Uniquely Mi Vida

The problem with selfie’s

 “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Proverbs 31:30

I have to be careful where I leave my phone. My daughters have taken up the habit to take silly selfies on my phone, at least two out of three. I keep some for laughs and once in a while I’ll post one on Facebook, but wind up deleting some. Younger kids just seem to love taking selfies, though my girls seem to be out of those norms; they only post them once in a while…and I’m okay with that, except for my oldest who seems to enjoy posting more than my other too. She does, however; share the limelight with her husband often. Oh to be young!

I’m not a “selfie” kinda gal. In fact, I am really not into them as much. I rarely post them actually. Maybe I’m just too old to really care about my own “selfie.” Maybe I’m just too self-conscious of how I look….nah… that’s not it. Maybe my problem is that they seem…rather “selfish?” Or more because it seems a little vain to me… I really don’t know. I figure that if anyone wants to see my face often they themselves can take my picture.

To break my “not a selfie kinda gal” image I decided to have fun as well… so here you are.

So why do we do take “selfies” in the first place? Why do selfies seem important? I can only think of 3 things (Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments below):

  1. We are happy with who we are and how we look. We just enjoy life. I suppose that a person that is happy and joyful, at least for that day, will want to take a picture and share it with others. This is my favorite type of selfie actually, and one I love to see. It reminds me they are enjoying life and happy with, not only with who they are, but happy with how God has created. They are satisfied with who God created them to be. We just love and enjoy life and can’t wait to share that with others. If only Todd would have taken a selfie when he saw Kevin Sobo at the airport last year. Now that is a super happy moment!
  2. We are a bit vain yet love how we look. Yes, we look in the mirror and say to ourselves “Dang, I look good!” and for some reason, just in case that moment may pass and we may not look good the next day, we take a selfie. We feel the need to take share it with the world, they may not see our gorgousness otherwise. After all, they may want to see it but can’t so we do them a favor… I tend to keep away from this type of selfie but even I have fallen prey of such thoughts, so I try to stop myself… I just store those pics and rarely post them. On the other extreme, those who feel like they look great but  think “let’s take a selfie and see if others agree.” So it becomes a self-esteem issue. This is where a balance is important. Maybe avoiding the selfie altogether is better.
  3. We are self-loving and others need to know. This is on the border of being narcissistic. People who just have to take a picture everywhere they go…of themselves. There are those who not only enjoy their moments in life but have to take a selfie of that moment, every instant. I say it borders on narcissistic because for many, it gets out of hand. It is like when they see a friend they haven’t seen in a long time, they must the a pic with them, more like several. In a new area of the city, a selfie. Trying new food, a selfie. A new hair style, clothes, with furniture, makeup… you name it… a “selfie”. I have even seen people take a picture of themselves with every animal at the zoo… you know what I mean…. (Like they just can’t take a picture of the surroundings and people without them being in every single picture.) Kind of takes away the joy of the scenery or others around you and makes you look insecure.

I suppose I frown on number three. I truly believe we need to stay away from the need to be the center of everything. Sometimes being in the background enjoying your long lost friends. family members or the new scenic views is so much more relaxing. Yet I understand the funny moments in life. Those unique times, opportunities and events that you don’t want to forget. The memories of your love ones… So when I pick up my phone and find those unique selfies of my girls, I have to smile. God knows how much I love them. I store them for those unique moments that I want to remember there silliness or just need a smile. Just so long they don’t fill my phone with them!

Girls, please don’t go crazy with my phone. (I still need to be careful where I leave my phone. Who knows who is taking a selfie with it).

Uniquely Mi Vida

The problem w/ Summer’s Trigger Happy Fingers

Self Control: Greek “EQKRATEIA”

  1. The virtue of one who masters his desires and passions.

  2. Restraint exercise over one’s impulses, emotions and desires.”

Summers make it really hard to keep track of a To-Do-List when you don’t have a normal routine. It seems impossible because I have to rely on myself to create one and then I have to follow it. Sometimes I do better than other times. I do better when I’m busy and I have other things on my calendar (Like the missions trip, camps, trainings, weddings and more), outside of myself… these past 2 weeks have been a “self-control” nightmare, and my “trigger happy fingers” have gotten the best of me half the time. Yet, I try to keep them in control, after all it does affect my finances…

I suppose it all started after all my weeks of traveling were completed and I finally had time to rest. But that is one problem…. I can’t really rest fully. I have to be doing something else. So in between preparing to start teaching ministry students I needed another project… (Remember this ADD person needs to multitask). So I began to “redo” my kitchen…which eventually carried on to other areas of the house. (But with limits!) I remember that I had to take my non-stick cookware set back to the department store seeing as they had not lasted long and the lids no longer sat snug against the pots or pans. All went well, I got a new set. Of course I had researched for hours with no results since they only had one option for me to replace it with. Then I looked at my 27 year old stainless steel pots and “asked” my husband, (I have to ask and smile you know), “I think I should replace our original set. Is been 27 years and they are showing a lot of wear. Would that be alright?” And after a lot of research and showing him what I found he agreed. He then informed me that “Prime Day” is around the corner and maybe I can find what I like at a bargain. (Well, that may have been his mistake). That is the beginning of my tragic, timeless and battle with online stores. I was caught in their whirlpool of sales and was having fun. You see I remembered 3 things at this point:

  1. My birthday is coming up, and with that, dollars.
  2. My 3 daughters are out of school (and one married). I don’t have to spend anything for them to go “back to school” (except the one who is in college, but she already has 80% of her stuff).
  3. I always set aside a little money for summer projects. Well, that settles it. Time to get my kitchen updated and change out my bathroom… oh, and my 19 year old no longer wants her “middle school” look in her room…hum

As you know this means online shopping…

at least for me. I can gather more information and check all stores without leaving my house. So I get my coffee and sit by the computer in my jammies and voilà! I’m in shopping heaven, or close to it. So here are my pointers in controlling my Summer trigger happy fingers:

  1. I review what I had in my kitchen that is broken, OLD (like over 20 years), missing parts or non-functional. (or just plain ugly… I’m sure you have some too). Before taking it out I need to make sure it is worth replacing. I don’t bother boxing anything up until I have the replacement, or it is on its way. This keeps me in control and from going berserk with shopping.
  2. I spent more time on researching and watching for the lowest prices, reviews and options than actually purchasing. I know my price limits, and I know that if I can’t find something at a reasonable price, I don’t need it at all. Checking for reviews (and reading them), is important for me because I don’t want to waste money. I am limited on finances anyway, and I try to get at least 40% off although I shoot for 60% or higher.business-coffee-communication-433313.jpg
  3. Whatever I find, regardless of the discount, I place it in my “list” and leave it…. It might go down more, or I may not even get it. This again allows me to restrain myself, narrow it down and not go overboard…even when your family thinks you have. This may be time consuming but worth it.
  4. When I find the best deal, I mean the BEST deal, and I know it is worth it, I place it in the cart. I check out other places for price matching, and maybe coupons to see if I can get it even lower. This may mean checking out the local areas. For example, I finally found a stainless steel cookware set that has high reviews, originally $299 for only $84.99 with matching lower price plus a 20% off coupon. I wound up getting it at a department store. “Happy birthday Raqui.” “Why, thank you hubby!”
  5. I Do not buy anything I cannot pay for, even if it is on sale. I make sure that if I use my credit card, I have the WHOLE amount to pay for it when the bill comes. (Sometimes I send a portion of it ahead of time so it won’t be too overwhelming when the bill arrives.) This is where it gets tough… because I’m looking now at a set of dishes with my favorite colors.  Don’t really need them, but I would really, really like them. I think I will wait until next year. I will save up. Controlling my urges to buy is practicing self-control, even when I didn’t do too well when I bought the blue glasses. In my defense, they were ½ of Amazon’s price plus I had a $7 credit. And no one can come even close to it.
  6. Be crafty. I reuse things by redoing them even by painting them or using the parts to make something different. I also use old stuff or by things from the dollar store, thrift stores and garage sales for my little projects. Sometimes I just have things around that I can use. I redid my vase from the bathroom by taking things off and adding the new colors and ribbon. Used $2 only and my new bird in a cage décor cost me $5 to make with items I already had like the metal/glass lantern and mini lights.

So yes, I switched several things out of my kitchen. I ended up spray painting other items so I wouldn’t have to spend more money to replace them. I switched out my bathroom shower curtain and accessories (and painted it) for less than $70 and got my college daughter new bedding, rug and a few decor items, (getting rid of her preteen stuff), for way under $80. Replaced broken household items and old worn out things plus damaged utensils and more in my kitchen. I even added a conner shelf in my bedrrom to replace the musltiple shelves that seems too chaotic. I think I did pretty good considering I stayed under $400 total for all rooms….  (I hope my husband doesn’t read that part.) At least I hope I did… (I did purchase items for the church as well, but that is not included.) Yes, this is my confession, which is good for the soul.

So, next time I feel the need to create summer projects I will need to check my trigger happy fingers at the door and leave them behind. Projects that are uniquely me need to always be restrained by self-control and self-discipline. Otherwise my ventures into the summer would not be so unique, as I would join many in the world deep in debt. Well, I’m expecting a couple of boxes soon…. and thank you for shopping at…BN-UU819_KEYWOR_P_20170824114524

Share your summer self-controlled trigger happy fingers do’s and don’ts in your comments.

Uniquely Mi Vida

The effects of being uniquely ME

“In those days, I will pour out my Spirit on my servants. I will pour out my Spirit on both men and women. When I do, they will prophesy.” –Acts 2:8

Raqui Sharing

“Why do you want to be an co-pastor?” A church board member from Puerto Rico asked me during an interview with my husband, “Isn’t it enough to be the pastor’s wife and just “minister” as one?” (It was 1994 and I was expecting my fisrt child). 

“Was it enough for the Apostle Paul to stay with the disciples and work within their shadows from Jerusalem? Where would the church be then?” That should have been my response, but I just said, “I am not called to be a pastor’s wife. I am called to be a minister and to do that I have to take responsibilities since I’m in the process of ordination…” (I was eventually ordained in 1995, a year later, being one of the few Puerto Rican women at the time, I think I was the second or third.) 

Ironically enough this church wound up selecting a female friend of mine to be their pastor about 12 years later.

About 4 years later, a denominational leader is Kansas City called us into his office to talk about our call to missions, (and still do). Referring to me he asked, “Have you considered stepping aside and letting your husband do his ministry?” 

From the corner of my eye I could see my husband, Todd, shifting to respond, but I beat him to it. “I have never kept my husband from ministering, nor interrupted his ministry. He has his calling and ministry and I have mine. Even though we have separate callings we know how to work well together.” (Maybe I should have mentioned that I had not seen any disciple leave ministry and let Peter do ministry on his own.) I responded without shame. My husband affirmed that neither of us keeps the other from ministry. Then he insisted that the question be addressed to him as well. I smiled.  

Houston Work and Witness
Raqui praying for a couple who lost everything to the hurricane in the Port Arthur, TX area.

These are just a few of the hurdles I have had to jump over in my life. Questions that Christians may find irresponsible and even absurd, others find necessary. It is not that they are opposed to me, it is that they doubt my calling, or that women may be called. I have never been able to understand fully why. Yet, I never allowed it to impede or keep me from God’s calling. All I know is that I had, and HAVE, a calling. When I was 14 years old i answered the calling much like Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord. He said, “Who will I send? Who will go for us?” I said, “Here I am. Send me!””

This is not to say that it has all been easy…sometimes life has been super difficult, other times super easy… but for whom hasn’t it been? I have had, as everyone else called into ministry (men or women) to pass through storms in which I have been soaked by the rains. But I have also have had times in life that it has been, to say, rainbows. Either way, I have seen the hand of God working, at every turn, in the lives of those who I have shared Christ. This tells me that I am following His will.

Dr. Jerry Porter always told me that the calling is affirmed by people who have come to Christ through your ministry and the spiritual growth in their lives. He affirmed my calling many times. It is very important for women like me to have people like him in our lives.

So what then is needed to confirm a calling? First let me be clear, ALL Christians have been called (“mandated”, actually),  to share the message of Christ. ALL of us are called to work in the fields. (Matthew 28:16-20) We have ALL been called to love and be like Christ. Yet, there is a specific group that God calls to be Pastors, Missionaries, leaders, teachers and so on…

July 4 Baptisms
Estrella getting baptised by her pastor Mother, with Pastor Dad assisting.
  1. This calling comes from the depths of your heart with a huge passion. This passion cannot be stopped. A person with the passion of Christ does not see the soul of human beings as everyone else.  We see lost souls and we constantly want to try to help them find their way. We want them to encounter Jesus Christ. We want to help them to maintain a relationship with Christ. We want them to find holiness and live by it.  That passion comes in everything we do, for it spills into our lives and our home. Sometimes it even makes us cry. The compassionate and empathetic heart is part of Christ’s. When you talk about Christ and teach the scriptures, the passion is heard.
  2. The calling is found in the scripture. No matter how often your read it or what verse you read, you feel the calling through it verses. When God calls you, He uses the scripture to lead you. God speaks to hearts though the scriptures. He also speaks during prayer times. Hearing the voice of God in our souls as we pray, a voice that cannot be shut off. As you read, as you pray, the voice of the Lord gets louder and the calling becomes just as loud. For me I heard it in the stories of the prophets in the Old Testament (as in Jeremiah 1:4-10) and the calling of the disciples, the great commandment and others like it. When I heard it as I read about the Samaritan woman by the well and in Ruth, I had to accept that it was from God, it was real. Even when I prayed today, I could and can hear His calling. (He can really be demanding when He wants to be and needs to be).
  3. Others around you and throughout your life see it too. During our lives others see you gifts of “pastor, missionary, teacher and leader. The people themselves, our families and friends, affirm our calling. They form part of our mentoring group, who we need, especially while our calling is developing.  It is important to talk to our pastors, leaders and those of strong faith who have known us and have watched us grow spiritually. My parents, as missionaries, and my pastors, were my best mentors. Besides them, I had other leaders that after finding out about my calling, they would hug me and support me. The most important thing is that they mentored me and taught me (and still do) how to be a minister. It was they who prepared me by giving me responsibilities, jobs and guiding me. This is how they, and many more, have affirmed me in my calling. {A great HUG of Gratitude to those special to me: My Parents, Bill Porter, Dr. Jerry Porter, Dr. Roger Hahn, Dr. Dennis Bratcher, Rev. Noemi Vasquez-Pla, Rev. Manuel y Norma Guzmán, Dr. Howard Culbertson, just to name a few}
Papi Predicando y yo interpretando al ingles
Translating for my Father, Rev. Mario A. Cintron. We make an awesome team.
  1.  Your gifts and skills are given for the sake of that calling. Sometimes we may not understand why we have certain skills that wind up transforming or supporting our calling. Yet, all those gifts and skills are being used for our calling, if not now, they will. Here is where I saw my calling more clearly. The gift of teaching and preaching with passion affirmed my calling. The gift of translating, of helping, even finances and budgeting, and more have assisted me in sharing the gospel. If I ever had a doubt, all I had to do was look at my gifts and skills and see that God gave them to me for ministry. That is big.
  2. When God calls he gives a hunger for education in Theology, biblical studies and the Truth. You have a hunger to learn more that seems to increase as you see the need to equip yourself with the best tools to be your best. Some come to me telling me that they only need the Bible. If that was true, and that is all you need, Jesus wouldn’t have spent 3 years with his disciples (but would have just given them the Torah and walked away), and Paul would not have gone for 4 years to learn more after his transformation and calling. The Bible is the most important thing,  but not the ONLY thing we need for ministry. A true calling comes with an appetite, a hunger for learning more, wanting more knowledge and greater wisdom. Because a man cannot live on bread alone. We need to learn about the people, the cultures, the history, the ways people think, life itself and more. Education is important here, it fulfills those things that equip us to better minister. For we know that the calling is not just preaching… it is more than that, and the preaching needs to be solid.
  3. When God calls He provides. He is after all “Yahweh Yirah,” the Lord will provide. I have learned that will open the doors and will close the doors according to God’s will, always providing for my means. On my end, I have to make sure I don’t force the doors open just because a door seems more pleasing, fun, solid, shiny or whatever… I have to learn to TRUST fully on God, even when that “door” seems scary or delapidated. When I said to God “yes” and asked that He provide my education, He did. When I said “yes” and asked to show me the man that had said “yes” too and was a man of God, and with the heart of God, He did. When I said “yes” and asked that He supply my financial needs… He HAS. God provides as long as we are following HIS WILL and saying “yes.”

Then, what are the “effects” of all this in my life? Well, they have made me who I am today. As a Latin woman, more specifically, a Puerto Rican called into ministry, I have to continue to live a life according to my calling in ministry. Yes, I know eyes are on me a lot. No matter what happens. That means that I have to keep myself connected to God in all things as mentioned. It is difficult but not impossible. It is hard work, but never in vain. I have had more chapters in my life that have been more positive than negative. I have seen children, young people, and adults come to the feet of Jesus, sanctified, healed and called throughout my life. And all these make my life very, VERY, much worth living. Because this unique life that I am living, I am living for Christ, regardless of the “effects” that follow.

“We speak the truth. We serve in the power of God. We hold the weapons of godliness in the right hand and in the left. We serve God in times of glory and shame. We serve him whether the news about us is bad or good. We are true to our calling. But people treat us as if we were pretenders.” –2 Cor. 6:7-8

Therefore I keep heading forward…. with Christ by my side because “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” -Phil. 1:21 What else can I say? And this UNIQUE life that God has given me?… is… uniquely HIS.

“For the Sake of the Call”– Steven Curtis Chapman

Uniquely Mi Vida

The Eye of the Storm

“I rarely feel like I’m in chaos, but when I am, I usually [retreat] and try to find the eye of the storm; if I’m still and listen and don’t engage, maybe the chaos will subside.”     –Mike Colter

I hate leaving the Island.

Every year that goes by and I have a chance to visit, the more difficult it is to leave. I suppose it is the fear of not being able to return. Maybe it is the fact that the older I get the more I wonder, “When will I be back” or “Will I be back at all?”

It’s always a bittersweet moment for me. The idea of seeing my kids is the sweet portion of it… (thoug this time a new puppy awaiting me has been added to the sweetness), and my motivation. When I think of those I leave behind… that is just sadness. Is there a “sadsweet” word? Because it is not bitterness. Is definately sadness…

The most amazing thing about this trip is seeing how “Puerto Rico Se Levanta.” (Puerto Rico lifts itself up) This is true to the nature and heart of the people. I saw the houses that were abandoned by some, but many more homes being rebuilt, fixed and cleaned. Many did not let the storm of the century discourage them or scare them away. Many stayed behind to fight. Those are the ones I admire the most. Those who stayed to rebuild a broken people. Those are the ones with a strong heart. They cried, they lost a lot, but they… (What is the saying??)… “Got back on the horse” and kept on going.

I saw more smiles than anything. People wanting to share the “how” they are continuing on. What they are doing to survive. Many businesses reopened, some in a better way and stronger built than before. A restaurant owner I came across within the beach area north of Barceloneta told me with a smile, “We were planning on adding on this area, “pointing to the new paved floor outside the eating area, “and Maria took care of us by advancing our plans and taking down the old awning that needed to be replaced.” I smiled as he said, “It all worked out for the better.” And I responded with, “It is amazing how God can still work in the middle of destruction.” He smiled and said, “Amen!” Whether or not he was a Christian did not influence my response. But I was glad he totally agreed. I told Todd, I may have not gotten away with “Prophesying” in the USA, but I did in Puerto Rico every chance I got. And they all would respond, “Amen!” or (When I would say “God Bless you”), with a “Same to You.”

I did see many houses destroyed and some abandoned. Those were the sad scenic reminders of the hurricane. Yet among it all I saw a people, “un pueblo” lifting itself up from the devastation, working together, helping each other out, strengthening each other and basically fighting back against “Maria.” That is a strong people.

The question is, why can’t all Christians do that? We have even a bigger reason to stay strong, to be motivated and we have Jesus at our side. So why then do we fall apart when devastation comes our way. We shrink and cry out “Why me?” and I respond, “Well, why not?” This world has its own will…. Even we have free will… Nature takes its course, we make decisions based on it… some really poor and bad decisions, some really good ones. But we are more than apt to make better and correct decisions when we allow God to be our “Captain” or leader, our mentor and our ADVISOR. Without God our decisions become like the winds of a hurricane, trampling anything that surrounds us. But with God, we are in the eye of the storm, at peace in the middle of a chaotic world. That’s how I want to live.

Just like those that stayed behind in Puerto Rico, those relaying on God for strength, regardless of how unique their situation is, I want to be able to handle any storm that comes my way. For I know that no matter how difficult and strong those winds are, my life is even STRONGER because God is by my side. Every part of my life is unique regardless of the winds that surrounds me… but I am at peace, like the eye of a hurricane, just like when Jesus quieted the storm.

A wild storm came up. Waves crashed over the boat. It was about to sink.  Jesus was in the back, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him up. They said, “Teacher! Don’t you care if we drown?”. He got up and ordered the wind to stop. He said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down. And it was completely calm.”

              –Mark 4:37-39 (NIRV)

Ryan Stevenson – “Eye of the Storm”

Uniquely Mi Vida

I Am a Planner…

…with ADHD and Surrounded by People

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

So this is me. I’ve been taking a break just because I have a lot to do and don’t want to do any of it, at least right now. I made plans for today, wrote my to do list, yet… after a while you will see me, dragging myself off this chair to continue with “my plans.” Eventually… Why do I feel this way?

pexels-photo-730806.jpeg

Well, I began my day with my delicious cafe con leche and sat in front of the computer to work on my Mother’s Day Sermon. But that is not what I did. Nope, my ADHD insisted on checking out my accessories on my “wishlist” for my little sister’s wedding. First to see the dress I have already ordered (or dresses), make sure they are the right size… I had to pause here. My middle daughter needed my help to get to work. So off I went. Okay, back on the computer and returning to my “to-do-list.” I’m thinking, I really need to read the Bible… I’m just bad at listening to my ADHD brain, because it decided, after seeing the tabs I had open for the clothes, I had to look at shoes…. And into the tunnel of shoes my mind went. Eventually I told myself, “I may not need any shoes if the blush color dress fits.” With that, off I went to actually work on my sermon… or so I thought until I saw the papers in front of me.  I had not made important phone calls, so I got my phone. One of those calls I needed to make was to the university my daughter attends in order to check on her balance.  Picking up my phone I saw I had not checked my messages. My curiosity won out, and I checked to discover my youngest daughter had called me. Better call her back… but first, the phone calls.  That took a while, longer than I expected.  Eventually, I called my little college student. Still in front of the computer we spent time, a lot of time, helping her to get her financial aid taken care of for next fall. Making sure all is paid in full. I hung up and finally decided, “Get yourself together Raqui, get your mind focused.” After a silent prayer I began to read and think through the scriptures. Finally, I’m getting somewhere. Allowing my thoughts to brainstorm and my eyes search through information and praying, “Lord, lead me to the right Word.” I was getting hungry. Figures, it was past 1 pm. With my thoughts going,  and still in prayer, I gather my lunch. Sitting back on my computer I felt God clarifying which scripture for me to use this Sunday. On computerI get excited and continue to put my notes together… I’m moving forward some more! YAY! …and somewhere before I type in the first organized thought.. in comes my Dad… He needs help with his insurance for his “new” used car (long story, don’t ask).  **Sigh** Oh, well, At least I have the scriptures down and my theme taken care of. At least I know what I’m preaching on. While he filled in some information, I had to do something, so off I went to do the dishes until he called me back… As soon as he left I realized I still needed to register for this summer’s Pastor training sections…

Yes, I am a planner. Can’t blame my ADHD brain from getting in the way of my “to-do-list,”  especially when I have others around. (There are times though that I think life would be better if I give out numbers). Even If I don’t distract myself, others do it for me. My tendency to stop what I’m doing to help sometimes annoys… well, me… mostly when I realize that I have a lot to do. I think, however, what gets to me, and this is when my own self-discipline has to take over, is when in the process of one task something comes up. And something always has to come up. Leave it to others to be that something…or your interest in something you saw out of the corner of your eye… that is just in the wrong place…  Or when you are cleaning a room and while taking the laundry you realize the floor need to be swept. You stop to take care of that only to realize that the dishes need to be done…Wait. Let me take care of that before I forget… So what is WRONG with me? Maybe I do need to get this ADHD under control! I really just need to get my to-do-list done… so I know what I need to do.

Planning can be aggravating if you can’t learn to prioritize, well, plan. The problem is when others distract you because they need your help. Helping is not that bad. I suppose I don’t mind it because it is just who I am and who I want to be. It reminds me of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you.”  In the Gospel of Matthew 7:12 it says, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets”. (also in Luke 6:31) In a way I’m hoping that others return the favor when they see that I have too much on my plate… I don’t expect it but I would like it. Therefore, I have learned to be flexible with my “planning.” I have learned that I can set aside things for the sake of others when they are in need. Eventually, I get my to-do-list done as well (or most of it, okay, sometimes half of it). Some things can be put off for the next day without problems. Keeping in mind when they need to be done helps me. I do confess, sometimes, I just can’t help a person. For example: While I was cooking last night my brother comes in to ask for…well, help… “Sorry, I can’t help you. Ask Todd.” After all, it was getting late…

This is not the only reason why I don’t mind helping others when I have my own “plans”. I help because it is my way of showing that I love them. Helping others is a great way of showing kindness but is even a more wonderful way to show love. Setting things aside and making others our priority is a way of showing love for others as Paul writes in Romans 12:9-10 -“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Though we show love in different ways, setting aside our time for others is a one of those ways. Helping was my Mother’s special way of showing love to others. I guess I learned from her. She would plan ahead of time who she was going to help according to their needs.

My Mom, Raquel, & Me (Raqui)
Mom and Me after her remission from her first cancer, Spring 1990

Often, my Mom would set aside her own needs for the needs of others. Regardless of her “to-do-list” she always had a space for anyone who needed her, even my friends. Of course, she was not as scattered brain as I am… I tried to imitate her love of helping others, to put others first (Philippians 2:3-5). I learned that there is always flexibility in my “to-do-list”. I began by “planning” and helping her when she was very busy with others. I realized how happy and pleased she would be when I would help (And less stressed, AND that was always good for me), without being asked or “made” to. This, in turn, made me very happy. (Of course there where the days I got quarters out if too.) You can say that I learned to be a helpful planner.

Now, being a “Helpful planner,” is my very special unique way of getting my “to-do-list” done and still be kind and loving to others, even with my ADHD mind and all. My concept looks a little like this: Make a Plan A, B and C and always have room for Flexibility and be prepared to re-write and reorganize it when others need you as long as you accomplish it. Better yet, do it in pencil…now… to finish my notes before I have to cook. {Oh, I almost forgot: do my emails, finish cleaning the kitchen, mop my daughter’s room before she gets back from college, …oh, and…}  Wait… did I just hear my brother walk in???!

Uniquely Mi Vida

I Am Short

Vertically Challenged

As I stood at the door of the classroom I figured, just another ordinary day of subbing. I was wrong. It wasn’t the kids that made it unordinary, nor the assignments, or other teachers… it was my inadequacy. Yep… my physical vertical inadequacy. I found this out when lunch time came and I was searching for the microwave. I found it, sitting on top of a 2 1/2 ft. tall fridge that sat on top of the counter.  I gasped, “Surely this teacher is not that tall!” Then I remembered, “Well, all of them are taller than me.”  Yes, I am short! Or, as I prefer, I am “Vertically challenged.” I got on my tippy toes and I still couldn’t reach the buttons. So, what does a vertically challenged person do when she is hungry and only has 25 minutes to eat (or less)? Be resourceful, of course. I looked around for something to MacGyver my way to hot food heaven. This teacher had unusual seating for the students, beans bags, crates, unshapely sitting stools and more, but nothing for me to stand on while being held up by gravity.  My next idea, well, long tools… pencils were not long enough and as I looked around (hearing time flying in my head), I found myself using scissors. Scissors! Who in the world needs scissors to press the dumb buttons of a microwave that sits 6 feet high?! Well, me!  UGH! Nonetheless, I got my food in and began fighting the microwave’s img_0657.jpgtouch pad and eventually heard the “beep” of the running heating machine. Sigh.. Finally After getting on my tippy toes to get my food out and eating I had 5 minutes. I had to leave to pick up the children from the cafeteria. I decided; I better get my bathroom break. So, off I went only to find the staff bathroom. Turns out, they didn’t have one. What they had was a “Staff’s stall” and gues what? It was locked! “Okay Raqui, breath, they don’t want anyone messing up the clean teacher’s stall, just unlock it from the inside.” I reached over the door stall, on my tippy toes (again…). Try as I may to strect like plasticman ralizing my arm can barely even make it over the dumb stall door… “Of course you know this means war! In the name of all who are short, I will get in that stall!” I went back to the classroom to get my trusty scissors. I reached over, struggling to finding the latch… meanwhile a 2nd grader comes in, looks at me very puzzled, or was that fear? “I’m vertically challenged… too short” and gave her smile, as I heard the “click” of the lock. WelI, I won. YAY!! It turns out that it’s easier to unlock it than close it and locking it back up from the outside…wound up leaving it unlocked. Sigh** That day I conquered the challenges of my height inadequacies.

It is not easy dealing with my physical limitations… I never thought of it that way until I came to the USA… Everyone arounds me likes to remind me. Like if I, somehow, was not aware of my height and didn’t know how short I am.  In Venezuela I wasn’t “short” compared to every girl, I was pretty average. In Guatemala, well, I was above average! Yes, I admit I’m one of the shortest girls in my family, but not the only one. I have learned to live with it and make the best of it. I have found ways to make up for it. Use a lot a resources to get around. THANK HEAVENS FOR HIGH HEELS!! I married a guy of “average height” who is really good at getting things off the shelves for me. Believe me, he is tall to me, and I have step stools pretty much in every room.  I became an expert climber too… There are just some things that are unavoidable, like “short” jokes. So what do I do when I feel frustrated?

Celeste on stool I have learned to see my height not as a limitation, but as a blessing. A blessing because God created me and I am wonderfully made: “You created the deepest parts of my being. You put me together inside my mother’s body. How you made me is amazing and wonderful. I praise you for that. What you have done is wonderful. I know that very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14) Why? I don’t know. God hasn’t told me why even after I have asked Him time and time again. (Yes, God talks to me and “No”, I’m not crazy, well, maybe a little;) )I suppose that without us short people there wouldn’t be tall people. I’m sure that there is a scientific explanation due to genetics, environment and adaptation. None of this matters, really, because all that matters is that I am fine with the fact that God created me, with my vertical challenges and all. He created me. Best of all, I am wonderfully made.

I have learned that there are benefits to my shortness. I have been able to do things that others taller than me cannot. J I mean, why jump over obstacles when you can just go under them… My soccer coach learned this when she realized that I could steal the soccer ball from my opponents without them noticing. I was good at sliding between their legs and taking the ball! (No joke!) I was the best defense because of my height and my speed.  Even to this day I can sit in a car, or sofa, and curl up taking less space (okay maybe I do take a little bit more space than I used to, but still…). I can also find and see things that others can’t.  Did I mention I can use tools?? I also learned to climb just about everything just like Zacchaeus… not that I can do this well anymore…

“Short People: God only let’s things grow until they are perfect… Some of us didn’t take as long as others.” –Unknown

I have learned to laugh! How? Because, for every “short” joke there is a “tall” joke… Truth is, you can only laugh and joke about it too. It is just the way you see it. That positive attitude that makes us “tall” in our sense of humor is important. This is not to say that it doesn’t bother me when the short jokes don’t stop. I mean, if gets annoying and really?.. so you have to bring it up every time?? But letting it go and finding humor is better than getting upset. However, for those of you that are taller, and that means most of you, please don’t push it. There are so many times the joke is funny… In the meantime, laugh and smile and remind them that “the best things come in small packages”. (And if they don’t watch were they are going they are going to be surprise when they see stars after meeting the door way.)

I guess that even though finding a chair or stool to climb on may not be available, there is always a tall person that can help.  Just like being short can be beneficial, realize that having tall friends is beneficial too. God created them so they can be helpful to those who are created uniquely vertically challenged.

Uniquely Mi Vida

I Am Loud

{APRIL 2: So I went to see my doctor today… after weeks (literately weeks maybe even months) of allergies with congestion and loss of voice. While I’m there I figured, I might as well ask for a hearing test.
Me: Oh, can I have a hearing test? I mean,
I know Puerto Ricans are loud and all, and I’m Puerto Rican. Everyone keeps telling me I’m loud even when I don’t hear myself being loud… so I figured: Maybe I need my hearing test.😀
Doctor: {smiles, then laughs…and laughs}
🙄
Well, I guess that was that and I came out with a steroid shot and ant
ibiotics…for my sinus infection…. but what about the hearing test??? Not even an appointment…🤨 Well people, I tried… you are just going to have to deal with my Puerto Rican loudness….smiley laughing     …until the doctor stops laughing.} 

I am loud. It seems like everyone in the USA likes to tell me that… and for years, I didn’t realize it. After it was brought to my attention, I didn’t understand it. You see, it’s not just me. If I’m loud, so are over 3 million Puerto Ricans across the world.

I suppose that sometime in college, I realized what some students told me, but then they said the same about another friend of mine from Puerto Rico. I started to realize that this “loudness” was maybe a cultural thing.  It made me wonder: why are we loud? Well, we are emotional and excited, passionate and opinionated (very opinionated… or is that just me?).  It became clearer to me when my soon-to-be-husband came to Puerto Rico and brought his parents down for our wedding.

We all gathered at my grandmother’s house (I mean, when I say “we” I’m talking about almost 2 dozen family members; my family and Todd’s parents, and his brother and his girlfriend.) We gathered to discuss the wedding. My family met Todd and his family. We talked about our daily life, and so on. There were conversations galore, coming from all different directions, and covering a variety of different subjects all at once.  I thought this was normal. It is the way my family always behaves when the get together. We shared laughter, excitement, opinions, and more, all in a small 11 by 15 ft. room. The volume ran high with the emotions. I saw my future in-laws had concerned facial expressions. Then I saw my mother-in-law lean towards Todd, who had come to sit by her. She asked him a question, I saw him smile and respond, and her face relaxed. Later, I asked Todd about it. He told me, “My parents were concerned because they thought there were a lot of arguments going on, and asked if they should step outside.” Todd laughed, “I told her that you all were just communicating. There were no arguments; you were all just happy, emotional, and loud. The more excited or passionate you get the higher your volume was. I explained to her that it was okay…you don’t hide anything from each other not even disagreements.” This is when I realized “is cultural!”

Yes, we Puerto Ricans are loud. We express emotions in our tone of voice. We can share funny stories and laugh, loudly. We can share opinions and debate, loudly, and it doesn’t bother us one bit. We can have multiple conversations around the table and follow other conversations, yes, loudly. We can be brutally honest with each other. We just agree or disagree and life goes on. I truly believe that Puerto Ricans were born debaters. Our weakness? Sometimes our emotions overrule the facts. Yet, we listen to each other. Whether we like what we hear or not, we listen. Many of us may disagree, but will come back with an agreement after thinking about it. In many ways we talk before we think. Some more than others, me being one of them.

Yes, I am loud… I have learned to moderate it after marrying Todd, but boy is it hard! Even after 25 plus years of marriage, it is hard. But I turned him to the “dark” side and he too joins in the conversations. (But he still has the habit of thinking before he talks.) It has opened up a new way of communicating, because now he is able to balance his culture with my culture. He has learned to carry multiple conversations too. My family said once that I have “puertoricanized” him! However, I’m still working on thinking before speak. Frankly, it is difficult because you have to stop and access, and re-word, your thoughts, and I’m thinking, “Who has time for that?” I blame my ADHD! It really doesn’t help. In my mind, sharing my thoughts is more important than thinking it through. It isn’t an issue of pride or rudeness, it is just being part of the conversation. However, I can understand where the problem is seen by others, especially in the culture I live in. I have learned to bite my tongue more often than not, outside my home. It is painful, but necessary. (I have found it is much harder to do at home or with family, after all, home is your safe place. My daughters can attest to it. They were raised by a Puerto Rican mother with ADHD J ).

How then have I learned to mellow down in this culture? Or in areas of my ministry where it is extremely important? Through prayer, discipline and accountability.

girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942.jpegPrayer: I have had to humble myself often to ask God to help me control my immediate responses. Sometimes I flat out fail, sometimes I struggle and pause, but sometimes I do well. In order to succeed I have to stop and pray. It is not about a matter of stopping and thinking, per se, but a matter of stopping and praying. I must admit, sometimes it is hard, especially when I feel tired or stressed. It has been amazing how God has taught me to “not respond” when the old me would have. My prayers have been mostly about  speaking the truth in love, at the right time, and that it encourages, or challenges people to seek God more (Ephesians 4:15,25, 29). I must admit that sometimes what I think is not what I’m saying. I think it has to with how my mind translates my thoughts. But, I always pray that God may help me speak properly from my heart when I share my thoughts, and that they are according to His will.

Discipline: This is probably the hardest thing to do: to catching myself. This started later in my life. I realized that prayer was not enough but that I had to purposefully work at it. After 20 years among white Americans and other mixed cultures, it is still difficult to do this. It is easier for me to do this when I’m wearing my Pastor/Leader hat, but it is difficult to do it when I am not in my pastoral role. It is even harder when I’m with Latinos and forget about it when I’m among Puerto Ricans!selfie-portrait-picture-photo.jpg Self discipline is one of those gifts of the Holy Spirit, the more I seek to be more Christlike, the more the Holy Spirit helps me. I know that it will not completely disappear from my character, after all, it is part of my upbeat personality, but it can be mellowed down when God needs to do His work. I have learned that God doesn’t change who we are, He tweaks who we are, making us better and using our uniqueness to do His will.

pexels-photo-567633.jpegAccountability: My husband, and I guess to some degree, my daughters, have been great at this. Frankly, sometimes I wish they wouldn’t, but hey, I need them to. Just don’t tell them that because they will hush me all the time! Every one of us need an accountability partner. This person needs to be a person who we can not only trust, but know that they are in our court. They are there to help us be better and to encourage us to do better. They sometimes remind us when we have failed ( I think my family likes this part way to much). Yes, they need to be able to let me know when I fall short because honestly, my heads is not going to admit to me that! In the same way, the Holy Spirit also helps me in this area. However, allowing God to use a human voice to hold us accountable makes the voice of the Holy Spirit more solid. This is important to me because it keeps me from “hushing” the Holy Spirit and pushing Him down. I think He really enjoys telling me “I told you so,” or is that the voice of my mother I hear in my subconscious?

Yes, I am Loud! When I am happy, I am loud! When I’m excited, I am loud! When I’m sharing the word of God, you bet I am loud! But I am also quiet… when I need to be… and I’m sure my family enjoys that part of me most.

Doesn’t wisdom call out? Doesn’t understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way, she takes her place where the paths meet.
Beside the gate leading into the city, she cries out at the entrance. She says,
“People, I call out to you. I raise my voice to all human beings.  You who are childish, get some good sense. You who are foolish, set your hearts on getting it. Listen! I have things to say that you can depend on. I open my lips to speak what is right.”

Proverbs 8:1-6 (NIRV)