Go to Heaven Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

The kids looked relieved and they smiled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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Back to a 10

When we go out on dates, Edric and I will try to ask each other, “On a scale of 1 – 10, how would you rate our marriage?” This becomes a starting point to discuss how we can improve and meet one another’s needs. We also do this with the couples that are in our bible study group, asking them to give their spouses a score. If it’s less than 10, we say, “What will make it a 10?” Usually the men give a higher score than the women do so it always leads to interesting but helpful dialogues.

Lately, Edric and I have been so busy we haven’t had any quality dates. And I told him on several occasions that he had too much going on. He acknowledged this but there was already a momentum to everything that was happening and he had to ride the wave of activity to close the year.

By yesterday morning, however, I was tired of feeling de-prioritized. So when he asked me in passing, How’s our marriage, 1 – 10? I said it was a ZERO. I’ve never said that. But I was really sad about the state of our relationship. I felt like we were drifting apart. We needed to address the issues that were polarizing us.

Since Edric’s calendar had been packed with speaking engagements in and out of town with Elijah, his ANC tapings, TMA Homeschool activities, house building meetings and ministry commitments there was no time to talk.

When we did encounter one another, there was tension between us because he was harried and always had something more urgent to attend to (which annoyed me.) So I decided to withdraw. I didn’t want to be a needy person, a cling-on, a ganglion cyst. My own interests kept me busy. If he wasn’t going to initiate re-connecting I wouldn’t.

After I opened up to him and expressed that I didn’t think we were doing well, that I didn’t think our relationship was healthy, he teased me about being so dramatic. But I was serious. So he assured me that we would find time to talk about it. He just had to finish his events for the day.

We had a Christmas gathering in Antipolo with our bible study group in the afternoon and I went ahead with the kids because Edric was coming from another event. When he finally got to the party he mentioned that we could ride home together to talk since it would take us a while to get home. And, the kids could go home in another vehicle. I was looking forward to being with him.

However, as the evening was drawing to a close, Edric told me that I would go on ahead with the kids because he was planning to play NBA with the men in Pasig. SERIOUSLY?! That was my first thought. I just opened up to you about how things aren’t going well between us and how busy you have been and now that you have some free time you are going to go off and play a computer game?! I was livid. But I didn’t show it because he had mentioned the change in plans in front of a friend.

When we had a moment to interact in private, I said with irritation, “I don’t understand why you have to go off tonight.” And he replied, “Is this an issue, because we can make it an issue.” Well, that was it. WAR. My warfare is not the shouting, fighting kind. I am a quiet slayer.

At 8:00, I went home and Edric went off with the guys. In the van, with the children, I acted like everything was fine. I didn’t want to bring the kids into the conflict between Edric and I. In fact, when Elijah mentioned, “So Dad is not going home with us?” I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I said something like, “Yup, he is going to hang out with the men.”

At home, by myself, was another story. I put Catalina into her crib and I sat down on the bed to get in a little bit of writing. I started to cry. Usually, I wouldn’t have made a big deal out of him going out. The guys are “safe.” They hang out to play NBA once in a while. It’s harmless. It’s clean fun. Plus, they are our good friends.

What bothered me was the timing. He completely forgot that we were supposed to “fix” our relationship…that we were supposed to ride home together and have an important conversation. I felt angry and hurt. Of course, being a woman, all my thoughts became convoluted and tangled themselves into a ball of wire.

He is changing. He doesn’t care about my feelings. He would rather be with the guys than with me. He’s becoming so selfish, leaving us to go home so he can run off and have fun with his friends. If I went off to hang out with my girl friends and left him to be with the kids he would be upset. And he was acting like I was making an issue out of nothing.

Wow. I’m just going to withdraw and detach myself. Of course, these were prideful thoughts and they were judgmental and wrong.

(LIKE I’VE SAID MANY TIMES, WE DON’T HAVE A PERFECT MARRIAGE! )

This morning, before our church’s service, my strategy was to be as frigid as possible without being disrespectful. I made him a yummy omelet to be dutiful but I didn’t plan to eat it with him. I had breakfast ahead with the kids and left him a plate with his food on it. After getting Catalina ready and making sure everyone else was dressed for Sunday worship, I barely interacted with him. I told myself, I will answer with one-liners and shrugs, keep my voice monotone, barely make eye contact unless absolutely necessary, and not initiate conversation. Embarrassingly juvenile but I was hurt and wounded. There was no motivation to be cheerful and chatty. Of course this behavior was NOT okay.

In the car, it was quiet for a long time. The Lord spoke to me, “talk to him.” I wrestled…I don’t want to talk!!! “Say something.” I don’t want to say something!!!

I said something to the kids. “Look, it’s the Santa house.” (There was a house that looked like its owner was obsessed with Santa Claus. There were like 20 huge Santas hanging everywhere.) I eventually said SOMETHING to Edric but it was quick.

It didn’t take long before Edric noticed that I was behaving very uncharacteristically. When he asked me why, I explained that I felt hurt that he left us to go off and hang out with the guys, especially after I had told him that we really needed to work on our marriage and settle some issues. At first, he wasn’t very sympathetic. He expected me to understand that playing games with the guys was a much needed break for him, from all the work-related stress he had to deal with as of late.

At some point I said, “Well, how would you feel if I went off with my girl friends until 3 AM in the morning and you were at home with the kids? Would that be okay?” He didn’t appreciate this attempt to flip roles around and he walked away. Walked away?!

During worship, he mentioned to me that what I had said was childish. I shouldn’t have retorted but unfortunately, I did. I leaned over to him and disrespectfully said, “Don’t you dare call me childish.” (In my still monotone voice.)

“Are you threatening me?” was his response. Oh my, this was going downhill.

Could I sing worship songs to the Lord after that? Nope. I took Catalina from her yaya and held her as a prop because I needed a distraction.

During the course of the morning, God spoke to me. A man shared about his life’s journey from worldly success that left him empty and suicidal to an abundant life when he came to know Jesus Christ. And I felt wretched at that point for being so full of myself. All of the funk and muck I had been feeling was not due to Edric. I was blaming him and making my happiness dependent on the way he treated me. But my anchor is Jesus Christ. My joy comes from him. My ability to love Edric and my children comes from him.

Amazingly, Edric turned into his sweet self again. He was convicted during the service, too. In the middle of the pastor’s message, he put his arm around me and jokingly teased, “You love me. You know you do…” Of course, he apologized, especially when he realized that he had set me up with an expectation – the expectation of riding home together to talk – and completely abandoned it. He tried to charm me and say all kinds of things to make me smile….“I’m madly in love with you,” he said, “My love makes you mad right?!”

I’m pretty easy. A little attentiveness from Edric mixed in with lots of cheesy phrases makes me respond with enthusiasm. And he knows it. He knows how to charm me. But I’m glad he isn’t just a smooth talker. He really does follow through with what he says when he makes claims like, “I will make it up to you…” “I’m going to change…” And I believe him because I know he loves Jesus and that is the reason why he really means it when he says that he loves me, too.

Having these sorts of conflicts and getting past them is a reminder that marriage isn’t an easy stroll through a park full of sweet smelling flowers. It takes hard work and it has to be held together by Jesus, at the center. Colossians 1: 17 tells us “in HIM all things hold together.” If Jesus wasn’t in our marriage, Edric and I would be stuck at zero to five on the relationship scale. We would be attempting to solve our problems on our own insufficient power. Our effort wouldn’t cut it because apart from Christ, our tendency is towards selfishness. So even if marriage has its lows, because we love Jesus and let his love motivate us and overflow out of us, it can certainly bounce back to a 10!

By God’s grace, we eventually resolved our conflict by discussing the root issues maturely. I also said sorry for my disrespectful comment. And we just came from a date, holding hands, eating Vietnamese noodles and watching a movie. I’m happy to say that after the cold war (on my part at least), our relationship is healthy again. Praise God!

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Money Matters in Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God turned my heart towards my family and home…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

When Little Pebbles Rob Your Peace

From website problems, to issues with my gadgets that have made me feel stupid and old, to losing 397 notes (many of which were articles) on my iPad and iPhone for unknown reasons, to yayas leaving at the wrong time, to people asking for money, to someone throwing up on our newly upholstered couch, to pregnancy hormones…let’s just say that I wasn’t feeling too perky yesterday. I didn’t brush my hair; the kids ran around in their pajamas while homeschooling; and we didn’t finish all our homeschooling because I fell asleep towards the end of the morning.

The thing is I had a great quiet time with the Lord reading 2 Peter through 1 John. But as the day progressed, I felt like a juggler of multiple sources of stress — most of them insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but all of them annoying. Let me enumerate…

Pebble # 1: I opened up my notes app and discovered that 397 of them vanished before my eyes. The page refreshed and then they were gone. Could it have been one of my kids who tinkered with my iPad? I don’t know. It didn’t really matter anyway because the greater problem was that I didn’t back anything up. My brother, the techy wizard of our family, couldn’t even figure out what happened which was very telling. I knew that God must have allowed it for a reason but I had all kinds of important documents on there…testimonies, unpublished blog entries, reflections, passwords, to do lists. It was like having my brain deleted. The same thing happened on my iPhone. I sat in the worship service at church on Sunday trying to take in what the pastor was sharing but my brain went cloudy. And I felt no emotion. Zero. I couldn’t believe my notes disappeared!

Pebble # 2: I updated my gadgets to iOS 6.0 thinking that maybe that would fix my notes problem, but it seems to be laden with issues I don’t understand. My iTunes store didn’t work. The wordpress app I use erased my blog pages (I was able to solve this). Comments of my readers could no longer be read on either of my devices. My gmail wasn’t receiving mail. (It still isn’t.)

Tech problems are especially perplexing and troubling to me because I am not very computer literate. I know how to write entries and post them, and all the simple tricks that come with publishing an article. But that’s about it. When it comes to managing the actual blog, upgrading the way it looks, etc…I find that I may have been born too early to catch the wave of computer literacy that characterizes so many of the younger people today. Elijah often knows more about the computer than I do because his learning curve for it is so much higher. When I encounter glitches, my default response is to feel a sense of helplessness.

Pebble # 3: Just a few days ago, my niece vomited on our newly upholstered couch. I would have preferred that her chocolate brownies, french fries, half eaten cheesburger, and macaroni and cheese had missed the fabric of our couch. But, it was a total accident. There was no one to blame. My sister in law felt badly about it but I told her not to worry about it. It wasn’t her fault after all. Stuff like this happens. My son, Edan, vomited on another family member’s newly purchased couch a couple years ago. And his vomit was full of green seaweed. I think that was worse.

Pebble # 4: I had two yayas that got pregnant last year, both of whom I considered close friends and whom I discipled…life-on-life style. We would chat often about having a relationship with God and what it means to make choices that honor him. Apparently life-on-life wasn’t enough. One of them lied to me about having children and being in a previous marriage even though she had worked for me for 6 years. She ended up running away with a driver who was being referred to us and whom she got pregnant with. And the second one also got pregnant a few months later and had to leave to go to the province and get married. At the time, I let both of these women go their way without feeling bitter or angry. Most of what I felt was hurt and disappointment. I really cared about them. It was a tearful goodbye for both sides when they had to go, but I dealt with it and moved on.

It wasn’t until the old wound was resurrected recently that I remembered the hurt. The one who lied to me asked for a referral for a new job. I wrestled with this request for 24 hours before responding. My thought process was, How can you be asking me?! You betrayed me! And you never said sorry or confessed to your wrong. Nevertheless, I did give a fair assessment of her work because she was a good worker but I told the woman hiring her that she ought to do a background check on her personal life.

The other one asked for quite a bit of money for her newborn baby who was in the ICU. My first instinct was to say, “That’s what you get for not listening to my advice about guarding your purity like I told you to.” It was a heartless, graceless thing to think but I was very much disturbed by the situation. Edric and I became her only resort for financial support because her husband couldn’t afford to give anything. I was so upset. You made your choice and now we have to bear the consequences of your foolishness? That’s seriously what I was thinking and it was mean.

Edric was much more spirit-filled about it. He said, “If we have something to give, we will give. God has been good to us.” And we have been giving. The last time she asked for money was a few days ago. Unfortunately, her baby is still in the ICU. (I also verified earlier on with the doctors in the province to find out what was happening.) Well, I have not only been disturbed by the situation but by the guilt I feel for giving begrudgingly. But most of all, I have been convicted about being more compassionate. What if I were in her place and had a first born who was so sick? Wouldn’t I want someone to be gracious to me?

Oh wait, I have definitely been a beneficiary of grace…God’s grace! God reminded me, I died for your sins and showed you mercy and grace you did not deserve, go and do the same. I was sharing with Elijah my struggle and asking him what he thought (like he was my shrink), and he very maturely said, “Well you need to love her like God loves you, and you need to be merciful like we learned in our bible study.” Who was this person counseling me?! Was this my 9 year old son?! He sounded like an old man. Well, he was right and I had to confess my attitude to the Lord.

Pebble # 5: We are now down to 2 yayas at present and one of them told us that she needs to go back home to take care of her mom. Her mom had a stroke a while back and she needs someone to care for her. She was crying when she informed us because she wants to keep working. Of course Edric and I understand that she needs to honor her mom who is also a widow. But, boy, the timing. So far, we have had no positive prospects to hire. And I don’t want to have to think about this right now. I even told Edric, “I don’t want anymore help. That’s it.” If I cannot rely on house help, I am going to do everything myself even if I am pregnant! I’m tired of the cycle of having to look for someone new, training them, letting my kids grow attached to them, and then they have to say goodbye when I’ve developed a friendship with them.

All these little pebbles shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I let them get to me. My spirit began to be critical and I began to dwell on other minuscule issues — we ran out of eggs again (we are always running out of eggs. There is an egg monster in the house), there was a cockroach in my closet (I hate them), my back was killing me, I had a headache, etc. etc.

The irony is I just counseled a family last week who was going through a crisis. And I told them to trust God and be spirit filled, to respond to the situation in ways that will glorify God. “Don’t let people steal your joy and peace,” I shared. Was I applying this? No! I was letting all sorts of things steal my peace.

What did yesterday’s little pebbles teach me?

1. Stay connected with the Lord. I referred back to my morning quiet time where I read the following:

For pebbles 1,2,3 – Tech issues and Couch Vomit. “Do not love the world nor the thing in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…for the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15,16)

For pebble 4 – Lack of compassion towards those in need. “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:17-18)

Acknowledging my own depravity and wrong thinking, then being reconciled to the Lord – “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8,9)

Moving forward – “But according to his promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless, and blameless…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:13,14,18)

2. Get outdoors and exercise. When I spend too much time cooped up in the house, it is depressing. But I take a step outside, go for a run, and get some sunlight on my skin and I am physically energized. Edric and I went for a 5 k run when he got home. I felt like I needed to pee 75% of the run (pregnancy bladder), but it was great to be outdoors.

3. Have conversations with God. One of the things I really enjoy about running is being able to pray for extended periods of time. I use these occasions to be very honest and open with the Lord about my feelings and struggles, and I focus on who he is, what he has done for me, his incredible love and power, and my soul is restored. As I prayed, God helped me with perspective. Why are you acting like you have such a small god? Why are you troubled by circumstances and happenings that are really not that big a deal? Other people you know have loved ones who are very sick or dying! What are a few inconveniences here and there to keep you humble, dependent on me, and to help you grow in character?

4. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling down, but don’t stay down. Emotions are God-given. God designed us to feel joy and pain and everything in between. The key is not to allow emotions to dictate our responses to circumstances.

Whenever I feel down, it is a red flag. I know I can’t stay that way. I have to process what’s going on inside, what’s happening on a spiritual level. Daily stresses are a part of life, but I don’t have to remain stressed. It’s a choice to be joyful, whether the pregnancy hormones rage or not.

5. Practice the attitude of gratitude and look to be a blessing. My mom had a beautiful friend who endured a bout with cancer and she is one of the most positive women I have ever met. In the hospital, she was sharing the gospel with all the nurses, doctors and patients. She has laughed at her distresses often and always trusts in the Lord’s goodness. Proverbs 31:25 describes her well, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” Whenever she has obstacles or challenges in her life, her first response is to say, “hello, friend.” In other words, she sees these occasions as God-ordained and orchestrated for her good and spiritual growth. I need to be more like this!

I need to say, Hello, my pebble friends.

——–

As the day ended I thought about all the blessings I can be grateful for. Top of mind were definitely Edric and the kids.

In fact, my kids started massaging my head spontaneously when I told them I had a headache.

I said, “Wow, you guys are so good at this!” This wasn’t hallow praise. It really felt good.

Edan remarked, “I have many talents, mom!”

“You are very talented, hon.”

“By God’s grace,” was his response.

And he continued to say, “I want to take care of you, mom. You are pregnant.”

Elijah said the same thing. This made me smile. Even Tiana started massaging my head. What a treat! Titus was preoccupied but that was okay. I had three sets of hands all over my head and face. It was their thoughtfulness that meant a lot.

_____

From slightly annoying to all out devastating, from pebbles, rocks, boulders, to mountains — small and big problems that get hurled at us…and sometimes without any breaks in between — we are familiar with the bruising and the degrees of wounding they bring. But let us be encouraged by this…

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:6-10, 16-18 NLT)

When the Bell Tolls

Whenever someone I know passes away, death’s inevitability feels soberingly close. It is not so much that I fear death. I cling to the blessed hope that I have in Christ — the gift of eternal life made possible through his finished work on the cross. However, I must admit that I don’t like thinking about the dying part.

Please, not drowning.

I would rather have my head chopped off. Of course, going in my sleep would be even better. Or…just getting raptured along with my loved ones like I used to pray for as a child (I still do!).

Two days ago, I found out that Elijah’s yaya, Fe, died at 3 pm in the afternoon. She was Elijah’s nanny until he was about three years old and then moved back to Dumaguete to take care of her sickly father. Last year, she worked for us again. In July, she told me she had to return to the province because she was not well and wanted to be with her family. We stayed in touch and I found out in September that she had cancer.

Hearing the news of her passing was heartbreaking. I could not sleep that night. Whenever I hire household help, I make it a point to really build a relationship with them. Fe was one of those women whom I grew close to. She dearly loved our family. We had shared the gospel with her and prayed with her to received Jesus as her Lord and Savior years ago. And she was a very kind and selfless person. She didn’t even want to accept financial help for her sickness, nor did she reveal the gravity of her cancer.

Tragedy makes me hunger for heaven. As Edric and I age, more and more people we know die. I suppose that is only logical. We find ourselves at wakes and funerals without many weeks or months in between each one. As always, the pain and suffering compel me to look beyond the period that is death. Surely, there must be something more when a life is cut short, when one is gone too soon, when sickness or disease takes a loved one?

On the one hand, I wish that somehow they could be again, right there, present and tangible. Yet I know that yearning is futile. The only recourse is to move on, less I pine away for a longing that cannot be. This is when grief confuses me. As a follower of Jesus who believes with all her heart that there is a heaven, I often feel that the pain of loosing someone eclipses the joyful expectation of eternity. I feel down. I feel detached. It is still difficult to come to terms with the absence that death leaves behind.

So I console myself by looking to the Lord and fixing my eyes on him. It is he who decides the end from the beginning, who determines the course of events, who fixes the times of a season, who allows one to live and another to fall. My great disappointment is not towards this attribute of God, who, in his sovereignty gives or takes away. I trust that he is loving and good. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything appropriate in its time…” My great disappointment is with sin and the consequences it brings into this world, death being one of them, pain and suffering being another.

I recognize that my desire to get away from all of this is God-given. God wants me to resist complacency. What am I living for? What am I doing to tell others about the hope that Christ gives?

More than any other occasion, wakes and funerals make me quietly consider the need and urgency to tell more people about Jesus. I want to quote my mother-in-law who said, “Everyone needs something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to.”

This is an afflicted world, but Jesus offers us a hope that no other can. Because he died and rose again, offering himself as the sacrifice for sin and confirming his power to do so by conquering death, it is by him that we are saved. And until he comes again or takes me earlier, I should be proclaiming this as often as possible. People need eternal life to look forward to.

Unfortunately, I can get so preoccupied with self-centered and worldly thinking that many times, my perspective never rises above planet earth. My thoughts are not lofty but revolve around home management, taking care of my family, fashion and beauty, useless gossip and speculations about people, Amazon Prime, Facebook, blogging, researching about pregnancy, what is my next errand, and am I getting fatter…It’s really quite sad that my head is stuffed full of these things so that I am distracted when I read my Bible and when I pray.

So this entry is part realization and part confession that Fe’s death was a good wake up call to detoxify my inner self. I needed some soul cleansing. I needed a spiritual revival. I needed to remember that I don’t have all the time in the world to seek God, serve him and tell others about him.

At the beginning of this year, I heard this song by Laura Story: Blessings and the words really ministered to me. Take the time to view this link. Her song gives a positive perspective on how God can use difficult circumstances as unexpected forms of blessings.

Stinky Shorts

1 Peter 3:3-4 says,Your adornment must not be merely external-braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.

How encouraging to know that it is not the externals that matter to God. What is precious to him is the hidden person of the heart — who we are inside. But I struggle with the idea of a gentle and quiet spirit. I want to have this imperishable quality. I mean, wow, it sounds like the secret to lasting beauty! However, it is a challenge to be gracious and humble when I feel like my rights are violated or when I am disrespected, or to be kind and be a blessing when people or circumstances annoy me.

A gentle and quiet spirit conjures up an image of someone who is at peace, at rest, one who is not easily agitated or reactive, choosing to bless when cursed, choosing to love when wounded, self-controlled and able to temper her emotions. I have a lurking fiery spirit that comes out from time to time. But my prayer is to be more consistent about being a quiet and gentle spirit. Of course, God gives me many opportunities to practice applying this. He knows I need the practice!

A few days ago Edric was correcting me about leaving his basketball shorts on the floor. I started to make excuses about why the laundry hadn’t been done and suggested that he was being a little bit nit-picky. He said, “pregnant or not pregnant, you need to get your household duties done. I have equipped you with the resources and house help to get these things done.”

I began to defend myself. “You know I push myself, hon. I am not the type of pregnant person that complains or excuses herself. But you are getting upset about the laundry not being done when we couldn’t possibly get the laundry done because we have been out of the home for the last few days.” There were some holes in my argument. I didn’t want to admit that it was my responsibility. As I was giving my defense, I caught myself…Why am I explaining myself? Why can’t I just admit that I need to improve? So I said, “Okay hon, I will improve.” It is amazing how these few words said in a respectful manner can melt the heart of a husband. He didn’t say anything but he stopped talking about his shorts and the laundry.

Sitting silently on the bed, I prayed and made my appeal to God. A gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t mean you have to be silent inside! I was honest with the Lord about my feelings and frustration. “Can you help Edric to be more understanding? I don’t want to get angry. I don’t want to react.” I did not want to disrespect Edric or begin a conflict with him over stinky basketball shorts. Being able to tell God how I felt was spiritually soothing and emotionally calming.

I walked to the living room and hung out there for a bit to write. In a few minutes, Edric came out and followed me to the couch I was lounging on. He put his arms around me, hugged me and said, “I think I need to be sweeter when I am correcting you. I think it will make a big difference if my tone is more loving. I noticed that a lot of times you react to me because I don’t say things in a kind way. I want to change that.”

Oh my goodness! That was fast, Lord! I hugged Edric back and thanked him for saying that. I admitted to him that I was praying hard that I wouldn’t react. He replied, “I was praying you wouldn’t react either!” We both started to laugh as we recalled what happened when I threw the remote control the week before.

Marriage is really a riot sometimes. I am crazy in love with Edric but I do not always get along with him or agree with his perspective. However, Jesus is the glue that holds us together. He helps us both to change and grow, and he gives us the desire to keep loving one another.

I honestly don’t know how any marriage can survive without Christ in it. I am not talking about marriages where couples stay married for the principle of it but can’t stand each other. I am talking about marriages where couples are able to work out their differences, seek out spiritual solutions, and find that there is more love, more joy, and more adventures to share together after decades have passed.

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Edric and I have just barely passed a decade of marriage. I would like to be able to look back fifty years from now and still say that I am happily married. And I can’t see that happening unless Edric and I commit to love God and follow him faithfully. So far, so good. But I have to do my part by obeying his principles. One of them is being a wife that cultivates a gentle and quiet spirit.

During a recent quiet time, I read this passage: 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)

God is for me. It helps to remember that God is committed to helping me become Christ-like. He uses circumstances and people to reveal my weaknesses and work on my character. He uses Edric. He uses my kids. He uses this pregnancy and the hormones that make me wacko. But most of all, he makes himself available to me so I can run to him. A gentle and quiet spirit is not from me. It is from him.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)

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Love is Not Convenient

When you serve me, it makes me fall in love with you again a million times! This was Edric’s dramatic statement as he kissed me a few mornings ago before leaving for work.

His language of love is service. (Dr. Gary Chapman talks about 5 Love Languages — Time, Touch, Affirmation, Gifts and Service.) I had hoped that service would NOT have been IT for him. But God is a matchmaker extraordinaire. He gave me a husband who deeply desires to be served because he knows that I have to improve in this area.

In contrast, I am more about self-service. I grew up in a home where my mom taught us to serve ourselves. If we needed a glass of water, we knew where the refrigerator was. It was no mystery. If we wanted a snack, we knew where to find the popcorn or peanuts. (Yes, that’s about all my mom gave us to snack on. My parents didn’t like to feed us a lot of junk food.) My mom did not want us to grow up dependent on househelp. So she taught my siblings and I to do the laundry, iron clothes, cook, bake, wash the dishes, make our beds, straighten our rooms, pick up after ourselves, clean the showers and toilets, etc.

But here is a big HOWEVER. I knew how to do all the domestic stuff and yet, this didn’t translate to joyful service on my part when I got married. I didn’t mind cooking, laundry, cleaning, but I would grumble when Edric made requests that seemed “above and beyond the scope of my responsibilities.” Late night massages, a glass of water when I was already tucked in bed, second dinners…Most of the time, I would do what he asked but I would be huffing and puffing inside.

Part of the issue for me was my interpretation of his requests. I felt that there were instances when he was insensitive. For example, I would be at the buffet table holding several plates to get food for the kids. After getting back to the table, Edric, would ask me something like, “Hon, can you get me salad?” And I would feel very hurt. Seriously?! Did you not see me octopusing four plates?! It is not like you can’t do it for yourself

I know Edric. He doesn’t intentionally want to make my life miserable. He is an incredibly loving person. But he DOES want to be served by me and that’s not going to change. There would be instances when I would catch him standing in front of the refrigerator or peering into the cabinet where the snacks are kept and I would be shocked to see him serving himself. (Because he rarely visits the kitchen, it seems odd when he is moving about in it.) I asked him one time, “How do you know where the snacks are?” His reply was, “I know where everything is, I just choose to be helpless when you are around.” We both laughed because this is so true! He calls it “giving me the privilege of serving him.” Oh really?! Well, over the years, I have learned to accept that this is the way he likes to be loved by me. End of discussion.

God has a way of giving you the very spouse you need to develop your character. When I have thoughts like, Why does Edric have to be like that or like this?! God reminds me, “his personality is exactly what you need to grow in character so be thankful because I hand picked him for you. He is my instrument to transform you into Christ-likeness. You need him! So accept his desire for service with joy! Service is something I want you to learn.”

When I read my bible the morning I began writing this entry, I came across the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. I have read this passage many times but in light of my meditations on serving my husband, I began to weep.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end… got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:1, 4, 5 NASB)

I fall so short of God’s standard of selfless service! Jesus was about to suffer a most painful death knowing “His Hour” had come. He was well aware of how his disciples would abandon him. And yet he wanted to give of himself to those he loved…to stoop down and clean their feet, an act that was for the lowliest of servants, a job that no one wanted to do.

Wow, I am not like this! But this is the kind of heart that God wants me to develop, not merely towards Edric but towards everyone.

“…You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NASB)

I am not going to pretend to be a perfect helpmate to Edric. Even though I try to serve him with gladness, I mess up every now and then when I let my selfishness get the better of me. But through the years, God has been teaching me the secret to serving the way he wants me to. It is about humility, dying to my self-centeredness, not keeping “tabs”, rejecting the idea that it must always be fair. Above all, it is focusing on Jesus’ example. He put our interests and needs above his. He valued our lives before his own.

The Bible says, Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-9 NASB)

This is an impossible, divine standard that requires God’s grace at work in me. If I do not walk with the Lord, I cannot love Edric so selflessly. Beyond the choice to humble myself, it is recognizing my inability to do this unless I come before the Lord and say, “Teach me to delight to serve Edric.”

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Father, not my will but yours be done.” Well, I need to have the same mindset. “Lord, help me not to think of what I want all the time but what you want me to do, what you want me to become.”

Love so very often requires doing what is sacrificial. It is not convenient. It is not easy. It means giving of yourself even when you don’t feel like it, when you feel like it is unfair, and when the person you are choosing to love behaves in undeserving ways. If you cannot accept these realities, don’t get married! Don’t have children. Don’t have friends. Live on an island with coconuts for company.

There is no human relationship on this earth that will not require us, at some point, to make a sacrifice. But be encouraged by this: Whatever we give up for Christ, we gain immeasurably more in this life or the life to come. My dad used to say, “If you really think about it, there are no martyrs in God’s kingdom.” God says he is a rewarder of those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) The blessings may not always be immediate, but they are certain.

How does God reward me when I delight to serve Edric? A happy, well-served husband is an amazing person to live with! When Edric feels like he is prioritized and important, he bubbles over with happiness. There is renewed inspiration to be tender, sweet, and caring towards me.

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As wonderful as it is to hear Edric say, “I feel so in love with you,” ultimately, I don’t do things for him. I want God’s favor! I want his presence in my life! So my hope is in God and in his goodness when I do things like wake up early to pack Edric his lunch, walk to the refrigerator half asleep to get him a glass of water, or massage his feet before going to bed (I outsource this to Massage r Us every now and then, he he). Getting the googley-eyed lovey dovey glances are a great bonus but even if I may not always get this kind of a response, I know this…“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:24, 25 NASB)

Faith Like A Child

Listening to my children’s conversations over meals gives me a very good idea of what’s going on in their noggins. This morning, Edan and Titus were talking about who their “best friends” were. They said the names of their cousins, each other, and then they said Jesus was their best friend. When I asked them why, Titus answered, “I like Jesus because he has lots of silver and gold!” He really meant this and then he also wanted to know if Jesus had lots of toys.

A few days ago, he went running around our house proclaiming Jesus to our house help. He went up to each one of them and very boldly asked, “Do you know Jesus? Do you know Jesus? Do you want to come with us to heaven? In heaven Jesus has many big buildings and houses!” He was practically jumping up and down with excitement. He also said a bunch of other things like yelling, “I want to be with Jesus!”

I know Titus is still young and his theology needs tweaking. But his innocent perspective on the personhood of Jesus makes me better understand what childlike faith is. Titus has been acting like a preacher with a prosperity gospel (we will work on that). But as he matures he will begin to love Jesus for who he is and not merely for what he can give. For now, I am thrilled to know that Jesus is real to Titus — that he is excited about heaven, that he wants to be with Jesus, and that he confidently says, “Jesus is my best friend.”

God Will Find You

The true story of a Jewish family friend…

Once upon a time there was a Jewish boy who was a foster child. He went from home to home but never really had parents who loved and cared for him. He didn’t want anyone to know that he didn’t have parents. He was ashamed. So he busied himself studying, working hard so that he was always preoccupied. He also tried to be the best at everything. But he kept his real background a secret.

As he grew up into a teenager, he felt a deep emptiness and sadness. He didn’t feel there was reason to live. So he planned to take his life at the age of 17.

One evening, however, his friend invited him to have dinner with his family. He didn’t know that his friend was a Christian. As he watched the family pray, he was surprised that they didn’t read their prayers mechanically. They spoke to God as if he was real and present. And they prayed in Jesus’ name. This surprised him.

Over time, as he got to know his friend’s family, he began to be curious about Jesus. His friend’s mom encouraged him to pray to Jesus to ask him to reveal himself. He didn’t really know what to pray but he wrote out a sincere prayer asking this. And, he prayed it.

The very next day, he went to work like he usually did. (He would work from 6 to 7:30 am before school, go to school, and then work again after school.) The grocery where he worked would make him sort and organize the newspapers every morning. As he was sorting through the papers, on one of the main pages, he read the name “YESHUA.” He could not believe it. Why? This was a very reputed Jewish newspaper and they were advertising that the Jesus film would be showing in one of the major theaters in Jerusalem! He knew this was his answer. The film was brought in by Campus Crusade for Christ. They had added verses from the Old Testament at the bottom of the film.

He went to watch the film and he said everything converged. Since he knew the Old Testament very well, he suddenly understood that the prophesies were indeed fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. It all made sense to him. He made the decision to believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

That same day he went back to the foster home and he shared the good news of the gospel with the other kids. Only one of the guys also believed (the one guy he thought would not because they were “enemies.”) Eventually, however, they were both kicked out of the orphanage because of their beliefs.

But our friend explained that God was with him and blessed him. He took care of him. The Christian family took him in. And in whatever he did, he prospered. God’s hand of protection was also upon him. He should have died five times when he was in the military but God preserved his life.

Today this family friend is a messianic Jew who is an ambassador for Jesus Christ. He speaks all around the world about end-times. And his message is clear — Jesus is coming soon! His story ministered to me because it made me think of the sovereignty and love of God.

God pursues us. He finds us and lets himself be found by us. He wants to be our father. He has a special plan for all of us. And in Jesus’ death and resurrection we have the beautiful message of God’s invitation to this fellowship. God sent his son as payment for a debt we could not pay. He did everything possible to make a way for us to come to him and be his children. Such is his love for us.

Some people say, “If there is really only one way to God through Jesus, then what about all the people who never hear about the gospel?” Well, I am absolutely convinced that we cannot put God in a box. He has a time table for every person to know Him. He reveals himself through his word, people, circumstances, and even miracles when necessary. But we have to make a choice, we have to respond.

He doesn’t want to give us religion, he wants to give us forgiveness, unconditional love, joy, righteousness, peace…all the things we long for…all the things we were made for…

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near
. (Isaiah 55:6 NASB)

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My Husband is a “Pusher”

I mean that in a very good way. He wakes me up three times a week to go running even if I hate it. There are days when I wish he was lazy enough not to get out of bed but it hardly ever happens. Most of the time it is me who is trying to get out of running.

I used to be so into fitness. I mean, I played college soccer (football) and was on the UAAP team of Ateneo. Then came 1…2…3…4…children. And my body felt irrecoverable. Whatever glory days I had as an athlete seemed a very distant fantasy after pregnancy and childbirth.

I remember trying to do P90x two months after my daughter, Tiana, and my body felt like it was going to break in half. My abs were the mushiest they had ever been. I was trying to copy the Ab Ripper X moves but they were torturous. And there was my husband, easily adapting to the exercises. I was actually upset at him! Jealous! Even my sister who had given birth to her son had washboard abs after four months. But not me. Ab-sent was more like it.

Okay, so because I am back to my college weight people have very nicely told me, “You don’t look like you have had four children,” and I really have wanted to reply, “If you only knew the agony of it all! It hurts me to stay this way. Seriously. It ‘hurts’ to exercise and eat the right stuff because I am getting older. I have to fight gravity, hormonal cravings, a higher rate of muscle to fat conversion, and fatigue. And oh, by the way, you haven’t seen my tummy. It is a more truthful gauge of my post-baby body!”

It hurts. It’s true. Waking up early to run and feeling creaky while I do it is no fun. Right now, I only have my husband to thank for being the pusher that he is. If not for my pusher of a husband, I dread to imagine what kind of potato I would have turned into…surely a lumpy-lumpy-doo kind of couch potato.

Thankfully, my husband, Edric, is like a warrior. He is not the kind of man who will let things happen to him. He will make things happen. And I admire this in him. It is a very attractive masculine trait that makes him a natural leader and man of purpose. But I get dragged into his warrior-ness. Of course. Naturally. How can I be married to a man like this and not be infected and motivated by his personality? We are one after all.

So this morning, at 5:30 am, when he tapped my shoulder and said, “Are you ready to run?”, I got up. I didn’t want to, but I did. And when we got outside and there was a downpour, I even said, “This looks like acid rain.” (Secretly I was hoping he would back down because he did think the sky was a different color this morning. I don’t even know what acid rain looks like. He he) Well, we ran anyway.

Lord willing, I will keep running. But Lord willing, we will also find another fitness activity that is more engaging and interesting.

After reflecting on my resistance towards running, I began to recognize something fundamentally wrong with my motivation for exercising. It has been based largely on external factors — competing with others, the “pushing” from my husband, the happy hormones that circulate inside me after I exercise, and even pride. The pride part is I don’t want Edric to be physically fit and I be a lumpy-lumpy-doo-gooey person next to him.

My problem is I have to develop an inner motivation to be healthy and fit. I can’t be dependent on the pushing of my husband. And I need to stop eating junk like M&Ms! (Sometimes I exercise so I can eat bad food. Tsk tsk. Oh, but I love the little indulgences! Rice! Cheap chocolate!)

So here is the connection to the more important realization. Motivation is key — the why behind what I do, what everyone does, what my kids do…

Someday, I won’t be able to “push” my kids the way Edric pushes me to exercise. Their desire to learn can’t be external. I have got to work on cultivating their inner persons to learn for a greater purpose — the pull, instead of the push. I mean, I really have to reinforce it everyday and repeat it often that we are not learning just for learning’s sake. Until they really get that, I will keep having to convince them to learn. And I don’t want to do that. I know how it feels to be on the other side (like with running. Bleck!).

Homeschooling is not going to get any easier. In some ways, it may, like the routines, the expectations, and the closeness that I have with my kids. All these factors will help. But I am thinking of the days when my kids will really have to work their little tooshies off to make hard-core compositions and figure out algebra.(Okay, that includes me re-figuring out Algebra). I am also thinking beyond that to the moments when they will be confronted with very difficult decision making experiences that will test the truths that they have built their lives on.

Right now, what we are doing is still “comfortable.” The problems and obstacles they encounter are not earth shaking. “Mom, I can’t fold this piece of paper! Mom, how come I have to do five pages of this book? Mom, I don’t get this word problem!”

Oh no, dear Mommy-o Joy! We are at the smooth part of the rapids and we haven’t seen anything yet!

What will keep my kids going so they finish well? I don’t want it to be the peripheral things that are considered good — our relationship, the value of responsibility, duty, excellence, the quest for knowledge, understanding, wisdom, fear, obedience, etc. There are many worldly and christian ideas and ideals that might be called acceptable motivations but I don’t think these things can be the IT.

I think 1 Corinthians 13 tells us what ought to be IT.

Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…(1 Corinthians 13:7, 8 NASB)

The apostle Paul said that love of Christ compelled him. If my children can say, “Jesus, you are my King of Kings and Lord of Lords. I love you. I want everything I do, say, and think to testify to this. And in the end may you receive all the glory for everything I am and become,” then wow, that would be the IT.

The sobering reality is that if Edric and I can’t give our kids the IT now, I expect they will approach life with the same kind of shiftiness, double-mindedness, and secret resistance that I have towards running as a form of exercise. Then won’t have full conviction or complete resolve to be faithful to the end. In short, they will need a pusher. But, what they really need is a built-in propeller. Okay, we are going to work on that.

Now about running… I need to change my heart. “Lord, I am going to work out and be fit, strong, and healthy because I love you. Because I love you, I delight to follow your word and your principles. And your word says, my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, therefore I must take care of it. The discipline of my body and good health does not have to be a meaningless, worldly pursuit, but a choice to glorify you, which I hope to do. Let joy replace the drudgery!” AMEN!

The Baton

“In a relay, the most critical point is the passing of the baton.”

In Judges 2 we find out that after Joshua and the generation after him died, “there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals, and they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the LORD to anger.”

Joshua and his contemporaries were mighty men of faith. They had seen God’s awesome works at the Jordan River, Jericho and the conquests of the Land of Promise. Yet, they had one great failure. They failed to pass on the “baton of faith.”

How can we avoid this as parents? I believe that one practical way is to have faith conversations with your children. Just a few days ago, my eldest son, Elijah, said, “Mom, I don’t feel like I have faith. How do I know that I really believe in God?” I was about to have a theological discussion with my 8 year old!

It was somewhat surprising at first. Ever since Elijah started reading his bible daily and journaling favorite verses, I assumed that the insights were just pouring out of God’s word and he was getting all of it. But this had not been enough.

Yes, God speaks to our children, but Edric and I have to teach our children why we believe what we believe. We have to dialogue with them to uncover what’s going on in their hearts because the devil is on the prowl. We often fail to recognize that there is a spiritual war ongoing and the evil one is after our children. He feeds them doubts and fears, and preys on their young faith. His aim is to destroy and distort a right view of God, themselves, others and the world. And if we are not vigilant about building connectedness with our children and open communication, we will not know the extent to which wrong thinking has blossomed. Furthermore, if we do not study God’s word ourselves or have a well-spring of scripture to draw from, we cannot effectively lead our children to the right answers.

During my conversation with Elijah, I reviewed the gospel message with him. I asked him if he believed that Jesus is the son of God, and if he believed that God loves us so much he sent Jesus to die for our sins. I asked him if he believes that Jesus is the only way to God and if he has trusted in Jesus alone to save him. He replied with a yes to all of these questions. So, I shared with him several passages of scripture to encourage him.

I said, “Elijah, if you know and believe these things, and if you have made Jesus Savior and Lord of your life, then that is faith. It’s not the bigness of our faith, but what we are putting our faith in. And God tells us, he who has the Son, has the life. God promises that you have eternal life if you have Jesus.”

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)

I also added, “You can know if you truly believe in God by the way you live. I can see that you love God because you obey us, and you want to please God. These are all evidences of your faith. People who do not believe in God do not have this desire or the power to live for God.”

He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21 NASB)

So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20 NASB)

He was listening intently to everything I was saying, and commented, “I like this conversation, mom. I like talking to you about these things.”

Outwardly, I was trying to keep my emotions under control, but my heart was breaking a little. As a mom, it concerned me that Elijah was struggling with doubt. I wanted all his questions to be answered and settled right then and there. But God reminded me that Elijah is his child and he is the one that will cause his faith to grow. He prodded me to tell him this verse, “You will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart.”

“Elijah, there is a verse in the bible which says, ‘you will seek me and find me if you seek me with all your heart…It’s in Jeremiah.”

“I know that verse, mom. I read it today in my Bible.”

I was so encouraged when Elijah said this. God had brought to my mind the same verse that Elijah had read. It was as an affirmation that God was mindful of Elijah.

I felt like God was also speaking to me. “Joy, you cannot force your children to believe in me. You can lead them to the truth but you cannot impose it on them. But don’t worry, I know Elijah. I love him and I will reveal myself to him. I will be the one to strengthen his faith. Encourage him to keep seeking after me and do your part to teach him about me.”

Two days later, Edric also spent some alone time with Elijah. The funny thing is, Elijah said to him, “Dad can you tell me a shortened version of what mom shared with me? She said a lot of stuff and I can’t remember all of it!”

Edric said he made it simple for Elijah. “Believe what you know about God now and let it grow.” He explained to Elijah that his faith would grow. His questions would be answered if he continued to seek God. Elijah liked that suggestion very much.

What did I learn from this experience?

Passing on the baton of faith begins with being available. Study God’s word and meditate on the truths and principles in it. Model faith consistently at home. Invest time in developing an intimate relationship with our children. Then take advantage of what my dad likes to call, “magic moments.” These are moments when our children are ready to talk and listen to us, when they will ask those questions that come from the depths of their hearts. I also need to add that fathers play a very important role. They are more effective because of their God-given spiritual authority as head of the home. Most of all, pray! We’ve got a long way to go to pass on the baton completely to our children. It will take a lifetime. So we need to pray for wisdom and discernment to understand and answer our children’s questions correctly. Finally, rest. Rest in the knowledge that “he who began a good work in the lives of our children will complete it, as promised.”

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 NASB)

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What to Do When It Gets Ugly

There comes a stage or age in every child’s life when they will use whining and fussiness to get their way. After having four children, I have come to realize that no matter how cute they are as little babies, they eventually exhibit their self-centered perspective and it gets ugly. This perspective makes them believe that everything and everyone must cater to their whims and demands. Some are less vocal and demonstrative, or may not show it till later, but be sure that they will definitely act like the world revolves around them – their feelings, their wants and desires. It is at this point of exhibition that parents must cooperatively decide to make a stand against their child’s will, for their greater good.

I’ve had three boys go through this ugly period sometime between 10 months to 3 years. Each one responded to our correction, training, and discipline differently. And each one had their own way of expressing self-centeredness. They would do things like sit on the floor and get angry, sulk their way around the house, whine and cry, run to their yaya or nanny, or use force to get their way. Edric and I knew that these behaviors were not acceptable, but more so the mindset behind them. If we allowed any one of our children to remain this way, it would be to their own detriment. So we did our best to train them and weed out the ugly.

Here are some ideas that were beneficially applied in our household that I hope might help you, too:

1. Be clear about the “no fussing” rule. When a child doesn’t get his way and starts to whine, sulk, pout, cry, yell, or get physical, take him aside (carry him, if necessary, to a place where you can talk to him privately), look him square in the eye (go to their eye-level) and say in a calm but stern voice, “You are being fussy. Fussiness is not allowed in our family. You cannot act that way. If you do that again, I will spank you. You need to obey.”

As miraculous as it may seem, children are able to control their emotions, especially the wrong ones. I’ve seen my kids go from crying and wailing to absolute silence when they know they are in trouble. One of the keys is to make sure that children understand that there is a rule about having a bad attitude.

John Rosemond, America’s most widely read parenting expert, says, “The fewer words a parent uses when giving instructions or conveying expectations, the more likely it is that the child will obey.” He calls it the “Alpha Speech,” explaining that “the fewer words a parent uses, the more authoritative the parent sounds. The fewer words a parent uses, the more clear the instruction.”[1]

Alot of times, when we are instructing our children, we add “Okay” at the end of our sentence. “I want you to obey, okay?” This gives our children the impression that they have the option not to. I’m guilty of this at times. But as much as possible, Edric and I make it very clear to our children that obedience is imperative.

2. If you have explained your rule about no fussing and your child does it again, follow through with disciplinary action. Don’t say, “Okay, if you do it again, I really will spank you.” But remember to spank with the following guidelines:

  • You have a good relationship with your child, you’ve spent alot of quality time with him so that his emotional tank is full and he feels confidently loved by you.
  • Both you and your spouse are like-minded about spanking. There is no “good cop, bad cop” dynamic going on with your kids.   
  • You explained the rule clearly to begin with. Your child acknowledged you when you were explaining the boundary to him.
  • You will not spank in anger or irritation.
  • You will take him to a private place (We use the toilet or study room) so that he is not humiliated in public.
  • You explain what he did wrong and let him recognize what he did wrong.
  • You will use a flat wooden rod or belt that will not break the skin.
  • You give one to two significantly hard and painful swats on the rear end and not other parts of the body where you could break bones or cut skin. (We usually give one very hard one unless they fight back and we increase the number if they do.) If it is not painful, it will not be an effective consequence.
  • You hug him immediately after and tell him that you love him, that you only spank him when he disobeys because you are teaching him to obey.
  • You give him the opportunity to say sorry for what he did.
  • You repeat the rule again looking at him in the eye.
  • Your spouse reinforces the same rule as consistently as you do.

I need to add that we spank our children for only a few important things, mostly connected to disobedience and disrespect. For example, with Elijah, our eldest who is turning 9, we can count the number of times he was spanked on two hands.  By the age of 6 he didn’t really need spankings anymore. We use other forms of discipline, like withdrawal of privileges or natural logical consequences. Our second son, Edan, who is almost 6 had his share of spankings but seldom receives them now. Our third son, Titus, was spanked the most number of times and still gets spanked from time to time, but because he has learned to obey, spankings are also rare for him. The point is that Edric and I don’t carry a spanking rod around with us everywhere we go or have to use it all the time. But, we have very clear rules that we teach our children to obey and if they break them, they are disciplined for doing so.

Some people argue that spanking is abusive. It can be when it is for punishment purposes only, if it is done in anger, if rules are unclear, if a parent does not have a loving relationship with their child, if it is done in public to humiliate the child, or if it is done too often and randomly.  We avoid all of the above.

3. Everyone in the house must reinforce the rule and support it. Tell your househelp to report to you when your child does not obey the rule. They are not allowed to spank your children, but they can inform you when your child does not listen to them or acts up. This prevents your househelp from feeling helpless and frustrated. And it prevents children from manipulating them. Believe me, children will try to get their way with anyone who they perceive to be a weak link! This is why it is very important to be in agreement with your spouse — that both of you will have a consistent stand about rules in the home.

4. Have a loving relationship with your child, but don’t be too “buddy-buddy” with him. There is a difference between developing a close relationship with your child and relating to them like a friend. The friend to friend relationship will naturally happen if you have good communication with your children. However, when they are still young, they must see you as their authority. A loving, authoritative parent gives their children a sense of security. I like how one of my friends put it. “When you give limits to your child, it’s like putting your arms around them and embracing them.”

My parents were strict when my siblings and I were growing up. They were not unreasonable or exasperatingly strict, but they made us very cognizant about our boundaries. We knew what lines not to cross in terms of obedience and respect. Because of this we had a healthy fear of them. And since they were always affirming about how much they loved us in word and actions, we had no doubt that they made rules and enforced them for our ultimate good.

5. Don’t be overprotective of your kids emotions, especially the boys! This used to be an issue between Edric and I because I always wanted to baby the boys when they would get hurt. If they fell down, I wanted to run to them, pick them up and console them. Edric would tell me, “Don’t pick them up. Let them get up themselves and don’t pay too much attention to them.”  I didn’t agree with this at first, but it turned out to be great advice! Of course we would only do this if it wasn’t a MAJOR injury. Edric was right. The boys learned not to make a big deal about scrapes and cuts, which somehow toughened them up emotionally, too.

How does this relate to being fussy? Sometimes, we “massage” the emotions of our children too much and too often. We are sensitive to every cry and feeling they have, putting their emotions on some kind of pedestal. But, we forget to teach them emotional fortitude. They need to learn to master their emotions and respond to them appropriately versus becoming a slave to them.

6. Watch your child’s attitude and behaviour closely. I’m not talking about being a “helicopter parent” that hovers protectively over her children or micromanages everything they do. I’m talking about addressing heart issues immediately and not letting them fester or grow destructively. Fussiness in our home is a heart issue because it reeks of self-centeredness and pride, which is the root of sin. When a child’s fussiness, ill-temper, bad attitude, or poutiness is tolerated we allow him to develop these mentalities:  “I am more important than everyone else” or “I want what I want now!” or “I can act the way I want to even if it hurts others” or “Nobody can make me do what I don’t want to do” and so on…

7. Balance discipline with character instruction. How can we expect our children to mature spiritually and emotionally if we don’t prioritize the teaching of character in our homes? We cannot keep working on removing wrong attitudes and behaviour without pointing them in the right direction. When it comes to fussiness, we teach our children what it means to wait and to have the right attitude while doing so.  We would often tell them, “Change your attitude” or “Have a good attitude.”

“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:18

When our second son was 2 years old, my mom caught him chanting, “Good attitude” to himself when he was about to get upset about something. She also saw him change his frown into a smile when he said it. He used to be quite negative and moody but training him made a big difference. We have told our boys that when we say, “Change your attitude,” it means they need to turn their frown or pout into a smile. Have you ever tried smiling when you are angry or upset? It does wonders to change your mood!

8. Do not give in to your child’s demands until they stop having a bad attitude. I’ve seen my mom do this with all her grandchildren. If they whine about something, she will tell them, “Stop whining first.” Or, “Wait and I will give it to you later.”  This is a good option if spanking seems to be too harsh a consequence for fussiness (it may depend on the situation and circumstance).

9. Don’t give up. Don’t resign. Don’t abdicate. Just because your child seems difficult to train and you are getting tired of repeating and reinforcing the same set of instructions, don’t worry…God rewards faithfulness. I love this verse for parenting: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” Galatians 6:9

10. Tell them about Jesus as soon as possible, so he can transform them from the inside-out. When I encountered the “force” of Titus, my third son, I was very discouraged. He was so strong-willed and stubborn, and I was mistakenly reactive with my impatience.  It seemed so hard to train him that I wanted to pass it on to Edric and let him be the only disciplinarian. And after dealing with two sons, I felt like slacking off with Titus. However, God reminded both Edric and I that the problem was a heart issue. We needed to share the gospel to Titus.

At 3 years old, Edric shared the gospel to him and he accepted Jesus into his heart and trusted in him as his Lord and Savior. After this, Titus changed in an amazing way. We did our part to instruct him and discipline him but it was really the Lord that made him a new person.

My mom recently told me how apparent the change was in Titus. She told me that one day she told Titus he couldn’t have something and she was pleasantly surprised by his response.  Expecting a negative reaction (which she had encountered many times before), he said instead, “Okay, grandma!” and smiled at her. I explained to her that it was the Lord’s doing and not mine or Edric’s!

As a homeschooling mom, 90% of the challenge is character training for my young children. It’s not the academics. God has given my children sound minds, but when they are not spirit-filled, getting them to learn is like pushing a big rock up a hill.In fact, getting them to do anything is like pushing a big rock up a hill! So a majority of what Edric and I focus on is instruction of the heart.

If you are a normal parent like me and get frustrated or discouraged when parenting gets tough, connect them to the Lord and let God get a hold of their hearts. God is in the business of changing lives by changing hearts. What may seem like an impossible two-year old to us is easy for God!

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

 



[1] John Rosemond, The Well-Behaved Child, Discipline that Really Works. (Thomas Nelson: Nashville, Tenessee, 2009), pg. 24 – 25.