Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Loving Foolishly



1.7 points, that’s what separated my one student from a D as his final grade in the course I was teaching this summer. This was the last class he needed to complete in order to graduate. Students pass the class with a D. After seeing the F in my online gradebook, he sent me an e-mail pleading for mercy…

This scenario is a common one. In 14 years as a college professor I have encountered it way too many times. 99% of the time, the F sticks.

This time, however, something I heard on Sunday’s sermon caused me to pause before I replied.

The pastor was talking about Joseph, Jacob’s beloved son, and the many trials he faced before he became number 2 in command in Egypt. I’ve always loved Joseph’s story, with its many twists and turns. I didn’t see this twist coming, though. Our pastor skillfully helped us to decipher the mystery of God’s love intertwined all throughout the Biblical narrative until we couldn’t help but sit in silence and contemplation. It was a simple message, nothing highly theological, but highly effective. I cannot duplicate his words, but those which stuck in my soul sounded something like this, God’s love is so abundant that it frees us to throw caution to the wind, take risks and love foolishly.

The last two words kept bouncing back and forth in my head, and it wasn’t until I was honest with myself that I realized why they continued their persisting tugging at my heart. The combination of words was particularly convicting to me because it hit me right in the middle of my selfishness and pride.

“What does he mean, love foolishly?”

“There’s no way we can love so unguardedly! We’ll be taken advantaged of!”

“I don’t want anybody taking advantage of me for being foolish. I don’t want to be the laughingstock!”

Hmm…

Yep, the words bothered me because, more often than not, my pride gets in the way of my love.

Sigh…

I don’t want people to think I am a fool. I want to be smart and witty and street savvy. I don’t want people thinking I am naïve. No, not me! 

I’m so worried about what other people may or may not think of me that I forget to care about what God may think. I’m so concerned about being bright and right, and proud of my perceived self-sufficiency that I forget the source of all my success.

I forget that I am nothing without Him and that whatever much or little I have; He has given to me to do His work and bless His beloved.

I forget that God is way more than enough, and that no matter how much we seem to lose, we never really face true loss because in Him, we always enjoy overflowing abundance. 

I forget that love is the mark of His children and compassion is their native language.

Before I replied to my student, I went back to my electronic gradebook and reviewed his individual grades. As I scrolled down the different assignments, I saw a few zeroes in some of the graded homework, but I also remembered that he would participate in class every time there was a chance. Needless to say, the thoughts about loving foolishly kept coming back to my mind as my laptop’s screen was glowing bluish light on my face. 

1.7 points separated me from loving foolishly. The price would be my pride. 

I cannot be sure what my student would do with his degree. I don’t know if he would turn out to be a good, productive citizen and child of God. I don’t know if he went back to his buddies and laughed at me and how foolish I was for falling for his pleading words. I have no control over what he does with the gift of 1.7 points. I am not responsible for his actions afterwards. I am only responsible for my own. I am only responsible for my choice to obey my pride or to take a first step toward loving foolishly.

I am not saying that I will now give points away to all my students who request them. All I’m saying is that I am going to try to not let my pride get in my way to love.


And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9: 8


linking with What Joy is Mine and Titus 2sdays

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Financial Thursday



Well, not really…the blog has not turned into a financial magazine or anything like that, although if it was my husband’s blog…it would be a different story. Dan is the financial guru of our family.

At any rate, it's just that I woke up today thinking about financial issues, and it is Thursday, hence the title.

Proverbs 22: 7b was in my mind,

...the borrower is slave to the lender.

And he is, indeed. The lender has much power over the one who borrows. The lender has the power to put shackles in the wrists and ankles of the borrower. The lender has the power to persecute those who owe him money, and to throw the dogs after them, sending the borrower into a frantic chase for his freedom…for his life. There is no peace for the borrower who finds himself in this situation, only frustration and a deep sense of defeat that brings him to his knees.

He becomes a slave.

The borrower becomes a slave to the monthly bills, to the installments, to the mortgages for that is the only way to keep himself above water. If money begins to run out when the payment comes due, he experiences lack of sleep, loss of appetite, fatigue, anger, panic, aloofness, depression and an all-encompassing stress-ridden-existence. When things get to a boiling point, the borrower becomes one-track-minded. The only thing he wants is to be free. In order to be free, he could choose a couple of roads. He could flee or he could intensify his efforts to get from under the press that crushes him.

If he flees, he will never be truly free. The consequences of being a fugitive follow him until he gives himself up. Intensifying his efforts to pay his debt implies tremendous sacrifice, often, a change of lifestyle, significantly downsizing, a personal acquaintance with frugality and enlisting the help of those who love and care for him…mainly, enlisting the help of God.

I don’t want to be a slave to anything, let alone a lender. My husband works very diligently in organizing our finances and keeping us on budget so we don’t have to. He has truly set us into the path to financial freedom for the last few years, and for that I am most grateful. I could not have done it on my own. I am a free-spirit-girl who loves to shop! But as a free-spirit, I also value my freedom greatly. That’s why I am on board with the constraints a budget puts on a care-free lifestyle.

I have learned to sacrifice most of my wants. I have learned to delay my gratification as much as I ever thought possible. I have learned the power of saving and investing. I have enjoyed the peace that comes from not abusing the credit card. I praise God for guiding us on the road to freedom from the tyranny of the paycheck to paycheck life. But I have also learned that the other extreme is just as bad.

We can easily become enslaved on the other side as well.

We can become slaves to our savings accounts. We can become crushed under the press of the volatility of our investments. We can be ridden with stress in our intensity to cancel all debt.

If we are not careful and discerning, we may place our trust in our perceived financial security and fall asleep over a faulty safety net. It only takes one second for it to be all gone. It only takes one misguided and ill-intended push of a button, and boom! Identity theft, cyber break-ins, Market crashes, world-wide economic collapses, viruses, worms…done…all gone…

What are we to do then?

I don't know about you, but I seek to stand on the Solid Rock. 

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Psalm 62: 1-2

Only standing on Him, my Solid Rock I will not be moved. I won’t move because He is unmovable. Let the waters rise. Let the storms come. Let the fire burn. Let the mountains quake. I shall not be moved. My anchor holds because it grips the solid rock!

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6: 24

One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. Proverbs 11: 24

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 1 John 2: 15

As it is often the case, the key is to strike a balance. A couple of things in this verse from Acts spoke to me,

You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' " Acts 20: 34-35

Paul was a big advocate for working hard and not being a burden. He made sure those he served were aware that he was not there to exploit them financially as the false preachers were in the habit of doing. He rolled up his sleeves everywhere he went and worked for his sustenance. 

By the same token, however, he was always mindful of the weak. And that’s how he created the recipe for a balanced financial security:

-when able, work hard and don’t be a burden to others 

-don’t extort others for money

-always help the weak. GIVE!

May Love and Compassion guide our path as we navigate our financial future so 1 Corinthians 4:1 may be fulfilled in us: This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

Linking with:  Hope in Every Season

Monday, July 21, 2014

Thoughts on Blogging



I began writing this blog in the summer of 2011. It has been a great experience for me because I have always loved writing and I never thought I could actually do it to any degree of proficiency. Adding to my feeling of inadequacy, I have the added burden of not being a native speaker of English. I grew up speaking Spanish. I didn’t learn English until I was in my early twenties. But I can say, without a doubt that the English language “got me at hello.”

From my first sentences I became infatuated with this highly specific and marvelously precise language. I could go on and on singing my praises to the English language, but I won’t, because as I have been told by my kids, that is way too boring?!

The thing is that I am fascinated by language in general, and by this new-found love for blogging. However, I don’t want to be consumed by it. You know what I mean? I don’t want this activity, hobby, passion, ministry, outlet, venue or whatever you may want to call it, take my eyes away from my compass. As it is the case with anything and everything in life, sometimes I just need to pause and adjust my focus, or in GPS lingo, “recalibrate.”

Blogging is an incredibly exhilarating process that allows one to share thoughts with the world, but it can also bring some uninvited frustration and anxiety that could potentially take away the fun of it.

As a Christian Mommy Blogger who wants nothing else than to dwell in Him and meditate on His precepts, blogging has become an invaluable tool for my own personal growth. 

I also see, looking at my life lately, how blogging has gone from a thing I do in my spare time to something more…like a calling, a ministry. 

As a work-outside-the home-Mom and wife, adding a time-consuming ministry to my life can cause certain lack of balance. Therefore, before things get out of hand and the situation becomes something far removed from what it was intended to be, I decided to identify some warning signs that would signal when I am walking on unwanted territory. As a compulsive list maker, I have compiled a list of 10 warning signs that may mean a blogger needs to take a break. This list was written with Mommy Christian Bloggers in mind.  I believe that it can actually, however, perhaps even be useful not just to bloggers but to anyone in any field or situation. At least, I would like to think so. At any rate, I believe the items are self-explanatory, so I will save you a long read and just list them by heading.

Warning Sign #1: you look at your six year old one morning and discover that he can reach the medicine cabinet without a stool. 

Warning Sign #2: your husband tweets you household questions from the seat next to you.

Warning Sign #3: you don’t have any of your “real-life-friends” following you on your social media sites.

Warning Sign #4: your idea of a home-made dinner is serving drive-through on your regular plates. 

Warning Sigh #5: your 6 year old asks your 10 year old for breakfast and lunch instead of you.

Warning Sign #6: the day you finish putting away your laundry, your husband asks you if you went shopping.

Warning Sign #7: you didn’t hear most of the sermon on Sunday because you were using your smart phone during church NOT entirely only for your Bible app.

Warning Sign#8: you can’t remember the last time you went out on a date with your husband.

Warning Sign #9: you can’t remember the last time you spend real, face to face time with your good friends.

Warning Sign #10: you can’t remember where you left your glasses as they are sitting pretty on top of your head.

I know, I might be pushing it here, but there is truth on the fact that many bloggers feel overwhelmed with all that is involved in this industry, particularly if one wants to really make an impact. As a Christian blogger, I want to be heard because I believe my message is His message. I began this blog as a fun way to share my meditations on Scripture with whoever might happen to stop by my site and read. I truly believe that this is the work of the Holy Spirit and that He guides my steps as I become more and more immersed into this ministry. It is my ministry and I feel called to it. I find immense fulfillment doing this and I praise God that technology is such that even someone like me can have a blog. 

Frustration and anxiety arise, however, when I lose focus and take my eyes off the goal. Frustration and anxiety appear when I forget it is not about me. It is not even about the readers. It is all about Him who called me to do His work for His glory, not mine.

As a Christian blogger I need to strike the right balance. It is true that the more time one spends researching and promoting and working to attract followers, the more successful your blog will be. The important thing for me right now is, however, to define success. Am I going to define success by the amount of page-views my blog gets? Or Am I going to define success by how far the Lord takes this humble ministry by the power of His Hand?

In my mad-rush to make my work relevant, I don’t want to forget that this is really not “my” work. It is His work. In doing so, whatever it is my part, my role to play in His plan, I must do it

…with all “my” heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since “I” know that “I” will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ “I am” serving. Colossians 3: 23-24

It is His work, not mine. Therefore, it is He who will see it to completion, because,

…He who began a good work in “me” will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1: 6

In the meantime,

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 
1 Corinthians 10: 31

Let me know what you think. Did this speak to you at all in any way? Let’s figure it out together! Let’s help each other keep our eyes on Him!

Linking with Rosilind Jukic.com and Whole Hearted Home

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Enjoy the Ride!

I believe I’ve declared it before, but here it goes again: I. LOVE. SUMMER!

I just can’t get enough of it. Since the last one was a rather challenging one for me, dealing with thyroid cancer and all, this one I decided I was going to enjoy as much as possible. So I went ahead and got myself a PRETTY cool bike! A bicycle, that is, not a motorcycle. Although, that would have been SUPER COOL! WAY cooler than I can handle. So I had to settle for one of those you pedal. 

At any rate, I ordered it online, since I don’t have a way to carry it in my car. The only problem with that was that it sat in my garage inside its box for longer than I had wanted…I am NOT complaining! Anyway, Dan did manage to put it together after he cleared out some time and the “missing” screw got shipped. (The quotation marks are because the screw wasn’t actually “missing,” but that’s another story…again, I AM NOT COMPLAINING HERE! : )

It was worth the wait, I tell you! The bike is perfect for me. It fits me just right. It is VERY comfy and it has gotten my sons outside to ride their own bikes, which is a HUGE win. 

The thing is that this bike has reminded me how much I used to love riding. As a little girl, I used to dream about just getting on my bicycle and riding around the neighborhood. It stayed a dream most of the time, however, since my parents didn’t allow me to do that very often. They were always very protective and nervous about me getting hurt…like I was clumsy, or something??!! : )

That’s why I didn’t have very many chances to experience the joy of riding freely, but when I did, I soaked it up completely, for it was so precious to me. There was nothing like it! Those were the days of helmet-free riding, so I absolutely took it all in, from feeling the breeze caressing my face, and my hair running wildly with the wind to the sights and views speeding pass my eyes. I even enjoyed the occasional scrapped knee which I had to carefully hide from my parents not to cause a commotion. 

Today, I praise the Lord for I finally got me a bike that I can ride to my heart’s content! But there is something else I praise Him for, and it is the ability to get out there, outside, and see! I give Him thanks for allowing me to have an un-obstructed view of the wonders that He has created for us to enjoy.

I praise Him for summer! I praise Him for my cool bike. I praise Him for good health to ride it. And I even praise Him for the sore muscles that remind me that I’m still alive!



...where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,

and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the wilderness overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.  Psalm 65: 8b-13

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Seek Him First



After thinking about it for a while, I find extraordinary comfort in knowing that, as children of the Most High, our primary calling is to be His, to love Him and to glorify Him with all we’ve got. There is something liberating about that. I don’t have to be all bent out of shape thinking I don’t have a purpose in life, for my purpose is as high as it gets: to be a daughter of the King of Kings! How glorious is that!

It is in fulfilling this chief purpose, where God meets us and discloses the collection of tasks that constitute our secondary calling(s). He will unfold the good works He has lined up for us as our lives move along the path that we walk to meet Our Lord. 

If we are confused as to what the specific good works God has particularly set aside for us are, perhaps it would help if we take it one step at a time. In taking the first step, He will be Faithful and guide any subsequent ones until the web of our mysterious calling is all untangled in front of our disbelieving eyes. 

What is that first step, though?

To seek Him first…to follow Him.

Matthew 10:38-42 "And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. "And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward."

Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

Matthew 6: 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

As we read in Jesus’ words above, we are to pick up our cross, die to ourselves, and, do what? …Follow Him…seek after Him, and then He will take care of the rest.

As we intentionally walk closer and closer to Christ, He will reveal the good works we need to do for His glory and the benefit of His beloved. When we follow Him, we begin to do, whatever we do, as if unto Him. (Colossians 3: 23) We do it always remembering to keep in the habit of meeting together with the body of believers. (Hebrews 10: 25) For it is there, at the place where we are surrounded by our brothers and sisters in Christ, that our ministry will develop and we’ll be able to tend His sheep. (John 21: 17) All these, always with Scripture written in our hearts as we consume a daily, generous portion of it in order to be more and more equipped. That’s when the revelation comes and we understand, and accept that…

Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

And all of these, accomplished by and through and for Love, which is God Himself…for if we don’t have Love…if we don’t have God…we are bankrupt. (1 Corinthians 13)

Every good work derives from Him and from love. That is the divine circle that makes it possible to fulfill the greatest command, to love Him above all and love others as ourselves. (Matthew 22: 37, Mark 12: 30, Luke 10: 27)

Therefore, let’s not be troubled by the thought that we don’t have a clear purpose in life. If you are a child of God, your main, chief, primary end is to be a child of God, to love Him above all things/people, to seek Him, to follow Him, to give Him all glory. That’s all we have to worry about. The rest, He will take care of. He will shape us and equip us to be His Kingdom workers as He unfolds His plan for us along the way to meet Him. As His heirs, He will show us the trade.

Colossians 1:9-12 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 


"I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15: 5

Let's Not Forget...



Continuing with the thoughts on ministry, callings, purpose and how fussy discerning our calling may be, we encounter brothers and sisters in Christ who, on the other hand, do have a very clear idea and vision of what their mission is.  They are blessed with a sharp focus for the moment and they do what they must in order to get where they need to be.  While many of us are still trying to comprehend and accept the fact that we were created to love Him and glorify Him as our chief purpose in life, they are already there and back!

Often, however, we may all come to a point on the road where we forget or get a bit confused about the truth that our calling comes from Him and belongs to Him. He gives it to us, but it is still His. It is ours to receive and to follow, not to manipulate.

Sometimes, our passion for one specific ministry is so profound that it hurts. Figuratively and literally. We love it so much and we are so dedicated to it, that we don’t realize it when the Lord may be calling us to let it go. 

We are so connected to a calling that was given to us for a season that we don’t see that the season may have ended. We become deaf to His voice calling us somewhere else. We ignore the hints. We justify the bruises on our body as something that comes with the territory of serving the Lord in hardship, and don’t see that they really are caused by bumping on the big road signs warning us to detour, and tripping over the bright orange barrels placed on our road so we don’t drive into the ditch.

It is hard to accept that the Lord may be switching gears on us, and taking us away from the good work He once led us to, and taught us to love with a depth not easily achieved otherwise. But it happens. It especially happens if our ministry is reaching the danger zone of becoming the object of our undivided love, slowly pushing Him out of His righteous seat.

As difficult as it may be, we ought to be willing to let go of it all. But, are we?

Are we willing to pass the torch to someone else as soon as we discover He is calling us somewhere different?

Are we willing to work so hard in the organizing, establishing, founding, funding, and polishing of our ministry to then give the reigns of it to someone else?

Are we willing to fulfill our calling while still listening to His whispering?

Are we willing to say yes to Him even when that yes means no to something we love?

For many of us this may not even be a concern right now...but for those of us that it is, let's think about it for a while, always keeping in mind that He gives and He takes away…but we must always choose to say, “Blessed be His Name!” (Job 1: 21)

Eyes Wide Open!



May we not miss a thing!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My Purpose??



That our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1: 11-12

A calling…from God…

Hmm…

The Merriam Webster online dictionary states that a calling is, among other things, “a strong inner impulse toward a particular course of action especially when accompanied by conviction of divine influence.”

A.Strong.Inner.Impulse.Toward.A.Particular.Course.Of.Action…

The definition suggests that this strong desire comes from inside. It is not ordained by other people or circumstances, like a job or a profession. It is an urgency that originates in our soul. For the child of God, it’s the nudging of the Holy Spirit that moves us toward certain direction, action, activity or task. As the Scripture above states, it is from God and He is the One who makes us worthy of it.

That’s great…but…

Does that mean I have a God-appointed calling?

And if so, how do I recognize it?

The Bible study on 1 and 2 Thessalonians that I am currently doing puts it this way:

“Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?” yes _____ no______

“If your answer is yes, then child of God, you have a ministry, a calling.”

I guess that takes care of the first of my two questions above. If Jesus is my personal Savior, I have a calling that was given to me since before I was formed in my Mother’s womb. (Psalm 139: 13) We need not to wonder. Every child of God has been set apart for a purpose. 

Now, how do I figure out what that purpose is?

I have a feeling we may find some clues in Scripture. Let’s see…

Deuteronomy 14: 2, “for you are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession.”

Luke 10: 27, He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

1 John 4:8,  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 

Hmmm…

In summary, we see here that God chose us to be His very own “treasured possession.” We are the apple of His eye. (Deut. 32: 10) Then we learn that Jesus strongly confirms the mandate to Love God with all we’ve got as our number one task. Therefore, it is valid to say that our chief purpose is to be His and to love Him. Paraphrasing what The Westminster Shorter Catechism states, the chief end of the children of God is to glorify God, and to rejoice in Him forever! 

So…

Do I have a God-appointed calling? 

You betcha! And so do you, child of God!

Our main and most important God-ordained track, purpose, calling, ministry is to be His child and to love Him above all…to glorify Him and to enjoy Him for eternity. And the only way to love Him is to know Him, for He, Himself is Love. Without Him, there is no possibility of love. That is our course of action, to bring God glory as we walk hand in hand with Jesus alongside this valley of tears. And the fuel that ignites our strong inner impulse toward this goal is Love, which is God Himself. What an incredibly divine riddle!

Today, let us digest this truth.  Tomorrow we will continue to explore the ramifications of this discovery and we’ll reflect on where loving Him, and glorifying Him may take us next.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit--fruit that will last--and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15: 16

Monday, July 14, 2014

Windows



I. LOVE. SUMMER!

I don’t know how else to say it. I love it. Summer is the season of the year when I feel free. I feel most alive. I feel like I can really breathe (even though I have allergies : )

I am truly enjoying this summer, our first full one in our new house. I especially like it here because our new house has tons of windows. So, on sunny days, I love opening them all up to let the soft breeze come in from every angle and pretend I’m at the beach. It feels glorious! (Yep, I don’t do A/C unless it is unbearable…and that for me is just a few days in the entire summer only).

Even on rainy days, I crack open my windows to then cuddle up in my favorite chair to read or in bed to take a nap while listening to the sound of rain falling outside…ahhh…

I am very happy here in this home the Lord has provided for us…however, there are some things I dearly miss from our summers at our dear, old house. Among them, I miss the generosity of our neighbor who allowed us to use her pool anytime we wanted to. I miss the lilies I planted with my very own two, bare hands. And I miss my kitchen window. 

When we first moved to that house, that window didn’t open. It took us a couple of years to be able to save up enough money to change all the windows, but the day it happened, it was a true gift. That window quickly became my favorite feature in the house. It sat right above the kitchen sink, so I spent lots of time hanging out by it. That window symbolized my connection to the outside world, my doorway to freedom! It was the portal through which every year the advent of summer made itself evident and clear to my soul.

I miss the very special moment when after a cruel and long winter and a rainy spring, I got to finally slide that window open to let the summer air come in! Freedom!

I miss the sights, sounds and smells that came in through that window. I miss watching my older son Grant enjoying his tree swing in the back yard. I miss seeing Dylan jumping in the trampoline. I miss seeing Dan mowing the lawn. I miss seeing the birds flying in and out of the little bird house. I miss standing by it to soak in the gentle breeze that brought in the fragrant aroma of the flowers right outside. I miss seeing the clothes hanging on the line to dry…there is something about watching sheets and towels dancing in the wind in a summer afternoon…and there is something about the smell of sun-dried linens that no fancy detergent, softener or drier sheets can ever replicate….

That kitchen window represented a direct line of communication between me and my Lord, also. Many prayers were whispered as I stood by that open window. Tears and laughter it witnessed too. Frustration, worry and fear as well as unimaginable joy and delight all were experienced as I leaned against the sink and looked out my little window.

Now that I’m not living at that house anymore, the memories of my summer days there come back to me with a melancholic pinch…

The good news is that I have found another window in my new house. This one has the potential of becoming an important hang-out as well. However, since it is not above the kitchen sink, I don’t get to spend nearly as much time by it as I did by my old friend at our previous home…but it is warming up to be special in its own way. I don’t know what’s going to happen to our old house, but whoever ends up calling it their forever home, I pray may find as much joy as I did, standing by that little window above the kitchen sink.

In the meantime, I will continue to treasure these summer days with my windows wide open, as an invitation for it to come in and stay.

Linking with:  What Joy is Mine

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Unwind




The day my dearest friend Indira left after a wonderful and healing visit a few months ago, she left me a precious card topped with a stone that says “Unwind.” I love that stone. I love looking at it, holding it in my hands, admiring its beautiful shade of green and meditating on the meaning of the word it has engraved on.

Unwind…

According to the dictionary, to unwind may mean to free from or as if from a binding or wrapping, to uncoil, to release from tension, relax…

Yes, yes, yes…check, check, check, I surely need all of that!

How glorious the day we are free from all our bindings! Blessed be the day we uncoil from our tight winding. Praise His Name for the unfolding of His Mercies that causes us to find peace, to be released from our tensions and finally relax…

Sigh the deep sigh of relief at the sound of His voice calling you by your name, telling you, “come.”

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 
Matthew 11: 28

Precious, divinely provided rest, the kind of rest that allows the weary to find peace like a river in the desert of this world, to refresh the soul and infuse new life…that is the rest that only Jesus can provide.

Like the calming green of my stone that reminds me to unwind, green are the pastures He leads me to so I can be released from my burdens and finally find rest.

As this world tries as hard as possible to bring us down and make us believe that it is all a lost cause, let us hang on to His promises of freedom and put our trust in Him who Redeems us. 

May we all hear His voice and follow His lead as He tells us, 

The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22: 17

I will treasure my friend’s gift as a beautiful reminder of Jesus’ gift…His command and promise given to us through Paul,

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

How Do I Know I Love Jesus?


How do I really know I love Him?
This question was prompted into my soul the other day after finishing my Bible study lesson. The lesson encouraged us to serve others in love, to be ourselves in service the way we are when we are bursting with love for Christ.

I found it a profoundly complicated revelation. That is why it evoked such a sobering question. 

Humans are sensory creatures. God equipped us with five senses…or six, I’ll let you decide : ) When I think about how to discover my own love for Christ, I cannot help to associate love with my senses. Even though I cannot see Him or touch Him with my human eyes or hands in the material realm, when I think of my love for Him, I have to put it in material terms so I can perceive it through my being. 

That is why one of my most memorable and sensory experiences of God’s love for me was a few months ago at our Church’s Women’s Retreat. We did a study called Café Chocolat, and it was a delight for the senses. It truly was 24 hours of experiencing God’s love through the smell, the taste, the touch, the sight and even the sound of chocolate! I can honestly say that at that retreat I was able to taste Grace, and it tasted just like Hershey Kisses… (if you have an opportunity to do this study, “Café Chocolat,” please take it and do it. You will love it…unless, of course, you have an aversion to chocolate : )

The point is that when the question, “how do I know I love Jesus?” popped into my mind, in order to discover my answer, it helped me to think about it in material terms. 

What I discovered was that I do love Him, intensely!

How and when do I discover my intense love for Him? Like the poem says, “let me count the ways…”

One of the main time/places I discover my love for Jesus is in worship. When I sing His praises in humility for what He has done, my heart melts as music reminds me of His own love for me…little, sinful, out of control, old me. 

As the needy woman that I am, my cup overflows with love for Him when I see Him as my Rescuer, my Deliverer, my Prince, my Knight in shining armor, my Redeemer, my Savior. I cannot contain the emotions in my chest when I realize His hand is extended toward me, ready to grab me every time I stumble…every time I fall. When I remember that His Name is Faithful, I am filled with unstoppable love.

I love Him because He is in me. He is the air I breathe. He is my sustenance. He nourishes me with the sweetness of His Grace which He offers to me in abundance. He is the eternal spring that quenches my thirst with living water. I am nothing without Him. He is my identity and my destiny. My worth is in Him. He keeps me close to Him. He has my name written on His precious palm. He shed His blood for me and called me to be His own.

How do I know I love Him? Because He first loved me…(1 John 4: 19)




How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 - 1861


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Make Me a Fountain!



Don’t you love Church signs? They often reflect a profound wisdom packed in a few simple words. It is a true gift to be able to come up with a message of great impact in 25 characters or less : )

At any rate, for the past several weeks, a church around our area had a sign that kept convicting me…the words said: “Be a fountain, not a drain.” 

The first time I saw it, I thought it was cute. Then, as I kept seeing it each time I drove by, I began to really see it for what it meant. A fountain…hm…what does a fountain do? A fountain pumps out water, like a spring, continuously drawing out fresh water, causing it to flow forth, as if spraying fresh life all around. What does a drain do? Exactly the opposite…a drain draws off water, gradually, depleting it “to the point of exhaustion,” like the dictionary definition so clearly depicts it. 

As you may have guessed, the sign convicted me because I have been feeling more like a drain than a fountain lately. I’ve been feeling like I’m drawing the fresh water of life off those who walk beside me. My anxiety, fears and short temper have been combining to turn me into a real drain. I’ve been dragging my loved ones into places of instability by my lack of self-control. Rather than having my words be “a fountain of life” they have been a source of discontent and anger. (Proverbs 10: 11)

I want the words of James 1: 19-20 to be tattooed in my mind and permanently embroidered in my soul in a way that it becomes part of my DNA…part of who I am…

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

I want my actions to produce “the righteousness that God desires”! I want the Holy Spirit to guide me so I become a calm, good listener of few words. I mean, really, don’t we all love people like that? Those are the exact qualities I seek in a friend! I want to be that! I pray the Holy Spirit helps me to be intentional about my walk of faith and to refocus my sight so I see with the eyes of Christ.

I don't want to be a drain that depletes the life off of those around me to the point of exhaustion.  I don't want to let my anger, my insecurities, my fears and anxiety draw the life off those I love most. Instead, I want Him to use me as a vehicle to pump out His love and grace and spill it into His children.

I want Him to make me a fountain!

Sigh…

The sign has since been replaced with a different one now. It is another clever and thought provoking one. It says: “Exposure to the Son prevents burning”… think about it! : )

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

In All Circumstances


Thanks to my Sister in Law Kerry who took this picture!

I am doing a Bible study on 1 and 2 Thessalonians this summer, and today’s Scripture cut right through my heart and soul. 

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Rejoice. Pray. Give thanks. IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES

Needless to say, the phrase “in all circumstances” was the part that really got me.

I have meditated on this verse before. However, the truth in this portion of Scripture is so crucial that it needs reviewed often. Besides, for those like me, who tend to forget the unlimited faithfulness of our Lord, constant reminders are a must.

What does it all mean?

In all circumstances.

To me, it means that regardless of the situation, we are to find God’s hand in it. We are to discern God’s will. We are to experience God’s unique kind of love.

Not just when life goes our way.

Not just when we are cruising on a country road in a lazy, summer, Sunday afternoon.

Not just when our children are succeeding, and healthy and protected.

Not just when the love of our life is all we dreamed of.

Not just when we are surrounded by loved ones.

Not just when we get good test results at the doctor’s. 

Not just when we were delivered from the fire, the mountain or the dark valley.

But always…in.all.circumstances.

Even when life takes an unexpected and undesirable turn.

Even when we are caught in the rollercoaster of life.

Even when our children disappoint us, break our hearts, scare us half to death.

Even when the longing for children or a spouse is more than we can bear.

Even when we are so alone that no one around can hear our crying for help.

Even when the phone call comes announcing the diagnosis you thought you would escape.

Even when we are destined to go through the fire, climb the mountain or walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

We will fear no evil…for He is with us…His rod and His staff, they comfort us and protect us (Psalm 23). And this is His will for us…His good and perfect will.

It’s not easy to see it this way. When faced with life’s scary moments, it is very normal to break down in despair. But we have the source of power inside of us. The Holy Spirit, who comforts us, who protect us, who even fights our battles for us…He is the One who can help us live the crucified life so we can endure what may come and see it all with the eyes of Christ. (Galatians 2: 20)

Let’s not be afraid of the plan of God. Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit may empower us to accept it in confidence, and to rejoice in it, whatever it may look like. So we may always know that it is still a good plan…a perfect plan. May we have the strength in Christ to embrace it, rejoice in it, pray and give thanks, in all circumstance.

Linking with: Rosilind Jukic.com and Whole Hearted Home

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th!



Growing up in Panama, the 4th of July was nothing special. Of course I knew it was the USA’s Independence Day…but there were no fireworks, no picnics, no parades to celebrate the event. It was just like any other day.

In the 20++ years I’ve lived here, however, I have learned to love and appreciate this blessed land. This land has given me so much. It has given me a new life. There are so many things I would have never had, had I not been here. My husband, for starters, my sons, my career, my house…my faith… I can honestly say that I would have none of these, had God not brought me here.

Somewhere along the path of reinventing myself, Christ showed up. He met me on the way and made me new. Of course, He could’ve found me wherever I’d been…but He chose to put me here, separated from my old, familiar surroundings, detached from what I loved, so I could clearly see Him, realize my need for Him and embrace His calling.

This is why the United States will always be a special place for me for as long as I live. Also because here I’ve learned that there is another way to be…

free…

It is easy, though, to lose hope when we turn on the television, the radio or the internet. The direction of this great nation may not be what we’d wish for, but there is always hope for those who put their trust in Lord. There is always hope for the nation whose people pray. There is always hope because hope is not a destination, true Hope is a Person…the Person of Jesus Christ.

This 4th of July let us remember to take some time to pray for our beloved country. Let us gratefully remember what it has given us. Let us praise the Lord with thanksgiving for placing us here. Let us humbly ask that the Most High would continue to bless it and keep it. Let us hope we continue to be a nation under God.

Happy 4th!


if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7: 14

Linking with:  Essential Thing Devotions

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Does God Show Up In the Flower?



As I have shared in other occasions, I am not a gardener by any extent of the imagination. I do, however, appreciate nature, especially flowers. I LOVE lilies! They are my favorite by far. I think most of my fascination with this type of flower comes from the fact that they are perennials. I don’t really have to do a thing! That’s my kind of gardening : ) I thoroughly enjoy the marvel of seeing them pop out of the ground in the spring like magic…or divine intervention, I should say, the kind that only The Creator is able to perform. 

I love seeing the lilies grow and develop its buds. But of course, my favorite moment is when the first one opens up. The intensity of color, all neatly contained within one flower is a delight to my eyes. Only God can paint such a wonderful combination of colors onto the small canvas of a flower. 

Looking at my lilies made me think of a speaker I heard on the radio the other day. Don’t ask me who he was…all I know is that he was in the show called “Family Life Today” in Moody Radio. I just caught his final words, and something that stuck with me was this question: “Does God show up in the flower?” 

Hmm…

I am striving to live my Christian live intentionally, paying attention, focused on trying to see His hand in everything that happens to me and around me. But do I really see Him in the mundane details? Do I see Him…in the flower? Do I hear God’s voice in the beauty of my lilies? Better yet, do I see Him clearly and hear Him loud enough to point Him out to my children and those who walk alongside me in this life?

There is no excuse…even those who have never known about God can experience His revelation in nature…

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. Romans 1: 20

Now, am I paying attention? Am I tuned into His frequency so sharply that I can appreciate how, without a doubt…

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19: 1-4

I know I fall short all the time. The good news is that we serve a loving, faithful and patient Lord and His mercies are new every day. Therefore, every day He gives us a new opportunity to recalibrate. With His help, we can become more and more intentional the longer we walk with Him. 

My lilies are not going to be around for a long time, though…so I better get out there and see, if as I contemplate their beauty, I can also discover His presence and discern His voice for He surely shows up in the flower, whether I am aware of it or not.

Linking with:  Graced Simplicity

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Believe!



“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14: 1

I am clinging to the words of Jesus today…and actually, every day…

In times of trouble, He is our Rock, our Shield, our Refuge, our Strength, our Answer, our Peace, our Hope…

And what is trouble? Trouble could be anything that causes us affliction, anxiety, fear. Trouble is whatever robs us of our joy. Trouble is whatever takes over our minds and makes us take our eyes away from Christ. 

Trouble penetrates our heart and fills it up with dread, anguish, sadness, hopelessness and despair, leaving little room for the soothing presence of Jesus. Our awareness of Christ in us diminishes when we allow trouble to overflow our souls.

The antidote? Believe!

Believe in God and believe also in Jesus, our Lord, who conquered it all. 

Believe that He will take good care of us.

Believe that no matter what, He is with us and He will not abandon us.

Believe that He loves us.

Believe that He will carry us through whatever troubles our heart.

Believe that He will take away the hurt in due time.

Believe in His sacrifice.

Believe in the redeeming power of His blood.

Believe that He can give us peace like a river…not like a dripping faucet.

Believe in the healing power of His hand.

Believe that He will deliver us from our current circumstance.

Believe in the all-sufficiency of His Grace.

Let us believe in God the Father, in Jesus the Christ and in the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Let us believe in the promise that He is coming back again. Let us believe in the promise that every tear will be wiped away. 



Believe!

Linking with: Whole Hearted Home and Rosilind Jukic.com