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

Uncategorized, 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

Uniquely Inspirational, Uniquely Mi Vida

The Problem With False Accusations

article-19-everyone-has-the-right-to-freedom-of-opinion-4921598
USA’s Freedom of Speech law.

I have struggled with my thoughts about what to write for almost 2 weeks now. It seemed the more I tried,  the more frustrated I became. As I observed, heard and read about the events around me, the more extreme the opinions around me got. The more confusion arose within me. People were becoming more angry and emotional with each story, assumption and lie spoken. An angry, hateful beast grew throughout. It soon became painful to watch. And although I truly believe in the freedom of speech, all I could see reminded me of the bullies, the accusers and even the attackers of long ago. Emotions rang higher than the information, and reason was swallowed by assumptions and accusations without evidence.

I have been on both sides of the stories in the headlines these weeks.

I was a victim of sexual assault as a pre-teen. I remember it still in every detail: who it was, when he came in, where I was, how old I was, the day, the soundings, what he said, how he looked at me,  those eyes, what he did, how I fought, what I did, who I told, what happened afterwards, how it changed me.  I have ALWAYS remembered, but I didn’t let it cripple me. As a teen, it happened again, an older man, exposing himself…. It was enough for me… and I made it a mission not to let any man make me feel small, weak, manipulated… I learned to avoid the situations where these types of things might occur. I was fearful, distrustful and always self-conscious. I stayed away from situations, and guys that I felt uncomfortable with. I learned to read the eyes… the dark, lustful and hungry eyes…

Then I remembered how GOD healed me, protected me, helped me overcome the pain, the fears and issues. But I never forgot how untrusting I became of men bigger than me. (Which is pretty much all of them). They made me feel intimidated. I learned to see anger, greed, lust and hate in their yes. That was my biggest impact. They became the lessons that shaped me throughout my life. Yet God had to reshape the events in my life in a healthy way so that I wouldn’t get lost in the grip of victimhood. I was shaped into a wiser and more gracious person yet guarded.

As a woman, over the years I have been followed, hooted, whistled, “invited,” you name it… it has been said to me… by men of all ages. backgrounds, cultures and languages. Just as it happens to almost all women. But it no longer bothered me, I learned to block it out and ignore it. At least, I told myself, they know I am a woman. (And as my husband pointed out, appreciate God’s creation :D)IMG_1100 - Copy

On the other side: I have been the victim of false accusations… several times actually… too many times… From childhood to adulthood….

I feel I must be an easy target, just as I was an easy mark for the older teen many years ago, who tried desperately to molest me. After all, I am small in stature, petite, always wanting to help, I have a great imagination, “naive” to some degree, and too compassionate, trusting and forgiving many times. All these led me to be an easy target when I was younger. I seem to draw the anger of people, their fears, insecurities and more.

Those experiences led me to be more feisty, making me stand up for myself, protect myself and become self-sufficient. This led to other types of false accusations… from the way I spoke, to my culture, to what I said (or did not), to my strong attitude… well… (I can tell you many stories from the last 30 years of my life but that would require writing a book). I had become, in their opinions, the one to blame for their mistakes, their feelings of guilt, their embarrassments, inefficiencies or just the easiest target. I have more bruises than I can count.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..” –Matthew 5:43,44

I was assumed a “flirt” because I was nice and hugged everyone. I was assumed a fake because I was smiling and happy most of the time. I have been assumed to be disrespectful because I was outspoken. I was assumed arrogant because I spoke with passion. I have been assumed too be many things, and falsely accused of anything (from being fake, to being arrogant, to not letting my husband minister, to being an uncaring mother, to not being christian enough and too Puerto Rican, and so on)…Thinking that if I somehow am forced to accept the blame (their responsibility), they will feel better and their life might become easier. Sometimes it was just to get me out of the way and replace me for one of their own. Sometimes it was just because things didn’t go their way…and so on. Yet the issues never did went away but their hate for me grew…

I realized one thing: I can overcome the sexual assaults, but the ones that followed me the most, the ones that gloom over me are the words of false accusations… that still hurts the most to this day. They came from people I trusted, I considered friends, people I thought loved God and colleagues. Their words always came with fear and anger….hateful anger… that cuts the soul…coming out of nowhere. Words that don’t make sense, exaggerations, lies and more. They just sneak up behind you when you least expected… and fire up in multiple ways.

The assault was the act of one person, he made me feel used, worthless and fearful. The unjustified accusations are the voices of many…. and they echo in my head. They destroy self-esteem, confidence, worth… they make you question who you are as a whole… it is the bullies from childhood multiplied by 10. They try redefine you, shaking your identity and your belief…. and suddenly you realize you are a victim all over again…and you feel you can’t fight back…

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
 for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
 Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” __ Matthew 5: 10-12

I have learned over the years that those heavy, fierce and accusatory assumptions have been based on many things: jealousy, fear, anger, dislike, hate, discontent, disinformation, lies and exaggerations.

Another realization came to me, how dangerous our assumptions of others can become. I understand that I too have assumed opinions of others. I have learned to give them the “benefit of the doubt” as often as possible. Ironically sometimes, I put myself  at a disadvantage to the point of being manipulated by doing so. However, it is still a better option. I would rather observe, listen, read and ask as many questions as possible so that I may avoid the false assumptions of others that many have rendered on me. I’m not always right. and sometimes I fail to do a complete job. Sometimes I do rely on my gut feelings verified through prayer, and information from trusted people. I try so hard to love and forgive the ones who do not love me. I give them the benefit of the doubt in hopes that things will turn around. But I have also learned to guard myself.

As Christians we will always be in danger of being “scapegoats,” the target of presumed guilt and more.  As a pastor, minister, or leader, we have giant targets painted on us, that at any time may be fired upon. The Enemy, Satan ( the accuser), will take advantage of using our own people, even “friends” to put us down. We become the target of unforseen attacks. We need to remember to stay strong, in prayer, laying our burdens at the feet of Christ. We need Jesus to get through those difficult days. It is important not to allow the attacks of others to overtake me and control my future or who I am.

So what do I do when I feel attacked by someone who is reflecting their fears, anger, jealousy, hate, insecurities or more, at me:

    1. After crying…a lot, (Being honest here), I PRAY and CRY TO GOD
    2. Raqui and Todd talkingI Talk to someone who I can trust spiritually and emotionally, someone who can remind me that God loves me and does not see me the way the attackers do. (For me is my husband and dad, both who are also ministers).
    3.  I read the Bible and find solace and peace in the words of Christ.
    4. I surround myself with those who do love me, my family and friends .
    5. I write my journey in a diary or journal, it seems to help me…. (I have heard that others use music, art or go to the gym to help them…. anything that will help you release the pain in a healthy way.)
    6. I REMIND MYSELF THAT I HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN, GOD LOVES ME, and GOD IS STILL WORKING IN ME.
    7. I stay connect to God’s family by being at church and events where the faithful can be found. (Let them also pray for you)

Eventually I see my painful, yet unique experiences, reshaping me. The trick is to let it reshape me into the person God wants me to be, stronger, wiser, loving and yes, graceful. And because I have been on the other side, more often than I like. I do my best not to let my opinions of others hinder them or me. I do my best to extend them love and grace as often as possible. I understand that the more they hurt you the harder it is… and this is where TIME is on our side. Because TIME does HEAL and GOD’s TIME is different from ours so… HEALING is VERY POSSIBLE.

I encourage you to search your hearts before you form any opinion or assumption of others. Remember, Christ came to forgive, not accuse, and if we call ourselves Christian we should be forgiving. I Also encourage you to search your hearts when you have fallen into the trap of victimization, whether it be physically, sexually, mentally or spiritually, as you heal. Let God be your HEALER. Let God be your VOICE.  Let GOD be that unique part of you that gives forgiveness, grace, and understanding of others. Be UNIQUELY JESUS as He reshapes you to be UNIQUELY HIS.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.”  –Isaiah 55:8 (NIV)

Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with “Failure”

Our biggest fear is “failure.” It seems such an ugly word, and many use it to bring us down. Or we simply bring ourselves down. We begin to spiral into the abyss of failure with no way to get out.

I once was  asked, many years ago, if I could ever fail… I thought about the question carefully, realizing that there was a hint of entrapment there. Unless she wanted to know how I failed to be on time most of the time, or “failed” to do the dishes that morning, nothing really came to mind. Surely that is not what she meant. Maybe she was wondering if I have been a failure?? The best I could think of was to see this as a spiritual teaching moment, and what I understood the word to mean within the realms of my Christian life. I responded, “As long as I do what God asks of me, and I follow His commandments I will not fail.” Well, that answer didn’t sit well with the person asking. Apparently her definition for “fail” was different. To me, it was what would cause me to be a failure within my calling and as a Christian. Frankly, I refuse to allow the fear of being one (a failure), to keep me from doing what I believe to be God’s will…. or else I would fail.

We are raised to avoid failure at all costs. In fact, if you are not encouraged to “NOT FAIL,” it is because you are told that you already have. Sadly, I have heard this from many teens, and even some adults. The expectations of parents give the person a nerve wracking stress, crippling them, sometimes for life… if they do not meet them.

Yet, we see failure as our own personal evil, something to avoid and fear. After all… it is the one thing that can stop us from moving forward in our education, jobs, relationships and even in marriage. And if we fail, we may  bring down others with us.

I have come to the conclusion that “fail” is seen and defined differently by many. When asked “how do you define failure?” I get different answers. Everyone defines it differently, and most likely it’s based on their experiences.

According to the Webster’s Dictionary, {https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fail} “fail” is defined in multiple ways as well:WP_20161003_20_10_12_Pro

  1. to lose strength 
  2. to fade or die away 
  3. to stop functioning normally 
  4. to fall short 
  5. to be or become absent or inadequate 
  6. to be unsuccessful 
  7. to be unsuccessful in achieving a passing grade 
  8. to become bankrupt or insolvent        

Based on these all of us have not only failed but will always fail at one thing or another. We would, by definition, be failures and so why even bother. With so many “failures” in our resume…. how are we going to survive this life? How are we going to come out ahead?

Jesus gives us a way out. He gives us the ability to overcome those failures and pulls us out of the human sense of “failure,” as defined by ourselves and society.  He changes this to focus on His expectations.

For Christians, being forgiven by Christ and living the Christian life, cannot fail, unless we fall short of God’s expectations for us. We no longer need to “conform to this world,” but “be transformed.”(Romans 12:2). God sees failure differently. Simply put, as a Christian, what “failure” is changes from the human perspective into the spiritual perspective. It then gives us HOPE that our LIFE is worth living, that we are not “failures.” We are simply humans that make mistakes and grow, learn, and become better.

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.”                                                                                        —2 Corinthians 13:4-7  (NIV)

Yes, I am aware that my definition, though very biblical, may be controversial in a society where everyone must consider themselves to have failed, or, according to some Christians, or they are not sufficiently humble. Truly, do you actually need to fail to learn? Can’t we learn from observation, and avoiding mistakes others have made? Do you have to go through the emotional whirlpool of embarrassment, depression and more, in order to learn? I truly believe that the person that is constantly learning to do better should not need to feel a failure, or have to have failed, to learn. It seems so negative in all senses of the word, and leaves behind the faith and hope of Christianity. This is human failure… before Christ.

According to the Bible we fail when we: (I have included some Bible verses, but there are many more.)

  1. Do not follow God’s commandments (Lev. 26:14-16, Numbers 32: 22-24, Deut. 8:11)
  2. Do not have faith (Luke 22:31-32, Mark 8:17-19,
  3. Do not see our own spiritual shortcomings before helping others. (Luke 6:41-43)
  4. Do not do it for God (Acts 5:38-39, Mark 10:29-31, Romans 15:1-3)
  5. Do not pray (1 Samuel 12:22-24)

IMG_0178It seems to me that “failure” is not about success, marriage, passing courses, or our health. Failure, biblically, is a spiritual matter. In fact, it leads to sin. In other words, when we do not live a life according to God’s will, we have failed. Yet, when we fail to abide by that, God’s grace provides us an out. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23)–in other words we have “failed” because we fall short.  He reaches out and raises us up, giving us hope once again, forgiving and reestablishing us so that we are not “failures” but growing, getting better. The Bible, therefore, sees failure or “to fail” differently from the secular view. The concept changes when Christ becomes our Savior.

As Christians, we must be held accountable to our faith, to the biblical standards of failure.  Does this mean that we cannot fail in the secular sense of the word? Of course not, we make many human mistakes, but we are not failures according to God. We just simply make mistakes. However, as Christians, the question is, “is it beneficial to us to see human failures as a thermometer of our heart?” NO, we should see the spiritual ones as a way to measure our heart and relationship with God. This will make us not only stronger but it will constantly change us to do better, be hopeful, and seek God more. Otherwise desperation, depression and the loss of self-worth will overcome us.

As unique as each of us are, our mistakes are all different. But they do not make us failures, especially if we strive to see it from God’s point of view. As I have challenged myself to see it from a different perspective, to define “fail” as God does, so I also challenge you. You will notice that you will continue to grow more, better, and stronger if you focus on following God’s will and Word in your life. And next time someone wants to point out your failures simply say, “I have made mistakes, but God isn’t finished with me yet. I will not fail if I learn to do better.” Because after all, you are uniquely you 🙂

Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with “Dreams”…

“I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.”  –Jeremiah 29:11 (NIRV)

Over 20 plus years ago I stepped onto the grounds of Southern Nazarene University. Little did I know that during my years of study there my life would change, my experiences would shape me, events would break me and God would rebuild me.

I went in with the illusion and dream, as many high school grads have… that I knew what I wanted to be. I thought I knew what would become of me after my studies. I had my life planned out. I pretty much had my priorities all down. I had a car, and a job, and now I had a pathway to my future. I was in a great university, and so far, people liked me. Everything would be great. I would get a B.A.  in Religion with a Psychology Minor, maybe add on theater… I would find the most amazing, handsome and God-loving 6 foot tall “Superman” I could during that time. We would get married right after I graduate. W’d move to the mission field in some other country, have our children there, 4 of them, and live happily ever after.

Yeah…NOPE! That did not happen…

I did get my B.A. in Religion though, and did marry a shorter, but not so perfect version of “Superman.”  But that is all that went along with my plan. Within the grounds of the university I found passion in Mission Studies that replaced the minor in Psychology, and I even saw the opportunity to get a second minor in Spanish. I responded to those changes with glee… but then…

walking on old rails
Walking on old rails laid down in Thailand by the Japanese

I got derailed…

My life got derailed…

It wasn’t all for the bad… for God had other plans for me within the events of my life and maybe even as a response to the “tragic times” of them. Little did I know that God would create a pathway that would carry me in different directions.

Between my junior year and senior year I lost my Mother to cancer. I was more than heart broken. I was lost and walked through a tunnel for months. My studies had already suffered as she had been in the hospital during my sophomore year, and this was worse than that. I thought to myself, as my 4th year began, why should I continue them now? I can’t even focus! I had amazing professors and a fiancee who believed in me and helped me get through that year. I got married during the final year, right after Christmas. And we began a life completely off my plans. We entered the pastoral ministry in the USA. “Surely this is temporary…” I thought to myself…

Yeah… NOPE…. it wasn’t

So my plan, that I had envisioned, that I had laid out, didn’t go well. I was now more derailed than ever…

I was wrong. I was so wrong. God had taken aspects of me and re-molded me to do far more than I thought I could. He taught me to find a new “plan” regardless of the different pathways our life took us through. God worked within our derailment and placed us in different rails that would still work within His Plan. And the more control of our lives we gave God, the more interesting, exciting and new pathways He would provide. It became God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” for us.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”   —Romans 12:2 (NIV)

In the process of it all I wound up working in my mission field here in the USA. Not what I planned or dreamed of, but it was God’s plan and dream ultimately. He opened the doors when others closed some, and kept us moving us forward through life. Through experiences that where great, to the painful ones, God kept rebuilding, strengthening us and placing new rails towards new destinations that we never thought of.

We have ministered in the middle of nowhere, to small towns, small cities, large cities. inner-city areas, multi-cultural areas and more.  I have learned the differences within the American/White culture as much as I have learned the differences within the minority cultures. I have experience a life that was not even, remotely, close to my dreams.

As I look back at that excited, perfectly planned, determined and dreamy girl… I can only smile and see still all those characteristics even today.

New things still excite me, I still plan, this time knowing that it will change. I am still determined, and I still dream. The difference is that I rely on God more than ever to create my pathway, to set my rails down according to His will. Then I get on His path and pray that there is no derailing. And even if there is, God will place us back on track.

Life goes on… as God creates unique pathways in our lives that may not be what we expect but we ride with willingly.  For we have accepted that our lives may not be “happy ever after” but it will be unique and full of JOY, LOVE, GRACE and more. For we ride on the rail of Life that God has placed before us, regardless how odd, difficult or painful some of these stopping grounds will be. In exchange you never know how often an amazing and unique that journey will be as you ride on the rails of God’s will.

So, sit back an enjoy the ride. Let God lay your rails down for they will be unique just for you. Let go of your plans and let God be in control. You will be amazed at the unique journey you take when you are in His will.

We were also chosen to belong to him. God decided to choose us long ago in keeping with his plan. He works out everything to fit his plan and purpose.  We were the first to put our hope in Christ. We were chosen to bring praise to his glory.” –Ephesians 1:11-12 (NIRV)

Uniquely Mi Vida

The Problem with Puppy…

Some wake up to the warm licks of a puppy. Some wake up to the soft whimpering of one. We have been waking up to the squeaky barks, cries and even howls of ours.

Mikko, a Bichon Frise, was my Mother’s Day and Birthday gift combined from my girls and partly from my savings account. He had adapted well, sleeping for 5 hours and waking up to make his daily trip to the bathroom and back to bed. After we came back from our trip at the beginning of August everything went…terrible… Mikko found the power of barking, crying and howling all at once, and only during the night.

We tried everything, from tiring him out before going to bed, to giving him the calming chews the vet suggested and  “ignoring the cries.” Nothing had worked. So what are we to do with a demanding puppy and sleepless nights the week before our teaching days start? Well…. Keep on trying, and that includes new things, yet staying consistent with the hours and the routine.

Like every newborn baby, raising and training a puppy takes a lot of patience. They are all different, and create different attachments. Mikko seemed to attach himself rightaway to my 3 year old Serenity, a maltichon. Eventually it may become a healthy one, but as of now, poor Serenity has to deal with a now 5 month old shadow. Apparently she doesn’t remember all the pain and annoying months she gave Darly. Luckily for Darly, she is an outside dog, so we could often rescue her from Serenity’s puppy months. Yes, Mikko is persistent and learns fast, except when it comes to bed, bathroom areas and annoying his “elder.”

Patience, persistence and consistence eventually paid off just before we started our substitute teaching jobs and has continued for 4 more nights. Of course we had at this point, implemented the (what I call) “far, far away” strategy which is: the more he cries the further his bed gets from us, then backwards as he stops crying. Either that or my brain was too tired and could not hear him anymore. He eventually got rewarded after by having his bed in our bedroom right after he slept through a few nights and only waking up once to go to the bathroom.  That was the end of 3 agonizing weeks. When he saw that he could be in the same room after being good, he was satisfied and that marked the end of the crying, howling, whimpering nights. It has now been 2 weeks of pleasant sleep. Now that he can peacefully rest knowing that we are still around, the household can follow suit as well. It is a battle of patience, persistence and HOPE. Hoping that eventually things will turn out the way they should. Even a puppy can learn and adapt to the changes around him.

We learn the importance of being patient, even with a warm cuddle ball who is not even 5 pounds. We understand his needs, his fears of not knowing where the family is, or just not wanting to be separated. I’m no dog whisperer, but I know that one has to be patient with a puppy when it comes to training him/her. Sleeping through the night, potty training, teaching him/her the off limit areas and more, takes a lot of patience. Training your pup doesn’t happen in 2, 3 or sometimes, 4 months. You have to constantly watch the pup, at least share that “constantly” with others, when housetraining. Sometimes we have to learn that patience also means making a few changes for the sake of a puppy (and yes, especially a baby). I had to roll up my living room rug while the puppy potty trains. Small sacrifices like that are just temporary when training a pup.

We have to stay persistent, no matter how tired we get. It takes months to fully train a puppy and one has to be willing to adapt and give up on their own ideals (your house will not be kept clean so get used to it, and yes there will be accidents for a while.) Just like a baby, toddler and young child, you have to keep “reminding” the puppy of the rules. And in the process of being persistent we need to stick with the rules ourselves: Always taking the puppy out after waking up from his nap,  never giving him/her human food, always feeding him/her the same amount of food (according to weight and age), never allowing them to chew on shoes as toys or napkins, or furniture…and so on.

All this will eventually be followed by rewards, the reward of having a well-trained puppy, because ultimately we have hope that the puppy will get it. And then we will not only find fulfillment in our accomplishment, but we have formed a bond with this warm, fuzzy licking furry friend. Hope keeps our spirits up and our energy afloat. It reminds us that the best is yet to come. With that thought we can be patient and persistent and consistent in how we address situations that seem overwhelming, or just down right agonizing. Hope is not only what we need as human beings but as Christians, as workers, as parents, as spouses and more. It is the fuel that keeps us going.

night time MikkoNow that Mikko has learned to sleep through the night, he has even rewarded us by not asking to go out at 5 AM for the past 4 nights. Even better: He has let us sleep through part of the morning on our last 2 off days. (We had to actually wake him up at 7:30 & 8 AM to go outside) YAY!! Another unique puppy trained! Now if only he can go through 4 more weeks of “No-accident” days and I can place my rug back in the living room. For now, Mikko just adds that extra uniqueness to our lives…my life…that keeps making it oh, so unique.  So this morning I woke up late with a lick on my face (Thanks for the wake-up Mikko), sure beats the howling at 2… 3… 4… and 5 am…

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 vist 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).