Cultivate Inner Beauty (Small Change #13)

Beauty, nowadays, tend to be very superficial. Blame it on commercialism. People are not contented with the features they are born with.

The dark-skinned want to be fairer, while those with fair skin pays big money to get a tan. A very pretty young woman overlooks her beautiful features and focuses on minor flaws one won't even notice. Really thin women even go for a procedure to get off the what - unwanted muscles - because there is no fat in their bodies. The most probable scenario when a person goes under the knife is that they look better before.

Why can't we just focus on the good qualities we have?

I love my eyes, I believe they are my best features. I got them from my father. I am so happy my son has the same set of eyes. Oh, and my birthing hips, they proved to be useful after all. I have fair skin which I got from my Chinese blood. I try very hard to get a tan especially when I heard it would make me look slimmer, but sadly I do not turn dark. No big deal though.

Years ago, Dove came out with the campaign for real beauty. I liked the general idea behind it - to boost women's self-esteem.

"Real women have real curves."

"Real beauty comes in all shapes, size and color."

Sharing with you the author's three timeless beauty tips:

1. True beauty is internal.
What is of utmost importance to God is your heart - not your face, your features, or your figure.
2. True beauty is enhanced by spiritual growth.

I am witness at the transformation of so many women who sought and continues to seek God. The more they deepen their walk, the more beautiful they become.

3. True beauty is a matter of the heart.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)

Let us remember, we are (1) known and blessed by God, (2) loved and His Son died for our sins, (3) accepted by God through Jesus, (4) complete in Christ , (5) a work in progress and will one day be perfect? Yay!

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My Digital Library

The Kindle application for iPad is my new best friend. I cannot live without books. I used to read nonstop before Javi's time. Now, it's challenging to find a regular reading time. And I cannot read like before that I would not put a book down.

As we kept on moving, Kindle is perfect for me. All I need is the iPad and I have most of the books I need and want to read. I wouldn't have to transport all my books with me every time we move. I gave away too many books when we left Cebu. I only kept the hard cover ones which of course includes my Harry Potter collection.

Thanks to Kindle, my library now looks like this --

I have more than 50 books in it. I have not purchased all. More than half of the books are sample. I send these "samples" - usually the first chapters of each book - and they are my To Read books. I also get free e-books. Mostly from Gospel eBooks which my friend Samantha recommended.

Yes, I miss the smell of new books but I am very happy with Kindle I do not mind reading from a tablet.

Want to know what books are in my library?

  1. Battlefield of the Mind: Winning the Battle in Your Mind by Joyce Meyer (wishlist)
  2. Becoming A Woman of Freedom by Cynthia Heald (free!)
  3. The Beginner's Bible for Toddlers by Zondervan (for Javi; discounted)
  4. The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories by Zondervan (for Javi; wishlist)
  5. The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis (to read later)
  6. Calm My Anxious Heart: A Woman's Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow (free!)
  7. Circle of Friends Cookbook 25 Slow Cooker Recipes by Gooseberry Patch (free!)
  8. Circle of Friends Cookbook - 25 Macaroni & Cheese Recipes by Gooseberry Patch (free!)
  9. Clutter Rehab: 101 Tips and Tricks to Become an Organization Junkie and Love It! by Laura Wittmann (wishlist)
  10. Craving God: A 21-Day Devotional Challenge by Lysa Terkeurst (free!)
  11. Cure for the Common Life: Living In Your Sweet Spot by Max Lucado (wishlist)
  12. Double Delicious!: Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives by Jessica Seinfeld
  13. Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know by Hamilton Wright Mabie (for Javi; free!)
  14. A Family of Value by John Rosemond (free!)
  15. The Financial Peace Planner: A Step-by-Step Guide to Restoring Your Family's Financial Health by Dave Ramsey (wishlist)
  16. He Chose The Nails: What God did to Win Your Heart by Max Lucado
  17. Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin
  18. It's Not About Me: Rescue From the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy by Max Lucado (wishlist)
  19. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (wishlist)
  20. The Last Battle: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  21. Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger (wishlist)
  22. Let's Go Europe 2011: The Student Travel Guide by Harvard Student Agencies, Inc. (free!)
  23. The Little Black Book of Style by Nina Garcia (wishlist)
  24. Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson (free!)
  25. Money and Marriage by Matt Bell (free!)
  26. More than Enough: The Ten Keys to Changing Your Financial Destiny by Dave Ramsey (wishlist)
  27. My Life in France by Julia Child (wishlist)
  28. Now Eat This! Diet: Lose Up to 10 Pounds in Just 2 Weeks Eating 6 Meals a Day! by Rocco DiSpirito
  29. Now Eat This!: 150 of America's Favorite Comfort Foods, All Under 350 Calories by Rocco Dispirito (wishlist)
  30. The One Hundred by Nina Garcia (wishlist)
  31. Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference by Max Lucado (wishlist)
  32. The Purple Book: Biblical Foundations for Building Strong Disciples by Rice Broocks and Steve Murrell
  33. The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren
  34. Putting On a Gentle And Quiet Spirit: 1 Peter (A Woman After God's Own Heart?) by Elizabeth George (wishlist)
  35. Quiet Reflections of Peace by Baker Publishing Group (free!)
  36. Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats: A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners by Rachael Ray (wishlist)
  37. Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Get Real Meals: Eat Healthy Without Going to Extremes by Rachael Ray (wishlist)
  38. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream by David Platt (wishlist)
  39. Reluctant Entertainer, The: Every Woman's Guide to Simple and Gracious Hospitality by Sandy Coughlin (wishlist)
  40. Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? by Gary Thomas (wishlist)
  41. Shop Your Closet by Melanie Charlton Fascitelli (wishlist)
  42. The Simple Dollar: How One Man Wiped Out His Debts and Achieved the Life of His Dreams by Trent Hamm (free!)
  43. Small Changes for a Better Life: Daily Steps to Living Gods Plan for You by Elizabeth George (currently reading)
  44. Something Blue by Emily Giffin (wishlist)
  45. Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin (wishlist)
  46. StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath (wishlist)
  47. Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff (wishlist)
  48. Style A to Zoe: The Art of Fashion, Beauty, & Everything Glamour by Rachel Zoe and Rose Apodaca (wishlist)
  49. Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal (wishlist)
  50. The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell (wishlist)
  51. The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness (3rd Edition Revised and Updated) by Dave Ramsey (wishlist)
  52. Unconditional?: The call of Jesus to radical forgiveness by Brian Zahnd (free!)
  53. What to Expect the Second Year by Heidi Murkoff (wishlist)
  54. What's the Least I Can Believe and Still Be a Christian? by Martin Thielen (free!)
  55. Why Men Love Bitches by Sherry Argov (wishlist)
  56. Winning by Losing by Jillian Michaels (wishlist)
  57. 100 Recipes Every Woman Should Know: Engagement Chicken and 99 Other Fabulous Dishes to Get You Everything You Want in Life by Cindi Leive and The Editors Of Glamour (wishlist)

Wow, I have 57 books! My choice of books are very diverse - from spiritual, family & relationships, parenting, chick-lit, children's, travel, trade, fashion, food, entertaining, finances, etc. I think I have it all.

With all the books I want to read, I clearly do not have the resources (money and time) to buy more. My rule is to finish reading the books in my current library and then I can buy some more.

Oh, I still have another library in iBooks which my sister helped me fill with e-books.

Busy days ahead for a bookworm like me. You gotta keep on feeding the mind!

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Happy Birthday, Tatay!

My father passed away eleven years ago. Now why do I still greet him after all these years? I just want to remember how he good he was to us, his family. If I were in Manila, I will be celebrating this day over dinner with my mother and siblings.

April 28 will always be special to me. I look forward to this day, keeping in mind it's Tatay's birthday. He would have been 79.

He would've loved meeting Jed, his son-in-law and of course, his first grandchild, Javi. Although I doubt I'd be married now if he were still alive. I remember very clearly when he told me when I was 22 and has a boyfriend that time for us not to go out as often as we had. I was already working then and this guy would pick me up at home on a Sunday to watch a movie and we would be home before dinner. Geez! Although, he was right about not liking the guy I was going out with.

My brother shared with me a text message from my mother after receiving dividend checks from my father's different stocks. She said that my father is still taking care of us even if he died eleven years ago. We are still earning from the different investments he made. He has always been a good provider.

He did raise the bar for my dear Jed. And I would sometimes find myself wondering why Jed is doing things differently from how I was used to. I know this is unfair for my husband. I am learning to adjust and adapt.

The pain of losing my father is long gone. Of course, we still miss him terribly. That may be why my brother hangs out with my father's friends. I would myself smiling when I hear the song Fernando by ABBA which was his favorite song. To this very day, we still, in our own special way, celebrate this day thanking God for blessing us with Vidal/Bining's life.

My father must've done something right for us to remember him this way up to this very day. It would've been easy to just forget but we cannot.

I know he is very happy where he is right now.

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Love Your Children (Small Change #12)

I owe another small change for this week as I failed to write any last week due to being sick. Funny I have to write about loving your children when I just came home with Javi after my meeting with an old friend was cut short as he was throwing tantrums and I had to bring him home. All I can feel right now are exhaustion and embarrassment. But hey such is the life of a mother.

Now back to the last six keys to confident child-raising --

5. Cherish them.

Kids grow up too fast. Before you know, the once cute baby is all grown-up and no longer needs the parents. I may have chosen the more difficult route, but it's all worth it as I didn't miss a single thing. I was with Javi the minute I conceived him until now. The sweetest thing for me right now is when he calls me "Mama."

For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother.

- Proverbs 4:3

6. Take care of them.

It can be as simple as planning the menu. Now that the little boy is eating, I look for recipes that he can eat, too.

She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants.

When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

- Proverbs 31:15; 21

7. Pay attention to them.

As parents, we need to constantly pay attention to our children's development and to their friends. I am very hands on and this is the reason why I would rather take care of Javi myself than rely on someone else to take care of him.

Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright?

- Proverbs 20:11

Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds

- Proverbs 27:23

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.

- Proverbs 28:7

8. Promote peace in your home.

When the time comes that I have more than one child, I would have to deal with finding ways to stop fights among siblings. Right now, we have to ensure that when Jed and I would fight, Javi should not witness it.

Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart.

- Proverbs 18:18

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire.

- Proverbs 29:17

9. Require respect from them.

Boy, did I learn a lot about this from my parents. My siblings and I sure do respect them. I am grateful my parents enforced this trait on us which I am sure to hand down to my children.

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

- Exodus 20:12

10. Be patient with them.

I am guilty of this. I easily lose my patience and my temper. So my prayer every single day is for God to help me in this area.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

- Proverbs 15:1

The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.

- Proverbs 15:28

The author reminds all mothers that mothering is for life. This is not meant to scare new mothers. It is also best for the parents to set good examples for their children. How can we raise law-abiding citizens if we ourselves do not follow the rules? How can we raise godly children if we ourselves do not live a Christ-like life?

My love for my little boy is unexplainable. I will love him and he doesn't need to do a single thing. A mother's love is similar to God's love for us.

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Train Your Children (Small Change #11)

Life used to be simpler. When Javi came into our lives, I honestly did not know what hit me. It probably brought the best in me, but it also unleashed my worst traits. Never had I prayed so hard for patience, strength, wisdom, energy, creativity and grace. To think I only have one child!

I chose to take care of our son on my own, without the help of a yaya/nanny. I am a stay-at-home-mother. And everyone will surely agree with me that it is the most difficult job. Jed works long hours so it is usually me and the little boy 24/7. And that is enough to drive me insane.

We are at this stage where the little boy has started to become a handful. He is almost a year and a half. Pretty soon we will be saying hello to world of "terrible twos." Then the voice of Joel Osteen would keep on playing in my head over and over, how he doesn't believe in "terrible twos" and how he sees them as "terrific twos."

Small Changes for a Better Life book has ten keys to confident child-raising. I will share the first four keys while the rest will be shared in the next small changes.

1. Teach your children.

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
- Proverbs 1:8 NIV
My favorite pastor, Rick Warren, has some wise words about teaching your children.

Raising kids with strong character requires doing less FOR them and teaching them to do more for themselves.

2. Train your children.

Train up a child in the way he should go,

And when he is old he will not depart from it.

- Proverbs 22:6 NKJV

3. Instruct them.

A wise son brings joy to his father,
but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

- Proverbs 10:1 NIV

4. Correct him. (And the Book of Proverbs has a number a passages on this.)

Whoever spares the rod hates their children,
but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

- Proverbs 13:24 NIV

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death.

- Proverbs 19:18 NIV

because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in

- Proverbs 3:12 NIV

Do not withhold discipline from a child;
if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.

- Proverbs 23:13 NIV

Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him.

- Proverbs 22:15 NKJV

A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom,
but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.

- Proverbs 29:15 NIV

The Bible is pretty clear on disciplining as children are born with a sinful nature. Parents are to correct it.

The book of Harold J. Sala, Train Up A Child and Be Glad You Did is an excellent parenting resource. The book was a gift to us. It is very easy to read and would not require much reading time.

A friend recently gave me a copy of Shepherding A Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. I had been looking for this book for years as my friends kept on telling me that this is an excellent parenting book. It is always out of stock in any OMF bookstores. I am currently on chapter three and so far have learned so much.

Up next, Love Your Children.

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Easy Sunday Afternoon

Two Sundays ago, my little boy was sick. We couldn't get out of the house. I needed to run errands. I had to wait for Jed to come back from church so he can look after the little boy.

I love weekends. Saturdays are my favorite. Sundays are for taking it easy.

Bangkok is slow on a Sunday afternoon. Except the malls and bazaars.

Walking towards the Chong Nonsi BTS station. The walkway is almost empty.

The view from where I stood from the station. There's my favorite Dean & Deluca.

The BTS rail tracks. The most efficient way of transportation in Bangkok.

My chariot awaits!

And here I am in MBK.

I never get tired of MBK. I go there every week. Well, it's because Grace Bangkok Church holds its Sunday services at the Pathumwan Princess Hotel which is adjacent to MBK.

Ooh, shoppers!

Supermarket stop: to buy lemons. For me, Tops Market is Thailand's SaveMore.

Seven floors of shopping, food and entertainment.

And anywhere you go to in Thailand, one will find a shrine dedicated to their King.

Last stop: Index Living Mall. This is Thailand's version of IKEA.
I can literally spend hours here.

I wish to take more photos and blog more about our life here. The more I know about our city, the more I can share.

I am truly enjoying our time here.

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Invest In Your Marriage (Small Change #10)

The very first small group I attended talked about this small change. I totally enjoyed our discussion and I learned so much. I was still a newlywed then; that was three years ago.

So much has changed since then. I am no longer an office worker. Jed and I are now parents. We are living in Bangkok.

After moving to two cities and a baby, all I can say is life was simpler then.

I am struggling with being a wife and a mother. It is easy to neglect the husband and focus on the baby. However, it should not end up that way.

My priority is Jed over Javi. PERIOD.

I have heard of stories that after being married for a number of years, the romance is gone and the relationship with one's spouse is more of a friend. I was horrified. I wouldn't want that. I'd still want to be in love with my husband until we are old and grey. I would want to keep on holding hands with him. I want to be able to talk to him about everything under the sun.

I am grateful I have a mother who constantly reminds me to put Jed first. At first, it was annoying then I learned to appreciate my mother's advice.

I also have a wonderful spiritual family who teaches us what a wife and husband should be. Jed and I even get to go on dates now as they offer to look after Javi. I truly believe God led us to the most awesome church. We each will have our own small groups to teach us to become better husbands and wives. It is also good to be surrounded by married friends/couples who are in the same faith.

My prayer is to make "date nights" a regular thing. Right now, only God can help us find ways for date nights to actually take place. Regular date nights are essential to a marriage. Come to think of it, when the children are all grown up and you only have your husband or your wife, you wouldn't want them to feel like a stranger, right?

Interested in what Elizabeth George has to say on how to improve one's marriage?

Her ten keys to a better marriage go:

  1. Work as a team.
  2. Learn to communicate.
  3. Enjoy intimacy.
  4. Manage your money.
  5. Keep up the home.
  6. Raise your children.
  7. Make time for fun.
  8. Serve the Lord.
  9. Reach out to others.
  10. Grow in the Lord.

Sam, my small group leader then, e-mailed us this note (which I still kept to this very day) about this small change which she quoted from Elizabeth George's book.

Guard against anything that would divide you as a couple.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." (Genesis 2:24 and Matthew 19:5-6)
Concentrate on helping your husband.
"And the Lord God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him." (Genesis 2:18)
Whatever you do, do with a team mentality.
"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Make sure everyone knows how much you love your husband.
"Let the wife see that she respects her husband." (Ephesians 5:33)
Keep the fire of passion burning.
"Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband." (I Corinthians 7:3)

What has also been helping me is New Spring Church's sermon series, Man vs Wife.

A good marriage takes a lot of work.

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House Guest 101

Would you believe we never had houseguests during our stay in Cebu? Well, I had my family several occasions but I don't consider them guests as they are my family.

My reasons for not having house guests over:

1. The second room became our room-of-all trades - storage, nursery, walk-in closet.

2. I am not comfortable having house guests.

Yes, you read it, right, I am not comfortable with the thought of having other people in my home. I value my privacy way too much. This would also be the reason why we do not have a stay-in house help or yaya (nanny). I grew up in a house where we didn't have house guests, except for my father's sister who would sleep ocassionally when my sister's room was still vacant. When we would go on vacations my father always opted to stay in hotels than at a friend's house. And I took up that trait.

Moving here to Thailand has introduced me to this whole new world of hosting house guests. It is inevitable that we will have to host visitors. I cannot limit our visitors to those people I like, right?

I was stressed to the highest level about this house guest thing. I admire people who has no problem opening up their homes to others. I am not that. I am also not gracious. I am a Filipino and I may possess the trait of being hospitable but that excludes my home. I have privacy issues. We are not breakfast eaters. I cannot stand mess. I am not comfortable cooking for other people. Yes, I have gazillion issues.

Then I started to look at things differently. The Lord changed my heart and has continuously assured me everything will be okay. And that's when I calmed down. He wants to give me this opportunity to learn grace, among a whole other character trait. God also reminded me of the times I was welcomed to homes of relatives and friends. It is time to pay it forward.

I began reading about what is expected of me and my house guests. Martha Stewart has a section on Hostessing and House Guests. I found out that the expectations are more for house guests. Emily Post, the queen of etiquette, came up with her lists of Dos and Donts for House Guests.

Then I'm beginning to realize that since it our home, we are in control. And I shouldn't worry nor apologize if I can't be the most gracious hostess. My schedule and how I go on with my daily life should also be not compromised. Please do not expect the same services as Shangri-la Hotel - room service, valet service, laundry and housekeeping.

I am sharing with you a list I found in Wiki How on how to be a good house guest. Their list is the most in-depth. I wish I had read this earlier so I could have been a dream house guest.

Attention to my soon-to-be and future house guests, please read on and help me become a gracious hostess.

How to Be a Good House Guest:

  • Be specific with dates of arrival and departure.
  • Arrive when you say you will arrive.
  • Avoid showing up several hours or even the day after you said you'd arrive.
  • Be courteous by letting your host(s) know your plans and communicate clearly about your comings and goings from their home.
  • Don't overstay your visit.
  • Bring a gift to say thank you when you arrive.
  • Be flexible and adaptive.
  • Keep your guest area neat.
  • Keep yourself neat.
  • If you have your own bedroom, keep the door open when you are not in it, with the bed neatly made and your belongings neat and tidy.
  • Clean up after yourself.
  • Be reasonable about sharing a household bathroom.
  • Be clean yourself and try to make sure that you do not pass anything to your hosts.
  • Don't keep the hosts up late.
  • Always offer to help at mealtimes.
  • Don't make assumptions.
  • Offer to make contributions
  • Be aware of cultural/personal/family differences.
  • Be appreciative.
  • Do your own laundry.
  • Entertain yourself.
  • Be home on time.
  • Be careful about Internet and phone usage.
  • Leave a thank you gift on your departure.
  • Strip your bedclothes on leaving.
  • Leave quietly and thoughtfully.
  • Don't outstay your welcome.
  • Send a thank-you note.
  • Do not invite other people to the residence without consideration for the host's thoughts and opinions.
  • Don't behave as if it's your own home.

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