Uniquely Inspirational

Out of the Darkness

 “But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give him praise. God brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

I have worked with young people for over 25 years.

I have worked with young people in 3 different countries and they all have several things in common:

    1. They are struggling with their future
    2. They are struggling with relationships
    3. They are struggling within themselves
    4. They are struggling with sin and that leads to struggling with God

Sometimes they just ignore it, hoping that ignoring it will make it go away. Otherwise it leads to more pain. Sometimes they just accept it, as part of life and they give in to their emotions allowing the feelings to lead them, hence covering up the pain. Sometimes they face it, head on by fighting it. Often this leads to causing pain in others around them, whether voluntarily or not. A good example of these struggles can easily be seen in these lyrics Out of the Darkness By Little Steven, and in Matt Hegardy’s song as well.

However, the best solution, the one I constantly pray for and work for (as well as many pastors , family and friends), is that they surrender it to Christ. Hence, stepping into the Light of Christ and out of their darkness. Maybe Erin Willett is figering this out in her song Out of the Darkness.

It seems to me that this is the hardest thing for many young people to do, to surrender it, because they really cannot imagine the outcome. At times they feel that the outcome is so overwhelmingly good that they cannot believe it.  Often they just think that “no way that will never happen to me” and that they cannot overcome it….ever.  the dark shedThe worst yet, they are so comfortable in their own discomfort that often the pain and hardships become so entwined with their emotions and who they are that they in fact enjoy it. After all, they have been taught that there is nothing wrong and that their darkness is a good thing, it makes you “cool.” (Maybe not in those words, but you get my drift).

Such a simple solution, yet too hard for many to take.  As if they were stuck inside a dark cave.

This summer I watched how many young people saw the LIGHT, they finally understood not only the LOVE of GOD for them, but His purpose, His intentions and His PROMISES. They saw where humanity had gone wrong, they saw how the darkness came and had lied to them and swallowed them whole. They saw the lies and sin for what it is and saw JESUS for who HE IS and how HE gave his life for them so that He can pull them out of the darkness. As I watched the youth come to the altar, as I heard the prayers and heard their plea, I knelt by a young girl to pray. My question, “What do you want God to do for you today?” Her response was , “I don’t know. There is so much and I’m confused…”

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“What are you most confused about?” As she searched for answers I could not stop from feeling her pain. “My life, my relationship… is just…” and she burst into tears before she could finish. I asked again, “What do you want Jesus to do with it?” “To make it right…” She finally voiced. As we prayed she admitted her need to be forgiven and healed. The more we prayed, the more peaceful she became. At the end she looked at me and said, “I feel peaceful, I feel free and I know God loves me.”  Yes, this young lady, along with dozens had prayed out of their darkness that night. She now had left the darkness behind. The pain, she, along with many, had come to the realization that she could not hide it, ignore, live with it, live above it, but all she had to do was to surrender it. In that process Jesus took her hand and led her out…

I left that night with tears of joy.  Taking it all in. For that night many young people encountered the Savior, His forgiveness, His grace, His love, His light and His healing power. They found freedom for the first time. They lined up to share with others what God had done, sharing how they have been healed.

As I thought about it and dwelled on the service the day after. I had been seeing them around the campgrounds. I talked with a few, noticing their smiles and seeing the joy and peace in their eyes. Their words supported what I saw in their eyes and smiles. It showed the difference, no pain, no darkness. I walked into the sanctuary to find this projected on the wall:20180621_183542

As we left at the end of the week I was reminded how amazing is God’s grace that not only steps in to pull us out of the darkness, but was willing to go into it himself (when He died on the cross for us) just to get us out. Jesus himself suffered. Jesus himself was in pain. Jesus himself carried our sins, our darkness and left it behind. He understands us, He has lived it and if He can bring us out… into the light. Matthew West portrays it best in His song “Into the Light.” Jesus didn’t just pulled us out and into the His light… He continues to give us light and walk by our side. He took our hand and walks with us. Yes, Jesus walks with us no matter how uniquely weird and crazy our lives gets. All we have to do is take His hand, let Him lead, and hold on for our dear life. Because believe me, living with Christ is such a uniquely lit adventure!

 

Uniquely Inspirational

Be a Servant

If you ask a child what Family Camp is about they would tell you that is about swimming, playing games, having fun with friends or meeting new ones. Maybe they will tell you “Mommy not having to cook” (although that may not be a good thing for some). If you ask a parent, maybe they will tell you that it is about family (obviously),  spending time meeting new people, relaxing, “making memories” and even spending time with God. A pastor would say it is about family of course, about meeting God daily and having the opportunity to allow God to transform you. And I would like to add to all those: SERVING

I suppose is not the first thing that comes to mind when you come to a place where all that you are expected to do is enjoy, relax and share with your own. Yet the camp workers, whether they get paid or just volunteer, are serving even if they realize it or not.

Estrella, doing dishes at the campgroundsMy youngest daughter works at our campgrounds. I encouraged her to apply this year when she saw that they were hiring students fresh out of high school last year. After she thought about, it she went ahead and applied. Later I found out she had been praying before she got her acceptance email. For her, it was a chance to serve, to do ministries especially with the children and young people. She sees it as an experience and an opportunity to be used by God. She didn’t want just any job, she wanted a job where she could make a difference. She found it here by the Brazos River. Therefore, family camp is a place to serve.

She is not alone. Eight more young men and women gave up the possibility of making more money this summer to work at at the campgrounds. Many others gave up their day or week to volunteer. It is exciting to see them serve with such passion and joy.

Just a little over a week ago my husband and I also had the opportunity to serve in my home island of Puerto Rico alongside 10 other wonderful people. We too had been praying for the opportunity, not to go on vacation as we often do when we visit the island, but to serve. In the few days our group was there we not only helped the church rebuild their drop ceiling, improve it from the old one, tiled their bathroom and improved that as well, and we made lasting family relations that where a blessing to both sides. We found that serving, can be very fulfilling and a great blessing. Having a servant heart went a long way and made the experiences, regardless of the differences of language and culture, a huge blessing.

Thus, I am reminded of Jesus as he traveled with His disciples. He was always looking for people to “serve.” He served through healing, feeding, loving, forgiving, teaching and always being willing to help. He not only gave us the example of a servant’s heart, but of a loving servant. He was willing to extend himself even in the moments that he needed rest. He still had time to serve.

We always thank God for all of you. We keep on praying for you. We remember you when we pray to our God and Father. Your work is produced by your faith. Your service is the result of your love. Your strength to continue comes from your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, you are loved by God. We know that he has chosen you.”                                                                     1 Thessalonians 1:2-4  (NIRV)

Being a servant is part of our Christian uniqueness. It should come from the heart and it should come with prayer. It is a powerful witnessing tool when given to God for His use through us. It is what grows or compassionate heart, what makes us see the world through the eyes of Jesus.

So this summer, whether it be at camp, in another land or state, or just on vacation, find a place to serve. Serve with the uniqueness of your skills and gifts. Let God use you to be a blessing to others. In return you will find that you are as blessed as they are. And you will find a little bit more about how you are uniquely needed by God’s people.

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Our Disaster Group to Arecibo, Puerto Rico. GRACIAS POR TODO SU GRAN TRABAJO!
Uniquely Inspirational

I Am a Cloud

“I think I will be able to, in the end, rise above the clouds and climb the stairs to Heaven, and I will look down on my beautiful life.” –Yayoi Kusama

As I fly through the clouds and watch the world pass beneath me. I find myself contemplating who I am. Not before man, but before God. It is amazing to me that my whole world depends on a daily living, living it as only I can and know how. Living it among so many. A daughter of Eve, I believe it is the correct reference… at least according to “Narnia.”

Raqui on plane blogging

Yet, I am amazed at the world above us. We walk and search the grounds without even searching the skies. To see the beauty of it all from above reminds me of Ecclesiastics: life is meaningless. It is meaningless because without having a purpose, our life is meaningless.

What then gives meaning to a life that walks the earth? Could it be the infinite love of the creator who placed us here? Or could it be just a coincidence? But one who truly searches for answers will not agree with the answer being coincidence. It is more than that. Because if it was so, then how can you look at the clouds alone and see their amazing infinite forms and think of it all as coincidence? There is something bigger, more amazing than it all.

In this sense, if the clouds can be so overwhelming in their beauty and form, how much more can life itself be? If the clouds can have a unique purpose and be constantly changing and reforming, yet meet their purpose. How much more can one life be unique in its form and purpose yet continue to change to meet that purpose? Even the clouds have meaning.

IMG_0749Then, what meaning can my life have? Even a greater one. A greater, amazing, infinite meaning. A meaning with even greater purpose. A meaning that I can only have if I allow myself to see it from the Creator’s point of view. Meaning, if I allow Him to change me and form me to meet His purpose. If God can see significance in the clouds that we fly by, how much more significance is my life to Him. And if my Life is important to Him, so is everyone else’s.

Then I wonder, how many lives are walking on the ground feeling helpless? How many lives walk as if they have no meaning? How many lives walk the ground without looking up? Without searching beyond their daily living? Do they find their lives busy, but empty? Maybe used and empty. Maybe they just survive but do not enjoy living?

If the lives that are on the ground are as endless as the clouds of the sky… can they be formed in infinite ways? Imagine how many beautiful unique lives God created. Each with meaning, each with purpose each formed and reformed specially to meet His purpose. How does our Creator God fit in it all of this? What is His purpose?  Well, He gives meaning. He gives us a solid purpose (unlike the clouds). He gives us LIFE. He allows us to walk the earth to live a life of freedom. Hoping that we will in turn allow Him to reform us to live for Him. I believe that in forming us, He hopes that at some point we look up and find an infinite God who sees us, who loves us and who wants us to live with meaning. To find meaning in all that we do and learn from those life decisions that we didn’t do well on. To see Life as He intended it, through His son Jesus Christ. And to reach for the skies in pursuit of Holiness, constantly reflecting His Holy love on this earth. To LIVE for HIM.

Clouds & rainbowWhat then do we do in return?  To be a cloud. I myself can only use the life that He has given me in a way that it can fulfill His purpose. Allowing God to form me constantly, so that I may walk the earth serving Him. Loving my Creator God with all my being. Showing Him how grateful I am for the Life He has given me. To live my life for Him as uniquely as He has formed me to be, being His cloud and rising above…

Uniquely Inspirational

Being a Mom

“The deepest, heart felt joy of Motherhood is watching your kids discover who God is, as creator, father and savior for the first time.”  –Raqui

Today, as my youngest daughter turns 19 (and I’m not telling you my age), I find myself nostalgic for those days when all my girls were young. Of course I don’t miss the diaper changing, or the heartache when they would get lost at the mall, or say “mean things” to me. What I miss the most are those moment they would make a discovery: discovering for the first time the difference of cold and warm water, the colors of the flowers and how they grew from a seed, the beauty of the ocean, mountains and valleys, the textures of the rocks and their differences, and even the bugs that wound up in their pockets. I miss their laughter, the games they would play, and the books they would read to each other even before they knew how to read. I miss the songs they would sing, the learned ones and their made up ones, even if they would torture us daily for months with those Disney princess songs. I miss their creations, even the ones where we had to say, “that is so nice, could you tell me about it” so we could discover what it is. It was amazing to me to watch them discover God’s creation, in shapes in the clouds and in the rocks. I loved their own creations in the sand and with finger paint. Those are the amazing discoveries of a child. To be a Mother and see that is one of the greatest of gifts.

 

As they get older, those discoveries get a bit… complicated… well, sometimes too complicated. Yes, they discover “Relationships!” Not just between friends, and with each other as sisters, but with boys. BOYS! And then a mother’s nightmare begins! Boys just have to come into the picture, there is no avoiding it, try as you may. What can you do short of locking them up and homeschooling?  What is a mother to do!?

Well, I did a lot of PRAYING! PRAYING! PRAYING! (And still do). I know I have mentioned this before about prayer, but it is the number one “go to” solution. And with daughters, it just multiplies to the nth degree. It turns out that prayer is not just a learned behavior, but I think it is hereditary because when I asked my Dad, after he mentioned how I made my mother so anxious growing up, especially when boys were around, I asked “What did she do?” daddy responded with, “Well, she did a LOT of praying. Every morning, every night and every time.” It turned out, I did and even still do that as well. A mother is consistently in prayers for her children. I guess if I had boys I would be praying for them too (and the people that have to deal with them).  Regardless, those prayers help me find peace when I need it. It helps me seek God’s will in their lives as often as in mine as a mother. It gave me the strength when I had none and the comfort when I felt at a loss. Yes, prayer is one thing that keeps me intact as a Mother. It is not just praying for them, it is more about prayer for my sanity.

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I learned to always have a huge line of communication open. From the time they could talk (even though half the time I didn’t understand them), I would ask, “How did it go today?” or “What did you do at________?”  Yes, since the age of 3 I would ask, ask and ask. They would tell me everything {almost}… from how they made a new friend to not liking the snack to getting in trouble and more. We talked in the car on short trips and long trips, around the dinner table and while coloring. As they got older they had gotten into the habit of sharing. And if they would respond with “nothing” (often when they hit the “teen stage”). The question would be “Anything funny, weird or sad happen today?” Though I must admit, one had a hard time, and started hiding her feelings, during her middle school years, mostly due to being bullied. And when she shut down I sent in daddy to talk to her. When they didn’t talk to Mom and Dad, they relied on each other. Often, those lines of communication would get muffled as they grew, but then somewhere in high school they just seemed to open up more again. So much more that their “school drama” would be the topic of conversation during dinner. These conversations, to me, are a window to the heart of my daughters. From relationships to painful events and broken hearts, to weird stories (that I might just want to forget) and to their belief {FAITH} and love for God. (Yes, we even had some deep theological discussions, the Puerto Rican way…) I’m not saying it is all hunky dory (is that even still an English saying?), they had their secrets… But a mother always knows and eventually they have to cough it up.

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Family events weekly, monthly and during the summers became extremely important. After all, that is when the discovery of art, history, nature and more happened. We always had, every Friday night (though in the last 5 years it had to be changed to Saturdays), movie & pizza night. Each of them took turns choosing the movie. On a monthly basis we would go out as a family to special place, even garage sale shopping (as they got older this became their favorite). And since I have girls, why not make a family trip to the mall? These trips were not just once a month, we took them as often as we could. Even grocery shopping at times became a family event. Leave it to Mom to make a trip to Walmart and make it a mother and daughter thing. We set aside 2 family vacations throughout the year for no less than 2 weeks in length. Going to places we had not gone before, that took us to museums, historical places and the wonders of nature. Spending time with other family members on the holidays was just as important. These trips gave me the opportunity to enjoy their growth, their quirk and their silliness. To their amazement, as they learned and experienced new things it was the greatest adventure I have ever encountered. As a mother, these were and are the memories that will never leave me. These are memories that I treasure including the ones that are outrageously funny…

Motherhood for me has been an amazing rollercoaster ride. From the difficulties, disappointments, sadness, pain and even anger to the joys, laughter, excitements, admirations, surprises, and a lot of love. They have forced me to grow, not in height (sadly), but in Christ (happily). I have learned more about the love of God and who He is through my children than from anyone else. From the time of their births throughout their growth, in many ways, my life has grown closer to my Christ, pushing me more towards holiness than I would have done without them. It is the love of a child that opens the windows of heaven. (Matthew 19:14).  I attribute my blessed and gifted title of Motherhood to my God who gave me the opportunity in the first place, and to my unique and amazing daughters who have made me so UNIQUELY Raqui!   …LAS AMO!!

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lordtrust in him and he will do this: …” -Psalm 37:3-5

Girls & mom 2017 (2)Mommy and her “Unique”girls!

 

Uniquely Inspirational

Be a Column

Genesis 6:9 “This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”

columns in old church

This past Sunday our church had a sendoff for one of the most amazing ladies that I have ever met. And though she insists she is only 35 years old, she has been blessing many, at least at our church, for 71 years. She is now moving on be nearer her family, further north. It was, as always, a bittersweet moment. I call her “One of the original 4 columns” of the church. She is, in all ways, the faithful, righteous loving person that Noah was in the Old Testament. It is hard to really explain Vicky without laughing. I mean, Vicky greets everyone with a smile, prays with a smile, and even though she sings “like a frog with a sore throat,” (her words, not mine) she worshiped with a smile. If you ask her “how are you?” she will always respond,  “I’m a blessed!” even if she is sick. Now that she is leaving, a column is missing. What do you do when you feel the church will tilt without her? So, I asked her, “Who will take your place Vicky?” Her smiling response, “Everyone.” Well, those must be some big shoes to fill if it takes everyone! Or should I say, this is “One strong column to replace!”

Vickie and us
Our Dear “Strong Column” along side us. (I’m the short one 🙂 )

There comes a time, in the life of the church, that we lose a strong blessed column. I don’t think people quite understand the meaning of this. The congregation is made up of parts of one body. Some body parts are absolutely essential. We worry far more about losing an eye than we do a hangnail. It is harder to replace great leaders. Often no one wants to take the previous leaders’ place. Sometimes it is because they do not know what it takes to be a leader, or simply because it is hard to allow someone to take their place. Some people feel that they are not adequate enough to lead. Some feel that they may not have the right gifts or skills to take their place. Yet, others wait for the pastor, or in my case, the pastors, to ask them. Some may think they can fill in the gap but lack the perseverance to do so or maybe they are better at laying the stones than holding up a stone. Regardless, someone needs to move forward. One thing that I believe, if God places it in your heart, you have the capacity and the humility, then step on in and hold that roof! All you need is a little training on how to hold it right… and maybe some deodorant…

The ability to hold up the church is not an easy task. One needs the affirmation and support of others, prayers and accountability. Not all columns are the same either, some are short and stout (I’m not describing myself, just so you know), others tall and lean. Others have ripples, some are smooth some elegant, some are green, some show the wear of time and so on. Regardless every one of them is unique. Every one of them have one very important job: Holding up the church.

People like Vicky stepped forward and stayed persistent in one place, because as she said, “God called me here for a reason and I stayed here through good and bad…” She was, and is, faithful throughout, regardless of the circumstances. She reminds us all that just as one spouse commits to another, individuals in the body of Christ make commitments to Him when He comes into our hearts. For all those “Vicky”s around, THANK YOU!!! For being a strong and unique column that reminds us that we as Christ’s people are here: “To have to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish…”

Uniquely Inspirational

The Journey Begins

Take a Walk with Me

 “Always remember, it’s simply not an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

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My life has not been all that simple, full of adventures? Sure! Full of excitement? Of course! Full of inspirational and joyous moments? You bet! Full of laughter? Better believe it! But it has also come with it’s own difficulties, pain, disappointments, heart aches and “dragons.”

Take a walk with me through the turbulent pathways of my life. It is filled with rainbows and sunshine and storms. As Charles Dickens put it in Tale of Two Cities “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I don’t think there is any area of my life where I can look back and give it one emotion, for all had several at once. There is one thing that I am certain: I never walked it alone.

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There has not been one moment when I was alone. There has always been a presence that surrounded me at every turn. One that laughed when I laughed. One that smiled when I smiled. One that shared both my joy and sorrow. One that pushed me towards life when I needed it. One that encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. One that face palmed when I did stupid things, sometimes head shaking with disbelief. One who would remind me that “I told you not to” and still continued to walk with me, regardless of my stubbornness. One that picked me up when I would fall. The One that held me when I hurt and reminded me I was okay. The One that held my hand in the darkest times and brought me back to the Light, and sometimes to reality. No, I never walked alone.

So take a walk with me… let me share with you my stepping stones and golden trails that make me Uniquely Raqui. At the end, I pray, you too can see that you have not walked alone in your unique life.