the Bible tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Sometimes, we aren’t patient enough to wait for the Lord to fulfill his promises. We interpret his ability and commitment to do so by circumstances or by our limited understanding of who he is. Yet, we can be confident that there is no guessing with God. The truth he has presented in his word will never fail. He is the most reliable promise-keeper we will ever know. “Blessed be the Lord, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant. (1 Kings 8:56 NASB)

May the Lord make me a Christ-like promise-maker and promise-keeper and not allow me to become a “cultural” promise-maker and promise-keeper!