Date Your Spouse

Edric planned a surprise date for us on the balcony last night. I didn’t suspect anything until the boys said they needed to roll down all the blinds. When their bedroom and ours looked unusually dark, I asked, “What are you guys doing?”

“We, uh, we want to make the room dark.”

“Huh? Why?” They were acting weird.

“We can’t tell you.”

“What? What’s going on?”

“We can’t say, mom.”

Of course this made me even more suspicious. I went downstairs and started grilling the househelp, and they evaded my questioning with chuckles.

There was no special occasion so I had no idea what was happening. All I knew was the second floor balcony was off limits. I wasn’t even supposed to take a peek.

I called the most likely suspect in all of this — Edric. “Hon, why can’t I go out on the balcony?” He said, “Basta!” which, in this instance, meant “Don’t ask.”

When he arrived from work, he took me upstairs and explained that he brought our date night home. He had coordinated with our househelp to set the table and light candles. It was home cooked food presented in a different setting but it was the thought that counted. Since we had a busy week to deal with this was the best way to spend time with one another, away from the kids, and do what date nights are for — CONNECT AND COMMUNICATE.

Our children were thrilled that we were in the house instead of out for dinner or a movie, and they did their best to avoid visiting the balcony to give us privacy. I sat across from Edric dressed in athletic gear which had been my garb for the day, and he was in his office clothes. It didn’t matter. We spent two hours up there talking.

At a certain point the kids came out one by one in their pajamas. Tiana drew me a picture. “Mommy, I made this for you!” Edan reported to me that Titus lost the marble of his science experiment kit. Elijah conferred with Edric about a stocks option. (Ok, wait a minute, I don’t remember seeing Titus. Maybe he was hiding because of the lost magnet.) The kids disappeared as quickly as they popped in to spy on us.

It turned out that Edric and I had so much to talk about. From our personal struggles, frustrations, joys and adventures, goals, parenting, ministry, work…Of course we also asked one another the most important question we ask on our dates: “How can I improve?”

Sometimes I dread hearing the answer to this question. Of all the days in the week, this is the day we have reserved for these types of conversations. As humbling as it can be, it has become essential to preserving good communication in our marriage. We have given one another the liberty to say what areas can change for the better. After all, we know one another most intimately. We see what others do not. Furthermore, asking the question, “how can I improve?” keeps the issues from compiling and compounding between us. Even if I don’t always like what Edric has to say, I know God speaks through him.

Edric told me three things:

1. Pray for him. He came back from a U.S. trip with a renewed passion for home education in the Philippines so I am excited to see how this affects his other preoccupations.

2. Do what he asks me to do, with a positive attitude. Whenever he makes a last minute request that requires me to rearrange my own schedule, I will do it, but I must confess that I complain or give him a hard time.

3. Pay attention to details in our home so I can be more organized. Generally, he thinks the home is orderly but he notices everything now. For example, he didn’t like the soap dispenser I was using in the kitchen or the inaccessibility of the hand towel. At first I was annoyed and defensive because it seemed like he was being a nit-picker. But then I thought, okay if it really matters to him, I can change. Why not? It’s just my pride. Plus, after I examined the soap dispenser and hand towel, I realized he had a point. The dispenser wasn’t efficient and the hand towels were positioned in an awkward location.

When he asked how he can improve, I told him one main thing: Continue to be patient and spirit-filled towards me and the children. (Like don’t make a big deal out of soap dispensers! Just kidding!)

Edric likes examples and specifics so I used a recent incident. I was late picking him up for his taping at ABS-CBN because I spent a longer time in the grocery than anticipated. This was my mistake and as a result, Edric was on edge. He tried to squeeze in a quick errand with Elijah, who was with us. They were going to set up his online bank account. Unfortunately, Elijah couldn’t remember his PIN number. Because Edric was in a hurry, he reprimanded him rather harshly.

I could sense that Elijah felt badly so I nudged Edric to console him with an apology. (Elijah was seated in the front so he didn’t see our interplay.) At first Edric resisted, claiming that his response was triggered by my lateness, but a few minutes later, he very sincerely apologized to Elijah.

During our date night, Edric received my suggestion with grace and humility, which I appreciated. After all, I was the catalyst for his ire. I was late when we had agreed on a specific time. However, he still took the observation positively and agreed to improve.

Dialoguing about “how to improve” can be a sensitive discussion for many husbands and wives. So having a time and place to do so helps a lot. When Edric and I are in the state of mind to receive correction because we have agreed upon this aspect of our date nights, we tend to be more responsive rather than reactive.

I have written all of this to say keep dating your spouse. It may not be necessary to spend for a dinner out or movie EVERY week. For my parents, they take evening and morning walks. Whatever formula works for a couple, the objective ought to be improved connectedness and communication.

Here are the components of a REAL date :

– A real date can happen anywhere that’s conducive to private conversation. Venue is secondary to no kids running around vying for mom’s attention and distracting cell phones are set aside.

– A date involves open communication, where one another’s perspectives, feelings and insights are welcomed and affirmed.

– A date involves humility and grace to receive and acknowledge one another’s different perspectives, feelings, and insights!

– A date is purposeful — to connect and grow in intimacy, to get to know one another better so we can pray more effectively and love one another more deeply.

If these aspects are present during a “date,” I am certain it will be mutually enjoyable, too!

God’s intention and design for husband and wife is oneness. But we have to make the effort to safeguard this oneness. Don’t stop dating after you get married. Start having the best dates of your life!

Matthew 19:4-6
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

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Just A Little MORE Respect

I am on a role with this respect series so I am going to go ahead and post what I just shared at a couples’ retreat in Baguio…

At the beginning of my marriage I struggled in the area of respect. (For those of you who have followed my blog, you have heard me say this a number of times.)

I thought I had married the man of my dreams. He was (still is) but in our marriage, certain realties presented themselves.

Edric had temper issues. I didn’t see this when we were dating. But my father-in-law jokingly told me once, “Edric can be a monster.” I laughed because I thought it was an exaggeration. This couldn’t possibly be true, I thought.

However, a few weeks after we got married I began to see what my father-in-law meant. Edric had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to him. When he was in good spirits he was the most fun person to be with. He was energetic, intense, and passionate. But, when he was uncomfortable due to heat, hunger, fatigue, or stress, he was the binary opposite. If his expectations were not met he tended to be critical. Furthermore, as the only son in his family, he wasn’t used to being flexible with inefficiencies and changes in plans. He admitted that he was used to being treated like a PRINCE. Naturally, in marriage, he graduated to KING and wanted to be treated that way.

I began to entertain thoughts like, “Is this the man I married? Is this how marriage is going to be?”

One of the mistakes I made was I compared Edric to my dad. Even though I didn’t vocalize this, it was like I had a mental chart in my head with two names on it..Edric versus my father. And then I went down the list of “categories” and said things like, “Why can’t Edric be more even-keeled like dad? Why doesn’t he make choices like dad in this area? Why isn’t he a better provider?”

So I made it my mission to help Edric be a better husband and leader. I thought I was doing him a favor by correcting and pinpointing areas for improvement. But this didn’t work. It only lead to more conflict.

Edric would be driving down Edsa and if someone cut him off, he would try to chase the person down and antagonize him. This would deeply annoy me, so I would say things like, “Why do you have to get angry? You shouldn’t do that. That’s not a godly response.”

He would react with greater irritation at my attempts to teach him, and tell me to back off and leave him alone, that it wasn’t the time or place to correct him. According to him, he already knew he was wrong and he didn’t need me to say it.

This sort of scenario and many others repeated themselves over and over so that I developed a resentment toward Edric. I became an expert at rolling my eyeballs, deep sighing, snide remarking, contradicting and arguing, the silent treatment, even withholding sex at times, and a host of other tactics to communicate my disappointment in his leadership and choices.

I even kept journals where I enumerated my frustrations and hoped that he would read them. He didn’t. He had no idea what kinds of ugly feelings inspired me to fill pages and pages of my notebooks. After a while, I worried that if my children or others ever read my journals in the future they would think I had such an awful marriage which wasn’t true. But since I tended to write more when I was upset at Edric, my journals reflected this!

I praise God for couples’ retreats and seminars, the advice of wise women who have gone before me, and for God’s word where I learned and relearned about my role as a wife. I had failed to respect Edric because I thought of it as conditional. My perspective was, If he was deserving I would respect him. And what about me? What about being cherished and treated with respect?

God showed me that I was neck-deep in ugly pride and bitterness, and these hidden sins of my heart were making me a contentious and unpleasant wife. I mistakenly thought I was the better half in our relationship, the one who was more spiritually mature. But I wasn’t! My attitude was turning Edric’s heart away from me and it wasn’t inspiring him to grow spiritually either.

I realized that respect was one of Edric’s needs and desires, and I wasn’t meeting it. More importantly, I was disobeying God’s command to respect Edric as the head of our marriage and family. God convicted me to look at the many ways that I needed to change. How could I be a better helpmate? Edric’s strong supporter? A life-giver along side him? What did I have to stop doing and start doing?

I determined to do four things:

The first was I PRAYED for Edric and SURRENDERED him to the Lord. Instead of nagging Edric, I began to beseech God, presenting to him very specific requests about Edric, myself and our marriage. As I came before the Lord in dependence and brokenness, I experienced God’s peace, assurance, and security. The burden to change Edric was turned over to Jesus and I relaxed as a wife.

For the first time I began to understand what it meant to be a gentle and quiet spirit. It was resting in who God is amidst circumstances, amidst the urge to manipulate or control Edric, or fight for my rights as a wife. It was knowing that I was heard — my hurts, longings and desires — by the ONE who knew me best and loved me most.

Second, I FORGAVE Edric and chose to apply the principle of a CLEAN SLATE. If Jesus had died for me and forgiven me completely, who was I not to do the same for my husband?

The Bible tells us the God’s mercies are new every morning. Similarly, I needed to let go of the compounded hurt that kept stealing my joy. Instead of thinking, “he’s never going to change”, or “see he’s going to do the same thing again,” I said to myself each day is a new opportunity to love and forgive Edric.

Third, I asked Edric “HOW CAN I BE A BETTER WIFE? This is, of course, a dangerous question to ask! I discovered I had to improve a lot! I needed to speak in a more gentle way, I needed to do what he told me right away (as often as possible), I needed to prioritize his want for companionship, attention, service, and intimacy. So I humbled myself and asked for forgiveness for my disrespect and the things I had done to hurt him. I still have to do this when I repeat the same mistakes.

Fourth, I learned to BE A MORE AFFIRMING AND ENCOURAGING WIFE. Instead of telling him how he should lead spiritually, I affirmed his love for God and desire to follow him. Instead of second-guessing and challenging his decision-making, I expressed confidence in his leadership. Instead of wishing we had more money, I thanked him for working hard and trying his best to provide for our needs. Instead of focusing on what he was doing wrong, I tried to pay closer attention to instances when he made godly choices.

When I chose to be more positive, I realized what an amazing man I was and am married to. There were so many things that I didn’t see when I was focused on the negative aspects of his person (which were really minimal in light of all his great facets). When I was zoning in on his faults and criticizing them, I had tunnel vision for the bad that blackened out his wonderful traits.

Slowly but most certainly, Edric began to transform. It wasn’t overnight but God worked in his heart and made him a more selfless, patient, and Spirit-filled man. Today I see the old Edric less and less. If I had the beta version when we got married, God has upgraded him to version 10.0 x 10.0. God keeps on upgrading him!

For example, in the mornings I get my baby from her room and breastfeed her in ours. This is early in the morning. Sometimes, I get her at 5 or 5:30 am. Afterwards, she doesn’t go back to bed again. She is fully awake. In the past, Edric would have ordered me to bring her out so he can get more sleep. But he is the one who lovingly takes her and brings her downstairs to our househelp so I can rest. It’s a sweet gesture that demonstrates how different he has become. From expecting to be treated like a KING, he is willing to serve me and inconvenience himself for me.

A few weeks ago we were enjoying our date night when he asked me, “How can I improve and change as a husband?” I had to think long and hard and I replied, “Honestly, you have been great! I can’t really think of anything.”

Photos from that date night…

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Years ago I would have jumped at the opportunity to bullet point all the ways I wanted him to change. But by God’s grace he is a transformed person because of Christ’s continued work in his life. He is truly a godly leader, a loving and understanding husband, and a good provider. He is a man that I admire and respect with all my heart.

While I still struggle with respect and Edric still struggles with impatience from time to time, the secret to victory, romance and joy in our marriage is keeping Christ at the center of our relationship. When the motivation to keep improving wanes or when we are tempted to return to the selfish version of our Christ-less selves, Jesus becomes our superseding why, compelling us to press on in obedience and hopeful expectation.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me
. (‭Galatians‬ ‭2‬:‭20‬ NASB)

Serving together at the CCF Couples Retreat in Baguio. I love this man!

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Love Beyond Poetry And Passion

When I was married in my 20s, I knew only of young love — the kind that inspired poetry and passion. But now that love has aged with me and for me in the heart of Edric, I prefer this version of love – one that feels young but old at the same time.

There are moments when Edric looks at me and I know he beholds me as one who is familiar. But then his eyes glint with a curiosity, as though he is meeting a part of me for the first time.

It’s a wonder that he remains committed to discovering that there can be more to me. More to the face he has seen ten thousand times. More to the person he has shared ten thousand conversations with.

I blush under his affectionate scrutiny and blurt out, “Why are you looking at me like that?” He replies, “I’m getting that feeling again.” And he will tell me how much he loves me.

After 13 years of marriage, I am grateful to be loved like this — loved beyond the poetry and passion…where Edric and I can celebrate honesty as two unmasked, unraveled persons. This is intimacy. And intimacy blossoms in the context of permanence and security, where a man is as Christ to his wife and a wife as the church to Christ. The fruit of intimacy is a sacred and profound love where husband and wife choose to need, want, and give to the other through the changing seasons of life’s landscape. Perhaps I can share this better through a story…

When I was a child, my siblings and I made whirlpools in a circular kiddie pool at the clubhouse we frequented as a family. We collaborated to run around the edges as fast as we could, forcing the water to spin in one direction. Then came the most fun part — letting ourselves float along and be dragged by the current.

My life as of late has felt like a spinning whirlpool. Unlike those glorious days of childhood where it was okay to be pulled around and around for the fun of it, whirlpools in adulthood are stressful and maddening. I blame mine on the centrifugal force of busyness.

When Edric and I got back from Brazil, we jumped right back into our activities. Two days after we arrived, still recovering from jetlag, we went on an out of town trip. During the same week we entertained guests and attended social events. I was confronted by all the make-up work my kids and I had to get done for homeschooling. Furthermore, I accepted several commitments and appointments that were crammed into an already packed schedule following our arrival. All of these were good things in and of themselves. But when I saw no hope for a pause, I grew anxious.

There are super women out there who live, breathe, and eat stress. It them stronger. But I don’t have that kind of power. Busyness is my kryptonite. My immunity drops and my emotions go south.

So I lost it…emotionally. Edric had no inkling apart from a few exchanges where I made quips like, “I think we were doing too much again.”

It was 12 AM on Thursday night when Edric turned over to his side to fall asleep after his “good night and I love you, hon.” I lay on my side feeling lost and confused, praying honestly to the Lord about my frustrations. While I wallowed in self-pity, clutching my pillow a little too melodramatically, Edric heard my quiet sobbing and asked if I was alright.

“No. No I’m not. I don’t feel like anyone understands what I’m going through right now.” (Of course these sort of statements are never true.)

“What’s wrong?”

He saw me get out of bed with my disheveled hair, oversized Florida Gators T-shirt, doing like a Frankenstein walk over to my desk in the darkness. I was feeling for my laptop in the darkness having suddenly remembered that I had to send an email to a couple we were counseling.

“What are you doing?” He followed me to my table. “Stop it. You look like a crazy person. I want to show you something.”

He pulled me to himself and walked me over to the large floor to ceiling glass sliding doors that opened up to our balcony. The lights of the city illuminated the quiet night like a canopy of colorful stars. In the distance I could make out the outline of the mountains set against the cloudless expanse of the sky. It was a spectacular view.

“Look at this. Do you remember when I surprised you for Valentines Day and prepared dinner for you on this balcony, when the house wasn’t finished yet? And we looked forward to moving in? Can you believe that we are actually living here now?”

He invited me to sit with him outside so we could talk. I was reluctant to at first but his persistence prevailed. There was no getting away from this. He wasn’t going to leave me alone. We sat out there with the crickets as background music to a monologue of my thoughts. When the mosquitos wouldn’t quit biting Edric’s legs, he decided to be more practical and said we could continue this on our bed.

Edric listened until he could interpret my emotional driveling and concluded, “I think you have been through some major life events as a woman this past year and you have had no time to process all the changes. And you need that. I know you.”

I nodded then sobbed like a little child with my head tucked under my arm. Yes, that was it! What a relief to be psychoanalyzed so correctly.

Then he asked me to come even closer to him so that I was completely in his arms and he whispered, “I will take care of you. I think I haven’t given you enough attention lately. Do you want me to take the afternoon off tomorrow? I can come home early. You know that I like to rescue you…”

I wanted to be taken care of. I wanted to be rescued. At that moment I was the epitome of spiritual and emotional weakness.

The next day, Edric finished off a meeting in the morning and came home to do his work in the dining room. Every time I saw him, I had one of those puerile, giddy, girly smiles. We didn’t have to be joined at the hip that afternoon but knowing that he was around gave me inspiration as I tended to the kids and managed home affairs.

I’m the kind of woman who will climb off the balcony of a three-story home to get to another balcony to find a way into a study room to fix a jammed door. (I had to do that about two months ago and the workers saw me doing my acrobatics from our back yard while my children looked on in terror. “Mom! You might die!” The workers were pointing and making comments like I was insane. I assured them that I knew what I was doing. To my children I said, “You are NOT allowed to do this. EVER.”)

The point is I can take care of myself if I need to. I can deal with my emotions and process them with the Lord so I don’t dump them on Edric every single day. But there are times when I need his perspective, his friendship, his understanding, or a hug and a kiss, and the calm of his voice when he says, “everything is going to be alright.”

God didn’t create women to be helpless creatures who are dependent on men for their survival and happiness. Heck, we bear the physical pain of birthing children on our own. We find fulfillment in the work of our hands, in the pursuit of our God-given talents and abilities, and in the relationships we keep. However, there is something about the strength of a man, the assurance of his presence, and his desire to take the lead and protect that settles us and allays our fears.

Is it just me?

People have criticized me for saying this. But I think they’ve missed the point. I’m not saying that a woman needs a man to feel complete or satisfied with life. At the same time, it would be ignorant for someone to say that a woman NEVER needs a man. (Hello…sperm + egg = person.)

I suspect that most of the women who say this don’t really believe this deep inside. But they have been hurt and disappointed by men. So have I. At some point, we have all been victims or casualties of men’s wrong choices. (As they have been of our own sinful decisions, too.)

To protect myself, I concluded that I would not let myself be vulnerable to a man. I wanted to be in control, independent, and capable of looking out for myself. But then I married a man whom I could trust, who invited me to a relationship with no pretenses. There was no promise that he would never hurt me, but I knew with certainty that he was a man who loved God. So God gave me peace — the peace of knowing that Edric would be the one to keep my heart.

I let myself be honest…honest about needing him. I’ve chosen to need him as he has chosen to need me. We need one another for different reasons, but in this truthful surrender of independence, we found that the journey together was better.

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In a recent event for my in-law’s 40th wedding anniversary, they sang an edited version of Adam Sandler’s song, “I Want to Grow Old With You.” Their rendition reminded me that marriage isn’t about growing past each other’s imperfections. Sometimes the areas that we don’t like about our spouse or ourselves still remain. But when we choose to need, want, and give to the one we married as the years go by, God provides the filter of grace. This filter distills the flaws and harsh realities, removing the impurities that would otherwise poison and corrupt our hearts with selfishness, bitterness, fear, pride or regret. And meltdown moments at 12 AM, when held as one’s beloved, wearing an ugly t-shirt and haloed by unkempt hair, bear image to the sweet irony of love. For in loving beyond the poetry and passion we find that we return again to these.

Happy Anniversary, Edric Mendoza! This one was for you.

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Complement, Don’t Complicate

“Complement, don’t complicate me.” That’s what Edric said to me at 35,000 feet in the air, on the plane home from Brazil.

I was nagging him about a certain commitment which I was afraid he would de-prioritize when we got sucked into the vortex of our busy lives in Manila. He didn’t appreciate my attempts at “helping” him. Apparently he had already set in motion important details that would affect the commitment in a positive way. I was just jumping in again, eager to MAKE SURE he made the right choices.

This is when I get into trouble relationally with Edric…when I try to MAKE SURE he makes the right choices. My duties have been delineated — keep the home in order, the children are mannered, disciplined and homeschooled, and the monthly expenses are managed well. Focusing on these responsibilities liberates him to give his time and attention to business and ministry. I don’t need to be a hover craft to his decision making.

If he wants my input and insight, he will ask for it. He usually does. Otherwise, I need to let him steer the wheel of this mothership we call our family.

I apologized for nagging and asked, “How can I support you?” That’s when he very tenderly told me, “Babe, I need you. You know that, right? But I need you to complement me, not complicate me.”

A complement is a wife who fills in the gaps and the holes that fall under her responsibility. She is her husband’s strong supporter.

A complicator, on the other hand, looks at her husband’s holes and tries to fill them for him. She also weighs him down with her emotional and spiritual immaturity.

Sometimes being a complement to Edric is manifest in the simple things…like serving him with joyfulness. He told me he felt like crying when my mom cheerfully said to my dad, “It’s my privilege to serve you.”

This happened one morning when we were in Brazil together. My dad asked for fruit from the buffet table, and my mom practically bounced out of her chair with eagerness to get him some. In contrast, I was hoping Edric wouldn’t ask me to get him anything! All I wanted to do was eat my cheese, butter and bread without being interrupted.

Edric could sense this so he told me that afternoon what an impact my mom’s statement had made. “Really?! You felt like crying?!” I asked him. My next thought bubble was, I must be pretty bad in this area!

Apparently, during the trip he felt like I didn’t DELIGHT to serve him, that I would get annoyed when he inconvenienced me with a request.

For example, we were standing in front of Copacobana Palace Hotel waiting for our tour bus when he asked me if I had his granola bar because he wanted to eat a snack. We didn’t get to eat lunch so snacks were the next best thing. (My husband has the fastest metabolism of anyone on earth that I know of. Every two hours he gets hunger pangs.)

“Did you put it in my bag?” I asked.

“Just check your bag.”

“But did you put it in there? Because if you answered that question then I would know whether to check for it or not.”

“If I knew that I put there I wouldn’t ask you.”

I didn’t want to remove my backpack and go through the contents because I had stuffed it full. My breast pump was in there and extra clothes in case it got cold. Having to sift through the contents would be troublesome. But I stuck my hand in anyway when I realized he was getting frustrated with my attitude. I didn’t find the granola bar the first time I tried because I didn’t try very hard.

“It’s not here.”

“You’re sure?”

“Did you put it in here?” I asked again with irritation in my tone.

“Did you check for it well enough?” He replied, equally annoyed.

I was infuriated with our back and forth questioning. My logic was, if you remember that you put your granola bar in my bag then I will trouble myself to thoroughly look for it.

Edric felt hurt. He didn’t understand why I was so reactive. Since he had expressed to me that he was hungry, he thought I would try my best to find the granola bar.

Looking back, the basis for my reactive spirit was silly. Why did I give him such a hard time? Why was I so nasty? I was just thinking of myself and not prioritizing him.

It turned out that the granola bar was in the front pouch of my backpack! Whether he put it there or not is secondary to the fact that he asked me to look for it and I should have done so with a better attitude because I love him.

This is one of several incidences in Brazil that revealed how much I have to improve in the area of serving Edric. One of the best ways I can be a complement to Edric is to serve him with gladness, to consider it “a privilege” as my mom said to my father. It is something he longs for me to do.

So a few nights ago, at 12 AM he was hungry and asked if there was anything he could eat. My initial thought was, Now? Why?! But I remembered how much my service matters to him. He had a long day and he needed me to take care of him.

So I went downstairs, made some grilled cheese sandwiches and took them up to him. His eyes lit up! But I also detected disbelief mixed in with his delight.

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“Wow, what did you do with my wife?!” He asked.

Yes this wasn’t a dream. I wanted to apply what I learned about being his complement.

Edric was in heaven with his cheese sandwiches. He was so sweet and grateful. I felt ashamed of myself. Goodness gracious, have I set the bar so low?! Ecstasy over grilled cheese?!

We hung out in bed and he had his tray of food beside him to happily munch on. Since we were jetlagged we did exactly what we shouldn’t have done and watched 3 episodes of Arrow. It was a lot of fun but our bodies were so confused the next day! I woke up close to 10 am, which I never do! Ever!

My mom’s example made me desire to change. I ought to act and behave in a way that captivates Edric’s heart and ministers to him. If I embrace the role of being a complement to him, I will meet his longings and desires so he feels empowered and inspired to be the man God wants him to be.

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Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” (‭Genesis‬ ‭2‬:‭18‬ NLT)

Sunrise On Copacobana Beach

A couple of nights ago, Edric told me he was feeling lost. (With the number of hats he has to wear, juggling his responsibilities can get overwhelming.)

Maybe it was the jet lag and the cold weather that got to me because I felt annoyed as he was going on and on about how he couldn’t handle a particular ministry he was in charge of. I was like, “What?! You committed to it. You can’t just back out of it.”

According to him, he didn’t anticipate the commitment level it would entail. We went back and forth discussing the reasons why it was challenging. Instead of drawing him out and asking him questions, I wanted him to skip over to the park where he resolved to keep going no matter what the cost. For me it was a matter of principle and duty. Since this didn’t happen and I was falling in and out of consciousness while I fought the urge to sleep, I said, “If that’s how you feel, then quit. Just quit.”

This was the least helpful thing I could have said. First of all I didn’t even mean it. Second, it was an insensitive way of closing the conversation because I was too tired to go on.

It wasn’t a surprise that Edric’s response was a frigid “GOODNIGHT.”

The next day we joined my parents for breakfast and my dad asked him how things were going. (When he gets the chance to, my dad invites Edric to update him. He likes to know how he can pray for Edric and mentor him as a father.)

I watched and listened to my dad as he sat through sentences and sentences of Edric’s concerns about his responsibilities and time management. My dad patiently interacted with him without lecturing or cutting him off. It was a marvelous site to behold because I had done the complete opposite the night before.

As Edric shared what was on his heart, he seemed to receive greater clarity. My dad asked him questions that got him to think through his motivations. By the end of that hour Edric felt encouraged and built up.

I wish it had been me that inspired these feelings in him. But I had missed out on the opportunity to do so.

As we headed back to our hotel room, I admitted to my mom that I had to work on my listening skills. Sometimes I get impatient when people want to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, especially when they revisit the same issues again and again. For me, if you know the right thing to do then do it, don’t paddle around the pond of feeling, circling round and round. Or quit walking into the muck of despair when you can take the more solid, higher ground.

I sound awful and mean when I say this but I think it has more to do with a personality type. Even though I feel things deeply I like to process emotions expediently. Edric prefers to express his emotions freely and he takes a while to come to a conclusion. But once he gets to that point, having journeyed through many degrees of feeling, he emerges with resolve and conviction that is unparalleled. It’s actually one of the things I appreciate about him. But in marriage, when I am thinking only of myself I end up responding in a manner that hurts Edric when he is in that “emotional-cocoon-state-of-mind.”

As I observed my dad over breakfast, I learned a valuable lesson about good communication. I mentally archived it as a template. First, he asked questions. Next, he paid attention. Third, he shared experiences and struggles that resonated with what Edric was going through. Fourth, he acknowledged Edric’s feelings without belittling them. Fifth, he gave constructive suggestions that Edric could act on. Sixth, he helped Edric decipher what was going on in his heart.

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I am so thankful to the Lord that Edric and my father have a wonderful relationship. And I am also thankful that my dad has improved in the area of communication over the years. In the past, when someone would open up and get emotional with him, he tended to be more left brain in his response.

For example, years and year ago, during my dad’s birthday celebration, Edric very vulnerably expressed to him how much he looked up to him as a father. He talked about what a positive difference he made in his life. After Edric’s tearful speech, my dad said, “good job.” Oh, and he did include some sort of pat on his back after giving him a half-hug. Good job?! Good job?!

After that incident my very concerned mom talked with my dad in private and told him that Edric might have gotten hurt by his lack of responsiveness. When my dad realized this he apologized to Edric as soon as he could and best of all, he changed for the better. His present default mode is to listen, dialogue, empathize, and encourage.

With Edric, God gave me the opportunity to remedy my failure. While we were in Rio, at 4:30 in the morning (we both woke up thinking it was 7 am), he asked me to rate our marriage. This is an exercise we do with couples we meet with to gauge how they are doing.

In the darkness of our hotel room I said, “Probably a 9.” He gave us a “7.” Of course I was curious to know why. And he enumerated three ways I had upset him during this trip.

1. I didn’t serve him with enthusiasm. My expectation was he was going to serve me on this trip and take care of me.
2. I didn’t seem interested in talking to him because I would whip out my phone and write.
3. I was self-deprecating on several occasions about myself. Sometimes I make negative comments about my post-baby-body hoping that Edric will reply with adulation for it. But this often backfires. (Gals, my mom used to say don’t ever point out your flaws and turn them into a discussion with your husband. It’s unattractive and unbecoming. Most of the time a husband doesn’t notice every pimple, dimple, wrinkle and crinkle unless you start spotlighting them.)

I stapled my mouth shut as I listened to him, making the effort to apply what I remembered from my dad’s example. When he asked me, “Are you okay?”

“Not really. But I feel like talking about my perspective will not be helpful.”

I got up to use the toilet to buy myself some thinking time, and then I sat back down beside him. “I am sorry babe. I will change.”

He wasn’t expecting this. And he added, “What about me? How can I improve?”

“Honestly, I think you are great. You are a good husband, you take care of me, you have become much more patient…”

“Are you playing mind games with me?” He kidded.

“What? Of course not.” I was serious.

Then we went over each of the three points that he raised and identified how I can change and be more understanding towards his needs. Edric enjoyed and appreciated our conversation. So did I. It was refreshing to take the gentle and quiet spirit approach. (God reminded me that I really need to continually humble myself and do this more often!)

By 6:30 am we prayed and took a walk on Copacobana beach as we watched the sunrise. It was cloudy and rainy when we arrived in Rio, but the sun was breaking through. For the first time we got to see a more picturesque beach which had looked dull when it was overcast.

The scene was emblematic of our marriage. Our relationship is not a perfect one. We have stormy and dark days from time to time, but when we apply God’s principles, the forecast looks bright! He is the light of our marriage!

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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.

family 2

 

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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