15 March 2017

It's Unseen.

What is it?

Is it a casual, wishful thought causing you to spend countless hours daydreaming?
Is it an internal whisper that reminds us to not give up?
Is it the possibility for a better day or a better marriage?

When I think about the HOPE that we have in Jesus, I can't help but feel comforted.  The word promises in Romans 15:13 that our God of Hope will provide us with Joy and Peace, which in turn creates a HOPE that overflows by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When we tap into the Joy and Peace provided by God, Hope will then overflow in our lives.

It also promises in Romans 5:5 that having Hope will not put us to shame, because it has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.  It's been declared as "has been", which would mean that it's already been done.  Already provided.  What a wonderful realization!  To be loved by God and experience his overflowing power!

I'm finding a common theme here though.  The Holy Spirit is actively involved in these promises.  Without the Holy Spirit, Hope will not overflow.  Without the Holy Spirit, Hope will not pour into us.  It's through the power of the spirit of the living God that we receive the assurance, that our trust and our confidence has not gone in vain.

So today I want to encourage you.  To hang on.  To keep your eyes, and your passion (for what is to come), on the One who has never failed you or anyone.

Despite what the doctor's report states.  What your bank account looks like.  How many eggs are left in the fridge.  You were not commanded to rely on your job, your spouse or even your physical strength for the things you need.  Our Hope can only be found in the creator.  When we adjust our focus to Him, we'll begin to experience Joy and Peace.  No the answer will not come immediately, but as you wait you can rejoice.  As you experience moments of utter darkness, you can lift up a voice in adoration for your King.  Because the answer has already been provided, and your worship in the midst of, will launch itself into the heavenlies and create an aroma that is pleasing to God.  It creates a cloud of glory, in which God can bathe Himself in.  This type of worship is considered sacrificial.  It goes against all common human sense.  What we "should" be doing (in terms of this world we live in), is losing our minds.  Crying is desperation.  Drinking our worries away.  Gambling the last $25 bucks we have in the hopes of tripling it and paying off our light bill.  Going on a few sexcapades to alleviate a little of the stress caused by our problems.  But our system and our economy isn't built around what we see, or what we can touch.  Our confidence lies in the unseen.  In God.

So what is Hope?
It's experiencing an extreme shaking in your foundation, leaving you undisturbed.
It's placing your questions at the altar and focusing your attention on Him.
It's the certainty that "...All Things work together for good to those who love the Lord..." (Romans 8:28)
It's a guarantee, that helps you dream and wait with a restful spirit.
Which brings about "...Faith ... the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)
It's knowing.
That your heavenly Father sees your need, and will meet it.

If you want to cry.  If you want to scream.  If you want to call an old friend to say Hi.  Do so...
But whatever you do, don't lose your hope... because without it, you're left in despair.  You're left to make unwise decisions that will ultimately close the door to God's provision and answer for your life.
Romans 12:12 - "Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times."
x0, d

01 March 2017

Are You Salty?

Image result for png green grass
Have you ever looked back at your life?
...maybe the last year... or 10...
and thought about the burdens and frustrations you encountered during that time.
How you loathed the mundane and prayed for something better?
For a change?
For a challenge?
For adventure and excitement?
For something new and different?
Because life was pretty predictable and maybe even a little boring?
And the fact that your schedule could pretty much write itself out in your own planner, made your days even more dreary?

Or maybe you loved your life back then.
Like I did.
...or so thought ...

When I think about my past life...
The comfort of the full size bed I slept in...
How I cradled my perfectly misshapen pillows and curled up with the blanket.  My favorite blanket.  The one where the corners frilled and the padding in it had flattened itself out after years of use.
And I would always rotate the celebrity posters on my walls... I remember Kirk Cameron being my favorite.  I had the perfect view of the "center" of drama in the neighborhood from my window.
When a fight would break out I'd rush to the light switch - CLICK OFF - and jump on my bed, peek from behind the curtain and stare out the window (through the window gate - any project dwellers out there understand this dilemma?) to see who was involved, how the fight started and if anyone was headed to a pay phone for a free call to 911.
Back then there were no Mobile Phones or GO Pro Cameras to capture the drama.  If you missed it, you had to trust the 3 different versions of the same story you heard, and piece it together to have it make sense.

And what about the job I had?
The commute to and from work.
Always giving myself several extra minutes to grab my favorite breakfast at my preferred deli.
For years my order was the same, an omelette with mushrooms, peppers, onions & cheese on a toasted onion bagel with a little bit of mayo.  And for my after breakfast snack, I'd order a toasted corn muffin, with butter and Tropicana.
I was so predicable, and I was okay with it.

I used to think I had the absolute perfect life.
Nothing could compare to how wonderful things were.
The grass was definitely greener on the New York side.
I would never move to Florida, I always muffled - because although the palm trees and blue waters were appealing, my hair was not humidity resistant - and it would ruin my perfect life...
and I would definitely never marry a Puerto Rican - because my brothers were Rican and they were cocky and rude to me as a kid.
Which, to my teenage and young adult mind, meant that every Boricua possessed this arrogant attitude.
I was living in the biggest and best city in the world.
I was single and dating.
I was in my prime.
I had goals and ideas and a vision for the future...

...and then one day my world changed.
I met a guy.
I wasn't searching.  I was honestly avoiding men altogether.
Because I didn't have luck in the love department.
Sure I went on dates.  Why would I reject a free movie?
But I never took any of it seriously.
(maybe I'll share more of our love story later)...
When I wanted love it didn't want me.  The moment I built walls, love came knocking them down.

...and meeting that guy challenged me...
He was Puerto Rican from Florida, but I didn't let that stop me...
I developed new goals and wishes.
I suddenly found myself heading towards what would be my destiny.
But as excited and enthusiastic as I was, I was very unsure, worried and confused.
I was settled where I was.
...or so I thought...

I had a nice 401K plan.  I was getting promotions and raises.
Aside from all the positive and perfect living I was experiencing, I knew I had to leave and go where God was calling me to, but it wasn't without looking back.

At first my days were great.  The beginning was perfect.  It almost felt like living a full-time vacation.
But soon my yearning to return to what I once knew, and the curiosity to know how things were back at "home", put a pause in my development.  Ruined my focus and had me tripping beside myself.

I started to think back to Lot's wife.  They were given clear instructions.  Go forward and don't look back.  I won't quote the verses, because it may take half this page, but for those interested I invite you to read Genesis 19.  For a preview, read chapter 18 as well.

The bible states in Genesis 19:26, that when Lot's wife turned back she "became a pillar of salt".

This particular verse speaks volumes to me.
Especially the 1st - 3rd year of me having moved from New York to Florida.

Sure I had every reason to feel lonely.  I left my entire family.  All our game nights.  All our camping trips and holiday festivities.  I even missed the intermittent drama.  I didn't have any coworkers when I moved.  I wasn't making as much money.  I wasn't enjoying life.  I was home.  Alone.  All day.  I didn't know anyone.  Just the people that my husband knew.  Florida friendships differ from those up north.  Up north your word is true.  It's solid.  Here, "let's do lunch on Saturday" really means "if I have nothing else to do and if I wake up in time and if I remember, then - let's do lunch on Saturday".  That sort of rejection is hard to swallow.

I was used to being the popular girl at church.  The one who everyone came to with their boyfriend drama because even though I was a pastor's daughter, I knew how to take things to the grave.  I was well-liked.  And I knew I was well-liked.  I hosted pajama parties; and when I became an adult and left church I had "even more fun".  Yet here I was, such a likable person resorting to midday theatre visits by myself and lacking friendships.

Losing my job.
Bringing my baggage to my marriage and putting a strain on my new husband.
Image result for female stick figure
All the while looking back.
The grass in New York looked a lot greener than here in sunny Florida.  #IsntItIronic?
Yet here I remained.  I was breathing and taking care of daily duties, but I wasn't content with life.  I was not living out my purpose.  I was too focused on what I had left behind.  I was being pushed in a forward direction with my head faced backwards.  I was tripping.  I was headed the right way, but my attention was reversed.  It delayed and slowed my process.  It caused me to fall.  It caused pain and confusion.  And all the while I still participated in activities.  I went to church, I sang, I attended parties and shopped.  I visited the beaches and built a nice tan.  But I could just not get my head to focus on what was ahead.

It took God removing all distractions and comfort to get my attention.
I was left with nothing but a computer and a bed.
I began to seek Him.
Just because.
Not because I was desperate for an out.
But just because I knew I needed Him, and maybe I was a little bored too.
Plus I needed something deeper.
Something meaningful.
Not just a list of bible stories under my belt, or a handful of memorized verses I could quote on the fly to show that I knew the word.
But I really needed to find Him and know Him.
The God I knew as a kid and experienced as a teen.
The one who mom prayed to as I enjoyed my young adult night life.
I wanted to understand Him... or at least try.
His love.
Why after all these years of running from Him and doing things my way, had He not given up on me?
After months of seeking, I came to the understanding that there were things in me that needed to be healed.  Mistakes I needed to forgive myself for.  Hurt inflicted by family and friends and boyfriends that I was still harboring.  My heart was attached to what I knew, but what I knew caused me so much pain that I didn't know how to process God's goodness.
"Surely there's something up their sleeve", I thought.  "There's no way people are this nice, without a motive."
I didn't understand, because I had not fully submerged myself in God's perfect plan.

But I had to stay.
I knew it was detrimental to my growth, my life, my purpose.
So if I had to stay, this meant that I had to be processed.
I had to be broken.
I had to be humbled and be taken apart, so that God can begin to piece things together.
The right things.
What I needed to be a better wife.
Healing from my past.
All the brokenness I had avoided for the first half of my Floridian life was finally taking place, and the only way I could handle it was with God's Grace.

I chose to stop looking back, because I recognized looking back caused me to be frozen in time.  Caused me to be stagnant and immobilized.  Didn't allow me to let people in.  I wasn't interested in forming new friendships or letting down my walls.  And I certainly didn't want to be invited to places or parties.  Because I was/am an introvert, and that sorta thing brought on more anxiety.

I eventually reached a point where I knew it was vital to my mental, spiritual and emotional growth that I accept where I was headed and make the conscious effort to leave my past behind.  I knew the road to being processed was going to affect every aspect of my life, but I had to allow my will and my selfish desires to submit to the calling and purpose God had in mind when He created me.  I mean why else would He create me, if it doesn't come with a reason?

And if I wanted to enjoy my life, and walk in purpose, and fulfill His plan for me, then I had to allow for those lonely moments...
having no one to talk to...
no place to go...
It wasn't until I threw up my hands, as a sign of complete surrender, that I didn't find true joy in where I was headed and the breaking I had/have to endure to be there.  I also understood that the idea of my grass not being as bright green as it was "back home", was due to my perception.  Being faced in the wrong direction blocked the sun from shining on where I was headed.
Philippians 3:13-14[ESV] "Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
I'm still not there yet - fully operational in my destiny, but the attitude & outlook I now have, once having accepted where I am, has made the journey more enjoyable.

It's okay to look back to a year ago...
or 10...
and reflect upon how life has changed, improved, taken a turn...
but be careful that your trip down memory lane doesn't become a common resting place...
causing you to yearn for what once was...
forming your salty demeanor...
and delaying the fulfillment of what has been purposed for you.
Isaiah 43:18-19[ESV] "Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." 

For my bible journaling page, I used acrylic paints by Studio Calico, and stickers, washi and inks by Illustrated Faith, most of which are from the new "Delight In His Day" collection.

x0, d

19 January 2017

What's In Your Playbook?

...the plots we create in your minds on how the best moment in our lives would play themselves out.
...our secret wish or fantasy ... so EXTREME that the fear of sounding foolish has overtaken the desire to make them into accomplished goals.
...the treasures we quietly request, while singing through folding piles of fresh laundry.
...our imaginations filled with extraordinary plans, and higher levels, we dare not speak aloud.
...the hidden burden in our heart to locate our childhood friend - the one we've known for 40+ years and sadly, somehow, disconnected from along the way.

Jesus knows all about it... because He placed it there.

If only we could stop over thinking things and begin stepping out on the soft promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Step OUT IN faith.
Faith will not develop in the knowing of the thing.
It isn't faith, if you wait to be told you have the job, before you've submitted the application.
It isn't faith, if you receive the answers beforehand, guaranteeing a passing grade.    

The knowing of the thing isn't where faith is being produced.
It's in the unknown that we strengthen our personal walk with God.

Feeling the dark loneliness of a wintry Friday night; while scrolling through photos on your feed and staring fondly at images of couples that are DEEPLY IN LOVE, seeing how great a date they are experiencing, but where is your Prince Charming?  
Matthew 6:33 - But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
This life-altering faith will have you swiping over to the bible app to recite all the verses you can find on promises & miracles. 

This faith, in combination with your loyalty to God, will bring about amazing results.

Let's take a close look at the following occurrence...
Matthew 14:25-29 - Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified.  "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.  But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take Courage!  It is I.  Don't be afraid."  "Lord, if it's you, " Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."  "Come," he said.
Consider the faith Peter must've acquired to believe that, not only was the figure they saw on the surface of the water Jesus, but that Jesus had actually called Peter out to walk the surface of the deep with Him.  To understand that the molecular structure of any body of water is not built to support the weight of a human... yet to also have the word of the Son of God, "COME", weight-in heavier and louder than the doubt in one's mind.  This is the beginning of faith.

Because if you remember the story well, Peter was able to take a few steps on the water.  His initial response to the word of Jesus was wrapped in confidence.  Not confidence in himself, but confidence in the ONE who called him out of the boat.  But somewhere between safety (the boat) and safety (Jesus), Peter lost his focus.  He turned his sight from his Savior to his Situation.  The change in his perspective caused his faith to fail him.  His trust slowly dwindled.  And Peter found himself sinking.  The same component, that just moments earlier held him up - being supported by God's word, was now losing it's stability.  What happened?  Peter lost his focus.  It wasn't Jesus who gave an incorrect command.  Because if we consider that in Proverbs 30:5 we come to know the word of God is flawless, then the mere fact that Jesus said "COME" would place the burden on Jesus to fulfill His own command.  And He did.

I recently experienced this "stepping on the unknown" type of faith.

Just recently I was able to reconnect with my old bestie.  Back then we called each other Best Friends, as opposed to BFFs.

Image result for 80sBack when REAL mix tapes were neon and were made on your pink Sony boombox.  And switching radio stations were considered an art-form.  Tracking your favorite jams, just in time to press that "Play" & "Record" button combo, hoping the DJ wouldn't ruin the ending with a mindless Motorola Beeper 30 second advertisement.  And only certain pens was permissible to label those radio-recorded tapes.  Then listening to those tapes on your walkman, making sure you were fully stocked with batteries.

Back when handheld video games were the size of a small laptop, required 4 C batteries and were only made in black, white or green font.

Back when it was cool to sport your favorite musical performers' buttons on your shirt... And even cooler if your denim jacket was filled with them.  Katty had hers filled with Menudo.  Remember them?  I think I had a crush on Charlie or Miguel.  I forget which.

I distinctly remember picking out my radio.  I got it as a gift for graduating 6th grade.  Up north it's called Elementary School until you reach 7th grade; which begins Junior High School, not Middle School as they do in other states.  And each passing grade meant another gift.  But on milestone graduations (which meant you left your current school and "transferred" to another), those gifts were special.  I took it everywhere.  I even took it to kids camp that summer.  I remember walking all over the campus with my awesome radio.  When no one was looking I'd switch from Rene Gonzales over to Gloria Estefan "Rhythm is Gonna Get You", and Whitney Houston... Back when the songs were less controversial.  I mean, all she wanted to do was Dance With Somebody! - Get the lady a dance partner! - lol...   Then I'd quickly flip the tape to side A (the religious coritos - worship songs), when a camp counselor was approaching.  Now... if you really wanna get personal on music, let's discuss 1988, (the following year), it was all about Stevie B. and "Spring Love".  And I was right on it (having a solid year of perfected radio recording experience under my belt), with the double fingers on the "RECORD/PLAY" buttons.  There was a method to the press, y'know.  You had to put the exact amount of pressure on both buttons, simultaneously, in order for the recording to work.

I miss those days.
I missed Katty.

The search for her all those years had been quite a quest.
I had such a huge and utter longing to talk to her, hear from her.  Know if she was okay, if she was happy.  I didn't realize how much time had past since our last interaction.
6 years.
She didn't get to experience my late night grilled cheese pregnancy cravings.
Or the crazy birth of my son.
And I was longing for her friendship.
Misunderstandings and distance kept us apart.

But God...

He knew the desires of my heart.
He knew I wanted her back.  I wanted to help her.
I wanted to let her know about the love of God I have experienced.

The grace, that she and I didn't know about when we were young... how it was okay that we snuck away from home to go to the movies.
He still loved us!

I wanted to let her know that what we learned as teens was not entirely accurate.
He didn't want to condemn us for every mistake we made, but restore and redeem our lives.
And I needed to let her know we can come back to Him.
He won't turn His back on us, for the sins we've committed or even for what we may still be doing.

The very point of Jesus dying on that cross, was for that exact purpose.
For redemption.
For the washing away of our damaged and derailed past, and to bring us into a new relationship with Him.

I needed to find her to tell her I'm sorry.
That I didn't know what happened, and it didn't matter anymore.
To tell her how much I missed her, loved her.

I knew she needed saving.
From a life of heart ache and loneliness.
From misery and deception.
I longed to be the light in her life.
The mouthpiece of God.

But I couldn't find her...
Years of searching MiGente (taking it back!), Facebook, Instagram and Google for all possible name combinations left me no where.
I even reached out to mutual friends and her old boyfriend for help.

Each time I came back empty.

I remember fervently praying one night.
I cried out in desperation for Katty.
I asked God to make a way.
To find her.
To bring her back.
I boldly declared for the answer by my birthday.
Because if He was going to give me anything this year, it was going to be this!
That unshakable faith prayer brought me to Friday, January 13th.
(God's funny)...
Roughly 25 days before my birthday, I received the very thing I had been wanting.

I reached out to her via text.  I expressed myself.  I cried.
And cried.
And texted her all day.
And cried.
And was filled with such overflowing joy.

Jesus knew I needed to find her...
Because He placed a desire in me, to share with her, all about the goodness and greatness of God we didn't know or had experienced as young adults.

We had one (very long) phone call in the last week.
I hadn't heard her voice in over 11 years, and even forgot what it sounded like, but we picked up right where we left off.

What a mighty God we serve!
That is interested EVEN in what we consider the 'minor longings' we have.

I am excited about mending and renewing our friendship.
People like Katty don't come around often (or even at all anymore), and I declared that I was going to pursue her, nag and bother her until she came to visit; which ***UPDATE*** may happen for Memorial Day weekend!
Psalm 27:4 - Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
The story itself, on how I found her, is pretty amazing; maybe I'll share that one day.

Right now I just can't help but think about that crazy prayer.
If it weren't for that prayer, I'd still be wondering.
If it weren't for my radical request, I'd still be weary and anxious.
There would still be an unsettling and insatiable yearning to find her.

So I urge you...
The thing that's missing, or hurting or keeping you up at night...
The hope or daydream, that's too incredible to whisper...
Jesus knows, because He put it there, and it's been in the playbook all along.

Pursue it in faith.
It's yours to have and delight in.

Just in time for #ThrowbackThursday ...
Katty, myself & my pink Sony boombox, at kids camp.  Allentown, PA.  Circa 1987.
x0, d