Kids Need Their Fathers

20140224-154443.jpg
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.

20140224-154737.jpg

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.

20131128-083040.jpg
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!

20131128-083137.jpg
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.)

20131121-164203.jpg
“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.

20131121-164506.jpg

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):

20131121-164834.jpg
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…”

20131121-165754.jpg

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.”

20131023-185529.jpg

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…

20131023-185707.jpg

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!!!

20131023-185839.jpg

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.

20130912-234223.jpg

20130912-234233.jpg

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.

IMG_2484
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.”

Titus and Mom
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.

DSC07123

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.


DSC07168 DSC07173

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.

DSC07232DSC07200

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.

DSC07237

 

 

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.

20130609-211144.jpg
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!

Are You A “Super” Model?

20130526-185024.jpg
A few days ago, I was watching a movie with my four children. My husband, Edric, had a meeting that night, so the kids hung out with me in our bedroom. At one point in the movie, my 7 year old son, Edan, said, “I’m scared.” Without being prodded to, my 2 year old daughter’s response was, “Aw, you are scared? Come here, I will take care of you.” And she motioned for him to sit on her lap so she could cradle him. Of course Edan who was much bigger refused and we all started laughing. Tiana had acted like a mini-version of me. This was not something I had taught her. It was something she picked up from observing me.

20130526-184315.jpg
Like my children watch me, I watched my parents. The principle of modeling is: values are caught not taught. Our actions speak much louder than what we say. There were two particular areas demonstrated by my parents that made an impact on me — their example of being spirit-filled and their intimacy with the Lord.

My siblings and I were blessed to have parents who modeled love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I can talk about each of these but I want to highlight my more favorite observations about their modeling.

Moodiness was not allowed in our home. In fact, my mom told my sisters and I, “There is no such thing as PMS. Moodiness is selfishness. You can choose to be controlled by the Holy Spirit.” My mom could tell us to do this because she herself was a predictably joyful person. We didn’t have to guess, what mood will mom be in today?

She is in her 60′s now and I am sure at some point she went through menopause. However, I honestly don’t know when it happened because she didn’t burden any of us with her hormones!

Even my children have noticed the positive attitude of my parents. One morning, when we were visiting them, my eldest son Elijah spontaneously told my dad (his grandpa), “Angkong, you are always happy. I’ve never seen you get angry. Grandma, too. You are both so positive.”

Feeling a little bit jealous, I took Elijah aside and asked him jokingly, “What about me?” His politically correct reply was, “I can see that you are trying to change and you have improved a lot!” Nice one, son.

My parents’ attitude and perspective towards business-related stress, ministry stress, and people stress also impacted me. They would respond with peace and rested-ness when they encountered problems. Instead of panicking, they would invite us to pray along side them and commit the issue to the Lord. Because their confidence and security were in God, I learned to trust in God’s sovereignty and rest in him when I went through a personal crisis. I believed that God would cause everything to work together for my good as it says in Romans 8:28. But this was a perspective first passed on to me by my parents.

I also valued my parents’ example of receiving criticism and correction with grace. My parents would invite us to correct them anytime. I remember my dad telling me, “Criticism is a blessing. If it is false then praise God, take it as a warning, something to avoid. If it is true then praise God, learn from it. Either way it is a win-win.”

There was one occasion when I corrected my dad about his management style. I said, “I thought you were a bit harsh and unkind when you said what you did.” Instead of defending himself, he humbly said, “Thank you. That’s why I need you guys to hold me accountable…to tell me these kind of things.”

A question they often asked us was, “How can we improve? Is there anything we need to change?” They allowed us to be God’s instruments to help them grow in character and spiritual maturity.

My husband, Edric, and I have done this with our own children. I have had my kids tell me, “Mom, I think you need to say sorry to daddy for your attitude.” And I have appreciated this because they see my life closely. They know the areas I have to improve in. The blessing is, our kids also ask us, “What about us, how can we improve?”

Another area I appreciated in my parents was they didn’t put a premium on material things. For example, my mom had this “special ability.” She would accidentally bump every new car that my dad bought. She baptized each car with some sort of dent. My dad would tease and describe it as an uncanny ability to hit inanimate objects like the curb, fire hydrants, telephone polls and the like. But he never got angry about these things. His first concern was whether my mom was okay.

Very recently, I was blessed to see my dad respond to my mom’s carelessness with grace. She had destroyed a gadget that was pretty costly. It was a medical instrument that my dad used daily. When my mom chose to break the news to him he was seated on his lazy boy reading a book. I happened to be visiting them that afternoon so I saw the scenario unfold like a scene from a movie. My mom came up to my dad’s side and said, “Hon, I have a question. The chord of this machine isn’t working anymore. I think I must have bent it too far while I was carrying my stuff. Do you think I should have it fixed here by an electrician or send it back to the U.S. to have the chord replaced?”

My dad looked up from the book he was reading. There was not a single strained vein on his temple or neck to indicate stress or irritation. Considering that it was an $800 dollar machine, I thought, this unfortunate incident might have elicited some sort of negative response from his part. But he was quiet and calm. Instead of making a big deal out of it, he patiently discussed the possibilities with her, and it was decided that mom would send it back to the U.S. to have it fixed. I don’t know if my parents even realized that I was paying attention to their dialogue, but I remembered that incident and archived it in my brain for future reference.

Hold the things of this world lightly. That’s what I learned from incidences such as these. Do not make money and possessions more important than pleasing God, than people, than principles that we ought to live by.

One notable principle my parents lived by was integrity. When my parents were undercharged for a bill, they would inconvenience themselves to pay the balance. I know this wasn’t always easy for my dad who is a businessman. Any amount saved was good for business. But, neither he nor my mom compromised when it came to small things like paying a bill accurately. And I remembered this when I got older and found myself in similar predicaments: Do not love money.

Beyond all these examples, the greatest modeling they provided in our home was their intimacy with the Lord. This was the secret to their spirit-filled testimonies. I knew with absolute certainty that my parents loved God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. And that’s why they loved us, too.

They loved us unconditionally. My siblings and I made many mistakes growing up, but my parents always affirmed that we were loved and accepted. We didn’t have to earn their love. They pursued us relationally and often communicated and demonstrated to us that we were their priority, that we were special to them.

Almost every night my dad would ask me, “Who loves you?” just to remind me that he did. And he would follow up with, “Do you know that you are special to me?” (I know he did the same with my siblings.) He was a very intentional father, not sacrificing time with us for business or ministry. So my siblings and I knew that we were loved. We were very secure in the love of my mom and dad.

This morning’s message by Pastor Edmund Chan included a story about a Brazilian girl who left her home for the excitement and worldliness of Rio de Janeiro. Her mother went looking for her and posted photos everywhere. However, it wasn’t until years later that her daughter, bruised and battered by the realities of a painful world, found one of the pictures her mother randomly attached to the mirror of a shady hotel restroom. It was her mother’s photo. The young woman pulled it off the wall and on the back it read, “Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. I love you. Please come home.”

As a child, I too needed and longed for the unconditional love of my parents. And because it was given, I greater understood the grace of God. Since my parents could embrace an imperfect me, it was easy to believe that God could love me, too.

I remember telling my dad one time, “My friends said our family is not normal,” referring to the fact that I had a loving family who seemed to have it all together. And my dad was quick to reply, “Joy, this is normal. Families should be Christ-centered and spirit-filled. That has always been God’s design.” The common hurt and pain we see in families is abnormal, it is not God’s plan.

This statement really struck me. I was beginning to believe this idea that good families were some sort of aberration. However, the reality was and is that parents who make Jesus Christ the center of their home will experience the blessings and joy of God’s design for their family, and their children will want to pass on this legacy.

Because my parents’ testimony at home made Jesus Christ attractive to me, I desired to have the same personal relationship with him. I desired to tell others about Jesus and minister to them like they did.

My parents didn’t model perfection, they modeled authenticity. The grace of God was manifest in their weaknesses, shortcomings and inadequacies. He was the source of their abilities and successes. When I got older, I prayed for a man who embodied the same love for God so we could have a marriage and family that was centered on Christ, too. And God helped me find one. Or should I say, God allowed me to be found by this kind of man. But all glory goes to God and not to my parents or to us. He alone is the reason my siblings and I and our spouses are committed followers of Jesus and teaching our children to do the same! He makes parents the “super” models they need to be!

Can we say to our children, Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ? (1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB)
—-

20130526-184102.jpg
I shared part of this during the recently concluded Global Discipleship Congress. One of the workshops was given by my dad, entitled “Discipleship Begins at Home.” He invited my siblings and I to share about our family experience. There were five points to his talk. Parents need to be intentional about modeling, building relationships through open communication and time, teaching and training, and imparting a godly vision to their children. I was assigned to share about the importance of modeling.

Strawberry Yoghurt

While I struggled with my miserable cold two nights ago, trying to rest in the room alone, a commotion in the kitchen woke me up. With a raised and agitated tone, Titus said, “I don’t want that!” This wasn’t the sound of my usually sweet and happy Titus.

20130525-002054.jpg
I would have preferred to remain in my rested state and ignore the situation. But I could not willfully do so. Titus had lost his temper. There was an issue that needed to be dealt with. Intervention was in order. So I got up and called him out of the kitchen to talk about what happened.

Apparently, he wanted a strawberry yoghurt drink that ended up in the hands of Edan. He was offered an orange flavored one by our househelp, Joan, which upset him. Edan, on the other hand, was apathetically sipping the last few drops of the coveted drink. Titus looked on with quiet anger, convinced that he had been done a great injustice.

Taking Titus aside, I tried to understand where he was coming from. But my attempt to have a dialogue with him as his two older brothers curiously stood on the sidelines and his youngest sister called out, “Titus is going to get a spanking!” was counterproductive. So I brought Titus to my bedroom.

He thought he was going to get a spanking but my intent was to get to the root of the issue. This was not something that could be solved with a spanking. There was a much deeper problem here. Titus’ spirit was not right. There was hardness and frustration.

He stood in front of me while I sat across from him. We engaged in a conversation that involved me explaining to him why his attitude was wrong, why shouting was not okay, and how he needed to learn to share. His part was to acknowledge and respond in repentance. Did it work? Maybe a little. But I could sense that his compliance was external. It was void of real conviction.

So I called him to my side, hugged him really tightly and said, “Titus, I love you no matter what.” I assured him that I was after his greater good. His countenance softened and he started to tear. All my lecturing had not produced this sort of heart-felt response. It was not until I took him in my arms and held him that I could sense a motivation to change his attitude.

With my arms around him, I went on, “Because I love you, I want to teach you to do what pleases God.” Appealing to his own love for Christ, I reminded him that getting angry and being selfish were wrong behaviors because Jesus didn’t want him to do those things. I asked him what he thought would make Jesus happy and he acknowledged that he had to learn “to share, to say sorry, and that he shouldn’t get angry.” When I was convinced that he sincerely meant this, I let him go back to the kitchen to say sorry to those whom he had hurt.

He walked up to Edan and Joan to ask for forgiveness. There was humility in his tone and disposition, and he bounced back to his smiley, cheerful self. I affirmed him for doing what was right and I peacefully went back to my bedroom to go back to sleep. Strawberry yoghurt training case closed.

—-

Training is such a challenge. First, it takes commitment. Second, it must be personalized. Third, it must be purposeful — the pursuit of Christlikeness. Fourth, it must be cradled by love.

Sometimes, I am tempted to short cut the training part and make behavior the priority. But fruitful discipline and training must seek to restore our children’s hearts to us and to the Lord. It must heal what is broken inside them and be redemptive, effecting much more than behavioral change.

If we want real fruit in our children, we must consider these heart questions: Do our children know that we love them? Are they absolutely convinced that we want what is best for them? Do they love Jesus? Do they know that he loves them?

1 Corinthians 13:8 says that love never fails. When I think of that statement, I think of how it can be applied to training our children. Love does not fail to motivate or inspire change. When our children are convinced that they are loved and accepted, flaws and all, they respond to our teaching. More importantly, when they love Jesus with all that they are, they desire to please him and live for him.

It’s like Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”(John 14:15 NASB)

Titus painted this earlier on in the day for me. I thought it was a great reminder that our children give us their hearts to handle with care. What are their hearts telling us about their spiritual condition? What are we doing about it?

20130525-001513.jpg

My Out-of-the-Box Child

I’ve said it before that Titus often fascinates me because he is such an out-of-the-box thinker and he has learned many things on his own.

One afternoon he was counting aloud by 10s (something I had not taught him). He counted all the way up to 100. I turned over to him and said, “Where did you learn that? Who taught you that?” His Jedi-like reply was, “I know many things, mom.”

At this statement I started laughing really hard. He meant it with all sincerity. I followed up with, “Yes, but HOW did you learn to count by 10s?” Once again, I found it comedic when he said, “I think, mom! I just think!” It was almost like he was insulted that I questioned his ability to understand concepts on his own.

Recently, when my nieces, nephews and kids were doing a puppet show with my sister-in-law she asked everyone to make their puppets stand on their heads. Titus was the only one that thought of bending his puppet in half so that its feet touched its head…literally, standing on its head!

Because I haven’t spent too much time “teaching” him formally, I will have to give credit to John Holt’s idea that children are learning all the time. When they are not forced to learn too early, but provided with a stimulating, enriching environment in which to explore, create, build, invent, and discover, they educate themselves. Learning happens naturally and very often in the context of play. Titus certainly needs character training like my other children, but he has caught on just fine with the academics even without too much one-on-one instruction from me.

At four years old, he can read, comprehend, he is beginning to write better, he understands fundamental math concepts, and he is developing normally. He may not be as articulate as his older brothers were at his age, but he is a loving, happy, curious, and determined child…with a very positive opinion about himself. When I am teaching him, he will say, “This is sooo easy, mom!” And then he will start working and be like, “How do you do this again?”

I laugh alot with Titus. He has a unique perspective that I treasure as a mom. I appreciate that he doesn’t think linearly and that he pays attention to things that others might take forgranted.

One time he picked up a flattened fruit loop that was left on the floor of our condominium lobby. Everyone else thought it was dirty. But he picked it up and put it in his pocket. I didn’t realize this until we were in the car and he was cradling it in his hand. I told him he should throw it. After all, who knows where that fruit loop came from or who stepped on it? But he begged me to keep it.

Heck. Why not, I thought. If it matters that much to him and it isn’t a life and death issue, why can’t he be himself and keep it? He’s the only one who thought of doing so anyway and it’s important to him. So I told him he could and that made his day. A little fruit loop. I made him promise not to eat it and he didn’t.Whew!

Titus has stretched my parenting muscles a lot. I used to get really frustrated with him because he would take things apart, break his toys, color and draw in his books, tear out pages, peel the labels off things like crayons (he still does), hide objects under his bed like marbles and cereal, get himself into precarious predicaments, and bullheadedly insist on his way.

For example, when he was 8 months old, he weaned himself from breastfeeding. I was so upset and sad about it. None of my other children did this. I really wanted him to breastfeed for longer to keep bonding with him. But he insisted that he was ready to move on to the bottle. My fear was he would be deprived of affection because he was my third child. Without those bonding sessions, I didn’t get to hold him as often.

This was my first experience with Titus’ different way of doing things. Initially, I wanted to control him. I wanted to force him to breastfeed. But he ended up biting me! So that was it, I surrendered that stage over to the Lord. Crying and depressed, I accepted his decision to wean.

Such was the beginning of my parenting adventures with Titus. It took me a while to recognize that God designed Titus with a personality that was hand-picked by Him for a reason and purpose.

Titus turned out to be one my most affectionate children, my big hugger. In fact, he is such a touch person, he will randomly head butt people to get their attention! On certain mornings, he will crawl into bed beside me after he wakes up and let me drape my whole self around him like a pillow. He is the only one who will lie there contentedly and still. He won’t squirm away or complain that I am too heavy. And he will come up to me and randomly hug and kiss me during the day without being asked to. Who would ever have thought my earliest weaned baby would have become like this?

DSC06087 copy

I love all my children equally but God taught me how to love my Titus. Through Titus, God has helped me to grow in character, especially in the area of patience!

His birthday is coming up in two days and I wanted to write this to celebrate the joy and color that he has brought into our lives. I could’ve missed out on appreciating him had I placed him in a mold of my own liking…to make my parenting “convenient.” But God made certain children out-of-the-box — children who make us see the world differently, who challenge the norm (in a good way), who keep us from getting complacent about our parenting, and who make us dependent upon the Lord for the creativity and wisdom we need to instruct them. Titus is special just the way he is and I hope that Edric and I can keep encouraging him to grow in the Lord and become the man that God wants him to be.



 

 

Purple Glasses

20130425-131150.jpg

Having a daughter has been such a delight. Binary opposite to her brothers, Tiana, is incredibly feminine and demure. It’s a wonder too since she is growing up surrounded by a lot of testosterone. But lately, I’ve noticed that she is becoming dangerously kikay. She likes clothes and shoes…sometimes a little too much. Where she gets this, I don’t know. When I was a little girl, I ran around in underwear, shirtless. Even to this day, my wardrobe choices are simple. No, I don’t run around in underwear! What I mean is that I’m not a big shopper. I’m a big GROCERY shopper. That’s where most of the money goes. On occasion, I will buy Tiana clothes. I admit that I like seeing her reaction when she gets something new.

“You got this for me, mommy? I really like it! Can I wear it now? Thank you, mommy!” She will say. Of course, I love having another girl in the house who can share this delight.

My boys were NEVER fashion conscious. They could care less about what they wear. Plaids + stripes equals fashion to them. Worn-out cotton shirts and soft shorts are their number one picks for what to wear every day.

With Tiana, it’s so different. She likes to pick out her outfits. She likes to come with me to the store. She calls it “girl’s time.” A few weeks ago, she squealed when I told her we were going shopping and she said, “I’m sooo excited! Can we buy shoes and clothes?” I have to admit that I was suckered by her cuteness. So I said, “Okay!” At the store, she picked out shirts with kittens on them. And she wanted everything in purple or pink. Fortunately, she forgot about the shoes.

For the first time, however, I became concerned when I was shopping for a gift and Tiana was with me. As we walked past a sunglasses boutique, she blurted out, “Mom, I need glasses! I REALLY need purple glasses…for the sun.” She was holding on to my hand in a beggarly sort of way and I looked down at her two-year old self and thought, Whose spawn are you?! When did you receive the materialism bug? You NEED purple sunglasses? You already have purple sunglasses! Did I do this? Oh dear…

In the car, I asked her, “Why do you need purple glasses?”

“Because I need them.”

“What will you do with them?”

“Put them on my eyes.”

“But why do you need them?”

“Because I WANT them…I like them.”

Edric and I laughed as we listened to her. She wasn’t making any sense. Later on during the car ride, she saw a photo of me in Europe wearing a fuzzy sweater and she commented, “I need a sweater like that, mom.”

While all of this is fun for me…a welcome change after having three boys whose emotional meter remains at zero when fashion is a topic of conversation, I’ve got to be careful about encouraging the growing desire she has for clothes and shoes.

Edric had a good point when he said to me one day, “Don’t buy her things unless she really needs them.” Awww…shucks.

Edan, who is very observant, made the remark, “Mom, I think you have to get us more clothes. Tiana has a lot more clothes than we do.” It’s true. Hee hee. My boys are running around in faded raiment while Tiana has a multitude of shiny new garb to choose from in her closet.

So where is the balance? I want to raise a feminine daughter and I think that part of that is teaching her how to put outfits together and dressing up well. But that’s one very small dimension of true femininity. It’s okay to buy clothes and shoes but I shouldn’t over-emphasize her physical appearance. It’s okay to complement the way she looks but I should complement her character more. It’s okay to go shopping for her and with her but I need to refrain from being excessive to protect her from materialism. After all, she is just 2 years old. If she is this interested in buying things at this age, that inclination will be multiplied when she is older.

Did she get new purple glasses? Definitely not. She can still use the pair she already has.
I have to remember that true femininity begins with inner beauty – being gentle and quiet in spirit; cultivating character traits like kindness, thoughtfulness, thankfulness, helpfulness, servant-hood, and the desire to nurture and care for others; developing a love for the Lord and for others…

I’m thankful for a mom who taught me how to walk, stand, sit and dress like a lady but who made character instruction her greater preoccupation. I need to do the same for Tiana and daughter number 2, coming in August!

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

20130425-131314.jpg