Uniquely Mi Vida

Confounded by Culture

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

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

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

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

Next thing I know, I was learning songs about someone named Rudolf with a red nose and Dashing who throws the snow at who knows who (and why are we singing about someone being so mean? And wouldn’t snow hurt somebody? I heard it was cold like ice?) … and the more I was introduced to the stories of American Christmases I wondered, wow I didn’t know the reindeers  were animals that could fly with names even. 😲And they told me unicorns 🦄 didn’t exist.. Thank goodness to all those movies that set the record straight for me, and explained all the songs… except about this “Dashing” kid…and this horse that opens something called “slay.” (Shamefully, I didn’t get the story straight until I dared to ask 3 years later🤦‍♀️.) And while many celebrated Santa, we celebrated the birth of Christ, which apparently Santa celebrated in a different way here in the USA. Then, while the songs of Christmas faded in the background and people put away their lights and trees, in came the new year and our tree was still up, as it is for all Puerto Ricans. For us, Christmas was not over. We waited patiently for the coming of the “3 Magi Kings” (As some call it “epiphany.”), who delivered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. Though the kids at school made fun of the 3 kings and their story, and I felt sorry for them because I got more gifts… not once but TWICE. That’s right, on the eve of Jan.6, good boys and girls in Puerto Rico, gather grass and water for the camels,write a letter to the kings and in the morning we have MORE presents. 🤗 When Todd and I were engaged, I introduced him to our way of celebrating Christmas. raqui blog pic002We married soon after Christmas day and made a decision to include both cultures. ✨Though the stories of Frosty and the red-nosed reindeer were not on my top 10, not even my top 100, I conceded to allow my kids hear the stories, take a photo with Santa, and open at least 2 presents on Christmas morning and sing the solemn Christmas, English music. In exchange, Todd (and the girls), had to hear “parranda” music, eat pasteles, lechon, flan and more, celebrate 3 Kings Day, and join in the parrandas and trullas, the real way to go “caroling”.(Of course to do that you would have to be among Puerto Ricans and be willing to stay up way past bedtime and eat during the night). In many ways, my daughters got an extended Christmas and different celebrations for almost 2 months. Eating different things for Thanksgiving,
Thanksgiving meal
Missing the pasteles but still enjoying a mixture of Puerto Rican food and american. (Roasted pork, rice w/piegon peas, tostones, rolls and greenbreans)
opening presents the night before Christmas from each other (like we did growing up), then in the morning from “Santa,” and then on Jan. 6, the ones from the 3 kings. It wasn’t easy combining it (and budgeting for it)… but we did it. We added a 4th aspect to our family traditions, the American “Black Friday” sales… which started with us getting presents for hundreds of other children which eventually led to teaching our girls the importance of giving with joy and love. (I was co-director of a compassionate ministry center and it this was a part of our Christmas assistance program I was God-led to create, called “Gift of Hope” in 2004.) It wound up being a budget friendly way to do all the gifts and a late night (early morning) of fun for all. It was always funny to see the reactions of the Walmart cashier as she wondered why anyone would by ten of the same board game,or have 4 carts loaded with kids toys. It was always a joy to be able to tell them we were wisely using donated money to get as many presents for poor children as we possibly could. Yes, Thanksgiving and Christmas are BIG in our house. With the uniqueness of the American traditions, (did I mention learning how to bake pumpkin pies and Christmas cookies?😉) and the uniqueness of the Puerto Rican ones. We have created a colorful mix of cultural celebrations. When others thought that our cultures clashed, we were enjoying the colorful mixture they create. It is a joy to find ways to celebrate, and yet find the biblical perspective of them. We have opted out of some cultural celebrations because they are not compatible with our subculture that we share, Christianity. We see the uniqueness of others and the stories behind them, and based on these we add them in. So no, Peter Cottontail does not come through our home… (I said it when I first heard about it, age 7, and I will say it again, a rabbit should NOT be laying eggs… that is just wrong!), nor do we bother much with Halloween except when the girls were little, and dressed up as princesses to pass out candies and share the love of God. It is the mixtures of cultures and their traditions that, when they seem to clash, their combination makes our family culture unique. From the New years and Easters, to the 4th of July celebrations, to quinceañeras (sweet “15” instead of “16), to Thanksgiving, Christmas and more, it is this unique cultural traditions that have made our Home joyous. Figuring out how to celebrate is not that easy, but knowing the story behind the traditions and celebrations certainly helps. It is the story that makes them worthwhile and as unique as the celebration itself. So, for Thanksgiving, we will have our turkey on Thursday with our American family and then have a Puerto Rican dinner, including “lechon asado”(roasted pork), with my side of the family. During this holiday season, I encourage you to find those traditions that make your culture unique. You can even add your own family traditions into the mix. Teaching and learning celebrations that others around you have is fun to do as well. You may not celebrate it, but you can learn about it. History is full of traditions and every culture has those that have been around for 100’s of years. Every culture has its unique traditions and celebrations and many are family fun. So next time you hear Puerto Ricans“caroling” at your neighbors doors at 2 A.M., don’t huff and puff and call the police, instead pick up any instrument you have, and join them… believe me, it is fun plus, you get to eat… again. It is so unique! To celebrate with my people and see how we do “trillos” (parrandas during the nights) click here
Uncategorized, Uniquely Mi Vida

Corrupted by Anxiety

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uniquely Deep, Uniquely Mi Vida

Crippled by Pride

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

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

 

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Uncategorized, Uniquely Mi Vida

The Problem with Promises

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah.” He said as he ate his snack.

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                     —Unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                        —2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

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

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

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

Uniquely Inspirational, Uniquely Mi Vida

The Problem With False Accusations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uniquely Mi Vida

The Problem with Puppy…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uniquely 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”