My Exceeding Joy

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It’s been another back-breaking day for me without househelp. At one point Sunday morning, I wanted to cry out of self-pity. But God used Edan to minister to me in a very uncanny way. He went to play the piano (something he rarely does these days), and the first song he played was “The Joy of the Lord Is My Strength.” I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even realize he knew that song. The message was loud and clear: Despite the present circumstances, I can have joy…an inexplicable joy, because of the Lord.

The boys helped me with chores. Edric has been incredibly sweet and patient. He loves it when I serve him. But we both know that this isn’t sustainable. With four young children, homeschooling, ministry, house-building, work-stress (more so for him than for me), and oh yah, I’m nearly 5 months pregnant…this is a temporary phase. While I enjoy being in charge of the home and being this hands on, I won’t be able to do this for an indefinite period of time. For one thing, it kills my back. I am having more frequent bouts with the excruciating pain that scoliosis inflicts as my pregnancy belly grows bigger.

How did we ever get into this predicament of no househelp, anyway? Just a week ago, I had three yayas! Now, I am down to one and she is on vacation. A short one. I do hope she comes back, too.

Over the past couple of months, I have had one disappointing experience after another when it comes to hiring househelp. I’ve had to laugh out loud at the comedy of it all. God has allowed us to have so many fails when it comes to hiring yayas. From one lady eating the kids’ snacks and juice drinks without conscience, to the same person abusing my kindness, to another needing to return home because of a crying husband, to another having to leave because her mother is a stroke victim, to one who almost gave Titus a bath in the sink, to a current yaya whose abrasive and panicky personality can offend others who work with her (she is currently on vacation), well, I must say that this cannot be coincidental.

When Edan got on the piano and played that song, I knew that God was dealing with my heart. He IS dealing with my heart. Present-tense. This is a character building experience for me. God has blessed me with a comfortable and easy life. Just the other day I was telling Edric how much I appreciate him for working so hard so I can enjoy a stress-free existence. And then, WHAM! Yaya, yaya, yaya, yaya madness. This is a divinely ordained trial so that I can grow in character!

My great temptation is to complain. But when I pause to contemplate the spiritual aspect of what’s going on, there is blessing in all this discomfort, in the annoyances I would rather not have to put up with. For one thing, I felt the very tender presence of the Lord as I was frying bacon and flipping pancakes on Sunday morning before church. As I lingered on the verge of self-pity, I was consoled by the reality that “Lord, you are all I need. I can do this if you are with me. I know you are always with me.”

Today, while washing dishes, mopping the floor, bathing the kids, picking up after them and with them, cleaning the toilets, wiping, sweeping, and cooking, the Lord has been my song and my happiness. He has made me smile even during moments when my back couldn’t take it anymore.

When I was rinsing off plates after lunch, I could hardly move my left leg. Boy, did I want to cry from the pain. Elijah came over to hug me because he heard me wincing. I just prayed, “Lord you have to help me.” The pain subsided.

During these past few days of what I would deem as a measure of suffering (a small measure in comparison to others but it still feels like a cross to bear, none the less), God has brought to mind the story of my grandfather and father who have been such good examples to me when it comes to joyfulness.

Many, many years ago, my grandfather was the owner of one the biggest textile mills in the Philippines. He had come from China and through hard work and perseverance, built an “empire.” This was back in the 1960s and early 70s. He even had an office in the Empire State Building. My father told me he grew up with a “platinum spoon.”

However, due to untoward circumstances and a corrupt government, my grandfather lost almost everything. It was humbling for my dad’s family, but my dad speaks of that time as one of the biggest blessings in his own life.

My dad started his own business and God gave him a burden to start a ministry to business people. As a self-supporting pastor, he began meeting with a group of businessmen back in the early 1980s, and with them started a church called Christ Commission Fellowship. Today, nearly 29 years later, CCF is a movement of close to 50,000 Christ-committed followers, with churches planted all over the Philippines and even abroad.

I am sharing this because God causes all things to work together for good. He is never surprised by the catastrophic (big and small) events that happen in our lives. He is always in control, always at work to bring about his greater purposes. If my dad had kept working for my grandfather’s company, he would not have started his own successful business in land development. But more significantly, he would have been deaf to the call of the Lord to ministry.

One of the things that this life lesson taught him that he has passed on to me and my siblings is the importance of perspective. He told me that his father (my grandfather) never once bad-mouthed anyone or developed bitterness about the loss of his business. He did not harbor resentment toward those who did him wrong. And when he was slighted and humiliated afterwards, he did not react in anger. To this day, my 93-year old grandfather is a happy person. He can’t remember who most of us are, but he is not a cranky, old man!

Because of my grandfather’s example and God’s grace, my dad is very much like my grandfather. He is a thankful, joyful person, even during unfavorable circumstances. After watching his testimony closely over years, I know that it is the joy of the Lord that makes him this way. The right perspective on people and experiences allows him to process things in a spirit-filled manner.

When I think about this story, I am reminded to count my own blessings. Admittedly, I am very discouraged and disappointed with the inefficiencies and undependability of those that have worked for me as of late, but I have so much to be thankful for. Edric, the kids, and I – our family unit – we are okay, in tact, at peace. Love and laughter abound. I am pregnant but God gives me the physical strength to do all the chores I have to. There are four young children to attend to, but they do not give me heartache. Today, we didn’t get to homeschool, but we re-arranged their book cabinet and they all took care of one another. We can make it up another day. I feel tired and spent, but no time has been wasted on idle activities. In other words, I am managing just fine by God’s grace.

Would I prefer that my situation were otherwise? Certainly! But God gives me reason to rejoice. He is my exceeding joy! Psalm 43:4 says, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and upon the lyre I shall praise you, o my God, my God.”

I do not know what will happen in the days to come in terms of our househelp situation, but in the meantime, I am enjoying being sustained and upheld by the Lord.

Psalm 90:14 “O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”

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)