God illuminates our Darkness!

 


And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea,and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Mark 4: 37-41 (NASB)

In the midst of a storm or should I say a tsunami, do not forget to look up to Jesus first.

God challenged and refined me for almost four years although he did not give me more than I could handle at the time.

Have you ever been choked or paralyzed by a life storm? Have you ever experienced unbelief? I sure did yet cried out boldly and loudly, ‘help me with my unbelief, Lord’ periodically. Some of you may be going thru some challenges today… If you are going thru a storm, how would you label your storm? 

I labeled mine, “The Pit of Darkness.” The Lord was ahead of me working out every detail of my dire circumstances. 

“Lord, You light my lamp; my God illuminates my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28 HCSB) Let us never forget He is our Light in our journey.

A few months after my dad had passed away, I was promoted to a regional leadership platform. Today, I oversee the quality of clinical services for close to 1,300 children and adolescents. During this time of grief and sorrow, I was asked to make daily Clinical decisions on behalf of these needy children. While I successfully provided adequate coverage, I was also intertwined with family affairs and daily decision-making processes on behalf of my dad’s Estate.

My “pit of darkness” was steep and intense. I will explain next.

I was out of breath at times and my health was compromised on several occasions. My life circumstances definitely got grotesque before the circumstances got any better. I know our Lord will train us for today’s battlefield. His Truth reminds me, “He trains my hands for war; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.” (Psalm 18:32 HCSB) The Lord will fight on our behalf, we just need to be still, be quiet, listen and follow His lead (Exodus 14:14).

“Every time my eyes were not on Jesus, I was horrified even paralyzed when facing these stressors,” I thank the Lord for having a supportive husband who challenged me to take the next step in the midst of confusion, chaos, loss, and persecution from those who resisted change. Most importantly, I have a great God who clothed me with inner strength and filled my heart with hope (Psalm 18:39). He makes my way perfect (Psalm 18:32).

“The Lord is My Banner” (Exodus 17:15).

I was overwhelmed and frazzled at the beginning of my leadership role, I experienced a panic attack on one of my business trips. At the end of the first year, I literally experienced heart-attack symptoms such as discomfort in my arm, pain in my chest and shortness of breath. In my second year, I experienced severe vertigo signs. In one occasion, the medical doctor ruled out a brain tumor with an MRI!

I thank God for ‘good health’ today!

The season of grief and sorrow, a fast-paced demanding work environment and family distress contributed to the pit of darkness. Slowly but surely, I began to read His Word daily and started to journal as I dealt with these life stressors.

I knew I had to handle these life stressors God’s way! It is the only way, my friend.

Once I was convicted, I prayed for His strength, mercies, and inner peace. I begged the Lord to show me ‘how’ and to give me the strength to persevere thru it all.

Three years later, I changed the cultural climate at work, implemented new systems and mobilized community resources for the least restrictive placements, and held strategic, monthly conference calls with the former Commissioner.

At this time, my eyes are on Jesus and no longer on my circumstances. In Christ, there is victory without a doubt!

Out of the pit of darkness, the Bible Reading Journal Series was birthed.

There will be seven volumes addressing the core spiritual disciplines that involve life application, confession, repentance, forgiveness, thanksgiving, and prayer. In the midst of the storm, let us not forget to look up to Jesus, not our circumstances my friend.

In my darkest moments, I felt hatred, unforgiveness, resentment, loneliness, isolation, and depression. These negative emotions took root in my heart temporarily. When I was convicted of the darkness in my life, I knew I had to look up to Jesus immediately for His help, guidance, inner peace and most importantly a new heart! 

He was forgiving, compassionate and faithful.

As soon as I would inscribe His Word, apply the lesson learned that morning, and submit my prayer requests, I was able to focus on the next task, experience less distress and endure the hardships at work.

His grace and faithfulness carried me one day at a time.

And, when I submit all of my prayer requests at sunrise, my heart and mind are in peace and I am much better prepared for today’s battlefield and the unexpected events.

Today, I not only inscribe those Scriptures that speak to me when I’m reading the Bible, but I read these verses in different translations, apply them to my life, and step out in obedience.

As I go thru any of my journals, I have an opportunity to confess to God any sin(s) whether it is unbelief, anger or unforgiveness. I also ask the Lord to help me forgive those who have hurt me throughout the day.

Counting my blessings fills my heart with gratitude.

When I surrender and write out my prayers and praying for others, our Lord comforts me every morning.

I am boldly praising Jesus today! “Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; He has thrown the horse and its rider into the sea.” (Exodus 15: 21)

In Christ, there is victory so look up in the midst of a life storm. Do not fix your eyes on the circumstances, my friend.               

Join the FB Bible Reading Journal Community today!

Bible Reading Journal: Growing Closer to God One Day at a Time.

Bible Reading Journal Series 2019

Volume 1 & 2 & 3 (Available Now on Amazon)

The Bible Reading Journal: Growing Closer to God One Day at a Time.

Bible Reading Journal: Growing Closer to God One Day at a Time.: “Your Word i… https://www.amazon.com/dp/1793923728/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_BmWwCbJH8J0HQ via @amazon

The Bible Reading Journal: Rest and Be Refreshed.

Bible Reading Journal: Rest and Be Refreshed.: “Your Word is a lamp to my fee… https://www.amazon.com/dp/1794685421/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_gnWwCbA0V0NCK via @amazon

The Bible Reading Journal: Praise and Be Content.

Bible Reading Journal: Praise and Be Content: “Your Word is a lamp to my feet… https://www.amazon.com/dp/1795055677/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_OnWwCbVRW0168 via @amazon

Volume 1 (Spanish Version, Spring 2019)

El Diario de Lectura de la Biblia: Cada vez más cerca de Dios, un día a la vez

Volume 4 & 5 (Summer 2019)

The Bible Reading Journal: Trust and Be Courageous.

The Bible Reading Journal: Mourn and Be Comforted.

Volume 6 & 7 (Fall 2019)

The Bible Reading Journal: Forgive and Be Restored.

The Bible Reading Journal: Love and Be His Light.

The Bible Reading Journal 2019 is now available on Amazon.com

Two Foundations

B3B764A8-9AE2-4C55-BF11-CCCEC0C57EE9.jpegPedro Sousa @ Splasher

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall.” Matthew‬ ‭7:24-27‬ ‭NASB

Several years ago, I was standing on sinking ground with my Faith walk. Church attendance was ‘hit or miss’, bible reading was inconsistent, and prayerful life was nonexistent. I was distant from the Lord. I was consumed by ‘cultural busyness’ and distracted by a fast-paced lifestyle. No margin for rest, adequate self-care or time for His Word.

Yes! You heard me right. I was standing on shaky territory.

I was a reckless woman who did not read or act on His Word. I was vulnerable and helpless. “Enemies of the heart” took root in my soul from paralyzing fear, doubt,  hatred, unforgiveness, isolation to bitterness. I was resting at the bottom of the pit,  ‘darkness of depression’, in the midst of loss and separation, and overwhelming life circumstances. I was grief-stricken with dad’s sudden death, overwhelmed by a regional leadership platform and troubled by mom’s relocation back to South America.

My world had drastically turned upside down in less than three months.

But God …

He never left me or forsake me.

When the Holy Spirit convicted me of His faithfulness, I immediately turned back to His Word one day at a time. Re-building an intimate relationship  with the Lord was a gradual process yet it was worth the time and commitment.

Spiritual disciplines; repentance, forgiveness, thanksgiving and prayer transformed my life one day at a time.

He is my Refuge, Comforter and the Best Counselor. He is my Rock today. The more I read and apply His Word to my everyday life, the closer I am to the Lord. His faithfulness, favor and grace are evident, and His mercies never runs out.

I am standing on a firm foundation today. How about you my friend? Would you stand next to me? Jesús Christ is our strength, inner peace and our only hope.

“You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭5:33‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.””
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:20‬ ‭NASB

“The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭18:2‬ ‭NASB‬‬

“This Faith Journal is an experiential journey for you to deepen your relationship with God.  As you read God’s Word, His promises will strengthen your heart and following the guided prompts will inspire forgiveness and restoration in your relationships. Journaling helps you build a prayerful life that allows you to rest on Him when burdened by today’s challenges.  Journaling His Word invites the Holy Spirit to counsel and guide you through burdens, hardships, and pain.” 
Kathy Bornarth, MA, LPC, President of the National Association of Christian Journal Writers www.nacjw.com

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Drop The Magnifying Glass

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Lord,

At sunrise, I bring all of my petitions to You and reflect on my blessings with a grateful heart. When I am reclined in my favorite living room chair, the thinking process is smooth, friendly and convenient. I even have the time to ask you to search my heart and allow extra time for you to speak, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Psalm‬ ‭139:23‬ ‭NIV‬‬.

My time with you at sunrise is a delight!

Philippians 4:6 reminds me of how important is to breathe, take a break, arrest all of my disturbing thought(s), surrender these troubling thoughts to Christ and pray with You in thanksgiving. Most importantly, you do not want me to be anxious about anything. You are already taking care of all the details and fighting the best battle on my behalf.

At times, it is an ongoing struggle to react well in the midst of adversity or when faced with the unexpected or a life-altering moment.

Do you ever struggle my friend? I hope your struggles are not as debilitating as mine. The ”what if’s” in life will bring high levels of anxiety and distress without a doubt.

I immediately anticipate the worst scenario when I intentionally answer all potential ‘what if’ questions. It is like holding a magnifying glass closely, searching for both irrelevant and relevant clues and creating my own, ‘Pelicula de Accion’, action movie with a dramatic plot and ending. Every time I am creative with an imaginary action movie, I imprisoned myself at a maximum-security prison.

Confined. Shackled. Helpless. No Freedom.

Lord, help me put my trust in you alone (‭Psalm‬ ‭56:3‬ ‭NIV)‬‬. Help me establish a steadfast, prayerful life. I want for prayer to be my immediate response to shocking news, unexpected circumstances, troublesome, threatening or disheartening information. I need your help. I cannot do this on my own.

Please forgive me, Lord,  for all of the times I have overreacted.

I lose perspective when I think about the worst scenario and even catastrophize at times. When I catastrophize or visualize a tragedy, I experience a full-blown anxiety attack. Shortness of breath, restlessness, heart palpitations and debilitating fear are some of the symptoms I typically experience.  If I cannot breathe well, I may not think clearly much less pray right there and then. At that point, I am no longer able to reflect on or apply truth to my personal circumstances.

I have to stop the “what if” line of questioning, my sweet friend! It is where it all starts before the decision-making process goes downhill.

Your truth reminds me that our emotions are fickle and the heart is deceitful (Jerimiah 17:9).

The Lord wants for us to think of whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable—“if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Recently, I freaked out over an email that I was expecting for quite some time. My emotions were hijacked when I held a ‘magnifying glass’ closer to the printed information on a web-article. The more information I read, the more “what if” questions I answered without any evidence.

Once my overwhelming emotions blurred my vision, I then anticipated the worst scenario when I read over the leader’s profile at work. Her track record in past performance was outstanding. She was a Judge in our local criminal court. She is highly respected and her flawless reputation was palpable. I was quite excited for this young woman to be selected for a three-year term. I kept reading the web-article for relevant details. When I read the word PROSECUTOR, it jumped out of the page and I completely lost it as soon as I visualized being cross-examined in our future, casual conversations at work.

“How irrational was that? Lord. I already had a movie plot with a dramatic ending ready to be published!

An irrational thought led to irrational emotion and before I knew it I was gasping for my next breath. By the time I finished reading the article, I was paralyzed by the high level of anxiety. Once my emotions were hijacked by the visualization of day-to-day cross-examinations, I felt threatened and fearful of the upcoming change at work. I literally thought the new leader in command would cross-examine employees outside of a courtroom. How irrational was that?  Friend, there is no need to answer. I bet Satan enjoyed every minute of my agony and emotional distress as I failed to pray and created my own short-lived, dramatic action movie after I had answered all of the potential “what if’s.”

I am not honoring Satan’s deceitful plans by answering any “what if,” the question. The enemy’s scheme is to plant the seed of doubt, confusion, and/or anticipation. I will probably stop, take a deep breath and change my focus next time I ever think of another “what if”. I plan on quitting this vicious cycle right there and then.

If you are an attorney, my friend, I have great respect for what you do. As a matter of fact, I have great working relationships with local attorneys and even served as an expert witness twice in the past. It was quite uncomfortable to be on the stand at first and I even disliked the motives behind cross-examinations. It is definitely outside of my comfort zone.

But God…

Your eternal perspective is my refuge. I stand on Your solid ground when I stand on your Truth.

Lord, may all of my meditations be pleasing in your sight! (Psalm 19:14).

You always hear my cries, petitions and it comforts me in the most debilitating circumstances (Psalm‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭NIV).‬‬

I am ready to ditch the magnifying glass so I may experience victory in Christ! You are the author of my Faith and the Prince of Peace.

In Jesus’ name, I boldly pray, Amen.

Photo: Marten Newhall @ Splasher

Let us sit next to Jesus:

Inscribe and Meditate

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the highest will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings, you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Highest your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With a long life, I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭91:1-16‬ ‭NIV

Memory Verse

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭23:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Weekly Challenge

Every hour take a few minutes for breathing and stretching exercises.

When in distress, stop, take a break and breathe immediately. Then, pray to our Lord. He is our Refuge and Prince of Peace.

Serve One Another

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭NLT

Mom was gifted in the kitchen area. For years, she cooked and baked for anyone who visited her at the last minute. She never complained about the preparation time for mealtime or the number of visitors she had at any given time. She was hospitable, fed a multitude and smiled often (1 Peter‬ ‭4:9‬)‬.

The kitchen area was her joy at breakfast, lunch, and dinner!

She fed everyone around the table with simple, traditional recipes yet tasty ones. The ‘arepa’, the Venezuelan bread,  was available all day long. It is easy to make with only three ingredients; flour “Harina Pan”, water and a pinch of salt.

Voila! you had Venezuela bread baked in less than 20 minutes. If I was hungry and mom needed extra time in the kitchen, I would always eat an arepa or two with shredded cheese prior to any given meal time.

Mom’s kitchen was always open. Everyone was invited. I bet you, my friend, would have also been invited in a heartbeat.

Mom had the gift of hospitality indeed. She used it well and serve others wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Part of mom’s legacy was to bring people together in her cozy and informal kitchen table day after day.

We are equipped  differently though. His Truth reminds us of how each one of us is gifted differently and uniquely. “He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.” (Ephesians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NLT)‬‬

I miss mom’s cooking and all of her Venezuelan’s dishes today!

Mom is no longer able to cook for others or bring people together. She does not even remember her favorite recipes anymore due to the progressive disease of Alzheimer’s. Mom will always be remembered for her long-standing legacy of ‘bringing people together’ around an ordinary tabletop and most importantly serving all of us well.

“If you would ask me today if I have any regret(s) in life?” I painfully admit to one… not ‘getting together’ with others to do life in the kitchen area just like mom did for decades. I did not inherit mom’s gift of hospitality nor was it a priority of mine in life in the past.

Friend, we don’t have to be gifted in this area in order for us to serve lovingly and compassionately. There are so many different ways to connect and serve others well in life.

As I watched others in social media this past Holiday season, people were reunited with family and friends and celebrated together over a Holiday feast. I was so delighted to witness others do life together. I wish I could have been part of these reunions and extend grace, serve well and love on everyone at the celebration.

If this was you, my friend, just know you have embarked yourself on the most unforgettable journey in life by creating memories with loved ones, friends and relatives. God does not want for us to be alone (Genesis 1:18).

We were born to socialize and be part of a community.

My husband and I  have agreed to open up our home for regular gatherings with women, men and/or couples in our local community who are willing to do life with us. Women, men or couples who are willing to embrace an opportunity to learn from each other, encourage one another, and build community over the course of time. I am also going to learn not only ‘how to’ cook but develop a passion for simple hospitality, not the elaborate type or Martha Stewart’s style.

In God’s economy, we will bear fruits in His perfect time and season (Psalm 1:3). Lord, help us build relationships in our local community. I am trusting in Your timing and provisions.

Author Margaret Feinberg describes ‘table time’ as transformational. An opportunity to connect, live and grow together. Every time I gather with others, there is always an opportunity to know the other person a bit more. When we connect and learn about each other, we are doing life together and making memories for years to come.

Jesús appreciated living life around others and visited many communities throughout His three-year ministry. He would sit down at a table with all of His friends and blessed their meal times. Jesus always brought the multitude together and valued connectedness in His local community.

As I embark on a new journey in the kitchen area, I am not sure where to start but I’m being prayerful and intentional about building community at my kitchen’s tabletop. Mom was the perfect example of sharing her time with others. It was her priority in life.

Do you enjoy the preparation time before any social gatherings?

I bet it is a lot of work and some of you may or may not even have time. I  never had time in the past myself.  I don’t need to have all of the answers right now. I may not need to worry about who is coming or if I will set up the table right.

All I need is to have a desire for community and being around others. I love people so I plan on taking time to gather, not be busy or rush thru our time together and serve others well one moment at a time.

What about you, my friend? How are you planning to serve others this year? Are you ready to schedule margin for ‘community building’ in your calendar?

Lord, help us find godly friendships in our local communities, in Jesus’ name I bravely pray,

Amen.

Let us sit at Jesus’ feet:

Meditate and Inscribe

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭6:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter‬ ‭4:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”‭Galatians‬ ‭5:13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Memory Verse

“Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” ‭‭Psalm‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Weekly Challenge

Check out at least three YouTube.com cooking videos and select a new recipe of five ingredients or less. Tip: Insert “recipes with less 5 ingredients” on the search engine in youtube.com

 

Photo Courtesy: Calum Lewis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Melodies of His Heart

Our surroundings are way too loud for me right now” a friend gently adjusted her hearing aid when we both walked into a local restaurant for a Holiday celebration.

Has it ever happened to you that you are overwhelmed by the level of noise?  ‘Information or sound overload’ happens often, whether we are wearing a hearing aid or not. Our Lord’s voice will gradually fade out and not be heard in the midst of our hectic lifestyles or loud surroundings!

D0B6A5C6-5285-4177-8946-A7E97BBFC3F6Photo courtesy: Luca Volpe @ Unsplash

Lord, I want to hear your subtle whispers! Help me tune into the rhythms of your voice and the melodies of your heart, Lord. “You are gracious, righteous and full of compassion.” (Psalm 116:5)

We are also bombarded with tragic news on the radio, disheartening family updates, conflicting information at our work sites, countless projects at home, unwanted medical diagnosis, unresolved parenting issues or endless social media feeds.

If our days get too noisy, turn the volume down a notch so we may hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit and nourish our relationship with our only Savior, Jesus Christ and honor our Abba Father.

Yes, Lord, I want to hear the melodies of your heart!

By the end of the day, I am physically and mentally fatigued from what life demands out of me. My soul is drenched and thirsty for His living water. If I am feeling annoyed or frustrated then I know I need to stop, breath, take a short break and call on the name of Jesus.

“Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice,” Psalm‬ ‭95:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Let us slow down a bit so we may be in tune with the nudges of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, help me slow down and not be so distracted by technology…Your heavenly presence is my forever refuge.

35F978BF-3E4F-4E2D-B7CD-032CBE211486Photo Courtesy: Rawpixel @ Unsplash

I was surprised when I noticed my friend had deactivated from Facebook. “Did anything happen?! I was intrigued. Personally, I would miss my virtual friends so much just like I had missed seeing her smile in all of her FB posts!” I thought to myself. I truly enjoy scrolling down social media and interacting with everyone yet I do neglect my loved ones at home at times.

I missed seeing my friend’s updates on FB so I invited her to lunch one afternoon. She shared how ‘simple’ and ‘less complicated’ her life had been without social media. “What?! How could you live without FB?” I bluntly asked.

Even though I have no plan on quitting social media, I did appreciate my friend’s intent to simplify her life.  She introduced me to the ‘screen time’ application for the iPhone as an option. It keeps track of the amount of time I spend on my phone applications each day. Once the selected time is over, the selected application(s) are locked for the rest of the day unless you request an additional fifteen minutes of use or even override it for the rest of the day. I figured three hours a day for social media would be enough time for me to check in with all of my virtual friends and still have time to work a full-time job, spend quality time with family and friends on weekends and most importantly quality time with my Savior every day. Not only did I set up the ‘screen time’ for the phone applications but I also established ‘downtime’ away from technology. It even reminds me when I have five minutes left of screen time before the scheduled downtime! How cool is that?

Lord, I am ready to turn on the celestial volume of your melodies and loving tunes!

E19CFB44-6D85-4E1B-B5BF-473E40D4D298.pngCourtesy Photo: William Iven @ Unsplash

Lord, If I am not inscribing and meditating on Scriptures, writing out my praises and petitions, and worshiping Jesus throughout the day, then I know I will eventually drift away and be distant from You. Oh no! I can’t afford to drift away from you, Lord.

You have guided me thru unfamiliar territories and led the way, have smoothed out the circumstances along the way so I could endure hardships, have never forsaken me and you have turned darkness into light in my presence! (Isaiah 42:16)

Lord, I am praying over Psalm 27:8 at this moment, “help me seek your face and
help me not take my eyes off from you!”

Let us, “Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” Psalm‬ ‭96:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Let us Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭100:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

in Jesus’ name, I bravely pray.

Amen.

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet –

Inscribe and Meditate:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid? One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me. My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek. Teach me your way, LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors. I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm‬ ‭27:1, 4, 7-8, 11, 13-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Memory Verse:  “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭27:4‬ ‭NIV

Weekly Challenge: Try out the ‘screen time’ on your phone and establish ‘downtime’ away from technology.  Do not be surprised if you establish the habit once you have done this challenge for several weeks consecutively.

 

Empowered by Jesus: A Fountain of Hope.

“Now may God, the inspiration and fountain of hope, fill you to overflowing with uncontainable joy and perfect peace as you trust in him. And may the power of the Holy Spirit continually surround your life with his super-abundance until you radiate with hope!”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Photo Courtesy: Evelyn Mostrom

Lord,

You are a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and God of Hope. (Isaiah 9:6)

“How remarkable is that?!” We are never alone. He is always with us. He is our beloved Immanuel (Matt 1:21).

You are our Savior who shines a bright Light to the World!

“She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew‬ ‭1:21‬ ‭NIV‬ . My heart rejoices when I think of you, Jesus, as my Savior, who rescued me out of the pit of darkness. You were crucified at the Cross on my behalf. You cleansed me from all of my sins when I humbly brought them all to your attention, surrendered my heart and pinned my repentance to the Cross.

I have been set free for eternity.

You chose the ordinary, the unexpected and sinners like us!  Your heart is pure and willing to save us all.  

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV.

Lord, you are our only source of true Hope and my Salvation. You are an indescribable gift to my heart and soul.

I wait expectantly for miracles to unfold throughout the day. We all have a fresh start at sunrise! Yes, you are the source of my confidence as I make decisions all day long. I am not trusting any of my circumstances or people who are in my sphere of influence.

I am trusting you alone, Lord.

Life circumstances abruptly change and relationships either evolve over time or change, a few of our friends walk away unexpectedly and others lose contact when they move away geographically.

But God…

I can trust you to be always faithful. Your character never changes regardless of the season of the year. Lord, you never cease to exist, never disappoints and your love never fades away.

How incredible it is to fall in love with Jesus all over again as we move forward in a new chapter of our lives, a fresh start in the New Year.

I have always enjoyed the Holiday season. It is my favorite time of the year.

It is a season filled with unlimited opportunities for festivities and my heart is always filled with gratitude by Thanksgiving. I treasure the smell of freshly-baked carrot cake and chocolate chip cookies, and beautifully wrapped gifts under a 6 foot tall Christmas tree ready for the gift exchange event. It becomes an unforgettable season when we all fellowship, serve, encourage one another and celebrate with family and friends.

Let us be mindful though, Holiday seasons are quite a challenge for many. It has been for me in the past few years! Many of us are hurting silently and others may be too ashamed to reach out and voice their emotional angst.

There are sisters in Christ who may not have friendly neighbors, and others do not have family or friends to share the Holidays with. Many end up skype-ing or Facetime-ing their loved ones who may live in another country, some may even be suffering in a hospital bed or bedridden or perhaps you have lost contact with loved ones over the years. Everyone’s circumstances are different yet our struggles are universal. We are all united by our sense of distress or loneliness or sadness over the Holidays.

The struggle is real!

If this is you, my sister, just know the only connection that truly lasts until eternity is our intimate relationship with the Lord. He will always be inviting, unconditional, steadfast,  and faithful.

He is our beloved Immanuel. He is with us all the time!

My Holidays were redefined three years ago when dad passed away and mom relocated to our home country in South America. Since then, I reminisce every year in how I used to spend every holiday season with my folks. We traveled, and celebrated together over four decades. I treasure our unforgettable memories in my heart today.   I just didn´t know how painful and lonely this season was going to be until recently. I certainly miss both of them! My heart aches at times when I am in touch with their absence.

Are you feeling lonely this Holiday season or experiencing distress or emotional pain? If you are experiencing anguish then just know you are not the only one. Take refuge in our Lord´s presence. He will comfort our tender hearts and will love on us every day until we rejoice in His presence. Our Lord is near the broken-hearted and saves everyone whose spirit is crushed (Psalm 34:18).

Lord, relieve our troubles of our hearts and free us from anguish always (Psalm 25:17). Hear our prayers and comfort us today!

Let us embrace a new season, a new dance, a new song of praise as we all move forward into our Holiday celebrations this year! I am beginning to embrace new traditions nowadays and reaching out to others makes a difference in one’s life.

We may not have our beloved family member or a close friend this Christmas, but we will always have an intimate fellowship with our Lord.

In Jesus’ name, I bravely pray and boldly praise my King of kings.

Amen.

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet:

Inscribe:

“But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.” Psalm‬ ‭9:18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm‬ ‭25:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Psalm‬ ‭31:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Meditate:

“Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, you his servants, the descendants of Abraham, his chosen ones, the children of Jacob. He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, He brought out his people with rejoicing, his chosen ones with shouts of joy; he gave them the lands of the nations, and they fell heir to what others had toiled for— that they might keep his precepts and observe his laws. Praise the LORD.” Psalm‬ ‭105:5-8, 43-45‬ ‭NIV

Memory verse: 

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” Psalm 105:3-4

Weekly Challenge:

Let us be hopeful during these Holidays in the midst of our loneliness or sadness or distress. Reach out and encourage someone to come alongside you.

HOPE redefined:  (H) Help a stranger at the grocery store or an elderly person at your local community, (O) Order a meal for a homeless person or a cup of coffee for a church member (P) Prepare a Holiday cookie tray for a neighbor or friend or co-worker, and  (E) Enjoy listening to Christmas Carols or soft music as you drive to work or write down a list of today’s blessings in a journal at sunrise. The possibilities are endless. Be creative when your HOPE is redefined this Holiday season. Share the greatest news of the World, Jesus Christ. He is the best gift anyone can receive.

 

Empowered by Jesus: Hope that Never Fails.

“But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Isaiah 40:31 NIV

How many times do I feel burdened at the end of the day? Quite too often I must admit!

All life stressors whether it is a fast-paced leadership role, unemployment, toxic stress, a chronic illness, financial hardship or death of a loved one will have a long-lasting impact in our lives. These life-altering challenges are mind-boggling, paralyzing, or debilitating and will alter our minds, spirits, and bodies over time.

Be mindful, these stressful circumstances will blindfold us if we do not take care of ourselves well, and reach out for support or assistance or guidance. We may even lose perspective or vision for the future if we dwell on our circumstances for a prolonged period of time.

Lord, help us reach out to you when we are in distress and give us the courage to talk to someone if we are living in dire moments. Help us take good care of ourselves; good rest at night, healthy meals and help us engage in daily, relaxing activities while we persevere thru the hardships.

Help us take refuge in the shadow of Your wings. We belong in your arms. We want to bathe our burdened souls in Your refreshing stream of living water (Psalm 36:7-9). We want to be renewed, refreshed and empowered to take another step towards our future.

He restores, empowers and strengthens our minds, bodies, and souls every day. Let us hold on to His eternal promises and never let go! (1 Peter 5:10).

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Photo courtesy: Juliane Liebermann @ UnSplash

I heard shocking news recently. One of my colleagues committed suicide. I sat in the living room astonished when I heard she ended her life so violently. I am in disbelief today and heartbroken for her children. “How come she never reached out to any of her colleagues, family or friends for help?” Forgive me, Lord, for judging her.

The holiday tragedy touched the core of my soul. It also altered the lives of many who cared and loved her in our local community.

Lord, I pray if anyone is currently contemplating suicide, please extend grace, love on her, strengthen her mind and heart so she may seek help right now. Encourage her to dial the 24 hour suicide hotline now, 1-800-273-8255. There are also other free resources available for us to tap into nowadays in our Churches and the local communities.

Be alert my friends!

If we drift away from our only source of Hope, Jesus Christ, the enemy will isolate us, lie, condemn and destroy our lives. The enemy will whisper, “there is no other option” and will drag us all the way to defeat.

But the Truth says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

In Christ, our lives can be transformed so do not be ashamed if you need help, my beloved friend.

My prayer is for us to rise above our circumstances and be empowered by Jesus.

img_1517-2Photo courtesy: Sam Bark @ UnSplash

“How can we soar on wings like eagles?”

Eagles fly higher than any other bird so they can only fly with other Eagles.

As iron sharpens iron,
    so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

Our enemy detests for us to live in a community whether it is in our local church, neighborhood or in social media. If we encourage one another in the midst of hardships, we will be able to weather adversity and be stronger and wiser over the course of time. Let us maintain close fellowship with Jesus and with one another. Together, we will conquer the enemy.

“Yes, Lord, hear our prayer.”

Eagles have excellent eyesight and focus.

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Jesus Christ is our central point of focus in life. Let us be prayerful, submit our requests and petitions with thanksgiving, and praise Him in the midst of our agony and despair.

Let us be more like Jesus in character and not allow our emotions be kidnapped by the enemy. The enemy wants for  us to be defeated yet there is undeniable power in the Cross. In Christ, we will conquer mental and emotional distress, and soar on wings like eagles.

“Yes, Lord, hear our prayer.”

Eagles rise above storm clouds and they rest on their wings.

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)

Lord, I pray we have the strength to persevere thru it all. If we are weary, let us hold on to You tightly and never let go of Your grip!  He will give us the rest and the overwhelming peace we need. Since Jesus has already defeated the enemy, we can live victoriously always with great expectations for our future.

God gave us free will so we may choose Life. Let us cherish every moment. Today is a gift from the Lord. Let us wait expectantly for all the possibilities to unfold.

In Jesus name, I bravely pray.

Amen.

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and Meditate on:

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

Memory Verse:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:4-9)

Challenge for the week:

Contact a friend or family or church member this week and schedule a visit.

Empowered by Jesus: Original by Design.

Lord,

Thank you for creating me in your image. I am ‘original’ by design. Even though I am a sinner, I am your beloved daughter. I deeply treasure the royal kinship with the King of kings. I am loved and forever cherished by our Heavenly Father and His only Son.

”How amazing is that?!” I am a child of God (John 1:12).

His truth reminds me of how wonderfully I was created even though I tend to be self-critical at times. Let me never forget ‘whose I am’ ever again. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm‬ ‭139:1-4, 14, 24‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I am … Chosen. Forgiven. Redeemed. Loved. Treasured. Set Apart to God.

“How special is that?!” I am unique and one of a kind.

No one can snatch me out of my Father’s hand either (John 10). I feel protected and secured right about now, Lord.

You always hold me close to your heart.

I praise you boldly and will sing a song of Thanksgiving always!

I am alive and well in Jesus Christ.

Let me be mindful of our enemy though, the father of lies, who wants to destroy or distort our  well-being and your divine master plan. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…” John 10:10 NIV. The enemy planted the seeds of doubt and insecurity and convinced me I was ‘not good enough’!
Back in high school…
My girlfriends and I were gathered outdoors in the patio for a short recess and held an informal conversation about college. Everyone was inspired about future possibilities and asked relevant questions to the School Counselor. When our morning break ended, everyone rushed to their scheduled classes except me. I was unassured of the aptitudes needed to succeed in college so I asked for the counselor’s opinion.
After a brief silence, she answered gently “I don’t see you in college.”
“Ugh? Did I hear correctly?” I silently asked myself, was downhearted then walked away in disbelief.
Was I not good enough for college?” this sentence repeatedly echoed in my mind for the rest of my high school years. Discouragement settled in my heart soon thereafter. I never inquired again about college admission, SAT prep courses or career choices.
The self-deprecating message ‘not good enough’ replayed in my mind intermittently for almost three decades. It was a lie the enemy had planted in my mind and it played out throughout college and career life. I never thought I was good enough.
Academic life was ferocious
But God…
He granted me the confidence to overcome insecurities, fear, and doubt. By breaking down challenging tasks into manageable action steps, developing effective study habits, and learning from past mistakes, I overcame hurdles in both my personal life and career development. In Christ, my spirit was renewed every day, a steadfast character was built, and spiritual maturity evolved over the years.
The unexpected materialized twenty years after high school graduation!
I poured some Colombian coffee in a mug, grabbed the wireless headphones out of the leather tote then rushed to the home office at sunrise, “Lord help me be alert, organized and articulate in today’s conference call”  I whispered to myself. As I dialed the conference number, I meditated on His promise, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV).
I was astonished about the progress all team members had made so far in previous conference calls.
I was invigorated when the State Commissioner’s genuine appreciation for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) was initially displayed.  ABA is a treatment modality for children and adolescents who are diagnosed with intellectual disability and pervasive developmental disorder.
Never in my wildest dreams, did I expect to be in a regional leadership role much less conversing with a State Commissioner at 8 a.m. on a monthly basis! God’s vision is bountiful. I’m not letting the enemy plant another seed of doubt in my mind ever again.
No more lies, Satan, not today or ever again!

Lord, you have orchestrated favorable circumstances in my life. When these circumstances are unexpected, overwhelming or tragic, you give me the strength to persevere thru it all.

I am shifting my attention and focus to your heavenly ways and I will embrace your never-ending grace when I fail or experience setbacks. I know you love me even though I’ve got plenty of character defects (John 16).

“I am a work in progress.”

You are a forgiving, loyal and merciful God. You love me for who I am even at my worst. I am devoting the rest of my life to serve and worship you, “Serve and worship the awe-inspiring God. Recognize his greatness and bow before him, trembling with reverence in his presence.” Psalms‬ ‭2:11‬ ‭TPT‬‬

My heart is filled with gratitude, Lord.

Some say I have a type A personality. Others may not even notice the difference! I am much more interested in what you have to say, my Lord. Help me not be bothered by others’ critical opinions.

Man’s critical opinion is irrelevant. Your eternal view matters to me the most.

“How can I maintain eternal focus today, Lord?” I have asked myself repeatedly over the years. There are so many distractions, temptations, and earthly influences.

The more I know your truth, the more I witness how your truth has set me free.

I am engraving all of your precepts in my heart so I may never forget them or sin against you (Psalm 119:11). I enjoy meditating and discovering heavenly treasures in your Word every day! I take captive every thought on fruitless habits and ask for your strength to overcome temptations.

Apart from you, I cannot do anything, Lord (Psalm 16:2, John 15:5).

Yes, Lord! Help me overcome today’s temptations.

“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. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John‬ ‭15:5, 7-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

When I am drifting away or get distracted Lord, gently nudge me back to you so I may abide in you and bear much fruit. Your spirit of truth guides me and shows me how to persevere thru turmoil, confusion, chaos, and uncertainties (John 16:13). In the midst of life happenings, I would like to grow spiritually and be much more steadfast in my walk with Jesus.

The Holy Spirit gifts us with a range of blessings. Thank you, Jesus, for the power and blessings of our forever companion, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit filled life is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness. goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

I need help with self-control, Lord.

I believe but help me with my unbelief when it comes to frivolous spending. I have thought of  being ‘not good enough’ to build a retirement plan. I know this is a lie!  Help me stop and walk away from the next shopping extravaganza. Some days I do well and other days I just want to shop non-stop. One of my current concerns is to manage the finances well and display self-control when faced with temptations over the Holidays. I want to be content with all I have today. I’ve got enough! Help me stay within the boundaries of my established budget. I am worthy of maintaining a solid retirement account. Yes, Lord! I know you want me to be a good steward of your resources.

I know if I rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, I will have the strength to walk away from needless spending. I need wisdom every time I make financial decisions and your strength to walk away from temptations of all types.

In Jesus’ name,

I bravely pray.

Amen.

Let us sit at the Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and Meditate: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Memory Verse: “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 2 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:3-5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Weekly Challenge:

Identify a lie that has played out in your life over the years. Pray for God to replace it with His Truth.

Weekly Tip:

His Truth will set you free (John 8:32).

 

Photo Courtesy: Javier Reyes @ Splasher89CF692D-36A3-4CA8-BA9A-4BAE7064998C

Empowered by Jesus: Let Go of Control.

“See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:15‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Lord,

Please, forgive me for thinking I could control today’s events by manipulating environmental conditions. I desperately wanted to expedite the timing and possibly the outcome(s) of all my circumstances. Help me trust in your character instead, and in your faithfulness, promises and most importantly in your eternal masterplan.

You are the One who has control over our lives!

You orchestrate the details of all life happenings then map out how new beginnings unfold.

You created the heavens and the earth, and every living creature in today’s world. God even breathed ‘the breath of life’ into the man’s  nostrils at the very beginning of biblical times! (Genesis 2:7).

Without you, I would not be alive today. “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm‬ ‭139:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬- I praise you for the miracles and blessings in my life today. You are in control, not I.

Control is an illusion!

If I think I am in full control over my life, then I am living a lie. It is a subtle, recurrent strategy from the father of lies, our enemy, who wants for us to disregard God’s will. He is crafty in drafting an illusion; he is a con artist. He wants for us to remain in bondage to our sinful nature and be apart from you, Lord. The enemy is jealous of our intimate fellowship and wants to steal our joy, destroy our present and future and enslave us once again!

But, Christ has defeated the enemy on our behalf.

We have the gift to make a choice, thank goodness Lord! We have free will.

Our ability to make a decision is a heavenly treasure. God wants us to be intentional and prayerful when making choices. The Holy Spirit, our eternal companion and coach, will guides us in decision-making if we pray first.

Thank you, Lord, for being a reliable and trustworthy Helper.

It is our decision whether we surrender to God’s will or not, whether we are obedient to His commands or not, whether we partner up with Him in our day to day activities or not, whether we choose to engage in earthly distractions or fruitless habits like ‘retail therapy’ or not.

Ultimately, God wants us to partner with Him in today’s journey and in all of our decision-making opportunities.

God encourages us to choose wisely so we may not be enslaved to idols ever again. Idolatry is anything that pulls away from our intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Everytime I spend time in frivolous spending or complaining or even perfectionism, the Holy Spirit convicts me of what truly matters.

I need to repent, surrender my desires, and follow Him!

His desire is for me to be always free and alive; “Let me be clear, the Anointed One has set us free—not partially, but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past.” Galatians‬ ‭5:1‬ ‭TPT‬‬

Jesús is the light to our path; “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John‬ ‭8:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

We do not have control in Life.

When tragedy occurs, God is already there on our behalf!

Several years ago…

My sister and I had it ‘all’ planned out prior to her international trip. We had mapped out the ‘perfect’ plan, the projected timeframe and all of the details for the action plan. We had explored all available options together in the best interest of our elderly parents.

We thought “we were ready to go.” We were wrong!

I was consulting 90 minutes away from home and was about to take a lunch break when I received a phone call from my sister. I was intrigued yet surprised by her unexpected call and even had a fleeting thought, “she must have forgotten to say something else about her trip…” I was calm and relaxed.

When I answered the phone, I heard her trembling and high-pitched tone of voice, “Dad just had a heart attack and died…” She was still in shock and I was too!

Our lives were drastically altered by the unexpected and overwhelming sense of grief and loss. She was in Venezuela and I was in the United States, many thousand of miles apart.

I felt helpless when I realized my passport had expired, and there was no available international flights at the time! I was unable to attend dad’s funeral. I was heart-broken, grief stricken and alone. Many even judged me for not being at dad’s funeral and only a couple of people reached out throughout the painful journey of loss and loneliness.

In my walk thru the valleys of emotional distress and sorrow, God was my only source of refuge, comfort and hope. The Lord is near the broken-hearted and to those whose spirits are crushed (Psalm 34:18).

Praising Jesus! He truly understands.

He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6).

He even weeps with us  (Luke 22:62).

God does not waste our emotional pain ever!

The only control we have is in our decision-making process when we make choices today. We can believe in His promises rather than feeling hopeless, choose Hope over despair, be with Jesus instead of being lonely, and choose meditation rather than fruitless habits such as retail therapy.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬

After dad’s funeral, the intensity from family estate planning and challenging, work demands led to anger, fear and despair. My needless shopping spinned out of control for another season.

I did not handle my grief well at the onset of this major loss until I brought this hardship to the Lord’s attention one afternoon. I knelt down in front of the Cross, surrendered my heart and trusted Him with the healing process.

Out of angst and helplessness, I chose to dig into the book of Psalms one day at a time. I inscribed His verses at Sunrise and Sunset, recited selected verse throughout the day, journaled my mixed emotions and believed in His eternal promises one moment at a time. When I entrusted my emotional distress and grief to the Lord, my soul was refreshed. Only then, I was able to get a grip of my needless spending habit.

“From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.” Psalm‬ ‭61:2-3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Praising Jesus for His healing!

How did I let go of control?! When I realized I did not have control over  my circumstances and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me thru chaos, confusion and hatred one event at a time.

I was flexible and receptive to the soft whispers of the Holy Spirit and did not hold too tight my daily schedule, routine or agenda for the day.

When we choose to follow His ways, He sets us free.

I am choosing Life and Prosperity today, Lord. I want to be free for the rest of my life and not be enslaved ever again.

‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… the courage to change the things I can… and the wisdom to know the difference’ (Reinhold Niebuhr)

in Jesus’ name I bravely pray and boldly praise you,

Amen.

Let us sit at the Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and meditate on 2 Peter 1:1-12

Memory Verse: 2 Peter 1:3-4 “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
‭‭

Weekly Challenge: Consider a budget for Holiday shopping this year and add it to your household budget. Review budget goals weekly. Track your daily expenses.

Tip for the week: Do not spend more money than you earn. Pray over your finances daily.

Photo courtesy: Iong Sitaula @Splasher

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Empowered by Jesus: Trust.

E180D773-CC22-48B9-BE1F-BD79C8F3D197Photo Courtesy: David Clode @ Splasher

Lord,

“I never knew you intimately!”

Please forgive me for not reaching out to you sooner. You always called me into fellowship but I was way too busy with all sorts of earthly distractions. Busyness is my worst enemy still today. You waited patiently for me to come to my senses.

“I am so glad you did!”

You are a Faithful God and my only constant source of fulfillment today. The Truth reminds me at Sunrise,  “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I believed in a forgiving, compassionate and merciful God but never took time to build a relationship. I just did not know where to begin. I was lost and dead in my transgressions for way too long.

Life was empty, purposeless and meaningless without Jesus Christ. I was a dead walking woman who had lost hope at the end of my thirties. I was living in desperate times. I was so desperate for Your living water and did not even know it back then. I drank from all sort of wells and was never pleased. I wanted more.

When I focused on temporary circumstances whether it was a shopping extravaganza, a relationship, achievement or perfectionism at work or career, I was never fulfilled. When the adrenaline rush would fade away, I would pursue for more. Some individuals described it as insanity; ‘doing’ the same thing over and over again, and expecting different outcomes. Even though I shopped often, I expected to build a retirement plan. I budgeted differently over the years and expected to budget well for retirement. Fortunately, the vicious cycle somewhat improved and it drastically had an impact on my financial future!

“My life was unmanageable for quite some time! How did the never-ending cycle begin?”

I am not sure but I still remember how much fun it was to shop with my folks back then.

As I was finishing graduate school in my late twenties, I remember telling dad I was exhausted and stressed out over time-sensitive projects. I was insecure, afraid and fatigued after a long week of work duties and demanding deadlines in school. I didn’t think I was going to finish the program successfully. I was a nervous wreck and anxious when I arrived at my folks’ home one afternoon.

“Do you have time to visit a car dealership?” Dad asked.

His invitation was unexpected but I was excited for another outing with my parents. I was emotionally spent over my academic performance and this outing was an excellent way not to think about any of my concerns.

Every time I spent quality time with both of my parents, life was uncomplicated and fun. I will always cherish our unforgettable memories from the past.

By the end of the evening, my folks had gifted me a brand new automobile. The leather smell of the interior seats of the vehicle made a long-lasting impression. I still remember today!

“How awesome was that?”   I was fortunate to have generous parents, I know.

The fruitless habit was then established. If I needed to relax or feel better, I would step out of the house and engage in ‘retail therapy’. I was careless about the budget and retirement plan.

”How insane was that?!”

I am not blaming dad for needless spending today or ever. I take full responsibility for my own actions and past insanity over my finances.

Have you ever noticed a pattern of thoughts or feelings or even circumstances you may react to? We usually experience a distinct thought, emotion and/or environmental trigger(s) prior to our action(s).

I recently identified a pattern in my thought life. The pattern changes depending on the time of the day and/or the circumstances. Some common thoughts, related emotions, and triggers were the following,  “I am exhausted (physical state/trigger), I worked hard all day long (thought) so let me browse the internet (action)” or “I am having a bad day (trigger) so let me take a break and check out the sale announcements (actions)” or “I have extra money (trigger) so why not shop?!” or “I love what I just saw on FB (trigger), I want one (thought).”

Were you able to journal your thoughts, emotions and circumstances prior to fruitless habit last week?

Once I have a thought about shopping an item or two, I tend to think about it often. I may even obsess over the upcoming sales or limited edition. I then proceed to think about the functionality (if any), value or the benefits of the desirable item, spend a considerable amount of time browsing the internet and comparing prices. By the time I am finished with my ‘due diligence’, I am convinced the item is needed or else I would think I am missing out. After the item is purchased, I lose interest shortly thereafter.  Sometimes, I even forget I own it and may even purchase it once again!

It all starts with an initial thought, emotion or circumstance to begin the cycle. Once it starts, the inability to stop is evident.  At this point, I’ve asked myself, “Who has time to budget?!”

”I hope you do, my friend.”

God encourages us to think about what is true, helpful, inspiring, trustworthy and ‘necessary’. (Philippians 4:8)

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans‬ ‭15:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I am learning to trust you, Lord, much more today. I have been peaceful and joyful since I surrendered my heart.

I still remember the winter morning I repented of all of my sins, asked Jesus to come into my heart and began to trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.

“It was snowing on the date I realized… You were the only way, the truth, and the life. No one knows our Father unless we know you first” (John 14:6).

My life has been transformed since Jesus Christ has been the central focus of my life.

It has been like the metamorphosis of a butterfly. Butterflies evolve and change over time. My life has evolved gradually over the past decade. I am still work in progress though. It has been a transformation from a reckless lifestyle to a peaceful style of living.

EB979FE9-DC4B-4B49-8C00-5DC0B96BF5ADPhoto Courtesy: Andrea Reiman @ Splasher

My attitude, mindset, and perspective are being renewed every day when I read your Word at sunrise. The Holy Spirit is my Helper and definitely an empowering life coach, and your precepts are teaching me how to establish new boundaries in self-care and be a better manager of my finances.

Lord, I still need help with retail shopping.

https://youtu.be/Waitmz6C100

“My soul faints with longing for your salvation, but I have put my hope in your word.” Psalm‬ ‭119:81‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if only you would hear his voice,” Psalm‬ ‭95:1-7‬ ‭NIV

Yes, Lord!

You are my Salvation, Redeemer, the great King above all gods and my only source of Hope today.

I have been redeemed and transformed with a new purpose.

In Jesus’ name, I boldly praise,

Amen.

Let us sit at the Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and Meditate John 4: 10-26

Memory Verse:  John 4: 13-14 “Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Weekly Challenge

Consider identifying at least seven, relaxing activities that are available at work, home or in your local community. Give priority to free activities. For instance, an afternoon walk in your neighborhood with a neighbor, friend or spouse.

Personally, I enjoy adult coloring during controversial conference calls at work. It relaxes me and decreases the likelihood for me to shop online after the meeting.

Choose one activity every day, and Journal if you were relaxed or not at the end of the activity. If you were relaxed, did you have any ‘shopping’ urges?

Tip for the week: Consider throwing away ‘sale announcements’ before you open the mail correspondence.