Five Things My Mom Taught Me About Being A Wife

Of all the lessons my mom passed on to me, I am most grateful for the example and principles she taught me that prepared me to be a wife…

 1. Be Spirit-filled

Growing up I hardly ever saw my mom lose her temper or get angry. She chose to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The benefit to us as children was we had a happy, peaceful home. No shouting between our parents and no shouting directed towards us.

  

I am so thankful to the Lord for a mom who wasn’t temperamental or easily unsettled. Her example of grace under stress gave me a mental peg of how I ought to respond to Edric and my kids when I am upset. This doesn’t mean that I do so perfectly, but through her, I learned that gentleness and quietness of spirit is more powerful to communicate a message and point rather than yelling or shouting at others.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭16, 22-23‬ NASB)

  

 Being spirit-filled for my mom wasn’t merely about keeping her anger under control. She was predictably joyful, especially towards my dad. He came home to a wife who welcomed him each day with a smile. My dad didn’t have to guess what kind of mood my mom was in when he stepped into our house. He would excitedly call out, “Deonna!” and her response was one of delight as she received him.

  
2. Appreciate/Affirm More Than Criticize.

Every woman believes she marries the man of her dreams when she stands at the altar, but then she takes a list full of expectations into her marriage…all the ways her husband should love her, lead her, and provide for her. When he falls short of these expectations, she becomes disappointed, demanding, and then annoying!

When I am tempted to become like this, a good way to arrest the process  is remembering what my mom says so often, “lower expectation and raise appreciation.” It’s the expectations that trip me up a lot of times, but focusing on Edric’s many amazing traits causes me to be grateful. After all, I am married to a wonderful, godly man.

The principle of lowering expectations is not thinking less of Edric and saying, “Fine, I am not going to expect anything because you fail me.” Instead, it is choosing to emphasize and acknowledge the positive in him which results in the bonus effect of encouraging Edric to love, lead, and provide for me!

3. Follow Your Husband.

Even though my mom’s country of origin is the United States, she left it completely when she married my dad. At first, she traveled to the Philippines as a missionary. But marriage sealed the deal for her permanently. The Philippines became her new home.

My mom embraced my dad’s Chinese background and family. She intentionally made friends with Filipinos instead of hanging out with Americans from the expat or missionary community. It might have seemed like she was giving up her identity and culture when she married my father but she didn’t see it that way. She considered it a privilege to serve the Lord along side him in the Philippines and be his strong supporter.

She echoed the commitment of Ruth to Naomi, when Ruth declared, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” (‭Ruth‬ ‭1‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

Before I got married, my mom told me something similar, “Follow your husband. Where he goes, you should go.” Coming from a family with such close ties to one another, this statement carried a lot of weight. She was liberating me to transfer my loyalties to Edric and to direct my commitment to him. Genesis 2:24 tells us, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

This passage isn’t just for married couples, it’s for parents, too. Parents need to let their kids leave home physically and emotionally to begin their new life with their spouse. They need to applaud their child’s desire to honor their husband or wife by prioritizing them. As a mother, I can imagine how difficult it must be to release my children in this manner. But that is God’s design. No umbilical attachments to mom. Loyalties and priorities are transferred to one’s spouse.

For example, when my mom calls to invite us to a family dinner, and I say, “Sorry, mom, we can’t make it,” she doesn’t burden me with a guilt-trip. However, since we have a great relationship, I find ways to spend time with her during the week. Maybe we will go shopping together or get our nails done, or chat over lunch. But the point is she respects the boundaries of my relationship to Edric. If we have our own schedules and plans, she understands. She helps to reinforce the biblical principle of following Edric’s decisions and prioritizing him.

  
4. Be Simple.

It still amuses me how my mom, who doesn’t have to worry about money (by God’s grace), shops at tiangges and struggles to pay more than 2k for a bag. I remember one afternoon when we were shopping for a bag for her to bring on her U.S. trip. She was going to be a guest with my dad at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in D.C. So she thought of buying herself an elegant handbag. We must have gone in and out of six or seven stores and still found nothing. The styles weren’t classy for the price point she had in mind. And she felt like she already spent a lot for an outfit and shoes, which actually wasn’t that much in my opinion. (She even used gift checks for the outfit!)

Yet, this is my mom. She is not extravagant or materialistic. But she still tries her best to look put together. In fact our concern as children is that she refuses to wear flats and tends to fall or trip. No matter what we say, she remains a heels-only kind of woman even if she is in her late 60’s!

Going back to my mom’s bag story…When she and my dad got to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast, she discovered that bags were not allowed into the venue. So she was thrilled that  God prevented her from finding one to buy! 

My mom remains simple when it comes to material things because she knows that “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. ” (‭1 John‬ ‭2‬:‭16-17‬ NASB)

  She prefers to invest in the lives of people and is generous when it comes to helping others or using money to spread God’s Word. Buying jewelry, bags, shoes, watches…that’s not my mom and I have been blessed by her example of simplicity. To my recollection, she has never asked or pressured my dad for an expensive gift. Ever. He has applauded her for being easy to please. I hope to be the same way as a woman, especially in my marriage. I want Edric to know that he doesn’t have a high maintenance wife.    

  
5.Celebrate Femininity.

I have heard my dad say, “Your mom is such a feminine lady,” and it’s attractive to him. What is femininity anyway? Is it being weak and frail as a female? Of course not.

My mom birthed all of us naturally. When she was young, she transferred schools 18 times because my grandfather was in the navy so she learned to reach out to people and make friends everywhere. As a flight attendant, she traveled the world and warded off the advances of flirty pilots. She left the comforts of America to live in a country that was completely foreign. Marrying cross-culturing was not very common in the 70s. Homeschooling in the 80s wasn’t either. She successfully petitioned for the Department of Education to create a pilot homeschool program when she and my dad started TMA Homeschool. In her sixties, she chased a thief through the mall in high heels when her bag was snatched. And she caught up this thief and shared the gospel to her. I can numerate so many other ways my mom is a fighter and “strong in spirit,” but she is also soft-hearted, sweet, and graceful. She carries herself like a woman in the way she speaks, laughs, sits, stands, and relates to my dad.

  

The best way to describe my mom’s femininity is to highlight her inner tranquility. She is a woman who trusts in God and his plan and will for her life. Therefore she smiles at the future. She doesn’t strive or manipulative circumstances or people to get her way. Nor does she put a spotlight on herself to seek attention or glorify what she has accomplished. People are drawn to her person as they see Christ in her and she blesses them with godly wisdom and encouragement. As a wife, she respects my dad and honors the desires of his heart, seeking to please him and serve him. Therefore, he treasures her and deeply loves her, and he is still very much attracted to her.

  
Edric has told me on several occasions that he is glad I learned to be feminine from my mom. It matters to him that I put effort into embodying the same kindness, gentleness of spirit, and desire to serve him. My mom is much better at this and I continue to look to her as a standard to work towards. 

Thank you, mom, for the life lessons you passed on to me about being a wife. You are an incredible woman of God and I am so blessed to be your daughter and to have you as my example!

  “Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future. She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying: ‘Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.'” (Proverbs 31:25-26,29-29)

  

Say, “Thank You, Hon.”

I woke up to a husband who called me to his bedside just to tell me, “I appreciate you, hon. All you do as a wife and mother. If I don’t tell you enough I want you to know that I am so blessed by you.”

Wow! What an unexpected surprise! It certainly set the tone for the rest of my Sunday.

Edric knows that I am a words kind of gal. Encouragement makes me feel loved. Really loved.

The great thing about positive words is it’s the EASIEST way to communicate to your spouse that they are important to you, that they are special and appreciated. You don’t have to exert physical effort to say I love you or I appreciate you. You don’t have to spend money to speak life-giving statements.

You do, however, have to notice and pay attention. My mom used to say, “have a detective’s eye for praise-worthy character in your children.” This is applicable in marriage, too.

Edric told me he noticed that I woke up to attend to Catalina last night, that I inconvenienced myself to get out of bed when I heard her coughing. Nobody has to call out this sort of sacrifice. I don’t wake myself up to check on Catalina and feed her in the hopes that someone in my family will give me a pat on the back for effort. Like all other moms, that’s what we do. But when Edric or the kids interrupt my autopilot mom-mode to say thank you, it feels pretty incredible! Duty turns into inspiration!

Even husbands can benefit from our words of praise. When we were in the U.S. for a month Edric helped me with chores and the kids. It was a matter of survival! We couldn’t leave poop in a diaper! We couldn’t ignore big bags of trash inside the house!

Up until that point, I had never seen my husband hold a broom and dustpan so many times in his life, get out of bed to help me catch Catalina’s vomit, marshall the kids to do their responsibilities, vacuum the car, haul trash, fix the bed, carry Catalina…I could go on.

IMG_1607.JPGHis domesticity and fathering were impressive! And so I told him so many times. When I would commend his kitchen skills like sweeping the floor, he would beam, hold up the broom like a weapon of war and shout out triumphantly, “This is my floor!”

Do we notice the wise choices, the acts of service, or the sacrifices our spouses make or do we treat these as a given? No applause needed because they are supposed to be doing these things? When was the last time we said, Thank you, hon?

So many of us fail to say thank you and I appreciate you enough. If you are living with an approbation-starved spouse, revive them today with your appreciation. Make them eager and excited to fulfill their role as husband/father or wife/mother. And, hey, if you are feeling extra gracious, do something sweet and give them
a “trophy.”

Edric and the kids got me these magnetic mini-Oscars for my birthday two weeks ago. Pretty cute, huh? These are the best thank you awards I have ever received!

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You Are My Kryptonite

Edric threw his work bag into the back of the car, and plopped himself beside me. “You are my Kryptonite,” he said, throwing his arms over his head with a smirk on his face.

“Huh?! Me?!”

“Yes, my Krypton.”

I inched over to him and hugged him. I love being Kryptonite…his “weakness,” as he calls it.

We had come from a lunch and I should’ve gone home by myself, but I turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you just come home with me?!” He didn’t have much going on at work so I hoped he would take the invitation. (Plus, if he had stayed at the office, he would have been home really late because his car was color-coded.)

“I think I will do that,” was his response, and I could hardly suppress my giddy excitement. The idea of having him around for the afternoon was such a treat!

Shortly after, he semi-ruined the romantic moment when he jokingly presented what looked like a booger to me and said, “Come on, I dropped everything for you this afternoon…take it. We are one person anyway.”

“Yes we are, but we don’t have the same boogers.”

He just wanted a reaction from me, a scream of girlish horror (which he received).

I’m glad we still have fun. We play silly games. We tease. We laugh. We exchange ideas and opinions. We argue and discuss our differences. We finish each other’s sentences.  We serve the Lord together. We cry because God is good…because it’s so amazing to raise children and watch them grow up…because we don’t deserve anything that we have…because it’s all grace.

This is grace. Right here. Right now. Having a husband who is tender and sweet towards me even after 13 years of knowing everything ugly, sinful, and complicated about me, and then calling me his Kryptonite. It’s flattering. It’s comforting. It’s scary!

If I don’t walk with the Lord I can be a stumbling block in his life. I can be a thorn in his side. I can be the devious whisperer who hisses negative thoughts and ideas into his ear…about people, circumstances, the present, the future…

So I have to guard my own heart. I must walk faithfully with the Lord and make sure that I encourage him to do the same. While he is my leader and the head of our home, he has given me the privilege of his trust. And with this comes a responsibility.

He said, “I must whisper well.”

A woman whispers into the ear of her husband and she can influence him towards or away from Christ-likeness. Take for example, Jezebel to Ahab.

1 Kings 21:25 tells us, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him.”

That’s not who I want to be to Edric! But I can certainly become this way if I’m not careful. I can have a Jezebel-spirit if I’m not filled with the Holy Spirit. A Jezebel-spirit is one who seeks to control and manipulate her husband to do what is wrong in God’s eyes, for her own gain and purposes.

Recently, I have wanted to buy more furniture for the house. But Edric has told me that we have to “tighten the belt” now. We have spent a lot for our new home so we have to temper our purchases, spread them out. My impulse is to finish decorating everything right away. But I have to mind what I say when I express this desire to him. If I pressure him, he will find a way to make more money. However, he is trying to turn down offers for added income so he can streamline his activities and be more focused. As crazy as it may sound, this is a good thing. It’s what I have prayed for.

The last six months have been tough with him traveling to so many different parts of the Philippines. God convicted him to be very selective about what he commits to. Of course this means less money. However, it also means more time for family, ministry, and spearheading the homeschooling movement. These are God-honoring preoccupations that matter in eternity.

As for the house, it’s here. It’s pretty much done. The sprucing and decorating can happen as we go along. In the meantime, I have to practice contentment and thankfulness. I’ve got to support Edric’s desire to give more time to the Lord’s work and not push him to make more money for me to spend on our house. In other words, I have to mind my whisperings as his Kyrptonite because he listens to what I have to say and values it, because my happiness matters to him, and because he loves me. Therefore, my heart has to be wholly devoted to the Lord so that I speak words that encourage Edric to make choices and decisions that honor God. I want to be a GOOD Kryptonite!

“The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:35-37 NASB)

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Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me

I received a letter from one of the persons working at our construction site asking for money for his soon-to-be-wedding. In the letter he explained that he was desperate because the fund he had allocated for the reception was stolen. Of course I wanted to help him. The guy seemed to be trustworthy and sincere. But at the same time, I had to be prudent and tell Edric about it. (I have been suckered before.)

In marriage this is called the principle of being “under cover”. Author John Bevere talks about submission to authority as a form of protection. Submission isn’t just about obeying Edric as leader. It’s also recognising that God has ordained him to look out for me, that his authority in my life is like an umbrella over me.

When he told me, “Let me handle it. I will talk to him,” I felt stressed at first because I wanted to give the guy an answer right away. I knew he was waiting. In fact he texted me to get an update. But a part of me knew I should investigate the legitimacy of his story, too. So when Edric said, “I will be the one to respond to him,” the stress was replaced by relief. Edric took on the burden and I was able to relax.

In the car, on the way to our site meeting, I told him how much I appreciated his desire to protect me and stand in “harm’s way” for my sake. He turned to me very casually and was like, “Of course. I like to protect you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” (I love this man.)

After our morning meeting, Edric met with the guy to find out more details and verified what he was saying with a co-worker. He also asked the guy why he didn’t email him directly. And he said he was embarrassed. Edric responded jokingly, “Well, the money will come from me anyway, right?”

In the end, the guy’s story checked out. He was telling the truth. So Edric told him, “We will help you.”

This incident may seem like a small matter but I wanted to talk about the blessings of this aspect of submission. In the garden of Eden, if Eve had said to the serpent, “Let me get back to you about eating the fruit. I have to go check with Adam,” I wonder what would have happened?

Maybe she would have gone to Adam and said, “Hon, there is this serpent I have been hanging out with. He’s been telling me that God doesn’t want us to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because He DOESN’T want us to be like him. I kind of see his point, but I wanted to find out what you thought about it. Do you think I should try it? I have been thinking about it alot lately. It looks really tasty.”

In response perhaps Adam would have been like, “Heck, no! And I don’t want you talking to that serpent anymore either! He is bad news. Trust me, honey, God wants what is best for us. He has given us everything else to eat. He is a good God. In fact, next time that serpent comes anywhere near you, I want you to tell me where he is and I will have a word with him!”

It’s interesting that the Serpent targeted Eve, poisoning her thoughts with his lies. Whether she was entirely alone or not can only be speculated. But from the sequence of events, it doesn’t look like she got Adam’s permission to eat the fruit. She acted on her feelings and emotions. She invested time lingering around the forbidden fruit and fantasizing about what it would be like to have it. And the Bible tells us that it was Eve who was deceived, not Adam.

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Timothy 2:13, 14 NASB)

As women we need to recognize that we tend to have same Eve-like vulnerability. Look at the way we fall for men who don’t treat us the right way! In my household alone, almost every single girl that has ever worked for me (and I have gone through a number) has had her heart broken by a man. (Heck, I have too!) In the group of ladies I disciple and women that I counsel, I have heard countless stories of misguided choices when it comes to men. But this is just one aspect of our lives. We fall prey to many other deceptions outside the realm of dating and relationships.

Years ago I read Lies Women Believe by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and this book opened my eyes to how much deception is going on in my own heart. The evil one still uses the same strategy he did with Eve in the garden — he is constantly lying to us about who God is, who we are, where our worth lies and what me must do to be happy. The key is to confront these lies head on with God’s word.

Married or not, we have to be feeding ourselves with Bible truth. Of course for the marrieds like me, we need to keep learning to listen to our husbands, and letting them be the protector they were designed to be.  I’m blessed to be married to a man who loves the Lord with all of his heart. So he helps me to make choices that are for my good. He helps me to discern what I ought to commit my time to and what activities aren’t profitable. He looks out for me spiritually, emotionally, physically.

After nearly thirteen years of marriage, I still like to hear him say things like, “Stay on this side of the road, hon…it’s safer.” I still like it when he reaches out his hand to hold mine so I won’t trip or fall. I still like it when he offers to open the door for me. I may be able to fend for myself, but it’s wonderful to be able to have, in Ira Gershwin’s words, “someone who’ll watch over me.” I’m so grateful that Edric has turned out to be that someone for me! 

New Years

Support Me

Edric rarely has to ask me to support him. That’s a given. I do. I want to. But every once in a while I forget what it means to be emotionally supportive and encouraging.

Some days ago, Edric and I were talking about a decision he made that was uncharacteristic of him. I was very upset with him and also concerned that he was not using his time profitably. He had this streak of online computer gaming where I felt like he just lost it. Because he had not done this in a very long time, I wondered if he was okay spiritually.

Whenever Edric doesn’t seem okay spiritually it makes me feel insecure as a wife because I rely on his leadership for our family. (For the most part, he doesn’t give me anything to worry about.)

I ventured to ask, “How are you doing spiritually?”

He was laying on the bed, looking up at the ceiling with his hands behind his head, reflecting on the answer to my question. And then he started to open up to me about the stress in his life as of late, sharing a list of things that have filled up, what he called, his “frustration box.” I listened quietly while holding Catalina in my arms. Most of it had to do with work and our house building. Some of it seemed valid but some of it seemed like unnecessary sources of stress.

I thought I could “help” him get back on track. So I couldn’t wait to share my insights on what he was thinking and feeling. When an opening presented itself, I jumped right in and started going on and on about the kind of perspective he should have…the correct “spiritual” perspective. I didn’t really acknowledge his feelings. I just wanted to identify what he was doing wrong and how he could fix it. It must have been really annoying to listen to me.

I have done this before and it never turned out well.

Edric does not appreciate it when I tell him what he should feel and think. First, he already knows what he should be thinking and feeling. He allows himself to be vulnerable with me because I am his closest confidant. Second, I am not supposed to teach him. That’s the Holy Spirit’s role.

What Edric prefers from me is encouragement. He wants to be able to come away from a conversation with me feeling hopeful about the future. He needs me to cheer him on when he is disappointed with himself.

At a certain point he wanted to drop the conversation and move on because he wasn’t feeling any better. My mistake was I pursued the same approach further. I tried to tell him that he wasn’t listening to good advice from me, that perhaps his pride was getting in the way. I even said, “If you are not willing to listen to me, your wife, who knows you best, then how can you really improve?” There was a voice in me telling me to keep quiet and shut it but I just kept on yackity-yacking away.

Well we both ended up irritated with each other. I was quiet for a while until Edric told me very honestly, “I need you to support me.” He explained that during this instance, he would have appreciated a hug and positive words, not a reiteration of what he was doing wrong.

He even said, “It’s supposed to feel like a safe place when I open up to you.” Instead, he felt bullet-holed by all my statements. He felt like I thought less of him and interpreted his frustrations as weakness.

Of course I had to apologize. I felt terrible. Even if my intentions may have been right, my method was totally ineffective. I discouraged him when I was supposed to be a lifegiver along-side him. And I knew what the problem was. It was a personality difference. I grew up in a home where my father and mother were very much head-over-heart type of people. Therefore I turned out to be pretty much the same. When there is an issue, I want to get to the spiritual solution right away and move on. But if I am not careful, I can come across as unwilling to empathize with what Edric is going through and this hurts him. So I said, “I have to grow in the area of empathy, will you forgive me for not being more understanding?”

Edric is easy. When I admit that I need to change in an area that he would like me too, his heart softens and he becomes very sweet. First, he said sorry for the choices he had been making as of late. Next, he affirmed me by saying, “I want you to always remember three things about me.” (He wanted to tell me this because he knew this discussion’s precursor was my concern about him.)

I will always love you.
I will always take care of you.
I will always be willing to change.

Not long after I came across this passage in Proverbs…

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad. (Proverbs 12:25 NASB)

Sometimes I forget that Edric has a lot to carry on his shoulders. He has his ANC tapings, the homeschool program of TMA, numerous speaking and hosting activities, ministry and our house building to think about. I don’t always realize what it is like for him because he is so busy making sure I don’t have to feel any of his stress. All his hard work makes my life easy. So when the anxiety builds up, he needs my emotional support. He told me “if I can’t open up to you and be vulnerable with you, whom will I be that way with?”

As wives we need to remember that it’s our unique privilege to be encourager to our husbands, to support them with a good word when they need it and make their heart glad. Of all the people in the world, that good word of encouragement matters most from us.

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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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Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

 

DSC05434 copyAs a mother I often feel that I am a composite of the women in my life — the grandmothers, mothers, sisters, friends, and role models who have made an indelible impact in the blueprint of who I am. Some have wounded me, but others have healed me. Some have disappointed me, but others have inspired me. Some have rejected me, but others have loved me.

Whether an inspiring ideal of inward and outward beauty or a glimpse of undesirable selfishness, each woman that I have known has passed on an invaluable life lesson that has shaped my understanding of what it means to mother a child, to raise one and let them go. I am not the sum of them all but they are most certainly a part of who I have become. And I owe a great deal of gratitude to these women who, at different points in my personal journey into motherhood, have been a companion, an example to follow (or sometimes avoid), an encourager, a confidant, a resonant soul.

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Yet, of all the women that have intersected the timeline of my life, I am most thankful to the Lord for my mom. She did not meet me at an intersection or crossroad. She was there from the beginning, from inception, when I was fragile and nameless in the womb.

I have always felt her love. She has loved me through every season…loved me to Jesus…loved me for my greater good.

When I was in high school and college, I made some wrong choices. But mom did not go ballistic. She continued to disciple me, helping me think through my decisions and actions in light of my relationship with the Lord. Her manner of mentoring was not judgmental or overbearing. She knew how to address heart issues and pray for me. Always ready to listen, comfort, affirm, and gently correct me, she was my best resource for biblical advice and counsel. Eventually, I recommitted my life to Christ and became serious about following him, and she played a big role in helping me get to that point.

We remain incredibly close. It was easy to cultivate a relationship with mom because she was around and present. We spent a lot of time together…morning walks, cooking and baking in the kitchen, going to the market and grocery, homeschooling, shopping, serving the Lord together…talking about stories, perspectives, insights, and dreams.

Yesterday, I held my daughter, Tiana, in my arms because she was crying. Whispering into her ear, I tenderly said, “Mommy is here.” Tiana calmed down and snuggled up against me. And for a moment, I remembered the way my mom held me, not as a little girl but as a teenager, the night I was raped. (Whoa, for those of you who haven’t been following this blog, this might sound shocking. Read this post if you have no idea what I’m talking about: A Story Worth Sharing.)

I was lying on the bed crying. I really didn’t know how to feel. Mom put her arms around me like she would have a baby. And she stayed beside me quiet and still, also crying. She really didn’t have to say anything. I knew that she wanted me to know she was there for me. Eventually I fell asleep and mom was still there the next morning. I will never forget that.

Up till this day, I can call her or visit her and know with absolute certainty that I am a welcome interruption. I’ve never felt like I was a burden to her. In fact, she often tells me that she enjoys being with me and has so much fun when we are together. I feel the same way.

Beyond her love and presence, I am most grateful for the godly legacy she passed on to me. Both my parents were intentional about parenting my siblings and I. They introduced us to Jesus and taught us what it means to follow him. My dad was the spiritual leader of our home and he had great impact on our understanding of who God is. My mom, on the other hand, provided a daily example of sacrifice, kindness, goodness, joy, peace, and faith. I grew up with her as a reference point for motherhood and I wanted to be like her.

My mom is blonde-haired and blue-eyed. Physically, we do not look alike. We never will. My blonde sisters-in-law look more like her biological daughters than I do. However, people have often said that I talk and act the way she does. And that is a great compliment! If there is any woman in the world whose character I would like to be associated with, it is my mom’s. If there is any woman in the world I admire most, it is my mom.

I admire her for being a spirit-filled, godly woman who loves God with all her heart. I admire her for raising five children and making it look so easy. I admire her for being a homemaker who put the happy in our home. I admire her for being present during every important milestone of my life and my sibling’s. I admire her for not going crazy when she homeschooled all of us. I admire her for being attentive and discerning about our weaknesses and areas of need so she could encourage us toward righteousness and pray for us. And I admire her for loving us inexhaustibly and unconditionally through the years without expecting or demanding compensation for her many acts of selflessness. She is, as Proverbs 31 puts it, a woman who excels them all!

Happy Mother’s Day to you, mom! I praise God for you!

Proverbs 31:28 “Her children rise up and bless her…”

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Helpmate Under Testing

Edric and I have been speaking at events a lot this past week. By the end of this week, we will have spoken at five. That’s a lot for me, especially since I prefer to be behind the scenes and not on stage. But when Edric asks me to tag-team with him, I do so because it is a privilege to minister for the Lord and second, Edric is my “boss” so I follow his leading on these things.

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Our simple agreement is that he will inform me ahead of time so I can shuffle around my own commitments and prepare. I am not as comfortable about public speaking as Edric is. This is his area of gifting. Although Edric does due diligence in his preparation, I feel like I have to go the extra mile to prepare myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. I am desperately dependent on the Lord to empower me.

Well, this past week, Edric sprung unexpected speaking engagements on me and I found myself annoyed. Instead of just three speaking engagements, he included me in two others. I wasn’t happy about it. I found myself grumbling inside, not thrilled to be doing ministry, and aggravated that I had to be flexible with MY schedule. But, the Lord reminded me that I am Edric’s helpmate so I ought to see it as a privilege to minister along side him, especially when he specifically requests me to. So, I moved some appointments around to accommodate his needs and that made him very pleased.

I passed that test, then came the next one…

Tuesday afternoon, he asked me to be ready by 12:30 pm so we could make it to a seminar he was going to give (which he invited me to share my testimony in, too). I was meeting with good friends over brunch so I lingered for a while longer with them. After all, my makeup was done and I just had to throw on my outfit, put on heels and I was good to go.

When Edric got home, he saw me chatting with my friends at the table and he walked off to the bedroom with hardly a greeting. I excused myself from the table, told my friends I had to get ready but they did not have to rush off, and I followed him. He asked where his lunch was, why it was not on the table, and why I had not yet ended my meeting. His tone was agitated.

I did not understand why he was being so reactive. Lunch was ready for him in the kitchen, my friends were about to go, and I could be out the door in 5 minutes. He felt disrespected that I had not followed exactly what he wanted. The issue didn’t have to do so much with my friends being around as it had to do with me not managing his expectations and prioritizing his needs.

My temptation was to get angry. I was bothered by his attitude because, in the first place, he had asked me to speak with him at the last minute. And I had other commitments that day. One of the commitments I had moved to prioritize him. I even cooked lunch for him earlier in the morning and laid it all out on a plate but he didn’t seem to appreciate that.

While I processed my thoughts quietly, I felt hurt. I felt hurt that he was so abrasive about something that didn’t even seem like a big deal. In fact, I thought he was being petty, picky, and slightly ridiculous. At this point, there was no time to go into a discussion because we had to get out of the house to make it to Rockwell.

Instead of getting all fired up, I prayed in the car but I did not talk much. He could sense that I was not okay. In fact, he actually apologized right before he was about to give his seminar. Edric said something like, “We have to be a team as we go up there or God cannot use us. Will you forgive me for my attitude?”  Of course I forgave him and I thought that was the end of it.

But that evening, Edric felt like we had to resolve what happened so he insisted that we talk about the incident again. Actually, he was waiting for me to apologize. My thinking was, what am I going to apologize for? I didn’t do anything wrong.

I explained to him that I thought he had been overreactive. He admitted that he had not been spirit-filled. But, in the attempt to make me understand where he was coming from, he used my dad as an example. I couldn’t believe it! Early on in our marriage, he and I had agreed not to use each other’s parents as a point of comparison. Sure, he was using my dad and not his, but still.

Second, the truth is my dad is very even keeled and he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. So he wouldn’t have reacted the same way that Edric did. When Edric trailed on, “Imagine if dad came home and he wanted to talk to mom and she was busy entertaining guests and didn’t seem ready to take care of him…”

As he continued, my irritation grew and I replied, “You know what, I wouldn’t use dad as an example because he doesn’t react to those things. You are going to loose this argument. And I thought we agreed we wouldn’t use comparisons like this when there is an issue between us.” I felt like he was excusing his behavior and trying to make me agree with him by putting my dad in the same scenario.

After I spit that out, I regretted it. Edric was the one who felt hurt, he cut off our discussion and said, “Fine, I was wrong and I have the problem. Goodnight.”

I tried to finish our conversation properly but he just wanted to go to bed and end it. So fine. That was it for the evening. I watched a very cheesy Disney movie called Prom all by myself. I felt like a loser. And I prayed again, this time expressing my exasperation to the Lord.

The next morning, Edric and I woke up to run. I spent most of the time praying while I ran beside him which is what I usually do when we run. As I went through the list of things to pray for — family, ministry, business, MARRIAGE — the conviction to apologize became very strong. As I prayed, I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened the day before.

Edric’s point was that I had not respected him. And it really didn’t matter if I had not intended to. The point is, he felt disrespected because I did not prioritize his needs at 12:30 pm, when he came home, like he had asked me to and expected me to. But…What about Edric’s attitude? What about how hurt I felt?

The Lord comforted me. Forget about trying to make this a fairness thing. You do these things to please me, don’t make your obedience dependent on Edric again.

Okay, okay. You are right, Lord. I need to humble myself and say sorry because that is what you want me to do. 

At the end of our run, as we were cooling down, I turned to Edric and said, “Will you forgive me for yesterday? I was wrong. I should’ve prioritized you and been more respectful. I am sorry.”

Edric smiled and readily forgave me. All was well again…We walked back to our home with our intimacy and communication restored.

As a helpmate, helper, life-giver, supporter, companion to Edric, my role is constantly under testing. But I am thankful that my strong supporter is the Lord, who peels away the layers of wrong in my life to reveal to me the kind of woman he wants me to be — the kind that delights him, and in the process, delights my husband. But I can never be this kind of woman apart from his enabling. And the reality is he uses Edric to refine my character. God does not want me to get complacent or content with my standard of what is acceptable in a wife. Instead he wants me to keep pursuing his standard, which is always higher and better than my own, for the greater good of my person, my marriage and for the sake of his glory.

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“Let Your hand be ready to help me, For I have chosen Your precepts.” (Psalms 119:173 NASB)

“…Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 NASB)

When He Feels Like A King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stinky Shorts

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

How encouraging to know that it is not the externals that matter to God. What is precious to him is the hidden person of the heart — who we are inside. But I struggle with the idea of a gentle and quiet spirit. I want to have this imperishable quality. I mean, wow, it sounds like the secret to lasting beauty! However, it is a challenge to be gracious and humble when I feel like my rights are violated or when I am disrespected, or to be kind and be a blessing when people or circumstances annoy me.

A gentle and quiet spirit conjures up an image of someone who is at peace, at rest, one who is not easily agitated or reactive, choosing to bless when cursed, choosing to love when wounded, self-controlled and able to temper her emotions. I have a lurking fiery spirit that comes out from time to time. But my prayer is to be more consistent about being a quiet and gentle spirit. Of course, God gives me many opportunities to practice applying this. He knows I need the practice!

A few days ago Edric was correcting me about leaving his basketball shorts on the floor. I started to make excuses about why the laundry hadn’t been done and suggested that he was being a little bit nit-picky. He said, “pregnant or not pregnant, you need to get your household duties done. I have equipped you with the resources and house help to get these things done.”

I began to defend myself. “You know I push myself, hon. I am not the type of pregnant person that complains or excuses herself. But you are getting upset about the laundry not being done when we couldn’t possibly get the laundry done because we have been out of the home for the last few days.” There were some holes in my argument. I didn’t want to admit that it was my responsibility. As I was giving my defense, I caught myself…Why am I explaining myself? Why can’t I just admit that I need to improve? So I said, “Okay hon, I will improve.” It is amazing how these few words said in a respectful manner can melt the heart of a husband. He didn’t say anything but he stopped talking about his shorts and the laundry.

Sitting silently on the bed, I prayed and made my appeal to God. A gentle and quiet spirit doesn’t mean you have to be silent inside! I was honest with the Lord about my feelings and frustration. “Can you help Edric to be more understanding? I don’t want to get angry. I don’t want to react.” I did not want to disrespect Edric or begin a conflict with him over stinky basketball shorts. Being able to tell God how I felt was spiritually soothing and emotionally calming.

I walked to the living room and hung out there for a bit to write. In a few minutes, Edric came out and followed me to the couch I was lounging on. He put his arms around me, hugged me and said, “I think I need to be sweeter when I am correcting you. I think it will make a big difference if my tone is more loving. I noticed that a lot of times you react to me because I don’t say things in a kind way. I want to change that.”

Oh my goodness! That was fast, Lord! I hugged Edric back and thanked him for saying that. I admitted to him that I was praying hard that I wouldn’t react. He replied, “I was praying you wouldn’t react either!” We both started to laugh as we recalled what happened when I threw the remote control the week before.

Marriage is really a riot sometimes. I am crazy in love with Edric but I do not always get along with him or agree with his perspective. However, Jesus is the glue that holds us together. He helps us both to change and grow, and he gives us the desire to keep loving one another.

I honestly don’t know how any marriage can survive without Christ in it. I am not talking about marriages where couples stay married for the principle of it but can’t stand each other. I am talking about marriages where couples are able to work out their differences, seek out spiritual solutions, and find that there is more love, more joy, and more adventures to share together after decades have passed.

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Edric and I have just barely passed a decade of marriage. I would like to be able to look back fifty years from now and still say that I am happily married. And I can’t see that happening unless Edric and I commit to love God and follow him faithfully. So far, so good. But I have to do my part by obeying his principles. One of them is being a wife that cultivates a gentle and quiet spirit.

During a recent quiet time, I read this passage: What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:31, 32 NASB)

God is for me. It helps to remember that God is committed to helping me become Christ-like. He uses circumstances and people to reveal my weaknesses and work on my character. He uses Edric. He uses my kids. He uses this pregnancy and the hormones that make me wacko. But most of all, he makes himself available to me so I can run to him. A gentle and quiet spirit is not from me. It is from him.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)

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Love is Not Convenient

When you serve me, it makes me fall in love with you again a million times! This was Edric’s dramatic statement as he kissed me a few mornings ago before leaving for work.

His language of love is service. (Dr. Gary Chapman talks about 5 Love Languages — Time, Touch, Affirmation, Gifts and Service.) I had hoped that service would NOT have been IT for him. But God is a matchmaker extraordinaire. He gave me a husband who deeply desires to be served because he knows that I have to improve in this area.

In contrast, I am more about self-service. I grew up in a home where my mom taught us to serve ourselves. If we needed a glass of water, we knew where the refrigerator was. It was no mystery. If we wanted a snack, we knew where to find the popcorn or peanuts. (Yes, that’s about all my mom gave us to snack on. My parents didn’t like to feed us a lot of junk food.) My mom did not want us to grow up dependent on househelp. So she taught my siblings and I to do the laundry, iron clothes, cook, bake, wash the dishes, make our beds, straighten our rooms, pick up after ourselves, clean the showers and toilets, etc.

But here is a big HOWEVER. I knew how to do all the domestic stuff and yet, this didn’t translate to joyful service on my part when I got married. I didn’t mind cooking, laundry, cleaning, but I would grumble when Edric made requests that seemed “above and beyond the scope of my responsibilities.” Late night massages, a glass of water when I was already tucked in bed, second dinners…Most of the time, I would do what he asked but I would be huffing and puffing inside.

Part of the issue for me was my interpretation of his requests. I felt that there were instances when he was insensitive. For example, I would be at the buffet table holding several plates to get food for the kids. After getting back to the table, Edric, would ask me something like, “Hon, can you get me salad?” And I would feel very hurt. Seriously?! Did you not see me octopusing four plates?! It is not like you can’t do it for yourself

I know Edric. He doesn’t intentionally want to make my life miserable. He is an incredibly loving person. But he DOES want to be served by me and that’s not going to change. There would be instances when I would catch him standing in front of the refrigerator or peering into the cabinet where the snacks are kept and I would be shocked to see him serving himself. (Because he rarely visits the kitchen, it seems odd when he is moving about in it.) I asked him one time, “How do you know where the snacks are?” His reply was, “I know where everything is, I just choose to be helpless when you are around.” We both laughed because this is so true! He calls it “giving me the privilege of serving him.” Oh really?! Well, over the years, I have learned to accept that this is the way he likes to be loved by me. End of discussion.

God has a way of giving you the very spouse you need to develop your character. When I have thoughts like, Why does Edric have to be like that or like this?! God reminds me, “his personality is exactly what you need to grow in character so be thankful because I hand picked him for you. He is my instrument to transform you into Christ-likeness. You need him! So accept his desire for service with joy! Service is something I want you to learn.”

When I read my bible the morning I began writing this entry, I came across the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. I have read this passage many times but in light of my meditations on serving my husband, I began to weep.

Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end… got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:1, 4, 5 NASB)

I fall so short of God’s standard of selfless service! Jesus was about to suffer a most painful death knowing “His Hour” had come. He was well aware of how his disciples would abandon him. And yet he wanted to give of himself to those he loved…to stoop down and clean their feet, an act that was for the lowliest of servants, a job that no one wanted to do.

Wow, I am not like this! But this is the kind of heart that God wants me to develop, not merely towards Edric but towards everyone.

“…You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 NASB)

I am not going to pretend to be a perfect helpmate to Edric. Even though I try to serve him with gladness, I mess up every now and then when I let my selfishness get the better of me. But through the years, God has been teaching me the secret to serving the way he wants me to. It is about humility, dying to my self-centeredness, not keeping “tabs”, rejecting the idea that it must always be fair. Above all, it is focusing on Jesus’ example. He put our interests and needs above his. He valued our lives before his own.

The Bible says, Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-9 NASB)

This is an impossible, divine standard that requires God’s grace at work in me. If I do not walk with the Lord, I cannot love Edric so selflessly. Beyond the choice to humble myself, it is recognizing my inability to do this unless I come before the Lord and say, “Teach me to delight to serve Edric.”

In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “Father, not my will but yours be done.” Well, I need to have the same mindset. “Lord, help me not to think of what I want all the time but what you want me to do, what you want me to become.”

Love so very often requires doing what is sacrificial. It is not convenient. It is not easy. It means giving of yourself even when you don’t feel like it, when you feel like it is unfair, and when the person you are choosing to love behaves in undeserving ways. If you cannot accept these realities, don’t get married! Don’t have children. Don’t have friends. Live on an island with coconuts for company.

There is no human relationship on this earth that will not require us, at some point, to make a sacrifice. But be encouraged by this: Whatever we give up for Christ, we gain immeasurably more in this life or the life to come. My dad used to say, “If you really think about it, there are no martyrs in God’s kingdom.” God says he is a rewarder of those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6) The blessings may not always be immediate, but they are certain.

How does God reward me when I delight to serve Edric? A happy, well-served husband is an amazing person to live with! When Edric feels like he is prioritized and important, he bubbles over with happiness. There is renewed inspiration to be tender, sweet, and caring towards me.

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As wonderful as it is to hear Edric say, “I feel so in love with you,” ultimately, I don’t do things for him. I want God’s favor! I want his presence in my life! So my hope is in God and in his goodness when I do things like wake up early to pack Edric his lunch, walk to the refrigerator half asleep to get him a glass of water, or massage his feet before going to bed (I outsource this to Massage r Us every now and then, he he). Getting the googley-eyed lovey dovey glances are a great bonus but even if I may not always get this kind of a response, I know this…“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. (Lamentations 3:24, 25 NASB)

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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