Uniquely Mi Vida

The Struggle with Housework

I am not ashamed to say this: I hate doing dishes. I do. And dusting… mostly cause I’m allergic to dust and mold..

The passionate dislike of dishes, however, does not have to do with allergies. That started when I was growing up and my mother, God bless my dear mother who is now in heaven, had this great idea that EVERYONE would take turns doing the dishes. Seeing as she cooked day after day, it all made sense that my brother, Dad and I would help. Our names were written on the calendar. Everyone agreed. It was a great PLAN! Right? Wrong!! There was one problem: the “boys” refused to do their part, always having an excuse. Somehow they found themselves “OUT” when it was their turn, and even “homework” would finally show up for my brother… which had NEVER HAPPENED before. In short, I got stuck with the dishes, and cleaning the kitchen. At the age of 11 I put my foot down. “No work without pay.” So, I learned the value of capitalism and that lazy people who choose not to work should pay those who do it for them.

Then I had my own little dorm room and my own little house with no one else’s chores to do. Which was fine, because I didn’t have time. In the midst of 15-17 credit hours at the university, 15-20 hours of work, and volunteering for the church, who had time to clean, cook and do dishes??? So I learned to prioritize. Clean the living room and dining room, ignore your bedroom and don’t let anyone in it. Do dishes if you don’t want roaches and mice, and use paper plates when you know you don’t have time. Later, Todd came along and he had to help, too, especially with the dishes.

Marriage came, and before the children, we divided work evenly: I sweep, mop and vacuum. Todd dusts, pick up, and mows the yard. I cook, he does dishes. He does laundry, I fold. I cleaned the bedroom, and he the bathroom. Okay, I had to help him some. NEAT, Huh? Then our great plan fell apart… little by little our children popped into this world and there goes the kitchen, the bathroom, and even the living room. And don’t forget the bedrooms!

I needed a plan! I needed a desperate new plan! Because kids took more time than I thought.

Kids just don’t understand the rule of CLEAN AFTER YOURSELF. Yeah.. that didn’t go well. Soon toys were everywhere. A living room filled with a baby swing, walker, floor blanket and toys. To add to the chaos, both Todd and I were working and going to Seminary. It wasn’t pretty. I had my dad hounding me. “Your house has to be a house of order just as your life.” Or “Beti keeps our house clean, and remember that being holy means that your house has to be clean too.” Or more directly, “your house is in such a mess.” In exasperation I said, “Well daddy, you have 2 children, I have 3. I work full time, and Todd works full time, and we both go to school. Your wife is stays home clean and taking care of kids all day, plus she has help from her family, I only have Todd. Of course my house is messier than yours.” He did stop. No guilt here, because I knew that my house was not going to stay perfectly clean daily.

I knew, shamefully, that he was right to some extent. He had a point. I needed to get the house a little bit more under control. I wasn’t able to keep up with the dining room or bedrooms because, incidentally, that was the playroom, and my bedroom was always a mess. I was able to I maintain the living room, and did my best to keep the dirty dishes under control. I learned during the busy times that I had to have ONE area where I was free of chaos. Except that my kids messes spilled into that area as well. Needless to say, keeping a 2 bedroom house clean with one baby, a toddler and a Pre-K was next to impossible, no matter what I did. My solution: Saturday became cleaning day for everyone. And Sunday? It all better stay clean! Then we began picking up and cleaning as a game, (until they figured out it wasn’t). Another thing I taught my girls was to pick up their toys every night before going to bed. And thus my living room stayed clean, at least overnight, and the mess contained. It was cleaned daily, you could tell “kids live here” but things were mostly picked up and the main areas were cleaner from dust and dirt, even if clutter was still around.

As time went by and the children got older, we moved into bigger houses. It was easier to divide areas of the house to contain the mess. My girls had their play room, I had my living room. They had their bedrooms and bathroom, I had mine. Rules had to be made. Besides a chore chart, we had (and still do) general rules: Rule 1: no playing in the living room and no toys outside of the play area or bedrooms. Rule 2: Pick up your stuff before going to bed. Rule 3: You take it out, you put it back (goes for friends too) and rule 4: Hubby shares the cleaning, especially when Mom is still at work. (And the cooking).

Soon those rules became essential. We were busy. Everyone grew up and became busier. Things may have gotten out of hand off and on, especially when we were gone from sun up to PAST sun down. So I learned the busy “Mom rule” of: letting it go for a day or two. I had to be at peace with not every room being perfect and things being out of place. Yet, after a week of chaos, life had to get back in order and so did the house. I needed to get my growing kids, my laid back husband and my stressful self consistent, so the main area still had some semblance of cleanliness. WE NEEDED A NEW PLAN! And believe me, we have gone through many of them. Family meetings, chore charts and dish days. Although never perfect, the mess was under control. We had our great days and our “I’m too tired” days, you know, “Let it go” days. But I get stressed when it is too much, and I’m stubborn. I have to have areas that are clean from chaos so here is what worked and still works for us:

  1. Have a “Good Morning” habit Pick up one area of your bedroom, like make the bed, pick up dirty laundry, or put away your make-up (personal items) before heading out. (Or all of them).
  2. (From my husband) Clean as you cook. I must admit he is better at this than me because I get distracted. Another similar one, clean as you watch TV. I don’t mind this one.
  3. Parents share the load 50/50: Whoever is at home, or has a day off from work, helps maintain the house. Both home? Then split the load.
  4. As mentioned, a daily chore chart works great but when your kids are older, everyone takes care of their own areas.
  5. Do a 15 minute quick pick up when arriving from work and 5-10 minute one before going to bed. If time allows do a quick sweep or vacuum so dirt wont accumulate until your cleaning day.
  6. Take turns in the kitchen, one cooks, another does dishes. Here your children/teens need to be involved in this area. (They have to learn to cook sometime)
  7. Have a laundry folding party. This means do laundry, and while everyone watches TV have everyone fold their own clothes. When the kids are old enough to do their’s, have them do their own laundry.
  8. Organize: Make sure that you have a place for everything and everyone knows where it all goes. This keeps messes to a minimum and easier to keep up with.
  9. If friends or family come over, they clean their own messes and dishes. You will be surprised how helpful they can be.
  10. Keep your main area picked up. This alone will save you a lot of headaches.
Best way to get rid of clutter: garage sales!

Needless to say, it all seems simple. Well, it isn’t. You have to work at it, you have to agree together and you have to be as consistent as possible. This is NOT to say that it has to be perfectly clean daily, it never will be unless you have a housekeeper. It will at least give you some peace of mind or at least contain the mess. It does help if you love the rooms. So if you don’t love the rooms, redo them until you do. It is easier to be motivated if you love the way it looks. Most likely it will be easier for the kids to keep their room clean if they love the way they look. I must add that any house, whether it be small or large, if it has a lot of stuff, it will look messy no matter what. So do your best to keep it as organized as you can. If you have too much stuff, get rid of some of it. Garage sales, giveaways, however you want to de-clutter, go for it. Give yourself a motivation to make it look presentable at least your main areas.

After you have a plan that works for you and your family, you be surprised much easier things can become if everyone helps. Now your “house” becomes your “HOME.” It makes a BIG difference when you have an organized home. Bigger still if it is picked up and clean for the most part and often (note that I did not say “daily” or “always”). Make it a home that everyone can enjoy and others can visit. Plus, you won’t have a nagging parent. LOL

So was my father right? Sadly, Yes. Our house should be a reflection of God’s work in us. It shows the blessing that He has given us. It shows how we take care of what He has given us. It shows God that He can trust us more and more with material things because we can take care of them. Just like we ought to be good stewards of the money God provides, we must be good stewards of the materials he provides and gifts us with. We need to remember that in the end, it is because of God that we have what we have. That is my motivation to do my best to keep up with my home, at least picked up and in order.

By wisdom a house is built. Through understanding it is made secure.
Through knowledge its rooms are filled with priceless and beautiful things. ”

-Proverbs 24:3-4

Enjoy your new UNIQUE, not perfect, just unique, good looking home. Let it be a reflection of you… just remember, the kid’s room, yeah that is their reflection, so don’t sweat it if they can’t keep up. They will eventually. In the meantime relax in your own personal “spa” you call “HOME” or a bedroom or, well, any room. Do your best, and you will LOVE showing it off, specially to your Dad. (The day after you cleaning day 😀 )

***Please share your ideas and pointers in the comments below***

Uniquely Mi Vida

A Struggle with Budgeting

UGH!

Our budget is in turmoil. Okay, not in turmoil just… just shrinking. Now we have to revisit it and tighten the already tight belt. Sometimes I feel suffocated, light-headed, or on the verge of panic when I think of it. The worries come and ask, “What Am I going to do??” Taking a new job has a way of doing that, at least for ministers. We must be the first ones to be willing to take less, and give more. We are willing to help whenever and wherever. We are willing to be the first line item to take the cut until things change. Our hearts are definitely invested and we trust God… but our pocket books… well, the pocket books just don’t agree with you or the math.

So, we decide to redo our budget. The giant question is: What we need vs. what we REALLY need. Forget the needs vs. wants idea… that was left behind like several ages ago… at least 2 decades ago. So much for a temporary thing. Sure we make more than we did when we started, but I can account for that thanks to inflation. (We once made much more money because we were in-between ministries.)

Yet, I have to check myself, because even when “X” amount of numbers in the income line do not exceed “X” amounts in the expense column, and it doesn’t add up… we are some debt because of semi-new/used vehicle. Thanks to the fact that the car that had been paid off for more than 3 years ago went and decided to collapse on our last vacation trip. It just rolled over and DIED. Fixing it was worth more than the car and the amount we had. And in a little town God provided! It was a top notch, last year’s model. Not a High end car but an economical, American car that had what we needed, new car warranty and all for 40% less with less than 6,000 miles. God is good!!

With that said, we took God’s hands and walked into a new ministry. At first we were concerned. Will we have to go back to being bi-vocational? Yes..ugh.. We were wrong, I mean we should and normally would have to, my superintendent would “Highly suggest it.” (Please know that I love my superintendent, and I’m not just saying that because he may read this, because I’m sure he wont..LOL). The thing is that God had gone before us and taken care of our needs:

First, I had paid my health insurance for the year so I don’t have that expense. Since we don’t make much we were able to get a healthcare subsidy, but because it is still so expensive, I went with the lower end of coverage. We save what we can to pay high deductibles. Regardless, I have coverage, not much, but enough to get by.

Second, I had saved every thing I could in preparation for our move. Todd and I both worked at substitute teaching and this allowed me to save one paycheck of every 4 checks. Sometimes 2 of them If I could. I was also able to save my tax return and still able to pay my daughter’s college bill for the semester. (Mind you, thanks for her scholarships, it was HUGE. So I paid it in 3 months time.) Not that the savings will carry us through… it creates a cushion for emergencies even after moving expenses. We just don’t have to worry..much anyways. Somehow God has kept our savings intact even when I have to dip into it.

Third, that new car God provided? Well, my monthly payment is $176. I pay a little more between $180-$200 to bring down the interest as much as possible. I mean, why give the companies more money when all I have to do is pay and sacrifice a little more each month. Over time, most of the money winds up being in my pocket, not theirs. I understand other people wanting to get these expensive cars, with all the high end stuff, brand new or used with many miles at low payment. I learned to take my time, research and yes, expect a miracle of a deal. My vehicle wound up being $10,000 less than the sticker price plus my $5,000 down. I learned that if I can pay a good portion in cash, we can pay off the vehicle in 4 years or less (preferably in 3 yrs average). It must have a monthly payment that is low, really low and reasonable for the type of car, mileage and age. It takes patience, research and lots of prayer.

Fourth, it turns out that the church I am at had a college endowment for students of the church that go to our Nazarene University. My daughter is the only one. It turns out what is given to her per semester is roughly the amount I was having to pay. Plus she was accepted in the internship program so that covered her part. She had not been able to find a job in the Spring while at school so her portion was not in her savings at all. (This is all a God given gift).

Yes, God has gone before us. Yet, we had a part to play. We had to take responsibility as faithful, trusting, called servants of God.

We revised our budget. EVERYTHING was tightened. The question to answer was: What is the minimum we can live off while things were tight. Realizing a second job was not right for now, either one of us. Realizing that the church needed us 100% of the time, and last, realizing and eventually, knowing that somehow God will provide.

In the meantime we have sacrifices to make:

  1. No eating out weekly much less, daily! We go out ONCE a month if the money is there and we limit $10 per person plus tip. We rotate Restaurant pizza 2x a month, setting a budget for $15-20 bi-weekly and the other 2 weeks, frozen pizza. NO JUNKY fast foods. Eating leftovers or sandwiches when out and about. This means I have to cook more often. That means more time in the kitchen, which in turn, helps me keep it cleaner. So what about groceries? See #2
  2. No JUNK FOOD! Avoid, avoid snacks, chips, pop as much as possible. This is hard for my husband who grew up drinking sodas like water. I have to limit his intake, which is not easy. So no more 7-eleven, Sonics or whatever… generic sodas if needed all the way. We have Fruits, popcorn and granola bars for snacks. Hey, I suffer too! It means no candy for me. (I’m hoping one trip to ROSS and one bag of their sour gummies at $3-4 a month is feasible.) We purchase everything generic, and frozen vegetables are better and not much more than the canned. Buy on SALE, and yes, on clearance. Right now I’m trying to stay at a $225-$250 grocery budget here in Texas with 4 adults. Luckily, for my budget, one of my girls is going back to college so it will be easier and hopefully the second one will get a job… but she has her own bills to pay.
  3. Cell phones- I’m highly considering cutting data usage to save us $20 a month and cancelling a phone that is not absolutely necessary. In the meantime we have learned that buying an “AT&T GO” phone for $20 or less, and adding us to the plan saves an additional $15-$25 per person, per month which is added to our “plan.” We spend less on 5 cell phones and plans in a year than some people pay for a single phone. I mean really, add up the costs. Why give them your money for a phone they expect you to throw away. We just keep the phone until it is no longer working. We have saved over $500 a year doing this.
  4. No ENTERTAINMENT outside the house. Now before you all think I’m crazy or faint in disbelief: Let me say that we do budget for ONE event out a month. But we keep it simple. Beside that, we have found out that our family movie nights consist of staying at home, renting a movie, the pizza mentioned above and popcorn. We have learned that family games, whether it be board games, Xbox or the like, also makes for a great family time. Hanging out together not only brings you closer as a family and adds more fun memories but also helps with a budget.
  5. AVOID STORES outside of your list. This is is my weakness… I love sales, clearances, antiques, garage sale shopping and more. So I am having to restrain myself to what I need only, or just $20-30 a month for shopping for home and clothing. (Or roll it to the next month for a funner time later). If you are tempted to go to one of those stores just repeat after me, “I DON’T have the money for …”. Also, when shopping, stick to your list as much as possible. Or send the one in your family that hates shopping. They will go in with the list and back without seeing anything else. (Unless you know that there is a clearance in electronics, then don’t send in your husband alone).
  6. AVOID NAME BRANDS: Don’t get the expensive stuff, health and beauty supplies especially, avoid the fancy brands. Consider a lower cost brand, generic for most. Learn to always buy generic medicines, and such. This will save you half. You don’t really need to go to “ULTA” to buy the items you find at Walmart for 30-50-% less. Basically, be smart. Do your research. DON’T be IMPULSIVE, And if you can’t help it, make sure it is more than 50% off and you NEED IT.
  7. Credit cards are FOR EMERGENCIES, especially if you are in DEBT. If you know you don’t have the money to pay it in full then don’t buy it. If you are expecting the money to be there the next month due to a bonus, an extra paycheck, a raise, or overtime, make sure that you have paid off your debts first before using it. It is ESSENTIAL NOT to RELY on your credit card for your everyday expenses. Unless your debts are paid and you are in a habit of paying it in FULL, MONTHLY; leave your credit card at home. You can call the credit card company and set a limit that you can afford until healthy habits develop. I started at a $250 limit while in college, than added $250 increments as time went on and FROZE it at $2000 (in case of emergency). That is to say, you DON’T spend your limit, is just there in case you need it. I usually use my credit card for: Christmas, vacations, emergencies, big items and work. (Mostly because I hate to carry my debit card or cash during those times). I make sure the MONEY is available to pay it in FULL on a monthly basis. I just refuse to give the company more of my money. So yeah, they don’t make any money from me. So if you are one of those that only pay your minimum amount, month after month, I’m sure you are their favorite customer…cause the moment you can’t, they will garner your wages and all that interest, you made them rich. Me? well, they won’t get rich from me because I don’t give them a chance. Which means: I get FREE service and they pay me to use their money. YAY!!!

So those are my sacrifices, and our new, hopefully temporary, budget. (Please note that numbers 6 & 7 ones are constant rules for our standard BUDGET)… did I mentioned that I haven’t gotten my haircut yet? Yeah… sacrifices. I will have to wait for Christmas for my perm, and do my own hair dyeing too. I think I’m going to have to use Todd’s hair grooming set to groom my dogs for the next 4 months… that alone will save me $200. That said, I better save for Black Friday as well… (Lucky for me, I do have points saved up).

I say all this to say, God has provided: our home, our food, our medical needs, our daughter’s college bill and more. So, we are trusting in God that all these sacrifices will be rewarded someday. I hope one of those rewards is going on a mission trip back to my Island of Puerto Rico. And when my minivan is no longer running, God will provide us another vehicle.

However, there is one area we will NEVER sacrifice or CUT DOWN ON: Tithes and Offerings. Since God has provided we return to HIM what he asks, what He needs to continue to reach people in our town, in our state, in our country and in our world. He does that through us. As HE has been faithful, we too MUST be FAITHFUL to HIM. So we give 10%, our tithe, and more for missions and special offerings, because we are GRATEFUL and we LOVE HIM.

I Give to GOD because HE has given all to me and continues to provide, daily. I have a new car, a van that runs well, I have no credit card debts, I have a home, yes even internet, food is on the table, our lives are not missing anything. And this crazy unique budget that I have to do… well, I would do it all over again if HE asks. I have FAITH that someday it might be easier and I can then tithe and give even more. Someday, I will be able to relax by the beach and enjoy my family…in the meantime I will dream as I watch a clip of a beach, true HULU (only $6.99 a month). And if I get desperate, there is always the lake nearby…


Uncategorized, Uniquely Mi Vida

A Bi-Vocational Dilema

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

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

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

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

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

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

abstract bright color dark..well..

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

What a unique dilemma.😁

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

Uniquely Mi Vida

Heartbeat of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

heartbeat of life at 16 weeks

Uniquely Mi Vida

Conquered by Love

As we traveled through towns on this special occasion, after Christmas, I couldn’t help but look back and remember all that Todd and I have gone through. It has now been 27 years of wedded bliss, yet not every moment has been blissful. Marriage has gone through ups and downs, but we have conquered every bump, obstacle and hurdle.

“Why? and How?”

Many years ago, on a warm tropical afternoon, We made a vow to the one who’s love had conquered our heart. We hence, made a promise to each other to LOVE always and through it, conquer all…  

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” —Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV)

Marriage is a solid, loyal and binding commitment. It goes beyond the desires of self to commit to the other person for life, regardless of the difficulties. This LOVE for each other is stronger than steel, and when bonded with the LOVE of God it makes it, well… unbreakable.

This is not to say that there are no problems. There are. The truth is that when you get to the core of any marital issues, you will find selfishness. This is the same problem we have in our relationship with God. The self seems to be more important, and when we allow selfishness to dominate the other, we have a problem.

God, in His infinite wisdom, has provided us with the means of a strong committed marriage. It begins with the scriptures and is strengthened by the constant renewal of our relationship with God. A strong bond with God will result in a strong bond in marriage. In other words, the more in-love with God you are, the more in-love you will be with your spouse.

celeste & joseph wedding
My daughter with my, then, new son-in-law.

There is a lot to be said about the “Great Commandment.” It is also a marriage rule: love God with everything, and you will love others as you love yourself. Loving God helps you love yourself and others, especially your spouse. Reading the Bible not only helps us understand who GOD is, but it allows us to see the heart of God. In return we reflect His heart to others… especially in our marriage. It puts us in our place, reminding us to let things go that are not important. It reminds us to be good stewards of what God has provided, to put the other first, to love and be faithful to our spouses as we are LOVING and FAITHFUL to God. It helps us to be selfless, forgiving and compassionate. The Bible is the first guide and counseling textbook. If you have a hard time relating to what it says to your life and relationship, then there is still another “help” God provides.

Pastors and others strong Christian leaders who reflect God’s Love in their everyday lives and marriages are the second means a strong marriage. They are there to help us understand the written marital guidance of the Bible. They are the first counselors we approach. With their help we can see what needs to happen to refocus the relationship on GOD, and then, on EACH OTHER. Praying and sharing within the safety of a pastoral counseling relationship is a great stress reliever and allows us to clear our mind to what is important.

The third means that God has provided for strong marriages is the professional marriage counselor. These can come in the form of therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists. For a Christian, seeking professional help is sometimes hard. We have to be willing to accept that we need help, and maybe even need to take medications to help deal with emotional or mental problems that one may, or may not, have been aware of before marriage. We have to be cautious in finding the right person. A good Christian professional will reinforce the values that you hold, and encourage the spiritual guidance of scripture, prayer and Christian fellowship as part of the counseling.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Our senior friends marriage

Keeping the bonds and commitment of marriage now-a-days is very difficult. Societal and cultural influences teach selfishness, individualism and quick escape from difficulties. There is a need to balance the needs of the self with the needs of others. When the “self” wants to be put first knowing that it will harm another loved one, true love is lost. This is a “red flag” that our love relationships are being destroyed. Our selfless heart should recognize it, and fight against such selfishness.

One thing that Todd and I learned over the years is to talk about and share all of our thoughts. When disagreements come we have to find a compromise that will work for both of us. If there is no way to truly compromise, then both have to evaluate the situation and resolve it on the side of causing the least harm to either person. This means there must be a willingness to let go of what we think is best for ourselves, in favor of what doesn’t hurt the other. There is much to be said about compromising, giving, and more, but it will have to wait for another time. One thing that we have learned to do often, and Todd shares when teaching, is the idea that marriage is a contest to see “who can outgive the other.” This is the idea of selflessness in practice. It is an idea that grows and strengthens the relationship with the selfless love of God, being mirrored in a selfless love in marriage.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA
Renewing our vow after 21 years

I was conquered by the love of Todd many years ago. And each year has been unique. Not all have been easy, but they have all had their own unique joys and challenges. Every year we have learned to grow closer even when difficulties pulled us apart… and we held on, with God at the center of it. He always pulled us back to each other. We learned to compromise, to give into the other, to outgive each other, to forgive each other, to enjoy each other in LOVE. We pray often to be the spouses God wants us to be for the other. And because we have willingly given our heart to the other, we let the other “have” what makes them happy without harming or hurting. We are committed, loyal, faithful and true to each other now more than ever.

So as the new year starts I encourage you to find those unique ways that you can outgive the other. Find unique ways to be selfless. Remember that if you began your marriage with GOD at the center, it should always be driven by HIM. Let the Love that conquered you and united you be strengthened by God’s conquering love. This conquering LOVE will make your marriage uniquely strong and happy. This is LOVE which can only be from GOD. It is what binds us together and enables us to conquer all.

Uniquely Deep, Uniquely Mi Vida

Captured by Joy

I smiled as the children sang in the cafeteria. A volunteer had come in to play the piano during the school’s lunch time. He wanted to bring a little Christmas joy to the kids. As I dropped off the children and helped them get their lunches, he started to play Frosty the Snowman, followed by We Wish You a Merry Christmas. The children started singing, and with every voice, others joined in. I smiled as I walked out… you could hear them all the way down the halls. What joy it is to hear the happy children! Those children had been captured by the joy of Christmas. I hope they didn’t forget to eat their lunches.

Photo by Murilo Folgosi on Pexels.com

If you find yourself singing along at the stores, or office, when the Christmas music is playing, you too have been captured by joy. If you find yourself singing or humming even without music, as you clean the house, drive, cook, shop or more, then you too have been captured by the joy of Christmas. It is hard not to be, unless you just can’t sing one note   😀

There is plenty around us to remind us what Christmas is about. We hear, see, and smell Christmas around us wherever we go. In Puerto Rico you even hear the joy of Christmas outside as you walk down the streets of the towns. Music is played loud and people just gather with their instruments and play their favorite songs. In the stores we are greeted with “Merry Christmas” not like in the USA where it has been mostly replaced with “Happy Holidays.” (Although, here in Texas people refuse to change it, and continue saying “Merry Christmas!” I’m sure there are others places like this too).

In the USA we still hear the songs of Christmas, different styles and different songs, but still it brings an atmosphere of joy and peace. A story in history tells us of the Christmas of 1914 during World War 1, when a truce occurred in the Western front. They too were captured by the Joy of Christmas and as the Christmas music played, soldiers celebrated and even spread joy with their enemies.

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

That is what Christmas does; it brings joy all throughout the world. It captures the hearts of all men (that is an inclusive statement, and yes it includes women and children).  It brings JOY to all, regardless of where you are. It encompasses cultures, languages, and age, regardless of how it is celebrated. It brings joy across the “trenches,” brings down walls, and yes, makes us vulnerable, yet strong. It causes us to see others as Jesus sees them. We extend a hand of friendship and spread the joy to others even to the least of them. Our world becomes different; it opens up dialogues, rebuilds friendships and mends broken hearts. (At least it should if you are truly celebrating the true Christmas). The JOY of Christmas is this powerful because CHRIST is in it.

This is why the Angels sang, “JOY TO THE WORLD, the LORD has COME.” Let your heart be captured by the coming of the LORD. Let JOY ring! And as your heart is captured by that joy, whether it be through song, cooking, baking, giving, playing games or just smiling, let it be uniquely You. So be captured by the uniqueness of the true JOY of Christmas: “CHRIST” who has COME!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! ******FELIZ NAVIDAD!

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 reindeer 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, 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.

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

 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

Uniquely Mi Vida

Corrupted by Anxiety

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uniquely Deep, Uniquely Mi Vida

Crippled by Pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uniquely 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