Catalina’s Name

Edric and I have jokingly said that it’s ironic how Catalina’s name means “pure” when she has been bacteria-ridden since the day she was born. She has been zapped with a total of 6 different antibiotics in a span of 40 days just to clean out her system. Thankfully, she is now recovering at home from her pneumonia and no longer needs oxygen or the IV. She still has to take oral antibiotics and use a nebulizer, but there has been significant improvement in her breathing and eating.

The meaning of Catalina’s name may seem ironic given the circumstances but I think it is symbolic of what God has been doing in our lives as of late.

For a good long while Edric and I were kind of floating around in this happy bubble. Apart from the challenges that came with his work and the challenges of being a homeschooler and homemaker, we did not have any major problems. I am not saying this to boast. It was God who allowed us this season of protection from trials.

When Catalina was hospitalized a day after she was born this bubble popped. And it was just the beginning. Edric and I had multiple sources of stress (big and small) that occurred during the month. From delays in the house construction, car trouble, unprecedented expenses, two cell phones getting water-logged, having just one yaya for a period of time, dealing with a newborn and sleepless nights, losing a part of my breast pump so I had to buy a new one, and then our kids getting sick and being orphaned by us while we were at the hospital, and Catalina ending up with serious infections, not once, but twice…well, let’s just say these things took their toll on us physically, emotionally and spiritually.



I don’t think this was some cosmic experiment to test our breaking point. I know that God is not this kind of father. He doesn’t delight in the afflictions of his children. But I do believe he orchestrated and allowed every single unpleasantry that took place this past month. He used these trying experiences to refine us.

In the Bible God is referred to as a refiner. His word says, “… For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:2, 3 NASB)

According to gold traders on how to refine gold, “refining with flame is one of the oldest methods of refining metals. Mentioned even in the bible, refining by fire is the preferable method for larger quantities of gold. In ancient times, this form of refining involved a craftsman sitting next to a hot fire with molten gold in a crucible being stirred and skimmed to remove the impurities or dross that rose to the top of the molten metal.”

As the master craftsman, God puts us through the same process of discomfort to remove the impurities in our lives. Sometimes these impurities may be blatant sins but other times they may be hindrances, habits, behaviors, attitudes or perspectives that do not meet God’s standard for Christ-likeness.

Taking out these impurities hurts. Who likes 1,000 degrees of heat?! Who likes trial after trial? No one. But just as the heating process is necessary to perfect gold, so also the fiery furnace of life is necessary to cleanse the soul.

Of the many lessons I learned during this past month, I will highlight one. God knew I had to grow in the area of compassion. For example, I used to think that moms who claimed to have difficult babies and were weighed down by the responsibilities of parenting were just making excuses for not showing up at a ministry activity or bible study. I would think, why do you let your baby dictate what you can and cannot do?

I had no idea! For the most part, God allowed my previous pregnancies, births, and the taking-care-of-a-newborn-stage to be relatively easy. And then came Catalina — always wanting to be held, emotionally sensitive and needy. Most difficult of all was her confinement in the hospital, not once, but twice. For the first time I understood what it meant when a mom says, “I can’t be there, I can’t make it,” or “I can’t volunteer” or “I am always tired because of my baby.” Oh honey you bet I understand now!

My compassion meter started working again! (Moms out there, forgive me…)

Sick but smiling with her oxygen tube

More importantly, this compassion extended to sharing the gospel. Previously occupied with my own comfortable world, I was not as tuned in to the spiritual needs of people around me. Sure, I was involved in ministry and I was vocal about Christ in my blog, but I was complacent about sharing the gospel one-on-one.

After experiencing brokenness before God — the kind that left me down on my knees crying out to him — the attentiveness towards the hurts of others was peaked. It was like unclogging a fat-lined artery that should have been working better.

Being in a hospital full of sick people, some of whom were dying, all of whom were hurting and hoping for relief, made me think about how short and fragile life is. I was compelled to reevaluate what my priorities are. I began to recognize how many opportunities I had missed out on in the past to tell others about Jesus. But God gave me new ones — the nurses in the hospital, a street vendor, a woman at the parlor, and a new yaya, among others.

Leaving the hospital

A few days ago, after we were discharged from the hospital, I had a conversation with my dad. He was seated on his lazy boy in the bedroom reading a book. When I came in, he asked how I was doing. I shared with him the doubts I had when Catalina was hospitalized for pneumonia.

“Dad, it was hard for me. I wondered if God loved me…if I was doing something in my life that was displeasing to him, that removed his favor.” And he said, “I felt like that in Europe when we lost our suitcases.” (My parents’ bags weren’t recovered until they got back to Manila.) He explained that when God gives us problems it is to build our faith and character. I suppose I already knew this but it was comforting to hear it again.

The wounds that God allows in our lives are calibrated to be purposeful. He may use big or small events to awaken our spiritual consciousness. Everything happens according to his time table and plan. There are no accidents or miscalculations.

This is so reassuring to me. It is easy to be afraid when you are holding a sickly baby in your arms, wondering if she is going to be okay, aching to take her place so she doesn’t have to suffer. The helplessness feels very real from that microscopic vantage point. But when you step back and see the bigger picture, the hidden hand of God becomes visible. You realize he was holding you, never removing his gaze, cradling the entire circumstance with his love so that nothing happened that was outside of his knowledge, protection, or reach.

Like a watchful master craftsman who knows just how much heat is necessary to purify gold, he minds the temperature of each event in our lives. And when the impurities that poison the integrity he desires in us come to the surface he removes them so we can shine with authenticity for him, so we can better tell of his gospel of love. The process is, more often than not, uncomfortable and even painful. But the end is beautiful — Christlike behavior and character, refined by fire, set apart to do God’s will.

Catalina’s name will forever tell me that it is God who makes pure the vessels he intends to use to proclaim his name. He is committed to purifying us again and again for as long as necessary. Although we may fear what this could entail …sickness, financial trouble, business failure, the loss of a family member or friend…we can be comforted that what follows is an encounter with a father who always rescues, strengthens, redeems, and restores those who call upon his name.

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. (Psalms 51:6-13 NASB)





When Little Pebbles Rob Your Peace

From website problems, to issues with my gadgets that have made me feel stupid and old, to losing 397 notes (many of which were articles) on my iPad and iPhone for unknown reasons, to yayas leaving at the wrong time, to people asking for money, to someone throwing up on our newly upholstered couch, to pregnancy hormones…let’s just say that I wasn’t feeling too perky yesterday. I didn’t brush my hair; the kids ran around in their pajamas while homeschooling; and we didn’t finish all our homeschooling because I fell asleep towards the end of the morning.

The thing is I had a great quiet time with the Lord reading 2 Peter through 1 John. But as the day progressed, I felt like a juggler of multiple sources of stress — most of them insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but all of them annoying. Let me enumerate…

Pebble # 1: I opened up my notes app and discovered that 397 of them vanished before my eyes. The page refreshed and then they were gone. Could it have been one of my kids who tinkered with my iPad? I don’t know. It didn’t really matter anyway because the greater problem was that I didn’t back anything up. My brother, the techy wizard of our family, couldn’t even figure out what happened which was very telling. I knew that God must have allowed it for a reason but I had all kinds of important documents on there…testimonies, unpublished blog entries, reflections, passwords, to do lists. It was like having my brain deleted. The same thing happened on my iPhone. I sat in the worship service at church on Sunday trying to take in what the pastor was sharing but my brain went cloudy. And I felt no emotion. Zero. I couldn’t believe my notes disappeared!

Pebble # 2: I updated my gadgets to iOS 6.0 thinking that maybe that would fix my notes problem, but it seems to be laden with issues I don’t understand. My iTunes store didn’t work. The wordpress app I use erased my blog pages (I was able to solve this). Comments of my readers could no longer be read on either of my devices. My gmail wasn’t receiving mail. (It still isn’t.)

Tech problems are especially perplexing and troubling to me because I am not very computer literate. I know how to write entries and post them, and all the simple tricks that come with publishing an article. But that’s about it. When it comes to managing the actual blog, upgrading the way it looks, etc…I find that I may have been born too early to catch the wave of computer literacy that characterizes so many of the younger people today. Elijah often knows more about the computer than I do because his learning curve for it is so much higher. When I encounter glitches, my default response is to feel a sense of helplessness.

Pebble # 3: Just a few days ago, my niece vomited on our newly upholstered couch. I would have preferred that her chocolate brownies, french fries, half eaten cheesburger, and macaroni and cheese had missed the fabric of our couch. But, it was a total accident. There was no one to blame. My sister in law felt badly about it but I told her not to worry about it. It wasn’t her fault after all. Stuff like this happens. My son, Edan, vomited on another family member’s newly purchased couch a couple years ago. And his vomit was full of green seaweed. I think that was worse.

Pebble # 4: I had two yayas that got pregnant last year, both of whom I considered close friends and whom I discipled…life-on-life style. We would chat often about having a relationship with God and what it means to make choices that honor him. Apparently life-on-life wasn’t enough. One of them lied to me about having children and being in a previous marriage even though she had worked for me for 6 years. She ended up running away with a driver who was being referred to us and whom she got pregnant with. And the second one also got pregnant a few months later and had to leave to go to the province and get married. At the time, I let both of these women go their way without feeling bitter or angry. Most of what I felt was hurt and disappointment. I really cared about them. It was a tearful goodbye for both sides when they had to go, but I dealt with it and moved on.

It wasn’t until the old wound was resurrected recently that I remembered the hurt. The one who lied to me asked for a referral for a new job. I wrestled with this request for 24 hours before responding. My thought process was, How can you be asking me?! You betrayed me! And you never said sorry or confessed to your wrong. Nevertheless, I did give a fair assessment of her work because she was a good worker but I told the woman hiring her that she ought to do a background check on her personal life.

The other one asked for quite a bit of money for her newborn baby who was in the ICU. My first instinct was to say, “That’s what you get for not listening to my advice about guarding your purity like I told you to.” It was a heartless, graceless thing to think but I was very much disturbed by the situation. Edric and I became her only resort for financial support because her husband couldn’t afford to give anything. I was so upset. You made your choice and now we have to bear the consequences of your foolishness? That’s seriously what I was thinking and it was mean.

Edric was much more spirit-filled about it. He said, “If we have something to give, we will give. God has been good to us.” And we have been giving. The last time she asked for money was a few days ago. Unfortunately, her baby is still in the ICU. (I also verified earlier on with the doctors in the province to find out what was happening.) Well, I have not only been disturbed by the situation but by the guilt I feel for giving begrudgingly. But most of all, I have been convicted about being more compassionate. What if I were in her place and had a first born who was so sick? Wouldn’t I want someone to be gracious to me?

Oh wait, I have definitely been a beneficiary of grace…God’s grace! God reminded me, I died for your sins and showed you mercy and grace you did not deserve, go and do the same. I was sharing with Elijah my struggle and asking him what he thought (like he was my shrink), and he very maturely said, “Well you need to love her like God loves you, and you need to be merciful like we learned in our bible study.” Who was this person counseling me?! Was this my 9 year old son?! He sounded like an old man. Well, he was right and I had to confess my attitude to the Lord.

Pebble # 5: We are now down to 2 yayas at present and one of them told us that she needs to go back home to take care of her mom. Her mom had a stroke a while back and she needs someone to care for her. She was crying when she informed us because she wants to keep working. Of course Edric and I understand that she needs to honor her mom who is also a widow. But, boy, the timing. So far, we have had no positive prospects to hire. And I don’t want to have to think about this right now. I even told Edric, “I don’t want anymore help. That’s it.” If I cannot rely on house help, I am going to do everything myself even if I am pregnant! I’m tired of the cycle of having to look for someone new, training them, letting my kids grow attached to them, and then they have to say goodbye when I’ve developed a friendship with them.

All these little pebbles shouldn’t have been a big deal, but I let them get to me. My spirit began to be critical and I began to dwell on other minuscule issues — we ran out of eggs again (we are always running out of eggs. There is an egg monster in the house), there was a cockroach in my closet (I hate them), my back was killing me, I had a headache, etc. etc.

The irony is I just counseled a family last week who was going through a crisis. And I told them to trust God and be spirit filled, to respond to the situation in ways that will glorify God. “Don’t let people steal your joy and peace,” I shared. Was I applying this? No! I was letting all sorts of things steal my peace.

What did yesterday’s little pebbles teach me?

1. Stay connected with the Lord. I referred back to my morning quiet time where I read the following:

For pebbles 1,2,3 – Tech issues and Couch Vomit. “Do not love the world nor the thing in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…for the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15,16)

For pebble 4 – Lack of compassion towards those in need. “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” (I John 3:17-18)

Acknowledging my own depravity and wrong thinking, then being reconciled to the Lord – “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8,9)

Moving forward – “But according to his promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless, and blameless…but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ…” (2 Peter 3:13,14,18)

2. Get outdoors and exercise. When I spend too much time cooped up in the house, it is depressing. But I take a step outside, go for a run, and get some sunlight on my skin and I am physically energized. Edric and I went for a 5 k run when he got home. I felt like I needed to pee 75% of the run (pregnancy bladder), but it was great to be outdoors.

3. Have conversations with God. One of the things I really enjoy about running is being able to pray for extended periods of time. I use these occasions to be very honest and open with the Lord about my feelings and struggles, and I focus on who he is, what he has done for me, his incredible love and power, and my soul is restored. As I prayed, God helped me with perspective. Why are you acting like you have such a small god? Why are you troubled by circumstances and happenings that are really not that big a deal? Other people you know have loved ones who are very sick or dying! What are a few inconveniences here and there to keep you humble, dependent on me, and to help you grow in character?

4. Don’t beat yourself up for feeling down, but don’t stay down. Emotions are God-given. God designed us to feel joy and pain and everything in between. The key is not to allow emotions to dictate our responses to circumstances.

Whenever I feel down, it is a red flag. I know I can’t stay that way. I have to process what’s going on inside, what’s happening on a spiritual level. Daily stresses are a part of life, but I don’t have to remain stressed. It’s a choice to be joyful, whether the pregnancy hormones rage or not.

5. Practice the attitude of gratitude and look to be a blessing. My mom had a beautiful friend who endured a bout with cancer and she is one of the most positive women I have ever met. In the hospital, she was sharing the gospel with all the nurses, doctors and patients. She has laughed at her distresses often and always trusts in the Lord’s goodness. Proverbs 31:25 describes her well, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” Whenever she has obstacles or challenges in her life, her first response is to say, “hello, friend.” In other words, she sees these occasions as God-ordained and orchestrated for her good and spiritual growth. I need to be more like this!

I need to say, Hello, my pebble friends.


As the day ended I thought about all the blessings I can be grateful for. Top of mind were definitely Edric and the kids.

In fact, my kids started massaging my head spontaneously when I told them I had a headache.

I said, “Wow, you guys are so good at this!” This wasn’t hallow praise. It really felt good.

Edan remarked, “I have many talents, mom!”

“You are very talented, hon.”

“By God’s grace,” was his response.

And he continued to say, “I want to take care of you, mom. You are pregnant.”

Elijah said the same thing. This made me smile. Even Tiana started massaging my head. What a treat! Titus was preoccupied but that was okay. I had three sets of hands all over my head and face. It was their thoughtfulness that meant a lot.


From slightly annoying to all out devastating, from pebbles, rocks, boulders, to mountains — small and big problems that get hurled at us…and sometimes without any breaks in between — we are familiar with the bruising and the degrees of wounding they bring. But let us be encouraged by this…

For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Corinthians 4:6-10, 16-18 NLT)