Uniquely Inspirational

Compelled by LOVE

“I Believe in the compelling power of LOVE”

                                                         –Theodore Dreiser

I sat close to the back that night. I was with the few friends my age that came with their parents. We were not supposed to be there, really. Afterall, it was a youth camp… we had no choice but to come with our parents who led the camp events. It was a beautiful night in the mountains of Toro Negro in Puerto Rico. The warmth of the late sun kept the chill away. As always, I was playing and whispering to my friends. The music was over and now it was time for the boring message. It didn’t matter to me, I was 7, and I had other things on my mind… or so I thought until… something caught my attention, “Who is your best friend? Do you know how much they love you?” Rev. Guzman asked. I perked up. Something about that questions started pulling me in. As he spoke and compared the love of Jesus to the love between friends, family and more, I realized two things: 1. I wanted a best friend to love me like Jesus, forgiving me when I did wrong things, holding me when I’m afraid. I didn’t think my BFF loved me that way and 2. I want to love others like Jesus, being able to love my friends and family. I needed to know more. I needed MORE. As I listened, I realized that I wanted this LOVE of Jesus. I wanted Him to fill me with His LOVE. I felt, at that very moment, the love of Christ pulling me towards Him. I suddenly yearned to be loved, not like Mami and Papi loved me, but more. I WANTED MORE LOVE. and so it happened, I found myself among the youth at the altar that night…I found myself surrounded by this amazing, deep, profound LOVE. It was so strong that it overwhelmed me…and as the tears fell, I heard Jesus telling me, “I LOVE YOU. I will show you how much I love you.” My heart was filled with love that day, and has been spilling out with love ever since.
Campamento de JNI Toro Negro en el altar
Toro Negro Nazarene Camp, one of the many nightly services.
I suppose you can say that I began to learn to love my husband that night, when the LOVE of Christ came into my heart. Without me realizing it, as time went by, the closer my walk with Christ was and my relationship grew with the author of love, my love for those around me grew too. I learned to LOVE through Jesus. I learned what unconditional LOVE was. I learned how to give it to others. I learned to… well… just love and within that I wanted everyone to come to Christ to feel the same LOVE (grace, forgiveness, transformation). It is true what they say, you cannot give what you don’t have. To give love to others, real authentic unconditional love, you have to have it yourself. That love only comes from the author of LOVE, God.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”       –John 13:34-35  

It would be easy to say that Todd compelled me to love him when he showered me with compliments, or when he would say beautiful words, or give me of what little he had… but that wouldn’t be true. What compelled me to love Todd was Christ. I saw from afar the LOVE of Christ in Todd. I listened, observed and yes, questioned. I talked to others about Todd, others that knew him. I heard his struggles and his resolve. I heard the stories and watched as new stories developed. Yet, none of that was enough until I felt God pushing me, yes PUSHING me, towards Todd. And the more I fought and tried to pull back, the more God “pushed” me towards him. God compelled me. He knew what He was doing, because I certainly didn’t. And when on Feb. 14, 1991 came for Todd to fly back to Michigan, I  was thrilled, because he had been relentless and was driving me crazy. “Well, good” I thought, “That is the end of that.” God had other plans! In the next several weeks God kept “compelling me,” not just to HIMSELF but to my amazement, towards Todd. Then the letters started, and continued. I found myself reading all about him, his thoughts, difficulties, goals, and more, so much MORE. In return I found myself writing to him all about me, my life, my goals and MORE. As the letters grew in number my heart began to grow with it. In many ways I tried to fight it, but God’s LOVE is so compelling that I could see it in Todd. Time passed and we finally were able to spend time with each other. I watched and observed more, how he related to my friends and my family in Oklahoma. The most difficult time in my life was about to happen. I knew God was there, and of all people for him so send me, it had to be Todd. Weeks later Todd was gone and I was back in Puerto Rico.
Missionaires and friends gather the night before Raquel is to return to PR June 1991
With my Mother at the hospital during the 2 weeks that Todd was with me. With our Missionary and church friends. The night before my Mother got flown to her hometown in P.R.
Here I was again, back in the land where God’s compelling LOVE got ahold of my heart and began to fill me, change me and grow me. I realized within a few days that I had a new LOVE. And as I was overwhelmed by Christ’s love that night in the mountains, many years prior, I found myself overwhelmed back in Puerto Rico, but this time by Todd’s love. I thought to myself: God wins! Todd Wins! However, soon after, my heart went numb, as my mother lost her battle to cancer. My heart froze, and I couldn’t feel either LOVE. Several weeks passed. I wound up flying back to the USA, and eventually my Dad paid to fly me out to see Todd. The moment I saw him, my heart cried out. And that unending pain that I felt in my heart came out like a dam breaking. He held me for 2 hours and within his arms I found the loving comfort that I could find with God. That is when I knew, God’s LOVE for me was like Todd’s love for me, and I knew that just as I could rely on the LOVE of God in my daily walk and relationship with Him, I can rely on Todd. God’s LOVE Compelled me to Himself and later to my now husband. This February, first find that unconditional LOVE that GOD can GIVE YOU and second, find the one who LOVES you the same.  That unique LOVE of GOD can be found in the person who LOVES God just as uniquely as you. You will then find that as you LOVE GOD, you will also LOVE your spouse. In return, as your spouse LOVES GOD, they LOVE YOU. That is God’s unique, awesome and compelling LOVE. 
Uniquely Deep, Uniquely Inspirational

Consumed by Hate

quote by will smith on hate

On the flip side of my last blog, I have to bring to the forefront the one-sided ideology that has been bubbling up in today’s society. It makes me realize how often our actions come from our hearts (or lack thereof). The two extremes of love and hate are familiar to each and every one of us. Our humanity always leans toward one or the other, but usually our human nature leans into the side of hate. Why is this? It is because our first natural impulse is selfish, and selfishness eventually consumes us. The worst thing is this same selfishness refuses to admit fault,  and then blames others for our own anger and hate.

” They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,  slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;  they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” –Romans 1:29-32 (NIV)

So what causes hate? Hate is a response to the anger that comes from fear and pain. This response is usually directed towards an unwanted action (Going all the way back to childhood it progresses just like this: he took my ball, I’m afraid he won’t give it back, I am so mad, I hate it when he does that, I hate him!) This action leads to unwanted results which causes pain and hurt. The fear of falling back into that result or revisiting it, causes anger, regrets and sometimes doubts.  For many, hating the action turns into the hate towards a person or persons. It can begin as something as acceptable as saying “I hate that you were raped.” but may lead to, “I hate who did this to you.” In a society where the anger and hate toward certain people is actually encouraged, it grows far too easily. It may jump even further to a hatred of a group of people, “I hate people that look like the rapist.” Sometimes our minds increase the targets of our anger, and hate grows: “I hate all men because they are all rapists,” Then we start a vendetta of hate towards others without reason or logic, all based on fears… We are then so CONSUMED by hate that there is no stopping it.

Yet, our society takes that “hate” even further, it begins to include  all those with which we disagree. From where I am, I see a lot of people who do not see everything the way I see it. And that is fine, because we all agreed about everything there would be no sense in communication, sharing beliefs, sharing experiences and more. I would allow my bad experiences to redefine who I was and allow the anger to expand. I would have been consumed by hate and therefore become…well, a “Grinch,” unhappy, miserable, lonely and even suicidal. Hate that consumes us does not allow us to see past ourselves and our selfishness.  We see everything through the lens of darkness. It takes us to a life of darkness full of hate and somewhere in the back of the mind, shame. Since it is the opposite of “love,” it is the opposite of “God” because God is LOVE. So if  we are consumed by hate, we do not have God.  (1 John 4:20)

“We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”  — 1 John 4:19-20

Now there is a fine line between actions based on “hate” and “caution.”

If we have been involved in a painful experience, our human response is to be “cautious” when encountering similar situations, places and people. It does not mean that we “hate,” but that we do not “trust” the situation, place or person. We are not responding out of anger, but out of learned experiences. This prevents us from putting ourselves back in danger.

So what do I do to keep anger, that may lead to hate, out of my mind and hence out of my heart? I PRAY… a lot. I am reminded of the scriptures that say, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven… (Matthew 5: 44b-45a). I pray for God’s guidance, strength and wisdom. I pray for Him to help me get through it. I pray that I may not hate but love. I pray to restrain my anger ( a lot) and keep my heart focused on Christ. I pray for forgiveness for my anger and ask God to help me forgive the one who has hurt me. Prayer leads us to humbleness…like Jesus was towards those who crucified him. So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic and fills you with the fear of death, before anger and hate can grow, pray for that other driver, then forgive them and finally pray for their salvation.couple-on-bench-upset-300x200

Second, take time to heal. Find people to help you heal. Read the scriptures. Listen to the Christian songs and their lyrics. Many of the writers have gone through similar situations. Find support with friends and family. Don’t try to heal alone, as it may lead to depression, loneliness, guilt and even suicidal thoughts. Instead, seek out others whom you feel safe to talk to. A counselor can be a great help here. Healing takes time, sometimes months and at times years. Remember that you are LOVED by God and you in turn need to learn to love yourself as well. However, true healing takes place through GOD. Allow Him to work in you daily. Even when all you want to do is cry. In this process there is a need to forgive yourself, not because you are to blame (because you are not) but because you need to move forward with a clean conscience.

“‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people. “‘Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life. I am the Lord.  “‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.  “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. ”  Leviticus 19:16-18

Third, I believe it is hard to love, especially when you have been wronged. But I have learned that the best way to love is to forgive. This opens the door for love to come in and hate to go out. As mentioned above, we need to pray and ask God to help us. Forgiving the person that has wronged or hurt you is hard to do. I’m not saying that you have to go and hug them… Pain is still fresh, but do what God has asked you to do. I suppose it is complicated because if they have done something unlawful, turning them in to face justice may be necessary. This way they may not hurt others as they have hurt you. But this act alone should be out of love, with hopes for life change in them, not hate. You are giving them the opportunity to make things right. and you are saving and protecting others. A lot of self-examination needs to happen before you are ready to forgive. A lot of healing will need to happen before you are ready (or a lot of conviction by God). 

Last, reconcile what happened by sharing your experience with others. In other words, testify. Details are not important, do not romanticize the experience, but share the pain and the healing with others. Hopefully you will be able to share the forgiving of yourself and the person/persons involved. There are a lot of people who have similar experiences. They are full of pain, fear, anger and hate. Help them get rid of their hate and find peace in Christ. Help them heal, help them not to be consumed by hate.

I encourage you to see past the pain, the fear and anger that lead you to hate. Do not be consumed by it, but be realeased. Let the LOVE OF GOD fill your hearts with Love. For His unique LOVE will break the walls of hate and find peace. Live cautiously but without hate. Live peacefully without endangering yourself. Live joyfully healed and sharing what God did for you. Be unique in the your life of prayer, healing, forgiveness and love. Remember, God LOVES your uniquely you. 😉

 

 

Uniquely Mi Vida

Conquered by Love

As we traveled through towns on this special occasion, after Christmas, I couldn’t help but look back and remember all that Todd and I have gone through. It has now been 27 years of wedded bliss, yet not every moment has been blissful. Marriage has gone through ups and downs, but we have conquered every bump, obstacle and hurdle.

“Why? and How?”

Many years ago, on a warm tropical afternoon, We made a vow to the one who’s love had conquered our heart. We hence, made a promise to each other to LOVE always and through it, conquer all…  

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” —Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV)

Marriage is a solid, loyal and binding commitment. It goes beyond the desires of self to commit to the other person for life, regardless of the difficulties. This LOVE for each other is stronger than steel, and when bonded with the LOVE of God it makes it, well… unbreakable.

This is not to say that there are no problems. There are. The truth is that when you get to the core of any marital issues, you will find selfishness. This is the same problem we have in our relationship with God. The self seems to be more important, and when we allow selfishness to dominate the other, we have a problem.

God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided us with the means of a strong committed marriage. It begins with the scriptures and is strengthened by the constant renewal of our relationship with God. A strong bond with God will result in a strong bond in marriage. In other words, the more in-love with God you are, the more in-love you will be with your spouse.

celeste & joseph wedding
My daughter with my, then, new son-in-law.

There is a lot to be said about the “Great Commandment.” It is also a marriage rule: love God with everything, and you will love others as you love yourself. Loving God helps you love yourself and others, especially your spouse. Reading the Bible not only helps us understand who GOD is, but it allows us to see the heart of God. In return we reflect His heart to others… especially in our marriage. It puts us in our place, reminding us to let things go that are not important. It reminds us to be good stewards of what God has provided, to put the other first, to love and be faithful to our spouses as we are LOVING and FAITHFUL to God. It helps us to be selfless, forgiving and compassionate. The Bible is the first guide and counseling textbook. If you have a hard time relating to what it says to your life and relationship, then there is still another “help” God provides.

Pastors and others strong Christian leaders who reflect God’s Love in their everyday lives and marriages are the second means a strong marriage. They are there to help us understand the written marital guidance of the Bible. They are the first counselors we approach. With their help we can see what needs to happen to refocus the relationship on GOD, and then, on EACH OTHER. Praying and sharing within the safety of a pastoral counseling relationship is a great stress reliever and allows us to clear our mind to what is important.

The third means that God has provided for strong marriages is the professional marriage counselor. These can come in the form of therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists. For a Christian, seeking professional help is sometimes hard. We have to be willing to accept that we need help, and maybe even need to take medications to help deal with emotional or mental problems that one may, or may not, have been aware of before marriage. We have to be cautious in finding the right person. A good Christian professional will reinforce the values that you hold, and encourage the spiritual guidance of scripture, prayer and Christian fellowship as part of the counseling.

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Our senior friends marriage

Keeping the bonds and commitment of marriage now-a-days is very difficult. Societal and cultural influences teach selfishness, individualism and quick escape from difficulties. There is a need to balance the needs of the self with the needs of others. When the “self” wants to be put first knowing that it will harm another loved one, true love is lost. This is a “red flag” that our love relationships are being destroyed. Our selfless heart should recognize it, and fight against such selfishness.

One thing that Todd and I learned over the years is to talk about and share all of our thoughts. When disagreements come we have to find a compromise that will work for both of us. If there is no way to truly compromise, then both have to evaluate the situation and resolve it on the side of causing the least harm to either person. This means there must be a willingness to let go of what we think is best for ourselves, in favor of what doesn’t hurt the other. There is much to be said about compromising, giving, and more, but it will have to wait for another time. One thing that we have learned to do often, and Todd shares when teaching, is the idea that marriage is a contest to see “who can outgive the other.” This is the idea of selflessness in practice. It is an idea that grows and strengthens the relationship with the selfless love of God, being mirrored in a selfless love in marriage.

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Renewing our vow after 21 years

I was conquered by the love of Todd many years ago. And each year has been unique. Not all have been easy, but they have all had their own unique joys and challenges. Every year we have learned to grow closer even when difficulties pulled us apart… and we held on, with God at the center of it. He always pulled us back to each other. We learned to compromise, to give into the other, to outgive each other, to forgive each other, to enjoy each other in LOVE. We pray often to be the spouses God wants us to be for the other. And because we have willingly given our heart to the other, we let the other “have” what makes them happy without harming or hurting. We are committed, loyal, faithful and true to each other now more than ever.

So as the new year starts I encourage you to find those unique ways that you can outgive the other. Find unique ways to be selfless. Remember that if you began your marriage with GOD at the center, it should always be driven by HIM. Let the Love that conquered you and united you be strengthened by God’s conquering love. This conquering LOVE will make your marriage uniquely strong and happy. This is LOVE which can only be from GOD. It is what binds us together and enables us to conquer all.

Uniquely Deep, Uniquely Mi Vida

Captured by Joy

I smiled as the children sang in the cafeteria. A volunteer had come in to play the piano during the school’s lunch time. He wanted to bring a little Christmas joy to the kids. As I dropped off the children and helped them get their lunches, he started to play Frosty the Snowman, followed by We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The children started singing, and with every voice, others joined in. I smiled as I walked out… you could hear them all the way down the halls. What joy it is to hear the happy children! Those children had been captured by the joy of Christmas. I hope they didn’t forget to eat their lunches.

Photo by Murilo Folgosi on Pexels.com

If you find yourself singing along at the stores, or office, when the Christmas music is playing, you too have been captured by joy. If you find yourself singing or humming even without music, as you clean the house, drive, cook, shop or more, then you too have been captured by the joy of Christmas. It is hard not to be, unless you just can’t sing one note   😀

There is plenty around us to remind us what Christmas is about. We hear, see, and smell Christmas around us wherever we go. In Puerto Rico you even hear the joy of Christmas outside as you walk down the streets of the towns. Music is played loud and people just gather with their instruments and play their favorite songs. In the stores we are greeted with “Merry Christmas” not like in the USA where it has been mostly replaced with “Happy Holidays.” (Although, here in Texas people refuse to change it, and continue saying “Merry Christmas!” I’m sure there are others places like this too).

In the USA we still hear the songs of Christmas, different styles and different songs, but still it brings an atmosphere of joy and peace. A story in history tells us of the Christmas of 1914 during World War 1, when a truce occurred in the Western front. They too were captured by the Joy of Christmas and as the Christmas music played, soldiers celebrated and even spread joy with their enemies.

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

That is what Christmas does; it brings joy all throughout the world. It captures the hearts of all men (that is an inclusive statement, and yes it includes women and children).  It brings JOY to all, regardless of where you are. It encompasses cultures, languages, and age, regardless of how it is celebrated. It brings joy across the “trenches,” brings down walls, and yes, makes us vulnerable, yet strong. It causes us to see others as Jesus sees them. We extend a hand of friendship and spread the joy to others even to the least of them. Our world becomes different; it opens up dialogues, rebuilds friendships and mends broken hearts. (At least it should if you are truly celebrating the true Christmas). The JOY of Christmas is this powerful because CHRIST is in it.

This is why the Angels sang, “JOY TO THE WORLD, the LORD has COME.” Let your heart be captured by the coming of the LORD. Let JOY ring! And as your heart is captured by that joy, whether it be through song, cooking, baking, giving, playing games or just smiling, let it be uniquely You. So be captured by the uniqueness of the true JOY of Christmas: “CHRIST” who has COME!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! ******FELIZ NAVIDAD!

Uniquely Inspirational

Captivated by Christmas

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

-Luke 2:15-19

As soon as my first child, Celeste, was lifted from my womb due to a c-section done because her heartbeat showed duress, the nurses rushed her to check her. I couldn’t wait. I called her by the name Todd and I had chosen if we had a girl, “Celeste.” At that moment I saw her beautiful face turn towards me as she blinked, to what seems to focus on me, with all that junk on her face. It was the most captivating moment and a treasured memory. The nurse allowed me to touch her before she was cleaned up.  With my second and third it was just as captivating as I held both Aliza, and later Erica, in my arms for the first time.

Watching the girls be mesmerized by the Christmas lights as we drove through the Kansas City Zoo years ago made my heart leap with joy. They especially loved the real live nativity scene later that night when we visited our church. We pointed out the “Star of Bethlehem” and the “3 kings” in the night sky often, remembering how mesmerized and captivated I was by them, growing up. I loved watching stars move across the night sky wondering how amazing it would have been at the birth of Jesus. It was, of course, Sirius, (the brightest star in the sky) and the 3 stars of Orion’s belt. (which, if you drew a line through them, point directly to Sirius.) But it didn’t matter, it was the reminder and the “wonder” of what took place over 2000 years ago that kept my girls and us in awe at Christmas.

The “3 Kings”, other wise known as Orion’s belt,  following the star of “Bethlehem”, other wise known as “Syrus” (not the true star of Bethlehem, that was a once in a life time event.)

I treasured the memories of my girls growing up: When they first encountered Santa, and, yeah they cried, except for Erica who, as a baby, instead tugged at his beard.  I’m sure they wondered,  trying to figure out how he fit into the story. When they participated in the Christmas programs, and sang even when, as toddlers,  did not cooperate fully with the directions. (we had a runaway angel once). Later, when they were older, they helped other children choose the gifts for their parents, wrapped their presents, did crafts with them and dressed up as elves for photos, all for the sake of less fortunate children. One year, they wrote their own play and presented it to the family. They learned to bake and decorate cookies. All those memories and more, I cherish. Those memories captivated my heart as I’m sure it captivated theirs. Those little moments, so significant to even the youngest, bring an amazing wonder to the  awesomeness that is Christmas.

The songs playing around us, the smell of cookies and pies being baked, or in our case, flans and tembleque, watching our children open gifts, smiling with joy, baking cookies or drinking hot chocolate by the fireplace (here in the US), gathering with friends and family for meals, visits and church services, all to celebrate this amazing time of year. The gift exchanges, the joy and laughter that come with it, participating in the parrandas and trullas in Puerto Rico, visiting family, and yes, eating everywhere you go, listening to the people celebrating, seeing the lighted homes, the Christmas trees, it is all captivating indeed. But not as captivating as that morning long ago.

I am reminded often of how captivating were the events that surrounded the birth of Christ. Those stories that Mary “pondered” in her heart. She memorized every detail, the angels as they passed on the message, her fears, her visit to her cousin Elizabeth and how she reinforced the message of the angel. She remembered having to deal with Joseph and his fears. (And I’m sure somewhere in her life she had to deal with telling her family and friends). Then there was the trip to Bethlehem, the arrival, and searching for a place to stay. This was followed by the birth of the Messiah, Emmanuel, Jesus. Then she heard how the angels showed up, and told the shepherds who the child was. Then came the move to Egypt, and the arrival of the wise men… and so much more. I am certain that as Mary held her new born and was captivated by Him, his lillte hands, fingers and toes and wondering eyes, she could not imagine what this child would bring to the world. Oh, to be capture by His first first smile, steps, words and more. In awe Mary held her baby close. All these memories were captivating… even more so than anything we have encountered during Christmas.

It is the story of long ago, the wonders that led to the birth of Jesus, then the actual birth followed by Jesus himself. This is what ultimately captivates me the most. The promise of salvation, the way to salvation that was made for me through this child.  Salvation that came through an infant as fragile and innocent as any other child, yet the Son of God, better yet, “God with us.” He began as a baby who was vulnerable, trusting His mother Mary and his earthly father, Joseph to take care of Him. He found his attention captivated by his surroundings. I’m sure, as he saw through human eyes and felt with His human heart, he was amazed by the world he found himself in.

I wonder, I am captivated by that baby that I never met face to face. Yet, I carry Him in my heart.  I am in awe of what He went through to come to us, of what  He, Jesus, did for us. For it was this unique and amazing child that brought the Love of His father so that I can live captivated by his forgiveness. He brought the presents of HOPE, JOY, LOVE, PEACE and GRACE that only He can give. I pray that, this Christmas, you too are uniquely captivated by HIM!

Uniquely Mi Vida

Confounded by Culture

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” -Mahatma Gandhi

I was 7 years old and we had just arrived in the “mainland”from the Island. More specifically, we had arrived at Texas. As I walked out of the airplane it was night already, and I was freezing. The thin jackets from Puerto Rico couldn’t stand up to the cold of south Texas. I tried to stay warm standing close to Mom with her arms wrapped around me. It was November, and I was excited and scared at what was to come. I was soon embraced by my first real coat, and Dr. H.O. Espinoza, whom came to be like my “grandfather.”

recien llegamos a San Antonio 1977
Our Recent arrival to San Antonio (recien llegamos a San Antonio)

We had been in the mainland of the U.S.A. for approximately a week, and we were getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving. At the time my understanding was that we were having a huge meal with other pastors and their families at the Espinoza’s home, where we were staying temporarily until our own house was ready. I came into the dining room area where tables had been setup with all kinds of food. My curiosity of what we were having got the best of me. Asking constantly, “what is that?” I came to the giant bird on the table.My eyes were amazed at its size. My mother came over and I looked up and exclaimed with my unbelievable amazement, “Mami the chickens here are HUGE!” 😆 She looked at me with the eyes of a mother and smiled hugely, “Mamita, that is not a chicken. It is a turkey.” Then she carefully laughed…  🤔 I was confused, and could only say, with a bit of disappointment, “Then what is a turkey?” She tried to explain to me, and then left to obviously go to tell Sister Espinoza what had transpired. Bro. Espinoza heard of my confusion so he pulled me aside and not only showed me pictures of a turkey, but introduced to me the story of the first pilgrims in America.  And here I thought we were simply having a special meal to give thanks to God for all that He had provided. 👼 Little did I know that there was a whole historical story behind it.

Next thing I know, I was learning songs about someone named Rudolf with a red nose and Dashing who throws the snow at who knows who (and why are we singing about someone being so mean? And wouldn’t snow hurt somebody? I heard it was cold like ice?) … and the more I was introduced to the stories of American Christmases I wondered, wow I didn’t know the reindeer were animals that could fly with names even. 😲And they told me unicorns🦄 didn’t exist.. Thank goodness to all those movies that set the record straight for me, and explained all the songs… except about this “Dashing” kid…and this horse that opens something called “slay.” (Shamefully, I didn’t get the story straight until I dared to ask 3 years later🤦‍♀️.)

..And while many celebrated Santa, we celebrated the birth of Christ, which apparently Santa celebrated in a different way here in the USA. Then, while the songs of Christmas faded in the background and people put away their lights and trees, in came the new year and our tree was still up, as it is for all Puerto Ricans. For us, Christmas was not over. We waited patiently for the coming of the “3 Magi Kings” (As some call it “epiphany.”), who delivered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. Though the kids at school made fun of the 3 kings and their story, and I felt sorry for them because I got more gifts… not once but TWICE. That’s right, on the eve of Jan.6, good boys and girls in Puerto Rico, gather grass and water for the camels,write a letter to the kings and in the morning we have MORE presents. 🤗

          When Todd and I were engaged, I introduced him to our way of celebrating Christmas. raqui blog pic002We married soon after Christmas day and made a decision to include both cultures. ✨Though the stories of Frosty and the red-nosed reindeer were not on my top 10, not even my top 100, I conceded to allow my kids hear the stories, take a photo with Santa, and open at least 2 presents on Christmas morning and sing the solemn Christmas, English music. In exchange, Todd (and the girls), had to hear “parranda” music, eat pasteles, lechon, flan and more, celebrate 3 Kings Day, and join in the parrandas and trullas, the real way to go “caroling”. (Of course to do that you would have to be among Puerto Ricans and be willing to stay up way past bedtime and eat during the night). In many ways, my daughters got an extended Christmas and different celebrations for almost 2 months. Eating different things for Thanksgiving, opening presents the night before Christmas from each other (like we did growing up), then in the morning from “Santa,” and then on Jan. 6, the ones from the 3 kings. It wasn’t easy combining it (and budgeting for it)… but we did it. We added a 4th aspect to our family traditions, the American “Black Friday” sales… which started with us getting presents for hundreds of other children which eventually led to teaching our girls the importance of giving with joy and love. (I was co-director of a compassionate ministry center and it this was a part of our Christmas assistance program I was God-led to create, called “Gift of Hope” in 2004.) It wound up being a budget friendly way to do all the gifts and a late night (early morning) of fun for all. It was always funny to see the reactions of the Walmart cashier as she wondered why anyone would by ten of the same board game,or have 4 carts loaded with kids toys. It was always a joy to be able to tell them we were wisely using donated money to get as many presents for poor children as we possibly could.

Missing the pasteles but still enjoying a mixture of Puerto Rican food and american. (Roasted pork, rice w/piegon peas, tostones, rolls and greenbreans)

 Yes, Thanksgiving and Christmas are BIG in our house. With the uniqueness of the American traditions, (did I mention learning how to bake pumpkin pies and Christmas cookies?😉) and the uniqueness of the Puerto Rican ones. We have created a colorful mix of cultural celebrations. When others thought that our cultures clashed, we were enjoying the colorful mixture they create. It is a joy to find ways to celebrate, and yet find the biblical perspective of them. We have opted out of some cultural celebrations because they are not compatible with our subculture that we share, Christianity. We see the uniqueness of others and the stories behind them, and based on these we add them in. So no, Peter Cottontail does not come through our home… (I said it when I first heard about it, age 7, and I will say it again, a rabbit should NOT be laying eggs… that is just wrong!), nor do we bother much with Halloween except when the girls were little, and dressed up as princesses to pass out candies and share the love of God.

           It is the mixtures of cultures and their traditions that, when they seem to clash, their combination makes our family culture unique. From the New years and Easters, to the 4th of July celebrations, to quinceañeras (sweet “15” instead of “16), to Thanksgiving, Christmas and more, it is this unique cultural traditions that have made our Home joyous. Figuring out how to celebrate is not that easy, but knowing the story behind the traditions and celebrations certainly helps. It is the story that makes them worthwhile and as unique as the celebration itself. So, for Thanksgiving, we will have our turkey on Thursday with our American family and then have a Puerto Rican dinner, including “lechon asado”(roasted pork), with my side of the family.

         During this holiday season, I encourage you to find those traditions that make your culture unique. You can even add your own family traditions into the mix. Teaching and learning celebrations that others around you have is fun to do as well. You may not celebrate it, but you can learn about it. History is full of traditions and every culture has those that have been around for 100’s of years. Every culture has its unique traditions and celebrations and many are family fun. So next time you hear Puerto Ricans“caroling” at your neighbors doors at 2 A.M., don’t huff and puff and call the police, instead pick up any instrument you have, and join them… believe me, it is fun plus, you get to eat… again. It is so unique!

To celebrate with my people and see how we do “trillos” (parrandas during the nights) click here

Uniquely Mi Vida

Corrupted by Anxiety

“Becoming fearless isn’t the point. That’s impossible. It’s learning how to control your fear and how to be free from it.”    —Veronica Roth

I sat in the changing room after the assistant left, just as I have done 21 times in the last 18 years. You would think each time I get a mammogram things would be easier. This time, before my fears came out of their hideous cave to corrupt my thoughts, I began to encourage myself, “It is going to be fine, Raqui. You can do this. Don’t worry. It’s going to be fine.” But my mind began to play over the same old thoughts and memories. The same old “what if’s?” Soon fears began to creep out. They wanted to corrupt my thoughts, my mind. I caught it this time, “No! It IS going to be fine. Good results like last time.” Then in a moment of realization that I was not alone, “God, please let it be okay. Help me control my fears.” I can only rest in the thought that regardless, God was with me. And every time the ugly head of fear tries to corrupt my thoughts I would encourage myself again, and pray. It seemed like I waited forever. I wasn’t going to allow my anxiety to kick in and cause me to hyperventilate, or hold my emotions inside, until I burst out crying on the way home, and so on. My plan was to fight it and knock anxiety on its butt.

I surprised myself, I was able to keep my anxiety under a tight lid, this time anyways. Then I got the call the next day… “You have to come back..” she said. Will I be able to keep my anxiety away? Will I be able to encourage myself? And as I hung up I realized that it didn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter, God is with me. I find myself fighting again my fears, but with more determination than ever. I have had two biopsies, and God has always been there for me. My God is bigger than this. He can control my anxiety. And I have to remember that every time that hideous fear wants to creep out of it’s cave to corrupt my thoughts.

 

Many people struggle with anxiety. Some struggle with anxiety more than others. Anxiety is the results of fears that have corrupted your thoughts, causing your mind to create negative thoughts, worst case scenarios, the worst of all possibilities. This is the corrupted thoughts of our minds. They don’t make sense. They do not add up, and they definitely do not give you any positive outcome, ever.

“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”     —Isaiah 41:13-14

I have learned that these corrupted thoughts are not from God. I have learned that God has the power to redirect those thoughts and break the chains of corruption. But I have also learned that the deeper we allow this fear, darkness, and anxiety, the harder it is for us to hold onto the clarity of God’s power. I have learned throughout the years that I must confront it at the start as often as I can. The sooner I do, the more clear my mind will be, and greater likelihood of stopping the corruption. It seems easier said than done. For someone who refuses to get lost in the world of darkness after surviving the worst case scenario of depression and suicidal thoughts, one learns the need to fight. With the help of God fighting by my side I have gone against everything that wants to take me back into it’s dark cave and anxiety is one of them. I have put my foot down and refuse to fall into the trap of corrupted thoughts, I have learned that I can’t do it alone. Like many, I need help.

So what can we do to stay away from falling into the trap of the fears that corrupt our thoughts and leads us to anxiety? Here are some strategies:

    1. Always remember! You are NOT alone in this! God is our strength, the one who pulls us out of it.  Remind yourself, over and over again that God is there and that He sustains you. He fights for you. He gives you strength. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
    2. Similarly, but possibly more difficult, TRUST in God. Believe He can help you through. One of the hardest things for us, as we face our fears and anxieties is to stop and refocus to TRUST in GOD. Even though God is ALWAYS much bigger than our “problems,” it is best to remind yourself just how trustworthy God is before fears go from creeping to STOMPING… looking at God always shrinks the size of the fear. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)
    3. Prayer is a weapon. PRAY PRAY PRAY, before, during and after. Constantly praying keeps your thoughts more focused out of the “danger zone.” It may not feel that way, but trust me, it will help. “I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me.  He freed me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4) AND “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
    4. Encourage and remind yourself constantly that everything is going to be all right. Use POSITIVE thoughts here to overcome the negative ones that come out of fear. ALWAYS fight back the fears with positive ones. This is an exercise that you literally need to make yourself do. This is where your will to fight must be greater. The sooner in the cycle of anxiety you do this, the less likely you will be sucked into the abyss of corrupted thoughts.
    5. Have someone talk you through those positive thoughts. sistersTalking to someone when you feel yourself starting to be corrupted by your fears is essential. However, it is important that you actually repeat, out loud, the positive and real words that they are spoken to you. The more you repeat them, the more likely to form that pattern of thinking.
    6. The one thing that may help you the most is seeing a counselor, and yes, even asking for medication if your anxiety is severe. You know this is necessary, if after years, doing the above is not helping at all, and things are getting worse. Seeking professional help is a good option. We shouldn’t judge a person as weak if they take a cold medicine for their body, and we should not think it is weakness to need medicine for the mind. Several of my family member have had to resort to this, and have the medication available for their worst case scenario cases. This doesn’t mean that you have failed. NO! It means that YOU HAVEN’T GIVEN UP! You are still fighting! So, I encourage you to do this.

After all my years of experiencing times that my fears have led to anxiety and my mind has been corrupted, I have learned to fight and place these in the hands of my Almighty God. It has not been easy. It has, and will always be, part of me. It doesn’t go away, but it can be fought, and the more you fight back the more battles you will win. Over time, you will have peace in your mind.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  –2 Timothy 1:7

My mind is as unique as everyone’s. Within it I carry amazing memories, logic, lessons that I have learned, stories, my education and experiences, decisions, faces of people and so much more. These are things that make me so unique. Those thoughts need to stay unique in a positive way. It is those positive thoughts that bring peace, joy, love and all that happiness. I encourage you to find those unique positive thoughts that will help you fight the corruption of your fears. Remember: FIGHT, and let your mind be the uniquely tough fighter that I know it can be. YOU CAN DO IT!

Uniquely Deep, Uniquely Mi Vida

Crippled by Pride

Just before I began let me just say, this story is fully my husband’s idea. So before it gets to his head, and he thinks he is “winning,” let it be on record that I’m willing to concede…half way, for a dinner at Red Lobster. (Editor’s Note: She would do about anything for a dinner at Red Lobster.)

It is impossible for humanity to stay away from pride, at least, for those who were raised being allowed to have “pride.” I am aware of the cultures where pride is a male dominated attribute, following honor and the like. Pride seems to be the thing that men boast of to their buddies during soccer games (in Latino countries), football (In the USA), sumo wrestling in Japan, Croquet in Europe and so on… Men take pride in their work, probably more so than women, they take pride in the ability to provide for the family or to have the newest, most powerful “set of wheels.” Some men take pride in how much material they have accumulated, or that their kid is the star of the high school team or their daughter is in the top five in her school. However, for most women, pride is something different. We take pride in our children and their accomplishments, especially when they are happy. We take pride in having a perfect house, the prettiest house on the block, or in accomplishing tasks. We take pride in sharing the knowledge and wisdom that we have (which is why we educate, and want to solve everyone’s problems). But I want to say, that the one thing we take pride in the most is: being right. There, I have said it.. (I truly hope I don’t regret this).

Why is that? Why do women feel the need to be right? So here is my analysis:

For hundreds and thousands of years women have been subjugated by males. They are the person used to unite families (through marriage), to provide a home, food and children. Women were told for years by others what they can or cannot do. They have been prostituted by men, used by many, and sold off as cattle. They spent years being told, “hush woman.”  Women are now wanting to be heard. That is right, we want to be heard! We want men to see that we are as smart as them (or smarter), as capable as them in the decision-making. That we can do more than just clean house, cook and take care of children. (Okay, so there are women out there that can’t do any of that…). We had been (and some still are) cooped up for so long, told they are ignorant, or that they are “females and don’t know anything.” With all of this for hundreds of years, we finally have had a say in the last 100 years of history, and now we have become “liberated.” We get to participate now, and share our thoughts and experiences. We get to make decisions for ourselves, our children and even for men. We get to speak up, be listened to, considered and , yeah, we can even disagree with men. And in the war for the acknowledgement that we are HERE and have the same BRAIN that men do (sometimes better), we have fallen into the same trap that for thousands of years was more exclusive to men: we have become prideful.

We have become prideful for fear that if we begin to lose the ground that has been gained, we will lose the respect and acknowledgement that took thousands of years to gain. I believe that we have become prideful, because without it, we feel, we lose the control and the upper hand that we finally have, after escaping what seemed, the enslavement of our mind, body and soul. And for some women, this freedom has just been recently gained. Thus the need to hold onto pride is stronger. We need to feel that we can make decisions on our own. We need to feel worth. We need to feel in control of who we are. If that is taken we lose who we are as women. Our pride keeps us from falling back into that cage.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”                                                                                                         –Proverbs 11:2    (NIV)

The problem is that as women, those that have found been permitted to be seen as equals, have become too prideful and have somehow felt the need to always show men how independent they are. This shows itself when we make stupid decisions, or say dumb things, or we are proven wrong or even when we realize “it is not the way I envisioned it.” We have a hard time admitting we are wrong. We don’t want to be seen as inferior again. What we don’t realize is that this extreme pride can cripple us.

It cripples us because when we fall, we have to get up and recapture the ground we’ve lost. And instead of holding ourselves up high and continuing, we either throw a fit or refuse to accept that we were hurt by the fall. And we continue to run while bleeding, hurting and losing more ground. (Or we just look like a fool because we want others to feel sorry…) The problem here is that the ground we lose it that of our relationships, integrity and eventually our own self-worth as liberated women.

For Christians it adds to the crippling effect, because it affects us spiritually. It begins to distance us from God and creates the doubts, holding us back from moving forward. It can begin to change us in ways that we may not realize, eventually hurting ourselves more and taking others around us down too.

So what are we to do? Humbling ourselves makes us stronger. It is something God asks of us, and is one of the most important things that can bring healing to broken relationships, and lost ground. Humility reminds us that we are but women with faults, and we too are learning and growing. There is nothing wrong with making mistakes. To say that you are “sorry” is not only saying you are wrong, it can say that “I can do (and should have done) better.” It says that you are aware that things didn’t quite go the way you expected.  It also says that you need help. Yes, your leg is twisted and it hurts, but you can get up a run, with the help of others. So, swallow your pride and keep going.

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”   —-Daniel 4:36-37 (NIV)

You see, we do not have to be prideful women to win the war of the sexes. We just need that unique person that will join us and help us run forward. We also need God with us to keep us in check and to remind us that He created us in the first place, to be the helper of the men. (They can’t do it without us.) We need others keeping us in check, to be our encouragers, and help us up when we need it. We then can become more wise in the process. (And wisdom makes us more “attractive.”) The wiser we are, the more we can help the men, because they are still working on their pride.  🙂

So to my brother-in-law, Jack. Read carefully, because I’m not going to ever say this out loud (I will deny it and delete this): Yes, you were right, that was a “Honda” not a “Hyundai.” But hey, I’m just a woman, I don’t know much about cars 🙂 I can only be right 99% of the time. (I know, it is a BIG burden)

Ladies: Be the unique women God wants you to be. Do not let pride get in the way of the amazing unique life that God has for you! Let wisdom remind you when to step back and recapture your ground so that you won’t fall. Don’t let your pride blind you so you wont fall in the first place. If you do, humbly pick yourself up again, or let someone else help you and finish the race. This is a unique time in the history of women, let’s make this race worth it. So RUN!

**I’m waiting on my Red Lobster dinner date**

Uniquely Inspirational

Chained by guilt

“Guilt can either hold you back from growing or it can show you what you need to shift in your life”

As I turn towards my dining room table I hear Serenity’s four paws hit the floor. I instantly know exactly where she has been, on my dining room table. “Serenity!” I yell with a mommy’s  mean voice. “Were you on the table again?” As alwasy she responds by guiltily tucking in her tail and walking slowly to her crate.

Now some would argue that she thinks you are getting after her for jumping from the chair and not the table. Well, she is certain now! I kept an eye out until sometime in late September I caught her on the table slurping some food my middle daughter had left on the table. Serenity was only 4-5 ft away when I ran into action as I yelled “Serenity! NO! NO!” She jumped from the table.

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Serenity, not wanting to look at Todd

I caught her mid-air and told her what a bad girl she had been! Well, that freaked her out. If she had any doubts about what she had been getting in trouble for. You better believe she has no doubt now! Yep! This doggie not only knew she was caught, but knows she is guilty, and on top of that she knows her punishment.

She hasn’t been near the table since. She had run, again with her tail tucked, to her crate feeling guilty and ashamed. She, in fact, stayed there quite some time. Funny, when I explained to Todd what she had done and he had looked over at her, Serenity would not even look at him… Yes, guilt is a powerful tool, even for dogs.

People are like Serenity. Yet people are different. We take guilt to a new level. Not only do we feel guilty when we are caught, and we are guilty, but become defiant at times for feeling guilt. (God forbid we are actually guilty). We hence have 2 different reactions in 3 three different forms:

1. We feel so bad that we take the road to change whatever caused that guilt by doing better and allowing it to change us for the better, or get better at hiding the feeling because if we ignore it, we can pretend it is just not there.

2. We respond to the person who caught us by apologizing and sometimes promise to do better (humbling ourselves) or being angry that they caught us and respond with hate as if it is their fault.

3. We admit to ourselves what we did wrong, and do not repeat it at all, or we simply refuse to allow it to change us, letting pride take over by telling ourselves we did nothing wrong… or worse, they deserve it…

So, either we feel bad, apologize and admit we did wrong, or we become defiant, blame others and justify the wrong.

These two opposite responses have a big impact in our lives and the lives of those around us. We create a void within ourselves or between “me” and “him”/”her”/ “them”. We wind up justifying what we did by blaming others or just by blaming the event itself. We forget the reason why “guilt” is a feeling altogether and we somehow blame the person for making us feel guilty. We somehow jump over the “being” guilty and right into “feeling” guilty. Somehow, it is someone’s else fault. Another words, we refuse to accept that we may be guilty after all and we wouldn’t feel guilty if that person wouldn’t point it out. Because feeling guilty is wrong. We refuse to realize it, but guilt has it’s chain around us and there is no escape.

boy in white shirt and black track pants

When we feel guilty..

Surely, not all feelings of guilt are due to something we have done wrong. It may be that we are innocent, but somehow got caught up in the web of someone else’s wrong. Yet, we can use the feeling as a way to learn how to be more careful. We may have made a decision that led to it, like running with the wrong people knowing that they like to cause trouble. (Some events occur around us with bad results without us having anything to do with it. Then it becomes a “victim’s guilt.”) Sometimes we just need to talk to someone who we trust and they can help us clarify the feeling of guilt. It is important to understand the difference here.

In reality, the feeling of guilt is our conscious bringing up the feeling we have done wrong, and therefore we may be guilty. That guilt is the process that we must go through in order to learn how to better make decisions that are RIGHT. Overall, we need to have that feeling of “guilt.” Just like “Fear” causes us to be careful, to pay attention and warns us when something may not be right, “Guilt” is the aftermath when our choices have been wrong. To ignore it, or blame it on others, (through anger and hate) is like a dog who continues to jump on the table regardless of the punishments, or one who actually snaps and bites it’s owner for getting after it.

Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, ‘“What? Are we blind too?”’ Jesus said, ‘“If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”‘                        —John 9:40-41 NIV

Re-evaluating instead of ignoring (which, by the ways, leads to the feeling of anger), our guilt may be very difficult and painful at times, but in the long run, we become better for it. We need to be truthful with ourselves and see, “did I really do something wrong here” or is “so and so” making me feel guilty for something they have done. Either way, facing it strengthens us, helps us make better decisions and ultimately helps us have a more peaceful life.

Jesus himself teaches us the need to see the wrongs we have done, and admit them to God and ourselves. We must find the truth in forgiveness so that we wont be “guilty of sin.” He does not want us to be chained to it, but find freedom from guilt. This is where Jesus’ forgiveness is important. There is an extraordinary feeling when we have put that guilt to rest by evaluating it, accepting it when it is our fault and dealing with it. Resolving our feelings may take time, but is very well worth it in the end.

“.. let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  –Hebrews 10:22 & 23

Serenity relaxing

I’m pretty sure Serenity has learned her lesson and now she will be happier because she wont get in trouble since she has changed her ways. Hopefully I can be even better than her and remember my mistakes so that I won’t repeat them. I find peace knowing that I have gone through the evaluating process and no longer feel guilt.  If anything, I do hate feeling guilty, even more than dogs hate it when we tell them they have been “bad.”  So, as I go through my weird and unique life I will continue to be humbled enough to re-evaluate any guilt that may come my way. For me, the Holy Spirit places that unnerving sense of guilt when I go against God’s will. It is necessary in my life as it is in all of our lives. Without it we cannot change and be transformed for the better. Without knowing when we have gone astray we cannot grow or feel free of our guilt. My unique life needs to continue to go forward guilt free. Thank you Lord for your forgiveness that sets me free, and that unique peace that only You can give.

Uniquely Mi Vida

The Problem with Promises

Coming to my home from school, my nephew asked his mother to stop by their house to pick up his karaoke machine. When he arrived, the first thing he did was turn it on, “Tomorrow Tio (Uncle) Todd and Titi (Auntie) Raqui are going to get married. We are going to have a BIG party!” He announced joyfully. And as others came he would announce it again. 😆 I turned to him and said, “But we are already married.”  “No, another one Raqui.” He explained sternly. “Okay then.” I replied smiling. Hard to argue with a 5-year-old’s imagination. He didn’t, however, say who would pay for it or how it would happen.🤔 I really didn’t think it was going to happen.

The next day when he came by to visit I asked him, “Where is my party and how are you going to make it happen?”

“What party?” he asked. He apparently had forgotten.

“The one you promised me yesterday and announced to all of us.”

He looked down and says, “Oh… No, no party.”

Well, I was disappointed, “Did you trick your Titi Raqui?”

“Yeah.” He said as he ate his snack.

Then I began to look very sad and pretended to cry, “That is too bad because I really wanted a cake.”

He perked up, “Yeah! Yeah! We’re gonna have cake.” And proceded to let his Mom know we needed a cake.

Of course that didn’t happen either. What can you expect from a 5 year old with no job?😆

“Promises can be broken, just as fast as they are made”

                                                                                                     —Unknown

That day I contemplated the excitement of my nephew versus my excitement of the possibility of having a party…  all the excitement created by a happy imagination and the “promise” of a 5 year old that I knew would never happen. Even children who have an amazing imagination… without knowing it, learn to make proclamations that sound exciting but know they are just playing around. That got me to thinking: When do we outgrow the promises that are created by our imagination?

I suppose we really don’t outgrow them. From parents, to employers, to leaders, to lawmakers, to politicians. We want to so badly make people happy that we sometimes let our imagination “proclaim” promises without taking reality into consideration. Sometimes we just make promises to look good, sometimes because we want to be loved, sometimes it is because we think the recipient earned it or deserve it.

Sometimes those promises are well intended and very possible. Circumstances out of our control sometimes interfere.  Those are the “promises” we must follow through on somehow. After all, the recipient is depending on it. Yet, circumstances out of our control happen and we may not be able to fulfill them. We then come up with other alternatives and that is where it begins to either build or break the trust of the recipient.

Then there are those promises that our imagination takes over and develops. We get so excited that we just blur it out without considering the steps, process or the timeline of the promise we just gave. The recipient gets extremely excited expecting it to happen. They don’t know how you are going to do it cause it seems awfully complicated, but they trust you will do it. After all, the recipient thinks that if you promised it, obviously you have a way to make it happen. Deep down you know you have no idea how, but you have to deliver… and when you don’t…excuses start to mount… empty words bring a broken trust.

There is, however, one person that can keep His promises: Jesus. Yep, Jesus has given us promises and has kept them all. However, His promises rely on our willingness to accept and respond. As a smart parent might say to his child, “if you raise your grades up to B’s I will take you out to eat. If you raise them to A’s I will set aside money towards your Xbox 1.” Then there are those promises that a loving parent keeps regardless of all else, “I will love you always and be here for you.” Well, Jesus does the same, if you do “A” he will do “B.” But he also says, “I will be with you always.” If his promise is contingent on our efforts, or our willingness to simply accept the promise, maybe our promises to others should be the same. If His promises are based on His love for us, maybe our promises should too.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

                                                                                        —2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

If you are giving a promise make sure it is reasonable and realistic. Always have a back up plan if something should happen (Mentioning the option will help too). Make it contingent to the recipient’s work or response. Make sure that if circumstances out of your control occur and you can’t follow through immediately you will still eventually find a way to make it happen. Most of all, keep your promise or don’t give it at all. Sometimes surprising someone is better than promising it before hand. Remember, it is easier to follow through on promises that involve those whom we love. It is also easier to follow through on promises that are contingent on other’s actions or willingness. Last, it is easier to follow through on promises when we are absolutely sure it can happen, or at least have a back up option for those circumstances outside of our control.

Promises are as unique as the person who makes them. God’s promises are even more unique and even more dependable. I know that if I do my part, God will do His. I know that I can trust Him to follow through as long as I’m willing to accept or do my part. As for me, I will use God’s example when making promises. I don’t have His power but I do have His love and if I promise from my heart and not my imagination, I am more likely to follow through. So, next time my nephew says we are going to have a party, I will have to figure out how to teach him to keep his promise. I still want that unique cake, even if it is imaginary!

“You are my portion, LordI have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.”                                                                                                                                                          –Psalm 119:57-58