Uniquely Inspirational

The Struggles with Expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. People have their own different personalities.

2. People have their own different experiences.

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

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

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

TWO words: COMMUNICATION and ACCEPTANCE.

by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

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

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

Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels.com

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

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

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

John 17: 22

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

My expectations and the forecast expectations are two different things.

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

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

He laughs.

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

Uniquely Inspirational

The Struggle with Patience

My daughter is so trying my patience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Galatians 5:22-23

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

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

Finding something fun to do while others shop.

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

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

Collossians 3:12

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

Uniquely Inspirational

My Chocolate Maker

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

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

Caramel-Filled-Chocolate-Crinkle-Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Uniquely Inspirational

Uniquely Parenting 101

This is me, on being a Parent:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

                                                                     —Deuteronomy 11:18-20

 

Uniquely Inspirational

No Matter How Small

By Celeste Blissett

 “When you pass through the waters
I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..”  —-Isaiah 43:2-3a (NIV)

“How can we love something that’s so small, so much?” My husband asked as we sat on the carpet, my arms around him while tears rolled down my face. He held onto me tightly and pulled me closer. I could feel his tears falling on my neck.

His question echoed in my mind. How can we love something that’s so small, so much?

“I don’t know,” I cried, “but whatever it is, it must be the love God feels for us. It’s a godly love…”

To any other person that has never been in our shoes, we were crying over an embryo that was lost at 6.3 weeks gestation.

To us, however, we were grieving for our baby. Our tiny, innocent baby that never did anything wrong. A baby that was wanted, prayed over, and loved dearly for 3 beautiful weeks. A baby we imagined bringing into this world. A baby that would be rocked in our little beige glider. A baby that would be named and spoiled with love. A baby, that at just 6 weeks, had a tiny, flickering, yet strong heartbeat just the day before.

Our baby, that we created.

A beautiful life.

As we sat there, two broken spirits, devastated by the news of losing our tiny baby, we felt the heart-rendering pain God must have felt when he watched his Son die. We felt the pain God must feel when He watches his tiny world, his tiny creation, suffer. It was in that moment I understood what it means to have true, parental love; to love something, even if it seems insignificant, with all our hearts. How many times have we, ourselves, felt insignificant, and yet God loved us deeply anyways? Yet, even when we feel small, God looks at us as if we were bigger than life itself. He loves us more than life itself. I understood that, in that moment.

When you get pregnant, especially in this day and age, you find out there are so many apps you can download to help keep track of your pregnancy and tell you something new about your baby each day. It’s amazing to me that by 5 weeks, just a week after I found out I was pregnant, Baby B had a developing heart. Not quite pumping, but growing. Once you start tracking your baby’s development, you start getting so excited about each and every milestone. Knowing that our tadpole-like alien baby was already growing so quickly and becoming more and more human-like made me wonder how people cannot see a developing embryo as a growing human being. I mean, it had a fully functioning heartbeat by 5 and a half weeks.  I just couldn’t imagine our baby being anything else but our baby.

CC's belly at 6wks 2019Thinking of this made me think of the Bible scripture of how God knew us as we were forming in the womb. All I can think about is how much God already knew about our baby. Perhaps he knew our baby would suffer, and that’s why he so quickly took it home. Perhaps he knew the baby could not live outside the womb, and could not stand to put such an innocent life through so much pain. These are the thoughts I can only cling onto in order to understand why? But in the end, the why does not matter. What matters is how we cope with the pain. Where we go with our grief. What can we do with our story. With my story, I want to tell you something. No matter how small a baby is, God loves that baby.

No matter how small you think your prayers are, God still cares.

No matter how small you think your pain seems compared to the rest of the world, God still weeps with you.

No matter how small your situation may seem, God  is invested in it, and ready to fight at your side.

No matter how small you feel, God loves you more than you could ever understand.

That is something my husband told me, they day I started spotting. I cried on the bathroom floor, imagining every worse possible scenario.  Joseph took me into his arms, and said.

“Celeste, do you love this baby?”

“Of course I do.”

“Do you think God loves this baby?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know that God loves this baby even more than you do, even more than I do, even more than you can imagine?”

I paused. I couldn’t imagine such a love. I nodded my head.

“He loves this baby more than us, and he cares for this baby more than we can understand. Do you think with that great love, God would want to protect our baby and give it the best possible outcome?”

Yes.

Even if the best outcome was hard for us to understand, we have to trust that no matter how small, our baby meant the world to Jesus Christ. The baby was His creation, as much as it was ours.

So friends, I leave you with these thoughts. I hope you don’t weep for us, but know that in every situation, God cares more than you can possibly understand. He cares about the biggest heart, to the very tiniest heart beating for life. He cares about the strongest, as he cares about the weakest. He loves the bold, as much as he loves the fearful. God loves us with a burning, sacrificial, and ardent love.

No matter how small.

Uniquely Inspirational, Uniquely Mi Vida

A Bi-Vocational Dilema

“Perform your work as a calling instead of for income. Success or failure is never measured by the amount of money, but whether we are performing what God has called us to do.”                                                         –“Bi-Vocational Pastors”,  from Pastoral Care Inc.- 3/1/2019 

“I getting tired of subbing” I Mentioned as I took the laptop and laid it on the chair next to me.

“Why is this frustrating you so much?” Todd asked me with concern.

“I don’t know. I love the kids, but this constantly looking for jobs and re-scheduling my life, cancelling here, adding a day there, this system is frustrating me. I thought it would be temporary. I was hoping I could tie it into ministry… but it is not working out.” I exasperatedly responded to my husband. “I just want to do ministry.” I told myself.

It has been 6 years now, and five years ago I was ready to move… on… somewhere… into a better part-time job. I was even considering, why not, a full-time job that would cover medical. I had searched and applied to several jobs in town, to no avail. I even considered getting a real estate license. God closed the door there, too. I just didn’t understand why.

Out of the blue I hear my 21-year-old daughter’s voice coming from the other room, “She wants consistency, Dad”.

abstract bright color dark..well..

A light-bulb clicked on in my head, “YES! I think I would like more consistency. I mean, I like to be flexible and do different things, but this is beyond that.” I realized at that moment it was the non-ministerial aspect, and the pull between realms, that was dividing me. I need some kind of consistency. Or at least know that one is feeding into the other…

So, I’m encountering a dilemma, how do I give my life a little more consistency in such a way that I don’t have to stress or divide my brain into two jobs? Or my time, my priorities, or even my preferences.

It seems to me that I love to do one job, but I just tolerate the other. One is my calling, the other is income to survive. I think I have a problem with that. I should love both jobs….but I don’t.

I love working with the kids, the teachers, the parents, but if I cannot share the Gospel with them, I realize the most important thing I have to offer them is shut down. I mean, I have once in a while “dropped” hints of who God is. I get to pray, and mention to the teachers that I am praying for them. I get to love on the kids… but that is all things that ALL CHRISTIANS are called to do in every work place and aspect of life. I want to be able to do more. Or at least have the freedom to do so.

 

Bi-vocational Pastors  have a hard time. They have to split their time, efforts and lives constantly. Some have spouses in other vocations that are willing to work full-time. Which is not true in my situation, because my husband is just like me, a pastor by profession. (Though he could be an editor if he finds a job. He edits everyone’s writings.) Many others are used to splitting their jobs, they have a second profession or vocation, like Peter was a fisherman before he was a church leader, or Paul who worked in the secular world before becoming an apostle. Me? I have always been in ministry. Granted, I have done odd jobs during my college years and I did work at two faith-based organizations. All those gave me skills and developed my gifts to be better at my job as a minister. Therefore,  I looked for faith-based organizations for jobs and even in multicultural settings… nothing..nada..,zilch.

One thing I have learned, and I teach young people, is that you have to love and enjoy what you do. So what am I to do with my other half that stresses me out after 5 to 6 years of working in it? Why is this non-ministry work failing to bring fulfillment and draining me so much?

Honestly, I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure that out. I continue to look for the right second job in the areas of my skill set. There just aren’t many. So, I continue to pray… take a day off to distress once in a while, listen to Christian music and yes, do my blog. I continue to share, what I can share, when the time allows, Christ with others at the schools. I will continue to see and seek opportunities to share the gospel, the love of God or just be Jesus to others. Somewhere in there I will find the feeling of consistency… regardless of how I must accept that no matter how erratic my schedule is, or in how many directions I get pulled, fulfilling my calling is priority. And working for God, in any form, should always be done with all the sincerity of my heart. (Colossians 3:22-24) My comfort comes from knowing that God has something for us still.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”                                                                            -Colossians 3:17

I guess I’m hoping that this crazy and unique aspect of my life may turn into, well another unique aspect of my life. I can’t do without it’s uniqueness. I need that. But, I’m telling you, sometimes that gets tiresome. Or maybe it is just, well, my unique personality… that gets “bored.” I can’t really blame my mild ADHD or my parents’ constant changes and moves in my life. Maybe it is just me. Maybe I just need to read a book. Maybe some new hobbies will do. Maybe I just need to wait for God to lead me in the right direction. I truly hope I find out soon.

What a unique dilemma.😁

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do.”                                                                                                                      —Ephesians 2:10 NIV

Uniquely Inspirational

Heartbeat of Life

 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  — John 16:21 NIV

Hearing the heartbeat is the most amazing thing in the world. It is like opening this giant window into a deep, mysterious, dark room. The light just flows right through in such a wave that it not only brings a ray of light, but the whole room becomes something different. It looks different. You see things that you never knew were there before. Your heart leaps and you find yourself dancing with the sun rays. That is how it feels to hear the heartbeat of the child you carry, regardless of his/her size. You can breath and respond to the beat… a song of life. They say you can also hear the heartbeats of puppies in their mother’s womb, the unborn calf, the unborn lamb, the unborn colt, but nothing compares to a human heartbeat for bringing joy.

I remember those moments, the first moments I heard each and every one of my girls’ hearts beat. If I was a musician, I would have composed a song. If I was a poet I would have written a sonnet. If I was an artist I would have painted a masterpiece. If I was a dancer I would have danced with grace. But I was a mother, and I did what mothers do. I created tears of joy, mixed with a smile and a dream. I never new what mezmorizing power hearing that beat would have on me. If I didn’t believe there was life within, I certainly knew at that moment. My heart overwelmed my mind and I began to love that sound.

I suppose that there are some who feel the same way about their pets, animals, trees, or the environment, but that life is “small” in comparison. Because those types of life are not “persons.” I agree with Dr. Seuss and Horton, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” In fact, the heartbeat of those others cannot compare to the soft happy tune of the heart of the baby you carry. The reality of what is to come sinks in. I understand, that to some, this creates fear, worry, anger, realization, and yet to most it is pure JOY. Maybe that is the reason why many fear to “hear” the heartbeat. Maybe that is the reason why they refuse to even hear it when they have come to the conclusion they do not want the child.

To an unborn child, fear is his/her enemy. It is what keeps many women in the dark. And so, they keep the blinds shut in fear that if they open, even a sliver, they will see what they don’t want to see. It is, after all, their choice to keep it close. Yet they forget that regardless of their choice the sun will eventually always shine.

quote-about-newborn-cute-image-5a885921

You see, we can’t keep the heart from beating, it is a reminder of life. It is a reminder that every choice we make has the opportunity to give life, either to ourselves or others. Daring to hear that heartbeat is the first step in reminding us that there is life. It reminds us that we are living, and thus we can bring life, we can, in a sense give it. It is the gift that God gave women. It is what separates us from the earth, animals, plants and so on, the ability to choose to hear, carry and bring about that unique life that is in us. That is the power of life. What a tremendous gift we have. What unique and powerful gift. Our bodies can produce life. Not just any life, but life created to be the image of God.

As I heard those heartbeats long ago, I am overwhelmed by the uniqueness of each. I feel those heartbeats, I see their hearts beating in my mind. I brought them to this world. I carried them. I fought for them. I choose to keep their hearts beating. Nothing else would do for the innocent child who’s heartbeat reminds me of my living. Thank you God for the awesome unique gift to me and all women, to give life.

heartbeat of life at 16 weeks

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 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!