A Time to Mourn and a Time to Dance.

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“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As a child, I spent countless hours at our family’s country house, ‘La Morita’. We would travel there every weekend with relatives and friends. The adults would play cards, dominoes or bingo in the evenings after a tasty home-made meal. All of the children would laugh often when sharing stories at the hammocks zone, play Marco Polo at the pool, ride horses in town or hike the mountains at sunrise.

I certainly miss ‘La Morita’. Those memorable times were filled with joy. I don’t remember experiencing any sadness then. Our families were united, loved one another, and were energized by fellowship, outdoor activities and mesmerized by the beauty of nature.

As I grew older, I soon realized life was not ‘picture perfect’. There are moments filled with contentment and other times filled with great distress, anger, emotional pain, grief and/or sorrow.

God promised to be right there with us thru it all – the fun, the boring, the best, the ugly and the worst times.

The Lord is our Refuge. He will never leave us nor forsake us. That is His promise.

When dad passed away, mom relocated back to our home country in South America. Since then, I have only seen her once. We don’t get to walk at the local park nor shop at ‘Sawgrass Mills’ Shopping Center anymore. It has been over two years since I last had a meal with mom at the table. I miss her voice, enthusiasm and most importantly her presence. I wish I could sit with you right now and share the details of my next trip to Florida. The truth is I may never be able to visit mom again and this is a reality I have recently come to terms with. I am in a season of loss, grief and sorrow indeed. It is time to weep, mourn and embrace the loss of mom’s current living situation, geographical distance and deteriorating health conditions.

Are you grieving at this moment, my friend? Are you reminiscing on ‘how’ your past circumstances are quite different than todays? Perhaps, you are facing an ‘unexpected’ loss and you are quite overwhelmed with the intensity and impact of the sudden challenge.

Do not be dismayed or broken-hearted, my friend.

We are in a season of grief but His mercies are new every morning. Today is filled with opportunities for us to briefly reminisce about the past then spend the rest of the time counting our blessings. We have been blessed for all the countless memories and unforgettable moments with our loved ones. They have left their ‘forever’ fingerprints on our minds, hearts and souls. My heart rejoices every time I think of mom.

Let us not dwell on the emotional distress or pain of our recent past. Let us acknowledge our loss, lament and journal our painful thoughts until we are comforted by His promises. Our Lord listens to our melancholic cries and painful thoughts and He comforts our shattered hearts over time.

We will dance once again as soon as our hearts are healed and restored.

Lord, there are so many seasons in our lives and some are difficult to process and get thru. I know we may be in the midst of a tough season. As we lament our losses, we know you are comforting us with your faithfulness, morning mercies and compassion … You hear all of our cries and wipe our tears away. You heal our brokenness and bind our deep wounds. You are our only Hope and Refuge. Turn the gaze of our hearts towards the beauty of all of your promises and fill our hearts with never-ending Hope.

Lord, I’m willing to embrace the new season in life. Spring is here! Flowers are blooming. I want to rejoice once again. Jesus, hold my hand and come with me and waltz together at the dance floor.

In Jesus’ name we boldly pray, Amen.

“You, LORD, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,” Psalm‬ ‭10:17‬ ‭NIV

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm‬ ‭147:3‬ ‭NIV

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Psalm‬ ‭9:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“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

Photo courtesy: Jared Weiss @ Splasher

Enjoy The Process!

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the Heaven…He has made everything beautiful in its time…” Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-2, 5 NIV‬‬

There will always be a season for a “fresh start” whether it is a new career, a church community, a job, a friendship or even a ministry. I delight in the freshness of ‘new beginnings’. When we embark on a new path, it is normal for us to expect favorable outcomes right away. In a world of instant gratification, I like for circumstances to unfold quickly in my favor or be resolved immediately.

When I was in High School, I wanted to finish the academic coursework in three years… When I was a young adult, I wanted to marry and move out of the house… When I was in college, I wanted to graduate in less than four years! I tend to rush. I sure do. As I got older, I soon realized there are no shortcuts or healthy quick fixes in life.

Time is of the essence! Be still and know He is in control of our lives. (Psalm 46:10) Let us sit back, relax and be present in the moment.

We may need additional time to select a new career path. It takes a while to get settled in a new community. There is usually a learning curve to master and be proficient at new tasks. In relationships, we need time to learn one another and build trust. If we are serving in ministry, we may need to wait for direction, wisdom, and understanding.

God’s timetable is different than ours! His ways are higher than ours. His timing and plans are perfect. Let us be open-minded and flexible in the midst of our wait. It may take longer than expected!

If we want to be fruitful in life, let us break down our goals, and zero into specific action steps. Just know, God is orchestrating all of our circumstances and He does not miss a beat! Over the course of time, suitable conditions will flourish. God makes everything beautiful in His time. He is in charge of the Harvest.

The more I wait and persevere, the more I trust His plan. In my last wait, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the following;

Let us honor our new beginnings and trust His timing. Do not rush or grow weary. “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.” Acts‬ ‭27:25‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Let us take a leap of Faith and take the next step without anxiety or distress. Do not be afraid. “But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage!…” Matthew‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

In Christ, we have His wisdom to face challenges along the way. Do not doubt yourself. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Do not be distracted by external circumstances “…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.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Lord, help us be in your presence so we may experience serenity in the midst of our wait.“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭NIV

In Jesus’ name, I boldly praise and pray.

Amen

Photo courtesy: Danielle MacInnes @ UnSplash

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

Be Well-Rested!

“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

Lord,

I am lifting up all of my burdens and hardships to You at this moment.

Help me find rest for my soul so I may be ready for tomorrow’s battlefield.

At times, I am quite overwhelmed with simple tasks, intricate relationships at work or at home with my loved ones.

It is an ongoing struggle, Lord!

In You alone, I find my rest. I want to be mindful of regular breaks throughout the day so I may rest in Your Word always.

The most important event of my day is to focus on You, Lord. I want to focus on You day and night.

Yes, Lord, I will always need your wisdom and inner strength even when I am feeling brave or confident about troubling circumstances.

Help me not to be weary or burdened.

One of my biggest challenges is to forgive those who have hurt me in the past… You want me to forgive immediately (Colossians 3:13 NIV) just the way You have forgiven me. Not once or twice, but seventy times seven! Lord, this is a true challenge when I am still hurting. Help me forgive everyone and help me be discerning as I move forward in relationships.

Help me be hopeful always, and restore all distant relationships.

Our Lord is the Prince of Peace and does not want for my heart to be troubled (John 14:27 NIV). He is always with me wherever I go (Psalm 118:6 NIV).

Praising Jesus for His Faithfulness, peace, forgiveness and compassion.

Lord, give me wisdom and discernment to do good so I may not only forgive but bless others at all times.

Strengthen my heart. Renew my mind. Refresh my soul.

I need to fight “the good fight” and do all the work you have prepared me to do.

I want to be well-rested so I may be courageous and Brave in all I do in Christ.

In Jesus’ name I boldly praise and pray,

Your beloved daughter,

Amen.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you would like to journal as you rest on God’s Word, check out the selected Scriptures in the “Bible Reading Journal: Rest and Be Refreshed.”

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1794685421/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_api_i_H9LuCbD7CVR03 #Amazon

Photo: Tami Parker Theobald

In Christ, I’m Alive and Free!

My dad wanted for me to become a famous concert pianist at a young age. He even dreamed about traveling together for competitions and performances over the course of my adolescence.

My Dreams were different. I wanted to help people in their distress so I became a mental health provider and achieved my ‘American Dream’ over the course of three decades.

Now, my friend, there is nothing wrong about having dreams or specific goals in today’s world. It is healthy to be intentional about our daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals.  Our Lord even recommends for all of us to be purposeful in life and maintain a clear vision; otherwise, we would perish in the long run.

”So go ahead and be intentional every day in pursuit of your American Dream.”I am thankful for accomplishing my ‘American dream’ and so much more. I know God had the best plan for me and He even took me further than I ever imagined or expected.

Be cautious though not to be blindfolded along the way… I know I was!

For so long, I was so proud of my career pursuits and hardly ever acknowledged God in my plans early on in my career.

When our goals become idols, “I must attain this right now” attitude, we may neglect God’s will. I was disobedient and even rebellious when I was on the ‘fast track’. I worked 70-80 hours a week, did not rest a day, smoked up to two packs of cigarettes a day, rushed throughout the day so I would get to the next action step, never had time for family or friends, completed three graduate schools’ programs in a timely manner, and finally attained professional licensure in two different States and a worldwide Board certification at a high price and cost!

Whew!

I am quite exhausted right about now just thinking about the energy I spent all of those years striving for peak performance. Do not be impressed, my friend. I am not here to boast or impress anyone.

I’m here to share briefly with you about the damaging effects of idolatry.

I have been an overachiever since my early college years. I can now relax and enjoy my professional career! I thank God for His wisdom and discernment in the past decade otherwise I would have probably self-destructed. I never had an opportunity to be still and allow God to speak to my heart much less time to renew or be transformed by His Word.

If I would have known He was already there fighting on my behalf, I would have listened to all of His whispers, obeyed His commands and waited on His promises to be fulfilled in His perfect timing. His Truth reminds me today, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus‬ ‭14:14 NIV

I’ve got quite a few regrets today such as: broken, strained and distant relationships with family members, significant upper-respiratory health issues, and the fact I never had time to consider having children.

I was in bondage for way too long! Yes, I was indeed.

Trapped. Blind. Lost. Dead in my transgressions.

The ‘American Dream’ blindfolded me. I was self-centered and selfish when achieving all types of goals.

Until one day…

I heard the Gospel preached at a local Church, It finally came all together. I admitted I was a sinner who was dead in my transgressions and caught up with today’s cultural pursuits and success track.

God was relentless in His pursuit and He never let me go… I finally surrendered it all and started to renew my mind with His Word, my life was transformed thereafter.

The Cross has the final Word, sweet friend, not the ‘American Dream’.

I am now free from the ‘American Dream’ bondage.

I still work hard in everything I do, but my purpose is not to please man anymore. My main purpose is to maintain an eternal perspective, fear our Lord and glorify Him at the end of the day in everything I do.

In Christ, I’m alive and free.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:1‬ ‭NIV

How about you my friend? Do you fear man or are you pleasing the Lord today?

We all have a choice.

I chose Christ.

I am alive and free today.

43435E00-42C4-4648-8023-0465291BCE3DPhoto Courtesy: Andressa Voltolini

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

376F9AC2-1A06-4E38-8977-7F9C6A46D068.jpeg

 

 

 

In Christ, I’m Alive and Free!

My dad wanted for me to become a famous concert pianist at a young age. He even dreamed about traveling together for competitions and performances over the course of my adolescence.

My Dreams were different. I wanted to help people in their distress so I became a mental health provider and achieved my ‘American Dream’ over the course of three decades.

Now, my friend, there is nothing wrong about having dreams or specific goals in today’s world. It is healthy to be intentional about our daily, monthly, quarterly and yearly goals.  Our Lord even recommends for all of us to be purposeful in life and maintain a clear vision; otherwise, we would perish in the long run.

”So go ahead and be intentional every day in pursuit of your American Dream.”I am thankful for accomplishing my ‘American dream’ and so much more. I know God had the best plan for me and He even took me further than I ever imagined or expected.

Be cautious though not to be blindfolded along the way… I know I was!

For so long, I was so proud of my career pursuits and hardly ever acknowledged God in my plans early on in my career.

When our goals become idols, “I must attain this right now” attitude, we may neglect God’s will. I was disobedient and even rebellious when I was on the ‘fast track’. I worked 70-80 hours a week, did not rest a day, smoked up to two packs of cigarettes a day, rushed throughout the day so I would get to the next action step, never had time for family or friends, completed three graduate schools’ programs in a timely manner, and finally attained professional licensure in two different States and a worldwide Board certification at a high price and cost!

Whew!

I am quite exhausted right about now just thinking about the energy I spent all of those years striving for peak performance. Do not be impressed, my friend. I am not here to boast or impress anyone.

I’m here to share briefly with you about the damaging effects of idolatry.

I have been an overachiever since my early college years. I can now relax and enjoy my professional career! I thank God for His wisdom and discernment in the past decade otherwise I would have probably self-destructed. I never had an opportunity to be still and allow God to speak to my heart much less time to renew or be transformed by His Word.

If I would have known He was already there fighting on my behalf, I would have listened to all of His whispers, obey His commands and waited on His promises to be fulfilled in His perfect timing. His Truth reminds me today, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus‬ ‭14:14 NIV

I’ve got quite a few regrets today such as: broken, strained and distant relationships with family members, significant upper-respiratory health issues, and the fact I never had time to consider having children.

I was in bondage for way too long! Yes, I was indeed.

Trapped. Blind. Lost. Dead in my transgressions.

The ‘American Dream’ blindfolded me. I was self-centered and selfish when achieving all types of goals.

Until one day…

I heard the Gospel preached at a local Church, It finally came all together. I admitted I was a sinner who was dead in my transgressions and caught up with today’s cultural pursuits and success track.

God was relentless in His pursuit and He never let me go… I finally surrendered it all and started to renew my mind with His Word, my life was transformed thereafter.

The Cross has the final Word, sweet friend, not the ‘American Dream’.

I am now free from the ‘American Dream’ bondage.

I still work hard in everything I do, but my purpose is not to please man anymore. My main purpose is to maintain an eternal perspective, fear our Lord and glorify Him at the end of the day in everything I do.

In Christ, I’m alive and free.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5:1‬ ‭NIV

How about you my friend? Do you fear man or are you pleasing the Lord today?

We all have a choice.

I chose Christ.

I am alive and free today.

43435E00-42C4-4648-8023-0465291BCE3DPhoto Courtesy: Andressa Voltolini

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heart Connections ~

There is no rush or urgency most weekends. The slow rhythm in tempo is invigorating on Saturday mornings. I get to choose the time I wake up, relax throughout the day, change plans as often as needed and choose a variety of activities.

On this date…

I met up with two of my girlfriends for breakfast!  I had not seen them for a few weeks and we wanted to celebrate the Holiday season, have a gift exchange and get caught up before the New Year.

“How much fun is that?!”

The Holiday season is here and tender hearts intentionally connect…

The gift of friendship is an eternal gift.

We blessed our hot meal, laughed at times, confided in each other, took snapshots, rejoiced over answered prayers, exchanged gifts and prayed over our most recent circumstances. We celebrated for over three hours and didn’t even notice the crowd behind us nor the level of noise at the restaurant. Even though the restaurant was ‘jammed packed’, we truly enjoyed each other’s company.

Heart Connections are distinct, cherishable and memorable.

I’ve got to admit spending quality time with a girlfriend in our local community brings joy to my heart and these unforgettable moments are forever treasured in my mind, heart, and soul.

God is relational. He is love. He wants for all of us to connect and love one another as He has loved us (John‬ ‭15:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬).
God created all of us to live in a community so we can love, help, support, pray and encourage one another. I truly appreciate quality time with all of my girlfriends whether it is in person, by telephone or on social media!

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James‬ ‭1:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I realized how blessed I am for having godly friendships in my life. Yes! Each perfect gift is from above. Friendships are priceless for all the eternal blessings they bring to our lives.

It is a privilege to establish and maintain a friendship for a period of time. Some friendships last for a season and others for a lifetime.

Value the present moment and make unforgettable memories with a friend today!

Gift of Time: When we prioritize our day, week or month, let us consider reaching out to our network of friends and take the time to connect. God wants for all of us to fellowship with one another regardless of our ethnicity, race and socioeconomic status.

Love everyone, and learn the difference in fellowship styles!

Gift of Listening: When I spend time with sisters in Christ, I am heard and understood. If I have a concern or an unresolved issue in my life, I am able to openly voice them and process my upsetting thoughts and emotions without being judged.

Gift of Love: True friends love me for ‘who I am’ and they accept my character flaws. These trusting friends are accepting and nonjudgmental.

“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” ‭‭2 Thessalonians‬ ‭1:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Gift of Vulnerability: An ability to be transparent in a relationship is critical for growth and intimacy. When someone is vulnerable, She will entrust you with information that shall never be shared with anyone else.

Trust is an essential ingredient for a forever friendship.

Gift of Fellowship: We all celebrate differently. When sisters in Christ celebrate, we all honor Jesus Christ in their thoughts, speech, and actions.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Friends are not selfish and are much more concerned about the well-being of others.

In a community, we grow and have an opportunity to sharpen and encourage each other, and a true friend will make us accountable for our actions.

Gift of Prayer: Sisters in Christ pray for one another. We all have different needs, challenging circumstances and emotional distress.

42AA477E-3386-478C-B4A1-2A696B77AF26Photo Courtesy: Ben White @ UnSplash

Let us sit at our Lord’s feet:

Inscribe and Meditate on His Word: “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭3:12-13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Memory Verse: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭NIV‬

Weekly Challenge: Call a friend, wish her Merry Christmas and invite her for a cup of coffee or a meal at your house.

Create an opportunity to learn more about each other and pray for each other.