Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Happy Wife, Happy Life?

I'm a wife, and I'm happy - most of the time.

According to the age-old adage, that means my husband should be happy- most of the time. Right?


When I'm happy, I'm easier to be around; and that fact probably makes my husband have an easier time at life, I'll admit.

But as a Christian woman, I don't want my husband to just be a genie catering to my every wish and fancy. I don't need a slave; I need a leader. And if my husband is going to be the spiritual leader of our marriage, as I want him to be (in my grown-up moments), then it's distinctly NOT his job to make me happy.

In fact, I'm thankful that he doesn't.

I'm thankful that when I want something that's bad for me, he advises me against it. I'm thankful that when I have a stupid idea (and that happens more often than I'd like to admit), he's around to be the voice of reason. I'm thankful that he knows me well enough, and is in a relationship permanent enough, to point out my flaws and show me that I'm not always right.

Does that make me upset? Uhm, yes. Does that make me give him a hard time? Hehe, yes.

But that makes him to be exactly the kind of husband God wants him to be - and the kind I need him to be. Despite my negative reactions, he does what his role demands of him; and I love him all the more for that.

Living in the thick of the matriarchal Filipino culture, it's ridiculously easy to think that women rule - that men are better off listening to their wives. It seems easier - right? Wives are happy; husbands are safe.

But that's not what a godly husband should be.

I'll say it frankly. A man who does not lead - a man who listens to his wife in everything, whose goal in life is to please his wife - is not a godly husband. He may look like a good husband to lots of people - obedient, compliant, and softspoken - but he is distinctly NOT the model of a Christian husband.

A good Christian husband exercises servant leadership. He cares and he guides. He provides and he sustains. He encourages, but he also rebukes.

I just happen to be lucky enough to be married to one.

I've heard fathers teach sons, and older men tell younger men, that the key to a happy life is to always take your wife's side and to acknowledge that she's always right.

That's a load of nonsense.

No human being is "always right," and marrying her doesn't qualify her for that label either.

I know some women might be upset at me for writing this, for "taking the man's side," so to speak. I'm sorry if my generic examples inadvertently offend. That's not my intention.

I don't take the man's side. I take God's side. I respect and honor what He designed marriage to be.

It's one man, one woman, one lifetime.

It's a leader, a helpmeet, and a commitment.

I don't always succeed in playing the role of a godly wife. I sometimes (i.e. often) take over things that are not my job. I reject the tasks my husband delegates to me, choosing instead to complain and lament. I know the model of a biblical marriage, but I seldom follow it completely.

I'm not perfect, my husband is not perfect, and our marriage is not perfect. No marriage is.

But that's why we need Him, right?

That's why Tim and I are incredibly blessed to have a biblical model to follow. We are blessed to know that God will look favorably upon a marriage where a man leads and a woman helps. We are happy to know that when the husband faithfully leads and loves, and the wife consistently respects and submits, we would be able to have a God-honoring marriage.

We've seen these principles applied, kept, and rewarded in many marriages around us. It's possible, people.

We've been given the blueprint of a truly happy marriage. Why follow anything else?

Happy God, happy marriage. And everybody wins.

Monday, January 30, 2017

When I Grow Up

"I want to be a mom!"

That was my answer from day one. I was five, having braved half a decade of existence with gusto, when I made that declaration. Over the years, other opinions came and went. I went through the flight attendant stage, the fashion designer stage, the celebrity chef stage, and even the princess stage (Prince William was still single then, okay?).

But the fundamental wish never changed.

I wanted to be a mom. That was my goal in life.

I still do want to be a mom...but that's not my goal in life.

Biology aside, becoming a good mom required being a good wife first. My urgency to get to that stage almost caused multiple stupidities as a single girl. I knew I wanted to be a mom; so I had to find a husband by necessity. At that time, any random one would do.

God, of course, had better plans. It's by His miraculous guidance that I fell in love with my husband and married him as soon as we knew it was His will.

In my mind, step one was done.

Becoming a mom - the ultimate dream - felt only a stone's throw away.

For the first 18 months of marriage, I constantly expected myself to be pregnant. Month after month, I bought pregnancy tests. Month after month, I geared myself up to buy maternity clothes. Week after week, I tracked my body. Week after week, I nodded silently as family members gave me mythic tips on how to get pregnant. Day after day, I sacrificed high heels and caffeine and eating processed food.

Day after day, I cried.

Why wasn't it happening? Upon multiple occasions, I had dear older people in church walking up to me to say, "You should have kids as soon as possible. Don't wait until you're older."

It pained me every single time to say, "I know. I know."

I wasn't waiting. We wanted kids, and we wanted them right away. We even expected to be holding a child (or at least a pregnant belly) by the time our first anniversary rolled along.

God didn't let that happen.

We ran tests. We took medication. We consulted doctors both Western and Oriental in training. We consulted doctors for women, doctors for men. We got masseuses, herbs, vitamins, and a dozen other means of supposedly aiding fertility.

Our bodies aren't perfect. We can have kids, but it's hard to have them.

The thought was sobering.

But God is our sun and shield. No good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

He is the strength of our hearts, and our portion forever.

He sent people to cross our paths. A wonderful church deaconess reminded me that having children or not didn't matter in eternity. A pastor's wife shared with me that God's legacy in us reached beyond that of sons or daughters. A loving husband reminds me repeatedly that he will never love me any less even if I never bear him any children.

Don't get me wrong. We received tons of wrong advice too.

Some people said that it would surely happen someday, though they couldn't guarantee it. Some people told me I just didn't have enough faith. Some others claimed that I just "didn't want it enough."

Friends and family conceive - quickly and repeatedly - and I feel that life is just utterly unfair.

They sound silly in my saner days. But whenever I come home after a family reunion where EVERYONE had a kid, I feel lonely and sad and feeling entirely inadequate. When Mother's Day rolls around and a new mother runs up to me to say, "Look! Look! I have a baby now!"...I still go home and cry out half of my body's water content.

It's in those days that I forget what it truly means to be a Christian, and all the wrong advice sounds almost right.

Being a Christian means that there is nothing on earth I desire besides God. It means that despite what society might tell me, my life is not missing anything.

I am complete.

I am complete in Him.

I am not living an unfinished life. I am not in any way less of a person than the person with half a dozen kids. I am a child of a King. That's all that matters.

Hey, guess I did end up being a princess, after all.

When I grow up, I still want to be a mom; but I don't HAVE to be one.

Not having children allows us to study, to shop, to grow, to travel, and to do so many things we wouldn't be able to if we were tied down with any children. Not having kids lets us have so many more years alone to prune and fine-tune our marriage. Not having kids helps me understand what it means to be complete, complete in my God.

I am the child of a King. Nothing else really matters. And even when I forget that at times, it doesn't make it any less true.

Friday, November 25, 2016

On Being a Millenial

There are days when I wear that label proudly. I came of age during the new century. I am a digital native, a confident and opinionated woman, an expressive individual, and a writer and traveller. In less than 30 years of life, I've had the opportunity to see, read, visit, and explore so many things.

Being a millenial is fun. It's a generation of opportunity, after all. Color and gender suddenly don't matter when it comes to choosing career paths. My marriage is one of mutual respect and consideration, not a one-way street of dominance. Social media and the Internet leave the world (and everyone in it) at my fingertips.

I love being a millenial.

We are part of a global village. We invent cool words and type in acronyms. We have gadgets instead of pets.

It's pretty cool.

But there are days when I am less proud of the label.

There are days when the term means laziness, faithlessness, and narcissism. There are HR department heads who shudder in fear at a stack of applications with no one born before 1980. There are moments when the word is spit out with total disdain.

And as much as I'd like to argue, those bad days happen more often than the good ones.

Because whether we like it or not, our actions do speak louder than words. Or, in some cases, louder than inaction.

Millenials, it's our turn to make sure we leave the right legacy (not that most of us care about anything beyond 'today' and 'right now,' apparently). But if you're still reading, then you're probably one of the hopeful ones. It's our turn to write the next chapter of history.

Are we leaving anything of lasting achievement?

Or just a bunch of selfies?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Finding Mr. Darcy

I have never shied away from the fact that I adore Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. I re-read my favorite parts of the book quite regularly, and I've hungrily consumed its various adaptations. After all, there is no flawed heroine as charming as Elizabeth; and there is no elusive prince more dashing and admirable than Darcy.

I've loved the book since I was twelve.

And that means I've been waiting for my Mr. Darcy to show up for all of the twelve years after that.

There's just one little problem: Mr. Darcy doesn't exist.

He's a figment of maiden Austen's imagination, and he's been the object of my dreams for so long that he simply couldn't exist. There is no perfect man.

"No!" The fangirls cry. "We're not saying Mr. Darcy is perfect!"

No, we're not. But we sure act like he is, don't we?

The irony of it all is as follows: We are all as blind as Elizabeth.

We think that if we wish it hard enough, that handsome and brooding modern-day princes will appear and refuse to leave our sides. It doesn't work that way. We live our own lives. Sometimes Prince Charming shows up; sometimes he doesn't.

And sometimes, he comes as the person we least expect.

The charm of Pride and Prejudice's love story is that Mr. Darcy wasn't someone Elizabeth treasured right away. And for many of us in real life, it works the same way. I know I've had my share of Mr. Wickhams. But none of us really want to be with Wickham, do we? We want Darcy! But maybe if I had known earlier what qualities really made a Darcy, then I wouldn't have had to meet so many Wickhams (and Collinses too!).

What makes a Mr. Darcy?

It's not the height or the riches or the handsome features. Unfortunately, it's not. It's not the brooding introverted nature, even. In other words, it's nothing that the world exalts.

It's not the athleticism on horseback.

It's not the fame of the Darcy name (or the ten thousand pounds per annum that comes with it).

And it's definitely not the fact that he's related to Catherine de Bourgh.

What makes Darcy a prize includes much deeper, less visible things.

It's the kindness and generosity of a brother and landlord.

It's the faithfulness of a man with a heart unchanging.

It's the humility that changes a once-proud gentleman for the better.

It's the respect of a thinker for the woman he loves.

And those are the things I found in mine.

I married my Mr. Darcy, whose birthday is today, more than three years ago. Like Elizabeth, I didn't appreciate him at first, choosing rather to hurl rejections in his face (my baby brother was there, ask him). Like Elizabeth, I also took quite a while to warm up to who he truly is, rather than who I thought him to be. I didn't try to imitate Elizabeth intentionally, but I somehow ended up doing so.

But I'm glad my husband is as steadfast as my favorite fictional hero.

Happy birthday, Tim. You're far better of a man than I could ever have hoped to marry. Thank you for loving silly ol' me.

And guess what? As far as I'm concerned, my Mr. Darcy is just as handsome and dashing as Eliabeth's - and our humble home is as luxurious as Pemberley. He is the introvert that balances my talkative nature, the ballast to my whims and fancies; and even though he doesn't brood (it's not becoming, really), I think he's cool anyway.

I fall in love with him a little more each and every day. Who knows, maybe one day, all the love can compensate for the years I didn't appreciate him for who he was.

Ladies, don't be me. Look for the right things. Then maybe, when your Mr. Darcy comes along, you'll recognize him right away.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Social Media and the Green-Eyed Monster

Social media - the term breathes excitement, fear, or sustenance to a variety of people.

For some, the thought of uploading a play-by-play of their life online causes paranoia or a prickly sense of privacy invasion. For others, like myself, social media is a tool (and upon occasion, a necessary evil) for keeping in touch with the friends, students, teachers, and family members scattered across the globe. For anyone born a decade after me, it's a lifeline. They'd stop breathing without it.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other hashtag-friendly folks have served a revolutionary role ever since they turned mainstream. Suddenly, the world is a much faster, much smaller place.

I can tell you what my college professor had for breakfast.

I can gasp judgmentally at how my cousin's cousin's cousin's drastic weight gain looks far worse than mine.

I can even be regularly informed of which Avenger, Disney Princess, language, color, or inner child my once-upon-a-summer-camp high school friend is supposed to be (even though he or she categorically denies being any of the above).

Because of social media, life is now so much more complex, so much more riveting, and so much more suffocating.

Because, to be honest, most of the feelings I harbor as I scroll up and down my feed, unless duly kept in check, are rather on the sinful side.

Covetousness, self-righteousness, impatience, and misplaced pride are just a few to start off the list. There's also the invariable materialism that constantly lurks in every other post.

Sometimes I wonder why I so eagerly gobble up this stuff.

Hedonism? Check. Narcissism? Double check. Selflessness and true learning? I'll admit I've had my share of timely reminders from inspiring quotes with flowery backgrounds.

But most of the time, the primary sentiment churning to the rhythm of my heartbeat, as I survey post after post, is plain, ol' jealousy.

Yes, jealousy - along with discontent, ungratefulness, condemnation, indignation, and all their accompanying evils.

Someone got a new car. Well, good for them.

Someone is on vacation, again. Don't they ever work? Okay, fine, Paris was so last month. Florence is a whole different story.

Another baby.

Another grandchild.

Another wedding - and God forbid it looks fancier than mine.

Another baby? Oh wait, that's the same baby. They just need to upload an hourly picture of him. Baby sitting, baby standing, baby sleeping.

Another graduation, medals and all, while I struggle to pass my classes.

Another parent publicly boasting about their pride for their children's achievements, while I wait for mine to remember that it's my birthday.

Another wedding. Wait, didn't she already - oh, that's her baby sister, who happens to be five years younger than I. Oh, well.

Another -

Okay, hyperbole aside, here's the deal. Since everyone wants to post disgustingly happy things about their lives to make me uncomfortable and jealous and hurt - maybe I should return the favor?

I eat a good meal - snap photo, upload, and wait for LPP (likes per post) to go up.

I have a staycation - snap photo, upload, celebrate new and higher LPP.

I mention something sentimental about my family - make collage, upload, and stand triumphant over reaching three-digit territory in LPP land.

I make a post about lunch. Hm, this is going slow.

I rant about homework - this should do it. And it does! LPP average back on track.

A week later, I lie depleted on my bed, depressed that the latest picture of my new haircut barely got sixty likes.

What happened? It's not like it was my fault. I just treated them the same way they treated me, right? Right?

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn," Romans 12 commands. If anything, social media should be the perfect aid to fulfilling that Bible verse. What better way to know exactly how to empathize than being told by the person himself, often with photo evidence?

The only thing in the way - is that stubborn, narcissistic self in me.

The reason that envy can become such a powerful driving force behind my actions is that I forget how little this world is about me. If someone posts pictures of their beautiful family enjoying God's blessings, the way I click the "like" or "heart" button doesn't have to come with a tinge of bitterness. It's not about me. When someone frankly pours out their struggles, what better chance could I have to comfort and edify, perhaps immediately?

And then there's the other me problem.

Why do I post something online in the first place?

If my goal is to inspire jealousy and draw attention to myself, then I am no better off than the people I so rashly judge. If my purpose is to feel better by getting human affirmation, then I'm diving headfirst into a giant black hole.

If I share something - be it photo, quote, article, link, video, or note - because I believe it would glorify God and benefit others, then there just might be a higher chance that it would.

Dear social media, I don't know what I'd do without you. But maybe right now, what matters more is what I do do with you - be it through what I contribute or what I consume.

Because, at the end of the day, it's not about me.