Uniquely Deep

Women in Ministry by: Debra White Smith

When asked why he encouraged women preachers, John Wesley responded, “Because God owns them in the conversion of sinners, and who am I that I should withstand God” (Zechariah Taft. Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1992). The question of ordaining women as pastors, evangelists, and deacons is more a question of biblical scholarship methods than of whether women are ordained. Churches in the John Wesley tradition approach the Word of God with a balanced view that considers all scriptures on all topics. No matter the subject, we don’t isolate one or two key scriptures to prove a limited stance that is created by ignoring any verse(s) that refutes that stance. Scholars call this method of scholarship “proof texting,” and it is an erroneous method of biblical interpretation that creates unbalanced theology and concepts. (Slave owners used the same method of scholarship to prove owning and abusing slaves was God-approved and biblical since the New Testament tells slaves to submit to their masters.) Therefore, when the topic of the ordination of women is approached, we consult all verses that deal with women in ministry and then come to the most logical and balanced conclusions based upon the full body of information found in the Bible—not just one or two verses. Due to this balanced approach to scripture, many Wesleyan-tradition churches have ordained women since their inception. For instance, the Church of the Nazarene has been ordaining women for over 100 years. The first group of Nazarene pastors and evangelists who were ordained in 1908 was one-third women.

Paul made a few direct statements against women participating in church life, but he also affirmed women who prophesied and women in church leadership. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent” (1 Tim. 2:11-12). “As in all congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. When they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Cor. 14:33b-35). However, Paul also supported women who weren’t silent in the church and who were prophets (preachers) and teachers. In 1 Cor. 11:5, Paul references women praying and prophesying (preaching) in church. This scripture occurs three chapters before he tells women to be silent. Also, in Romans 16, Paul affirms many women in ministry, including Phoebe, a deacon (v. 1) and Junias (v. 7), a female apostle—the highest office of the First Century church. Given the wide body of biblical evidence in favor of women in ministry, the historic stance of Wesleyan-tradition churches is that either Paul contradicted himself and much of the Bible when he told women not to teach/preach and to be silent, or there was a specific problem in each of these cases that he was dealing with concerning women who were inappropriately out of hand. There are differing theories on the problems Paul was addressing. However, many Wesleyan-tradition scholars believe that Paul was dealing with women who were either disrupting the service in 1 Corinthians and/or being domineering in 1 Timothy and that he was not refuting his other statements or other Scriptures that support women in ministry. For a look at passages that do support women as preachers/prophetesses and/or spiritual leaders see: Exodus 15-20; Judges 4; 2 Kings 22:14; Micah 6:4; Joel 2:28-29; Luke 2:26-38; Acts 2:16-21; Acts 18; Acts 21:9.

No denomination that I am aware of fully applies a literal interpretation of what Paul said about women remaining fully silent in church. In denominations around the world, women are not silent. They may be teaching and/or preaching, singing in the choir, serving on boards,
playing instruments, testifying, laughing, talking, and participating in church life. By and large, denominations do not apply a strict, literal interpretation of Paul’s telling women to be silent because the church world would suffer greatly and perhaps fail if all women went silent. Likewise, the spreading of the Gospel is significantly hindered when women are told they are not to publicly proclaim the Good News. Furthermore, the most balanced biblical scholarship method on any subject is solidified when we start with the teachings of Jesus Christ and don’t interpret any scripture in a way that violates what Jesus said. Jesus Christ was the sinless son of God, and His words must be the underlying force and influencer in all biblical interpretation. Whatever Paul wrote must be interpreted in the context of his own teachings as well as in the context of Jesus Christ’s teachings. Any concept on any subject that is created by ignoring the teachings of Christ can be out of balance. Using scripture as a tool to subordinate or limit anyone due to age, race, economic status or whether they are male or female is a direct violation of what Jesus said and most of what Paul himself said. According to Paul, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Jesus Christ stated, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). This Golden Rule applies to everything, including how we view and treat both men and women.
Furthermore, the Bible could also be used to limit men and prohibit them from ministry. Jesus Christ repeatedly told his male disciples to not even call themselves leaders and not to think of themselves in authority over others. “Also, a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered the greatest. Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves…But I am among you as the one who serves’” (Luke 2:24-27b, NIV). “But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers…And do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted (Matthew 23:8, 10-12, NASB). Note: The King James Version states, “Do not be called masters” (v.10); the New International Version states, “Do not be called teachers” (v.10). Using the proof texting method of biblical scholarship, these and numerous other sections of the Bible could easily be used to subordinate men and stop them from holding any ministry position as teachers or pastors or assuming any role as leaders. However, churches do not use scripture to limit men in the church or ministry, nor should they.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

Galatians 3:28

When scholars proof text Paul’s statements about women as support for not ordaining women, but ignore Christ’s similar messages to men, such biblical interpretation lacks credence because it lacks consistent application. Churches in the Wesleyan tradition are committed to consistent application of balanced, biblical scholarship methods. Those methods include a thoughtful examination of everything the Bible says on a subject, including the ordination of women.


Below is a list of some of the denominations who ordain women as pastors and affirm women in ministry:
• Church of the Nazarene
• Mainstream Baptists
• Alliance of Baptists
• American Baptist Churches USA
Debra White Smith 3
• Church of God, Anderson
• Brethren in Christ
• The Wesleyan Church
• Presbyterian Church (USA)
• Mennonite Church USA
• Episcopal Church in the USA
• Vineyard Movement
• Evangelical Catholic Church
• Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
• Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ
• African Methodist Episcopal Church
• African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
• Salvation Army
• The Free Methodist Church North America
• Evangelical Covenant Church of America
• International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
• International Pentecostal Holiness Church
• Christian Reformed Church in North America
• Religious Society of Friends (Quaker)
• United Church of Christ
• United Methodist Church
• Wesleyan Reform Union

Southern Baptist Church: Lottie Moon was an applauded, highly educated Southern Baptist missionary who spent her life preaching the Word of God in China during the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Even though the Southern Baptist church currently does not recognize women as pastors or missionaries, they still applaud Lottie Moon’s groundbreaking work as a missionary and take up an annual Christmas offering for missions in her memory. “In 1964 Addie Davis became the first Southern Baptist woman ordained to the ministry. By the 1970’s hundreds of women were enrolled in ministerial degree programs at Southern Baptist Church seminaries. By the early 1990’s more than 1,000 women had been ordained; more than 50 ordained SBC women served as pastors in Southern Baptist churches; and others served as professors at Southern Baptist universities and seminaries. In 2000 the Southern Baptist Church stopped recognizing the ordination of women.” However, all Southern Baptists do not agree with this decision (Prescott & McClatchy. Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, 1999-2003.)

For more detailed information about balanced, biblical interpretation and women in ministry, please consult the following books, and websites:
• The Tie that Binds: A Marriage Revolution of Love by Debra White Smith, specifically the chapters, “Ruling and Drooling” and “Leading and Following.”
• Reclaiming Eve by Suzanne Burden, Carla Sunberg, and Jamie Wright.
• 25 Tough Questions about Women and the Church by J. Lee Grady.
• Christians for Biblical Equality: www.cbeinternational.org
• Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy: www.whwomenclergy.org
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• Timeline of Women in Methodism: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/timeline-of-women-in-methodism

–Debra White Smith c2008
http://www.debrawhitesmith.com
*This article is free for unlimited copying and distribution. Please do not make any changes in the article without first gaining permission from Debra White Smith.

Uniquely Inspirational

The Struggles with Expectations

As I got ready for bed Todd turned to me and said, “You know it is going to snow tomorrow?”

“Hush, you don’t say that word around here… nope.” As I refused to accept it. After all, it is October, and I have no expectations of seeing such things falling from the sky at this time. I certainly don’t want to think about it.

The next day I wake up, cold. I get my coffee and start listening to the live stream training from NTS, during this time it happened. Out of the corner of my eye, through the window, there it is. Falling softly to the ground. “It’s snowing,” Todd says with the “I told you so” in his voice. “Yeah, I know” I responded grumpily.

“80 degrees in Houston and 31 in Amarillo. Snow has been falling throughout the day up there and the current wind chill factor is about 17 degrees.” – DrJimFox26

My expectations, and clearly, the forecast expectations are two different things. Although I can expect things to go my way, well, it is not always going to happen. Obviously, I don’t have the knowledge of a weatherman or the means to have my own Doppler radar system. I have to rely on others to give me the information. Then, what I do with that information is up to me. I can allow it to change my expectations, and plans, or I can just ignore it hoping for the best. I’m not like God, able to know what and when things will happen.

There are a lot of thinks I expect. As a mother, I expect my family to keep the house clean. As a pastor, I expect everyone to be at church and participate. As a wife, I expect to be spoiled daily. I’m sure Todd’s working on it. There is only one problem, a HUGE problem. All those expectations are coming from ONE person, ME. Well, if the world was full of “me’s,” all those expectations would be shared. But sadly, it isn’t so, because my expectations are uniquely MINE. Others have different expectations. Their expectations will rarely line up with mine, because of four major realities:

1. People have their own different personalities.

2. People have their own different experiences.

3. People have their own goals or desires in mind.

4. People have different needs. Our spiritual, physical and mental needs are our own. We share the needs, but we have differing means of fulfilling them.

So what to do? If everyone has different expectations, then how can we be united as one? How can my family work together towards each individual’s expectations? How can my church work together as one body, with all these expectations that differentiate us? How can my husband and I grow closer if we have different expectations of each other?

TWO words: COMMUNICATION and ACCEPTANCE.

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Through communication we can share those expectations with each other. Some may not be as simple as the weatherman telling us it is going to snow the next day. Some need to see some physical explanation like the Doppler radar system. But communicating what our expectations are with each other is a perfect start. It requires honesty and throws out assumptions. Some expectations I have, I can change with the correct information. I can change my expectations of activities that involve others by simply listening to their expectations. Honesty is vital for me to know their expectations. For example: If I know that my family can’t help keep the house clean because of work, studies or illness, I can change my expectation of them helping to clean the house. On the other hand, I have to communicate to them what I expect from them as well. Communication has to go both ways. Sharing our expectations with each other allows us to build a closer relationship with others. No matter how feeble, weird, complicated, simple or even selfish the expectation may be. In order to maintain, create, or strengthen a relation with those around us, honest communication is essential.

Let’s not forget the second word of ACCEPTANCE. Here is where communication can get stuck in the gutter. There is a need for humbleness in order to ACCEPT what others have communicated to us. Whether we like it, agree with it or not, accepting the communicated expectations is key to every relationship. We don’t have to like it to accept it. I didn’t like the news of the snow, truthfully I knew the information, but I just didn’t WANT to accept it because deep inside, well I was hoping it just would not…you know…snow. The acceptance of the information has a lot to do with our humbleness vs. our stubbornness. It is a tug-of-war when we just really don’t want the communicated words to be true. In refusing to accept it, we already have decided that your expectation and mine are just not going to work out. We break the line of communication which in turns breaks the relationship.

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I want to make it clear, it is not the different expectations that break a relationship, it is the refusal to accept the different expectations that does. We can still work together when different expectations are stated. This is how we incorporate the differences into it the relationship that allows us to go on. One thing I know is that everyone will have different expectations. Each of my daughters has a different expectation from me, yet we work together because we accept each other’s differences and help each other reach our expectations. The refusal to accept the communicated information that may change our expectations is what causes the clash between people just as much as no communication. We just need humbleness (acceptance), the honesty (communication).

Our unique expectations of each other, life itself, and our surroundings, must be ready to be changed. Our everyday life has to be a life of flexible expectations especially when is out of our control. We can’t just expect everyone to know if we haven’t communicated fully. Nor can we expect them to share their own expectations if we have already refused to accept them in the past. We must come together and practice honesty and humbleness in our relationships through the sharing of expectations. This is not a unique way of thinking. It is a necessary attitude to have so that we don’t became enslaved to our own expectations and lose relationships. We may not agree with each other’s expectations but we can work together because often some of those expectations are similar to our own. Those similarities may enrich our relationship and strengthen it. Then, we have to realize that some will be different, we may not agree, but we understand each other and work together. This knowledge also strengthens our relationship. How? Because our common expectations should bring growth and strengthen our relationship as we unite in purpose. This is the Godly EXPECTATION that Jesus himself prayed for in John 17 for us, “That they may be one as you and I are one.”

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “

John 17: 22

And so, as I sit here knowing that I’ve lost the battle against my climate preference, I can change my expectation to: “Todd? You know, it is a perfect day to try out the fireplace.”

My expectations and the forecast expectations are two different things.

Instead, Todd turns on some Christmas music. I guess his expectations when snows falls, means Christmas is coming.

“Really?” I tell him as soon as I hear it. “This is what you think of when there is snow?”

He laughs.

I do need to give him a break. He misses the snow, being from Indiana and all. Now if only I can give him enough information about my need of the fireplace. Will I have that unique expectation come to life? We’ll see.. in the meantime he is still expecting me to cook dinner…{wait, I’m smelling food cooking}… well, maybe not anymore. 😉

Uniquely Mi Vida

A Struggle with Work

Well, here I am sitting in my office on this huge old desk which Todd and I can share, trying to follow up on my to do list. You know that never ending list that if you don’t have it, you get lost in overwhelming “to dos”? yeah, that list. Okay, I confess, I’m moving backwards on my “to-do-list”.

After mailings, reviewing the budget, checking my emails and following up on calls and prayer time, I decided to check on my blog. I realize, “hey I missed lasts week’s blog”. Didn’t I have it in my “to-do-list”? AND didn’t I remind myself, at least twice, to get it done? So what happened?

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Turns out that things just happen at work that distracts you and veers you away from your “to-do-list” or plans that you have for the day. For me it was these lists of over 150 members that I have been trying to organize, locate and find. Doing so will in turn allow me to create ANOTHER concise list… yeah, before you get confused. My second list is an updated list of contacts and follow ups for outreach. In order to be able to have that I had to “clean” out all the lists that I have found… and then find people. Turns out it takes a long time to do.. a LONG TIME.. like more than 3 weeks..

If you see my “to-do-List” you will find that item repeated over, over and over again, cause is a long…long…long process. I even had to split the task into 3 Lists. Then into more specifics or detail ones: In town, passed away, Transfers, Not found, No IDEA… I have learned that my habit of “If you do it, do it right the first time”, can be, as my husband says, an obsession. Or it could be that ADHD part of me. Regardless this task and it’s process, hard or not, has to be done.

Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Work has a way of grabbing much more than your attention, it grabs your time, your thoughts, and even your tranquility. It gets into a point that items on your “to do list” can drag you down and be time consuming. The worst thing is that it can cause a great deal of frustration, just like people can, you know? WHen they complain? Or you have a long line in front because such and such machine broke down? Yeah, like that!

I realized that certain people can handle those difficult situations better than most. Others are great with people regardless of the situation, others are patient with the computer more than most and yet others can handle “items” more than others. It all has to do with our personality and skills yet frustrating times come. So what do you do to keep from yelling at someone, picking up the computer and throwing it across the room or just (in my case) grabbing all the papers and feeding it to the shredder, where i really felt they belong. We walk away and take a breath.

Several things I like to do when work is getting overwhelming, frustrating or when there seems to be no end in sight.

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  • Turn on or “up”, the music. For me is worship music. Depending on the need for escape or relaxation, I will listen to different styles or languages (English or Spanish). It really relaxes and I find I can work with a more relax and peaceful mind when I do.
  • Take 5, take your break, even if is just five minutes. Breath a little, talk to the one who works next to you. Share a little of your life, the funny thing that happen, say the day before. You can share your frustrations or difficulties of what you are dealing with. Sharing with others is helpful cause they may have advice that will help.
  • Take a knee, not like the football players take it, but a real down to earth knee to the ground and heart lifted up. Pray to the Lord that He may help you. Ask for comfort, peace, patience and more. You know your frustrations, well so does God. Only God can help you through the day. Sometimes a little short prayer is enough. It keeps your heart in-tacked.
  • Pass it on, not ALL, just some. Divide your task or the situation with another worker and pass on some of the load. I gave Todd the 1st finished list and had him do the contacting letters and some phone calls. If it was a person, I would have asked Todd to talk to him/her. If it was a situation, I would have asked Todd to help me… and so on. I even went around the people here at the church to help me find the “Unknowns”. Big HELP. One thing I have learned is that others can help you, JUST ASK. It does wonders to your sanity.

I found that this week is a lot easier, not only because I finished the lists, for the most part, but because I did the above things. It makes this week easier as I continue to contact those who I have found in the area. I have had great conversations too. I even have had the honor to place them in my prayer request list. (Which is yet another list..) Since the hard work is done and all those crazy lists are more organized, “yay” for me, I can work more calmly.

So as I sit here listening to worship music, in English, I can only relax, enjoy and smile. The fact that hard work may take a LOT of my time, patience and mind is nothing because, for me, meeting people is such a unique blessing. I hope and pray that I get to see face to face some of those names that I have on my list. I guess one has to find the joy in all they do. 🙂 Cause every job is unique, full of unique situations and unique people. But most of all, a UNIQUE YOU!

Uniquely Deep

A Struggle in My Mind

When your thoughts keep you from sleeping..

I couldn’t sleep last night.

My mind kept repeating words, conversations…one sided conversations mostly. Hearing words told to me over and over again, or conversations of previous days. Conversations that make me question things. I wonder if things could have gone better. What could I say or do better? I review words and their meanings. Some conversations just repeat themselves. Then my mind goes through an unending song loop. Even worse, it is not even the whole song, just parts. Then in an attempt to change the song my mind goes back to areas of my past that create distrust, fear and regrets. I turn over, maybe my mind will find a more peaceful thought. It searches through and conversations start again. It seems like an endless loop. A loop that kept getting louder and louder. Somehow, the most painful ones creep up again as I try to shut it out so I can rest. Yet, when you are tired sometimes you find yourself second guessing decisions of the past, or at least hearing things again you thought were all settled. Then your mind relives those moments of your past that hurt the most. One pattern I’m familiar with is when concerns turns into worries, worries into stress, then into doubts and then sometimes depression takes hold. It is too familiar… a route I refuse take. A route I have fought against.

So I find myself praying and asking God for help. I let my prayers replace the loop of frustration within me. I try to find a way into a peaceful state of mind, to find the happy recollections of life. Remembering the good memories temporarily erases the bad. It is hard sometimes to get the mind to focus on the good and just stop the endless loop of thought and find rest. Rest is so necessary to put to sleep the negative thoughts and memories so they do not find their way into my heart.

In the middle of it all, I am reminded that life, much less my calling, is not easy. What I do is one of the hardest things to do in the world. Being a minister means having to always be willing to give, always willing to forgive, to love when there is no love in return, to extend grace when none is extended to you. It means always being willing to sacrifice yourself. What could be a huge blessing full of joy, love, hope and gratefulness to often becomes a painful, difficult task. The enemy knows this. He tries to force upon you doubts, fears, pain and self loathing. He forces memories to make you doubt your calling, to question whether you heard God correctly. He forces doubts, and “what if’s.” What if I was misunderstood? What if things do not get better? What if something goes wrong tomorrow? What if…? He forces it, because he knows their are lies or weaknesses in your past to exploit. And I know it well. So I find it hard to sleep peacefully. He is good at what he does, that Accuser. The question is, am I going to see the lies for what they are and be strong enough to dismiss them?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6
“..I need GOD..”

But I am not strong enough…

…not on my OWN…

…I need GOD!

I am reminded of Who God is and Who He has called me to be. I am reminded that He is MY GOD. This amazing God who created the world and me, only to keep transforming me even more to His liking. He is a God so powerful that He can bring the earth to a standstill, move mountains and stop the flow of water with a word. Yet, He is a God who cradles me, wipes my tears and holds me tight and whispers, “You are my child. Everything will be alright, TRUST ME.” He is the God who sent His son to die for me and make me whole again. Who saw the pain years, years ago and erased it. Who saw the brokenness and sins and made me whole and forgiven. Who lifted me up from the “shallow love” to an amazing overwhelming one. So amazing and so powerful that it consumes me. A God who comes in the form of the Holy Spirit to fully change me, transform me, guide me, and make me more like Him daily. Who teaches me to love like HE loves. To see the people the way He sees them, through His eyes and His heart. A God who never gives up on me. Who goes before me, beside me and carries me. This is the God I serve, the one I LOVE the one I said “Yes” to many, many years ago.

I am reminded that it is GOD who called me, for a reason that I still have yet to discover, but it doesn’t matter because He knows it. I am reminded that TRUSTING in HIM is my only power over the enemy and all his lies and accusations. God can reveal the TRUTH and all I have to do is listen to Him. I am in need to be reminded not to “lean on my own knowledge” but in God’s, reminded that the thoughts in my head are not truths just distractions. I need to be reminded that throughout my past GOD has sustained me and He has carried me through. I can find peace in HIM. So I pray, a long prayer, it gently rocks me and leads me to rest. I finally sleep.

In the morning I sit with my coffee. As I ascertain the thoughts of the night before, I realize that there is nothing there to bother with. For I have learned that God’s amazing grace shatters the barriers of distrust, worries and lies that the enemy has created. That His LOVE conquers any doubt. His TRUTH strengthens any weakened resolved. Knowing that if I Stand Firm, my GOD is FAITHFUL and He will do it. ” Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” – 1 Cor. 15:58. I will not be afraid, I will not fear for I will not only be steadfast but I will TRUST God. (Psalm 112:6-8a) I am grateful that I have such an AWESOME GOD who sees me. Who sees this unique person, that may be little and insignificant to many, but is so SIGNIFICANT to HIM.

In the meantime I will HOPE in God who will grant me peace. I will not give in to the “what if’s..” of life. I will find rest and peace in God and in GOD alone. And those nights that I find myself tossing and turning, reviewing events, conversations, decisions and all… I will not be weakened by them. I will pray and find rest in God. For my HOPE is in GOD and my PEACE is found in HIM. I will sleep knowing that HE is by my side and in my heart and that struggling uniquely MIND of mine.

And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7
Uniquely Inspirational

The Struggle with Patience

My daughter is so trying my patience.

Yep!! She won’t tell me if she is having a boy or a girl. What is a mother to do?? After all, she got her ultrasound several days ago and she is MAKING me WAIT until Sunday! That’s like.. almost a WHOLE week! Come on! You only need to open that silly envelope and flash it to the laptop camera…I WONT TELL!

The reality is that I was not born a patient person. I was the 4 year old that could be told “you can have one whole bag of M&M’s if you will only sit in front of a bowl of them for 5 minutes without touching any.” Somehow after trying every possible way to patiently wait for my whole bag, including sitting on my hands, I was done for within 3 minutes, maybe even 2. I could only WAIT so long. My body could only sit still for so long.

It has been very difficult to just learn the art of patience. Growing up, I really do believe, that my dad would have some twisted satisfaction in teaching patience. He purposefully would make me stand there, waiting for Him, to give me permission to talk. Just so I can ask him if I can go to Yvette’s house to play. If I wouldn’t wait, the answer would be “No, you weren’t patient and interrupted me.” The last thing I wanted to do was to get him mad. So I waited, waited and waited until my mind and body wanted to explode. So I would wait the only way I could think of, keeping my mind busy with my imagination. I imagined all that we would do if Yvette would come over, but just so Daddy wouldn’t forget my presence, I would grab his hand. I would find myself playing with my fingers then, swinging his hand, then his arm. The LONGEST 2-3 minutes of my life.

His explanation to me in life was that Patience would teach me maturity. Yeah right…. like maturity would happen…. I hated patience. If patience was a girl, she would be the one I would have avoided. I wanted the answers then and there. I wanted to solve issues then and there. I wanted to enjoy life then and there. No time to WAIT. WAITING was just a WASTE of TIME. I had better things to do in LIFE than to WAIT.

Patience is like a tree, it grows slowly but strong. —Photo by Gelgas on Pexels.com

As life goes on, patience seems to test me. I think I learned it better during my teen and college years. I had to WAIT a lot then. I had to WAIT in the offices, in lines and in the classroom. I had to WAIT for financial aid to tell me if I got my scholarships. I had to WAIT for my professors to grade my papers. I had to WAIT for companies to get back to me during Job search. I had to WAIT for the cute guy to finally ask me out… Well you get it. I was literally FORCED to have patience. I found myself talking to strangers, reading or just studying. But it wasn’t enough. I was antsy constantly. Yes me. So I finally did the only thing I could think of, I prayed: “Lord, teach me to be patient.”

Sometimes patience calls for us to do something for someone else.

I found myself asking GOD to work on my patience daily. So much so that I got a bumper sticker on my car and a key chain (which I still carry) that reads, “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” Though I had learned to distract myself in the process to make it easier, I still felt anxious. Patience became that companion that always follows you, but you really don’t want. Through scripture I figured that the only way I could conquer the lack of patience was prayer. I then learned that patience was not just a sign of maturity but a lifestyle, a needed character trait, and as I grew in my FAITH, I found that it became more and more part of me. Soon patience changed from a necessity, to an everyday pouring out occurrence. It flowed out as part of a new me. That prayer had become a daily prayer until one day the Holy Spirit just increased my PATIENCE as He did my LOVE for people, my HOPE, my KINDNESS… well, it turns out, it was part of my lack of SELF-CONTROL.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

All of a sudden, half-way through college I realized that my dad was not talking about human maturity, (This is a good thing, because I was failing there), but CHRISTIAN maturity as growth and the process of sanctification. Then, all the pieces started falling together, and I found out that patience was somehow becoming part of a trait that I never knew I had. Yet, I had to practice it. I had to realize that even though I hated being patient, I could do it because the Holy Spirit helped me.

God knew my weakness, and so He gave me 3 girls, a ministry that constantly ministers to kids and teens, and guess what? I had no choice than to be… you guessed it… PATIENT. It seems that if you are not very patient, the best way to practice patience is having kids, ministering to kids and working with them. The trait that I lacked, God increased it and moved it into a fruit that I have to use constantly. I could not have done it without the transformation and the power of the Holy Spirit. All because one day I went to my knees and said. “LORD, I WANT MORE OF YOU!! I NEED MORE OF YOU! THERE HAS GOT TO BE MORE.. I WANT MORE OF YOU.”

Finding something fun to do while others shop.

The uniqueness of having patience teaches us to be more creative, more imaginative and helps us do more. How else are we to kill the time in line, at the doctors office and so on. We wind up having to learn to use our time more wisely. We meet people, learn more by reading, spend time with our kids, you know, to keep them out of trouble, and so on. Patience teaches us to extend patience to those who don’t have it. It helps us understand others and in turn we learn to be kind, especially when they aren’t being patient. We learn to be Christlike with others, by being patient with them. Patience teaches us those unique values, like peacefulness, kindness, loving, compassionate and more. We learn to overcome difficulties, endurance and more. But most of all, we learn to depend on God.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Collossians 3:12

Today, I wait.. and WAIT for the day my oldest daughter and her hubby to do this crazy modern thing called, “Reveal Party.” Whatever that is.. until then, I keep myself distracted, occupied and, well.. you know: Praying for patience 😉 Knowing that in the end, regardless, I will be EXCITED. One more unique little gal or little guy to add to my heart! I’m so excited!! So patience is not so bad after all… unless… it is a girl and they name her “Patience”… :O nah…they wouldn’t…would they???

Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with Summers

“‘Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.” — John Mayer

As a mother of three, the ending of the summer months has been a cause for celebration. Yes, we parents celebrate! We celebrate the ending of cleaning constantly after children. Reminding them to wipe their dirty feet before coming in. Making daily lunches or making arrangements for their care while we work. We may even miss the homework nights… “who said that?”… I did. It kept them busy, plus we had a chance to see what they were learning. Yes, the summer sometimes threw a wrench in our plans, and required us to rearrange them. It would sometimes cause chaos at home if the kids were not kept busy. Truly, summer gave us more work to do than we cared to do.

Yet, we loved the summer months! We got a chance to enjoy being with the kids more. We used summer as an excuse to get more time off, with the illusions of VACATIONS! We would travel, enjoy the USA, it’s history, geology and people. This is the time when we formed many memories that we like to look back at and laugh. It is when the kids were creative….very creative… very, very creative which brought laughter or frustration. It is the time to be yourself without the influences of those at school. It is a time to go and investigate, play in the sun, or in the water, or dirt… Summer gave us time to enjoy a bit of freedom.

So summers can be a bitter-sweet time of the year.

And now is over…

Well, now my summer was not the same as it has been in the past. The kids are all grown up…. seperated by their own responsibilities. It was quiet at home this summer. It lacked the cheerful stories of “Guess what Mom…” and the yelling of “She started it…” and the creativeness of “look what I made…” No groups of kids gathering in my livingroom to play the Xbox causing loud cheers to rumble through my walls. No, this year, each of the girls had there own thing. I didn’t even get to see my youngest more than for 2 1/2 weeks. My oldest never got a chance to visit us with her husband, and my middle child…. well she was here physically (LOL) but was constantly taken away by the internet, her online job and relationships. Yes, this summer was unlike any other… it was just odd…and severely quiet..

Yes, the problem with summers is that they are too long, too short, and not enough of them.

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 8:15

I thank God that we enjoyed everyone of them with their quirks and all. The memories that were created, and the ones we may never want to revisit…ha ha ha…Those loud crazy moments are the ones I cherish the most. From the first touch of ocean my girls felt, to their first camping out, to their first trip on the plane to even the first bug (or boy) they brought home… to their first video game audience… every moment was a wonder… no matter the hard work and headaches.

So I enjoyed life… as unique as it was. Looking forward to the years and the differences they bring…  learning to enjoy the past life more, as the future life shrinks.  Enjoying the unique memories that this change of summer’s seasons began. To expect the laughter once again someday with future grandkids (who knows when that will be)… Meanwhile I will enjoy the silence and maybe even take advantage to read more, play games myself and visit places with my husband. Hanging around with my sister, dad or brother… I think… (Hopefully not often). I look forward to new unique summers to come, creating new and unique memories. Being thankful that I’m not hosting a gang of kids… because now I have the Xbox to myself! (At least until the girls show up again or my nephew is old enough).

Uniquely Deep

The Struggle with Crossing Cultural Boundaries

[ I wrote this article over 15 years ago. It is still as true today as it was then]

We all know the story of Jesus coming up to the Samaritan woman at the well in John chapter 4 (v. 1-26). I remember the first time I heard the story as a child, in Spanish, in Puerto Rico. I was about 6 years old. I have heard it many times since then and I’m still intrigued by the story.

We are taught about the grace of of Jesus towards the “sinner” and about His offer of living water for those who “thirst.” Yet, it seems to me that there is more to this story than that which we are so easily led to conclude. This story is not just about Jesus’s offer of eternal life as much as it is to whom he offers it and how. This story is about how Jesus reached out cross-culturally.

Jesus begins by talking to this woman. A basic “Howdy do?” He speaks to a Samaritan which was considered a “taboo.” It was the custom that neither culture related to each other, much less talked. Not only did the two people groups go their separate ways, they literally went hundreds of miles out of their way to avoid the land where they lived. AND A WOMAN? This is even worse. Not only did Jesus dare to go through their land (already breaking through boundaries), but he even DARES to TALK to a woman, and not just any Samaritan woman, but an adulteress. Three strikes!

Jesus opens His conversation with, “Will you help me please?” Jesus does not ask if he could help HER, but the other way around. By asking her if she could help Him, he shows true humility. To allow someone to HELP you is one of the most hardest things for some people to do. It is an act of Humbleness. To ask an outcast woman from and outcast people is an even bigger deal. After all, Jesus had much more to offer this woman, He had eternal water. This is the most important lesson that Jesus teaches us in cross-cultural ministry: To HUMBLE ourselves.

Jesus asked a simple question. He didn’t care what the answer would be. In fact, He knew what the answer was before he asked. Yet He asked anyway. He knew it would be the opportunity that He needed to open a conversation with her. He didn’t come to her saying, “I’m a Jew and I have a lot to offer to you. I want to help you by giving you eternal life.” Jesus went about it differently. He knew that He had a need and that this woman who struggled in life could still help him. She was a woman whose culture and life was different in all ways. This woman could still fill his need. He was thirsty and had nothing to draw water with. She did. In turn, Jesus saw her need, and in order to help her, he had to start a conversation. His goal was to come to her with humility. He didn’t want her to feel threatened or fearful. He wanted her to feel comfortable. After all, He was in HER territory. Therefore, this dialogue had to be within HER comfort zone. By this action Jesus showed her that he might be a Jew, but He was NOT above her, and was willing to ask for her HELP. We see a WILLINGNESS to consider others as equals, and to make others comfortable.

The first lesson in cross-cultural ministry, is to break down barriers by opening a dialogue allowing the other person whom you have come to help (serve) to first HELP (serve) YOU. By this I don’t mean to “demand,” but “ASK,” “Will you help me?” or “Could you help me?” In North American society I have learned that people don’t ask for help unless they have to. North American culture lives by the rule that says, “Everyone takes care of their own business.” To other societies this seems obnoxious and proud. As Christians, Jesus teaches us to put aside the wrong things we are sometimes taught. Let me say this from a Latina point of view: It is necessary for people to put aside their preconceived notions that they can not talk to us because “we” don’t understand them, and if we do, it is only to “teach” us. They make sure to make the latina knows it is her job to learn to speak English, and not the American’s job to learn Spanish. Many people come to me saying, “You are in America now, you need to speak English.” What people don’t realize is, it is not the language that makes me Latina, it is the whole culture that is different. I am different in the way I converse, think, do, eat, and so on. In the Latin culture (or Hispanic culture), for instance, to not ask others for help (even if they have little), is seen as arrogant and prideful. We also know that if you need help, it is our duty and desire to help you because we are all Familia. We then expect you to help us when we have a need. On the flip side, the Latino and other minority cultures, are also afraid to ask for help, but for other reasons: we believe that we will not be helped. Due to the experience that we have been told, “Help yourselves.” Or “if I help you, you wont learn.”

Jesus did not demand water from the woman at the well, and I’m so glad he didn’t. She would have felt offended and would have left right away only to come back with several Samaritan men to throw Jesus out. The story would have been different: “Jesus runs away from the angry Samaritan Mob.” Jesus didn’t do that. He sat at the well, the Samaritan’s well. When a woman approached the well he kindly asked, “Will you give me a drink?” Jesus in turn offered His help. He awaits for her response, within her cross-cultural context and on her grounds. He offered to fill her need. This is compassion, to offer help and fill the needs of others. Yet, permission needs to be there. American culture, just as much as other cultures, needs to learn to ASK.

Help is seldom asked for filling the need that we have. Maybe because we don’t think they can. Maybe because we think that they are too different and will not understand. Maybe we think we are here to help them, not the other way around… Today however, the Hispanic population and other minority groups are increasing in the USA rapidly. Sometimes Americans don’t realize that many Europeans are in “their territory” just as much as Hispanics are in “yours.” (Many minorities have been here for generations, and Everything from California to Texas was once Mexico.) Goodness, even I forget when I cross from the Anglo-white culture into the Latino and back. Let us then be humbled in our approach to cross-culturally ministry. Let us be compassionate and willing to reach out in their context with LOVE and humbleness. Let’s learn from Jesus and how he approached other cultures. Only then will you be given the opportunity to offer your help and service to other groups.

Let me then be the first one, “Will you give ME a drink.”

Uniquely Mi Vida

The Struggle with Housework

I am not ashamed to say this: I hate doing dishes. I do. And dusting… mostly cause I’m allergic to dust and mold..

The passionate dislike of dishes, however, does not have to do with allergies. That started when I was growing up and my mother, God bless my dear mother who is now in heaven, had this great idea that EVERYONE would take turns doing the dishes. Seeing as she cooked day after day, it all made sense that my brother, Dad and I would help. Our names were written on the calendar. Everyone agreed. It was a great PLAN! Right? Wrong!! There was one problem: the “boys” refused to do their part, always having an excuse. Somehow they found themselves “OUT” when it was their turn, and even “homework” would finally show up for my brother… which had NEVER HAPPENED before. In short, I got stuck with the dishes, and cleaning the kitchen. At the age of 11 I put my foot down. “No work without pay.” So, I learned the value of capitalism and that lazy people who choose not to work should pay those who do it for them.

Then I had my own little dorm room and my own little house with no one else’s chores to do. Which was fine, because I didn’t have time. In the midst of 15-17 credit hours at the university, 15-20 hours of work, and volunteering for the church, who had time to clean, cook and do dishes??? So I learned to prioritize. Clean the living room and dining room, ignore your bedroom and don’t let anyone in it. Do dishes if you don’t want roaches and mice, and use paper plates when you know you don’t have time. Later, Todd came along and he had to help, too, especially with the dishes.

Marriage came, and before the children, we divided work evenly: I sweep, mop and vacuum. Todd dusts, pick up, and mows the yard. I cook, he does dishes. He does laundry, I fold. I cleaned the bedroom, and he the bathroom. Okay, I had to help him some. NEAT, Huh? Then our great plan fell apart… little by little our children popped into this world and there goes the kitchen, the bathroom, and even the living room. And don’t forget the bedrooms!

I needed a plan! I needed a desperate new plan! Because kids took more time than I thought.

Kids just don’t understand the rule of CLEAN AFTER YOURSELF. Yeah.. that didn’t go well. Soon toys were everywhere. A living room filled with a baby swing, walker, floor blanket and toys. To add to the chaos, both Todd and I were working and going to Seminary. It wasn’t pretty. I had my dad hounding me. “Your house has to be a house of order just as your life.” Or “Beti keeps our house clean, and remember that being holy means that your house has to be clean too.” Or more directly, “your house is in such a mess.” In exasperation I said, “Well daddy, you have 2 children, I have 3. I work full time, and Todd works full time, and we both go to school. Your wife is stays home clean and taking care of kids all day, plus she has help from her family, I only have Todd. Of course my house is messier than yours.” He did stop. No guilt here, because I knew that my house was not going to stay perfectly clean daily.

I knew, shamefully, that he was right to some extent. He had a point. I needed to get the house a little bit more under control. I wasn’t able to keep up with the dining room or bedrooms because, incidentally, that was the playroom, and my bedroom was always a mess. I was able to I maintain the living room, and did my best to keep the dirty dishes under control. I learned during the busy times that I had to have ONE area where I was free of chaos. Except that my kids messes spilled into that area as well. Needless to say, keeping a 2 bedroom house clean with one baby, a toddler and a Pre-K was next to impossible, no matter what I did. My solution: Saturday became cleaning day for everyone. And Sunday? It all better stay clean! Then we began picking up and cleaning as a game, (until they figured out it wasn’t). Another thing I taught my girls was to pick up their toys every night before going to bed. And thus my living room stayed clean, at least overnight, and the mess contained. It was cleaned daily, you could tell “kids live here” but things were mostly picked up and the main areas were cleaner from dust and dirt, even if clutter was still around.

As time went by and the children got older, we moved into bigger houses. It was easier to divide areas of the house to contain the mess. My girls had their play room, I had my living room. They had their bedrooms and bathroom, I had mine. Rules had to be made. Besides a chore chart, we had (and still do) general rules: Rule 1: no playing in the living room and no toys outside of the play area or bedrooms. Rule 2: Pick up your stuff before going to bed. Rule 3: You take it out, you put it back (goes for friends too) and rule 4: Hubby shares the cleaning, especially when Mom is still at work. (And the cooking).

Soon those rules became essential. We were busy. Everyone grew up and became busier. Things may have gotten out of hand off and on, especially when we were gone from sun up to PAST sun down. So I learned the busy “Mom rule” of: letting it go for a day or two. I had to be at peace with not every room being perfect and things being out of place. Yet, after a week of chaos, life had to get back in order and so did the house. I needed to get my growing kids, my laid back husband and my stressful self consistent, so the main area still had some semblance of cleanliness. WE NEEDED A NEW PLAN! And believe me, we have gone through many of them. Family meetings, chore charts and dish days. Although never perfect, the mess was under control. We had our great days and our “I’m too tired” days, you know, “Let it go” days. But I get stressed when it is too much, and I’m stubborn. I have to have areas that are clean from chaos so here is what worked and still works for us:

  1. Have a “Good Morning” habit Pick up one area of your bedroom, like make the bed, pick up dirty laundry, or put away your make-up (personal items) before heading out. (Or all of them).
  2. (From my husband) Clean as you cook. I must admit he is better at this than me because I get distracted. Another similar one, clean as you watch TV. I don’t mind this one.
  3. Parents share the load 50/50: Whoever is at home, or has a day off from work, helps maintain the house. Both home? Then split the load.
  4. As mentioned, a daily chore chart works great but when your kids are older, everyone takes care of their own areas.
  5. Do a 15 minute quick pick up when arriving from work and 5-10 minute one before going to bed. If time allows do a quick sweep or vacuum so dirt wont accumulate until your cleaning day.
  6. Take turns in the kitchen, one cooks, another does dishes. Here your children/teens need to be involved in this area. (They have to learn to cook sometime)
  7. Have a laundry folding party. This means do laundry, and while everyone watches TV have everyone fold their own clothes. When the kids are old enough to do their’s, have them do their own laundry.
  8. Organize: Make sure that you have a place for everything and everyone knows where it all goes. This keeps messes to a minimum and easier to keep up with.
  9. If friends or family come over, they clean their own messes and dishes. You will be surprised how helpful they can be.
  10. Keep your main area picked up. This alone will save you a lot of headaches.
Best way to get rid of clutter: garage sales!

Needless to say, it all seems simple. Well, it isn’t. You have to work at it, you have to agree together and you have to be as consistent as possible. This is NOT to say that it has to be perfectly clean daily, it never will be unless you have a housekeeper. It will at least give you some peace of mind or at least contain the mess. It does help if you love the rooms. So if you don’t love the rooms, redo them until you do. It is easier to be motivated if you love the way it looks. Most likely it will be easier for the kids to keep their room clean if they love the way they look. I must add that any house, whether it be small or large, if it has a lot of stuff, it will look messy no matter what. So do your best to keep it as organized as you can. If you have too much stuff, get rid of some of it. Garage sales, giveaways, however you want to de-clutter, go for it. Give yourself a motivation to make it look presentable at least your main areas.

After you have a plan that works for you and your family, you be surprised much easier things can become if everyone helps. Now your “house” becomes your “HOME.” It makes a BIG difference when you have an organized home. Bigger still if it is picked up and clean for the most part and often (note that I did not say “daily” or “always”). Make it a home that everyone can enjoy and others can visit. Plus, you won’t have a nagging parent. LOL

So was my father right? Sadly, Yes. Our house should be a reflection of God’s work in us. It shows the blessing that He has given us. It shows how we take care of what He has given us. It shows God that He can trust us more and more with material things because we can take care of them. Just like we ought to be good stewards of the money God provides, we must be good stewards of the materials he provides and gifts us with. We need to remember that in the end, it is because of God that we have what we have. That is my motivation to do my best to keep up with my home, at least picked up and in order.

By wisdom a house is built. Through understanding it is made secure.
Through knowledge its rooms are filled with priceless and beautiful things. ”

-Proverbs 24:3-4

Enjoy your new UNIQUE, not perfect, just unique, good looking home. Let it be a reflection of you… just remember, the kid’s room, yeah that is their reflection, so don’t sweat it if they can’t keep up. They will eventually. In the meantime relax in your own personal “spa” you call “HOME” or a bedroom or, well, any room. Do your best, and you will LOVE showing it off, specially to your Dad. (The day after you cleaning day 😀 )

***Please share your ideas and pointers in the comments below***

Uniquely Mi Vida

A Struggle with Budgeting

UGH!

Our budget is in turmoil. Okay, not in turmoil just… just shrinking. Now we have to revisit it and tighten the already tight belt. Sometimes I feel suffocated, light-headed, or on the verge of panic when I think of it. The worries come and ask, “What Am I going to do??” Taking a new job has a way of doing that, at least for ministers. We must be the first ones to be willing to take less, and give more. We are willing to help whenever and wherever. We are willing to be the first line item to take the cut until things change. Our hearts are definitely invested and we trust God… but our pocket books… well, the pocket books just don’t agree with you or the math.

So, we decide to redo our budget. The giant question is: What we need vs. what we REALLY need. Forget the needs vs. wants idea… that was left behind like several ages ago… at least 2 decades ago. So much for a temporary thing. Sure we make more than we did when we started, but I can account for that thanks to inflation. (We once made much more money because we were in-between ministries.)

Yet, I have to check myself, because even when “X” amount of numbers in the income line do not exceed “X” amounts in the expense column, and it doesn’t add up… we are some debt because of semi-new/used vehicle. Thanks to the fact that the car that had been paid off for more than 3 years ago went and decided to collapse on our last vacation trip. It just rolled over and DIED. Fixing it was worth more than the car and the amount we had. And in a little town God provided! It was a top notch, last year’s model. Not a High end car but an economical, American car that had what we needed, new car warranty and all for 40% less with less than 6,000 miles. God is good!!

With that said, we took God’s hands and walked into a new ministry. At first we were concerned. Will we have to go back to being bi-vocational? Yes..ugh.. We were wrong, I mean we should and normally would have to, my superintendent would “Highly suggest it.” (Please know that I love my superintendent, and I’m not just saying that because he may read this, because I’m sure he wont..LOL). The thing is that God had gone before us and taken care of our needs:

First, I had paid my health insurance for the year so I don’t have that expense. Since we don’t make much we were able to get a healthcare subsidy, but because it is still so expensive, I went with the lower end of coverage. We save what we can to pay high deductibles. Regardless, I have coverage, not much, but enough to get by.

Second, I had saved every thing I could in preparation for our move. Todd and I both worked at substitute teaching and this allowed me to save one paycheck of every 4 checks. Sometimes 2 of them If I could. I was also able to save my tax return and still able to pay my daughter’s college bill for the semester. (Mind you, thanks for her scholarships, it was HUGE. So I paid it in 3 months time.) Not that the savings will carry us through… it creates a cushion for emergencies even after moving expenses. We just don’t have to worry..much anyways. Somehow God has kept our savings intact even when I have to dip into it.

Third, that new car God provided? Well, my monthly payment is $176. I pay a little more between $180-$200 to bring down the interest as much as possible. I mean, why give the companies more money when all I have to do is pay and sacrifice a little more each month. Over time, most of the money winds up being in my pocket, not theirs. I understand other people wanting to get these expensive cars, with all the high end stuff, brand new or used with many miles at low payment. I learned to take my time, research and yes, expect a miracle of a deal. My vehicle wound up being $10,000 less than the sticker price plus my $5,000 down. I learned that if I can pay a good portion in cash, we can pay off the vehicle in 4 years or less (preferably in 3 yrs average). It must have a monthly payment that is low, really low and reasonable for the type of car, mileage and age. It takes patience, research and lots of prayer.

Fourth, it turns out that the church I am at had a college endowment for students of the church that go to our Nazarene University. My daughter is the only one. It turns out what is given to her per semester is roughly the amount I was having to pay. Plus she was accepted in the internship program so that covered her part. She had not been able to find a job in the Spring while at school so her portion was not in her savings at all. (This is all a God given gift).

Yes, God has gone before us. Yet, we had a part to play. We had to take responsibility as faithful, trusting, called servants of God.

We revised our budget. EVERYTHING was tightened. The question to answer was: What is the minimum we can live off while things were tight. Realizing a second job was not right for now, either one of us. Realizing that the church needed us 100% of the time, and last, realizing and eventually, knowing that somehow God will provide.

In the meantime we have sacrifices to make:

  1. No eating out weekly much less, daily! We go out ONCE a month if the money is there and we limit $10 per person plus tip. We rotate Restaurant pizza 2x a month, setting a budget for $15-20 bi-weekly and the other 2 weeks, frozen pizza. NO JUNKY fast foods. Eating leftovers or sandwiches when out and about. This means I have to cook more often. That means more time in the kitchen, which in turn, helps me keep it cleaner. So what about groceries? See #2
  2. No JUNK FOOD! Avoid, avoid snacks, chips, pop as much as possible. This is hard for my husband who grew up drinking sodas like water. I have to limit his intake, which is not easy. So no more 7-eleven, Sonics or whatever… generic sodas if needed all the way. We have Fruits, popcorn and granola bars for snacks. Hey, I suffer too! It means no candy for me. (I’m hoping one trip to ROSS and one bag of their sour gummies at $3-4 a month is feasible.) We purchase everything generic, and frozen vegetables are better and not much more than the canned. Buy on SALE, and yes, on clearance. Right now I’m trying to stay at a $225-$250 grocery budget here in Texas with 4 adults. Luckily, for my budget, one of my girls is going back to college so it will be easier and hopefully the second one will get a job… but she has her own bills to pay.
  3. Cell phones- I’m highly considering cutting data usage to save us $20 a month and cancelling a phone that is not absolutely necessary. In the meantime we have learned that buying an “AT&T GO” phone for $20 or less, and adding us to the plan saves an additional $15-$25 per person, per month which is added to our “plan.” We spend less on 5 cell phones and plans in a year than some people pay for a single phone. I mean really, add up the costs. Why give them your money for a phone they expect you to throw away. We just keep the phone until it is no longer working. We have saved over $500 a year doing this.
  4. No ENTERTAINMENT outside the house. Now before you all think I’m crazy or faint in disbelief: Let me say that we do budget for ONE event out a month. But we keep it simple. Beside that, we have found out that our family movie nights consist of staying at home, renting a movie, the pizza mentioned above and popcorn. We have learned that family games, whether it be board games, Xbox or the like, also makes for a great family time. Hanging out together not only brings you closer as a family and adds more fun memories but also helps with a budget.
  5. AVOID STORES outside of your list. This is is my weakness… I love sales, clearances, antiques, garage sale shopping and more. So I am having to restrain myself to what I need only, or just $20-30 a month for shopping for home and clothing. (Or roll it to the next month for a funner time later). If you are tempted to go to one of those stores just repeat after me, “I DON’T have the money for …”. Also, when shopping, stick to your list as much as possible. Or send the one in your family that hates shopping. They will go in with the list and back without seeing anything else. (Unless you know that there is a clearance in electronics, then don’t send in your husband alone).
  6. AVOID NAME BRANDS: Don’t get the expensive stuff, health and beauty supplies especially, avoid the fancy brands. Consider a lower cost brand, generic for most. Learn to always buy generic medicines, and such. This will save you half. You don’t really need to go to “ULTA” to buy the items you find at Walmart for 30-50-% less. Basically, be smart. Do your research. DON’T be IMPULSIVE, And if you can’t help it, make sure it is more than 50% off and you NEED IT.
  7. Credit cards are FOR EMERGENCIES, especially if you are in DEBT. If you know you don’t have the money to pay it in full then don’t buy it. If you are expecting the money to be there the next month due to a bonus, an extra paycheck, a raise, or overtime, make sure that you have paid off your debts first before using it. It is ESSENTIAL NOT to RELY on your credit card for your everyday expenses. Unless your debts are paid and you are in a habit of paying it in FULL, MONTHLY; leave your credit card at home. You can call the credit card company and set a limit that you can afford until healthy habits develop. I started at a $250 limit while in college, than added $250 increments as time went on and FROZE it at $2000 (in case of emergency). That is to say, you DON’T spend your limit, is just there in case you need it. I usually use my credit card for: Christmas, vacations, emergencies, big items and work. (Mostly because I hate to carry my debit card or cash during those times). I make sure the MONEY is available to pay it in FULL on a monthly basis. I just refuse to give the company more of my money. So yeah, they don’t make any money from me. So if you are one of those that only pay your minimum amount, month after month, I’m sure you are their favorite customer…cause the moment you can’t, they will garner your wages and all that interest, you made them rich. Me? well, they won’t get rich from me because I don’t give them a chance. Which means: I get FREE service and they pay me to use their money. YAY!!!

So those are my sacrifices, and our new, hopefully temporary, budget. (Please note that numbers 6 & 7 ones are constant rules for our standard BUDGET)… did I mentioned that I haven’t gotten my haircut yet? Yeah… sacrifices. I will have to wait for Christmas for my perm, and do my own hair dyeing too. I think I’m going to have to use Todd’s hair grooming set to groom my dogs for the next 4 months… that alone will save me $200. That said, I better save for Black Friday as well… (Lucky for me, I do have points saved up).

I say all this to say, God has provided: our home, our food, our medical needs, our daughter’s college bill and more. So, we are trusting in God that all these sacrifices will be rewarded someday. I hope one of those rewards is going on a mission trip back to my Island of Puerto Rico. And when my minivan is no longer running, God will provide us another vehicle.

However, there is one area we will NEVER sacrifice or CUT DOWN ON: Tithes and Offerings. Since God has provided we return to HIM what he asks, what He needs to continue to reach people in our town, in our state, in our country and in our world. He does that through us. As HE has been faithful, we too MUST be FAITHFUL to HIM. So we give 10%, our tithe, and more for missions and special offerings, because we are GRATEFUL and we LOVE HIM.

I Give to GOD because HE has given all to me and continues to provide, daily. I have a new car, a van that runs well, I have no credit card debts, I have a home, yes even internet, food is on the table, our lives are not missing anything. And this crazy unique budget that I have to do… well, I would do it all over again if HE asks. I have FAITH that someday it might be easier and I can then tithe and give even more. Someday, I will be able to relax by the beach and enjoy my family…in the meantime I will dream as I watch a clip of a beach, true HULU (only $6.99 a month). And if I get desperate, there is always the lake nearby…


Uniquely Inspirational

My Chocolate Maker

I love chocolates. I didn’t used to. In fact, I could have cared less for them. Life is funny. Circumstances are funny. They change you. During my 3rd pregnancy I developed a huge craving for chocolate and it never left me. It seems I have to control the urge to eat too much of it. Whenever I have some at home, I sneak a little piece just twice daily to make it last longer.

It is sweet, and yet a bit bitter, depending on the chocolate. The milkier the chocolate, the sweeter. The darker the chocolate, the more bitter. We all have a preference. However, I do not like the boxes of chocolates. I don’t like half the chocolates in them. Especially the fruity ones…ugh..yuk. I like to know what I’m getting, unlike Forrest Gump. I’m still surprised by how they taste. My favorites are the chocolates with almonds, caramels, peanut butter and mint.

Caramel-Filled-Chocolate-Crinkle-Cookies

Life is not always sweet, it has bitter moments. Unlike chocolates, those bitter moments can come from the same location at the same time. Both the sweet and bitter times can take us by surprise. One of them we want, the other one we want to avoid.

We always want to know what we are getting. We want to be able to reach out and know exactly what it is. We want to prepare ourselves for every experience. We want to plan: “today I will eat the caramel one, tomorrow the mint.” That is often what we do and sometimes it just works out that way. Those are the stress-free times. We know when, what, how, where and who. Like writing our own story.

The taste is what is different. It varies from maker to maker. Yet, every maker creates their own taste according to the type of chocolate, or how much milk is used. Chocolates teach us to savor every moment. We close our eyes and concentrate on the chocolate taste as it melts in our mouth.

In life, like with chocolates, we stop and appreciate even the surprises. It sometimes takes us aback: “Wow that tastes better than I thought it would.” or the opposite can be true, “Yuk! I think this thing has expired!” So, even if you prepare yourself and know exactly what you are getting, the experience and circumstances are always different. It is like trying out the same type of chocolate from different companies made at different dates. Better yet, finding the best company and enjoying many different flavors.

I tend to choose favoring a certain chocolate maker. I stick with my favorites and it allows me to feel confident in what I’m getting. The differences of flavors can create a more sweet or bitter experience. A more expected one, yet with a surprise at times.

I have learned in my life, My Maker is God. I can rely on His “manufacturing process.” If chocolate is life, He promised “the best chocolate ever!” He promised me a satisfying experience at every turn because He is there. We know we can always rely on HIM to help us get through, how He gets us through may be sweet or bitter, yet HE is always with us. Getting through difficulties is possible when we have a loving God walking alongside us. Making the chocolate (life) good regardless of it’s bitterness.

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” -Matthew 28:20b

Sure, you have those moments that you weren’t expecting. You know, like when they throw chocolate with orange sherbet into your caramel box (nothing against those of you who like them). And the kid that put it there, who wanted to surprise you, is there smiling at you. What do you do?? Chew, swallow and smile back. Weather you like it or not.

God is like that too… He wants us to experience things that we may not be happy about or just rather not experience. What He will not do is put poison, dead stuff or anything in your chocolate that can harm you. He wants us to experience unique situations to give us a unique life. He knows what we like and He knows what we can tolerate, but He knows we can handle a lot more when HE is with us. Hence we have a maker, God, that gives us strength to swallow the chocolate full of our least favorite things. Why? Well, because he loves us and we in return love Him. He creates new chocolates for us to try. He may just be eating it alongside you, not liking some flavors either. But we swallow and smile at each other. Yeah, that is the strength that we draw from God, the maker of our life.

“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”                                                                                        -Philippians 4:13

So, no matter what type of chocolate you like, find THE Maker and be prepared to try His. Or should I say, be prepared to accept it, take it, chew, swallow and smile. You may just LOVE it! In fact, I know you will. God will not make anything He hasn’t tried Himself. Experiencing His unique “flavors” is better than any box of chocolates I have had. Always start with His “grace” followed by “forgiveness” covered chocolates. You can’t go wrong. All the chocolates will have their unique flavors, sweet to bitter, but God is there with you. The uniqueness of God’s presence is there at all times regardless of your experiences and circumstances. Your unique life should always rely on Him. He will get you through your box of chocolates. After all, He made them all unique for a uniquely you.

 

 

 

Uniquely Inspirational

Uniquely Parenting 101

This is me, on being a Parent:

Some say that your kids grow up in the “blink of the eye.” That’s not true. It takes millions, if not billions, of blinks. As they grow it seems that the “blinks” are not enough to get them to grow fast enough. Sometimes if feels like, “come on and blink now already!” What they should say is “TREASURE EVERY BLINK.”

Now that my girls are older, I do miss those days: the days when they played together, shared their stuff, laughed. You know, before the fights and tears came into play. Yeah, those days. Those are the days that we miss the most and treasure the most. Raising children can be fun, and yet, challenging. It has moments of bliss and moments of tears. It has moments of peace and moments of “war.” The writer of Ecclesiastes was definitely a parent.

 

I think that the hardest thing to do is watching your kids hurt. As the years go by that “hurt” comes with different experiences and in different forms. Nonetheless, it is the hardest thing for a parent to watch. We want to keep them from hurting, we want to shelter them from those times. However, it is those “hurt” moments that we learn from the most, that THEY learn from the most.

Through these moments that cannot be avoided, we learn to deal with many issues in life, making better decisions. We learn about fear. We learn to console each other. We learn the do’s and don’ts of being a kid (and for parents, of being a better parents). We learn to keep an eye on the “warning signs,” so as not to fall in the pit of “hurt” again. We learn what to avoid and what to jump into. We learn how the world truly is and not just the utopia we wish it was. But most of all, we learn how much we need God.

Parenting is a skill, learned if we are smart and wise, and do not go at it alone. We need God with us every step of the way. He is the ultimate experienced parent. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that without God, I’m a horrible parent. It is God who inspires me to be a loving, patient (though sometimes my patience seems to run low at times), grateful, giving, compassionate (the list goes on, you get my drift), and empathetic parent. I need those characteristics, God’s characteristics, to be the best parent for my children. It is not easy to allow God in the mix at times. We are humans and sometimes our prideful humanity gets in the way. I have to be a humble parent, especially when I mess up. I have to allow God to build me and shape me to be a BETTER parent everyday.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had”                         -Romans 15:4-5

God inspires us to be the best, unique parent that ever walked on earth. Overall, God teaches us to be better “teachers.” He teaches us to comfort our children when they hurt. He teaches us to forgive them when they break your favorite mug. He teaches us to expect more of them as He expects of us. God teaches us to encourage their abilities, gifts and skills. God teaches us to keep them humble by reminding them “because I’m your mother,” now that’s fun. 😁 We need to be reminded as parents that it is through the grace of God that we can shower grace on our children. The same is true with patience, mercy, love, and forgiveness.

We often think that we can solve everything by giving to our children, but that is not a solution. Giving can be a demonstration of LOVE, but is sometimes only cheap manipulation. Kids need, hugs, time, encouragement, teaching, help, and more… all those areas in our lives that we use to show God how much he loves us, we need to show our children. It is through the bonding relationship with God that we learn to have a bonding strong relationship with our children. God helps us guide them through the difficulties of life, the sad, the good, the beautiful and the ugly. There is so much more that we learn from God and should learn, that we in turn need to teach our children. Most of all, we need to teach our children how to LOVE GOD, the how and the why.

 

Building a strong relationship with our Triune God is what allows us to build a strong relationship as parents with our children. Learning how God helps us deal with the “hurt” helps us deal with their “hurt.” I really do believe that parents grow in experience and this allows God to better us. After years, we become better and ready to be the BEST unique parents we can be. Of course, by then, it might be too late. They all have grown up. So what now? “You ready to be a grandma?” yeah, then that happens. Now you have to learn to be a unique grandma… yeah, in the “blink of an eye.” Time to learn to be the BEST grandparents ever…. (Just waiting for that moment😉) What a unique sense of humor God has.

In the meantime, I continue to do my BEST to be God’s BETTER and Unique Parent everyday 😊

 “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates..”  

                                                                     —Deuteronomy 11:18-20