What Homeschooling Is Really About

I talk a lot about homeschooling, but I want you to know that my children aren’t always cooperative, there are days when I don’t feel like teaching, and sometimes I am the less than perfect mother who gets annoyed with her kids.

Two days ago, I was teaching Titus from his Singapore Math book and he couldn’t get subtraction using number bonds. I could tell he was guessing so I elevated my pitch and my tone was agitated. As I explained to him the concept of regrouping by 10, subtracting the ones from each other, and adding what was left, he was confused. I probably did a bad job of communicating this process and I expected it to click in his head right away. Well, it didn’t. I gripped the pencil he was holding and circled and scratched on his book for emphasis as I went over each problem.

Titus began to tear. I thought, Why can’t he get it?! Is there something wrong with him?! It’s not complicated! 

Well, there was something wrong with me. I was making homeschooling about me. What I wanted…my desired outcome…my teaching…my time…my effort…my way…my disappointment…OH, MY!

When I saw him struggling to stay composed, I felt horrible. Immediately, I apologized to him and hugged him, asking for his forgiveness. “Will you forgive me for being irritated? Mommy was wrong.” He readily accepted my apology and we pressed on. By the end of the session he figured out how to approach his math problems with confidence.

As for me, I was reminded that I am prone to reactiveness and impatience when my heart is in the wrong place. The key is to remember why I am homeschooling, to keep sight of the goal, which is to teach my children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.

While teaching a subject like mathematics may be important, this is really a minute aspect of the real objective. Edric and I share a daily responsibility to nurture, encourage, and meet the needs of our children to grow in wisdom, stature, favor with God and favor with man. (Luke 2:52) Therefore, our homeschooling isn’t about 4 hours of the day when they are seated in our study room for lessons. It’s a lifestyle that ministers to our children’s spiritual, social, mental, and physical persons.

 

SPIRITUAL

Homeschooling is discipleship. While academics have a place, the greater emphasis is teaching our children to have a personal relationship with Jesus, love God’s word, submit to authority, and develop Christ-like character.

When our second son was little, he was nicknamed the “chairman” for being a very serious and grumpy boy who would often say no. Edric and I talked about his attitude and realized we had failed to be intentional about sharing the gospel to him. A few weeks after Edric did so, our son was a transformed child. His heart became malleable and teachable. He would even tell me, “Jesus is my best friend.” More importantly, he became a kinder, more considerate boy.

Today, Edan initiates reaching out to other children, organizing activities and games for them, and he is also assistant teacher to my younger kids. While he still has character issues from time to time, I can see the fruit of God’s work in his life.

Discipleship is the key to homeschooling. It’s impossible to teach a child who doesn’t want to listen. When my children don’t have the right attitudes there’s no point in proceeding with lesson time unless I address their attitudes first. Otherwise, it will be a battle of the wills between my children and me.

There have been instances when I have asked my older children to excuse themselves from our study room so they can have a moment to prayerfully consider their heart issues. While I don’t believe in asking little kids to stand in a corner for “time outs,” I do believe in asking older children who have a relationship with Christ to take the time to think through their feelings and actions in light of God’s Word.

Are they acting and behaving in a way that pleases God? How can they change and improve if they aren’t?

I prefer to proceed when they are spiritually ready, when they have returned to me after the Holy Spirit has ministered to them. Almost always, he convicts them about the wrongfulness of their responses to the task at hand, to me, or to others. It is amazing how a moment of purposeful reflection leads them to God-honoring conclusions. (Of course I also pray that they will be attentive to what God has to say to them during that period of pause.)

 

SOCIAL

Parents’ apprehensions about homeschooling often center around the socialization question. “What about their socialization?” I’d like to quote Elijah, my eldest. Once upon a time, a friend suggested he should go to school so he could have friends. His spontaneous relply: “I have so many friends, I can’t even count them!” He wasn’t exaggerating. Like my other kids, they aren’t friend-starved.

While we don’t focus on making friends, we do focus on how to be a friend. The emphasis is on social development — training our children to look beyond their insecurities and comfort zones so they can be a blessing and channel of Christ’s love. Furthremore, in the context of family, there are numerous opportunities to practice relationship principles like unconditional love, forgiveness, humility, or “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” In fact, the family is often the hardest place to apply these principles! As much as we all love one another in our family, there are days when we don’t like each other. The challenge is to transcend this feeling by availing of the grace that Christ supplies.

Social development happens most naturally at home. Between a husband and wife, siblings, parent and child, each member of a family must die daily to selfishness and self-centeredness. They must choose to love, forgive, make sincere apologies, and grow in their understanding of one another. A child who can relate to others in this manner will not be in want of good company.

Furthermore, a child who has received love, appreciation, who is accepted for who he or she is, and allowed to fail and make mistakes will be inspired to learn. I remember an instance when Titus came to me in fear. His face was half-visible behind the sliding glass door that separated the room from the bathroom.

“Mom I did something.”

“What is it?” I asked. He was hesitant to confess his deed at first, but then I prodded him to do so.

“I hit the shuttlecock into our neighbor’s yard.”

That’s it?! I thought. Why couldn’t he tell me that right away?!

“It’s okay. I forgive you. It was an accident.” I said reassuringly.

“Why were you afraid to tell me that?

“I thought you would be mad.”

“Do I get mad a lot?” (I had to check.)

“No.”

“Well, I want you to know something. I love you no matter what and I will always forgive you.” I repeated it again until I was sure he internalized this.

He flashed a big smile and then ran off to play again.

I may not lose my temper with my kids and yell at them, but I do get irritated from time to time. So I have to be careful and mindful of the way I relate to them. I need to ask myself this question: Am I cultivating a relational climate that gives my children the liberty to express their heartfelt longings, fears, ideas, or confess their mistakes? The relationship I have with my kids impacts my ability to instruct their hearts and their minds. If they can trust me with who they are, they can trust me to teach them who they should become.

 

MENTAL

What is our schedule like when it comes to lessons?

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday

7:00                – Bible Reading (as a family)

7:30                – Breakfast

8:30/9:00      – Lessons

12:30/1:00    – Lunch

2:00                – Nap/Play/Exercise

6:00                – Dinner

8:30                – Bedtime

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On Wednesdays, we get together with other homeschool families. A good number of ladies in my discipleship group are homeschooling their kids and they have women in their groups who are also homeschooling. Wednesdays is the day we have designated to hold classes so our kids can interact and work with other kids. I’m so blessed by the moms in this group who lend their expertise and creativity to teach art, music, bible, character, science, etc. We also asked an awesome physical trainer to teach our kids sports and fitness.

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When my kids and I are at home, our lessons happen around a large table. I assign tasks to my children and act the part of a facilitator. Elijah and Edan can do a lot of work on their own. Titus and Tiana need more attention from me. Catalina is “exiled” so we can focus. She is entertained by our househelp. (Praise God for househelp!)

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Ideally, it would be nice if all my kids sat around the table and stayed put, but I’m a pretty laid-back homeschooling mom. They can do some work on the floor or on the couch. They can even migrate to different rooms if this will help them accomplish their tasks. Sometimes, we even homeschool in the car if I absolutely have to do an errand in the morning!

My philosophy when it comes to teaching is simple: a child needs to master the essentials so he will become a self-directed learner. I am more particular about skills like math, reading, comprehension, logic and reasoning, rather than science, history, Filipino, social studies, etc. If my kids are confident with the essentials, they will have the building blocks to learn whatever they want to. I don’t want them to be held back by me. As much as possible, I try not to hover around them all the time. In fact, I tell them, “you can figure it out.” (Sometimes I have to say this because I don’t know how to explain it either!)

Unless they are really stumped, I encourage my kids to rise up to the challenge of a difficult task. This is one of the reasons why my boys are turning out to be good at math even if I’m terrible at it! I also encourage them to study what they are interested in, beyond what we are covering during their lessons. Since I don’t canabilize the day with instruction, they have a lot of free hours to pursue topics that are meaningful to them. Instead of burdening myself with the responsibility of teaching them EVERYTHING, I zone in on the basics and point them in the right direction by giving them access to a multitudinous number of books, and supplementing their learning with educational apps and internet sites that are pre-approved.

For example, some months ago my older sons memorized the periodic table of elements, just for fun. It wasn’t part of their science requirements to do so, but they were fascinated by it. So I let them use an app (Toca Lab) that helped them to understand all the elements and their abbreviations. When they weren’t using the app, they would play a game where they named all the elements and gave the symbols to match them. I don’t even know the periodic table of elements! I kept getting the symbol for Iron wrong when they would “quiz” me! It’s Se right?!

The point is I am very aware that I have cognitive limitations as their teacher so I don’t pressure myself to be the expert. If they want to learn about a topic that I’m not familiar with, I find out what resources I can connect my children with or to so they can become the experts.

 

PHYSICAL

The physical aspect of homeschooling has to do with developing our children’s talents, inspiring productive hobbies, giving them lots of play time to explore, build, create, and making sure they get adequate exercise and rest. Our children are enjoying a “relaxed” childhood. They don’t have to rush off to school, spend hours in traffic, or come home exhausted only to do more work.

 

CHECKLIST

We evaluate our children’s progress and growth by asking these questions:

IS MY CHILD…

  • Living a transformed life because of his/her relationship with Jesus Christ?
  • Developing a love for God’s Word?
  • Rooted in God’s Word?
  • Submitting to my authority with an attitude of respect?
  • Growing in Christ-like character?
  • Secure in my love for him/her?
  • Loving others, especially his/her siblings?
  • Thinking of others as more important than his/her self?
  • Mastering essential skills that will enable him/her to reason and defend his/her faith, and effectively communicate the gospel truth?
  • Developing his/her talents?
  • Playing and enjoying his/her childhood?
  • Pursuing productive interests and hobbies?
  • Getting enough exercise and rest?

Edric and I keep these questions in mind as we homeschool our kids so we know if we are pointing them in the right direction. When we sense that they are off-course, we re-evaluate and re-calibrate so we can correct where they are headed. We also look at our own lives and examine if we are exemplifying the values and principles we want them to internalize.

Like I said earlier, it’s not a perfect lifestyle. It can be challenging and tiring to keep training and teaching our children. It can be discouraging when we fail as parents. However, I am constantly amazed at the daily grace God provides to keep us going.

I remember an instance when I was stressed about homeschooling, and my older son, Elijah, commented, “You know John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, had 19 children.” In other words…mom, if she could do it then so can you. You’ve got it pretty easy with just five! More importantly, Susanna Wesley was a woman of faith and spiritual excellence. If I want to raise children who will love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, I have to love God with all that I am first. That’s the secret to successful homeschooling.

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READ ABOUT SUSANNA WESLEY HERE: http://susanpellowe.com/susanna-wesley.htm

 

 

INVITING ALL IMPERFECT PARENTS

Most of us are pretty clueless when it comes to rearing children, especially at the beginning. My younger brother epitomized this when he stepped into the hospital room for a visit after I gave birth to my first child. He took in the sight of Elijah and was like, “So, where are his teeth? And what does he eat?”

Seriously, bro?!

It was like he had never seen a baby in his life! (Now he is a pro with his four.)

Whether you are a newbie parent or a parent with multiple children, there’s always a challenge that you have to deal with…at every stage. When they are little there are challenges like training a child to poop in a toilet. Freakin’ hard!

With my four older kids, I took their diapers off at 2 years old. This, according to my mother, would make them realize that urine and excrement have to go somewhere. It usually took two months until they finally understood this so we had urine and excrement on the floor almost everyday. Disinfect! Disinfect! After a while we could anticipate when it was going to happen and rush them into the bathroom. We didn’t always make it! Then I had to scoop up their turdy-turds and transport them to the toilet, making up stories about poop needing to go home.

“Look, he’s happy! He’s going home! Say bye-bye!” Flush. After an insane amount of repetition the message would click and they would get it. (In a year we will have to do the same thing with Catalina.)

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Even if Edric and I have five kids, we keep relearning what it means to be parents. The lessons never end and the challenges never cease. It’s a miracle that our kids are turning out okay so far despite our shortcomings.

 

 

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Yesterday, for example, I was teaching geography and told my son, Edan, that the South China Sea was to the east of the Philippines. Duh. Elijah had to correct my sense of direction. “Mom, the east is always to the right remember, which would make the Pacific Ocean to the right and South China Sea to the left of the Philippines.” He pointed at the Pacific Ocean on the globe as proof of his common sense and my lack of it. Okay, so geography was never a strength of mine. I know I am earth. That’s about it. Heck, I get lost in parking lots.

The point is parenting is difficult on many levels. Teaching geography is peanuts compared to dealing with our children’s heart issues. Potty training is a simple process compared to teaching obedience, respect, treating others with kindness and deference. I could go through a list of character traits that take years of repetition to pass on to our kids.

But here’s some good news…

There’s a manual! It didn’t come in pamphlet size inside the cribs of the hospitals where I birthed my kids. Oh, I would have loved to have a step-by-step guide that was very specific for each of my kids – the kind of printout you find in the box of a new toy — that gives you guidelines on how to operate it, put it together, or supplies you with a list of do’s and dont’s. Don’t eat this, for example. Or, this model is emotional and needs lots of hugging. This one won’t talk much but here’s what you can do to…

However, God has given every parent a manual in the form of His Word. It may not explain how to do Lamaze, or give tips on how to make food interesting to a child, or spell out each milestone of a child’s life and what you can do. But, it does have time-tested principles that answer the greatest questions all parents ought to consider when it comes to parenting:

Who is our child?

What is he or she supposed to become?

What is our role as parents?

How do we get them from baby to adulthood successfully?

What obstacles do we need to be aware of?

What truths do we need to teach them?

How can we equip them to make wise choices that honor God?

How do we survive each season of the parenting journey?

And so on…

Yes, but what about the specifics?! Well, you and I have several options.

  1. Look for mentors who have gone before us, who have raised their children successfully.
  2. Get together with other parents who are like-minded in the desire to raise their children successfully, who can come along side you.
  3. Pray for our children regularly.
  4. Read books and materials written by experts that are consistent with what God’s Word has to say about parenting and children.
  5. Attend retreats, seminars, and conferences that can educate us on how to improve, grow, and become the best parents we can be.

I’m happy to tell you that this October 25, 2014, there will be an event for parents that will allow you to do all five of the things I just mentioned above. Like me, I’m sure you struggle with parenting and feel clueless at times. You get discouraged and need to remember what’s most important about your role and what you are doing. You want to know that you’re not the only one who feels this way. You want to love your kids and meet their emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual needs but you aren’t always sure how. You want to be directed to the resources and mentors that will help you navigate the parenting seascape (which has, unfortunately become very turbulent these days!)

Then, don’t miss Counterflow 2014, a one-day conference for parents like you and me who are in the trenches of raising children and dealing with the challenges of being a mom or dad. THIS IS FOR IMPERFECT PARENTS ONLY! HEY! THAT’S YOU AND THAT’S ME, AND MAYBE EVEN YOUR FRIENDS! :) HOPE TO SEE YOU ALL THERE!

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Here’s what to expect from the plenary speakers and workshops:

PLENARY SESSIONS

1. Francis Kong: “State of the Family Today”

2. Larry Fowler: “Raising up Josephs in the 21st Century”

3. Peter Tan-chi: “The Power of Modeling”

 

WORKSHOPS (Workshops will be held back to back, so you can attend two of your top choices.)

1. Francis Kong: Bridging the Generation Gap

2. Larry Fowler: Reaching the Heart of Your Child

3. Deonna Tan-chi: Sex & Sexuality

4. Edric and Joy Mendoza: Parenting & Homeschooling: What’s the Fit?

5. Neils and Amyjay Riconalla: Blending a Blended Family

6. Wisdom and Betty Sy, Malu Ortiz, Lincoln and Tina Lim: Parenting Kids with Special Needs

7. Bobbie Barretto: Solo Parenting

8. Ruth Ruivivar: Home Church Partnership in Raising Successful Kids in Today’s World

9. Oscar and Lally Medalla: Parenting Teens 101

10. Paul and Jenny Tan-chi: Disciplining Young Children

 

This Is What It’s About

When people ask me how I homeschool several children, I tell them the secret is to teach my kids obedience. Character is key.

If a child has learned obedience, he or she can be taught attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and the importance of having the right attitude. These traits can make or break the homeschooling experience for any parent.

There’s no way I can teach my five energetic, gregarious, and very curious children if these character traits are not present or, at the very least, developing in their hearts.

Yesterday, I was homeschooling seven children. My niece and two nephews were over to homeschool with us. They did great! But my two older boys, Elijah and Edan, didn’t start out too well. They had a conflict that resulted in Elijah throwing his hands up in exasperation and Edan chucking a pencil on the floor. They were going over Filipino together and Elijah was frustrated that Edan didn’t seem to be listening. Edan was annoyed that Elijah was forcing him to do his work.

We couldn’t continue our homeschooling without dealing with this. So, I called the two of them aside and we transferred to a room where we could have some privacy.

“Auntie Joy! I need help!” I had to ignore the calls of my nephew at the door and request that he wait till we were done.

In the room, I asked the boys to sit close to me. Both of them were fighting off the tears.

“Let me ask you something, boys…we’ve been memorizing 1 Corinthians 13:4-6. Which of the aspects of love have you NOT been practicing?”

There was an awkward silence but they looked up at me and began to speak voluntarily…

“Love is kind. Love is not rude,” was Edan’s response.

“Love does not keep a record of wrong,” admitted Elijah.

How I love the word of God and its power to convict the hearts of my children! I asked them a simple question but they were convicted.

We recited 1 Corinthians 13:4-6 together again. “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love is not proud. Love is not rude. Love does not insist on its own way. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices when the truth wins…”

Their faces softened which told me that their hearts did, too. They knew that they had not honored God’s word, which was the greater issue.

“I know you guys love the Lord, you love one another and you don’t want to hurt each other. How can you improve?”

They proceeded to share their feelings and frustrations. I let them talk freely so I could find out why they were being so reactive towards one another. Elijah was deeply upset that Edan apologies for unkindness didn’t seem sincere. He felt that the same offense was bound to happen because there was no “real repentance.” Edan, on the other hand, didn’t like being ordered around by Elijah.

I helped Edan to see that he was not practicing “Love is not proud,” too. To both I said, “We are an imperfect family. Mommy and daddy are imperfect. All of you are imperfect. That’s why we need Jesus. We need to keep applying God’s grace, love, and forgiveness in our relationships.” I went on to admit my own struggles. “Honestly, when I was teaching Titus about rhyming earlier and I asked him ‘what rhymes with pin and he said cup’ I felt like smacking him. But I didn’t because that would be very wrong. But I want you to know that I understand the frustrations you feel towards one another.”

They began to laugh because they heard me teaching Titus earlier and it was kind of a comedy!

We must have spent ten more minutes talking about how to change and apply God’s word in our lives. We ended by praying together.

I said, “I want each of us to pray and confess to the Lord our sins.”

At first the boys resisted. “I don’t know what to pray, mom,” quipped Elijah.

“Don’t worry. I will start, and then you can listen to what I say.”

So I prayed to give them a template of how to acknowledge and confess our sins before one another and to the Lord. Afterwards I invited the boys to do the same. Why did I want them to pray aloud? I wanted them to humble themselves. The best way to do that was to pray.

It’s one thing to say sorry and then walk away from the situation. It’s another thing to come before the Lord and say, “Father will you forgive me for my wrong attitude. Please forgive me for the way I treated my brother. Please help to me to change and improve so that I can become more like you…”

They didn’t pray using those exact words, but in their kid-version way, they said the same thing. I listened to them pray and they started to tear. There was a brokenness that took place that was necessary. I got teary-eyed, too. They were honest and sincere as they spoke to the Lord.

We all embraced and I told them how much I love them. Afterwards, we returned to our homeschooling. Their hearts were ready and we had an amazing day with their cousins.

I’m sharing this story because this is the key to homeschooling. We need to prepare our children’s hearts before we can instruct their minds. Godly character is the bedrock. We must pause to address what’s going on in their hearts – especially when their spiritual compass is off. In fact, we need to drop everything if necessary, and minister to our children spiritually when their attitudes and behaviors are displeasing to the Lord.

How could I possibly continue teaching Elijah and Edan, forcing them to do their Filipino just because they had to, and ignore or postpone the more important matter of their heart condition? Would God bless the work of their hands if they were continuing in sin? How would he allow me to teach well if I wasn’t faithful in prioritizing what really counts in his eyes?

I must always seek to understand where the real “battle” lies. Of all the teaching challenges that may confront me as a homeschooling mother — dealing with the academics, equipping my kids with the practical skills to succeed when they enter into a university, and passing on godly character traits — the latter must precede the others. It’s imperative to instill character traits upon which a successful education can be built.

For my younger kids, obedience is the first priority. The optimum window to establish my authority (and Edric’s) has always been between the ages of 0 – 2. Catalina is at that point where she is exhibiting brattiness. At 10 months old, she intentionally throws her head back, bounces up and down while crying, or she flings her body on to her bed for dramatic effect. Edric and I recognise that it’s time to address these things. After two years old, we know it gets harder. Once a child has experienced what it is like to get his or her own way, there is greater resistance to submission.

I know a child whose parents started implementing effective and consistent disciplinary action later rather than earlier. The child had already grown accustomed to getting her whims accommodated by those around her. Her parents also tended to be child-centric in their childrearing. As a result, she was difficult to teach and train. It was complicated to get her to do simple things like eat vegetables or keep silent when appropriate. She tended not to listen to other authority figures, too. Because the parents are now course-correcting their parenting, she is improving. But like anything in life, prevention rather than intervention is the way to go.

We have to start teaching obedience before a child gets into the habit of defiance. Once obedience is established, we can turn our attention towards other character traits like attentiveness, responsibility, diligence, and having a positive attitude. As I said earlier, a child who has these traits will be much easier to homeschool. It won’t be a flawless experience. However, when unpleasant, ungodly behaviors and attitudes surface during a homeschooling day, our children can be REMINDED to revert back to what they know is correct and pleasing to God.

Let me end this with a story about Titus that personally blessed me as a mother. Titus is my youngest “official” homeschooled child. Tiana, who is just 3 years old, is not yet enrolled with a program. And my baby girl is too young for formal instruction. As a kindergartener, I don’t expect the same sort of self-directed learning that I encourage my older sons to have.

However, a few weeks back I had to leave the house in the morning. So I assigned the kids their work and told them I would check on them when I got back. I wasn’t too sure if Titus would be able to do his Filipino on his own, but when I got home, he showed me his notebook. His finished work was inside it. I was very pleased!

In the evening, when I was feeding Catalina, he peered into my bedroom. “Come in,” I motioned to him. He smiled and skipped over to my side, snuggling under the covers. I told him I was very proud of him for doing his homeschool work. And I asked him, “Why did you finish it?” He said, “Because I wanted to obey you.”

I loved that answer.

Titus can be a highly distracted child because he is so curious. For him to finish his assigned task without someone peering over his shoulder to remind him to do it made my day! I was happier about his motivations rather than the actual output. He valued obedience.

My prayer is that my children will internalize godly character and experience the blessings of doing so. Our family is a work in progress. God deals with my heart daily as a homeschooling mother and he is molding the hearts of my kids, too. We make mistakes and struggle with our weaknesses but I can’t think of doing anything else with this season of my life. As a mother to young children, I want to be where the more important battle is. For me, the battle is at home…winning my kids for the Lord by teaching them what really counts. This is what homeschooling is about.

From enemies to best buds again…
 

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From the Heart the Mouth Speaks

I was sitting across from Elijah while he finished his curry and noodles over lunch. He said, “My eyesight is getting worse. I can hardly read without my glasses on.” About a year ago, he could take his glasses off and read something that was 12 to 24 inches away. But not anymore. Of course it troubles him. It troubles me, too.

When he watched “Heaven is For Real” with my dad a few weeks ago, he told me, “Mom, I was so happy to know that in heaven no one is wearing glasses!” He is definitely looking forward to perfect vision in eternity.

It’s always hard for me as a mom to watch my children struggle through life’s disappointments. I can’t help his eyes get better, at least not yet. There’s the option of laser surgery when he turns 21 but he’s got many more years to go until then. And we were told that his eyes could get really bad when he goes through puberty. Sigh. We shall cross that bridge when we get there.

For now, what encourages me is Elijah’s faith and walk with the Lord. He lives with an unfulfilled longing — to have better eyesight. But he has the right perspective. He has turned that longing over to the Lord.

After we talked about his eyes, he added, “I have three prayers that I always pray…the first is that I will always love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. The second is that we will all go to heaven at the same time. Third is that my eyes will be healed.” (I suppressed a tear! I am such a crybaby mom.)

Elijah may only be 11 years old, but his relationship with God teaches me how to have faith. He went on to say, “Only God can answer these prayers.”

It’s moments like these, during casual, random conversations with my children that I really get a glimpse into what’s going on in their hearts. I was blessed to know that loving God was number one for Elijah. That’s number one on my prayer list for all my kids, too. If God should grant that Elijah stays faithful to him all the days of his life, it would be my greatest joy as a mother. Whether we are raptured together or his eyes are restored completely, these things are secondary to the first of his prayers. If he loves God with all that he is, he already has heaven and he already has his sight.

In the meantime, as a mom, I keep hoping in God’s goodness and plan for Elijah’s life. The same goes for all my children. There are times when I know that God is doing something in the life of my child or children and I must stand aside. I watch as their faith is tested and purified in God’s refiner’s fire. Sometimes it is hard to watch. But each of my children must come to that point in their lives where they choose to follow God. I cannot choose for them. They must have a personal encounter with Him and His love, grace and forgiveness. I cannot experience these things for them.

However, Edric and I have to be present and available so we can be privy to what’s happening in their innermost persons. And then our job is to provide the environment and example, to teach the truth that leads our children to Him, and to pray earnestly and habitually for them. The rest of their life stories…especially the circumstances, trials, and challenges that will come their way, we have to surrender to the Lord and trust that he is control. He has a master plan for calling our children to Himself. If Edric and I do our part, then we can rest in that assurance.

I hugged Elijah yesterday when he was getting emotional about his eyes again. And he let me hold him. Sometimes I think that he is very mature in a lot of ways because he acts older for his age. But at that moment he was still a child and he needed a hug from mom. I asked him if it still mattered that he got hugs from me. And he said, “Mom, of course, if I go blind (his worst fear), that’s the only thing I will feel.” Oh okay. Kind of dramatic but what a totally sweet thing to say! Thank you Lord for these precious years…

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Kids Need Their Fathers

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Some weeks ago my third son, Titus, was recovering from a cough and cold so he had to stay away from the other kids. Edric happened to see him peering out of the window, all alone. So he called out, “Do you want to go walking with daddy?” Titus was thrilled. He ran down the stairs and put on his shoes.

Edric walked with him all the way to the park and back. And Titus talked the whole time. He is not much of a talker so this was significant. Some of the things he said were, “So you and mommy have been married 5 times right, because you have five kids?” “Someday I am going to marry Tiana.” Of course Edric corrected his understanding of marriage and explained why he can’t marry his sister. It was a precious time, just the two of them.

When Titus got back home, he announced to his siblings that “dad went walking with him.” He narrated how Edric saw him at the window and called out to him. He was very proud to tell everyone.

A child’s self-worth is very much hinged on the attention and regard given by his or her parents. But, I think this is especially true for the time a father gives to a son. There is something special about the affirmation and validation a son receives from his dad.

I know a couple of guys who admitted that they tried to compensate for what their fathers’ did not give by turning to unhealthy habits and behaviors, relationships, and friendships, or pursuing ambitions in order to feel whole.

No one can give back the years that a father was absent or heal the wounds that his flaws inflicted. However, I have also seen men who did not live with the example of a godly father or receive the love and affection of a dad recover from their deep brokenness. Their new identity and self-worth came through Jesus Christ.

Two Sundays ago, I listened to the testimony of a man who was physically and sexually abused by his own father. He was betrayed and harmed on multiple levels as a young boy. As a result, he grew up without a compass. In his young adult years he turned to homosexual relationships and a decadent lifestyle to feel happy. But he was never satisfied with that life.

When he finally encountered Jesus Christ and understood how much he was loved, forgiven and redeemed by God, he became a transformed person. Today he is living for Christ. He admits that he is still tempted by sexual sin but he continues to pursue God’s design for him as a man. He has a peace and joy that he never used to.

I believe that no one is beyond God’s grasp. God can always redeem the mistakes of our parents. As this passage says, “Behold, the Lord ‘s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1 NASB)

However, let us not be the kind of parents who shipwreck the lives of our children. We may not be as bad as a father who beats and molests his children, but are we present to disciple, lead and train our children, steering their hearts toward God?

Most likely, you are a young woman or a wife or a mom reading this post. And if you are married to a husband who is neglecting your children emotionally and spiritually, hope in God. Pray for him. (Look at yourself, too, and pray about the areas where you need to change…we can all change for the better.)

When Edric and I had a smaller family, I prayed for him to step up as the spiritual leader of our home, that his heart would be turned towards our children. At the beginning he was great at prioritizing me and his work, but he didn’t really know how to be an intentional and purposeful father. But as we had more sons, he realized that they needed him. They needed him to model biblical manhood and to teach them what it means to love and follow Christ. And he couldn’t do this unless he spent time with them and built a relationship with them.

Today parenting is a team effort between us. We still make mistakes but we continue to refer to God’s word for guidance. We also ask for forgiveness from our kids when we fail to be Christ-like.

Just yesterday, Edric asked Titus to forgive him for being irritable. While I was correcting Titus and Tiana for speaking to one another with an unkind tone, I asked them, “Do mommy and daddy do that?” trying to point out that they should copy our example. Titus replied, “No, but daddy gets angry sometimes.” He clarified that daddy doesn’t shout but he can get irritated. Of course I passed on this observation to Edric. And he was very repentant about it and apologized to Titus, who readily forgave him.

Edric and I continue to pray for one another as we parent our kids. He prays for me to be the mom I need to be and I pray for him to have the wisdom he needs to lead our family. Author Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” I agree with this but I also believe that whether man or woman, before God, we are all broken and need repairing. If we want to build strong children as parents, we have to recognize that we can’t do it apart from Christ.

Furthermore, if we find ourselves in a season of parenting alone as a mother, then we can be encouraged by God’s tender description of himself as father to the fatherless. What an assurance that he will provide in the areas where we cannot! Father to the fatherless, defender of widows— this is God, whose dwelling is holy. (Psalms 68:5 NLT) Kids need their fathers, but more than a loving, godly earthly father, they need the FATHER OF ALL.

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You Have to Let Him Be the Man

Edan, our second, is 7. So he has a number of baby teeth on their way out. I pulled one a few weeks ago. Edric was jealous that I did it. He wanted the honor of pulling it out himself. But I couldn’t help it. The thing was practically dangling at a 45 degree angle. It was much too tempting not to pop that sucker out and that’s exactly what I did. I pushed down on it really fast with my thumb and it came right off. Edan was too stunned to realize there was any pain. I was so looking forward to pulling out his other teeth but they weren’t quite ready.

Two weeks later another baby tooth was just barely hanging on. We were in a lighting store at a home depot when Edan showed me how loose it was.

“Do you want me to pull it out? I can do it right now.”

Edan stopped me, “Daddy said he is going to do it.”

I tried to bargain with Edric for the opportunity to since I had done it so successfully the last time but he wouldn’t budge. “Nope, I am doing it.” He was adamant and confident.

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Okay, okay. We got home and Edric brought Edan to our bathroom. With Edan facing him he proceeded to pull on the tooth with a tissue. A tissue?! My thoughts were, You’ve got to be kidding me. That isn’t going to work.

He spent about five minutes toiling over how to do it and using the tissue without success. Edan was feeling very stressed and on the verge of tears. I really really wanted to say, “Can I please take over, that’s not the way to do it. I know what to do. Just let me do it.”

But I couldn’t defame Edric in front of the kids. Some of them were watching in suspense and Edan believed that Edric could do it. He was terrified but he trusted his dad. So I stood aside but discreetly suggested that he could flick the tooth downwards with his thumb and it would probably come out really fast.

He gave my suggestion a try and the tooth didn’t resist at all. The root was so worn down it just popped out. Edan was so happy and relieved. Whew. So was I!

Edric pulled me aside and asked, “How did you know that would work?”

“Really? You have never done it that way before? I pulled out my own teeth that way when I was a kid.”

“I have never pulled out a tooth!”

“Seriously?! You have never pulled out even your own teeth?!”

“Nope. In fact I was getting pretty stressed and nervous trying to pull out Edan’s!”

No wonder why he was trying to grip the tooth with a tissue initially and attempting to pull it upwards! He could have at least thought of using pliers!

Well, looking back I am glad that he still came out the hero in all this. The kids were impressed at how he eventually got it out.

It may seem like such a small thing but our kids are watching us all the time. They observe the way Edric and I relate to one another as husband and wife. We try to respect one another in front of the kids because we also ask them to respect us. So when he has greater insight or perspective on a matter and vice versa, we will correct in private or give suggestions in a way that doesn’t make each another look inferior or incapable (as much as possible). We support each other’s roles and affirm them. In this instance, I stepped aside to let Edric be the man, especially given the fact that getting their teeth pulled is pretty terrifying for our kids. So
I wanted them to be confident that he could definitely do it. I wanted them, especially Edan who is going to be losing a lot more, to trust his dad.

And…well the added bonus is he REALLY DOES know how to pull out a tooth efficiently now!

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In a marriage, we must help one another improve but not in a hostile take-over manner. Nobody is perfect. A husband and wife both need each other to become better, but it should be done in a positive manner, and not in a way that makes each other bitter because they are humiliated or belittled.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; (Romans 12:10 NASB)

Sweet Randomness Part III

TIANA AND HER INTERESTING USE OF WORDS:

My 3 year old Tiana is a chatter box. But sometimes she thinks she knows the right word to use in a sentence or statement but it’s cutely inaccurate.

“Mom, I need some mosquito propeller.” (Repellant)

“Oh no! Catalina has liva! (Also known as saliva dripping on my shoulder.)

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“Dad, I found my nipple.” (She meant pencil.)

“It’s a Lee-zard!” (Care of our househelp.)

“Tiana how is your stomach ache? Are you feeling better?” I ask.

Her reply, “Yes. I am well. I have no more stomach.”

EDAN’S PERSONIFICATION OF OBJECTS:

Edan is given candies by a friend.

Me: “Can I have one of your candies?” (He had six.)

“No.”

“Huh?! Why not?”

“Are you supposed to eat candy, mom?”

“Yes it’s fine. So can I have one?”

He still didn’t want to give me one! I couldn’t believe it. When I asked him why again, he said, “Can I tell you later?”

We resumed the conversation after about thirty minutes.

“Mom, remember when I told you that I pretend that my pillows are like babies?”

“Yes.”

“Well, I think the candies have smiley faces.”

“So you pretend they are alive?!

“Uh huh.”

Apparently, he puts personalities into objects. It’s kind of weird. This too shall pass.

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CLEVER TITUS:

“What did you learn in Sunday school, Edan?”

“I don’t know.”

“Titus, what did you learn?”

“The same thing Edan learned.”

Nice one.

WHAT-YOU-SEE-IS-WHAT-YOU-GET-TITUS:

I was at the beach watching Titus sitting in the sand by himself, drawing circles in the sand with a stick. I was wondering what he was thinking. So I walked over to sit down beside him and start a conservation.

“Hey Titus, what are you thinking about?” (I was trying to draw him out, excited to hear some profound thought about what he was doing.)

“I am not thinking of anything.”

Oh okay…

MY LITTLE LOVABLE “SENSITINA” (Sensitive Baby):

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Catalina’s yaya tells me, “Ma’m, si Catalina parang manok matulog.” (Catalina sleeps like chicken.)

“Talaga? Bakit.” (Really? Why?)

“Kasi pagtulog siya habang hinahawak tapos binababa sa kama, bubukas kaagad ang mata niya, parang manok.” (Because when she is asleep while she is held then put down in her bed, her eyelids open right away like a chicken.)

Hence…her need to be carried almost all the time!

AND THE HIGHLIGHT FOR THE WEEK…

Tiana: “Mom, do you know I love you?”

I smile and ask, “Why are you telling me that?”

She whispers…”Because I love you…”

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Sweet Randomness Part 2

BROTHERLY LOVE:

Elijah came home from a seminar he spoke at with his dad two Tuesdays ago. He went upstairs to say hi to everyone and then sat down at the table looking very forlorn. Everyone started eating but he seemed sad.

Out of nowhere he said “Nobody was excited to see me come home.” And he started to tear. (He can be very dramatic.)

I was surprised he felt this way…my 10 year old, big boy.

He continued, “Only Nancy (the househelp) said, Hi Elijah how are you? Edan didn’t even pay attention to me. He was just doing his computer programming when I arrived. You (mom) just went to your room to be with Catalina.”

Edan was equally surprised that Elijah felt this way.

I knew Elijah just needed some attention. So I asked him to come sit by me and I put food on his plate and asked him about his time with his dad.

Edan didn’t think he needed to apologize for being busy with computer
programing but he very thoughtfully said, “I saved your cup noodles even if mommy told me to eat them and I didn’t eat your ice chocolate.”

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AFRAID OF THE DARK:

Edan doesn’t like to use the toilet by himself when the lights are turned off. So he always tries to get one of his siblings to accompany him.

“Titus! Do you want to use the bathroom? Come, come let’s go…”

Titus replies, “No, I don’t want to.”

Edan finds another victim…”Tiana! Do you want to go to the bathroom?”

“No.”

“Do you want a prize?”

“Yes!”

She runs to the bathroom to accompany Edan and comes back with no prize.

Suckered…

LIPSTICK:

Tiana walks into my room and with conviction says, “I really really need makeup.” (I don’t know where she gets this. I don’t wear a lot of make up.)

So I give her lipgloss instead to play with.

A few days later, she comes home from church with her lips all glossy. I noticed them in the car. They looked very pretty but I wondered how she put the lipgloss on.

I asked her, “Can you show me how you put on lipgloss?”and she demonstrates it for me (very skillfully.)

“Where did you learn to do that?”

“Sunday school.”

Hmm…I sure hope not…

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SUBTLE MESSAGING:

I take Tiana with me when I do errands so we can spend time together. One afternoon she was being too rambunctious in the backseat and I asked her to stop.

She didn’t like being told to stop moving around so she started inventing a tune and singing to herself, “I love mommy sometimes…sometimes I love mommy.”

Of course I started laughing.

I can’t get enough of these kids!!!

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The Danger of Self-Centered Homeschooling

My imperfections as a homeschool mother have been magnified as of late…especially my impatience. It is a real struggle every time the kids don’t cooperate the way I hope they will. And this has been my very problem. I want my kids to cater to my needs right now. I need them to be easy to teach because I don’t have an easy baby to take care of. So I hold them to a set of expectations and I feel frustrated when these expectations are not met.

Today I put this pressure on my little three year old, Tiana. She blanked out half-way through our lesson like she didn’t know anything and I was so irritated. I tossed her work on the bed. She cried, I cried. I felt like a monster-mom. I WAS a monster-mom!

Tiana inched away from me, took hold of her stuffed tiger, walked over to the other side of the room, and climbed up on to the bed. She curled up in a fetal position facing the window. This was the first time she ever saw me lose my temper. She withdrew from me, emotional pained by my outburst.

God, I need your help. This is not the kind of mom I want to become. I feel like such a failure.

I have always told moms to make learning enjoyable. Sigh. I even give seminars about this! However, I did the very opposite. Tiana was not motivated by a love to learn this morning. She was afraid of disappointing me. I saw it in her eyes. She would point to the answers (the ones she was guessing) without confidence. And she would gaze up at me to see if she had my approbation. When I seemed stern, she would look down at the work in front of her, uncertain of how to proceed.

When I realized how I had hurt her, I said, “Tiana, please come to mommy.” (I was kind of immobile because Catalina was nursing.) Tiana walked over with her big brown eyes still watery and red with tears. I pulled her close and embraced her. “Will you forgive me? I was wrong. I am so sorry. Mommy will help you to learn.”

She looked up at me and started to sob again. But she said, “I forgive you, mommy” and she reached out to touch my hand. I held her for a while and kissed her head. How could I have hurt someone I love so much?

A few minutes later, I told her we would try math again. Our take two was much better. There was joy and laughter in it. I decided to appreciate her small victories and I made the effort to be positive and encouraging.

This was a lesson on parenting for me. I can’t ever think that homeschooling is about me. It’s not about my agenda — my own goals. I have been entrusted with the fragile and vulnerable hearts of my kids. And I am accountable for that trust. It is about stewardship.

My main responsibility is to disciple them — to teach them to love God and obey him, and to help them develop their gifts and abilities for his purposes and glory.

If I get angry because my kids don’t know their academics as well as I want them to, then I am violating the trust of stewardship. If I wound them emotionally because they fall short of my expectations, then I cannot disciple them effectively. I become a self-centered teacher. And self-centered teaching does not amount to the greater good of my kids.

Lord help me to be a Christ-centered teacher and not a self-centered one. I need to improve in the area of patience and I cannot have victory if I am always thinking of what is most convenient for me or what I would like to accomplish. Direct my teaching so that I accomplish what you want me to in the lives of my children.

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The Hearts I Hold

Titus is a very mechanically-inclined child. He is my little “tinkerer.” When he enters a room, he will touch whatever he can get his hands on, especially if he is in a room he has never been in before. He will fiddle with objects, turn them around, pull or push at them, or even take them apart if he has enough time to.

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I remember going into my friend’s dermatology clinic and Titus made a bee-line towards all the breakable objects, trying to pick them up or shake them. There was no malice or intent to destroy. He was simply exploring. I had to ask him to stop though because there were a number of fragile decorations that could have crashed onto the floor. He listened but I could tell that his fingers were itching to grab a hold of something…anything.

As his homeschool teacher, I have to be sensitive to this learning style of his and not curtail it too much, especially at home where his personality doesn’t have to be stifled. Our house is pretty child-friendly. I am not too particular about the kids breaking things. It happens. Life goes on.

Giving him his space to grow and develop the way God designed him to has been a wonderful sort of “experiment” to help me understand how my children learn. Titus is the kind of person that thrives when he is able to observe, experiment, and practice without the pressure of outcomes.

For instance, he has been writing words lately, not because I asked him to but because he was ready to, on his own. The most recent handwriting work I asked him to do was to copy the letters I wrote down in big and small caps. I only required him to do a page a day. But, through this exercise I discovered that he already knew how to write his letters.

How did this happen? It’s really quite a mystery. I have not made him do pages and pages of handwriting work. But I do let him draw, color, paint, cut, and paste a lot which has probably strengthened his finger muscles. On occasion I give him minimal doses of penmanship practice.

So it delighted me to witness his attempts to write out everyone’s names — family, cousins, as well as words that he was trying to sound out on his own. He spelled the word “start”, for instance, on top of his drawing of a maze.

I asked him, “How did you learn how to write?” I wanted to be able to take some credit but his answer was, “I just watched Edan. I saw how he did it.”

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This really got me thinking about the blessings of having more than one child, especially because we are a homeschooling family. The younger children benefit from the older ones and their examples.

When I am concerned that I don’t get to invest the same amount of time teaching my two younger kids that I did with my two older ones, I am pleasantly delighted to discover that they teach one another, intentionally or not.

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The same thing happened with my youngest sister, Carolyn, when my mom was homeschooling us. She learned to read very early. One morning she came up to my mom and confidently said, “I know how to read, mom.” My mom was incredulous because she hadn’t really taught her to read. Carolyn was included in our homeschooling, but she was much younger than all of us so her studies were not too formal. However, when my mom asked Carolyn to demonstrate her ability to read she was able to do so.

Sometimes, as a mom, you come into the homeschooling experience with many doubts and questions. Will my kids turn out alright? Can I really do this even if I am not an educator? Is homeschooling going to give all my kids a good education? Having bought into the notion that conventional schooling will meet these needs more effectively, we tend to feel insecure about our ability to teach our children. Our preconceived ideas about how children learn and the context in which they learn is biased in favor of the institutional set-up. Yet, I am discovering more and more as my children grow and mature that they are learning all the time and in ways that often surprise me.

Without the impediment of time frames, lesson plans, leveling, same age groupings, and pressure of grades, they naturally discover, create, investigate, problem solve, interact, and imitate what you want them to.

God has designed each child with the potential to learn. And I have to trust in this innate capacity and nurture it. My greater role is to train my kids so they are disciplined, responsible, attentive, and obedient. I also need to instill in them a love for the Lord. This is the bedrock, the indispensable foundation that must be present in the hearts of my kids.

While standards and checklists are helpful as a reference, I have to remember that these should not define, box in, or ignore the uniquenesses of my kids. If Titus is not writing sentences at age 5 like school aged children might be doing, so what? He still has time to acquire that ability.

I do not doubt that he will if I constantly provide an environment that encourages the love for learning — an environment where there is joy, unconditional acceptance, generous praise, access to books, materials, and toys that stimulate creativity, and the formation of character and godliness. But what an impossible environment to have if I am not grace-filled and spirit-led. Unless the Lord is at work in my own life, I can be tyrannical, overbearing, demanding, and selfish as a teacher…all the things that can destroy my children’s desire to learn. So I have to be in continual partnership with Christ who designed and tenderly made the children he has entrusted to me. I need to be sensitive to his leading when he tells me I need to improve or modify the way I instruct my kids.

This morning, Titus climbed into bed next to me and I held him for a bit because I wasn’t fully awake. He snuggled up beside me and I wrapped my arms around him. My right hand happened to rest on the part of his chest where I felt his heart beating. I imagined that little, unique heart of his in my hand and I thought of my other children’s, too. And this was the prayer that came to me…

How fragile, Lord, are my kids. How easily wounded if I am not careful. How tender are their consciences. How opportune the season to plant your truth in them. May I not trample upon their fragility or desecrate their consciences with my own sinfulness. You have made me steward of four extraordinary treasures. I cannot be faithful to this trust if you do not supply the extraordinary help. So I look to you to teach me how to hold the hearts of my children. Let me treat motherhood as a sacred offering of love, time, and sacrifice that directs my children to you, to reflect and live for your glory. Reveal to me what I should teach and what I need not fret over, and calibrate my responses and instruction according to what pleases you so that each of my children can be redeemed and prepared for your purposes! Amen!

A Father’s Arena

Between Edric and I, I tend to be the more protective one with the kids. It is probably because I am a mom. Aside from wanting the boys to stay clean and sanitary, which is often impossible, I can be concerned about their physical safety…sometimes to a fault. They are boys after all. I have definitely relaxed over the years and now I notice how younger moms tend to be more obsessive than I am. But compared to Edric, I am still the more cautious one.

I am especially concerned about them when they are in a swimming pool. First of all, I have my own issues about drowning…my worst fear. Second, I find Edric’s teaching style, as swimming coach to the kids, a little bit unnerving. I mean this in the sense that he will push them to go outside of their comfort zone so they develop water confidence.

Sunday afternoon while I observed Edric instruct Titus, I was tempted to interrupt their session. Titus was gulping quite a bit of water and tearing as Edric taught him to swim a significant distance without assistance. As I was swimming past them doing my own laps, I reached out to grab Titus. However, Edric motioned for me to go away and to let Titus be. So I trusted him and resisted the urge to protect Titus and cater to his feelings. Sure enough, by the end of their “lesson”, Titus swam across the width of the pool without holding on to anyone.


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Edric and I agree on the fundamentals and goals of our parenting, which is such a blessing, but we do have masculine and feminine perspectives that impact our approaches. Edric is able to encourage our sons’ masculine traits — bravery, perseverance, toughness, chivalry, and the like in a way that I can’t.

I remember a comment a soccer coach said about some of the homeschoolers he had to train. Unfortunately, it wasn’t positive. He shared that they seemed to be overprotected. When they felt tired or fell down, they would run to their moms, dads, or yayas who were sitting on the sidelines. He didn’t like this because he was trying to toughen them up and teach them how to resist giving in to discomfort. This made me consider my own cautiousness with my kids.

There is a place for nurturing, encouragement, and affirmation, but I have to know when it’s overkill and when it is appropriate. I have to consider what the character objective is and whether my interference will help or negate what ought to be accomplished in the hearts of my kids.

We just came back from Singapore and once again, Edric took over the training aspect for our sons. I was in charge of Tiana and he made sure the boys were disciplined and followed instructions. Whew. I praise God, too. They were very attentive to his leading. I could stroll along as we went from one activity to another. All I had to worry about was our little Tiana.

Edric used this vacation time to mentor our sons once again. He had them each carry a backpack and asked them to be responsible for their belongings and for one another. And he added teaching moments to instill character traits.

For example, since he knew that Titus was struggling with confidence in the water, he wanted to demonstrated courage. When we were at the Science Center, Edric volunteered to step inside a chamber which was zapped by electricity from a Tesla Coil. Of course it was safe but to young children, it looked like he was stepping into a dangerous situation. The kids were nervous about him doing it, but at the same time, they were proud of their dad. Afterwards, he talked about what it means to be brave and related it to their own experiences.

Edric and I share a dynamic as parents that God designed to be complimentary. There are roles we fill in that enable us to raise our kids as a team. I have to make sure I am aligned with what Edric wants the kids to do in a particular situation and avoid contradicting his approach (especially when he is not around which can be confusing for the children.)

I didn’t know what to do when I felt stressed about Edric’s swim lesson with Titus that Sunday afternoon. I wanted to step in and assert my mom instincts. However I was reminded to trust Edric’s leadership. He loves our kids and will not willfully harm them. And when I am not sure which hat to wear as a mom, I go back to what I do know. In that situation it was about supporting my husband who was trying to accomplish, not just a skill, but a character goal.

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That same day I watched Elijah and Edan, who used to be afraid of the water, jump around everywhere in the deep pool while playing the game sharks and minnows with Edric. They were swimming with ease. In the near future Titus will probably be doing the same thing…especially if I sit back, relax, let Titus “rise to the occasion” as Edric puts it, and step outside of Edric’s arena so he can better mentor our sons to become men.

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The Sacredness of a Promise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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