It’s So Hard to Say Sorry…Sometimes

With five kids who are dual citizens, US and Filipino, Edric and I have to visit the US Embassy and Department of Foreign Affairs more often than most parents have to….more often than we would like to. Whether it’s getting a consular report of birth abroad, passport, or renewing an expired passport, we have to be in the US embassy or DFA almost every year.

I dread preparing all the paperwork which can be so tedious and time consuming. However, the most stressful aspect of it all is getting from our home to the different government facilities on time.

Now that we live in the QC area instead of Global City, we need to give ourselves a generous amount of time to travel. Today our appointment was at 7:45 am to renew Elijah and Titus’ passports. So Edric said we had to leave by 5:45 am.

We went to bed pretty early last night but Catalina didn’t do too well so I wasn’t very perky at 5:20 am. Usually, I can get ready in twenty to thirty minutes. I am a no frills kind of person so I don’t need to spend a lot of time in the bathroom. (I don’t even own a hair dryer…I should probably get one. But my hair is so wispy it dries quickly.)

Edric and Elijah were in our van by 5:50. I didn’t get down till about 6:00. Titus came a few minutes after. At first, I didn’t think it was a big deal but Edric looked at me disapprovingly. He thought I didn’t have a sense of urgency. When we got out of our village, he began expressing his annoyance, pointing to the traffic and saying, “Five minutes matters.” I was just quiet. The cars were moving pretty slowly. Uh oh.

When we got to Makati, he made a comment about the traffic again and said, “See, see, we are not going to make it. You can forget the embassy. You probably should rebook our schedule.”

Whoa. What was up with his doomsday perspective?!

“Why do you have to be so negative?” was my response.

“Because I used to work in Makati. I know what the traffic is like.” He had one of those irritated but restrained faces, like he was trying very hard not to be angry with me. (I need to give credit to him for this because he has changed a lot. He tries to be more quiet when he is irked with me so he can process his emotions.)

I retaliated a little, “So what do you want from me?”

“Say sorry.”

Huh? For 10 minutes? Come on.
I didn’t want to. I was quiet.

Instead of saying sorry right away, I prayed for mercy. “Lord, please, please can you help us make it there on time? Please show me mercy.” But my motivations were wrong. I wanted to make it just to show Edric that he was being over the top about my 10-minute lateness.

How could I ask for mercy if I wasn’t willing to say sorry?! I knew that God wouldn’t honor that prayer because my heart wasn’t right.

Why was it so hard to say sorry anyway?

I did a self-analysis…

I don’t seem to have a difficult time asking for forgiveness from relatives, friends, and others. But when it comes to Edric, I struggle with saying sorry sometimes.

Why? PRIDE.

This morning, I knew I was late but I also thought…give me a break, I prepared all the documents and went through all the trouble — photocopying, getting photos done, going through their records, filling out the forms. There was no thank you for that. I also had to wake up for our baby and she cried this morning so I couldn’t get ready as quickly. Furthermore, did my lateness merit his dark-cloud comments? Like we were NEVER going to make it to the embassy because of me?

God convicted me that I was just rationalizing. I was late so I needed to apologize for that. That was the issue. If we agreed on 5:45 I should have been in the van at that time. It doesn’t matter what circumstances caused my tardiness. It didn’t even matter that Edric was asking for an apology in a manner that didn’t suit my preferences. I WAS LATE. I should have just said, “Will you forgive me for being late?”

My thoughts were…Are you a child of child? Do you belong to him? Stop wrestling with the demon of pride. You need to learn to humble yourself. Do you want God’s blessing? Do you want to make it to the embassy?!

Yes, yes, yes, yes!

I turned towards Edric and said, “Honey, will you forgive me for being late?”

It wasn’t so hard after all. It came out pretty well and I didn’t gag on those words!

Of course Edric forgave me. He always does.

I asked for the Lord’s mercy again. This time it wasn’t about proving that I wasn’t such a bad person. I really didn’t want to go through the hassle of rescheduling our appointment. God was merciful indeed! He allowed us to make it to the embassy on time, with some minutes to spare before our appointment. A nice plus was the kindness and courtesy extended to us by the officials who processed our paperwork. One of the officials was a viewer of Edric’s show and he was extra gracious to us, giving us his email so we could coordinate with him directly for our children’s
Social Security numbers.

God is so good!

As I was reflecting on the events of the morning, I remembered the beautiful wedding we attended last Sunday night. The officiating pastor for the first part of the ceremony (who also happened to be my dad) gave three principles for marriage — commitment, communication, and forgiveness.

He said that these were non-negotiable in a marriage. And the enemy of marriage is selfishness, which is just another name for pride.

Saying sorry to Edric when I made a mistake even if I didn’t feel like I did something “very bad” was absolutely necessary. Why? First, Edric expressed to me that I needed to say sorry for being late so I shouldn’t have been defensive. I was late. End of discussion. I should have acknowledged his perspective and communicated the desire to improve and change.

Second, when self-centered thinking started to invade my consciousness, I should have fought it off right away. (Saying a sincere sorry immediately is one of the antidotes to having a hard heart.)

Third, when I got married I made a commitment to Edric before God to be his wife. This may not seem like an epiphany but what does it mean to be a committed wife?

A committed wife is humble. A committed wife knows how to say sorry. A committed wife wants to get better as the years go by. A committed wife receives correction with grace no matter how it is delivered. A committed wife pleases God with the thoughts she entertains about her husband and her actions towards him. And a committed wife receives God’s favor.

God could have allowed us to be late so that I learn a painful lesson. But he was merciful and gracious to me. When I admitted that I was prideful and apologized to Edric there was a peace that came from God…a peace that we would make it to our appointment and all would be well. This peace would have evaded me if I hadn’t responded to the Lord’s conviction to ask for forgiveness.

It is hard to say sorry sometimes (in marriage) but I am learning that when it is, it’s usually because I am prideful, selfish and refuse to honor my commitment to be a good wife to my husband. If I want God’s favor and hand of blessing in my life and marriage then I need to reject these ungodly inclinations and focus on doing what I know God wants me to and stop making excuses!

The wonderful bonus to all of this is Edric apologized to me too for being reactive. Praise God!

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I am committed to this guy no matter what!

You Are My Kryptonite

Edric threw his work bag into the back of the car, and plopped himself beside me. “You are my Kryptonite,” he said, throwing his arms over his head with a smirk on his face.

“Huh?! Me?!”

“Yes, my Krypton.”

I inched over to him and hugged him. I love being Kryptonite…his “weakness,” as he calls it.

We had come from a lunch and I should’ve gone home by myself, but I turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you just come home with me?!” He didn’t have much going on at work so I hoped he would take the invitation. (Plus, if he had stayed at the office, he would have been home really late because his car was color-coded.)

“I think I will do that,” was his response, and I could hardly suppress my giddy excitement. The idea of having him around for the afternoon was such a treat!

Shortly after, he semi-ruined the romantic moment when he jokingly presented what looked like a booger to me and said, “Come on, I dropped everything for you this afternoon…take it. We are one person anyway.”

“Yes we are, but we don’t have the same boogers.”

He just wanted a reaction from me, a scream of girlish horror (which he received).

I’m glad we still have fun. We play silly games. We tease. We laugh. We exchange ideas and opinions. We argue and discuss our differences. We finish each other’s sentences.  We serve the Lord together. We cry because God is good…because it’s so amazing to raise children and watch them grow up…because we don’t deserve anything that we have…because it’s all grace.

This is grace. Right here. Right now. Having a husband who is tender and sweet towards me even after 13 years of knowing everything ugly, sinful, and complicated about me, and then calling me his Kryptonite. It’s flattering. It’s comforting. It’s scary!

If I don’t walk with the Lord I can be a stumbling block in his life. I can be a thorn in his side. I can be the devious whisperer who hisses negative thoughts and ideas into his ear…about people, circumstances, the present, the future…

So I have to guard my own heart. I must walk faithfully with the Lord and make sure that I encourage him to do the same. While he is my leader and the head of our home, he has given me the privilege of his trust. And with this comes a responsibility.

He said, “I must whisper well.”

A woman whispers into the ear of her husband and she can influence him towards or away from Christ-likeness. Take for example, Jezebel to Ahab.

1 Kings 21:25 tells us, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him.”

That’s not who I want to be to Edric! But I can certainly become this way if I’m not careful. I can have a Jezebel-spirit if I’m not filled with the Holy Spirit. A Jezebel-spirit is one who seeks to control and manipulate her husband to do what is wrong in God’s eyes, for her own gain and purposes.

Recently, I have wanted to buy more furniture for the house. But Edric has told me that we have to “tighten the belt” now. We have spent a lot for our new home so we have to temper our purchases, spread them out. My impulse is to finish decorating everything right away. But I have to mind what I say when I express this desire to him. If I pressure him, he will find a way to make more money. However, he is trying to turn down offers for added income so he can streamline his activities and be more focused. As crazy as it may sound, this is a good thing. It’s what I have prayed for.

The last six months have been tough with him traveling to so many different parts of the Philippines. God convicted him to be very selective about what he commits to. Of course this means less money. However, it also means more time for family, ministry, and spearheading the homeschooling movement. These are God-honoring preoccupations that matter in eternity.

As for the house, it’s here. It’s pretty much done. The sprucing and decorating can happen as we go along. In the meantime, I have to practice contentment and thankfulness. I’ve got to support Edric’s desire to give more time to the Lord’s work and not push him to make more money for me to spend on our house. In other words, I have to mind my whisperings as his Kyrptonite because he listens to what I have to say and values it, because my happiness matters to him, and because he loves me. Therefore, my heart has to be wholly devoted to the Lord so that I speak words that encourage Edric to make choices and decisions that honor God. I want to be a GOOD Kryptonite!

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37 NASB)

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The Magic of Unconditional Love

The kids and I spent the morning at Splash Island with my siblings and their kids a few days ago. We were having a belated celebration for one of my nieces who turned 7. It was my first time to visit Splash Island and I would give it a 6 out of 10 for cleanliness and upkeep, an 9 out of 10 for fun.

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From a parent’s perspective the hygiene and sanitation factor is important to me, especially since I have little kids who often put their fingers in their mouths and swallow pool water all the time. But my kids could care less about these things. They were laughing about the frog that was swimming in the water, which the lifeguard nonchalantly picked up and chucked out of the pool, and the dark mold which made creepy patterns in the water tube slide (according to Titus).

Regardless of how Splash Island has aged over the years, the kids had a blast. Some of them even liked it better than Imperial Palace (a beautiful, world-class water park in Cebu).

Unfortunately, two unpleasant things happened during our water park morning. Elijah lost his very expensive prescription glasses, and Edan’s old and ugly crocs were stolen. (I find it hard to believe that anyone would have wanted those shoes!)

The day began with the kids bouncing around in the huge wave pool. Since I had gone to the park with 5 kids, no yaya, and no Edric, I wasn’t very “on the ball” about certain details. One very crucial detail was telling Elijah to give me his glasses before he got into the wave pool. Initially he wanted me to keep them in the locker but I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to see anything if he got lost in the park. So I told him to keep them with him. Bad idea.

While I was preoccupied with watching my three younger children, Elijah and Edan took on the biggest waves right away. A few minutes later, Elijah’s glasses were knocked off his face by a wave. Unable to see clearly, he had no idea where they were in the water. I was at the opposite end holding Catalina so I couldn’t rush over to help him find them either.

Some moments later, my siblings and I tried to look for them, hoping they would be washed “ashore.” Nothing turned up. I prayed and prayed. I also asked Elijah to hold on to Catalina when the wave pool was turned off so I could do a more thorough search. Since I didn’t bring goggles, the life guard was kind enough to lend me his. On any normal day I wouldn’t have used a stranger’s goggles, but I was pretty desperate! I swam along the sides of the pool to check the corners at the bottom. I dove down numerous times to survey the floor. Even if the water was kind of murky at the part where the waves came from (which should have totally disgusted me), I didn’t stop my hunt until I covered every inch along that end of the pool. My siblings searched other areas of the pool as well. Sadly, it was all in vain. Visiting the lost and found twice and asking them to call or text me in case the glasses were turned in didn’t make a difference either. Sigh. I felt horrible.

In the meantime, Elijah didn’t seem to mind a bit. He couldn’t see much but he was having such a good time it didn’t really matter that the entire park was blurry from his perspective.

The kids and their cousins spent the rest of the morning on the slides while I held on to Catalina. I was kind of glum because I couldn’t believe the glasses were gone. Plus I dreaded to call Edric at work to let him know.

In the changing room, I finally phoned him. Surprisingly, Edric didn’t seem too upset. He was disappointed but he didn’t get angry. I didn’t really expect him to flip out but I thought I was in for a teaching session that might have begun with, “So what were you thinking when you told him to wear his glasses while swimming?” There was none of that.

At about 12:30 pm, I had to leave. The boys stayed with their cousins and I took the girls home. During the ride home, I profusely apologized via text, telling Edric again how sorry I was. I didn’t check my phone until a while later but when I did, I read this message…”I love you and I will always take care of you.”

What?! Wow! I texted him right back, “Thanks babe. That actually made me cry…” To which he replied, “Great, that’s the idea.”

He knows what a sucker I am for sweet, tender professions of his love for me, especially when I make a mistake and feel very ashamed and unworthy. In the grand scheme of things, losing a pair of glasses may not have been a big deal. But ever since we moved to our new home we have emphasized to our children the value of being good stewards of God’s blessings. Letting Elijah wear his glasses while running around the water park was a very irresponsible decision. I should have made it very clear that he could wear them while walking from one ride to another and then asked him to hand them to me before swimming.

While I was mulling over my impaired judgment, the last thing I thought I would receive was a text message telling me that I was precious, important, and cherished. When Edric sent me his message, I felt a sudden rush of joy. He didn’t rub salt on my mistake by giving me a lecture about responsibility. Instead he emphasized my value to him as a wife. That made my day! In fact, I was so excited to spend time with him that I dressed up in an outfit I knew he would like, dropped by the store to buy him snacks, and went to his office for an impromptu visit. He was thrilled to see me.

When we were finally in the car together, he looked at me with a big smile and said, “I like it when you give me undivided attention!” He also asked, “Did you notice that I didn’t say anything negative when you called me about the glasses? That’s my new realization. I won’t say anything if I have nothing good to say and I will wait before responding.” (Edric is such an intense person that he can be reactive when circumstances trigger his emotions.)

Of course I noticed! And I loved it! After all, he knew that I was very cognizant of my wrong. So he took a much kinder approach and reassured me that I didn’t have to fret over what happened because he loved me and would always take care of me.

I felt transported to one of those cheesy scenes where I was running towards Edric in a field of flowers wearing a white billowy dress (no braces or bangs) and everything was golden with sunshine. My, my, my, the power of words spoken in a timely fashion to soothe and calm the soul of a perturbed lover (aka me)!

This incident made me realize that spouses need to say things like this to one another more often. It’s like a magical formula for romantic feelings. It’s hard for lovey-dovey feelings to blossom when the soil of a relationship is overgrown with the weeds of fear, shame, anger, disappointment, insecurity, and unforgiveness. But when unconditional love is offered, especially to the one who is undeserving, it inspires them to change for the better and to love the giver in return.

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From a spiritual perspective, it’s the same way with God. An understanding of what He did for us on the cross should result in the desire to repent of sin, serve him, follow him, and be with him. He is the truest example of unconditional love and he invites us to rest in this love rather than hide in our shame or continue in sin. Furthermore, being filled with His love allows us to channel it to others…especially to our spouses who need it the most from us!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11 NASB)

 

The Friend Hat

I have put on the “friend hat” many times in marriage, when Edric needs someone to be vulnerable with and open up to. It’s not always easy to remove the emotional part of me that is so characteristically woman. But, there are occasions when Edric will share with me his temptations as a man, particularly in the area of women, and I have to resist the jealousy, the anger, and the pride. He doesn’t give me heartache in this area but his struggles are real and honest.

Recently, he was telling me how important it is that he doesn’t travel alone when he goes around the Philippines to give seminars for companies. He brings Elijah with him. On the one hand, Elijah is his speaking partner, but on the other hand, he is also an accountability partner.

Edric gave me a hypothetical scenario that could be spiritually precarious for him like…”What if I was alone at a hotel’s cafe and an attractive woman came up to me…” He reiterated how grateful he was that Elijah was around to keep him “safe” from this sort of temptation.

I listened with conflicting feelings. I appreciated his openness with me. That was my greater feeling. But of course, I also felt like my bloated idea of Edric’s tunnel vision for me was deflated. Pin-pricked. Duh…of course he is still a red blooded male who isn’t immune to the flirtatious behavior of women or distracted by the blatant indecencies that assault him when he turns on the TV, spends time on the Internet, or, heck, walks around or drives around in a car. Even if he is not “looking” for temptation, it finds him as it finds every man. The only difference is that he loves the Lord and that gives him the instinct to look away or run away (whichever applies). It’s only by God’s grace and divine protection that he doesn’t fall. The Lord keeps him faithful.

I listened and tried to understand where he was coming from like a friend would. I also affirmed his desire to stay pure in heart and mind. Edric doesn’t need to open up to me about these things. Yet he does.

To refrain from teetering over to ballistic-missile-wife-mode I think about this principle in James 1:19-20: But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to become angry. For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

My part as a wife is to put on the friend hat when Edric needs a sounding board, a dependable and trustworthy confidant — a listener who won’t belittle his fears, criticize his dreams, or blow up about his struggles as a man. I also need to put it on when he needs a prayer partner.

“How can I pray for you?” is a helpful question to ask when I know he feels lost, inadequate, concerned, tempted, or defeated. I wish I was always spiritually alert to know when to insert this question. Honestly, there are moments when I am thinking, what the heck?! Why are we discussing this again?!

But I think of how to keep the communication channels open between us. If I want him to keep trusting me with the secrets of his heart, my words and attitudes must be tempered with sensitive thoughtfulness.

Proverbs 31:11 says, “The heart of her husband trusts in her…”

The other night we were counseling a couple and they expressed a sad reality that can infect any marriage.

“When we were dating and first married, we had so much to talk about, but now we find that we don’t have much to talk about at all.”

This couple admitted that there are certain topics that have become off limits between them because they lead to conflict. Furthermore, the hurt and disappointments have piled up over the years. So their conversations are more pragmatic and lack the depth of true communion. (The good news is they are willing to work towards restoration and healing because they want to have a Christ-centered marriage.)

A marriage can only last so long without the intimacy that God designed it to have. While we may tend to blame our spouse when it is gone, we have to take a look at ourselves and consider if we may have pushed them away by our careless and selfish responses to who they are and how they present themselves to us.

In Genesis it says, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”(Genesis 2:24, 25 NASB)

I believe that intimacy goes beyond the physical. It says in Genesis, Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed. While they were literally naked, I would like to think it was more than that. There was nothing to hide. They weren’t afraid that the other would point an ugly, judgmental finger and emphasize every flaw and imperfection in their person. They didn’t feel compared, measured, or insufficient. There was total trust, total security, total confidence in one another’s affection and devotion.

We all come into marriage longing for this sort of relationship-perfection. And sometimes I wonder if what Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden was a fantasy of an idea, an impossible utopia? But while I was attending “Unshakable,” a conference by apologist, Ravi Zacharias, and his team, he made a statement about HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY. Our tendency to blame others, especially God, for the unfortunate and unpleasant circumstances that are present in this world, makes us overlook our responsibility to embrace God’s will and design.

We took his beautiful design of oneness of flesh and nakedness without shame and we defiled it with sin. Sin brought the shame, distrust, fear, and pain that enters into marriages today. As a result, we are cautious about what we say and what we do. We prefer self-preservation and conflict-avoidance. We stop revealing ourselves honestly and openly to the person we have called beloved.

However, the longing to do so remains. And we become lonely and dissatisfied because our relationship doesn’t meet this need. Worst of all, when someone else dangles the hope that this need could be met, it moves us only farther away from our spouse and closer to sin and unfaithfulness.

So open communication is important. It is not a guarantee against an affair but it builds the intimacy that is necessary for a husband and wife to feel connected and safe with one another.

My mom gives seminars on Open Communication and here are some pointers she shares on HOW TO HAVE OPEN COMMUNICATION:

- Make time – don’t send busy signals
- Give your full attention (set distractions like gadgets aside, turn off the TV, move away from the computer screen)
- Listen to their heart / feelings
- Show interest by asking questions
- Don’t lecture
- Don’t react, raise your voice or get angry
- Do not use phrases like “you always…or you never…”
- Share your own struggles and stories
- Ask, “How can I pray for you?”

These suggestions seem pretty straightforward but the path back to intimacy must invite Christ. I have said it so many times in my entries that God must be present in a marriage. It is his presence that restores the “Eden-like” relational climate between a husband a wife. With God’s love, forgiveness, grace, and hope, a wife can come along side her husband as a life-giver as she listens to the most vulnerable of his thoughts and feelings. And a husband can offer the strength a wife needs when she admits her fears and insecurities. They can be “naked and an unashamed”, even at the risk of hurting or being hurt.

I am not saying that being truthful has to be done in a brutal, tactless sort of way. After all, the Bible says that our speech needs to be “seasoned with grace.” But, we can invite one another to these shoulder to shoulder, side-by-side-I-am-here-for-you-sort-of-moments. It doesn’t always have to be about our struggles and temptations. It’s also about sharing our highs, victories, and joys.

I am not writing this for the men but if it helps them, then well and good. I am really writing this for us women. We have the privilege of being best friend to our husbands. Let’s not relinquish that special place that should belong to us!

On the way home from a wonderful evening with our bible study group in Vieux Chalet, Antipolo, Edric took my hand as we reflected on the recent ministry activities we have been involved in. He said, “I am so glad I am going through this journey with you. I can’t imagine doing this (life) on my own.”

Edric and I love one another deeply in a romantic way, but I praise God that he is able to say what he did because we are also great friends.

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Courtship and Dating

I was going through my old files and I found this talk on Courtship and Dating. For my single readers out there…this is for you…

Edric and I would like to share with you how our relationship started so that you can copy the good about it and avoid the mistakes we made. Some things we learned the hard way and we want to be honest with you. But we pray that at the end of this, you will be blessed and encouraged to follow God’s principles for courtship and dating.

Edric: Joy and I have been happily married for 13 years. We have three boys, Elijah, Edan and Titus, and two girls, Tiana and Catalina. We first met in college at Ateneo. I was a very religious person and one of the things that got me interested in Joy was our first conversation. Since we had psychology class together, we sometimes had group projects. And during one of these occasions we were seated beside each other and had a very deep conversation about God. Before then, I had crushes on many different girls and Joy was never one of them because even though I thought she was beautiful, she struck me as someone foreign—not someone I would click with. But after getting to talk to her, I was completely intrigued.

Things to note –

  • Don’t rule out someone who is not your initial type because God they could turn out to be God’s best type for you. Be willing to look further than just your comfort zone.
  • Men appreciate being able to have a meaningful conversation with a woman. And women, if you can practice the art of good conversation (asking thoughtful questions and acknowledging and responding to our answers), that makes us feel very connected with you.

Joy: When I first got to talk to Edric, I immediately noticed that he was different than most of the guys in college. He was a principled person. He was straightforward, honest, and easy to talk to. We were both blessed to have been raised with a godly set of values, so we had a lot in common. But, we had different religious beliefs. So initially, I guarded my heart because I did not want to get involved with someone who did not share the same faith. That was the most important criteria for me in dating anyone. But, it was very difficult not to like Edric. He was very gentlemanly, sweet, kind, and charming.

Things to note –

  • As women, we appreciate transparency and unpretentiousness (like the guy isn’t trying to prove anything or put up a front). It makes us feel like we can trust the man. Values mean a lot to us. A guy can be super goodlooking, carry himself well, and be very confident, but if he doesn’t have a good set of values, he becomes unattractive very fast (to women who are looking for a serious relationship).
  • Try to find out if the person shares the same belief that you do even before you start to fall for a person. Once you get married, you need to be spiritually aligned because you will be making decisions and establishing values as ONE, especially when it comes to convictions about faithfulness, finances and parenting.

Edric started to pursue a relationship with me sometime after that and I remember that he came to my house one evening during our Junior year of college with 36 roses to ask me out to dinner. My parents realized that he was seriously interested in me. They said to me that evening, “Why don’t you invite him in to have dinner with the family instead of going out?” They wanted to get to know him. Edric was a very good sport and agreed.

Things to note –

  • When a guy is open to getting to know your family it is a very positive sign. It means that he has nothing to hide, that he wants to get to know more about you through the people that you care about. And, it makes a very remarkable impression on your parents and siblings!
  • And of course, being blatantly romantic is very charming. Almost every woman I know appreciates it when a guy goes the extra mile just to communicate that you are important to him. Thirty-six flowers was very sweet.

Edric: I remember during this dinner that Joy’s dad asked me a very famous question that he asks all dinner guests. “Edric, have you ever come to a point in your spiritual life wherein you are sure that if you die you will go to heaven?” All of Joy’s four siblings turned to face me as I answered, “Yes, I think so, because I try to be a good person.” Joy’s father said, “That’s interesting, well maybe one of these days I can share with you what it means to really have that assurance.” And as if on queue, Joy’s siblings said, “Why don’t you share with him now?!” In a matter of seconds, one of them had run to get a bible and plopped it right in front of Joy’s dad. Then, Joy’s siblings politely vacated the table to give us privacy. That night, I came to understand salvation and place my trust in Jesus Christ. Before this time, I had always thought that I could earn my way into heaven by being a good person. But that night, something changed. I accepted Jesus into my heart and I began to have a personal relationship with him. A different kind of peace came over me. I had the assurance that if I died that very day, I would be with Jesus, not because of my good works, but because he died for me and paid for my sins. But I still had a lot of spiritual growing that I needed to experience.

Things to note -

  • Spiritual leadership is one of the key roles of a man, especially in marriage. Whenever we conduct premarital counseling for couples, I always tell the guy, the buck stops with you. As a man, you are going to be the head of your marriage relationship, and the most important aspect of being the head is that you have to take charge spiritually. You don’t have to “dominate” spiritually but you are going to be held accountable for the spiritual health of your wife and kids. When Adam and Even sinned in the garden of Eden, God looked for Adam. He held Adam responsible even if Eve took the first bite. When I was in college, I didn’t know how critical it was that for me to be a spiritual leader as man, and that is why I want to share this with you, as early as now, before some of you make any major decision in the area of relationships. Are you ready to lead, take the helm?

Joy: After this evening, I got very excited. I thought, yippee! Edric understands what I believe, we can actually start dating! Well that was a wrong perspective. I should have waited on God’s perfect timing. My parents liked Edric very much but they also wanted me to focus on my studies more. Unfortunately, Edric and I started to became a distraction to each others’ studies, to developing our abilities and other relationships, and to maximizing our time to do ministry and serve others. Why? Because it was not yet the right time. The reality was that we were still in college, so even if we really thought we loved each other, we couldn’t get married, yet.

Things to note –

  • Sometimes it can be the right person but not the right time. Or the right time but the wrong person. Both of those have to be right before you commit to a relationship.
  • A very practical way to discern if you are ready to get into a serious relationship is this guideline: Each person needs to answer three major questions in their life –The 3 M’s — Master, Mission, and the Mate. If you already know who your master is – meaning who you will commit your life to (the spiritual question), then you can answer the second question, what will I do with my life, how will I best serve and glorify God with the abilities and strengths he has given me? And if you have answered that second question because you are already doing what you believe God wants you to be doing, then you can ask yourself the third question. What kind of person will enable me to pursue a life that is pleasing and glorifying to God?

Here some other practical considerations:

  1. Have you made a list of what you are looking for in a person you would like to marry?
  2. For the men – are you able to be financially independent from your parents and provide for a family?
  3. Have you established your personal standards for purity (that you are not willing to compromise on)?
  4. Do you have your parents’ full blessing and approval to get into a relationship with this person?

Edric: When Joy and I started to get serious about our relationship, we also began to compromise in the area of physical purity. We really believed that we loved each other and we were very attracted to each other. Because we spent a lot of alone time together, it was very hard to resist being physical with each other. Praise God we didn’t go all the way but we came way too close, too many times. This was a source of tension in our relationship because we both felt frustrated that we were not pleasing God.

After college, Joy and I began to think more objectively about our relationship. We both wanted to get married but we knew that we were not practicing purity before God. We said, “How can we expect God to bless our relationship if we are not completely obeying him?” We both decided to do something drastic — to break up and spend time discerning God’s direction for us as individuals. God convicted us to ask, “Whom do you love more, this person or me?” We had made each other more important than our relationship with God.

Things to note –

  • Because being physical outside of marriage is not God’s design, you cannot expect God’s blessing or hand to be upon your life or the relationship. Both Joy and I wanted God’s blessing. We did not have peace about staying together if we could not control the physical aspect of our relationship. Some of you might be in the same predicament or you might have experienced this same issue in the past. And let me assure you that if you put God first, he will work things out for good in your life. For those of you who don’t think it is such a big deal to be physical before marriage, let me caution you. We are all free to make decisions but not free to escape the consequences. Joy and I have counseled a lot of couples who do not experience a fulfilling sex life in marriage because they exhausted that aspect long before they ever God married. And when you mess with God’s design, there will always be consequences. God’s grace can turn things around, but if you want God’s best plan for your future marriage, then make the hard decisions now – decisions that are based on God’s word and truth and not what the world is saying or doing.

1 Corinthians 6:18-19 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

Joy: Edric and I believed that if we put God first in our lives and seek him first, then he would bring us back together if that was his will. But we needed to want him above all things, above even our love for one another. When we broke up, we sought God independently and put him first. But it was extremely painful and difficult. The terms were: no communicating, no text messaging, no emailing unless absolutely necessary. God allowed this period of separation to be a time of delving in God’s word, reviving my prayer life, focusing on my job, and getting involved in ministry work. The same happened for Edric. Our lives became fruitful again.

Things to note –

  • When you are waiting on God for a person or answer about a relationship, don’t be passive. Busy yourself doing ministry, go all out in your job, enjoy your friendships and loved ones, and most of all, find your completeness in Christ. One of the most dangerous things you can think about relationships is “This person is going to make me happy.” That’s not true. You need to take two happy, contented people to make one happy relationship. Find your joy and satisfaction in Christ and you can love your future spouse out of this joy and satisfaction.

Edric: This was a very difficult period for me. No one had ever broken up with me. In the past, I was the one that did the breaking up with my ex-girlfriends. But God used this period of separation to work in my heart and prepare me to be a husband.

God was amazingly faithful. I continued to pray for Joy and Joy continued to pray for me. I knew in my heart that Joy was the woman I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. But the Lord had to confirm this. My practical concerns were: I would have to be the spiritual leader, be able to make enough money to provide for a wedding, family, and home. And most importantly, get the full blessing of both Joy’s parents and my parents if I was ever to ask her for her hand in marriage.

I set up a secret meeting with Joy’s mom and dad for their blessing to marry her. They said yes. Whew. After half a year of praying, preparing and discerning, I was ready to ask Joy to marry me. Finally, I asked God, is it time? And he led me to this verse in Exodus 3:33, “I myself, the Lord answered, will go along to give you rest.” And I had complete peace. I set up an elaborate plan to orchestrate the proposal and I put the ring inside an old Bible and wrote out the question, “Will You Marry Me?” Everyone was in on the plan, except for Joy. Praise God she said, “Yes!”

Things to note –

  • God knows the desires of your heart. If these desires are for your greater good, he will give them to you. If they are wrong desires, he will give you something better. The key is to discern when you are in the center of his will – so he can speak to you clearly. The same thing applies to relationships. You might be interested in someone and think, this person is it! If only God will allow us to be together! If you pray about it and God says a clear no, then be excited that God has someone better. Joy and I had to have this mindsight even if it was difficult. But praise God, he wanted us to get married.

I also did something a little bit unorthodox before proposing marriage to Joy. I called up my two ex-girlfriends to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. God convicted me to make sure that I cut ties in an honorable way, and avoid bringing any emotional baggage into my marriage. So I asked them if there was anything I did to hurt or offend them by the choices I made while dating them. And I said sorry. This liberated me to move on with a clean conscience.

Things to note –

  • If you have not settled issues with past relationships and you want God’s blessing for your marriage, consider this passage: Matthew 5:23 – 24 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” The principle is put your affairs in order in the area of relationships, so that you can come before God and honor him at the marriage altar.

Joy: Hebrews 11:6 says, And without faith, it is impossible to please him (God) for He who comes to God must believe that he is and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him. When we sought to put God first, God rewarded us. By God’s grace, Edric and I are happily married. We love being married, having a family, and serving God together.

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Things to note –

  • God has a plan for each one of you. It is the best plan. If he decides to bring a special someone to your life then rejoice and if he doesn’t, well, you can rejoice also because he wants you especially for himself. But do your part – if you want to find the best person, then be the best person first. Focus on what you can control – plan out your singlehood by living it out to the fullest, in a way that glorifies God – but be open to the possibility that God may change and interrupt those plans by bringing someone into your life.

Be blessed and encouraged my dear single readers! While you wait and pray, may you experience God’s best even now – GOD HIMSELF.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love you even with your braces and bangs.

Braces and bangs…what was I thinking?! I didn’t realize how awkward I would look. And I must admit that I struggle with vanity from time to time. The comedy of it all is I had to give so many talks these past two weeks. There were blog readers who came up to me wanting photos and I wanted to run away because I am vain!!! I didn’t want to smile and pose for the camera. I know…it’s silly.

After one of my seminars, Edric confronted me in a loving way and told me to get over it. He knew I was self conscious because I was hardly moving my upper lip. I looked like an unskilled ventriloquist. Part of the problem was my lips kept snagging on my braces.

It’s been a few weeks since I first got them. Thankfully, these are fast braces so I shouldn’t have to wear them for too long. In the meantime, while I am looking like a teenager with wrinkles, I am so glad Edric told me two mornings ago, “I love you even with your braces and bangs.”

He would prefer that I didn’t have either but at this stage, 13 years into marriage, we understand that physical appearances aren’t the most important aspect of a marriage. I am not saying it’s not necessary to be attracted to your spouse and to do your best to be attractive for your spouse. But it’s certainly wonderful to know that braces and bangs aren’t going to change the way Edric feels about me. I don’t have to look perfect. I am not pressured to be flawless.

At the recent wedding of my cousin, Joseph, the officiating pastor, Jay Jackson, said, “Because love sees more it is willing to see less.”

He certainly meant more than just the physical but since I am on the topic of external appearances, permit me to say how much I appreciate a couple of things about my husband…

I am so thankful I married a guy who doesn’t compare me to the attractive women he meets. (He interviewed three gorgeous beauty queens for his TV show a few weeks ago.) I am so thankful that he doesn’t entertain attractive stalker women online. (Some women don’t care that he is a married man. They still attempt to get his attention and flirt with him.) I am so thankful he doesn’t ogle at bill boards of younger women or look up pornography. He admits that he is tempted to just like any other man, but he tries his best to guard what he sees.

Why? Because he loves God. He wants to please Him. If Edric didn’t have an intimate relationship with the Lord, I wouldn’t have the same sort of peace that I do about our marriage. But because he does it affords me rest from trying to KEEP him attracted to me. I try to stay fit and take care of myself so I don’t fall apart physically. However, no amount of striving in this area would make him faithful to me unless he desired to live for God.

I have seen the same conviction in my father who has stayed faithful to my mother. The other day I was showing my dad old photos of him and my mom. And he began to have tears in his eyes. My dad hardly gets emotional! But he went through each photo with me, commenting on how beautiful my mom looked. Afterwards he asked me to send the photos to him. As he made his way up the stairs to his study room, he glanced back at me with an expression of tender affection and added, “It is good for a husband to look through old photos and remember how much he loves the wife of his youth…” He seemed to be lost in a moment of sweet remembering as he smiled and climbed the remainder of the stairs.

When he said “wife of your youth,” I remembered this passage in Proverbs…Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. (Proverbs 5:15, 18 NLT)

A man marries the woman he loves but a man who loves God keeps loving the woman he married.

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The Triumvirate of Unconditional Love

Let me begin by saying it’s absolutely impossible to survive a marriage without forgiveness. It is one of the three triplets that define unconditional love, especially in marriage — forgiveness, grace and hope. Every single day that a person is married, at least one of these (if not all) are put to the test. Without this triumvirate a marriage cannot grow in intimacy and it will certainly not overcome what threatens to break it apart. Whether it be daily annoyances, personality clashes, unmet expectations or longings, lack of priorities, or betrayal, a marital relationship is constantly under attack. It is the game plan of the evil one to break it apart and destroy the people who are in and around it — the couple, the children, the family. And naturally, when more and more families fall, society will follow.

So a marriage must be treated as sacred, and those who commit to it must understand that saying yes to one another, before God, is for better or for worse.

John Piper wrote an amazing book called “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” He says that marriage is the doing of God and it is the display of God. Marriage between a man and a woman was designed from the beginning to be a reflection of the relationship between Jesus Christ and us. In Ephesians, Paul says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” And then the passage goes on to say, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:31-32)

I used to wonder why the Bible says that there is no marriage in heaven. This question was answered when I read Piper’s book. Marriage is a mirror of the relationship between Jesus Christ (the husband) and his church (his bride). “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…”(Ephesians 5:23-26 NASB)

In heaven, there is no need for a marriage to display this relationship. But on earth, what a privilege we have to show the world how much God loves us! Christ will never leave his church, his bride, just as a man ought never to leave his wife. And the church is to be faithful and subject to Christ, as a wife ought to be to her husband.

The problem is marriage is between two imperfect people. Unlike Christ to us, we do not always love one another as he loves us. But we have a reference for the kind of love that ought to be shared by a husband and wife because of Christ’s example. There has to be forgiveness, grace and hope.

Last week Edric and I got into a serious fight. It wasn’t one of those silly ones that have to do with personality quirks or toothpaste tubes left uncovered in the bathroom. I brought up a concern about Family Ministry and his involvement in it, and he was very discouraged by the things I said. He called me Ms. Gloom and Doom for being negative and corrective about the way he was running it. I didn’t relent. My mistake was I kept pursuing the discussion, intentionally pulverizing him with my frustrations. And I knew I was being disrespectful but I didn’t care. I just wanted him to acknowledge what I was saying and validate my perspective. But he reacted with anger (not shouting but he didn’t like what I had to say at all), and he withdrew and avoided me because he was deeply hurt. So I pulled away, too.

When I apologized for my disrespect, I made the mistake of bringing up the same topic again. And it came to a point where he actually said that he didn’t want to come home if he was going to come home to a complaining, nagging wife who had no confidence in him.

In my mind I wasn’t being a nag and I wasn’t communicating that he wasn’t capable of heading the ministry. I was merely expressing a concern. But for guys, well, my husband atleast, when he responds with a statement like, “I will take care of it,” that means he’s going to take action and I need not badger him repeatedly to make sure. That was my problem. I didn’t stop talking. Even after Edric said he would take care of it, I kept going and going.

It took two and a half days before we resolved our conflict. (This is long for us.) And it was a pretty emotional discussion. We went back and forth deliberating and articulating our deep frustrations towards one another until I just broke down and he did, too. We sat in the kitchen in tears.

Neither of us wanted to be fighting. We loved each other. But there was a lot of garbage being shoveled on top of that love. All we began to see and smell was the stink.

As we humbled ourselves and acknowledged our wrongs, we applied forgiveness, grace and hope. We accepted one another’s apology without thinking, “Well, you are just going to do this again” — FORGIVENESS. And we made ourselves vulnerable by choosing to love one another still — GRACE. Afterwards, we talked about what to improve on and we were comforted by Christ’s work in each of us — HOPE.

Years ago Edric and I attended a marriage retreat where we learned about the stages of marriage — romantic, reality, reaction, retaliation, retreat, resignation, and rebuilding. Romantic is like the honey moon stage, when you are both starry-eyed, blissful, and totally clueless about how different you are from one another. Reality is the day you wake up and realize that your husband doesn’t put the toilet seat down after using it, and your husband realizes you spend 3 hours in the bathroom (I hope none of us wives really do this!) As the idiosyncrasies, attitudes and behaviors begin to bug and irritate you, you begin to react, and then conflict arises. Retaliation happens. If the conflicts remain unresolved and there is no attempt to change, then you both begin to withdraw. This is the retreat stage. When neither of you want to fix the marriage and feel a kind of hopelessness about it, this is resignation. If you can’t get past this stage, you may separate or divorce. Another possibility is you will live together but have absolutely no relationship. The good news is, in Christ, a marriage can be rebuilt. It can keep on being rebuilt.

Edric and I have experienced these stages over and over again. As much as possible, we don’t linger in the retreat stage too long, and we skip on to the rebuilding stage soon after a conflict. In order to do this, forgiveness, grace and hope are necessary. But these would be impossible to apply if God wasn’t present in our marriage.

Both of us need a reference for unconditional love that is outside of ourselves. Our human capacity to forgive, dispense grace, and hope is limited by who we are – sinful, fallen people. Honestly, I don’t always like to forgive. Most of the time it’s not the big offenses that are hard to deal with, it’s the repeated ones that are wearying. When Edric gets irritated or loses his cool, I feel very hurt. And it makes me angry when he has a problem calibrating his emotions. I praise God that his “flare-ups” have become more infrequent over the years. He tries his best to be cool, calm, and collected, as well as mindful of his tone. But, on occasion, when he gets busy or overexerts himself to the point of exhaustion, he is more vulnerable to spikes in his temperament. When this happens, I want to react and fight back, or at least correct him. My first instinct is not to forgive. I don’t feel like it. It’s not easy for Edric to keep forgiving me for my shortcomings either. But he said something really sweet to me that nearly brought me to tears. “Hon, from the moment of the offense, I forgive you.” In other words, as soon as I display a behavior, attitude or speak words that hurt him, he already chooses to forgive.

“Why?” I asked.

“Christ’s love compels me to,” was his answer.

We choose to forgive because God has forgiven us through his son, Jesus. And we know that forgiveness is the starting point. It’s like the antivenin that removes emotional toxins that poison our love for one another.

The Bible says, “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled…” Hebrews 12:15

Recently I heard an amazing story of a couple who wanted to quit on one another. One of the spouses had kept a second family and lived a secret life. It was an offense that any normal person would struggle to forgive. For a while, it seemed like this couple was at the resignation stage. The marriage seemed impossible to fix. As a last effort, they attended a retreat where they learned about Jesus Christ and his forgiveness. The grieving spouse made a decision to forgive because of Christ’s forgiveness. Together they committed to rebuild the relationship, an act of grace. And miraculously, their marriage bounced back to the romantic stage as they were able to unearth issues, and unmet longings and expectations. Hope was restored.

Even though stories like this one may seem uncommon in a world where marriages fall apart because of infidelity and betrayal, it is a common occurrence for couples who choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of their lives and marriages. Jesus Christ doesn’t just save people. He saves marriages.

I love Edric. I want to love him always. But marriage is not an easy relationship. We will continue to disappoint one another because we are flawed people. We will continue to go through the stages of marriage. However, the great news is we can keep returning to the romantic stage. For as long as we apply the same unconditional love that Jesus Christ affords us there will always be forgiveness, grace and hope in our marriage.

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Two Become One

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My parents are literally East meets West, a Chinese and an American. When they met one another in the Philippines, they were from two distinctly different cultures brought together by a common love for Jesus Christ and the desire to serve him. Now married for nearly 41 years, and still in love (more so than ever before), it is their identity in Christ — as one — that has kept them together.

While I was cleaning out old albums, I came across a published narrative of how God brought them together, and I was so blessed to read their story again. I’m hoping you will feel the same way…

“Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14:13-24

PETER (DAD):

As I meditated on this passage one morning in December 1971, I was confident that if I asked anything in the name of Jesus, he would do it. There was great peace in my heart as  I prayed, “Lord, allow me to meet my future wife. I am tired of dating girls and wasting time.”

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20140329-180017.jpgI met Deonna in Janauary at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. She had arrived in the Philippines on November 21 as a member of the Crossroads, a musical team for Asia of the aforementioned Christian organization.

At that time, I never imaged that she was the Lord’s answer to my prayer. There were two incidents, however, which prompted me to become better acquainted with her. The first occurred when my younger sister, Beth, went shopping with her. Beth commented afterwards, “she is so simple and wise in her shopping.”

The other happened a week after our encounter. The Crossroads and I were having dinner together. As we were sharing our experiences with the Lord, I noticed that Deonna had a deep comprehension of life. She showed great spiritual discernment in what she was saying. I talked with her again at the next Friday night meeting. That evening, I asked her for a date on Sunday afternoon.

Our first date was a unique experience for me. My original plan was to show her some interesting places in the greater Manila area and get-to-know her at the same time. However, a few days before Sunday, a pastor-friend invited me to speak in his church on the same afternoon that I was to be with Deonna. I accepted the invitation. Not being well-acquainted with Deonna, I didn’t know what she would think about my acceptance of the speaking engagement. I hoped she would be willing to minister with me. I waited until Sunday to tell her. When I did, I was delighted because she welcomed the idea. She remarked that it is good to have a balance between being together and ministering together. That Sunday afternoon, she helped me by sharing her testimony at the church I spoke at.

This was how our relationship began. It was the type of relationship I prayed I would have with a girl. I had spent time with other girls but none of them had expressed a willingness to serve the Lord the way Deonna did. I was encouraged by the fact that we were closer to the Lord and to each other when we parted that evening.

After our first date, we committed the future of our relationship to the Lord. Although we saw each other frequently between the months of February and August, we had to be separated for a period of three and a half months. Deonna toured with the Crossroads in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines in March and April; then in July, I went to the U.S. for Campus Crusade for Christ’s Explo’ 72 and Lay Staff Training.

With the possibility of marriage in mind, Deonna and I thought it would be wise for me to visit her family while in the U.S. During the second week of my trip to the U.S., I spent four days in Florida with them. I discussed with her father what the Lord had been showing us in regards to our relationship. I left her family with the assurance that her parents would welcome our marriage if it were the Lord’s will.

My love for Deonna grew during the rest of my time in the U.S. For the first time in my life, I began to realize the meaning of Agape Love – an unconditional, unselfish love. I discovered within myself a freedom to love her without the fear of losing her or of becoming jealous. Regardless of her response to me, I knew I would still love her. I only desired the best for her.

In August, the Lord finally confirmed that he had chosen Deonna to be my wife. He did this through many Bible verses and through the love which He had placed within me for her. Knowing that Deonna was to be my wife, I was eager to see her. As soon as my responsibilities would allow me, I began my trip home.

I had to stop in Germany to attend to some business affairs. Although I originally intended to spend a few months in Germany to complete my business there, I was able to do everything in a week. Then, I immediately flew to the Philippines with the intention of asking Deonna to marry me.

Wasting no time, I proposed to Deonna on Sunday, the 27th of August, which was just one day after I returned to Manila. I did not know what the Lord had revealed to her concerning our future. I only knew that I loved her and that the Lord had showed me that Deonna was to be my wife. Trusting His promises me, I had the courage to ask her to marry me. But when I asked her, she did not answer me immediately. After a moment of silence, she said, “Peter, please get my Bible out of the car. I want to share with you what the Lord showed me concerning our relationship.”

I never expected her to respond this way! Nevertheless, I brought her Bible and “patiently” waited for thirty minutes while she read the many Bible verses God had shown her. When she finally finished, I asked, “Deonna, what is your answer?” Again, she surprised me by saying, “Peter, let’s pray.” Not knowing what to expect next, I bowed my head. At the end of her prayer to the Lord, I heard her say, “Father, before you and all of heaven I say ‘yes’ to Peter. I will be his wife.”

I opened my eyes and looked at her. I never though that the woman I would marry would say “yes” to me through a prayer to our heavenly Father. Yet, Deonna had done it! I was overjoyed as I thought, “I am looking at my wife to be. She is God’s gift to me.” I remember my prayer in December, “Lord, let me meet my future wife.” God faithfully fulfilled His promise to me…” Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do…” My heart was full of joy, praise, and thanksgiving to God for giving me such a wonderful woman.

I can honestly say, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

God is so good. He knows what is best for His children and when it is best to give it to us. Through this experience with Deonna, I have learned that “Faith” means to trust the Lord moment by moment, one step at a time.

 

DEONNA (MOM):

A week before leaving California for Asia, my mother entered the kitchen while I was cooking my lunch. “Deonna,” she said. “I am glad that you have chosen to obey the Lord by going to Asia to minster there as a member of the Crossroads.” Then I observed tears welling up in her eyes as she continued, “But honey, you are already 25. When will you get married?”

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20140329-204257.jpgI was deeply touched by her motherly concern. However, I had already given this problem to Christ and left it for Him to solve. Because of this, I was able to encourage her by replying, “Mother, if there was only one man in the world but the Lord Jesus Christ wanted me to marry him, then Jesus would bring me to him.” Then unexpectedly I added, “Who knows, Mom, maybe I’ll marry an Asian? God might have a permanent ministry planned for me in Asia.” This last statement certainly didn’t comfort her. She burst into tears at the thought of me staying in Asia for life.

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When I left Lost Angeles airport on November 14, 1971, I did not know that Jesus was actually taking me to meet a handsome Chinese man who would be my husband. Nor did I realize that I was leaving one way of life to eventually begin a new life with him in a foreign country. Unknowingly, Jesus had given me a glimpse of my future through my statement to my mom.

The Crossroads arrived in the Philippines on November 21. Manila had been chosen as our home base since the Asian Training Center for Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) was located there. Three weeks after arriving we attended the CCC Leadership Training Institute. On the second day of the institute, the topic of marriage came up again when Becky,  a newly married Filipino staff of CCC, shared with me that months before she met Ben, her husband, she had prayed for certain qualities to be in the man she married.

The results of Becky’s prayer inspired me to do the same. After the institute, I prayerfully made the list of qualities, which I wanted to be in the man I would marry. It was my desire that each quality would be pleasing to Lord. Let me share these qualities with you. I wanted:

  1. A true Christian – a man who has trusted Christ to forgive his sins and because of this, has Christ’s Spirit living in him.
  2. One who loves God more than he loves me.
  3. A man who allows Christ’s Spirit to control him and to guide his life.
  4. One chosen by the Lord to serve Him.
  5. One who understands that the Lord’s role for a Christian husband is to be the head of his home – to lead his wife through his love and not by force.
  6. A man with leadership ability.
  7. A man who is sensitive and understanding with others and wise in human relationships.
  8. One who is intelligent, has achieved the same level of education as I have, has a positive attitude toward life, and one who enjoys sports like swimming, (something that we can do together).

Although I didn’t know where this man was, I did know that the Lord would bring me to him someday. Until that time, I was content to pray for him and to wait.

In January, just one month after I had begun praying for my future husband, I met Peter. Our first meeting was very casual, and to be honest, very ordinary. We were at the weekly Friday night meeting of Campus Crusade for Christ. Approaching me with a friendly smile, he said, “Hi, I’m Peter.” I smiled and returned the greeting. I remember little of the rest of our one and a half minute conversation. But, I did take note of Peter and his personality. He appeared very friendly, sure of himself, and capable of leadership.

Later the following week, Peter invited the Crossroads to dinner. It was then that I learned he was in the textile business. The next Friday night at the Crusade meeting, he asked me to go sightseeing on Sunday afternoon. I accepted his invitation. However, our date did not turn out as I had expected. Since Peter had accepted a speaking engagement during our date, we ended Sunday afternoon ministering together in a small local church.

As I listened to him preach, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to minister together like this with my husband.” At that time, I did not realize that I would be ministering with Peter for the rest of my life. Standing before me was the man I would marry and for whom I had been praying. But, I didn’t know it.

After our first date, Peter and I began dating frequently. Each time we were with each other, we were drawn closer together. God also used the two of us, a blonde American lady and a dark-haired Chinese man, to bring many people to Christ. The more I was with Peter, the more I discovered that his qualities were identical to the qualities I had prayed to have in my husband.

Then in April, Peter told me that he believed the Lord was showing him that I was to be his wife. When he told me this, I became excited, but at the same time, I felt uneasy. To be married to a man with Peter’s qualities was in my prayer. Yet, to marry Peter meant marrying outside my own race. In order to make such a decision I had to know God’s attitude towards mixed marriages. I also had to be absolutely sure that it was God’s will for me to marry Peter. So, I replied, “Peter, I believe that a marriage relationship requires a mutual confirmation from the Lord that it is his will.” He agreed.

That night I returned home and wrote a list of practical questions to the Lord Jesus. I desired to know his perspective on mixed marriages, leaving my country, the future of our children, and the type of ministry Peter and I would have. I committed these questions to Him and expected Him to answer me from the Bible.

Finally, five months later on August 24 while I was returning by ship from the Southern Philippines, the Lord directed me to passages in the Bible which specifically answered all of my questions. Although I had many questions which He answered, I will only share with you His attitude towards races. In Galatians 3:26-28, He showed me that those of us who are in Christ are children of God. The earthly classifications of individuals by race and social status are replaced by a new classification for the children of God; we are one in Christ.

After he answered all my questions positively, I was confident that it was His will for Peter and me to be married. Bowing my head, I prayed, “Lord, thank you for showing me your will and for giving me to such a wonderful man as Peter.”

Two days after this revelation, Peter unexpectedly returned from his two months trip to the U.S. The day after his return, the 27th of August, he proposed to me. I did not expect him to ask me to marry him this soon after his return. I was excited but surprised.

I wanted to first share with him all the verses the Lord had given me in regards to our relationship before I answered him. After sharing the verses, I was still uneasy about the future. Even though I loved Peter, I realized that saying “yes” to him would change the entire course of my life. That was a difficult decision for me to make. However, God had clearly shown me that this was His perfect plan; that I should be Peter’s wife. I knew that I needed to pray in order to have the courage to make such a decision. I asked Peter to pray with me. I thanked the Lord for His plan for our lives, for Christ’s power to be obedient to His will, and most of all for Peter. While still praying, I said “yes” to the Lord and then “yes” to Peter.

THIS WAS PUBLISHED ON JULY 12, 1973.

Recently, my mom gave a shortened version of her testimony before our church and I want to add what she said:

My vows to Peter were consistent to the vow I had made to God.  As Ruth had said to Naoimi  in  Ruth 1:16 “…Where you go I will go … Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.”

When I first arrived in Manila, the Lord had given me a promise of blessing which I did not really understand at that time from Mark 10:29-30. Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brother or sister or mother or father or children or farms, for my sake and for the gospel’s sake but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms along with persecution; and in the age to come, eternal life.”

Peter and I have now been married for nearly 41 wonderful years and looking back I can see that the Lord has literally fulfilled these promises to me. He gave me a wonderful husband whom I love and respect even more then ever!  And five children and in-law children who love and serve the Lord and thirteen, going on fifteen, amazing grandchildren! Of course, I also have many spiritual brothers and sisters whom I love who are also the fulfillment of God’s promise of blessing in my life as well. Truly it is the nature of God to bless us!  And He has blessed me beyond what I could have ever imagined! All by His grace!

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Facebook Issues and Marriage

This morning Edric and I had a social media issue which I blew out of proportion. I never thought Facebook would get a glorified spot in our relationship but it did.

We were biking back from the park when Edric suggested that I avoid checking the profile of a certain person. I thought he was treating me like a child and I reacted. In fact I was not looking where I was headed and I crashed my bike into the sidewalk. And then I starting blaming him for causing my fall!

What upset me was I don’t impose what he can and cannot look at or whose profiles he checks out, and here he was putting restrictions on me for something that I felt wasn’t even worth discussing.

In his words, “I am your husband and it is my duty to protect you but you also need to do your part by not putting yourself in harm’s way…”

Well, I was so annoyed, I disrespectfully stamped my foot like a bratinella and walked off into the kitchen to escape from the dialogue. My response was, “I can’t believe you are telling me this when you (do this and that)…”

I ran upstairs to take a shower and let him finish his workout alone. I began to grumble before God…”This is so unfair and exasperating!”

But the Lord reminded me, “What did you learn in your meeting last night?”

The evening before, my mom talked about humility to a small gathering of wives. Oh the timing!

She very specifically shared about listening to our husbands with a gentle and quiet spirit. This is one evidence of humility.

Amidst my irritation, I resisted for a bit. I busied myself getting ready for a seminar I had to give this morning. When I ran into Edric again at the breakfast table he was placid and calm. He didn’t even bring up my behavior or attitude.

So naturally, on the way to my seminar, I felt convicted. I knew I had to apologize. I was clearly the one at fault. Edric was sincere in wanting to protect me.

This Facebook person was someone I used to be attracted to. Even if I have ZERO x infinity feelings for him at present, Edric had every right to insist that I be mindful of my Facebook activity. I should not be so overconfident. I am not invisible. Emotional carelessness could give the evil one a “back door” entrance into my relationship with Edric.

How can I really say that feelings cannot be resurrected just because I feel nothing now? And why would I ever want to hazard that possibility at all? Marriage requires a commitment to protecting it at all costs, from all known threats, visible and invisible.

Furthermore, I ought to give Edric no reason to worry or doubt my affections for him. And if any of my actions cause him to feel otherwise, then I must be willing to change. As for his own actions, I am not his policeman or his judge so I don’t need to compare and use that as a pathetic tactic to give myself license to research, google or look up men that are attractive. (For the record, I really don’t do this as a habit!)

When I settled this in my heart, I asked for his forgiveness for being disrespectful. Stamping my foot and blurting out cutting remarks were very wrong no matter what my reasons were. His reply was, “Of course I forgive you. In fact I was waiting for you to say something.”

As a wife, I struggle with suppressing and controlling my inclination to usurp Edric’s authority over me. I want to be the one to dictate what I can and cannot do. I don’t always like it when he micromanages my life. But the root of this is pride. God gave me a husband who corrects and minds even the small things in me so I will learn to listen and grow in Christlikeness. He is the one who sees all the flaws, the ones I want to hide from everyone else. He is the one who knows me best, especially my weaknesses. God uses Edric to chisel off what mars the image of the person God is edifying me to be. So it is in my best interest to honor what Edric asks me to do…even during occasions when his suggestions seem ridiculous or his corrections aren’t given in a manner which I would prefer.

Last Sunday the message was about living in the triangle of God’s blessing: we are blessed to bless others, just like the patriarch, Abraham exemplified for us (Genesis 12). But the conditions for blessing are intimacy with God+faith+obedience.

I want God’s blessing in my life and I certainly want to bless others, too. But I need to be in the triangle of blessing first. As a wife, one of the very clear ways I can put myself in that favorable position before God is to apply faith and obedience in the context of my marriage. This isn’t about trying to manipulate a God who cannot be manipulated. This is about believing in and following the principles of a God whose nature and desire is to bless those who do so.

When I had to speak this morning I knew that God’s hand would not be upon me if I didn’t humble myself and apologize to Edric for challenging his authority. And when I did, I felt that halo of anger around my head broken, and I could minister to the families I was called to without hypocrisy.

The ridiculous Facebook issue has been resolved. Edric and I said our sweet I love yous to one another before he left for a business trip with our eldest son. As he went out the door, I thought to myself, why would I ever let something shallow and meaningless damage what is so precious to me…my relationship with the most amazing man in this world, and my relationship with the One who gave him to me?

Seek the Lord, all who are humble, and follow his commands. Seek to do what is right and to live humbly…
(Zephaniah 2:3 NLT)

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Live In the Triangle of God’s Blessing

Sometimes A Husband Needs Divine Laryngitis

(Based on a testimony Edric asked me to share for CCF Cebu…)

Last year, Edric was challeneged by the leadership of CCF (our church) to spearhead the Family Ministry. When he told me about it, I was thrilled. This was something that we have always been passionate about – marriage and parenting, leading families to Christ.

However, Edric wanted to pray about it first. He was very busy hosting his daily show, running a homeschool program, a small business, and he started to do speaking engagements for companies and organizations in and out of Metro Manila. His reasons for taking on all these commitments seemed very valid. We were in the middle of building our house so he was working hard to provide for it.

By the end of 2013, after giving it much thought, praying about it, and seeking the counsel of mentors and confidants, he made the decision to accept the responsibility to lead Family Ministry. This meant that he had to synchronize the activities of Life Academy (the new school that is based in CCF Tiendesitas) and NextGen (Sunday School), and create a plan and quarterly campaigns to reach out to soon-to-be married couples, married couples, and parents.

When he said yes to the role, I was excited. And our D12 (bible study group) was looking forward to how God would mobilize all of us to serve in Family Ministry.

Most of the activities were going to be launched in April 2014. However, as February and March rolled out, I noticed that Edric’s schedule was crazier than ever. He didn’t seem to be cutting down on his other activities. On certain weeks, he would have three out of town speaking engagements, sometimes more. (He would always bring Elijah, who speaks with him, for accountability and protection.)

These events were over and above all the other responsibilities he was in charge of. Plus, he had me and our 5 kids to take care of emotionally, physically and spiritually.

I became concerned. I didn’t know how he was going to manage everything without neglecting his more important priorities and without causing the needs of the ministry to suffer.

Sure enough, he went from one week to another harried. His days were packed with meetings. He was exhausted. I really missed him as a husband. But my bigger question was how is he going to give his 100% to God’s work? Is his mind even focused on God’s work?

When Edric is spiritually off, it is manifest in his temperament. He has the tendency to be irritable when he’s so focused on his doings and neglecting the being, being spirit-led and spirit-filled. As a result, his tone can get abrasive and he can be reactive when circumstances don’t pan out according to his expectations.

On Tuesday this past week, Edric and I experienced some tension. He complained about breakfast and I felt hurt by his tone and attitude. When he realized that he was wrong, he apologized for being agitated. Of course I forgave him but when I was alone, I really cried and prayed to God.

I was honest about my feelings of loneliness, fear, anxiety, and frustration. Lord, I don’t want my husband to be this way. I feel like his spirit is not right. And I’m so worried about family ministry. How can he head it if he is so busy? If his heart seems distracted? And how can I follow him? I don’t want to follow him if he is like this. Can you speak to him?

That afternoon, he flew with Elijah to Davao and strangely, he came back the next day with his vocal chords shot. It was so bizarre.

He had to get checked up and the doctor told him he had laryngitis and pharyngitis! The doctor said, “You have to rest your voice and take steroids.”

I couldn’t believe it. I had prayed but this was over the top! I felt bad for him but at the same time, I had this guilty excitement that perhaps this was a message from the Lord for him.

Some time later, I tried to ask him nonchalantly, “So what do you think God is trying to tell you?” Edric was very humble as he narrated what happened to him (with a very hushed sounding, frog-like voice.)

On the flight to Davao, he told me he was on the airplane seated beside what he described as “a sweaty guy who looked like a terrorist.” He admitted that this was a total judgment call on his part. God prodded him to share the gospel. Instead of saying yes I will, he ignored God’s leading. Preoccupied by what he had to do that evening, and affected by his stereotyping of the fellow, he didn’t want to do it.

It wasn’t until the end of the flight that he started chatting with the guy. The man turned out to be a very kind seaman who was looking forward to being with his family. By then it was too late to share the gospel. Edric had to rush off to the speaking venue and regrettably, he had missed out on the opportunity.

So that night, God took away his voice! Edric told me that God spoke to him, “If you are not going to use your voice for my purposes, then you will not get to use your voice for your purposes.” It was a loud and clear message!

The next day, his tapings had to be cancelled and his speaking engagement out of town had to be cancelled, too.

I need to add here that years ago Edric and I had a conversation about what kind of torture he wouldn’t want to have. (The useless conversations you sometimes have when you are married.) He said an unimaginable torture for him would be the inability to talk. And lo and behold, this is exactly what happened!

On a humorous note, Edric was very patient and cautious with the things he said in the last three days. When our eldest son spilled water on him at the restaurant, he was very calm.
Why? He had no voice! He had to be very selective and choosy about every word that came out of his mouth. In fact, I kidded him, “Hon, it’s been so peaceful between us lately. You have been so ‘gentle and quiet.’” Ha ha ha.

More significantly, losing his voice made him evaluate his priorities. God got his attention and re-calibrated his heart. Instead of being concerned about his cancelled tapings and speaking engagements, all of which bring him extra income, his mind was set on this weekend.

Both of us had to give a parenting seminar. And he had to orient parents on homeschooling and deliver a financial stewardship talk for families in Cebu. On top of that, he had to preach at CCF Cebu on Sunday.

His message was about “Living for the Line” as inspired by Bruce Wilkinson’s book called “A Life God Rewards.” Edric was to preach about what it means to live for eternity. Well, there was no way God was going to let him give that message without an authentic experience to back it up. So the laryngitis and pharyngitis were divinely appointed experiences to make sure he was living for the line himself.

At first, he was worried that his voice wouldn’t come back by the weekend. But I encouraged him. “Don’t worry, hon. God will give you your voice back. This will be his work.” By faith, I believed that God would do a miracle.

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We prayed and everyone around us prayed. On Friday, we arrived in Cebu and spent time with the kids at Imperial Palace. (It is a world-class water park in the Philippines. Totally awesome.) His voice was recovering but it was still raspy and strained. But amazingly, by Saturday, he was able to talk all day and he was able to speak in Sunday Service yesterday!

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Edric has a renewed fire to align all the doings of his life to match God’s agenda — to build God’s kingdom. The initial anxiety I felt is gone, not because Edric won’t ever get side-tracked or spiritually distracted again. He and I are both prone to this pitfall for as long as we are on this earth. My real comfort is knowing that the ministry we will commit our lives to is not one we bear alone. This is God’s work. It will be done with God’s power. And he will raise up the people and prepare their hearts for it in the way he deems necessary. If that means throwing in a laryngitis/pharyngitis moment to catch someone’s attention (like my husband’s), he will use it for good.

As for me, as a wife, my encouragement is to keep praying for Edric. My most valuable role is to support him this way — to pray that he will keep loving God and serving him with all that he is.

When I am tempted to nag Edric because I don’t like what he is doing, I don’t agree with his perspective, or I am hurt by something he did, I want to remember that God is Lord of my marriage, intimately involved and all-knowing about our weaknesses, character flaws and issues. He is committed to helping us grow and change to become more like Him. He is committed to making us spiritually fit for his work. I need not panic, manipulate or attempt to control Edric or circumstances. Instead, I must focus on fulfilling my role as a wife and keeping fervent in prayer.

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Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

I received a letter from one of the persons working at our construction site asking for money for his soon-to-be-wedding. In the letter he explained that he was desperate because the fund he had allocated for the reception was stolen. Of course I wanted to help him. The guy seemed to be trustworthy and sincere. But at the same time, I had to be prudent and tell Edric about it. (I have been suckered before.)

In marriage this is called the principle of being “under cover”. Author John Bevere talks about submission to authority as a form of protection. Submission isn’t just about obeying Edric as leader. It’s also recognising that God has ordained him to look out for me, that his authority in my life is like an umbrella over me.

When he told me, “Let me handle it. I will talk to him,” I felt stressed at first because I wanted to give the guy an answer right away. I knew he was waiting. In fact he texted me to get an update. But a part of me knew I should investigate the legitimacy of his story, too. So when Edric said, “I will be the one to respond to him,” the stress was replaced by relief. Edric took on the burden and I was able to relax.

In the car, on the way to our site meeting, I told him how much I appreciated his desire to protect me and stand in “harm’s way” for my sake. He turned to me very casually and was like, “Of course. I like to protect you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” (I love this man.)

After our morning meeting, Edric met with the guy to find out more details and verified what he was saying with a co-worker. He also asked the guy why he didn’t email him directly. And he said he was embarrassed. Edric responded jokingly, “Well, the money will come from me anyway, right?”

In the end, the guy’s story checked out. He was telling the truth. So Edric told him, “We will help you.”

This incident may seem like a small matter but I wanted to talk about the blessings of this aspect of submission. In the garden of Eden, if Eve had said to the serpent, “Let me get back to you about eating the fruit. I have to go check with Adam,” I wonder what would have happened?

Maybe she would have gone to Adam and said, “Hon, there is this serpent I have been hanging out with. He’s been telling me that God doesn’t want us to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because He DOESN’T want us to be like him. I kind of see his point, but I wanted to find out what you thought about it. Do you think I should try it? I have been thinking about it alot lately. It looks really tasty.”

In response perhaps Adam would have been like, “Heck, no! And I don’t want you talking to that serpent anymore either! He is bad news. Trust me, honey, God wants what is best for us. He has given us everything else to eat. He is a good God. In fact, next time that serpent comes anywhere near you, I want you to tell me where he is and I will have a word with him!”

It’s interesting that the Serpent targeted Eve, poisoning her thoughts with his lies. Whether she was entirely alone or not can only be speculated. But from the sequence of events, it doesn’t look like she got Adam’s permission to eat the fruit. She acted on her feelings and emotions. She invested time lingering around the forbidden fruit and fantasizing about what it would be like to have it. And the Bible tells us that it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam.

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:13, 14 NASB)

As women we need to recognize that we tend to have same Eve-like vulnerability. Look at the way we fall for men who don’t treat us the right way! In my household alone, almost every single girl that has ever worked for me (and I have gone through a number) has had her heart broken by a man. (Heck, I have too!) In the group of ladies I disciple and women that I counsel, I have heard countless stories of misguided choices when it comes to men. But this is just one aspect of our lives. We fall prey to many other deceptions outside the realm of dating and relationships.

Years ago I read Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and this book opened my eyes to how much deception is going on in my own heart. The evil one still uses the same strategy he did with Eve in the garden — he is constantly lying to us about who God is, who we are, where our worth lies and what me must do to be happy. The key is to confront these lies head on with God’s word.

Married or not, we have to be feeding ourselves with Bible truth. Of course for the marrieds like me, we need to keep learning to listen to our husbands, and letting them be the protector they were designed to be.  I’m blessed to be married to a man who loves the Lord with all of his heart. So he helps me to make choices that are for my good. He helps me to discern what I ought to commit my time to and what activities aren’t profitable. He looks out for me spiritually, emotionally, physically.

After nearly thirteen years of marriage, I still like to hear him say things like, “Stay on this side of the road, hon…it’s safer.” I still like it when he reaches out his hand to hold mine so I won’t trip or fall. I still like it when he offers to open the door for me. I may be able to fend for myself, but it’s wonderful to be able to have, in Ira Gershwin’s words, “someone who’ll watch over me.” I’m so grateful that Edric has turned out to be that someone for me! 

New Years

Marriage and The Best Valentine’s Celebration Ever!

I have often said that I married a wonderful man. He is still wonderful and he gets better with age (like wine). Praise God! But marriage has always come with its challenges. We are two very different people. And these differences can polarize us when we don’t make the effort to preserve our unity in Christ.

In past entries I’ve talked about having Jesus Christ in the center of a marriage as the key to keeping it together. I’ve also written about the importance of fulfilling the biblical roles of a wife as helpmate and “lifegiver” to her husband. So I’m not going to talk too much about these two principles.

Instead, I want to share a few practical tips that have made a positive difference in my marriage. Every marriage is at a certain season and stage so not every point may apply. But I hope you will pick up something that will give you renewed inspiration and resolve to love the one you married.

Tip # 1: If it’s not going to matter twenty years from now, don’t make it an issue.

One of the hardest things for me to do as a wife is to lose an argument or a discussion. I can be such a proud person. I often want my perspective and ideas acknowledged by Edric as more valid than his. I want to “win.”

Just yesterday Edric was looking for our bee propolis throat spray. I sensed in his tone that he thought I wasn’t “on top of things.” But, my suspicion was he misplaced it. I even told him that he was the last one to have it. He didn’t admit to this. And honestly, between the two of us and our bad memories it is often hard to prove who is right when it comes to remembering where things are.

Well, I visited him in his office and lo and behold, there was the bee propolis spray sitting on his shelf. I picked it up and said, “Hey! Here it is! I knew it was with you.” Edric looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. According to him he never even realized it was there. This irked me. It was on display just a few feet away from where he was seated, how could he not have known that it was there?

To prove that he must have known, I scrolled through my text messages to find evidence. I remembered a text message he had sent me, asking me to have the propolis and throat candy delivered to his office. I showed him this text message but he was like, “I don’t know. I never received the propolis so I can’t be held responsible.”

What?! This made me want to jump up and down in irritation. Why couldn’t he just say, “Oh yah, my bad, I had it after all.”

For several minutes afterwards, I tried to pursue my point – that he was the one who had it the whole time. But when the discussion was getting nowhere, I realized it wasn’t worth deliberating about. If he honestly couldn’t remember that the propolis was given to him then so be it. I should give him the benefit of the doubt. Did I really have to fight him about it? Would it matter twenty years from now? No. Peace between us was more important. So I went for that. Plus, we found the propolis. Case solved.

Tip # 2: Be willing to accommodate each other’s preferences if it isn’t a matter of moral consequence.

There’s no way that two people, living together with different personalities can be like-minded in everything. Edric and I are similar in what is most essential…what we believe about God and his word. We may have theological debates once in a while but we refer back to God’s word and make conclusions that are based on biblical truth.

However, we can be very dissimilar in our preferences when it comes to our hobbies, interests, and habits.

For example, building our home has been an exercise in choosing to accommodate one another’s preferences.

One major point of contention between us was the master’s bathroom toilet. Yes, a toilet. Edric wanted one of those low, old-style toilets that was reminiscent of the potty we had in our tiny condo (our first home as a couple). For him this toilet epitomized comfort. I insisted that we should not get that kind of toilet. It seemed outdated and ugly to me. But he really wanted it.

After going back and forth for a while, we came up with a compromise. We would get the shape he wanted but I would help him look for an updated looking one. Fortunately, we found one that had both features. He also let me choose all the other toilets in the house. The willingness to accommodate one another’s preferences brought about unity in our disharmony. And now Edric will always be happy sitting on that toilet!

Tip # 3: CHOOSE GRACE.

When we were newly married, Edric used to drape his clothes all over the house. He would remove his clothing and then do the drape thing. It totally bugged me. There was a hamper that he could’ve put his dirty shirts and pants into but he preferred to lay his worn clothes on the back of our sofa. And then there was the matter of his socks. They were like little annoying balls left here and there. I used to get so upset until I was taught this hard-to-swallow-but-very-effective principle…Choose grace.

Choosing mercy was about keeping myself from getting irritated. But choosing grace was about picking up his things and putting them in the hamper for him.

The amazing thing is today he is much neater than me! His closet is more organized. And he has a stand where he drapes all the clothes that he wants to have accessible for the next day.

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Sometimes in marriage, choosing grace is not as simple. What if a husband is temperamental and easily angered? What if he was unfaithful?

If we were to look at ourselves very honestly, we are all recipients of God’s grace. There is no goodness in any of us apart from Christ. But we were forgiven and redeemed from sin by His sacrifice on the cross. When we choose grace, we recognize that because of what God has done for us, we can do the same. We can forgive, restore, and love by his grace.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us... (Ephesians 1:7, 8 NASB)

When we apply grace in our relationships, we experience its transforming power. I have experienced grace from Edric many times. One of the ways he is grace-filled towards me is at night, before we go to bed. Almost every night for as long as he doesn’t fall asleep out of utter exhaustion, he will tell me he loves me. Even if we have come from an evening of unpleasant dialogue because we were fighting or I was “misbehaving” as a wife by being disrespectful, he will reassuringly tell me, “I love you.” That takes supernatural grace! He says it without expectation, without trying to manipulate me. He says it just because he wants me to know that he loves me no matter what circumstance we weather together.

When Edric tells me he loves me and I know I don’t deserve to hear it, it makes me want to be a better wife. It makes me want to change and right what I have done wrong.

We should never underestimate the power of extending grace to our spouses. The effect may not be immediate. Sometimes it may take years for a spouse who is a cheat and a liar to come around, but I like the comfort that this passage offers. We need to hope in God…

1 Peter 3: 3-5 In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 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. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands.”

Tip # 4: Give one another a CLEAN SLATE.

I would not be worth paying as an accountant. But I have an extraordinary capacity to keep a record of offenses done by my husband against me. Oh wait a minute, that is pretty common to us women, right?!

Whenever the hurt starts to pile up because I keep adding to this record, I am quick to respond with irritation or anger. It’s not the big stuff that often frustrates me, it’s the small things.

To free myself from recordkeeping, I must choose to give Edric a clean slate everyday. Otherwise, I will keep an inventory of hurtful incidences and file them under “things I don’t like about my husband.” And the more I file in that section, the more likely I am to focus on the negative. Instead I need to have this mindset: New mercies every morning, just like God is towards me.

Lamentations 3:22-23 “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”

The idea of a clean slate is like the movie, 50 First Dates. The woman in the movie lost her memory everytime she went to bed at night. In marriage, I want to apply this by having amnesia for offenses and long-term memory for the good.

Past hurt can often define the way we respond to our spouse. So the principle of giving one another a clean slate is to forgive daily and declare in our hearts, “This is a new day, a new beginning. It is my gift to you.” When we do this we liberate ourselves from bitterness and we are free to enjoy our spouse.

Tip # 5: Be positive.

We can be so exacting of our spouse that we forget to praise and affirm them. Just recently, Edric and I were counseling a couple and we encouraged them to tell one another three things that they appreciate about each other every morning. Everyday, it has to be three original things. We asked them to do this because their default mode was to be critical of one another. As a result, they struggled to communicate what was really on their hearts.

Whenever I start to hold Edric to a set of expectations or mental “checklist” of how he should behave or treat me, I lose that feeling of admiration and respect that I ought to have for him, that God’s word commands me to have. To revive it, I try to be intentional about minding the simplest gestures or aspects of his personality that I appreciate. Soon after, I can’t wait to be with him and spend time with him because I realize what an amazing man I am married to!

Tip # 6: Keep dating each other

I am crazy about our kids but it is really nice to spend a quiet evening with Edric, just the two of us. He is my best friend and my favorite person to be with. Date nights really give us a chance to talk no matter how busy our week gets.

During our dates, we will ask one another, “How can I improve? How am I as a wife? How am I as a husband?” Because of this weekly habit, we don’t have a lot of issues that pile up. They have a short life span in our marriage.

When I gave birth some months ago, date nights were hard to come by. We noticed that this really affected our intimacy. I’m not just talking about physical intimacy. I’m talking about that deep sense of connectedness that we usually share. We became more pragmatic and less romantic towards one another.

When Catalina was able to take breastmilk in a bottle after 6 weeks, we resumed our date nights again. Even though it was very soon after I gave birth, we decided that it was important to safeguard this time together. (Praise God we also found a yaya whom we could trust to take care of her.)

After so many years I still get excited when Edric picks me up to go out for dinner. I dress up for him. I look forward to our conversations and affectionate exchanges…holding hands, hugging, kissing everywhere we go like newly weds. Date nights are our designated times to enjoy one another. No paying attention to cell phones. No gadgets. Just us.

Tip # 7: Pray and wait with eager expectation.

Not all issues or problems in marriage can be solved over night. There may be circumstances that happen in the timeline of a marriage that cause deep wounds. Only God can heal these. We need to give him room to do this. The wonderful thing is God has the capacity to fix what is broken in our marriages. He invites us to turn over burdens and rest in him. “Come to Me,” He says, “all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” And He goes on…”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)

There are occasions when I have to come desperately before God and ask him to do a heart makeover in me or work in the heart of Edric. And he has always been faithful. The answers may not come right away. But when they do, the timing is perfect.

I want to end with a story that illustrates exactly what I mean.

Lately, Edric has been so busy that I wondered if he would plan anything for Valentine’s Day. Yesterday passed and we did not go out. We just hung out with the kids at home. I didn’t expect anything dramatic but I didn’t receive a card or anything.

Over the years Edric has set a very high precedent for himself. During celebrations like Mother’s Day, my birthday, and our anniversary, he will put a whole lot of effort into planning a surprise that is pretty spectacular. But I have learned to be content and cut him some slack. After all, what matters more to me is that Edric is faithful, loving, and most importantly, that he keeps God at the center of his life. These are the greater gifts that he has given me as a husband.

The only thing I really wished was that he would be around more because I missed him a lot. I felt like all his activities were cannibalizing time that we ought to have together. Instead of complaining, I just asked the Lord to guide him as the spiritual leader of our home and to keep his priorities in the right order.

Well tonight, he suggested that we go inspect our new house (which is almost done. Yeah!) Edric and I did our routine checks of the finishing work on the ground floor and then we headed upstairs. When I got to the balcony, I was completely blown away. He had set up a table for us. Music was playing. The kids were jumping up and down (they were all in on the surprise, even our househelp.) And he had flowers on the table and food for our dinner. It was a setting for two.

He blurted out, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

I started to tear. This was our first dinner in our new but unfinished home. He put together a playlist of music we both like. And he even bought outdoor furniture for us to sit on. Edric doesn’t go out and buy furniture! I do that kind of thing. He had food ordered and he asked our househelp to set up table. (The kids were given dinner in a restaurant nearby and Edric and I had the place to ourselves.)

As for the contractor, Edric had coordinated with him last week and asked that the entire second floor be cleaned up in preparation for this evening. Usually, I can sense when he has a plan cooking. But I had no idea. I never imagined that he would be able to go through all the trouble to put together a dinner with the schedule he has had as of late. He told me, “I want you to know how special you are, no matter how busy I am.”

Just when I started to feel a little bit “neglected” as a wife because Edric was so preoccupied with work, ministry, speaking engagements and his tapings for ANC, God touched his heart to do something like this for me. This was the best post-Valentine’s celebration ever! And it was a wonderful reminder that I can always hope in God for my marriage and anticipate that it will get better and sweeter as I commit to pray for it and walk with Him.

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