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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We are Home!

Thank you for your prayers! We are comfortably settled at home, enjoying our time together as a bigger family.

I haven’t gotten hardly any sleep which is to be expected. This is still better than walking around the cold hospital like a zombie to get to the intermediate care unit on the 3rd floor.

It’s been wonderful to watch all five of our kids interacting with one another. This may be it for us. Having three boys and two daughters feels just perfect. Okay…right now, it feels like a lot!

At the hospital, it was quiet most days when I was alone or with Edric. When we got home it was like, BOOM! Kids everywhere. Lots of noise. Big personalities.

I honestly felt a tad bit harassed at first. Edric had to remind me to be cool and patient. I caught myself getting irritated several times. It was such a challenge trying to get Catalina to sleep when each of our other four kids would barge into the room with something to say or a request to ask. If the door was locked they would knock loudly. Or they would run down the hall laughing and calling out to one another.

What a contrast it must have been for Catalina who came from a very peaceful and sterile environment in the hospital. She had her eyes closed most of the time at the IMCU. Since she has been home, her eyes have been open ALOT, probably because her senses have been assaulted by her four siblings. Well, now I know what she looks like with her eyes open!

The reality of five children to raise and parent (whew, and homeschool), is coming to the forefront of my consciousness. Before it was like this fantasy. Oh, let’s have five kids. How fun. How magical.

During the last 48 hours I have been trying to figure out how to survive! This is a challenging stage because of breastfeeding so I know it’s going to pass. But, wow. Five is a big responsibility.

When I started to go a little nuts, I took a pause and went to the Lord. I prayed about being spirit-filled. I asked for supernatural capacity and enabling to be the mom my kids need me to be. And I requested that Catalina be easy to take care of so she doesn’t monopolize my time. This is a good place to be in…feeling overwhelmed. God wants me to recognize that I am inadequate apart from him. I really can’t handle five kids without him.

After I prayed the day went a whole lot better. Catalina slept for longer stretches so I was able to do some homeschooling. In the afternoon, I put her in a sling and we all went to the grocery. Five kids (and a yaya, I am no martyr!). I was able to sneak in some breastfeeding while at the meat section. Catalina was hidden in my sling.
It worked out just fine.

Everything was going great until the driver opened the back of our van and 4 dozen eggs fell out. I was totally upset and annoyed but I didn’t want to fault him. It was the guy from the grocery who packed the eggs on top of everything else. He was the genius behind the disaster.

Well, eggs get broken. It’s not the end of the world. I decided to think of the accident as our version of confetti, in celebration of the new adventure we are entering into as a family.

There was much to be thankful for. I was holding Catalina in my arms — healthy and well. My four other children had big smiles on their faces because we had just spent the entire day with one another. No more hospital to take me away. The Lord has allowed us to come home and he will enable our lives to go on, one day of grace at a time…

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I Forgive You and Will You Forgive Me?


One of the habits I appreciated about the home I grew up in was the habit of unconditional forgiveness. My parents instilled in my siblings and I the concept of keeping short accounts with one another. Forgive with liberality. Forgive with grace. Do not hold grudges or harbor resentment. They modeled this by example.

I recall an instance when I had to make a big confession to my parents about how physical Edric and I had been while we were dating. We didn’t have sex but we did everything close to it. We really played with fire. As a result, I lived with a deep sense of shame and guilt. All the while, my parents did not suspect that Edric and I were struggling in this area.

Two years after we started dating, Edric and I mutually agreed to break up because we wanted to honor God. We believed that it would not be possible to discern God’s individual plan for our lives if we continued to play games with him, if we weren’t committed to purity by his standards. So we parted ways in the year 2000. It was a painful separation, especially since we both imagined getting married in the future. But being away from one another resulted in much spiritual fruit. Edric and I grew in intimacy with the Lord and we experienced how he directed the course of our future.

The next year, Edric asked for my hand in marriage. However, between the break-up and getting engaged, Edric and I made the decision to confess how we had struggled with physical purity in our relationship. It was awkward to do this because at the time, we were not dating. We weren’t even talking on a regular basis. Our break-up meant no communication while we spent time discerning God’s will. So I prayed that if God really wanted me to marry Edric, then one of the things he would do is meet with my parents and tell them about our impurity.

Whew. I didn’t know how this was going to happen. And my other prayer was, please help my parents to still accept and love Edric even after we confess everything.

I was kind of asking for a miracle. What father wouldn’t pull out a shotgun and chase an ex-boyfriend away after hearing something like that?! But I believed that God could redeem the whole situation and bring everything to the light in a way that would glorify him. More importantly, I wanted to be right with him, with my parents, with Edric. After all, how could I expect God to speak through my parents about whether Edric and I should get married in the future if they didn’t know the whole truth?

Well, one day, out of the blue, Edric called me and asked if he could meet with my parents. Whoa. This was it. This was going to be that dreadful encounter with the truth that I wanted to happen but was scared to confront at the same time.

The meeting pushed through over a dinner. It was embarrassing, healing, and life-changing. My parents teared and expressed grief over our choices, but they also extended forgiveness. Their response toward us was redemptive. We were given a new start, a clean slate. (Edric and I didn’t get back together until months later but that moment proved to be a key event in the events leading up to our engagement.)

I cut the details of that dinner short because I want to focus on how that event impacted me. Receiving unconditional forgiveness restored me spiritually. I felt like I could move on with my life without having to lug around a big metal ball of guilt. And the communication between my parents and I was repaired because I had asked for their forgiveness and admitted to my deceit. Of course, this meant I had to bear the consequences, too…like stricter accountability and earlier curfews.

(I found out later on that Edric had the same sort of talk with his parents. Both of us were convicted not to mislead our parents about what our relationship had been like.)

Being forgiven helped me to better understand the heart of God. And I must add that my dad did not chase Edric out of the house with a gun or machete. He and my mom counseled us and offered their godly wisdom on the matter.

Throughout their years of ministry, I also witnessed my parents forgive those who have insulted, threatened, accused, and criticized them. Although I was tempted, at times, to take offense on their behalf, their example of not retaliating in anger or holding on to resentment convicted me. They forgave people whether or not an apology was given. And they moved towards them in love by being willing to see their perspective, saying sorry for making mistakes, and choosing not to let hurt build up like a wedge between them.

This too taught me that forgiveness is a choice. It’s not dependent on a person’s apology. It is within our power to say, “I will forgive you,” even before they ask for forgiveness. We can do this because God has freely forgiven us through Jesus Christ, his son.

Hebrews 4:14-16, “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

If I had not grown up in a home where forgiveness was given with liberality, it would be difficult for me to understand the grace of God. But seeing unconditional forgiveness modeled by my parents made me want to practice the same thing with Edric, my own kids, and with others.

Furthermore, the Bible tells us, “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14

This passage tells us that those who bestow grace receive grace. I also believe that those who have experienced God’s forgiveness and encountered his grace will be motivated to forgive others. They will not withhold forgiveness.

My children are still young but they need to experience grace. So when they come to me with their offenses and say, “Mom, will you forgive me?” I readily forgive them. I tell them, “Of course I forgive you. I will always forgive you, no matter what.”

Does this make them think, Yeah, I can keep doing wrong things because mom will always forgive me… Of course not. It encourages them to do what is right the next time. Because my children have a relationship with God, they want to obey and honor Edric and I. Yet the reality is they make mistakes, just like we do. So Edric and I help to repair what is broken in them – their relationship with one another, with us, with others, with God. Forgiveness motivates them to turn away from sin and pursue righteousness.

One morning, I heard Edan encouraging his younger brother, Titus, to approach me for forgiveness. He encouraged Titus by saying, “Just say sorry to mommy and ask for her forgiveness. She will forgive you no matter what. She will always forgive you.” I can’t even remember what Titus was sorry for but I remembered Edan’s perspective on the situation. I’m glad he had the confidence to say this to Titus.

But Edric and I can’t just model forgiveness, we need to model asking for forgiveness, too. Just this morning, Edric asked Elijah to forgive him for being impatient because he got snappy while they were playing a strategy game. At the breakfast table, Elijah expressed how he appreciated that Edric said sorry for that incident because he felt badly about it.

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My prayer is that Edric and I will continue to cultivate unconditional forgiveness in our home. Whether it is forgiving our children or asking for forgiveness from one another, I hope that this reassures our children that they can be honest about their failures with us. I hope that this will keep their hearts tender and give them the courage to ask for forgiveness and not cling on to sin as they grow older. More importantly, I hope they will realize that they have a heavenly father who loves them so much. They can come before him with their weaknesses and imperfections. He will not only restore them, he will give them the power to overcome sin and live a life that is pleasing to him.

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You. Psalm 86:5 

I have this book that I’ve read to the kids called First Virtues for Toddlers by Dr. Mary Manz Simon, and one of the poems in it is about forgiveness. It is such a simple poem but with profound meaning and opportunity for application, especially for young children:

Tiger, Tiger share today, what the Bible has to say…

To forgive means move on past. Don’t let angry feelings last.

If a friend steps on my toe, I will pardon her, you know.

When someone won’t share a toy, I forgive that girl or boy.

Then we have a brand new start. I feel kindness in my heart.

“I forgive,” are words I say almost every single day.

If a friend does not play fair, I forgive to show I care.

God forgives, so I can, too. That is what I try to do.

“I forgive,” God says to you. Are those words that you say, too?

Future Home

Nearly four months ago we started building our home. I will probably give birth before we are able to move in but that’s alright. We can squeeze in one more baby in our condo for a few more months until our house is finished. It’s been such a blessing to witness God’s faithfulness on this project. Today, Edric and I went to visit the site to take some pictures. I don’t know if it is genetically wired into me to like construction materials since my dad is a real estate developer but I found so many interesting things to photograph!
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Goodbye, Apron!

We have been rescued! My parents offered for us to stay with them until our replacement househelp arrives. Yippee! I was glad for the period of trying to do everything on our own. It was character building for me and the Lord was certainly gracious. But honestly, while ironing Edric’s shirts last night, I was like, “I think I’ve had it. I’m officially tired.” It was fun being the woman version of Handy Mandy at home, but I’ve got to get back to my 5%. Household chores can be outsourced…especially things like ironing. Being available to my husband and kids has been my neglected 5%.

If Edric hadn’t agreed to staying at my parents, we would have kept on with our yaya-less lifestyle until mid-April when we are expecting at least one, and then another one beginning of May. But, whew. This attempt at the American lifestyle sans all the efficiencies of American living was a fun challenge while it lasted yet impossibly sustainable. If I had one kid and I wasn’t pregnant, I could do this for the long haul. Four kids and pregnant with a husband who needs crisp collared shirts ironed for a TV show on a regular basis? I was delusional to think that it could be a permanent option just because I was sick and tired of househelp politics and issues. I need yayas. I admit it. I don’t need their drama and the stress that comes with managing them. However, I’m willing to change my attitude and perspective so that I can go back to dating my husband, teaching my children, doing ministry and writing.

My hats off to all the women out there who do everything and manage to make it look so easy. You are superwomen. I am not. I am pregnant woman.

As pregnant woman, I found myself becoming a nag about cleaning this and cleaning that, picking this up and picking that up. And everytime my kids would say, “Mom, can you read us a story?” Or, “Mom, can we do our work?” I would reply with, “Sorry, I have to finish washing the dishes,” Or, “Sorry, mommy has to clean the bathrooms.” It broke my heart to have to send the kids away and tell the to go find something else to do because I wasn’t available. That’s when it dawned on me. This isn’t sustainable. The kids need me for more important things beyond scrubbed floors, cooked meals, and sparkly toilets. All of these chores are cannibalizing my time, my day, my week!

What a blessing it is to be able to exhale from all of that as I sit here, leaning comfortably on four pillows knowing that I don’t have to hold a mop or wash dishes for the next 14 days (unless I miss it and feel the urge to). When my parents invited and Edric was okay with it, I packed half a van full of clothes, food, homeschool books, and the other half with my children, and said, “Kids, we are going to grandma’s.” Of course, they were thrilled. Staying at my parents means being four houses away from their cousins.

As for me, it means a sweet vacation from the do-it-all-yourself-everyday-lifestyle. Lord willing, by the end of the month, we will have our own househelp again. In the meantime, it sure is nice to walk into a kitchen and have your own mom say, “I had lunch prepared for you.” I really enjoy being a mom but it is awesome to STILL have a mom, too!

Goodbye, apron… see you in 14 days…

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Tiana wore one, too!

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The almost desperate housewife, but not quite…

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pregnant mom

 

 

My Exceeding Joy

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It’s been another back-breaking day for me without househelp. At one point Sunday morning, I wanted to cry out of self-pity. But God used Edan to minister to me in a very uncanny way. He went to play the piano (something he rarely does these days), and the first song he played was “The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength.” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even realize he knew that song. The message was loud and clear: Despite the present circumstances, I can have joy…an inexplicable joy, because of the Lord.

The boys helped me with chores. Edric has been incredibly sweet and patient. He loves it when I serve him. But we both know that this isn’t sustainable. With four young children, homeschooling, ministry, house-building, work-stress (more so for him than for me), and oh yah, I’m nearly 5 months pregnant…this is a temporary phase. While I enjoy being in charge of the home and being this hands on, I won’t be able to do this for an indefinite period of time. For one thing, it kills my back. I am having more frequent bouts with the excruciating pain that scoliosis inflicts as my pregnancy belly grows bigger.

How did we ever get into this predicament of no househelp, anyway? Just a week ago, I had three yayas! Now, I am down to one and she is on vacation. A short one. I do hope she comes back, too.

Over the past couple of months, I have had one disappointing experience after another when it comes to hiring househelp. I’ve had to laugh out loud at the comedy of it all. God has allowed us to have so many fails when it comes to hiring yayas. From one lady eating the kids’ snacks and juice drinks without conscience, to the same person abusing my kindness, to another needing to return home because of a crying husband, to another having to leave because her mother is a stroke victim, to one who almost gave Titus a bath in the sink, to a current yaya whose abrasive and panicky personality can offend others who work with her (she is currently on vacation), well, I must say that this cannot be coincidental.

When Edan got on the piano and played that song, I knew that God was dealing with my heart. He IS dealing with my heart. Present-tense. This is a character building experience for me. God has blessed me with a comfortable and easy life. Just the other day I was telling Edric how much I appreciate him for working so hard so I can enjoy a stress-free existence. And then, WHAM! Yaya, yaya, yaya, yaya madness. This is a divinely ordained trial so that I can grow in character!

My great temptation is to complain. But when I pause to contemplate the spiritual aspect of what’s going on, there is blessing in all this discomfort, in the annoyances I would rather not have to put up with. For one thing, I felt the very tender presence of the Lord as I was frying bacon and flipping pancakes on Sunday morning before church. As I lingered on the verge of self-pity, I was consoled by the reality that “Lord, you are all I need. I can do this if you are with me. I know you are always with me.”

Today, while washing dishes, mopping the floor, bathing the kids, picking up after them and with them, cleaning the toilets, wiping, sweeping, and cooking, the Lord has been my song and my happiness. He has made me smile even during moments when my back couldn’t take it anymore.

When I was rinsing off plates after lunch, I could hardly move my left leg. Boy, did I want to cry from the pain. Elijah came over to hug me because he heard me wincing. I just prayed, “Lord you have to help me.” The pain subsided.

During these past few days of what I would deem as a measure of suffering (a small measure in comparison to others but it still feels like a cross to bear, none the less), God has brought to mind the story of my grandfather and father who have been such good examples to me when it comes to joyfulness.

Many, many years ago, my grandfather was the owner of one the biggest textile mills in the Philippines. He had come from China and through hard work and perseverance, built an “empire.” This was back in the 1960s and early 70s. He even had an office in the Empire State Building. My father told me he grew up with a “platinum spoon.”

However, due to untoward circumstances and a corrupt government, my grandfather lost almost everything. It was humbling for my dad’s family, but my dad speaks of that time as one of the biggest blessings in his own life.

My dad started his own business and God gave him a burden to start a ministry to business people. As a self-supporting pastor, he began meeting with a group of businessmen back in the early 1980s, and with them started a church called Christ Commission Fellowship. Today, nearly 29 years later, CCF is a movement of close to 50,000 Christ-committed followers, with churches planted all over the Philippines and even abroad.

I am sharing this because God causes all things to work together for good. He is never surprised by the catastrophic (big and small) events that happen in our lives. He is always in control, always at work to bring about his greater purposes. If my dad had kept working for my grandfather’s company, he would not have started his own successful business in land development. But more significantly, he would have been deaf to the call of the Lord to ministry.

One of the things that this life lesson taught him that he has passed on to me and my siblings is the importance of perspective. He told me that his father (my grandfather) never once bad-mouthed anyone or developed bitterness about the loss of his business. He did not harbor resentment toward those who did him wrong. And when he was slighted and humiliated afterwards, he did not react in anger. To this day, my 93-year old grandfather is a happy person. He can’t remember who most of us are, but he is not a cranky, old man!

Because of my grandfather’s example and God’s grace, my dad is very much like my grandfather. He is a thankful, joyful person, even during unfavorable circumstances. After watching his testimony closely over years, I know that it is the joy of the Lord that makes him this way. The right perspective on people and experiences allows him to process things in a spirit-filled manner.

When I think about this story, I am reminded to count my own blessings. Admittedly, I am very discouraged and disappointed with the inefficiencies and undependability of those that have worked for me as of late, but I have so much to be thankful for. Edric, the kids, and I – our family unit – we are okay, in tact, at peace. Love and laughter abound. I am pregnant but God gives me the physical strength to do all the chores I have to. There are four young children to attend to, but they do not give me heartache. Today, we didn’t get to homeschool, but we re-arranged their book cabinet and they all took care of one another. We can make it up another day. I feel tired and spent, but no time has been wasted on idle activities. In other words, I am managing just fine by God’s grace.

Would I prefer that my situation were otherwise? Certainly! But God gives me reason to rejoice. He is my exceeding joy! Psalm 43:4 says, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise you, o my God, my God.”

I do not know what will happen in the days to come in terms of our househelp situation, but in the meantime, I am enjoying being sustained and upheld by the Lord.

Psalm 90:14 “O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

Wanted: Father.

When Edric and I first became parents, we were wet behind the ears. Most of what we knew about raising our kids was theoretical or passed on from our own experiences as children. Eventually, we learned about biblical parenting principles and we applied them. We are still learning…

When we had Elijah, we were thrilled to be parents. But we didn’t quite get what it meant to be intentional and purposeful in raising our son. Edric was often preoccupied with doing his own thing when he got home from work — like turning on the TV or playing computer games, going out in the evenings for basketball with friends. Edric didn’t ignore Elijah, but their interactions with one another were minimal. The baby stage was foreign territory to him and I didn’t blame him for feeling like he couldn’t relate to a bouncing boy who pooped and peed on himself and wanted to be with mommy to breast feed. He would play with Elijah once in a while but father and son bonding occasions were not in his radar.

As Elijah got older and we had more kids, Edric began to change as a father. I remember an evening when we were sitting around the table for dinner and Edric asked Elijah how he could improve as a dad. Elijah must have been about five years old when he made the statement, “You can spend more time with me.” He used his hands to show that he had this imaginary meter for spending time with dad, and he explained that Edric was at the bottom of the meter. We all started laughing out loud because it was very candid and unscripted. He said it just like it was. “Dad your level is at 0.”

Of course, Edric wanted to improve! And I prayed for him, too. One of the things that really changed in his parenting style was the desire to be present and purposefully available to our kids, especially our sons. At a certain point, he recognized that God gave us three sons for a reason and he had to prayerfully consider what kind of father he needed to be. The boys were not going to grow up to be godly men by accident or osmosis. They needed guidance. They needed their dad.

So every year, he would sit down with me and talk about our goals for the kids. He would share about the areas he felt they needed to work on and how he intended to play a big part in mentoring and teaching them. I always appreciated this because it made me feel very secure and confident as a wife that my husband was in charge, that he actually had a plan and direction for the family. (In fact, I often tell him that this is one of his more attractive traits.)

During the second week of January, we had a meeting to talk about goals for the kids. He asked me to prepare my homeschool goals and we aligned on what I would work on and what he had itemized as a priority list for each of our kids. Some of the list covered spiritual and emotional aspects and others were practical skills.

One of the practical skills Edric outlined for our six year old, Edan, was to acquire the ability to swim and bike. Living in the city has put constraints on the amount of time we spend outside and this means we don’t have as many opportunities to expose our children to biking, swimming, climbing trees, playing in parks, etc. Sadly, our kids would be well-content to stay indoors and let their muscles atrophy too if Edric and I did not do anything about it. But since we grew up being outside for most of our childhood, we want our kids to experience the same joys and adventures we had. Plus, they need Vitamin D!

So…swimming and biking it is for now. Edric started Edan’s training program two weekends ago and I must say, it is impressive to watch him “coach” Edan. I am not talking about doggie-paddling stuff. Edric used to be a swimmer so he knows all the drills. His first hurdle was getting Edan to overcome his fear of the water and then putting his head under water and blowing bubbles. Well, I was amazed last Sunday when I saw Edan swimming in the big pool! He touched the bottom of the pool with his hands and he swam a significant distance all by himself. After just two sessions with his dad, Edan was laughing and thrilled that he accomplished so much. I was clapping my hands and cheering everytime time he would pop his head out of the water for recognition. (That’s my role in this swimming and biking training…the over-affirming cheerleader.)

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Edric is able to do, in a fraction of the time, what would take me days and days to achieve with the boys. With him, they learn quicker. They develop confidence and masculine traits. They overcome their insecurities. I actually enjoy being on the sidelines spying on them. For one thing, it is fun to check out my husband. (Did I already say I find him so attractive earlier?) My second delight is seeing the expressions on my sons’ faces when they have Edric’s full and undivided attention. I see the way they look at Edric. Admiration, respect, desire to please, assurance, favor, love…it’s all mixed in there.

I get puppy eyes for sympathy when they need a hug or when they want me to say yes to a request. Okay, on occasion, I get sparkly eyes when they are excited about learning. Of course, I get the love look. The point is, I am not perceived as the hero. That sort of adulation is reserved for Edric. And it doesn’t make me envious. I want the boys to gravitate towards him. After all, I have my own little acolyte and her name is Tiana.

When Edric and I got home from “swimming lessons,” we talked about Edan’s progress. I also thanked him for following through with his commitment to teach Edan. He went on to say that Edan didn’t want to get out of the water because he was having so much fun, and then Edric started to get teary-eyed which caught me off-guard. “Are you okay?”, I asked him. Spontaneous tears seemed like a hormonal thing that would have been much more characteristic of me than him.

He answered, “I don’t know. I guess it is because I live for these moments, seeing our kids bloom and mature and being able to be a part of that. I enjoy ministry and I know that it is important, but you guys are my first ministry…you and the kids.”

Who had the love look now?! Me, of course! I fall in love with my husband all over again when he says things like this. I have always appreciated Edric as a husband, but in recent years, I have been so grateful to the Lord that he has embraced being a father. His commitment to family is a blessing that I attribute to the Lord’s work in his life. Many years ago, I really prayed that he would recognize how irreplaceable he is in the lives of our children…that they need him now, not just later, not from a distance, but up close. When Edric developed a burden to disciple, teach and train our kids, I knew that it was God who put that desire in him and continues to do so.

The reality is Edric is still very busy and he is not able to be with the kids 24/7 but he came up with a game-plan for our kids about 4 years ago. He told me we were going to use Luke 2:52 as a reference for how our children should mature. It reads, “And Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men.”

WISDOM: Are they able to discern right from wrong and make wise choices?
STATURE: Are they developing their physical abilities and talents?
FAVOR WITH GOD: Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and do they have the heart to know, love, obey, worship, and serve him?
FAVOR WITH MAN: Are they learning biblical character traits and applying them with family members and others?

These four areas have simplified our parenting to the essentials. It has helped me to think through the goals I set for our homeschooling and Edric can major on the major to maximize his time with the kids. Just the other night, he reminded me again that it boils down to, “passing on a godly legacy.”

Being an intentional father doesn’t mean a dad has to quit his job and spend 14 hours with his child everyday. It’s about setting aside purposeful moments that are devoted to discipleship with resulting big impact.


The statistics on fatherless homes are so compelling, I thought I would include some highlights here to encourage all of us to pray for our husbands. We need them to lead spiritually and by godly example, and we need their effective discipleship in the home.

From http://fatherhood.gov/library/dad-stats:

Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.
Amato, P.R., and Rivera, F., 1999, “Paternal Involvement and Children’s Behavior Problems,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 375–384.

Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.
Radin, N., and Russell, G., 1983, “Increased Father Participation and Child Development Outcomes,” in Fatherhood and Family Policy, edited by M.E. Lamb and A. Sagi, Hillside, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 191–218.

Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
Biller, H.B. 1993, Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development, Westport, CT: Auburn House.

Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
Pruett, Kyle D. 2000. Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. New York: Free Press.

From First Things First

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers.

“….the absence of the father from the home affects significantly the behavior of adolescents and results in greater use of alcohol and marijuana.” Source: Beman, Deane Scott. “Risk Factors Leading to Adolescent Substance Abuse.”

A 15-year-old girl who has lived with her mother only is three times as likely to lose her virginity before her sixteenth birthday than one who has lived in a home with both parents. Lee Smith, “The New Wave of Illegitimacy,” Fortune 18 (April 1994) 81-94.

85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control) Fallen Fathers, 2008.

80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26

85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction- Fallen Fathers

From The Fatherless Generation

Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.

Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.

Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.

Studies on parent-child relationships and child wellbeing show that father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.

——

Fatherlessness is being passed on from one generation to another like a cancer that is killing the families of today and tomorrow. Sadly, the cure is not found within ourselves. We cannot cure this ill without being healed by Jesus Christ first. Why? We have been separated from our own father — God the Father — by sin. But Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I think of Edric and my own dad as great fathers but God is still the best father of all. He loves each one of us perfectly and unconditionally, and he desires to have a relationship with us for eternity. If you came from a fatherless home or live in one, you don’t have be a victim of this trend. Come to the Father of All and experience his love through Jesus Christ. He will be father to you. He will love you as you long to be loved.

There, Gone, and Who-Knows-When-House

Last May, we began a house building project that was going great until we encountered problems with the foundation. Because it was a major issue, everything came to a halt. We had to re-visit and re-work plans — a process that has now taken close to six months.

The lot was given to us as a gift some years ago. It’s got a beautiful view of the city but it is a sloping lot. Structurally speaking, it is not simple to build on it. And besides that, we discovered there’s a fault line very near the property. Since we stopped construction, we have been looking to find solutions to remedy and salvage the existing structure.

Until recently, I wasn’t stressed out about it. Edric, too, was pretty cool about the delay. But when it seemed like nothing was happening for a long while, I began to feel anxious, disappointed and frustrated. It especially hurt when our children would express their longing for a bigger place to live. They wouldn’t complain but in their prayers, Edric and I would hear them say, “Lord please help us to be able to build our house…please help us to have a bigger home.”

We have actually lived like happy sardines in our condo for the last 7 years. It has been a wonderful blessing. However, with our growing family, the big personalities of our children, and the amount of space they need to play and run around, the next stage has been to build a house. Right now, the kids all sleep in one room…four of them. Their beds fit together like puzzle pieces and they love it. We reserve the third bedroom for homeschooling and playing.

Truthfully, we have enjoyed our urban lifestyle. We have been going in and out of elevators for like, forever. We appreciate the ease with which we can get around. There’s our favorite gelato ice cream place just a few blocks away. There are an endless number of restaurants to try (We’ve tried almost all within a 500 meter radius). We like being able to leave our place for days without worrying about break-ins. And we have adjusted to the constraints we have by taking trips, spending time outdoors, and giving stuff away periodically to clear out more storage. So the condo has not, for the most part, felt like a cage. God has been so generous towards us and we are grateful.

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However, I know the kids dream about having a house. During a couple’s retreat that was held in Baguio last September, we were staying in a cottage and the kids were absolutely thrilled. They ran into it on the first day, started exploring, and said, “Wow, a home!” Edric and I both heard them and our hearts sank. At that particular point in time, we were supposed to have been in the finishing stages of our house…picking out tiles, paint color, fixtures…all the fun stuff.

Last night, Edric and I had a discussion about the house after watching Breaking Dawn Part 2. (I’m ashamed to admit that I wanted to watch this movie. And I’m more ashamed to admit that I read the books after I gave birth to Tiana. My sister in law had them and I was so bored while breastfeeding, I read all of her books. As cheesy as they were, I couldn’t put them down. I absolutely wanted to know how the whole saga ended.) Okay, back on topic…Edric and I started talking about our house plans after the movie. I found out that there was another issue that was brought to the table that would postpone building plans again. What?! It is uncharacteristic of me to vent unless invited to, but I went on and on in the car.

“I don’t understand why it’s taking this long. Why does there seem to be a block every time we are about to re-start the project? Is there something we are doing wrong? I feel like blaming someone! Who should we blame?! I’m so tired of hoping and then being disappointed. We are planning to get pregnant again. How can we possibly fit in our condo? I’m so annoyed that every time we are about to proceed, another issue is brought to the table. Why can’t everything be settled once and for all so that we can move forward?! I feel so angry! Let’s just forget the whole thing and not build this house!”

I was not upset with Edric. After all, he wasn’t the enemy in all of this. I was upset at the circumstances. Usually, I escape to solitude to process my feelings. But, I was so fed up with the situation that I really started expressing myself aloud. But when I started to unload like that, it tipped him over. It was 11:30 PM. Nothing was going to get done at that time. And since he didn’t have an immediate solution and he was too exhausted himself to respond to my litany of useless questions, he finally said, “Okay, I’ve hit a saturation point.” He didn’t want to hear what I had to say anymore. This upset me further because I felt like he was rejecting my feelings.

The last few minutes in the car were quiet. When we got home, I went to our bedroom and Edric watched basketball. Inside of me, I was kicking and jumping up and down in irritation. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I wanted to throw something. Of course I didn’t. I just said, “Lord! I’m so angry right now. I don’t understand why this house project has been delayed for so long. I feel troubled. I really need to hear from you. Please speak to me. Do you not want us to build this house? Just take it away if it’s not from you. Just put an obvious, clear stop to it. I don’t want it to be like a carrot dangling in front of us, stimulating false hope.”

I opened up my Bible to Luke 12:22-32, the last chapter I had read for my quiet time.

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.

Weeping as I read verse 32, God made me see. Joy, I have not withheld my kingdom from you. How can you doubt, worry, or be so agitated over a HOUSE? Did you not say, in faith, that I would build this house? Do you not trust me? Do you forget that I know your concerns, your needs, your desires? His words came to me gently and I felt ashamed.

God could easily make this house project happen. But he has allowed unprecedented obstacles and trials to develop my character. (Edric and I resolved our discussion before bedtime, and I apologized for my negativity. He also spent a good hour laying on his back listening to me express myself, which was a sweet gesture because I knew he wanted to sleep.)

God had a follow up message for me. This morning, I turned on Christian music for Tiana and Titus. I set out kitchen pans for them to bang on to practice their rhythm skills. The first song that played over the computer made me bow down in awe of how God speaks. The kingdom of heaven has been given to you. So do not be afraid. Do not run away. Do not be afraid, little child. Your father is pleased to give.

Over and over again these words were sung as the music played. It was the voice of a young child singing, but it was God’s special comfort to me, a remembrance of what I had read last night. Again, I began to cry in gratitude for the mindfulness of God. Here I was stressing out over the house building because it wasn’t happening according to my time-table. My ranting was emblematic of a spirit that was not at rest and not surrendered, but worried, fearful, troubled. God knew that all I needed was to be reminded of his character – that he is in control, that he is good and delights to give what is good to his children. He didn’t say, “The house building will be resumed tomorrow.” I have no idea when it will resume. But I know who God is. No maneuvering, manipulating, complaining, ranting, fighting, and finger-pointing will get this house built the way it should be unless God builds it.

During the ground breaking 6 months ago, we had a family ceremony with our architect and contractor. Edric asked me to make a placard that we could stick into the ground as part of the ceremony. The kids also wrote thank you letters to the Lord and we prayed as a family, with the building team. On the placard, it read THIS IS THE HOME THE LORD WILL BUILD. The verse I put on it was this…Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…How quickly I dismissed this truth and conviction in the face of mounting uncertainty and recurring disappointment.I had to come before the Lord and ask for forgiveness for my doubt and my attitude. How little was my faith! Six months of waiting and I was buckling?

As I fixed my eyes on the Lord my perspective was re-aligned with what is true.. My comfort is that God doesn’t change. Circumstances, people, and dreams may. And longings may or may not be fulfilled. While this reality troubles me, I rest in the greater reality that God is always the dependable constant. He is who he says he is. Therefore, I need not panic, fret, loose my cool, or get angry when things don’t turn out the way I want them to. Instead, I need to learn to wait and be at peace in my inner most being that all is moving according to plan…his plan, not mine.

Home as the Best Social Context

I was at a convenient store with Edan, when he said, “I want to get something for Elijah because he got me something last time. I want to get him a snack.” I watched him go through each aisle thoughtfully, looking for a snack that Elijah would appreciate. He picked up a soymilk drink and a bag of oatmeal cookies.

It blesses my heart when my kids think about one another and do random acts of kindness for each other without being asked to. And while many people may question the socialization aspect of homeschooling, I really believe that socialization is so much more than children getting along with their peers and learning to make friends.

I think the broader definition should be about raising kids who show compassion, who know how to respond to people who are hurting, lost, or need a friend, who choose to respect others, and look beyond their own wants to seek the greater good of others. Often times, the harder context to develop these qualities is in the home.

My kids annoy each other almost daily and they behave selfishly on occasion. Their capacity to tolerate and accomodate each other’s differences is really put to the test. Because they are homeschooled and have a whole lot of daily interaction they have to learn to get along. Character traits like deference, thoughtfulness, benevolence, and joyfulness must be applied. Our children also have to practice humbling themselves to ask for forgiveness and choosing to extend forgiveness. In the process, they understand what love really means. They realize it’s so much more a choice than a feeling. But by choosing to love one another, they develop an affectionate loyalty for one another. They treasure each other.

The Bible tells us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”(Luke 12:34 NASB) Similarly, our children need to be taught to invest in the lives of their siblings. The more time they spend together, the greater the bond between them.

I remember just a few years back, my two older sons would constantly react to Titus. They would get so frustrated with him because he couldn’t really communicate well and he wasn’t able to play by their rules. He would knock down things they would build and he was a nuisance when they attempted to include him in their games. It got to a point where Elijah, my eldest, really struggled with being loving and kind towards him. He broke down in anger one day and I had to sit him down to talk. I explained to him that his responses to Titus were incredibly important. If he demonstrated unconditional acceptance towards Titus, Edan would do the same. And Titus would surely change and improve as he matured but he needed to feel our love. It was difficult for Elijah to change his attitude but he tried his best.

Two years later, and my three boys are inseparable. They always want to be together and Titus is very much a part of that trio. Without him, their fun wouldn’t be complete.

Titus is now learning to accommodate Tiana’s personality. But having bigger brothers who have shown him what it means to look out for a younger sibling has helped him alot. He has exhibited the kind of patience and kindness toward Tiana that I hoped he would. Of course, Tiana can be a pest at times and she knows how to harass her brother, Titus. But Edric and I are working on her character, too.

I remember a homeschooling friend who told me that socialization is about teaching kids the hierarchy of relationships — God, parents, siblings and then others. Children must first understand who they are in relation to God and how much he loves them, followed by parents reaching out to their children to pursue them relationally, and children learning to love their parents and siblings. Afterwards, relating to others comes naturally because a child’s most fundamental longings for relationship are fulfilled.

While I may not be a sociologist or psychologist, I have seen this ring true for our family. Our children’s first and best social context has been the home.

A photo of our sons, three years ago…

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A Mom’s Hope

I have four of a kind when it comes to personality types. And God uses each of my kids to teach me more about Himself, myself, people, purpose, life…

A few days ago, I bought cupcakes for my kids. I was hoping to have a bit of the red velvet flavoured cupcake I got. I didn’t want the whole thing, just a bitty-bite.

My sons are my competition for this flavour. But I don’t mind. Eating a whole cupcake is too much sugar for me.

Well, I took a miniscule portion of Elijah’s cupcake while he was finishing his meal. And when he was ready for his dessert, I asked if I could have another bite of it.

“Mom, you already took a bite.”

“Hey, I bought those!” I said jokingly.

“Yes, but Jesus provided for it,” was his wise reply.

Well, I was certainly out-witted by my 9 year old son. He was right, too. My entitlement mentality got the better of me. God does own everything…even the cupcakes I buy! (Elijah did let me have a bite anyway.)

Children may not be as experienced as parents are, but God can certainly put in them a heart of understanding and wisdom. I see this with my kids (especially the two older ones). Insights like Elijah expressed about God owning everything tells me that my kids are beginning to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. As a mom, I can’t even begin to explain how happy this makes me. If there is any reward for the time, effort, and energy I put into parenting and homeschooling, it is to see my kids really love and know God. This is the hope that makes it all worth it.

Elijah, three years ago (He’s matured alot spiritually since then!)

So I was delighted when my husband, Edric, told me that some nights ago, Elijah asked him if he could pray for him. “Dad, what are you doing?” he asked. Edric was working on our house budget, on Excel. “I’m creating a master file for all our expenses for building our house,” Edric explained. Elijah paused for a bit and said, “Can I pray for you, dad?”

When Edric narrated this moment to me, he shared how blessed he was by Elijah. Elijah prayed a very heartfelt prayer that went something like this… “Lord, thank you for letting us build our house. Please help us to use it for your glory. Please help us to have enough funds to build the house…”

His prayer was a beautiful reminder that God is building something much more important than our physical home. He is laying the foundation of faith in our kids. He is the builder and the completer – the most faithful, reliable, and trustworthy. Therefore, my hope is continually in God. I look to him as one presenting a mere five loaves and two fish because parenting often feels like I am “in over my head.” The humbling reality is that I am incapable of the commitment, patience, Christ-likeness and wisdom it requires. But God is my strong supporter and he NEVER disappoints.

“..Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23b

“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.” Psalm 33:18

My boys four years ago (pre-Tiana)

Averted “Cat Fight”

I stepped into a near cat fight between two of the ladies who work for me. I was in my bedroom, playing with my kids, when I overheard their voices. Something was wrong. And sure enough, when I went into their room, they were at it…pointing fingers, cutting words, angry faces. My, here we go, I thought. This isn’t going to be quick or easy.

I listened to their discussion for a bit, which simmered down significantly because I was in the room with them. But they were still at it. Accusatory remarks, bringing up the past, judging one another…I had to say something.

Given that my Tagalog is not very good, my proposals and mediation had to be done in English (with my best effort to mix in the Tagalog). Thankfully, they understood me.

First, I tried to find out what was happening. I let the first two ladies (the ones who were really at it) explain their sides and then I asked them to pray with me. I knew this wasn’t a situation that could be solved with human resources because a whole lot of resentment had made the atmosphere spiritually heavy. So I came before the Lord and asked him to help us all.

Then I appealed to the goodness in each of them. Our conversation went something like this, “I know you ladies don’t want to be angry with each other. I know that you do not want to work together like this. So I want you to share with me what has made you feel hurt. Then, I want you to share how the other can improve.”

I gave time to each of the girls to say how they felt. But in the process, they dug up whatever beef they had with each other and tried to make each other look bad! So, I narrowed down the issues. Afterwards, I also shared about how conflict is normal. Edric and I have to work things out in our own relationship. No one is perfect, we all have to improve.

To cut the story short, I asked each one of them to share what they needed to change in their own life (regardless of the other person). And I also asked them how I can improve because I wanted to drive home the point that everyone can become better in some way.

Afterwards, I reassured them that they are equally important to me, that I care about them. I told them that the ugly things they revealed about each other will not make me care about them less. Most importantly, I shared that in our home, Christ is the center. And we want him to be present in the way we treat one another and the things we say. When we act in a manner that is unloving, then we displease God. (This is an edited version of our dialogue because I spent a good 45 minutes talking the issues over with them.)

One of the girls easily get over the issue and move on but the other one was nursing her hurt. This is where I had to bring in forgiveness.

Tears were shed (including my own), but by God’s grace, they all came to a better understanding and appreciation of one another. Repeatedly, I told them, “There are no accidents with God. We have all been brought together in this home. Therefore, we must choose to forgive and love one another.” I encouraged them to pray and surrender their frustrations to the Lord instead of focusing on the faults of the other person.

At the conclusion of our intense conversation, I prayed with them again. There was an overwhelming sense of peace and relationships were restored. I hugged each one of them and encouraged them to hug one another. We even did a group hug in the end and I counted to 10 seconds before allowing anyone to let go. (I ask my boys to do this when they get upset with one another, too.)

One of my girls said that she was so ashamed that their issues were brought up to me. And I told her, “Don’t ever be ashamed to share these things with me. I am not angry or stressed. You don’t have to worry about that. I am committed to helping you all improve and grow. But don’t do things for me. Do what is right for God.”

As a treat, I told them that I was giving them money to watch a movie at the mall so they could have some bonding time. It was a good day for me to do this because my two older kids were with Edric, and I just had my two tiddly-winks, Titus and Tiana, to take care of.

They were embarrassed to accept my offer, but I insisted. In my heart, I felt like this was one of those moments when they needed to experience grace. Why? Because we had shared the gospel of Jesus Christ to them in the past and we have always been vocal about what we believe, but the gospel’s true power must be seen in our lives. I sacrificed my own comfort this afternoon for their sake so they might understand that the gospel is about forgiveness, undeserved kindness, and redemption.

I didn’t do this for myself. My goodness, no! My human, self-centered side does not like dealing with other people’s “mess.” I don’t like to mediate discussions or jump in to help others resolve their issues. Sure, I do this with my kids. But that’s different.

Yet, God put a burden in my heart to disciple these ladies. They live in our home. I trust them with the lives of my children. And even if the world may think of them as just “the help,” I consider them fellow heirs of God’s grace because he loves them and died for them.

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:28 – 29

I also know that they watch our lives more closely than anyone else. By reaching out to them in grace, I want them to desire the Jesus whom we believe in and love. I don’t want there to be any measure of contradiction in me to nullify whatever seed the gospel has planted in their hearts. If my actions as a boss turn them off to Jesus then I am accountable for a great crime before God. His invitation to relationship is for them, too.

They came home from their mall and movie bonding time smiling and chatting. The pleasant sound of their laughter in the kitchen was a wonderful reminder that peace is possible in Christ. Praise God for bringing back the harmony into our home!

May mercy and peace and love be multiplied to you.
(Jude 1:2 NASB)

The Relational Atmosphere

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My two older sons sat through Sunday service to watch and hear their dad preach. At one part during the message, Edric admitted to the audience that, “I still struggle with irritability towards my wife and kids from time to time but by God’s grace, I am improving.” The theme of his talk was “Pursuing Intimacy with God through A Heart Makeover.” He was nearing the end of the morning’s sermon when he revealed that bit about his heart.

Elijah, my eldest son, was seated beside me and he whispered to me, “Dad is so honest! He does get irritated sometimes but he says sorry right away and we forgive him.”

He said this so candidly and without any hint of hurt or bitterness. Edric does lose his cool once in a while. But, he has changed so much over the years. This is really the Lord’s doing (I used to get so reactive when he would snap at the kids, but “correcting” him would backfire, so I chose the better alternative — praying to God while acting respectfully towards Edric. That worked!)

Hearing Elijah’s comment taught me a valuable relationship principle. A home must abound with humility and forgiveness. My dad used to say, “keep short accounts.” Don’t let anger or hurt linger, especially among family members. Growing up, I remember that our family was quick to say sorry and willing to forgive immediately. We saw our parents model this. When they would make a mistake, they would sit us down and talk with us. They would humbly admit that they were wrong and ask for our forgiveness. If they had disputes with each other and their “discussions” became public, they would apologize for the way they spoke to one another in front of us. This meant a lot to us kids. We saw how conflict was resolved and relationships restored easily when people practiced humility, forgiveness and grace.

Edric and I are trying to cultivate this same kind of relational atmosphere in our home. Our children know that we are imperfect people. But they also know that we are committed to becoming better and our standard is to keep maturing into Christ-likeness.

Periodically, we will also ask our kids, “How can we improve?” And they will give their suggestions. This keeps us from repeating actions that damage our kids emotionally. It also keeps our communication channels open.

Recently, I was counseling a friend whose parents were verbally and physically abusive (more verbal than physical.) After their outbursts of anger, they would act like nothing really happened and expect their children to “move on.” But their actions had compounded negative interest in the heart of my friend. She lived with a lot of resentment and pain.

As God continues to work in her life, she is slowly breaking free from the emotional bondages that have prevented her from loving others without fear. But their is still residual junk from the unhealthy way her parents dealt with their parenting and relational mistakes. I believe in God’s time, she will experience complete breakthrough because she has surrendered her life to the Lord completely.

We really need to think through the repercussions of how conflict and offenses are dealt with at home. The way we apologize, forgive and extend grace to family members will carry over into our children’s future families.

When I don’t feel like forgiving others, I remember that God has forgiven me a debt I cannot pay. He has shown me undeserved compassion and loved me enough to die for me. Therefore, who am I not to forgive?

You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:36, 37 NLT)

“…I am slow to anger
and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations.
I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.
But I do not excuse the guilty.
I lay the sins of the parents upon their children and grandchildren;
the entire family is affected—
even children in the third and fourth generations
.” (Exodus 34:6, 7 NLT)