Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with “Failure”

Our biggest fear is “failure.” It seems such an ugly word, and many use it to bring us down. Or we simply bring ourselves down. We begin to spiral into the abyss of failure with no way to get out.

I once was  asked, many years ago, if I could ever fail… I thought about the question carefully, realizing that there was a hint of entrapment there. Unless she wanted to know how I failed to be on time most of the time, or “failed” to do the dishes that morning, nothing really came to mind. Surely that is not what she meant. Maybe she was wondering if I have been a failure?? The best I could think of was to see this as a spiritual teaching moment, and what I understood the word to mean within the realms of my Christian life. I responded, “As long as I do what God asks of me, and I follow His commandments I will not fail.” Well, that answer didn’t sit well with the person asking. Apparently her definition for “fail” was different. To me, it was what would cause me to be a failure within my calling and as a Christian. Frankly, I refuse to allow the fear of being one (a failure), to keep me from doing what I believe to be God’s will…. or else I would fail.

We are raised to avoid failure at all costs. In fact, if you are not encouraged to “NOT FAIL,” it is because you are told that you already have. Sadly, I have heard this from many teens, and even some adults. The expectations of parents give the person a nerve wracking stress, crippling them, sometimes for life… if they do not meet them.

Yet, we see failure as our own personal evil, something to avoid and fear. After all… it is the one thing that can stop us from moving forward in our education, jobs, relationships and even in marriage. And if we fail, we may  bring down others with us.

I have come to the conclusion that “fail” is seen and defined differently by many. When asked “how do you define failure?” I get different answers. Everyone defines it differently, and most likely it’s based on their experiences.

According to the Webster’s Dictionary, {https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fail} “fail” is defined in multiple ways as well:WP_20161003_20_10_12_Pro

  1. to lose strength 
  2. to fade or die away 
  3. to stop functioning normally 
  4. to fall short 
  5. to be or become absent or inadequate 
  6. to be unsuccessful 
  7. to be unsuccessful in achieving a passing grade 
  8. to become bankrupt or insolvent        

Based on these all of us have not only failed but will always fail at one thing or another. We would, by definition, be failures and so why even bother. With so many “failures” in our resume…. how are we going to survive this life? How are we going to come out ahead?

Jesus gives us a way out. He gives us the ability to overcome those failures and pulls us out of the human sense of “failure,” as defined by ourselves and society.  He changes this to focus on His expectations.

For Christians, being forgiven by Christ and living the Christian life, cannot fail, unless we fall short of God’s expectations for us. We no longer need to “conform to this world,” but “be transformed.”(Romans 12:2). God sees failure differently. Simply put, as a Christian, what “failure” is changes from the human perspective into the spiritual perspective. It then gives us HOPE that our LIFE is worth living, that we are not “failures.” We are simply humans that make mistakes and grow, learn, and become better.

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.”                                                                                        —2 Corinthians 13:4-7  (NIV)

Yes, I am aware that my definition, though very biblical, may be controversial in a society where everyone must consider themselves to have failed, or, according to some Christians, or they are not sufficiently humble. Truly, do you actually need to fail to learn? Can’t we learn from observation, and avoiding mistakes others have made? Do you have to go through the emotional whirlpool of embarrassment, depression and more, in order to learn? I truly believe that the person that is constantly learning to do better should not need to feel a failure, or have to have failed, to learn. It seems so negative in all senses of the word, and leaves behind the faith and hope of Christianity. This is human failure… before Christ.

According to the Bible we fail when we: (I have included some Bible verses, but there are many more.)

  1. Do not follow God’s commandments (Lev. 26:14-16, Numbers 32: 22-24, Deut. 8:11)
  2. Do not have faith (Luke 22:31-32, Mark 8:17-19,
  3. Do not see our own spiritual shortcomings before helping others. (Luke 6:41-43)
  4. Do not do it for God (Acts 5:38-39, Mark 10:29-31, Romans 15:1-3)
  5. Do not pray (1 Samuel 12:22-24)

IMG_0178It seems to me that “failure” is not about success, marriage, passing courses, or our health. Failure, biblically, is a spiritual matter. In fact, it leads to sin. In other words, when we do not live a life according to God’s will, we have failed. Yet, when we fail to abide by that, God’s grace provides us an out. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23)–in other words we have “failed” because we fall short.  He reaches out and raises us up, giving us hope once again, forgiving and reestablishing us so that we are not “failures” but growing, getting better. The Bible, therefore, sees failure or “to fail” differently from the secular view. The concept changes when Christ becomes our Savior.

As Christians, we must be held accountable to our faith, to the biblical standards of failure.  Does this mean that we cannot fail in the secular sense of the word? Of course not, we make many human mistakes, but we are not failures according to God. We just simply make mistakes. However, as Christians, the question is, “is it beneficial to us to see human failures as a thermometer of our heart?” NO, we should see the spiritual ones as a way to measure our heart and relationship with God. This will make us not only stronger but it will constantly change us to do better, be hopeful, and seek God more. Otherwise desperation, depression and the loss of self-worth will overcome us.

As unique as each of us are, our mistakes are all different. But they do not make us failures, especially if we strive to see it from God’s point of view. As I have challenged myself to see it from a different perspective, to define “fail” as God does, so I also challenge you. You will notice that you will continue to grow more, better, and stronger if you focus on following God’s will and Word in your life. And next time someone wants to point out your failures simply say, “I have made mistakes, but God isn’t finished with me yet. I will not fail if I learn to do better.” Because after all, you are uniquely you 🙂

Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with “Dreams”…

“I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come.”  –Jeremiah 29:11 (NIRV)

Over 20 plus years ago I stepped onto the grounds of Southern Nazarene University. Little did I know that during my years of study there my life would change, my experiences would shape me, events would break me and God would rebuild me.

I went in with the illusion and dream, as many high school grads have… that I knew what I wanted to be. I thought I knew what would become of me after my studies. I had my life planned out. I pretty much had my priorities all down. I had a car, and a job, and now I had a pathway to my future. I was in a great university, and so far, people liked me. Everything would be great. I would get a B.A.  in Religion with a Psychology Minor, maybe add on theater… I would find the most amazing, handsome and God-loving 6 foot tall “Superman” I could during that time. We would get married right after I graduate. W’d move to the mission field in some other country, have our children there, 4 of them, and live happily ever after.

Yeah…NOPE! That did not happen…

I did get my B.A. in Religion though, and did marry a shorter, but not so perfect version of “Superman.”  But that is all that went along with my plan. Within the grounds of the university I found passion in Mission Studies that replaced the minor in Psychology, and I even saw the opportunity to get a second minor in Spanish. I responded to those changes with glee… but then…

walking on old rails
Walking on old rails laid down in Thailand by the Japanese

I got derailed…

My life got derailed…

It wasn’t all for the bad… for God had other plans for me within the events of my life and maybe even as a response to the “tragic times” of them. Little did I know that God would create a pathway that would carry me in different directions.

Between my junior year and senior year I lost my Mother to cancer. I was more than heart broken. I was lost and walked through a tunnel for months. My studies had already suffered as she had been in the hospital during my sophomore year, and this was worse than that. I thought to myself, as my 4th year began, why should I continue them now? I can’t even focus! I had amazing professors and a fiancee who believed in me and helped me get through that year. I got married during the final year, right after Christmas. And we began a life completely off my plans. We entered the pastoral ministry in the USA. “Surely this is temporary…” I thought to myself…

Yeah… NOPE…. it wasn’t

So my plan, that I had envisioned, that I had laid out, didn’t go well. I was now more derailed than ever…

I was wrong. I was so wrong. God had taken aspects of me and re-molded me to do far more than I thought I could. He taught me to find a new “plan” regardless of the different pathways our life took us through. God worked within our derailment and placed us in different rails that would still work within His Plan. And the more control of our lives we gave God, the more interesting, exciting and new pathways He would provide. It became God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” for us.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”   —Romans 12:2 (NIV)

In the process of it all I wound up working in my mission field here in the USA. Not what I planned or dreamed of, but it was God’s plan and dream ultimately. He opened the doors when others closed some, and kept us moving us forward through life. Through experiences that where great, to the painful ones, God kept rebuilding, strengthening us and placing new rails towards new destinations that we never thought of.

We have ministered in the middle of nowhere, to small towns, small cities, large cities. inner-city areas, multi-cultural areas and more.  I have learned the differences within the American/White culture as much as I have learned the differences within the minority cultures. I have experience a life that was not even, remotely, close to my dreams.

As I look back at that excited, perfectly planned, determined and dreamy girl… I can only smile and see still all those characteristics even today.

New things still excite me, I still plan, this time knowing that it will change. I am still determined, and I still dream. The difference is that I rely on God more than ever to create my pathway, to set my rails down according to His will. Then I get on His path and pray that there is no derailing. And even if there is, God will place us back on track.

Life goes on… as God creates unique pathways in our lives that may not be what we expect but we ride with willingly.  For we have accepted that our lives may not be “happy ever after” but it will be unique and full of JOY, LOVE, GRACE and more. For we ride on the rail of Life that God has placed before us, regardless how odd, difficult or painful some of these stopping grounds will be. In exchange you never know how often an amazing and unique that journey will be as you ride on the rails of God’s will.

So, sit back an enjoy the ride. Let God lay your rails down for they will be unique just for you. Let go of your plans and let God be in control. You will be amazed at the unique journey you take when you are in His will.

We were also chosen to belong to him. God decided to choose us long ago in keeping with his plan. He works out everything to fit his plan and purpose.  We were the first to put our hope in Christ. We were chosen to bring praise to his glory.” –Ephesians 1:11-12 (NIRV)

Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with Summers

“‘Cause a little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.” — John Mayer

As a mother of three, the ending of the summer months has been a cause for celebration. Yes, we parents celebrate! We celebrate the ending of cleaning constantly after children. Reminding them to wipe their dirty feet before coming in. Making daily lunches or making arrangements for their care while we work. We may even miss the homework nights… “who said that?”… I did. It kept them busy, plus we had a chance to see what they were learning. Yes, the summer sometimes threw a wrench in our plans, and required us to rearrange them. It would sometimes cause chaos at home if the kids were not kept busy. Truly, summer gave us more work to do than we cared to do.

Yet, we loved the summer months! We got a chance to enjoy being with the kids more. We used summer as an excuse to get more time off, with the illusions of VACATIONS! We would travel, enjoy the USA, it’s history, geology and people. This is the time when we formed many memories that we like to look back at and laugh. It is when the kids were creative….very creative… very, very creative which brought laughter or frustration. It is the time to be yourself without the influences of those at school. It is a time to go and investigate, play in the sun, or in the water, or dirt… Summer gave us time to enjoy a bit of freedom.

So summers can be a bitter-sweet time of the year.

And now is over…

Well, now my summer was not the same as it has been in the past. The kids are all grown up…. seperated by their own responsibilities. It was quiet at home this summer. It lacked the cheerful stories of “Guess what Mom…” and the yelling of “She started it…” and the creativeness of “look what I made…” No groups of kids gathering in my livingroom to play the Xbox causing loud cheers to rumble through my walls. No, this year, each of the girls had there own thing. I didn’t even get to see my youngest more than for 2 1/2 weeks. My oldest never got a chance to visit us with her husband, and my middle child…. well she was here physically (LOL) but was constantly taken away by the internet, her online job and relationships. Yes, this summer was unlike any other… it was just odd…and severely quiet..

Yes, the problem with summers is that they are too long, too short, and not enough of them.

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 8:15

I thank God that we enjoyed everyone of them with their quirks and all. The memories that were created, and the ones we may never want to revisit…ha ha ha…Those loud crazy moments are the ones I cherish the most. From the first touch of ocean my girls felt, to their first camping out, to their first trip on the plane to even the first bug (or boy) they brought home… to their first video game audience… every moment was a wonder… no matter the hard work and headaches.

So I enjoyed life… as unique as it was. Looking forward to the years and the differences they bring…  learning to enjoy the past life more, as the future life shrinks.  Enjoying the unique memories that this change of summer’s seasons began. To expect the laughter once again someday with future grandkids (who knows when that will be)… Meanwhile I will enjoy the silence and maybe even take advantage to read more, play games myself and vist places with my husband. Hanging around with my sister, dad or brother… I think… (Hopefully not often). I look forward to new unique summers to come, creating new and unique memories. Being thankful that I’m not hosting a gang of kids… because now I have the Xbox to myself! (At least until the girls show up again or my nephew is old enough).

Uniquely Deep, Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem w/ “MY” birthday

 

May birthdays
My family celebrates 5 birthdays (one not present) and one college graduation in May…so why can’t I?

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well.” –unknown

“Did you you know that I just turned the age my mother was in her last year of life? And Erica is the age that I was when she passed away?” I asked my husband thoughtfully as we drove back to our Texan home on my birthday through the highways of Oklahoma.

“It just makes me think…” I half said and thought to myself.

What I didn’t tell him is that for the past 5 days I was living in a quiet fear of the “what if’s”: “Did she know it would be her last year?” “What if this is my last year?” “What if my daughters go through what I went through?”  “What if my mother woud have lived longer?”….and so it went. I had to tell myself over and over again, “I have to get through this year.” And when that wasn’t helping because the fear of death kept creeping in with it’s ugly head… I prayed… and prayed and begged… (To get rid off those negative thoughts)

It had been an emotional 5 days…  I kept avoiding thinking about these things, a birthday that I regret even having. Yes, fears got the best of me often, no matter how often I pushed back. Until I realized… I was going about it the wrong way. I was letting fears conquer me. I was letting the “what if’s” depress me. I was letting the event of losing my mother overwhelm my possible future.  And I was letting the lack of joyful celebration ruin my special day. I was not looking at it from God’s perspective nor through His loving purpose for me.

It is then that I realized the amazing Godly life of loving service my mother displayed and lived during her last year of life. It is then I was reminded of my favorite Bible verse that she lived out so well: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Phillipians 1:21

 

 

My Mother lived the life that the apostle Paul talked about in Phillipians chapter 1. More specificcally in verses 19-26: for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith,  so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.” (NIV)

As I went through my memories I realized Mother was celebrating her life, even after knowing it wouldn’t be long. She spent her last 11 months sharing the love of God, challenging her lost friends and families to find peace, joy and true forgiveness (and love) in Chrsit Jesus. She spent her time singing, enjoying life, even a trip to Tikal with her family, (even though it was to be her last, but I think she knew it). She lived her life for Chirst and for the sake of others. She lived a life worthy of her call, to the fullest of God.

Raqui's 48th bday

I realized then, this is the life I want to continue to live and live it to the fullest, even if I too only had one year to live. Though I have a strong feeling God is granting me many more.

As we drove closer to home…it hit me. I shouldn’t be afraid. It was unfounded fears that kept me from trully enjoying this day. It is a gift from God. It is meant to be lived as He lived for me.

So, as I accept my birthday and my age, I decide to commit my life more deeply to living it for Christ. Sharing the Gospel. Loving others as God loves me. Helping those who need Christ find Him. Striving more and more to be Christlike and last but not least enjoying life, my family, friends and more. Because my life is a gift regardless for how long it has been gifted. This is the legacy I want to leave, as my mother did. I pray and hope that through my being on this earth, with my family, friends and church, I live a life of joy, faith and godly love, in all the while helping others do the same. For there is so much to do, to give, to share, to love in this world and until the time comes, I will remain here living for Christ.

Therefore, I thank God for another year of life. I thank him for creating me so unique. I thank Him for calling me to serve. cakeface“May my life, Lord,  be your reflection…may it be worthy of my call and the gift of life you have given me.” So I will celebrate! I will celebrate this unique life and I will live it uniquely for Christ.

 “So that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, ” – Colossians 1:10

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 Inspirational

Out of the Darkness

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

I have worked with young people for over 25 years.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20180620_194057

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

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

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

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

 

Uniquely Inspirational

Be a Servant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Group of Disaster Relief
Our Disaster Group to Arecibo, Puerto Rico. GRACIAS POR TODO SU GRAN TRABAJO!
Uniquely Mi Vida

The Eye of the Storm

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

I hate leaving the Island.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              –Mark 4:37-39 (NIRV)

Ryan Stevenson – “Eye of the Storm”

Uniquely Inspirational

Being a Mom

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

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

 

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

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

sisters

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

IMG_0303

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

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

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

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

 

Uniquely Inspirational

Be a Column

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

columns in old church

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

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

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

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

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