Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May Panama Never Forget

Today I heard the news of the passing of Manuel Antonio Noriega. I don’t expect that name to mean anything to many reading this post, but to me, the name still stirs a violent combination of fearful memories, deep anger and an age-old frustration mitigated only by the almost thirty years that separate his last political actions from the people of Panama.

Noriega, known to Panamanians as El General Cara de Piña, is responsible for countless acts of terror against his own people. He breathed his last just hours ago… and my heart was conflicted, I have to admit.

The news of his death brought to my mind the still vivid scenes of my witnessing of the dramatic invasion of Panama in December of 1989 by the United States under Operation Just Cause. It was, indeed, a Just Cause operation because otherwise the people of Panama would not have been able to get rid of Noriega, but that does not deny the fact that experiencing it was horrifying. Being the recipient of the punishment of the USA’s military force is not to be taken lightly regardless of how just the operation is. The panic of realizing the lights you see in the sky are not fireworks is not easily forgotten. But neither are the years of living under the ruling of a ruthless dictator that treated the country as his personal farm and the people as his slaves.

I was born under a military dictatorship. General Omar Torrijos was in power at the time. Although more benevolent than Noriega, Torrijos taught me to live without the ability to be completely free. It is said that Noriega planned the “accident” where Torrijos died. After a quick succession of rulers, Noriega rose to power when I was a sophomore in High School. By the next year, hearing about people who had been thrown in jail for speaking their mind, disappeared or/and brutally murdered for disagreeing with Noriega’s rule were a common occurrence. Once I graduated from High School and moved to Panama City to attend college, things were so bad my sister and I lived in a constant state of worry that caused us to fear even buying white toilet paper… every day at noon, in Panama City, people from the tallest buildings in downtown would unroll white toilet paper from the windows like streamers of protest as others banged pots and pans in hopes of being heard by a world that seemed to be asleep to the plight of the people of Panama.

Anything white was banned. Nurses had to carry a special permission to walk about wearing their uniforms.

The night of the US invasion of Panama, I remembered I called my Dad and told him what was happening, since the heavy fire was only in Panama City. Back in our hometown, 4 hours away, things were still quiet at that time. My Dad would talk about that phone call for the rest of his life: “Dad, can’t you hear it? The sound… the sound you hear over the phone… that’s bombs, Dad, bombs from the sky!” He would repeat what he remembered as my words when I called every time the conversation revolved around the events of that December night…

That night, he quickly gathered my Mom and whatever he could, got in the car and drove away to seek refuge at one of my Mom’s brother’s house because our neighborhood had been targeted as one that would receive retaliation from Noriega’s forces if the US ever decided to invade…besides, our house was around the corner from the military headquarters of our province…easy target either way.

I remember my Dad saying how he locked the gate at the bottom of our driveway, got in the car, and looked back thinking that’d be the last time he’d see our house standing…

I owe all these memories and many more I don’t have time to relate here, to General Noriega. Mine are happy compared with those of the people directly at the other end of his gun. After the invasion, Noriega landed in prison in the USA and later in Panama, where he was when he got sick last month and later died last night. There is a whole new generation of Panamanians who do not share my history either because they were too young to be affected by it or were not even born. I pray that they do know it, however, so they are not bound to repeat it.

As for me, when I heard of his passing my heart was conflicted… then I read a devotional reading which heading says: “Expect and Extend Mercy.” The title made me shudder… but as I read it, the Holy Spirit manifested Himself into my heart showing me that the right thing to do is to forgive and to pray for God’s absolution. I am not his judge. God is. May He have mercy on this man’s soul. And may the people of Panama never forget.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

En los Portales del Cielo

Hace un par de días recibí un mensaje desde Panamá que me informaba del fallecimiento de un tío muy querido para mí…mi Tío Rafa. Él era uno de los hermanos de mi madre. Ella era una entre diez hermanos y hermanas. Ya solamente quedan cinco. Tío Rafa, sin embargo, tiene un lugar muy especial en mi corazón y siempre lo tendrá.

La razón principal es porque Tío Rafa fue un amigo fiel de mi padre, desde siempre, hasta el final. A diferencia de mi madre, mi padre solamente tenía un hermano y este hermano vivió siempre en su pueblo de origen. No se veían mucho y murió antes que mi papá. Al casarse con mi madre, papá adoptó a nuestro pueblo como el suyo y hasta llegó a ser hijo meritorio reconocido. Mudarse a nuestro pueblo lo obligó a también adoptar a la familia de mi madre como si fuera suya. Y así fue, de corazón. Mi Tío Rafa, fue un verdadero hermano para mi padre.

En las buenas y en las malas, mi tío Rafa siempre estuvo allí para mi papá. Hombre de pocas palabras, Tío Rafa visitaba nuestra casa a menudo. Él llegaba siempre después de la cena, en su pick up. Desde niña fui testigo de incontables repeticiones de la misma escena. Al escuchar el sonido del “picupsito” de Rafa, a mi papá se le dibujaba una gran sonrisa en la cara y se levantaba inmediatamente de donde estuviera para abrirle la puerta a su gran amigo. Juntos se sentaban en el portal del frente de mi casa donde había un juego de muebles de patio que se mecían. Tío Rafa se sentaba en una silla y mi papá en otra y allí, en la tranquilidad de la tarde, conversaban de los aconteceres de la vida. Mi mamá formó parte de ese ritual hasta que falleció. Por los doce años que pasaron después de la muerte de mi madre, y hasta la partida de mi padre, mi Tío Rafa fue un constante compañero en el portal de nuestra casa…dos siluetas maduras, con palabras serenas, en el atardecer de sus anos, contemplando melancólicamente hacia dónde se les escapaba la vida.

Sin interrumpir, yo era testigo de esos momentos cuando silenciosamente pasaba por la sala para encender la luz una vez que caía la noche. Casi instintivamente, siempre supe que lo que veía a través de las ventanas, en el portal de mi casa, ilustraba fraternidad.

Ahora, casi cinco años después de haberse ido mi padre, mi tío Rafa se le une en el cielo. Los que quedamos aún rezagados en nuestro camino terrenal sentimos un agudo punzado en el corazón al darnos cuenta que tan querida figura no nos acompañará más de este lado de la eternidad, pero al mismo tiempo nos regocijamos al estar seguros de que una gloriosa reunión familiar se lleva a cabo en estos instantes en los portales del cielo.

Distractions Part 2

Back to the topic of distractions and how that was the key thing that Jesus pointed out about Martha when she asked Him to rebuke her sister…I tend to think that when we… or at least I… get caught up in the distractions of life is because I am having trust-issues. In other words, I think that distractions signal lack of trust.

I mean, Martha was in the presence of the One who had fed 5000 people with a few fish and bread! Couldn’t she just relax, and trust that He would take care of a dinner party?

I know…it might sound simplistic, but I think there is something here. In my personal case, for example, every time I have a gathering here at the house I go full-Martha…including the whining about nobody else doing anything: “Woe is me…I do all the work and you guys just sit around playing your videogames…boo hoo.” I fret and I labor until I am so exhausted that when the guests arrive I am spent. I have a hard time enjoying the party because I have no energy left. And, then, inevitably, everybody brings so much food, that whatever I made doesn’t get eaten… sigh…

What a waste of effort. What a way to misplace my priorities. What a missed opportunity to be still and enjoy the company of my loved ones to the fullest…

I think that if I don’t hold the reigns tightly wrapped around my fingers, they will slip and the whole wagon would go down a cliff. The truth I keep forgetting is that I am just a passenger! I’m not driving anything other than those around me insane! All my efforts and laboring are in vain most of the time. In the end, I see my hands are full of cuts, my back hurts, my legs are swollen and, the funny thing is that at the end of the day, I end up where I should have started, laying on the couch with my feet up…but instead of feeling drained…feeling relaxed, waiting for my guests to arrive!

I have to give up the idea of control or I will spend the rest of my life miserable and missing the point.

I pray that I can have an attitude of trust in everything I do, so the panicky anxiety that surfaces when I think I have to do it all, subsides and I let the true Driver … drive. Maybe that way I could finally just chill by His side and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Eyes on Him!

As we hear about yet, another attack in which many people die and many more are wounded, the majority of which are probably in their teen years, we wake up and wonder where God is in all of these? Often, I feel despair and I tremble at the thought of the world my sons will inherit. I look at my students in college, their attitudes, their unreliability, their lack of basic morality, their inability to articulate coherent thoughts, their spiritual voids, and my heart sinks.

Where is God?

This world, our society, our families, our marriages, our souls are corrupted. It feels as if darkness is winning and the Light is about to be extinguished.

It is in moments like these, when the follower of Jesus feels discouraged, that we need to realize that the reason we feel this way is because we have turned our eyes away from our Leader. Like Peter, just when he began to take his first steps on the water, he began to sink because he took his eyes away from Jesus and focused on the waves and the winds…we too allow hopelessness to penetrate when we get distracted by the fallen state of the world around us, and forget to concentrate on the One Who is Always in Control!

The sentences of wisdom I received today from my devotional called me to “approach each new day with a desire to find Christ.” That should be our goal: to keep the desire to find Him as the leading principle of our days. As we seek Him, we will find Him even in calamity and disaster. As we seek Him, we will realize that He “has not abandoned this sin-wracked world” because He is still on His throne!

I lift up my eyes to You, Lord Jesus. May your presence richly bless us today. By making Yourself known as we walk through this valley of the shadows of death, allow us to fear no evil, for you are with us…every step of the way.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Back to the topic of my Martha-life, I read this this morning in one of my devotionals:

“when things don’t go as you would like, accept the situation immediately. If you indulge in feelings of regret, they can easily spill over the line into resentment. Remember that I am sovereign over your circumstances and humble yourself under My mighty hand.”

Those sentences really spoke to me. As I have mentioned in more than one occasion, I’m a person who likes things to go as planned…so when they don’t…well…I get…how shall I put it politely…a bit out of sorts.

I come home from work having a mental plan of all the things I have to accomplish, but the second I open the door, I see dog-puke on the rug. By the time I get done taking care of our furry friend, Grant walks in the door back from school, and after hearing some of his stories, I remember I haven’t checked his grades in a while. I get into the electronic site where I can do that and…O NO!!!! He’s got a D in Math and I didn’t know about it! We are not done with the lengthy discussion that follows, when Dylan walks in the door back from school too. He’s got a ton of papers I need to review and sign. The battle of the wills between Dylan and I begin shortly after that to see who wins this round of video-game playing v. go do your homework already! Dinner! I have not gotten dinner ready! Open the fridge to see what’s in there that takes less than ½ hour to look like homemade… “What’s that smell?” Dylan says, “chicken!” I reply. “Can I have Subway tonight?” Grant asks. “Not today, sorry.” “Daddy’s home!” “Darn it! Dinner is not ready!” “Hi Babe, how was your day?” “Let me tell you…” “Has anybody fed the dog?” “There isn’t any dog food!” “Scraps tonight…sorry…someone take the dog out…by the way, he puked today…I wonder why?”

Everybody is finally asleep…what was it I had to do? I don’t know…I’ll do it tomorrow…I gotta go to bed.

The frustration and the stress of things accumulated cause me to get undone… cause me to reach that moment when the plans I have in my head violently collide with the reality of my life…then…sparks fly…and not the good kind…from the small to the big, every time that I have to change course, my brain goes into some kind of short circuit. It’s like, say, when a serious thunder storm passes by and lightening makes the lights go off. Then, you have to go down to the basement to flip some brackets on and off a few times in order for the lights to come back on again… like that… It is not pretty. Those who have the privilege to witness one of those episodes don’t like it one bit. Those few seconds of darkness are terrifying for anyone around me.


“I’m sorry…” It’s all that I have left to say afterwards. Then, regret and upon occasions, even resentment settle into my spirit, wrapping it into a heavy blanket of dreariness …

Today, as I stand in the midst of the messy life I lead, I choose to pray and to trust in Him. I pray that the Lord would help me find a venue to vent my frustrations in a healthy way. Today, I trust and I place all my plans into His hands…in humility. Please Lord, let me abandon the pride behind my plans and priorities. May your guiding Hand teach me to be humble and submit all of me to You…In Christ’s Name…Amen!

Saturday, May 20, 2017


One of the issues with Martha, as we recall, is the fact that she was distracted.  Yeah...distraction is an important characteristic of the Martha-lifestyle.

I am a multitasker.  I like to do more than one thing at a time, possible 3 or 4.  Last night, I decided to iron all 85 dress shirts that were hanging in the laundry room for the last month and a half...or maybe it was 25 shirts...I don't know.  I strongly dislike ironing, so 1 is 1 too many for me.  In order to be able to remain sane while ironing, I played a kid-friendly movie on the TV so Dylan could watch while attacked the task.  Then, I made sure I filled my mind with thoughts of how to organize lesson plans and activities for a Spanish Summer Camp I was asked to teach in June...whose great idea was to accept that request?  I'm still looking for the culprit...

The thing is that I am NOT creative, so as I trudged along with the ironing, my head was busy thinking of ways to use play dough, glue sticks, construction paper, crayons, and other stuff...except for glitter.  No matter what anybody says, I will not use glitter!... to teach some Spanish... Every time I hit a breakthrough idea, like a pretend market center activity, Dylan would call out to me to watch something funny in the movie, or to ask me a question, or to tell me a story of something that happened at school and he just remembered or even to tell me to come and sit with him to watch.  I mean, in the attention-seeking-scale, Dylan scores REALLY high.  He would see nothing wrong with chaining me to his wrist so I could be there for him every second of the day.

I was so frustrated!  He kept interrupting me!  I couldn't concentrate on my ideas.  He kept distracting me!

...cue crickets...


At that moment, Martha's story made me realize that perhaps, I got this whole thing wrong.  Dylan wasn't distracting me.  I was distracted by the myriad of unimportant things bouncing in my head.

Like I heard Dr. Tony Evans say about Martha: "it's not that she didn't need to worry about feeding Jesus and the other guests.  It's that she didn't realize that a casserole would do just fine!"

My job as a Spanish teacher is not the most important role in my life.  Being a wife and a mother are my real jobs.  I know that I need to be the best I can at work...but, not at the expense of my real priorities.  I need to learn to make a good casserole for work, so I can prepare the five-course meal for those God has placed in my life to care for.  If I don't, I will forever regret it.

I know I have just precious little time left with my soon-to-be twelve year-old boy wanting me to hang out with him, to tell me his stories and thirsting for my attention.  Soon, he won't care anymore...and it will be too late for me to change things around.


I pray Jesus helps me re-prioritize my duties to achieve the right balance in my life.  Thanks to Martha's example, I think I might be on the right track.

Friday, May 19, 2017

My Martha Life

I've been thinking about all these messages the Lord is sending me about letting go and surrendering, as well as all the meditations I've done on the passages pertaining to Martha and Mary, and I have come to the conclusion that the topic is not exhausted yet.  Therefore, I've decided that I would like to continue exploring it for a bit longer.  I think I'd like to dedicate a few more posts to the look I am taking at my own life as a Martha...

As a Martha, I like to plan.  I like to know that things are going to get done as I have arranged them in my mind.  As a Martha, I also dislike it when the characters (the many "Marys") in my play/plan don't do what I assigned them to do...

In other words, I am a control-freak, frazzled, bossy, rigid, inflexible person who has a hard time surrendering to God's plans and finding peace in the midst of life's chaos.

I'm an action-driven woman, who is desperately seeking to slow-down enough to hear and discern the ways in which the Lord is leading me into a place of contentment and stillness.

Like, for instance, right now: I am teaching an online course that is only 2 1/2 weeks long.  I have done almost all the work of uploading, arranging and organizing the material that the students need in order to get through the lessons and perform well in this class.  Due to the online nature of the course, students are 99% responsible for the learning.  There isn't much I can do to guide them unless they reach out to me and ask me questions, which usually doesn't happen much online...that is precisely why they chose to take the class in this format, so they didn't have to interact much and could do the work at their own pace, independently.   So...what am I doing?  Relaxing? Yeah, right... I am sitting here, worrying that I'm not doing enough!

I can't chill!  It is so out of character for me to be in this passive role of facilitator.  I'm comfortable being in charge of a class, telling everybody what to do and how to do it, driving the learning process with a very short leash ... control-freak-alert ... that now, I don't know what to do with myself!  I keep sending my students e-mails at a rate I know they can't keep up with.  I keep posting things on our classroom page, that I know they are not reading.  I keep finding ways to have a more involved role in this class than an online format is suited for... I am worried I will drive students, who took this course online to have more control themselves, away and end up with an empty virtual classroom.

I have issues...sigh...

Anyway...the good news is that in all her neediness (I have a theory that all these control issues stem from deeply rooted insecurities and an insatiable need for approval) there was someone Martha could never drive away:  Jesus!

Just like He did with her, Jesus speaks to me at a level that I understand (if I can be still for a second!).  He knows how to reach me.  He knows I do, like Martha, love Him with all my heart.

And as He did with Martha, I pray and I trust that Jesus will allow me also to receive His revelation as I come to Him just as I am.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Well, I was talking about how there has been a recurring theme going on in the messages I've been getting from the Lord.  Lately, I've been hearing a lot about how I need to surrender to Him...funny...2017 is the year that I chose the word "surrender" as my guiding word...hmmm...

The messages have all been about surrendering my plans...not an easy thing to let go of.

I don't know about you, but I like to keep a tight reign on my plans.  I like my plans.  They make sense to me.  I want them to go...well...as planned.  I don't like deviations.  I don't like changing them. I like everything to go just the way I...well...planned it.  The Lord doesn't operate like that, though.  He has His own plans.  And the thing is that, more often than not, His plans...well...are not my plans.

Today's reading, of course, went according to plan, and spoke to me about my plans.  It said: "Come to Me with your plans held in abeyance."


I had to stop right there.  You know why?  Well, because I didn't know what the word "abeyance" meant.

So, I looked it up.  The dictionary said that abeyance means kind of like a temporary state of suspension...of dormancy...of uncertainty...

After I found out the meaning, I decided I did not like the word "abeyance."  I don't want to hold my plans in a state of suspension or dormancy.  And I particularly did not like the idea of holding them in a state of uncertainty!  No way!  That is exactly why I make plans.  So I know what's going to happen and I don't have to have any uncertainty!!

Well...God has other plans.  He wants me to subordinate my ideas: plans, to His Master Plan.  He wants me to accept the fact that He is Sovereign over every aspect of my life.  He wants me to trust Him.


Then, I looked at the definition again, and realized that there is a qualifier in there.  The word "temporary" is tucked in there behind all those other scary words.  When I saw that word, I began to feel more comfortable.  Maybe God only wants me to suspend my plans for a little bit...hmm...

I don't really know the Mind of God.  It is unsearchable, indeed!  But what I do know is that I need His help to create in me a new heart....a heart of flesh that would submit to His will in peace, without fear, trusting that His ways truly ARE higher than my own lowly, pathetic ways and that His plan contains the best for me, because He loves me and He knows best...even if I don't understand it...even if I don't want to let go.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Tyranny of the To-Do List

The Lord has been speaking to me a lot about my priorities.  I know, that statement might sound far-fetched.  I don't really hear, like audibly...you know...like I hear people, for instance, Dylan...boy, I wish I could hear God's voice the way I hear Dylan's!!!  There would be NO doubt...I would have NO problem understanding what He wants from me... I don't even know where I'm going with this...

The point is:  the message of how messed up my priorities really are has been in the air lately.  And I take it as a message from my Heavenly Father.  Almost every reading I've done in the last few...more than a few...weeks has had that message. So I think I need to really pay attention and think about re-adjusting my lists...

Yesterday, for instance, one of my readings said this:  "You can make some plans as you gaze into the day that stretches out before you.  But you need to hold those plans tentatively, anticipating that I may have other ideas."

Boy, did that speak to me!

I live my life by lists.  I've tried to organize my life in a different way...so I can come out from under the tyranny of the to-do list, but I continue to be trap under its crushing weight...sigh...

And the funniest thing is that I believe that I actually have control over what I do or don't do out of the endless items listed on that paper...or variety of papers.  You know? I'm a disorganized mess.  I make lists, then I lose them, so I have to make another one, and then another one...then I think of something else to put in there, but I can't find it, so I start another one, then I end up with a bunch of scrap pieces of papers everywhere I go with different versions of my list, so in the end I have no idea what I need to do.  Don't even ask me about my purse!

The thing is: I need to chill!  He knows the plans that He has made for me.  They are not mine.  They are His!  I just need to live the day-to-day to see them unfold in my life.  And the best thing:  they are perfect plans!  They are the best!  His to-do list for me is way better than anything I could have ever concocted...

And it is written in beautiful paper that doesn't get lost.  And the items in it are in perfect order even if it is an order I don't understand.  He doesn't ask me to...He just asks me to trust Him.

I pray I do!

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Yesterday was the last day of a really hectic, stressful and at times, just plain scary semester. It was full of chaos and extra work. I think it is safe to say that during the last few months, work has consumed me. I have not had time for anything, let along writing. Some days I got to work unsure of whether or not I brushed my teeth!

Needless to say, the fact that work has taken most of my time also means that the house is a complete disaster. Dirty dishes pile up in the sink. I haven’t even been able to do regular grocery shopping trips, which means we’ve been doing the drive-through rounds more than I’d like to admit. And the kids have had to be on their own several afternoons due to longer than usual work hours.


In more than one way, I have been making Martha proud…distracted to the core.

The good news is that, in spite of my messed-up priorities, our Heavenly Father has been able to penetrate through the noise, clutter and distractions in a way that has brought me peace and comfort in the midst of my messy life. The way He has done this is by giving me daily, short readings that have provided a way for me to hear His voice above the deafening gongs being struck all around me.

The Lord has spoken to me a constant stream of words about peace, thanksgiving and surrendering in a way that has been impossible to ignore. Even in the middle of my distractions, He has spoken directly to my issues…and I have noticed:

“Come to me for all that you need…”

“Do not search for security in the world you inhabit. You tend to make mental checklists of things you need to do in order to gain control of your life. If only you could check everything off your list, you could relax and be at peace. But the more you work to accomplish that goal, the more things crop up on your list. The harder you try, the more frustrated you become.”

“If you learn to trust Me…really trust Me…with your whole being, then nothing can separate you from My Peace.”

“Do not long for the absence of problems in your life. That is an unrealistic goal since in this world you will have trouble.”

And one of my personal favorites:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. I can bring good even out of your mistakes.”

Lord, You know me better than anyone. You know what I need to hear every day. You know I am like a toddler who needs repetition in order to learn. You know I am deeply flawed. You know I deal with an overwhelming mountain of insecurities. Thank you for being here with me…even when I don’t deserve it. I pray for a summer of peace, beauty and health…but above all…for it to be a time to keep my eyes on You, the creator and sustainer of all that I am.