Sweet In The Arms Of…

Catalina reached out to me for the first time today. She is five months, going on six. It was a wonderful feeling to be wanted. Her little arms stretched out and she motioned toward me. Moments like these are sweet rewards for being a mom.

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While I was holding her, I thought of the parallels between what it is like to be a mother and the heart of God as our Heavenly Father. When my baby girl extended her arms, lunging forward towards me because she wanted to be held, I didn’t say, “Oh well that’s so cute, keep doing it and maybe I will pick you up.” Of course not! Immediately, I dropped everything to take her in my arms and hug her, whispering tender things in her ear. I was thrilled to pick her up.

If I am like that as a mom, flawed as I am as a human being, then what more the delight of a perfect God when we reach out to him, call out to him and turn to him with all sincerity? If he put in me a desire to be good to my children, then how much greater must his goodness be?

He eagerly waits for us to recognize that he loves us, just like I wait for the point in time when all my kids know that I love them and they can reciprocate. One of my highlights as a mom is hearing my children say, “I love you, mom” for the first time, without being prodded or coerced to.

In the meantime, I do all I can to communicate to them that they are special to me, hoping that one day they will want to have a relationship with me. Similarly, God has done everything to make it possible for us to have a relationship with him.

The Bible tells us “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love –not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)

Our actions and circumstances do not change who God is. He remains a loving Father even if we reject this truth about him.

So we have to ask ourselves, what keeps us from reaching out to him in faith, with outstretched arms, so that he can be the father he wants to be to us? Is it the disappointments and pains of a fallen world? Is it our refusal to give up sin and follow his design for our lives? Is it our own misconceptions about who he is and our lack of intimacy with him? Is it our busy-ness and the constant striving after personal ambition? Is it the pride of personal success?

If we really knew how deeply, magnanimously, and unconditionally loved we are by the God of the universe, we would all throw our arms up into the air with abandon and say, “Lord, take me. Take all me! I want to be your child.”

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name. (John 1:12 NASB)

Catalina dosed off to sleep in my arms while I held her. (When she is with me, she has everything she needs — company, affection, protection, milk! At least for now…) She looked so peaceful and content. In a small, earth-bound sort of way, this is what it is like to rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father. There is no sweeter experience than to be held by him. But unlike me to Catalina, he is the source of everything we need and will ever need, forever and ever!

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No One Outgrows Love

My mom and dad have a daily habit of walking. If possible, they do so twice a day, early in the morning and after dinner. In the mornings, swimming is part of that routine, especially for my dad. He will rarely miss being in the pool to do his laps. Being the incredibly disciplined person he is, sticking to a schedule is a priority. He invites my mom to do the same and together, they have enjoyed this daily form of exercise.

No matter where they are in the world (for as long as they aren’t in transit or attending an event or seminar) they will try to exercise.

When we were growing up my parents encouraged my siblings and I to walk with them, too. Mom and dad used this time to connect with us and get to know us better. Informal, relaxed, and outdoors, these elements were conducive to conversation.

So it became a family habit to walk and talk. We would often share with them what was going on in our lives as we made our way up and down the hills of Antipolo (where we spent most of our childhood). Walking time was synonymous with family bonding time.

Oh so long ago...

Oh so long ago…

My siblings and I are all married now and we have families of our own. But whenever we are at my parents’ place for a visit, they ask us to join them for these walks.

Saturday morning was one of those occasions. Mom and dad asked Edric and I if we wanted to go for a walk. They had just gotten back from their trip to the US and hoped to reconnect with us.

I saw my dad dressed to go for a swim at the park. (His usual attire is a t-shirt, cap, and trunks with a pair of goggles in one hand.)

Since Edric and I were also eager to find out how their trip went, we rounded up the kids. “Let’s go walking!”

We got them to join in on the morning’s exercise. It was drizzling. Everyone took an umbrella (except for me because I don’t like using umbrellas unless I absolutely need to carry one) and we headed towards the park.

On the way, my parents told us about the conference they went to and about visiting with my sister and her family. However, for most of the distance, they wanted to know how we were. They wanted to listen to our stories.

My dad actually walked to the park and back without going for a swim. Although he was dressed up for it, he decided he would accompany us all the way back to the house first. He didn’t want our conversation to be cut short. At first, I thought it was due to the rain. But when we arrived at the house, I heard him tell his driver that he needed to be dropped off at the park. He was still going to go swimming.

“Why didn’t you swim when we were there earlier?” I asked him.

“I wanted to be with you guys,” was his reply.

He knew that if he had gone swimming then Edric, mom, the kids and I would have walked back to the house without him. And he didn’t want to be absent while we continued talking. More than that, he wanted to convey that we were important.

I hugged him. “Thanks dad.”

It may not seem like such a big deal but it was to me. I know how routine and goal-oriented my dad is. When he walks to the park, he goes there to swim. That’s his agenda. It is very unusual for him to allow disruptions in his schedule. So postponing his swim was a sweet gesture. He wanted to extend the opportunity to talk to Edric and I and be with our kids. It made me feel very loved.

It’s a blessing that we still get to share these walks from time to time. And I don’t think I will ever outgrow them. More than the actual exercise, it’s the fellowship that my siblings and I (and our spouses) enjoy. It still matters alot to us that mom and dad want to be tuned in to what’s going on in our lives.

As a parent myself, I know how much my own children value the time and attention Edric and I give to them. When we block off our schedules to be with them it tells them they are a priority. Even doing simple things like walking together, playing board games, sitting around the dinner table or telling stories make a powerful impact. In fact they like it alot more than receiving material presents from us because they have our undivided attention and presence. This is more precious to them.

Children long for this kind of assurance, to feel special…even grown up children. No one quite outgrows the desire to be loved and cherished by their own parents. And it doesn’t take expensive gifts to communicate this. More often than not it is the gifts of time, attention, genuine interest and concern that children want from their mom and dad.

A Romantic Proposition

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Edric has always been such a romantic. He doesn’t forget an occasion, be it our anniversary, valentines, Mother’s Day, my birthday, etc. Despite his busy schedule, he will find time to surprise me. It’s not always a costly gift, monetarily speaking, but it is something thoughtful and personal. He knows I don’t like generic gestures like flowers and chocolates, so he makes the effort to be creative.

Last year, he collected encouraging letters from friends and family for my birthday. On one occasion, he and the boys did a music video. Another time he got a bunch of artists together to do a portrait of me. Some years ago he cooked me a full course meal and even bought a chef’s hat to wear (he does not cook at all!). After I gave birth to Tiana, he booked a room for us at Shang-rila and we went to the spa at the hotel so I could relax. He thought I needed a break.

I also remember an instance when he and Elijah tried to make a New York cheesecake for me. He and the kids went to the grocery to pick out ingredients and he had no idea what to look for. In fact, he had to keep asking me questions like,”Where would I find something like cream cheese?” When he and the kids got home I caught them crushing graham crackers all over the dining table. The crumbs were flying everywhere but I thought it was the sweetest mess I had ever seen.

One of my more favorite presents was a laminated card that he made which he said entitled me to 10 special privileges. Any time I pulled out that card, I could claim a privilege. Things like…him paying for my credit card bill without being irritated even if I overspent. (I didn’t abuse this one.)

Yesterday, for Mother’s Day, he had the kids write me letters. The theme was, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways…” The older boys wrote out words using the alphabet as an acrostic. When I woke up they all climbed into our bed to greet me and they handed me their letters. What a treat! The most priceless gifts that I have received from Edric and the kids have been these sort of thoughtful gifts.

He told me that since he didn’t have work on Monday, he would do something special for me because we celebrated Mother’s Day with his family and mine on Sunday. Well, this morning when I woke up, I was surprised to find Edric playing on a PS3 console he borrowed from my brother. I felt badly because he was completely engrossed and preoccupied with the game when he had originally said to me, “Today will be your day because I am free.”

Instead, he was caught up in his own world and oblivious to everyone around him. He did not even wait for me to have breakfast with him which he usually insists on.

Well, I did not make a big deal out of it. I ate breakfast, read my Bible then took a nap because I didn’t sleep too well last night. Instead of nagging Edric, I just prayed that God would convict him.

After my nap, which really did not count because I had two boys playing on their violins in the same room and two other kids asking me questions like I was not asleep, I went to the refrigerator to snack on 5 prunes. Edric was still on the couch. He saw me go to the kitchen.

I did not want to be a pestering wife, so I just went back to the bedroom. Edric followed soon after and asked me what I wanted to do today. “Oh, I thought you had something planned…” He wondered if i was mad at him and I replied, “No, I am not mad. I am just surprised that you started the day off by playing on the PS3 when you said that you had something planned for today. But you can do whatever you want to do. It’s your choice.” I didn’t say it like I was angry but I didn’t say it with a big grin either!

A while later, he asked if he could talk to me. Hmm…I knew this was going to be a profound conversation because he wanted me to drop everything else. I lay down on the bed beside him and he held my face as he said, “I was convicted to return the console. It’s not good for me. I have addictive tendencies. And I just want you to know that I love you. That will be my Mother’s Day gift to you.” I started to tear a little because of pregnancy hormones again, but this is the real reason why…

Edric immensely enjoys playing NBA 2K13 on the PS3. It’s the only game he likes to play and he wanted to practice for a tournament he is having with some guys friends. But he got rid of his own PS3 a long time ago so getting to borrow my brother’s was exciting for him. Instead of going over to someone else’s house to practice, it was now accessible to him. He planned to return it after May 17, when their tournament was over. I had my own thoughts about this but I didn’t want to burst his bubble.

This morning, when he told me that he was giving back the console, I knew that it was hard for him to make that decision. It wasn’t a life and death matter but it was an activity that brought him delight and joy, and yet, he felt like it wasn’t profitable for his soul or our family to have it around the house. Our kids don’t play on consoles so it is not a family value or culture that we have encouraged either.

Personally, I feel there is nothing more romantic than Edric having his priorities in order — his own spiritual health, the kids and I. That’s what matters to me. When he has the right priorities, he is sweet, tender, and thoughtful. He puts the concerns of others above his own. So I thought that giving up the PS3 today as a Mother’s Day gift was a very romantic proposition!

If you are reading this because your wife handed this article to you (sorry about that, some readers confess to me that they do this sort of thing), well just hear me out for a bit. In marriage, it is easy to get complacent about the romance. But the reality is a wife’s needs pretty much stay the same. We all have a basic and predictable need. We like to feel special, cherished and appreciated by our husbands. It’s the way we are wired. Much of our security is tied up to the way our husbands treat us. Of course, ultimately the Lord should be our sense of security, but God also commanded husbands to love their wives for a reason. It’s important!

Just because a man has put a ring on a woman’s finger does not mean his “job” is over. This is when the real work of nurturing a wife actually begins.

The Bible says, so husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, (Ephesians 5:28, 29 NASB)

If you feel like your husband isn’t very nourishing or cherishing, don’t loose heart and please don’t nag him about it. This is a conviction that God has to put in his heart. Don’t contrive to do so yourself or it will backfire. Trust me, I have tried that approach and it doesn’t work. But prayer and waiting on the Lord does! (And doing your part to fulfill your own role.) :)

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Wanted: Father.

When Edric and I first became parents, we were wet behind the ears. Most of what we knew about raising our kids was theoretical or passed on from our own experiences as children. Eventually, we learned about biblical parenting principles and we applied them. We are still learning…

When we had Elijah, we were thrilled to be parents. But we didn’t quite get what it meant to be intentional and purposeful in raising our son. Edric was often preoccupied with doing his own thing when he got home from work — like turning on the TV or playing computer games, going out in the evenings for basketball with friends. Edric didn’t ignore Elijah, but their interactions with one another were minimal. The baby stage was foreign territory to him and I didn’t blame him for feeling like he couldn’t relate to a bouncing boy who pooped and peed on himself and wanted to be with mommy to breast feed. He would play with Elijah once in a while but father and son bonding occasions were not in his radar.

As Elijah got older and we had more kids, Edric began to change as a father. I remember an evening when we were sitting around the table for dinner and Edric asked Elijah how he could improve as a dad. Elijah must have been about five years old when he made the statement, “You can spend more time with me.” He used his hands to show that he had this imaginary meter for spending time with dad, and he explained that Edric was at the bottom of the meter. We all started laughing out loud because it was very candid and unscripted. He said it just like it was. “Dad your level is at 0.”

Of course, Edric wanted to improve! And I prayed for him, too. One of the things that really changed in his parenting style was the desire to be present and purposefully available to our kids, especially our sons. At a certain point, he recognized that God gave us three sons for a reason and he had to prayerfully consider what kind of father he needed to be. The boys were not going to grow up to be godly men by accident or osmosis. They needed guidance. They needed their dad.

So every year, he would sit down with me and talk about our goals for the kids. He would share about the areas he felt they needed to work on and how he intended to play a big part in mentoring and teaching them. I always appreciated this because it made me feel very secure and confident as a wife that my husband was in charge, that he actually had a plan and direction for the family. (In fact, I often tell him that this is one of his more attractive traits.)

During the second week of January, we had a meeting to talk about goals for the kids. He asked me to prepare my homeschool goals and we aligned on what I would work on and what he had itemized as a priority list for each of our kids. Some of the list covered spiritual and emotional aspects and others were practical skills.

One of the practical skills Edric outlined for our six year old, Edan, was to acquire the ability to swim and bike. Living in the city has put constraints on the amount of time we spend outside and this means we don’t have as many opportunities to expose our children to biking, swimming, climbing trees, playing in parks, etc. Sadly, our kids would be well-content to stay indoors and let their muscles atrophy too if Edric and I did not do anything about it. But since we grew up being outside for most of our childhood, we want our kids to experience the same joys and adventures we had. Plus, they need Vitamin D!

So…swimming and biking it is for now. Edric started Edan’s training program two weekends ago and I must say, it is impressive to watch him “coach” Edan. I am not talking about doggie-paddling stuff. Edric used to be a swimmer so he knows all the drills. His first hurdle was getting Edan to overcome his fear of the water and then putting his head under water and blowing bubbles. Well, I was amazed last Sunday when I saw Edan swimming in the big pool! He touched the bottom of the pool with his hands and he swam a significant distance all by himself. After just two sessions with his dad, Edan was laughing and thrilled that he accomplished so much. I was clapping my hands and cheering everytime time he would pop his head out of the water for recognition. (That’s my role in this swimming and biking training…the over-affirming cheerleader.)

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Edric is able to do, in a fraction of the time, what would take me days and days to achieve with the boys. With him, they learn quicker. They develop confidence and masculine traits. They overcome their insecurities. I actually enjoy being on the sidelines spying on them. For one thing, it is fun to check out my husband. (Did I already say I find him so attractive earlier?) My second delight is seeing the expressions on my sons’ faces when they have Edric’s full and undivided attention. I see the way they look at Edric. Admiration, respect, desire to please, assurance, favor, love…it’s all mixed in there.

I get puppy eyes for sympathy when they need a hug or when they want me to say yes to a request. Okay, on occasion, I get sparkly eyes when they are excited about learning. Of course, I get the love look. The point is, I am not perceived as the hero. That sort of adulation is reserved for Edric. And it doesn’t make me envious. I want the boys to gravitate towards him. After all, I have my own little acolyte and her name is Tiana.

When Edric and I got home from “swimming lessons,” we talked about Edan’s progress. I also thanked him for following through with his commitment to teach Edan. He went on to say that Edan didn’t want to get out of the water because he was having so much fun, and then Edric started to get teary-eyed which caught me off-guard. “Are you okay?”, I asked him. Spontaneous tears seemed like a hormonal thing that would have been much more characteristic of me than him.

He answered, “I don’t know. I guess it is because I live for these moments, seeing our kids bloom and mature and being able to be a part of that. I enjoy ministry and I know that it is important, but you guys are my first ministry…you and the kids.”

Who had the love look now?! Me, of course! I fall in love with my husband all over again when he says things like this. I have always appreciated Edric as a husband, but in recent years, I have been so grateful to the Lord that he has embraced being a father. His commitment to family is a blessing that I attribute to the Lord’s work in his life. Many years ago, I really prayed that he would recognize how irreplaceable he is in the lives of our children…that they need him now, not just later, not from a distance, but up close. When Edric developed a burden to disciple, teach and train our kids, I knew that it was God who put that desire in him and continues to do so.

The reality is Edric is still very busy and he is not able to be with the kids 24/7 but he came up with a game-plan for our kids about 4 years ago. He told me we were going to use Luke 2:52 as a reference for how our children should mature. It reads, “And Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God and men.”

WISDOM: Are they able to discern right from wrong and make wise choices?
STATURE: Are they developing their physical abilities and talents?
FAVOR WITH GOD: Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and do they have the heart to know, love, obey, worship, and serve him?
FAVOR WITH MAN: Are they learning biblical character traits and applying them with family members and others?

These four areas have simplified our parenting to the essentials. It has helped me to think through the goals I set for our homeschooling and Edric can major on the major to maximize his time with the kids. Just the other night, he reminded me again that it boils down to, “passing on a godly legacy.”

Being an intentional father doesn’t mean a dad has to quit his job and spend 14 hours with his child everyday. It’s about setting aside purposeful moments that are devoted to discipleship with resulting big impact.


The statistics on fatherless homes are so compelling, I thought I would include some highlights here to encourage all of us to pray for our husbands. We need them to lead spiritually and by godly example, and we need their effective discipleship in the home.

From http://fatherhood.gov/library/dad-stats:

Children with actively involved fathers display less behavior problems in school.
Amato, P.R., and Rivera, F., 1999, “Paternal Involvement and Children’s Behavior Problems,” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 61, 375–384.

Girls with strong relationships with their fathers do better in mathematics.
Radin, N., and Russell, G., 1983, “Increased Father Participation and Child Development Outcomes,” in Fatherhood and Family Policy, edited by M.E. Lamb and A. Sagi, Hillside, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 191–218.

Boys with actively involved fathers tend to get better grades and perform better on achievement tests.
Biller, H.B. 1993, Fathers and Families: Paternal Factors in Child Development, Westport, CT: Auburn House.

Research shows that even very young children who have experienced high father involvement show an increase in curiosity and in problem solving capacity. Fathers’ involvement seems to encourage children’s exploration of the world around them and confidence in their ability to solve problems.
Pruett, Kyle D. 2000. Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. New York: Free Press.

From First Things First

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers.

“….the absence of the father from the home affects significantly the behavior of adolescents and results in greater use of alcohol and marijuana.” Source: Beman, Deane Scott. “Risk Factors Leading to Adolescent Substance Abuse.”

A 15-year-old girl who has lived with her mother only is three times as likely to lose her virginity before her sixteenth birthday than one who has lived in a home with both parents. Lee Smith, “The New Wave of Illegitimacy,” Fortune 18 (April 1994) 81-94.

85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control) Fallen Fathers, 2008.

80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes –14 times the average. Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26

85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average. Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction- Fallen Fathers

From The Fatherless Generation

Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to get A’s in school.

Children with Fathers who are involved are more likely to enjoy school and engage in extracurricular activities.

Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.

Studies on parent-child relationships and child wellbeing show that father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.

——

Fatherlessness is being passed on from one generation to another like a cancer that is killing the families of today and tomorrow. Sadly, the cure is not found within ourselves. We cannot cure this ill without being healed by Jesus Christ first. Why? We have been separated from our own father — God the Father — by sin. But Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

I think of Edric and my own dad as great fathers but God is still the best father of all. He loves each one of us perfectly and unconditionally, and he desires to have a relationship with us for eternity. If you came from a fatherless home or live in one, you don’t have be a victim of this trend. Come to the Father of All and experience his love through Jesus Christ. He will be father to you. He will love you as you long to be loved.

A Beautiful Time

Hello, Asia! Edric and I are back in Manila. Home sweet home…

As much as I enjoyed gluttonously soaking in the sights and experiences of our Europe trip, I am happy to be back. I missed the kids terribly. Getting away was a whole lot of fun, but Manila is still my residence of choice.

Some things I will NOT MISS about Europe. Like bread. I could not take bread for much longer. If I had to eat another dry loaf of bread or croissant, I would have preferred to go on a hunger strike. I dreamed of my rice meals, stinky fried fish, Paksiew, Adobo, and all those wonderfully saucy dishes. The day we left Paris, I ordered chicken at a restaurant and they served it with French fries. Sigh. I was tired of potatoes, too.

The other thing I didn’t appreciate about Europe was their potable water situation and toilets. We had to pay 2 Euros or more for a small bottle of water. And I had to hunt for a W.C. and get charged 1.50 Euros to pee. Why?! Waaahhh. (I hardly drank water to avoid having to use the toilet.)

And then the cold…The day we arrived in Paris was crazy cold. It had been raining. The sky was gray. There was no sun. We were on the Champs Elysee and my jaw was cramping. So, we looked for the nearest store. “Spare no expense,” said my Knightly husband. “Get whatever you need to keep warm.”

Really, sweetheart? I am about to walk into H&M. Do you know what this means? You won’t be able to find me for the next two hours. Okay, I was reasonable. I didn’t want to be carrying around shopping bags. So, I made it out of there with a hat, scarf, leg warmers, a big sweater, and just a few other things. Then I snuck into the Mc Donald’s toilet and put it all on, on top of my existing three layers of insulation. Ten pounds of clothing later, I was back on the Champs Elysee, braving the chilly wind and walking towards the Arch de Triomphe. I was a cozy puffalump. (As a side note…European women are skinny ladies. Under layers of clothing, they still look statuesque and trim.)

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There are things that I WILL MISS. One of the highlights of the trip for me was seeing each city on foot. Edric and I took long walks everywhere we could. Sometimes we had no idea where we were going, but I never felt quite lost as long as I was beside Edric. He was an incredible navigator. In fact, I was very impressed with his ability to get us from point A to point B, to C, to D and so on. Very attractive…

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This was my third time to Europe, but my first time to experience it with Edric. Seeing it again with Edric, the love of my life, was like a sweet dream. Every bridge, tree-lined street, the avenues, squares and gardens, the churches, monuments, palaces, facades, the splendid colors of fall, and even the lampposts were an invitation to beauty and joy, to moments of ponder and quiet reflection.

I learned (or re-learned) three valuable lessons about marriage during this trip. The first was, enjoy the journey, the highs and lows. Sometimes, you won’t know what you are doing or where you are going as a couple, but that’s okay. Stay together, stay one. Don’t blame each other. Don’t separate. It is better to be lost together than to get lost alone. Just keep referring to your map (the Bible, for us) to get back on track. I stuck to Edric like glue. The last thing I wanted was to be separated from my navigator extraordinaire. If he made a wrong turn, I made a wrong turn with him and we would laugh our way back to where we came from or we would pray to find the landmark we needed to get to.

The second lesson…trust your husband’s leadership. I trusted Edric’s leadership even if he wasn’t correct all the time.There were instances when I felt like he had the map upside down or his internal compass was skewed. But challenging him didn’t help. So I had to keep silent and let him figure it out. It worked better that way. Instead, I would try to say, “You are so good at this. I trust you.” And I really meant it. Edric appreciated my confidence in his leadership. At the end of the day, he got us to where we had to go. God guided him, too.

God has hardwired men to take charge. Sure, women can be great bosses and lead organizations with exceptional ability, but in a marriage, God designed a man to be the head. We can fight that reality as women or encourage our husbands to be the leaders God has chosen them to be.

During this trip, God reminded me once again that my role is to respond positively to my husband’s leadership, even when I may question his style or method of leading. For example, we had an issue with our Eurail pass that stressed Edric out a lot. He found out that we had to re-book one of our tickets and would have to pay a sum that was not part of his planned expenses. At first, he wasn’t acting very cool under pressure. As a result, I started to correct his attitude. My timing was terrible, but I felt compelled to be a “helpmate” by letting him see the spiritual perspective. “We need to trust God, hon. He let this happen for a reason.” This was my appeal. I also started to make lots of suggestions about what he could do. Wrong timing again. He was highly emotional and affected.

Instead of appreciating my input, he motioned for me to keep silent by putting his finger to his lips. What the?! I felt annoyed and dismissed. So I was tempted to keep at it. But God reminded me to be still, be quiet and gentle. I just prayed for him. About an hour later, he apologized to me and we prayed together. The Holy Spirit worked in his heart. Eventually, there was a fix to the problem.

The third lesson: Ssshh!. Sometimes I talk too much as a woman. I start to panic when it seems like Edric “doesn’t have it together” and I butt in to try and fix him or the issue. But he usually just needs space to think through his actions, decisions, or brainstorm a solution to a problem. More importantly, he needs to be able to hear the prodding of the Holy Spirit. (Oh, and Edric is more inclined to ask me for my perspective or opinion when I am not such a nag!) Worst case, a husband learns from his mistakes. When this has happened with Edric, he humbly asks for forgiveness from me, the kids, and the Lord. But he needs that leeway to make mistakes and become a better leader through them. When he feels the burden of his responsibility to lead and my dependence and confidence in him to do so, he steps up to the position he was made to occupy with great resolve and determination to make wise and prayerful decisions for the good of the family. I praise God that he has given me a wonderful leader in Edric. I feel incredibly blessed.

However, the reality is, it takes faith to entrust ourselves to the leadership of our husbands. Every once in a while, they will make big mistakes that make us feel insecure, worried, or tempted to take the reigns. But, ultimately, we have to remember that they are accountable to God as the head of the marriage and family, and we are accountable to God for the way we respond to their headship. Because God designed husbands to lead, he is also committed to equipping them and directing them. I have seen this happen so often in my marriage and in the marriage of others. Our role, however, is critical. We need to build up our husbands, pray for them, and respond positively to their leadership.

These marriage lessons became very apparent to me during this trip. Removed from home and in a completely new environment, the struggles did not change. The same things I struggle with as a wife in Manila — submission and respect — were transported to Europe. God used these past two weeks to deeply minister to my heart and expose areas I need to keep improving on.

It’s really not the continent you are on that matters, but the presence of God wherever you are. As amazing as Europe was to me, it was God’s presence at work in my relationship with Edric that made the time most beautiful.

Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.

38 Year-Long Honeymoon

This past weekend, Edric and I were at a couple’s retreat. Edric was assigned to speak about the topic, “Romancing Your Spouse.” He shared about some of the crazy things he has done for me like this: Real Men Surprise Their Dates .

But his main point was that romance is NOT about the grand or extraordinary things we do for our spouse. That may be part of it, but it is so much more about the unconditional love we give daily.

Out of curiosity, we asked our children how they define romance between two people. This was their adorable list of romantic things that couples do:

You love each other
You love God
You read your bible together
You eat together
You have personal talks with each other You walk together
You listen to each other’s ideas even if you don’t always like each other’s ideas
You tell the truth to each other
You never shout at each other
You always forgive each other
You serve each other
You take care of each other
You have fun with each other
You play games with each other
You exercise together
You kiss and hug
You go out on dates
You talk to each other nicely
You respect each other
You give us an example of love so we can also love each other

Their perspective was very simple and pure, but it sounded a lot like 1 Corinthians 13… Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:1-8 NASB)

During his talk Edric shared this list and he also shared how husbands can “romance” their wives. But I particularly liked what he said the wives can do. “Wives can unconditionally love their husbands by being appreciative.”

It is powerfully motivating to hear a wife say, “I really believe in you, hon. I really appreciate how hard you work and the effort you put into providing for our needs. I want you to know that you are such an amazing man and I am so blessed to be your wife.” Okay, so if that isn’t exactly accurate for your husband, then tweak it a little.

The point is, be an encouraging and positive wife. And you will inspire your husband to romance you daily!

As women, we often expect our husbands do all the “work” when it comes to romance. We want them to take us out, buy us gifts, remember occasions, and make Romeo and Juliet-like professions of love. But maybe they don’t do this anymore because they are not inspired to. Maybe our negativity and expectations de-motivate them.

I used to be hurt when Edric stopped opening the door for me. This was early on in our marriage. One day, I said, “Things have changed, huh?” I started to go on an historical account of how he used to do this and do that when we were dating. It wasn’t a good move. Instead of “convicting” him to change, he was annoyed.

So I decided I was going to be a more positive wife…to compliment and appreciate even the small stuff. One incident I particularly remember was when we were in Baguio years ago, before we ever had kids. We rode in one of those scary old boats in Burnham park. Edric had to row us across the lake and we were with some friends. I was so impressed with how he adeptly maneuvered the rickety blue boat we were in, like a sexy gondolier (pinoy-style), and I said, “Hon, you are so strong!” Of course, his friends busted out in hilarious laughter. But I meant it and Edric loved it! It became a standing joke among us friends that carried on for years. Yet, I learned a very important principle that day which has affected the way I relate to Edric. I affirm him even for the little things. And he has told me many times that it matters.

It matters because it makes him feel like I really trust him and his capacity. It matters because he feels energized and empowered. It matters because, next to the Lord, my opinion of him is the most important. I can either tear him down or encourage him to achieve and pursue his dreams, his passions, his God-given calling.

One of the best examples of this kind of wifely approach to romancing a husband has been my mom. Butterflies, bubbles, and beautiful roses come out of her mouth when she speaks. Obviously, I am exaggerating. But she truly is a positive person.

I didn’t inherit this genetic trait because this is a spirit-filled thing, not hereditary. (So I have to practice being spirit-filled to be consistently positive. Otherwise, the Jezebel horns come out.) My mom modeled being affirming towards my dad ever since I was a wee-little-Joy. My dad would often say, “Your mom is always smiling and positive.” I saw how it affected the dynamics of their relationship. Even though my dad wasn’t the kind of guy that does crazy things for love, he certainly treasured and cherished my mom. He still does.

This morning I had breakfast with some dear friends and we discussed what it means to be appreciative of our husbands. Someone said, “When I do that, my husband tends to slack off and get complacent.” I love this friend very much but I didn’t agree with her perspective. First of all, it is not our duty to reign in our husbands and keep them on some sort of leash so they “behave” the way we want them to. Secondly, their response is not our problem. It is God’s problem. He will deal with them. We are accountable to be life givers to our husbands. Proverbs tells us, “She (a wife) does him (her husband) good and not evil all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:12 NASB) If a husband does get complacent, the real issue is that he has a heart problem and that is something that God will have to fix.

As wives, we need to remember that we do things “as unto the Lord.” Focusing on our husbands tends to make our obedience to biblical principles conditional. Like, I will be a good wife if my husband does his part. That is not the relational economy the Bible is talking about. It’s not, I give my 50% and you give your 50% so we can have a 100% marriage. It is give your 100% regardless and hope in God’s promises to bless you and your marriage.

Well, the couples retreat was certainly timely for Edric and me. We have probably been to almost 10 of these over the years, but we still learn so much and we get to review principles we have been neglecting. I also think one of the most encouraging things about attending a retreat with others who have been married for a varying number of years is this: Marriage goes through different seasons as the years go by, but it is possible to stay in the “honeymoon stage” or return to it when a husband and wife are committed to keep God at the center of their marriage, and apply His principles for loving one another.

The last evening of the retreat, my dad led the renewal of vows for the couples that were at the banquet. After we all listened to Mark Schultz’s song, “Time of My Life,” he turned to my mom who was at the table nearest the stage. And he said, “Deonna, you are the only girl I will ever love.” My gushing mom had tears in her eyes.

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I have watched my mom and dad’s marriage closely. And I have seen the not so perfect aspects, but these are very few and rare. What I do know is they have been married 38 sweet years and they still think they are in their honeymoon stage. It certainly makes me look forward to growing old with Edric. I hope we can someday say it’s been a 38-year long honeymoon and counting…

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When Children Tell Us Their Secrets

What do you do when your young child confesses to you that they saw pornography on the Internet?

I asked permission from a good friend of mine, who also homeschools, if I could share this story. She found out that her child had stumbled upon pornography on the Internet and out of curiosity, checked out other sites that also contained nudity and sexual content. This child is only 6 years old!

When my friend discovered this, she was devastated. She cried, she felt like her home had been violated and invaded by something she had tried to protect her kids from. She thought of how innocent her child was and how this should never have happened.

But she did an amazing thing which I applaud her for. She listened to her child and did not react with anger or condemnation. And they talked through what happened together. Her child felt safe, unconditionally accepted and forgiven for lying about a big, dark secret.

Most important of all, my friend took the opportunity to share with her child the gospel message of Jesus Christ. And this child accepted and believed in Jesus. Because there was this great burden of guilt, forgiveness and God’s salvation were easier to understand. For the first time, this child felt free and liberated. My friend told her child that God makes all things new.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB)

I was so blessed when my friend told me that she believes that God used what happened for good in the life of her child. I know it was hard for her say that, but she was saying it because her child finally understood the gospel.

In the past, this friend of mine had shared with me that her child was difficult to motivate and would complain about having to do homeschooling work. After her child accepted Jesus, there was not only a visible change in countenance, but a transformation of the spirit. Her child even said something like this, “Mom, can you see a different person? Before I didn’t like to do my homeschooling. That was my old self.”

Her child also asked that all material on the computer be deleted and taken out so there would be no temptation and struggle to give in to the curiosity that was too early awakened. Imagine, a six year old tempted by pornography!

I thought to myself, if this can happen in a home where both parents love and serve God and teach their children to do the same, then what about all the other kids out there?! This was a child who didn’t watch a whole lot of TV and had limited and monitored time on the internet. But the devil is an opportunist and found an opening.

A friend introduced this child to a YouTube video of a woman giving birth and it led to other sites. This is one of the reasons I tell my kids they are NOT ALLOWED to be on YouTube unless I am physically present. (By the way, most virus protection softwares have features to safeguard children.)

It really broke my heart to listen to my friend share about what happened to her child. Like her, we are very careful about what our children are exposed to. But the reality is, every child is a target of the Evil One.

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 NASB)

He is out there to destroy innocence, purity, faith, relationships, and every good thing. He is a corrupter, a deceiver, an enslaver. Even if children grow up in homes with Christian ideals and values, they are still vulnerable to the attacks of Satan.

We need to be praying for our kids constantly and teaching them to walk with the Lord. Whenever I get the chance to, I tell parents, connect your children to the Lord as soon as possible. When the spirit of the Lord is at work in the hearts of our children, they are better able to make wise choices and discern right from wrong. They develop a desire for righteousness and holiness. Purity is something all of us, as parents, want to preserve in our children. But our children must understand purity as God’s standard — a design that is for their good. Unless the have the Holy Spirit working in their hearts, their orientation will be towards the world and not God.

When our children know God personally, we can reason with them from a spiritual perspective. They have the capacity to understand what is evil and why it must be avoided. I remember a conversation I had with my older son about the Internet. I said, “Hon, there are things on the internet that you are never supposed to see…things like naked people, violence, scary pictures…God doesn’t want us to look at such things. So if, by accident, this ever happens, I want you to run away. Run out of the room and tell mommy or daddy. We will protect you.”

A few days ago, he told Edric that a scary face popped up on the screen while he was researching about Origami. And he said it really disturbed him. He couldn’t stop thinking about it for a while and he wanted to get the image out of his mind. I was thankful that it wasn’t pornography, but that is not the only kind of evil lurking out there. Since this son of ours has been briefed on the bad stuff that is on the Internet, he wants to be careful. We also entrust him with the responsibility of protecting his siblings when they are using the computer.

The Internet and other forms of media can be used by the Devil as a portal into our homes. And we need to be ridiculously vigilant about protecting our kids by setting strict guidelines for using technology.

In our home, the kids aren’t aloud to be on the Internet when we aren’t home. They may use the IPad to play games but these are installed Apps. We are particular about the movies we watch as a family and the programs our children are allowed to view. TV doesn’t have a whole lot of importance in our home so that helps a lot. We remind our children to be positive influences in the lives of others and to choose friends that will build them up in the Lord. We also keep open communication between us and our kids so they can freely talk about their concerns, their struggles without feeling judged, demeaned, or embarrassed.

When I heard my friend’s story I was so compelled to write this entry because I was blessed by the relationship she has with her child. Her child was able to open up and share what was going on because there was trust and security. If this child didn’t have this kind of relationship to run to, what would the option have been? Live with guilt, struggle with temptation and open up a bigger doorway into the addictions of pornography, talk to friends who may not be able to give sound, biblical guidance and advice?

We may not be able to control all the people and circumstances that our children encounter but we can cultivate a close relationship with them. If this relationship is defined by unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness, we get special passes into their hearts to minister to them when they need us most.

And I pray that Edric and I will have the kind of relationship with our kids that loves them to Jesus…

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R-e-s-p-e-c-t

As a wife, one of my greater struggles in marriage has been “putting on a gentle and quiet spirit.” Edric and I both have strong personalities. So when we are head to head about something, it is hard for me to back down. I have to make a conscious effort to remember that my role is to respect and support my husband, and to trust his leadership.

Yesterday, I disrespected him in front of a group of leaders from TMA Homeschool. We were gathered around a table discussing the Family Convention (a convention that happened today). Edric had asked me to give a short explanation of the plans for homeschool curriculum and materials that we will be offering to parents. I was resistant because my perspective was, “I don’t want to over promise anything.” I would rather under promise and over deliver when it comes to managing people’s expectations. I didn’t want to tell parents that we are bringing in new resources. Instead I wanted parents to pleasantly discover the materials when they became available.

Edric is great at casting a vision and rallying people behind a cause. But I like to be conservative about what I say when I manage people’s expectations. I prefer to do things quietly and behind the scenes, without announcing what I am doing. Therefore, the conflict that transpired between us was, essentially, a personality difference.

While we almost always handle our conflict in private, yesterday, Edric got frustrated with me for resisting his request. And I got irritated that he kept on insisting that I do something that I was not comfortable with. But my big, horrible and disrespectful mistake was standing up and walking out of the room when he said, “If you don’t want to contribute anything to this discussion then you can leave the room.” He actually said it in a very calm manner but since I was upset, I stood up quietly and left anyway. I trotted out the room in front of other key leaders.

Boy, I knew I was wrong. The Lord pointed out to me that I had just disrespected my husband. I had never done this before (I mean the walk out part in front of others).

A few moments after, Edric looked for me and took me aside. He asked me why I did what I did. I explained myself (very poorly), and he corrected my behavior and wrong attitude. He explained how important it was that I am positive and encouraging towards the initiatives that he requires of the team. And he also apologized to me for not making his expectations of me more clear.

At a certain point we both started laughing because the drama of what happened was so ridiculous. The Lord reminded me that Edric is my authority and that I am called to respect him. I said sorry to Edric. The Lord also told me to go back into the meeting room and apologize to the entire team. Humble yourself! Fix your attitude and be a good example!

So I went back in and apologized to everyone for being disrespectful and having the wrong attitude. They actually laughed at us and thought the whole incident was comedic. But I am glad I made that public apology because I really was wrong. And during the Family Convention this morning, of course I spoke the part that Edric asked me to.

By God’s grace, I am growing in this area. I always have to tell myself, respect for Edric is not conditional. It is commanded of me and obedience leads to blessing. When I am respectful towards Edric, his heart is open to me and he is inspired to be sweet and tender towards me. (I much prefer that he remain this way!)

God has given my husband authority over me. He is the leader of our marriage and home. And I need to trust that God speaks through my husband when he makes decisions. (If I am worried that he is making a wrong decision the solution is prayer.)

However, seeing our relationship from this perspective takes spiritual lenses. My number one enemy is my pride — I want to do things my way instead of God’s way. So the secret to r-e-s-p-e-c-t is to walk intimately with God. Yesterday, I attended morning prayer watch and I had quality time with the Lord. I think this was the reason why I felt the conviction of the Lord when I was being disrespectful. I could not escape the prodding of the Holy Spirit!

Well, all is well and good between Edric and I. And I thank the Lord that he continues to work on my character and help me become more gentle and quiet in spirit, even if it is antithetical to my personality. I am still a work in progress. ;)

“Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”(Romans 13:2 NASB)

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Hot Noodles

Please note…I am writing this with permission from my husband, Edric.

Titus, our third son, was seated at the dining table gagging on hot noodles. He wasn’t choking, he was just upset and trying to figure out how to spit out his mouthful of it. My husband, Edric, wanted to help Titus out but he was not cooperating. He didn’t want to drink the water Edric offered him. Edric rarely gets annoyed like he did tonight, but he ended up being a little rough with Titus.

Let me explain. He said, “Just spit it out!” (in an aggravated tone) and pushed Titus’ head down so he could spit into a cup. Whoa. This wasn’t like him to do this. The rest of the kids saw the entire scene played out, and so did two of our househelp. I was really hoping and praying that Edric would apologize to Titus and the family. But inside, I was also dealing with my own irritation toward Edric for reacting the way he did.

Five minutes into dinner, Edric very humbly asked for forgiveness from all of us (he specifically addressed Titus and said sorry to him and he talked to the househelp and said sorry, too). He was very sincere and the kids were totally okay, but I still rubbed it in. While Edric was hugging Titus, I said, “Titus, were you HURT when daddy got irritated? How did you feel?” Edric gave me a knowing look. Uh oh. I knew I made a mistake. I put Edric on the spot in front of the children and this was something that we both agreed not to do to each other. Our issues, as much as possible, are discussed privately.

After dinner, the kids busied themselves and Titus was back to his happy, jolly self. He was singing his invented songs which he tends to do while in the shower, at play, or before he goes to sleep.

As for me, I went to apologize to Edric in our bedroom (after we talked some more about what happened). I also made an apology to the kids.

At first my eldest son, Elijah, responded with a “why, what’s wrong with what you did?”

“I was disrespectful. I should not have corrected your dad like that.” I heard an “Oh yeah” from Elijah. He also said something that kind of cracked me up, “There is a verse in the bible that says ‘do no revenge,’ you should just let God take care of it.’”

That was a perspective from a nine year old that I didn’t see coming! But he was right. God is my husband’s discipler and leader. I wasn’t really trying to revenge, but I should’ve let God be the one to speak to Edric’s heart. After all, he apologized to everyone concerned. And after everything had been settled, I could have spoken with him about my feelings in our bedroom. Knowing him, he would have gladly listened to my perspective.

All in all, tonight’s incident at the table was a humbling and grace-filled reminder that our family has a lot to improve on, especially Edric and I. We have boo-boos with our kids. (Do I even need to say this?!) We don’t always get parenting right. We don’t always get marriage right either. But we are committed to God, our marriage and to our children.

And here is my comfort…A few days ago, I was spending time with my dad and I asked him, “Dad did you make mistakes with us when we were kids?” (Honestly, I can’t remember that my parents made very many.) He replied, “Of course! But we had a good relationship. That was the key. We spent a lot of time together which remedied the wrongs.” (Oh, okay, that’s why I can’t remember…)

Well, out of curiosity, I asked Elijah why he easily gets over his hurt when Edric and I make mistakes. He replied, “Because I know that you still love us. I know you guys aren’t perfect but you always try to improve. And you always tell me, ‘I love you no matter what.’”

That made my day! Our children don’t need us to be poster-perfect. They see our flaws on a regular basis so there is no point in pretending. What they do need is our time, attention, and affirmation — the things that spell L-O-V-E for them.

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Edric and Titus, 2 years ago


When Boys Go Biking with their Dads

Edric took Elijah, our eldest son, for a bike ride around the city. And it was magic for building his manhood.

As for me, I am glad I wasn’t there because it would have freaked me out to know that cars were passing closely beside my son or trying to dodge him while he biked on the main thoroughfare near our place.

It was Edric’s idea to include Elijah and it was his invitation for dad and son bonding time that mattered so much. So off they went on their merry way — father and son.

Well, they had a blast. Elijah came into the study room to see me when he got home. He was drenched in sweat but smiling from ear to ear. After catching his breath, he told me about their biking adventure. He was obviously excited and happy as he narrated his experience.

He also told me a funny story about a bird that chased Edric. I half-believed him at that point and thought that maybe he was exaggerating until Edric told me the same thing.

Apparently, Edric was going up a grassy hill when a bird swooped down and started chirping wildly. Then it followed him and flew close to his head as if it was going to attack him. It was so bizarre and Edric had to evade it. In fact, he nearly got thrown off his bike because he was trying to get away from that crazy bird.

As for Elijah, his most memorable part was going through the off-road areas that were overgrown and unpredictable. Edric saved a tidbit of their conversation to pass on to me, thinking that I might possibly want to write about it. And here I am doing just that.

It was not easy for Elijah to navigate through all the difficult parts on his bike but Edric kept encouraging him and not allowing him to give in to his fear or emotions. So Elijah pushed on, peddling hard and trying his best. At one point, however, Elijah could not make his way past the tall grassy areas so Edric instructed him to follow right behind him. And he did.

Then he said something that I feel is emblematic of a father and son relationship. As Edric conquered the terrain, Elijah was able to move through the same way with greater ease. He even said, “Dad it’s amazing! Your bike is able to create a path for me so it is easy for me to follow.”

I just thought this statement gave good insight into the necessity or a husband and father to take the lead. Sons need to have a clear path to follow. Fathers help to carve out that path for them. But they make the most impact when they are in front, leading the way…by example.

I am sure an occasion like this made a big deposit in Elijah’s heart. May he have many more of these magical father and son bonding moments with Edric!

Homeschooling is A Brotherhood

Elijah was learning about pangalan pantangi o pambalana (proper nouns and common nouns) and one of the exercises required him to give proper noun examples. When he got to the word “kaibigan” (friend), I thought he would write down names of his homeschool buddies, neighbors, bible study friends, etc. But when I looked over his shoulder, I saw him write down Edan and Titus’ names.

Of course, this delighted me. I want our kids to be best friends. And they often say that they are. I think homeschooling has alot to do with it. The boys are together so much they learn to work out their differences, defer to one another, and love one another unconditionally. They also protect and support each other.

A few years ago, my second son, Edan, was coin bearer at the wedding of some good friends. He must have been close to 4 at the time.

When the entourage was lined up to go inside the chapel, Edan broke down. He was terrified. It was his first time to march down an aisle like this. Elijah, on the other had, was experienced in this area. He had been ring bearer, coin bearer, and bible bearer in different weddings. So he said to Edan, “Edan, don’t worry. Just hold my hand. There will be a lot of people and a lot of lights. Just look straight. Don’t be scared.” He held the coins for Edan and let him hold on to his hand. Then they walked into the chapel together.

It was an unforgettable picture of brotherhood. Here was a six year old and three year old who understood what it meant to “have each other’s backs.”

My prayer is that our kids will stay close like this — that God will knit their hearts together. Someday they will benefit from each other’s spiritual support and encouragement to weather the storms of life. At present, they are beginning hold each other accountable for responsibilities like violin and piano practice, or activities like reading the Bible and praying.

Adidas used to have a tag line for basketball. Basketball is a brotherhood. Well, for my boys, homeschooling is a brotherhood. May they be like the chord that Ecclesiastes describes, “…A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.”

I recently found photos of Elijah and Edan during the wedding…

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Up and Away Forever

10431 Gulf Beach Hwy Pensacola, Florida, 32507. There’s an address I will never forget. My grandparents lived here before hurricane Ivan tore their house apart, and before my grandpa sold what remained of the property to a condominium developer. Many joyful summers were spent here as a family.

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Their home was built on the intercoastal waterway. A strip of land beyond that separated the waterway from the Gulf of Mexico. I remember going fishing off the dock in the evenings or just sitting out there alone to write in my journal. During the day, my siblings and I would enjoy swimming or playing in the backyard. The braver ones would take a paddle boat across to the gulf, dodging the barges, and come paddling back again. I still remember the prickly sensation on my bare feet when I would step on the pine needles and cones that covered the yard. Several times a day, while sitting in the kitchen and having conversations with the family, I would see squirrels dart across the porch trying to get from one pine tree to another. All kinds of birds would come to perch on the feeder that grandma taught the grandkids how to fill. And at the end of the day the afternoon sun would set in a glorious way across the horizon.

I will always miss the sights and smells of that place, but most of all, I miss my Grandma and Grandpa.

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I remembered all these things because the kids and I watched the movie Up the other night. (Edric was at a meeting so I had a movie night in our bedroom with the kids.) Even though I had seen Up before, it hit me hard this time around. Carl and Ellie reminded me of my grandparents. My grandparents grew old together and stayed in love. Their marriage was a good example to all of us.

During my grandma’s last few years, she was very sick, physically and mentally. But my grandpa cared for her. He never sent her away to an old folk’s home to live. He died some years ago, too, after a bad accident that he never quite recovered from. They are both with the Lord now.

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Grandpa Marvin and me when I was pregnant with Elijah

In the movie Up, Carl befriends an energetic girl named Ellie, who is also a fan of renowned explorer, Charles F. Muntz. She tells Carl of her dream adventure to move her “clubhouse”—an abandoned house in the neighborhood—to a cliff overlooking Paradise Falls. Carl promises to help her. Carl and Ellie eventually get married and move into the restored house. When they are told by a doctor that they are unable to have children, they save up for a trip to Paradise Falls, but end up spending it on more urgent needs. Carl continues to work as a toy balloons salesman and he and Ellie grow old together. When Carl is finally able to book a trip to Paradise Falls, Ellie suddenly becomes ill and dies, leaving him alone.

Carl is heartbroken but continues to live in their home surrounded by paraphernalia that reminds him of the life he had with Ellie. After an unfortunate incident that threatens to send Carl to a nursing home, he finds a way to keep his promise to Ellie. Converting their house into a make-shift airship, he uses thousands of helium balloons to lift it off its foundation. A young member of the “Wilderness Explorers” named Russell becomes an accidental passenger. Together they float to South America where many adventures await them, including meeting Charles Muntz. Determined to get his home to Paradise Falls, he becomes frustrated with the numerous obstacles and inconveniences brought his way by Russell, Muntz, Muntz’s army of hounds, and the beautiful, flightless bird named Kevin.

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In the process of having to choose between a new adventure and the promise of an old one, Carl stumbles upon a note Ellie wrote for him. Taped on to the pages of her dear scrapbook which held photographs of their life together — the milestones they celebrated, and the occasions that defined their loving relationship — Ellie had written, “Thanks for the adventure, now go have a new one.” Reading this note was a pivotal moment, as Carl realized he had fulfilled his promise to Ellie. Their marriage had been the adventure she always wanted. She was happy even without Paradise Falls.

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Watching the film made me think of my grandparents’ relationship but it also made me think of my own marriage to Edric. In fact, at one point in the movie I got emotional when my second son, Edan, asked me, “Mom, why did the old man love his wife so much?” I nearly choked. So I quickly explained to him, “It’s like the way daddy loves mommy…how daddy likes to be with me and take care of me.” “Oh,” he said in a knowing way and continued watching. Titus, my third son, kept asking about why the wife died. And Edan also asked me if boys live longer than girls do. I explained that it depends. Elijah, my 8 year old, made a comment about how statistically speaking women actually live longer. (But that’s Elijah. His brain is full of facts and information.)

After the movie, I tucked the kids into bed and had my own private moment to thank God for Edric and the kids.

The next morning at breakfast, I told Edric that I had watched Up with the kids. Of course he was jealous that he missed out on our family bonding. I put my hand on his and said, “I just want to thank you for being such a wonderful husband. Watching the movie again made me think of the great adventure our marriage has been. I am so thankful to the Lord for you and the kids.” I also told him that even if we have hopes and dreams for the future, I am already living the best of all my dreams.

I didn’t realize that Elijah was listening to our conversation and he turned away as if to fight back tears. Edric and I didn’t make a big deal out of it. We didn’t want him to feel awkward. We both knew that he understood exactly what we were talking about and I am glad he heard me say it. I want my kids to be absolutely convinced that Edric and I love each other blatantly, affectionately, romantically, unconditionally and permanently, just like we vowed we would would many years ago. And I pray that they will see us grow old together, still in love with God and with each other — that they will be witnesses to a marriage that lasts.

After all, how many children still understand what commitment means or that vows are permanent? How many children see their parents growing old and still more in love and say, “I want that someday?” How many of them will remember, “dad and mom really loved each other.” It pains me to think that there are so many broken marriages out there and consequentially, so many broken children who do not understand God’s beautiful design for marriage.

I am not saying that Edric and I have a perfect marriage because we remain imperfect people who need God’s grace every day. But when we made that promise to one another before God, it was for richer, poorer, better or worse, til death do us apart. Period.

Yesterday, at the Tiangge (the clothes market) of St. Francis Square, I found a cheap P25 ring to replace the wedding ring that Edric lost in the rapids late last year. I laughed as I put it on his finger, a size 18, stainless steel band. He gladly put it on and said, “It feels good to have a ring on my finger again!” I jokingly said that it is better for him to have this kind of a ring in case he loses this one, too. We may eventually get a more valuable one, but we both know that it’s not the cost of the ring that makes it valuable but the eternal relationship that it symbolizes. So for now, he is proudly wearing that cheap ring. As for me, I am so happy that I am married to the kind of guy that will wear a ring like that!

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