Fasting Week 2014

Fasting week for our church began Monday. I can’t do a full fast because I am breastfeeding. In the early mornings, I go on prayer walks with Catalina (who wakes me up at 5 something! Argh.) I hope I can sustain this. It has been wonderful but this morning I was tempted to go back to bed.

The kids are abstaining from IPads, computers, TV, sweets and junk food, too. Yesterday I asked the boys to write down their prayer requests. Tiana is still too little to participate but I was very blessed to read what my sons wrote down. Titus needed some help from me but Elijah and Edan came up with their own lists to pray about.

ELIJAH:

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EDAN:

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TITUS:

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MY OWN:

For Edric…

- To be discerning about priorities as God wants him to order them.
- To be an excellent TV host and public speaker who can use his talents and platform to further the gospel and attract people to Jesus.
- To be full of wisdom as he makes decisions for our family, work, ministry and business endeavors.
- To have the supernatural ability to manage all he has to with grace and temperance, being constantly filled with the Holy Spirit.
- To be blessed in his efforts to provide for our emotional, relational and physical needs as a family.
- To stay pure in heart and turn his eyes away from evil.
- To love God above all else.
- To live with passion for His work and kingdom.
- To be equipped and able as a leader to mentor the men in his discipleship group.
- To have understanding and wisdom beyond his years and life experiences so he can guide the men he leads and our family.
- To be protected against adultery and wrong kinds of partnerships and connections that will lead him to sin.
- To be healthy and strong all the days of his life.
- To always process experiences and events from a spiritual perspective.
- To honor and obey God in everything he does.
- To have God’s hand and favor upon him.
- To make time to invest in the lives of our kids and disciple them personally and intentionally.
- To be attracted to me forever and to grow old with me in the Lord, serving him and enjoying sweeter and sweeter years together!

For my kids…

- To grow up to love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.
- To be easy to teach and to enjoy learning.
- To be healthy and strong.
- To be protected from demonic oppression and influences.
- To stay pure and guard their hearts from evil.
- To be full of wisdom and truth.
- To be discerning and make God-honoring choices.
- To be obedient and respectful.
- To have a love for God’s word and his statutes.
- To be influencers who make a difference for Christ.
- To be purposeful in their use of their time.
- To have favor with God and man.
- To have Christ-like character.
- To excel academically and be very responsive to my instruction when I am with them.
- To become independent learners equipped with the skills to gather information, process and comprehend, communicate and apply, and solve problems creatively and with understanding.
- To be handsome, beautiful and talented.

Househelp…

- To enjoy working for our family.
- To grow in the knowledge of the Lord and to love him.
- To be good stewards of the resources entrusted to them.
- To care for our children with diligence, patience, and kindness.
- To remain trustworthy in their areas of responsibility.
- To be joyful and spirit-filled, not giving in to moodiness, laziness, pride or ingratitude.
- To have God’s hand of protection upon them and their families.
- To be discerning about avoiding relationships with the wrong kinds of men who will take advantage of them.
- To receive God’s blessings for their hard work.

Personal…

- To be able to share God’s love and salvation through Christ to those he brings my way.
- To know how to present the gospel based on the heart-felt needs and longings of people.
- To be able to meet these needs with spiritual truth.
- To have daily resolve and energy to teach my kids and spend these precious years discipling their hearts and filling their minds with biblical truth.
- To be disciplined with my time so I am effective at using the hours to teach them.
- To be more organized and a better planner.
- To love God with all my heart.
- To be faithful to him until the end of my days and have my heart ready for eternity.
- To serve him and others with the gifts he has given me.
- To grow as a writer and have daily inspiration to write.
- To ably minister to the ladies that God has entrusted into my care.
- To be a Christ-filled wife and mother who is a blessing to my husband and children.
- To become physically fit and healthy this year by starting an exercise routine and making wise choices about what I eat.

If you have prayer requests, please email me. It would be a privilege for me to pray for you.

No, You Cannot Feed the Lions

Some weeks ago we hand-fed giraffes in the Singapore Zoo, which was especially fun for Tiana who loves animals. When we got to the lions, she asked, “Can I feed the lions?” She was innocently insistent on it so I had to respond, “If you feed the lions they might eat you!” It probably wasn’t the most prudent thing to say to a little child who could potentially develop an inordinate fear of big cats. However, at the time, I just needed her to understand that it wasn’t a good idea. Lions were not the cute kitty-kitties she perceived them to be.

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Today, as I remembered that dialogue, I thought about how we can be as clueless when we ask things of God. Without realizing it, we make petitions and requests and want a yes, but God, in his infinite wisdom and perfect love, says wait or no. And unless we trust him and believe in his character we can mistakenly think that he does not want what is best for us.

For example, after Edric and I had Elijah we wanted to have another child. Thinking it would be easy to do so, we kept trying but to no avail. It was disappointing to get my period month after month. Having to wait on God’s timing was a struggle. But when we finally did conceive it ended up being just the right time. We had a three year gap between both boys which turned out to be a blessing. Elijah was old enough to be a helpful and accommodating older brother. We were also able to afford the move into a bigger apartment.

Another example was my bout with bad skin. One of the consequences I experienced after struggling with impurity in my relationship with Edric (in college), was acne. For the first time in my life, I had breakouts that were horrible. And it was very humbling for me because I could not fix my skin. I went to a dermatologist but God did not allow my skin to be healed right away. This happened when Edric and I were broken up. I felt really ugly and I prayed so hard for my skin problem to go away. But God said, no. In fact, I was left with some scars afterwards.

Was it wrong to ask to be healed? No. Yet, God was teaching me to be humble. He wanted me to remember that his forgiveness is always available but there are consequences to my choices. I still have these scars and I don’t have perfect skin. I wish I did. Edric does and so do my kids! As for me, I get occasional breakouts in my 30′s! I don’t have acne anymore but whenever I see my scars I recall what God said to me, “This will be a reminder to you that you are never to use your physical body as an instrument for unrighteousness.”

God is always more concerned about our character than our comfort. He is molding us into Christ-likeness and needs to empty us of ourselves so we can be spiritually fit for his purposes.

The Bible tells us…Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:20-22 NASB)

During worship this morning, the pastor, Ricky Sarthou, invited his wife, Aggie, to share her testimony. At the beginning, she talked about how God did not answer her request to take away her cancer. But she made the choice to surrender her life, dreams, and desires to him. When she decided to rejoice and find hope in Christ through her battle with cancer, God healed her for his glory. Even the doctors could not explain how she could have survived. It was a miracle for her to be delivered from stage 4 cancer of the breast that had metastasized to the bones. She has been cancer-free for the last 10 years! And the best part of all, she has used her cancer as a platform to effectively minister to others.

God always answers our prayers. Whether it is a yes, wait or no, he always has a better plan — for his glory amounting to our greater good.

Pastor Ricky said, “We pray to surrender.” I cannot agree more. The key to effective prayer is to say, “Lord, not my will, but yours be done. You know the desires of my heart, but you know best, so I trust you with my life.”

Post notes on the skin thing…

When I got back together with Edric after our breakup period, I was so self-conscious about my skin. This was a season when he was doing a lot of commercial modeling, too, and he was around all kinds of attractive people. But, he did not date anyone during our break-up and he also saw past my skin. He admits that he was surprised when he saw me, but when I asked him what he thought about it later on, he explained, “I loved you for who you were. The longing to be with you was greater than the physical.” Shortly after this he proposed to me and we got married, too. Yeah!

Even though God did not answer my prayer about my skin clearing up right away, I believe God used it for good in my life. First, he taught me not to depend on outward appearances but to work on my character. Second, he wanted me to really internalize the reality that there are consequences to sin. And third, he allowed me to see that Edric truly loved me for the person he saw inside which was incredibly reassuring.

God continues to teach me to look at his heart and his greater purposes when I don’t understand why he allows circumstances or why he says no when I want a yes. And being a mom and having to say no or not now to my own children when their wants are not for their ultimate good (like Tiana and her feeding-the-lion-request) has helped me to recognize that God’s perspective is always higher and more complete than mine could ever be…and I need to rest in the truth of that.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9 NASB)

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A God Who Minds the Small Stuff

Recently, Titus received a marble maze toy for his birthday. Yes, he still likes marbles and no, he is not swallowing them anymore. Whew.

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All the boys have enjoyed this toy and it has brought them many hours of creative fun. Two days ago, they wanted to bring it to their cousin’s house. I allowed them to on one condition. They had to keep track of all the marbles. I told Edan he was personally responsible for the 20 steel marbles. After all, he was the one who insisted on bringing the toy to his cousin’s and he tends to be very responsible about these things.

Unfortunately, a most untoward incident happened. The bag the marbles were carried in had a hole. Some marbles fell out of it while the kids were on the way to their cousin’s. Edan started to cry. He wailed and wailed.

He is such a tender hearted child and is very particular about fulfilling the tasks he is assigned to. So this was a devastating turn of events for him. I was in the study room of my parent’s house when Edan came up to me to explain what happened.

They didn’t know where the marbles could have fallen out. Maybe in the car, or in grandma and angkong’s house, or on the street while they were walking over. Basically, their chances of finding them were very slim. Two remained missing.

Of course I did not blame them for the accident but since we had an agreement, they could not play with the marble toy until they found the missing marbles.

I encouraged them by saying, “Try your best to look for the marbles and pray that God will allow you to find them.” Edan, was especially intentional about praying because he was the most affected and frustrated by what happened.

I prayed, too! “Lord, can you consider the prayer of my kids? For the sake of their young faith? Can you possibly help them find the marbles?”

The kids did their best but after a while, I told them to go on over to their cousins anyway. Hopefully, the marbles would turn up somewhere. They were not allowed to play with the marble maze, but they had fun with other toys and games.

At 9 PM, when we took the kids home, I asked for an update on the marbles. One of our yayas told me that Titus had found a marble on the couch of their cousin’s house and he another one in a blue bag.

Strange.

I asked Titus if he had kept any of the marbles in his pocket when he walked over to his cousin’s house but he hadn’t. And, the blue bag had been left in their cousin’s house last week. The boys also told me that their cousins did not have that toy so if those marbles looked like the same steel marbles from the marble maze, they were most certainly ours.

But, there was NO WAY they could have ended up where Titus found them because the marbles had been misplaced even before the kids got to their cousin’s house.

I asked for the bag of marbles and counted them. There were 20! I counted them three times. The marbles were all the same steel ones that had come with the set.

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The boys started smiling really big and I was in awe.

“It’s a miracle!” Elijah shouted. Edan, who is generally calm and more reserved, kept grinning at me. He had this knowing look on his face.

“What do you think happened, Edan? Remember, you prayed?”

Edan acknowledged that God had answered his prayer. He told me that recently, God had answered another prayer he had, too.

“Lord, you are amazing. I don’t know how those two marbles ended up where they did, but thank you. Thank you so much for paying attention to the prayer of the kids.”

I tried to replay the events over and over again in my mind and it just didn’t make sense that the marbles were recovered. From a human stand point, it really was impossible. So the only logical conclusion was God made a way for the marbles to re-appear!

God has a way of building the faith of my kids. He can use the small stuff to make a big impact. This incident was another reminder that He is a personal God not just to me, but to my kids. He reveals himself to them so they are encouraged to keep seeking him. It’s like he said of himself in Jeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. “(Jeremiah 29:13 NASB)

Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14 NASB)

When He Feels Like A King

(Written with permission from Edric and recently edited to remove the cynical parts that I felt were unnecessary and detracted from the main point. Ahhh, the blessings of blogging!)

Some weeks ago, I wrote an article about husbands and their cave man time. I understand that Edric needs occasions during the week to unwind and do something that refuels his “tank.” Recently, hanging out with his cousin playing NBA on a PS3 has been it. He will get together with him once a week or once every two weeks and they will go for hours and hours challenging each other. Meanwhile, I stay at home with the kids and chill with them. After they go to bed, I have my own version of cave man time — meditative silence. No one needs me, no one is clamouring for my attention. Being alone like this gives me opportunity to write, research, and read. Heaven.

As much as I have wanted to give Edric his man-space, when I found out that he and his cousin had organised a PS3, NBA tournament with a bunch of other guys, I wasn’t thrilled. I was worried that it would become something more frequent.

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The thing is, about five or so years ago, Edric had an issue with computer gaming. He had a nightly habit of using the PS3 he had to play NBA. I was worried about the example he was giving to the children and his own spiritual health. It seemed to make him edgier and more abrasive as a person, probably because he was pumped up with adrenalin and testosterone. So I actually prayed really hard that the machine would break.

A few weeks later, the PS3 had a supernatural encounter with ants. They infested the console and destroyed it. Edric tried to get it fixed two or three times by a questionable and strange genius who worked in Shoppesville, Greenhills. The guy named “Val” happened to have long nails on one hand or finger (one of those) which he probably used to unscrew bolts on all sorts of gadgets. Yet, for all his celebrated ability, the best he could do was get the console to work for 5 minutes. The fan would overheat and shut down after 5 minutes and Edric would have to re-start it. Of course, this was ridiculous…so ridiculous, Edric decided to sell it. Yeah! He knew I had prayed about his gaming and we laughed about the entire incident because it turned into a comedy. The great news was, he didn’t replace it and for years and years and computer gaming was not in his radar.

When he started playing again, not as a daily habit or in the addictive sense, but as an occasional fun activity that he can enjoy with friends, I made it into an issue. He said, “Remember you wrote about cave man time? Your reaction to playing computer games seems like a contradiction to what you said in that article.” At that moment, I wanted to delete my cave man article, and all articles he could possibly cite! He was using it against me, but I knew that he was right, too. Guys really do need their creative outlets and it’s a blessing that Edric’s happens to be something “safe.” What is playing a sports game once a week (and outside of the house) for a couple of hours if it will de-stress and energize my husband? I was being a bit irrational…maybe even hormonal.

On the day of the “big” tournament, I watched Edric as he ate his breakfast that morning, as he chatted with his friends over the phone while discussing last minute details for the tournament venue. His countenance was marked by an obvious delight and excitement. My heart started to soften.

Look at his smile, I thought. This really fills him. It’s clean fun. He’s not the kind of guy that has a vice that you need to worry about. Be happy for him. You spend time on facebook and amazon from time to time. That’s pretty useless. Okay, okay…whew, let me process this.

I decided to do the one thing that always works to calm my spirit. I prayed! “Lord, if my heart is wrong, please change it. If Edric is wrong then please convict him. I don’t want this to be a continuing source of tension between us.”

My attitude did change! It was strange. Edric said he would be done before midnight and I wished him a great time. “Bring home the trophy, babe!” I called out and meant it!

That night I enjoyed being with the kids. They all bunked in our bedroom. I actually fell asleep before some of them did…like 9:30pm. But at 2:30 am, I woke up and realized that Edric wasn’t home yet. Since I expected him to be back before midnight, I tried to call him just to check and see if he was alright. He did not answer so I figured he was still preoccupied with a game. It’s amazing that I didn’t feel like panicking. I just texted him. “Are you safe? Are you okay?” He replied, “Sorry I missed your call. Yes, don’t worry. On my last game.”

I found out that he got home at 3:45 am. And miracle of miracles, I didn’t feel like rubbing it in. He had a class to attend at 8:30 am and it was a wonder that he was able to make it. Anticipating that his fatigue would surely kick in by noon, I prepared him lunch to eat in the bedroom; turned on the AC so it would be comfortable when he arrived; and when he got home, I asked if he was alright, if there was anything I could do for him, and informed him that the room was prepared so he could rest. He looked at me like he had just had an alien encounter. “Who are you?” he asked jokingly. “Are you my wife? What did you do to her?” He couldn’t believe I was so supportive and understanding. He went on to say, “Why are you doing all this? You are treating me like a king. I like it!”

I really couldn’t understand it either. I was cheerful, sing-songy, asking him about how the tournament went like I was really interested…Why was I so supportive and understanding? It was flabbergasting. Of course, the answer was it simply wasn’t me. It was the Holy Spirit giving me a desire to take care of him and serve him. For those of you who have followed this blog, you know that service is my least favorite language of love, but it is the one thing that my husband appreciates most from me. So this was definitely not me, it was God’s grace!

I WANTED him to feel like a king. And you know what? He was the one who said, “I played too long last night. This is not sustainable. I can’t do that again. We really have to impose a time limit with the guys.” That was from the Lord, too! There must really be something to this gentle and quiet spirit that the Lord asks wives to put on! ;)

A woman in our church shared about “killing your husband with kindness.” She was married to an infidel and adulterer, but instead of harboring bitterness and anger towards him, she was an outstanding example of what it means to be a Christ-follower. As a result, her husband repented, turned his life over to the Lord, and became a pastor with a ministry that is incredibly effective.

In reference to this, Edric used the same line with me as he was sitting on the bed, drinking his warm soup. “You killed me with kindness, hon.” And we both laughed. (He really isn’t a bad husband at all so the statement didn’t exactly apply, but I knew what he meant.)

For the rest of the day, I made sure the kids didn’t disturb Edric because he needed to catch up on sleep. After he woke up, he was beaming. He couldn’t wait to spend time with me and he kept talking about how blessed he was that I took care of him.

Do I like computer games now? Nope. But I know my husband and I trust that he has his priorities in order. More importantly, I know that God holds him accountable. It is in the Lord’s department to bring about conviction.

I love the Lord and I love Edric. I want to support and respect Edric because God asks that of me, even when I don’t always like his choices. I’ve tried the vindictive route too many times, where I use angry silence, nag about what is right, withhold intimacy, or speak and act in disrespectful ways to communicate my disappointment. (Women have many weapons of mass destruction but they tend to backfire.) Truthfully, I am blessed with a wonderful, godly husband. But when I see areas that concern me, I’m learning over and over again that prayer is the best way to minister to him. Prayer is power not only to change the heart of the one I am interceding for, but the power to change me, too!

God knows I need to improve on being a gentle and quiet spirit. It’s a moment by moment challenge. One day I can write an article like this and seem like such an angel and the next day, I am the complete opposite! But such is the Christian life. I can do nothing apart from the Holy Spirit’s enabling. Prayer keeps me connected to him.

Prayer helps me to treat Edric like a king — honored and held in high regard as he should be. And let me just add that when my husband feels like a king, I get treated like a queen. It is certainly a nice bonus!

Edric and Joy Couple 2

 

Always for Us

Planning an outdoor party when it was the beginning of rainy season probably wasn’t the smartest idea but having it outside was the best way to achieve the theme my friend and I had envisioned. We team worked to come up with a carnival theme for our kids who were both turned 2. Different booths were to be set up in the yard for the kids to play games. It just wouldn’t have been the same if we had to move everything indoors.

It may sound like unimportant to the God of the universe to care about a Carnival Party. But here is how amazingly personal God is…

It had been raining the week before the party. Every afternoon, without fail, it would rain. In fact, I probably checked the weather forecast daily for that entire week and it always said, “rainy” for Saturday. So we kept praying and trusting that the Lord would keep the weather perfect for us. Well, on Thursday and Friday it rained a lot! And if that was any indication of Saturday’s weather, I was already thinking of plan B and C.

At first, I could not relax because I didn’t know where I was going to set up all the games. Indoors? Outdoors? What to do, what to do? Would it be faithless of me to transfer the games indoors? (When I don’t know exactly what I am supposed to do it can drive me nuts.) My husband, Edric, on the other hand, was strangely calm. He told me to decide the morning of Saturday. So the night before, I just prayed again and slept soundly.

I woke up at 6 am on Saturday, looked up at the sky, and saw clouds. Shucks, I thought. Is it going to rain, Lord? At the same time, I had this strong sense that God was going to come through.

My kids were out there with me ready to help out. When we looked up at the sky again, there was a beautiful rainbow on top of us. A rainbow! The boys were thrilled. “It’s a promise!” they said. “It is a promise from God that it is not going to rain! Yeah!” They were already doing the dance of joy.

Oh my, I thought. Lord for the sake of their tender faiths can you please NOT let it rain! Seeing the rainbow did give me confidence so I started putting up all the game booths. I asked God to help me to believe.

By 8 am,however, a drizzle came. “Is this a broken promise?” one of my sons asked. “No, we just have to pray” was my response.

This same son saw me taking all the stuff into the house from outside and he said, “Where is your faith, mom?” Oops…He was right! Where was my faith? I was trying to stay in control and I wasn’t trusting that God COULD make the rain stop.

God let it rain for a little bit then sent out the sun — bright and shining. By midday, it was hot! And by 3:00 pm, when the party started, God sent clouds (with no rain) to make the outdoors comfortable. It didn’t rain the rest of the day.

The kids had a blast playing the games and the adults sat peacefully inside, eating. Everything worked out as I hoped and prayed it would. But my greatest joy was knowing that God had answered our prayer with a yes. He didn’t have to. He wasn’t obligated to. And even if he had let it rain, I would have still believed that he had a better plan. But he kept the weather perfect.

In the Philippines, at the beginning of monsoon season, this was my little miracle of God’s love. My children’s faiths were strengthened as we reflected on God’s goodness as a family.

What is fair weather for a party in the grand scheme of eternity? Nothing really. But it was a sweet reminder that God cares about the little things that matter to us.

When I was much younger, I read a beautiful passage in Psalm…

You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me. (Psalm 56:8, 9 NASB)

When I read this passage years ago, I held on to the image of a God who “puts our every tear in a bottle” and I realized that God is not an impersonal, distant God who is unaffected by our hurt, pain, or disappointments. How we feel is important to him – what delights, moves, inspires us, or what makes us afraid, stressed, worried, sad, lonely. And while we may not always like the way he answers our prayers when his greater purpose is not immediately apparent, we can be sure of one thing: God is always for us.

Of course, on this particular occasion, I was thrilled that his answer happened to be a yes! Thank you, Lord!

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A Mom’s Hope

I have four of a kind when it comes to personality types. And God uses each of my kids to teach me more about Himself, myself, people, purpose, life…

A few days ago, I bought cupcakes for my kids. I was hoping to have a bit of the red velvet flavoured cupcake I got. I didn’t want the whole thing, just a bitty-bite.

My sons are my competition for this flavour. But I don’t mind. Eating a whole cupcake is too much sugar for me.

Well, I took a miniscule portion of Elijah’s cupcake while he was finishing his meal. And when he was ready for his dessert, I asked if I could have another bite of it.

“Mom, you already took a bite.”

“Hey, I bought those!” I said jokingly.

“Yes, but Jesus provided for it,” was his wise reply.

Well, I was certainly out-witted by my 9 year old son. He was right, too. My entitlement mentality got the better of me. God does own everything…even the cupcakes I buy! (Elijah did let me have a bite anyway.)

Children may not be as experienced as parents are, but God can certainly put in them a heart of understanding and wisdom. I see this with my kids (especially the two older ones). Insights like Elijah expressed about God owning everything tells me that my kids are beginning to develop a personal relationship with Jesus. As a mom, I can’t even begin to explain how happy this makes me. If there is any reward for the time, effort, and energy I put into parenting and homeschooling, it is to see my kids really love and know God. This is the hope that makes it all worth it.

Elijah, three years ago (He’s matured alot spiritually since then!)

So I was delighted when my husband, Edric, told me that some nights ago, Elijah asked him if he could pray for him. “Dad, what are you doing?” he asked. Edric was working on our house budget, on Excel. “I’m creating a master file for all our expenses for building our house,” Edric explained. Elijah paused for a bit and said, “Can I pray for you, dad?”

When Edric narrated this moment to me, he shared how blessed he was by Elijah. Elijah prayed a very heartfelt prayer that went something like this… “Lord, thank you for letting us build our house. Please help us to use it for your glory. Please help us to have enough funds to build the house…”

His prayer was a beautiful reminder that God is building something much more important than our physical home. He is laying the foundation of faith in our kids. He is the builder and the completer – the most faithful, reliable, and trustworthy. Therefore, my hope is continually in God. I look to him as one presenting a mere five loaves and two fish because parenting often feels like I am “in over my head.” The humbling reality is that I am incapable of the commitment, patience, Christ-likeness and wisdom it requires. But God is my strong supporter and he NEVER disappoints.

“..Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23b

“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.” Psalm 33:18

My boys four years ago (pre-Tiana)

On the Rocks

Before the Rapids - Everyone is still smiling and confident

 

“I will always rescue you,” Edric said as we grabbed our helmets and vests and headed for the Davao Wild River Rapids.

Ever since I got pulled under the Gulf Coast waves in Florida as a young child, I developed a fear of drowning. This fear is the reason why I don’t like sports like surfing, scuba diving or anything that has to do with being under water. So when TMA Homeschool (the organization Edric and I are connected with) organized a team building activity that involved rapids, I was a little nervous.

It didn’t help that my thrill-seeking husband asked our guide to make the raft capsize. He was so excited about getting everyone to fall into the water. I kept telling him, “Please don’t make him do that, babe. You are scaring the whole team.” He just laughed and thought it was funny that everyone was freaking out. But to be considerate, he decided that only those who wanted a more adventurous experience would ride in our raft.

Riding the rapids taught me so many spiritual lessons. But I was happiest when it all ended and we made it out of the three-hour ordeal alive.

The first thing I learned was, pay attention to God’s instruction and heed it. In the same way that we had to listen to our guides and apply what they taught us, God gives us life principles to live by. These principles are meant to prepare us for the battles of life, protect us, equip us for everyday living, and help us finish well. Our guides were very specific about how to put on our protective gear, how to rescue one another, how to do a defensive swim, what each part of the raft was, how to use an oar, and we had to memorize the six commands for paddling. And like our guides who knew everything about the Davao river and it’s rapids, God sees the bigger picture so we can trust him with our lives.

Rough Water! Edric loving it!

My next lesson was, problems in marriage and life are inevitable. You can’t blame people when bad things happen. You have to focus on what is within your control and do what you can. In marriage, Edric and I learned this statement from authors, Harold and Darlene Sala: when things get tense in marriage and you want to blame your spouse, say this instead, “You are not the enemy.”

The first time our raft nearly capsized, I was upset at Edric. I felt that this would not have happened if he had not challenged our guide. He fell hard on top of me and I was forced under the the water — my worst fear! I was so disoriented and drank quite a bit of the river (which was brown from all the soil that mixed into it during rainy season). Edric found me right away and made sure I was okay. But, I had mixed feelings about my hero. A part of me was thinking, Is this what you wanted?! How could you have let this happen to me?! However, the current was so strong that Edric and I didn’t have time to discuss marriage issues. We were in survival mode. Blaming him for our treacherous predicament was the last of my priorities. I just wanted both of us and everyone else to make it out of there.

As he instructed me, I was more than glad to submit to his leading. Edric helped me maneuver myself to the “defensive position,” which the guides had explained as floating down the river feet first and holding on to the ore against your chest. I felt the rocks beneath me as I rushed past them. Admittedly, I was freaking out. Edric saw panic on my face and he said, “I got you.” He helped me dodge a huge, jagged rock and get to calmer water.

We eventually got rescued but this was just the beginning of the rapids. Later on, we found out that someone almost died in the same spot where we had nearly capsized! The water in that part forcefully sucks a person under and will repeatedly spin them around and around.

Edric and I did what we could to get back to safety. Eventually, we were both pulled up onto another raft by our friends.

Getting rescued made me realize that no person makes it through life as a lone ranger. The company we keep is crucial. We need to surround ourselves with people who will keep us going in the right direction. There will be moments when we will need someone to be there to help us through an obstacle or problem, pray for us, offer encouragement, or keep us grounded in the truth when circumstances get tough. Do we have people like that in our lives? Are we that kind of people to others?

Scary!

Back to the rapids…We all took a break to regroup and get over the crises of being flung off the rafts. We found a small shore to “park.” There were other people besides Edric and I who fell into the water. One of our friends was thrown off, pulled under the raft and came out without her helmet. Another one was stuck under the raft and said she felt like she was going to die. She was in tears. Many people were shaken up by what happened but we said to one another, “God is in control. He is going to protect us.” We decided to pray as a team. Of course our guides were completely calm. They didn’t seem fazed at all! This was normal to them.

I was NOT excited to keep going but there was no other way home. In my heart, I prayed, “Lord! Please, please, don’t let that happen again! You know how afraid I am. I don’t want to fall in again.” I didn’t act that afraid in front of the others because I didn’t want to add to the drama, but I was scared.

As we progressed down the river, I asked our guide if we had passed the worst parts. He said, “No, we still have level four rapids coming up.”

Yikes! I felt like throwing up. But, I chose to remember that I had asked God for protection. Everytime I started praying, I felt peace. I was still nervous but somehow I knew that God was going to answer my prayer. In the back of my mind, I was also thinking, why in the world did we choose to do this team building activity during this time of the year, which the guides said is the most hazardous time?! Did anyone ocular the dangers evolved?!

As I continued praying, I forgot to pray for Edric! And sure enough, at the longest stretch of rapids, he flew out of the raft. For the first time, our guide seemed concerned. He had a look of shock on his face. I yelled out, “Edric! Where is Edric?!” Yes, I was panicking! This part of the river had more rocks and the current was even stronger! There was no still water for a while. Thank God his head finally popped up above the water.

However, the raft I was in could not stop for him and we were about to come up against a pretty big drop. “Row forward! Row hard! Row harder!,” our guide commanded. We couldn’t wait for Edric. He had to be rescued by a guide who was following us on a red kayak.

When we lost Edric, fear started to grip me in a new way. Edric and I were front rowers on our raft (which I will not volunteer for again). Without him across from me, I felt alone. Everytime our raft bounced up and down on the water, I had the scariest view of the rapids. I wanted him to be there so badly to feel safe. And every time I thought of Edric being gone from our raft I was worried. He has always been my “knight in shining armor.” And he had said before we got on our rafts, “I will always rescue you.” He couldn’t do that now. And where was he, anyway?! Was he okay?

At this point I learned another valuable lesson. Our sense of security cannot revolve around our spouse or people. Ultimately, our sense of security has to be anchored on God. Finally, I said, “Lord, I get it! You want me to depend on you and you alone!” So, I just kept praying inside like a mad woman and we finally made it through to the end without any more “casualties.”

Where in the world was Edric? I saw the small red kayak coming down the river, braving the last part of the rapids. Edric was sitting on it, upright, and just fine. It was a beautiful site! Praise God!

My appreciation level and love for him was at all time high! Whatever resentment I initially had towards him about telling our guide to make us capsize, went away. I was so thankful that he was okay and that we were standing on land together.

The first thing he showed me when he walked up onto shore was that his ring finger was missing his wedding ring. At that point, I didn’t care. That wedding ring had sentimental value to us because he had it customized in Israel, but facing a life-threatening situation made me consider what is really important. Material things seemed so inconsequential.

This brings me to my final lesson. I began to see a parallel between what we went through and eternity. Getting to the end of the rapids and stepping on to shore felt like heaven to me. I was so happy to be away from the river, it’s twists and turns, all the rocking, unpredictable drops and precarious whirlpools. Sure, there were moments of calm and stillness that were great to paddle through, but towards the latter part, I was just tired of the paddling. I wanted it all to be over so I could be back on land!

Each one of us will have a customized set of hardships to face in this life. God knows what we can and cannot handle. And his purpose is the same. He wants to take us from faith to greater faith, to build and strengthen our character, and to ready us for his kingdom. Our part is to stay the course that will take us “Home” and persevere until the end. Revelation 21:4 says, ‘”He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” It wasn’t until I was safely on shore that I felt relaxed and completely relieved. The feeling was incredible!

However, my joy was not complete until I saw Edric walk up on to shore to me. And then I looked around and saw that everyone was there. Our rafts arrived at different times but we all stepped out safely onto land.

We are saved!

 

Everyone is okay!

What about someday?, I thought. Will it be the same? Will all the people I love and know be in heaven? Will anyone be missing?

When my grandmother passed away some years ago, my grandfather said to her, “Kitty, you have a one way ticket to heaven and you are going there ahead of me. But I will see you there.”

I want to be able to say “I will see you there” to everyone I know and love. God used this on-the-rocks-experience to remind me of the One True Rock — Jesus Christ, the Rock of My Salvation. Am I telling people about Him? Or am I so busy paddling myself to shore and so preoccupied with my own concerns?

When we got back to the Crocodile Park to return all our gear, I said, “Hon, maybe you should share the gospel with our guide.” But he had already been planning to do so. So after we all took our showers, he went up to him and said, “Do you ever feel afraid when you are out on the rapids? What if something were to happen? Have you ever thought of the possibility that you could die out there?” Our guide said, “I do get afraid.”

Edric asked him if he wanted to know how to overcome this fear. Our guide was willing to listen. So Edric proceeded to share that God promises to give us eternal life through His son, Jesus. He shared with him John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He also told our guide that he could have a personal relationship with Jesus by believing in him and making him his Savior and Lord. In the end, Edric prayed with and for our guide.

We may not be able to tell every single person in the world about Jesus but we can start by telling the people God has put right in front of us and around us.

Will I ride the rapids again? Probably not any time soon and maybe even never! But I can take the spiritual lessons I learned and let them make a difference in my life over and over again until I am HOME.

A Father’s Prayer

One of the best things a father can do is teach his son the way he should go, but a greater father knows that this an impossible task without God’s intervention and help.

On Saturday morning, January 17,2004, Papa (Edric’s father), emailed this prayer to Edric. Since then Edric has kept the print out of this email as a reminder of how he should live his life.

Here is the prayer General Douglas McArthur wrote to his son…(He was a homeschooler, too!)

Prayer for A Son

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take that place of deeds; a son who will know Thee–and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the weakness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

Holy Rest

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation. Genesis 2:2-3

One of the secrets to avoiding homeschool burn-out in my kids is letting them “rest.” Timely and purposeful rest is not unproductive time, it is restorative. Even God in all his omnipotence knew that rest was important. And if you really think about it, when God had “finished his work of creation,” it was just the beginning of life on planet earth. He exemplified what it means to pause, reflect, and enjoy a break in between work. In fact, he called it holy! I love that!

Perhaps a story will help illustrate how rest can be holy. Yesterday, one of my sons said, “I don’t want to do my work anymore.” He was serious, upset, and frustrated because he struggled through writing a letter and couldn’t quite draw the process for fern reproduction for his botany. The irony is he had just memorized a bible verse about having a cheerful, joyful heart but he was showing signs of “burn-out” — irritation and inability to focus and enjoy his tasks.

My first carnal instinct was to correct the emotion and react to him. But, I paused, re-thought my approach and calmly said, “Why don’t you take a break, think about it, and pray first.” I asked him to sit on a couch away from his homeschool work to do this. A few minutes later, he said, “I don’t know what to pray.” Again, I was tempted to be harsh, but I decided to turn on some fun music, hug and dance with him. A small smile began to form on his face, but he still was feeling down. So, we sat down on the seat together and I said, “I’m concerned about you, hon. It’s not the work. I’m concerned about what’s going on inside your heart. Instead of practicing the meaning of having a cheerful heart, you seem to be angry and upset. Can you tell me why?” He proceeded to explain that he felt that his work was hard, that he couldn’t do it, and didn’t want to do it. After years of teaching this son of mine I know what he is capable of and what is asking too much. This was not one of those times when I was giving him impossible work. In response, I said something like this, “Hon, I hope you understand that one of mommy’s jobs is to train you. Hard work is something we all have to learn. How will you grow as a person if everything is always easy. It’s normal not to like something that is hard to do. Mommy feels that way, too. Homeschooling is not easy. Sometimes I feel tired and don’t feel like doing it so I understand how you are feeling.” It wasn’t the best pep talk on hard work and tears were streaming down my son’s cheeks. I prayed with him and then I also encouraged him to ask for forgiveness from the Lord for being angry. He did this but afterwards, he still wasn’t ready to return to his unfinished work.

At this point, I left him with this challenge, “I know you are going to make the right decision and God is going to speak to you. So why don’t you go to the other room, lie down on the bed, take time to pray some more and you will decide whether you will come back and do the rest of your Science.” It was a risk to leave him this option, but I knew that pushing him was not going to inspire in him the desire to do anything. I trusted that God would also speak to his heart and my son knew that I was willing to believe the best in him.

Ten minutes later, he walked back into the study room and his countenance was different. He didn’t have a huge smile pasted on his face but I could sense that his spirit had changed. “Well?” I asked half-smiling and in a non-threatening way. “You know the answer,” he said. “I do?” I kidded him. “Tell me, I want to hear it.” Under his breath, he said, “I am going to do my work.” In my heart, I was jumping up and down but I didn’t want to make a big deal about it. And that was it. He returned to the table with renewed motivation without an emotional wrestle between us. Thank you, Lord! After a few more minutes, he was moving to the music playing in the background while he completed his drawing of all the stages of fern reproduction.  :)

Holy rest works!

Exploring Creation with Botany, Lesson 11