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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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: 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.”
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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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God’s awesome presence.

“If you bow low in God’s awesome presence, he will eventually exalt you as you leave the timing in his hands.” 1 Peter 5:6 TPT

88ACCEE4-D2FC-44A8-AD7C-7E70DA5A2BFBPhoto credit: Victoria Sereda @ Unsplash

Abba Father,

You are always opening up new frontiers. I  will relax, be humble and allow you to conquer the world on my behalf (Exodus 14:14). You are in charge of all life happenings (Psalm 46:10). 

Forgive me if I attempt to hurry things up. As you know, I am impatient and don’t mind wrestling with you at times! I also know you don’t appreciate when I anticipate or imagine the worst (Matthew 6:25). Forgive me if I have worried way too often in the recent past.

You speak to me in all circumstances. 

When an incoming email calms my heart, you reassure me I’m on track… when a photo exhibits a friendship, your heart is on display and I know I’m loved…when a neighbor assists me, your commitment is manifested and I no longer feel helpless…when strangers are kind, I know you deeply care… when I‘m excited about training, I know you want me to grow and reach my potential… when I hear a ‘warning’ from law enforcement, I know you want me to be on alert, on guard and honor your celestial ways on earth.

Lord, I know you are managing all of my affairs relentlessly and faithfully. I truly appreciate how you are orchestrating all life events on my behalf.

Help me ‘be still’ (Psalm 46:10). Your palpable presence is appreciated and I know you are cheering me along the way. 

You make everything beautiful in your perfect time  (Psalm 18:30). You are an awesome God! I love you with all of my heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:37)

Your beloved and faithful servant.

(sign your name here, and make this prayer personal)

 

God hears our Prayers

As I hustled towards the double doors of Corporate building in despair, I prayed “Lord, I don’t want for GQ to suffer any longer…let him rest… Take him now if its your will”.

“Answer me when I call to you, My righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer” Psalm 4:1 NIV

The veterinarian had left me a voicemail by the time I unlocked my office door.

By then, I knew the Lord had seen my distress and had heard a piercing cry for His mercies.

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Our last morning together. He was relaxed while I drank morning coffee and ate breakfast.

Continue reading

Balancing Work and Rest!

Ecclesiastes 4:8 NIV

“There was a man all alone;

he had neither son nor brother.

There was no end to his toil,

yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.

‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked,

‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?’

This too is meaningless-

a miserable business!”

His plans will always prevail!

It’s Saturday morning already!

 My husband is preparing a tasty omelet in the kitchen,

My sister is on her way back to Venezuela,

My second oldest boy is trying to settle down in his morning routine,

and,

I’ve got urgency to get ready for a brunch in less than an hour!

Living in the moment is strenuous when faced with life extinguishers, doubt and fear.

 It starts with a benign question, ‘what if…?’

By the end of the thought, I have colorful, vivid images of a catastrophe.

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It’s truly exhausting!

Strongholds can be debilitating without a doubt.

As I wrestled with life altering decisions,  I finally grasped a reality.

There are no warranties in life.

In my most recent decision, I just wanted someone to reassure me about the future.

I wanted everyone to say, ‘it’s going to be alright…You won’t fail’

I even wished for a descriptive manual with clear instructions in ‘how to’ succeed at the task.

Guess what?!

No one can foretell the future much less can tell you if the decision you are about to make is the most favorable one.

When I kneel before Him in humility and most importantly with a surrendered heart, He always leads the way.

As soon as I surrendered this morning, He reminded me of one of his truths.

Just know, the Lord’s plans will always prevail.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭19:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

How peaceful does that sound?

It was comforting and reassuring!

Now, I’m ready for brunch.

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Don’t ever give up! (part I)

“When do I begin the process?” I asked the high school guidance counselor about college admissions.

Academic grades were average and English was my second language. I had tutoring services for Reading comprehension, Algebra, Geometry and Statistics. I disliked History and Biology. Writing was a daily challenge too.

“Was I struggling in maintaining a decent G.P.A? “

Yes, indeed!

Counselor’s response was poignant, “Don’t bother. You will never amount to anything.” She walked away, and disengaged from our brief conversation.

“How was I supposed to react?”

I was only 15 years old and was an aspiring freshman in High School. I was ready to overcome educational challenges yet needed some direction and ton of assistance.

I was quite disheartened and discouraged throughout high school. Fortunately, I completed high school and enrolled at a local community college soon thereafter.

The recurrent theme in high school was,  “I’m not good enough.”

Despite of my inadequacies, I developed effective coping strategies one day at a time and improved on study habits over time.

As soon as I completed one degree, I enrolled in another one of interest.

Thirteen years later, I defended a doctoral dissertation in front of a challenging committee and a professional audience.

Consistency and optimism are key ingredients for success.

Today, I’m a licensed Mental Health Counselor & a Registered Clinical Supervisor in the State of Florida, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst worldwide and a Psychologist in the State of Tennessee.

God definitely has a plan for all of us!

God wants for all of us to prosper and run the ‘race of life’ well. He doesn’t want for us to be discouraged much less give up. He encourages us to persevere and rejoice in every struggle, in the midst of adversity and hardships.

The Lord is always faithful.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭

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