Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Friends: Weeding The Garden

In high school you were in a close setting of people going through "the same" stuff, and things in common were obvious- age, status, etc... Not so much in real life. Getting and staying saved can add a challenge to making & keeping friends.
My old friends wanted me to drink, party & stay out all night. "Have fun, indulge, You only live once" 
The thing was I no longer needed alcohol, adrenaline or sin to have fun. Indulgence to me became diving into my bible and reading about how much God loves me.
The common misconception of “YOLO” is lie set forth by the enemy. We don't live just once- we live twice & I don't want to die twice.
A physical death can be a reward, but spiritual death is eternal- that's scary!  
"Well how do you even know if heaven or hell even exist? Won't you feel pretty lame if you die and you wasted a lifetime of opportunities to do what you REALLY wanted to do?"
I rest assured that I will enojy the next life in my fathers arms, and it will be a life far better than this one. Faith is being certain of things you cannot see. Praise the Lord for my Faith, but for the sake of exploring lets ask this: What If when you die you to come face to face with the living God, a good who is loving and just, and you realize that your truly wasted a lifetime of opportunities to get right with him and now too late? What then?
Needles to say, many of my “friends” left, and that's a good thing. Bad company can break good habits. I was now a weirdo and a Jesus freak- and I was OK with it. I made friends with the girls in church, bible study, school of leadership & the Christian acquaintances I had previously ignored. You know the bible says when a person gets saved the angels party in heaven; these people rejoiced & celebrated me for getting on the right path. Now they embraced me as family. More than friends, I finally found what I always wanted: brothers and sisters, In Christ.

Outside of church however, it can be challenging to make and build friendships with people who don't share your beliefs. While we do have to go out of comfort zone and witness, the bible is clear as to whom we are suppose to fellowship with and who not to.
It's not that I won't be there for you if you need me, because I will. If there's nothing I can physically do for you, know that I will pray  for you. The problem is that I can't sit by with my hands tied and watch you happily hop your way to hell. You will find me annoying & judgmental for speaking up and hate me or you will tempt me to join you. Remember that I am human and have a sinful nature, I have to protect myself from my weaknesses. If you don't want to be saved with me, don't make me fall.

While it is hard to let go of people we've been through so much with, it is important that we weed our garden. We can plant seeds, we can water them, and God shine's his light- but not all people are called. We don't choose God, God chooses us, and he wants us all to himself. Don't compromise your salvation!!! Try, try & try- fast, pray & invite them to Jesus- but learn to recognize when to cut your loses. 

 Dare to love & be loved by God, not the world.

 1 Corinthians 15:33 Amplified Bible (AMP)
33 Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 The Message (MSG)
14-18 Don’t become partners with those who reject God. How can you make a partnership out of right and wrong? That’s not partnership; that’s war. Is light best friends with dark? Does Christ go strolling with the Devil? Do trust and mistrust hold hands? Who would think of setting up pagan idols in God’s holy Temple? But that is exactly what we are, each of us a temple in whom God lives. 
God himself put it this way:
“I’ll live in them, move into them;
    I’ll be their God and they’ll be my people.
So leave the corruption and compromise;    leave it for good,” says God.
“Don’t link up with those who will pollute you.
    I want you all for myself.

I’ll be a Father to you;
    you’ll be sons and daughters to me.”
The Word of the Master, God.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Family: It takes 2 to tango & 3 to party

In continuation from my last blog- life without God isn't really living. The same way that God is love & if you don't have God in you & you don't know him personally; then you don't have love in you, you don't know love & therefore are unable to trully love another. Anthony & I were a couple of the world & we didn't stand a chance, not without God.
I was 21, Nevaeh was 2 & Anthony had left us to join the Army. He joined the infantry, in a time of war... I didn't know what to expect, or if I'd ever see him again. It was February of 2010.

In one of the services I went to the Pastor's wife came out during worship & started to say:

"God is good, all the time- all the time, God is good- he gives and he takes away, that is just a part of the process but today He wants to give things back to you- whatever it was, your job, your children, your car, your husband, your health- whatever he has taken away, was with a purpose. Perhaps it was getting in the way of your relationship with him. He asks you today to prove your faithfulness today with a faith offering of $XXX to show him that from now on you will put HIM first- then and ONLY then whatever he has taken, whatever he has broken, WILL BE RESTORED for HIS GLORY."
That's the moment it clicked- I've always said my life mantra was "everything happens for a reason" this was the reason & I was ready to comit my life to Christ & make him a part of everything. So I prayed that He would restore my family. The women's encounter was week later & I was ready for a change.
My mother was very upset, that not only had I betrayed "my religion" (Catholicism) but that I was going to be at a 3day encounter from April 16 untill the 18th- which happened to be Nevaeh's 3rd birthday. As I saw it- I was giving her the best gift in the world, a better mom. As my mom saw it, I was wreklessly abandoning my family & my faith.
The 18th, after I got out from encounter, I took my daughter to Chuck E Cheese. I was determined to be a better mom so I took her to the park the next day as well & we had a lot of fun. We had hardly done anything fun since Anthony left but now I had a new found faith, and inner peace that all things would work out fot the better.
The next day, April 20th, my mother comfronted me about my choice to rebel against her & everything she raised me to be. I told her that she should be happy I found God & that I wasn't sorry for the changes & that I would move out if she really didn't want to see the work God was going to do in our lives. She informed me she didn't care if I wanted to "screw up" my life so long as I didn't drag my daughter into it. She said that I was free to leave but my daughter would stay behind. "Never" I yelled as I stormed off to work. 2 hrs later a police officer walked into my place of employment- I was the first cashier by the entrance. He asked me to step outside, puzzled I followed. Once outside he asked me to turn around & told me I was under arrest for child abuse while putting handcuffs on me. Ladies & gentlemen- I was taken to jail.
You see my mother decided to call CPS and say I was an unfit mother. I worked full time & went to school full time so she claimed I had no time to care for my child. The fun we had at chuck e cheese & the park crawling & climbing had manifested little bumps & bruises on my little girls legs, which she claimed I inflicted out of frustration with my situation in life... talk about persecution...
For the next 3 days I prayed, fasted, sang songs of praise & read a bible outloud.
In jail my experrience was unpleasant. The jailers were nasty to me, they grabbed my arms with pressure leaving deep bruising on my skin while pushing me around during transfers. They took my shoes, my jacket, my bra & any extra articles of clothing- leaving me with socks, pants & undershirt during intake. They threw bags with "meals" at the floor during meal times. It was cold in there. I lost my voice. Then on the 3rd day the judge dismissed my case without seeing me & I was released. There was no criminal charges against me but CPS had opened a case & they removed my child from my custody. 
"God won't give you something you can't handle"- they said... God must've thought I was really strong. I was being tested. I was put in the fire. It was the moment of truth. I had the choice to blame God & do something stupid to piss him off & & screw up my chances of getting Nevaeh back OR I could trust that God had a plan... So I continued to pray...
One day in June Anthony called. He had graduated basic & AIT & he was on leave. I told him everything that was happening & like the hero he is, he came to my rescue.
I flew out to Houston that very night & we were reunited. It was a Saturday night /Sunday morning when I got there & I had to be back to appear in children's court on Tuesday Morning.
We called a courthouse first thing Monday & we got married, he returned with me & we showed up to court.
The case was no longer about a single mother with no time for her kid living with mom going nowhere fast, now there were married parents with military benefits, a home & the ability for mom to stay home to devote all her time to the child fighting to get her back TOGETHER.  It was another 2 months before they reversed the custody hold, but we were still unable to leave the state.
To say the begining & first year of my marriage was tough- is an understatement. Many days I was unsure what would become of us. He was inpaintiently waiting for us accross the country, and I couldn't see the end of the state restricition....

During this time, God was working in our lives & If you haven't noticed, God works in mysterious ways. There was a time when I thought we wouldn't make it... but God was greater than any and every of the problems that were thrown our way.
Let me tell you... my husband is amazing. He has the heart of God. He loves me & our family unselfishly, selflessly & unconditionally. As a man, he's got a very tough, hard & serious exterrior, but inside he's mushy, warm & sweet. He wasn't that way when we were dating- but I'm telling you- God works things out for the Good of those who believe in him.

So what's the message?

If today things are falling apart in your world- know that sometimes things have to fall apart in order for them to fall into place. If you have God in your life it's important to remember:

1. There are times of trials & testing: if you've ever read the story of Job, you know what I mean.
Don't lose hope, keep the faith, don't fear & be courageous! It's always darkest before dawn & you can't get a rainbow without the rain. Your faith will be rewarded. The greater your suffering, the greater your reward.

2. Trust in God's plan and his timing: Sometimes we pray & expect an answer inmediately- but there is a time & a place. In many places in the bible you will see that the men & women of God waited & waited YEARS- for their promises. So don't be discouraged if you're still waiting...

If you don't have God in your life- consider the fact that perhaps it takes hitting rock bottom for you to have no other choice than to look up.
If you're there, if the stress & worry are making it hard for you to stand, perhaps it's the perfect time for you to get on your knees and pray. I pray that God draws you near, that your heart will be softened & that you will open yourself up to him. Don't be afraid- God is a Just and loving God- Dare to be loved today.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Faith- How I Found it

So let me tell you about Saira.
 I had seen her before we met at work. I remember she was a trouble making basketball player in our high school team. I might have had an altercation with her once, and as I remembered her, she kinda intimidated me...
So when she approached me and a coworker it was almost frightening.
Let me backtrack- It was my first week working as a Cashier (at my local CVS Pharmacy). It was 2 months before my 21st birthday, and most of the people working there were "fun".
Now as I mentioned in my intro, my mom was a very Catholic strict parent ("Spare the rod, spoil the child") So I lived most of my life in fear of her and never really did much to upset her in my younger days.
 I had never been to a club, gotten drunk or stayed out all night to have "fun"-
BUT somehow I did manage to have a baby at the young age of 18 and had my then, boyfriend-now husband, move in.
Needless to say life at home was a bit hectic: I was working 40+hrs, going to school full time (12-18units per semester), had a disapproving mother, a baby & a live in boyfriend...There were good days, and there were days when all I did was cry.
Back to Saira... she was different now. She was no longer that raging troubled teenager I once knew, Now she was... peaceful... quiet... meek... it boggled me. She came in to work everyday with a smile and a electric fire I couldn't understand. No one could seriously be THAT happy.
It was a Saturday night, she came up to me & another coworker & asked "What are you guys doing tomorrow morning?" My co-worker said "I have plans!" and gave me a strange look.  I replied "I'm not sure, sleep in maybe" and then she proceeded to say "Here's my number! I'd like to invite you to my church, text me and I will send you the address. You can call me if you need a ride. It starts at 11, Hope to see you there!!!" And she walked away with a smile.
"She's a weirdo, don't listen to her, I think she had too many drugs"- said my co-worker.
I scoffed and paid no mind. I had finally broken away from church- why would I want to go to another church- and with a weirdo!?
On Monday morning, "Hey! I was hoping to see you at church, what happened?"- Saira asked. I turned around & speedily walked away pretending I didn't hear her. This was in August of 2009.For the next few months-  every Saturday, she invited me to church. Sometimes I made excuses as to why I couldn't go. Sometimes I'd say I'd go then cancel last minute, and sometimes I'd even volunteer for overtime or swap schedules JUST to avoid her. During those months life sucked. My boyfriend dumped me & joined the Army, I was a single mom, my mom gloated about me reaping what I sowed. My life pretty much crumbled and I turned to alcohol, even became a little suicidal.

Now I was the raging & crazed person I once knew Saira to be- all while she seemed to have such boring yet perfect life. She WAS weird though, kinda stalker-ish, She'd try to take her breaks at the same time I did, and she would ask "Do you mind if I read my bible out loud?" I was usually in a bad or depressed mood, at first her reading irritated me, then it started to make me wonder... So finally one Saturday in March of  2010 I asked "Why are you so happy?" "Because I have Jesus!" she said. "Jesus makes you happy?" I asked mockingly. "You would know if you came to church with me" she replied. "Here's my address, pick me up" I said defiantly- curious to see what this Jesus thing was all about. Her eyes widened with shock & relief "Seriously?!?!? I'll be there!" She said.
So I went & it was NOTHING like I expected. I twas  a Christian church... and if you've ever been to a Catholic AND a Christian service you'd know there are MANY differences. For starters there wasn't a little worship chorus, it was what felt & sounded like a rock concert.
This was a church? People were dancing and singing, smiling & crying in front of the stage. They had projectors with the lyrics on the screen- and if you read my intro you'd know- I'm musically inclined- so I started to sing along.
"Great is Your faithfulness oh God
You wrestle with the sinner's heart
You lead us by still waters into mercy
And nothing can keep us apart So remember Your people
Remember Your children
Remember Your promise
Oh God
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough
Your grace is enough for me
Great is Your love and justice God
You use the weak to lead the strong
You lead us in the song of Your salvation
And all Your people sing along"
-Chris Tomlin, Your Grace Is Enough

I felt it deep in my soul, it moved me, and before I could stop myself from looking a fool, (with extensions, heels, fake lashes & a mask of make up, hair products & perfumes) I was fell to my knees in uncontrollable tears... HE was there in THAT precise moment wrestling with MY HEART. I became overwhelmed by love & such a deep sense of security & serenity. "Here I am God, I'm a wreck, I'm unworthy, but if you want me- I'm yours" The pastor made an altar call "I know there's anyone here today, who feels an emptiness they have tried to fill over & over again yet still came up empty. If you feel lonely, like you don't know where you're going or you are simply  tired of running and you'd like to invite Jesus into your heart today to make him your Lord & Savior- come to the front"... without thinking twice, without caring that I mad mascara running down my face I raced to the front. We said the sinners prayer & were sent back to our seats. I remember Catholic services being an hour long and it feeling like foooorrreeeevvvveeerrrr... but before I knew it this service was over.
Over?! It can't be over, we've only been here for... *I look at my watch-12:45* almost 2hrs? I didn't want to go home. I've never felt such peace in my soul and joy in my heart before. Now I knew what Saira was talking about- I had been missing out!!!! There was a 3day women's encounter in April from the 16th to the 18th(Nevaeh's 3rd birthday) I got my ticket that very day. I gave my first tithe that day, used to the $1 donation in catholic church I was shocked when I saw her putting a whole $20 in an envelope during tithing. And that's when she explained to me what it was- 10 percent of the money we have earned or are given.
Saira gave me my first bible, I still have it today. That church set my soul on fire, and God moved in my life. I prayed for my boyfriend, I prayed for restoration of our family. I invited family & friends. My coworkers were now mocking me too. "You've turned into a weirdo like Saira!" "You've been brainwashed!!!"
I got encountered & my life changed forever- God answered my payers & my family was restored (not without troubles- read all about it in my next blog). I'm not perfect, there was a time when I backslid and paid for it. Living outside a relationship with Christ isn't living at all.

If you're still reading you may be wondering : "whats the moral of the story?"
Let me tell you- It's DON'T GIVE UP. If there's someone whom you've invited to church but hasn't got there- don't stop asking! Don't stop praying for them! Even if they start avoiding you- continue to live your life in a way that they see the light of Christ. I sometimes wonder- what would be of my life right now if there hadn't been a Saira in my life? Don't be afraid to be "the weirdo" and share your faith.

And if you are reading this and you are where I've been and you're sick of being empty, lonely and burdened- wont you take a chance and open your heart to Christ today and dare to beloved?
If you'd like more information on finding Jesus, or if you'd just like to talk to someone- feel free to reach out to me :)
 That's all for tonight peeps- God Bless you & yours

Matthew 5:3-16

New Living Translation (NLT)

The Beatitudes

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
    for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
    for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
    for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you[c] and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.

Teaching about Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
14 “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Intro- Who am I (long)

Who am I? An intro to me! This is long so bear with me. I'm complex!
Faith. Family. Friends. Fitness. Flash. This is my life.

Faith: I am a woman of God, I was reborn a Christian 4/18/10 through an encounter with God, re-vowed my faith through water baptism 9/6/10 and I was baptized by the holy spirit 5/19/13.
I was brought up in a Catholic family and never felt quite right. I have always felt a calling to Christ but Catholicism didn't enable me to meet God the way I needed to. My mom tried her best by taking me to church on Sundays, sending me to teen retreats, and classes- but once I turned 18 I broke off and went the way of many young adults.
 Life threw BIG challenges & troubles at me which I believed were God punishing me. It made me want to get further & hide from him. At the age of 20 I met Saira, a coworker & she invited me to church- I will blog about her one day. When I committed my life to God & he showed me that all the obstacles I faced were hidden opportunities. All He wanted was for me to get back on track and rely on him for my needs. He has been providing for our needs and granting me the desires of my heart. Don't get me wrong, I'm not perfect, I make mistakes a plenty. I often battle with how to press on in this broken world. Christianity can be a safe haven but the narrow road has challenges of its own, and if you're on it- you know what I mean. By personal choice & faith, I became a believer & a follower of Christ and his written word- The Bible♥

Family: I am a wife, mother, & daughter.
I'm blessed to be happily married to a man of God, Anthony. My best friend & hero, a U.S Army soldier.  He's a VERY supportive husband & a loving father to our 3 children; Nevaeh who is 6yrs old, Samantha who is 2yrs old & Anthony Jr who is 1. The Army has moved us away from home and family. We've moved from California, to Virginia, and now the bordering states of Kentucky & Tennessee.
The bible asks us wives to submit to our husbands; and in my heart and soul I “do.” But my sinful nature sometimes gets in the way. I try, sometimes too hard, sometimes not hard enough and I'm working on finding the balance. Being a parent is something that comes with a whole other set of mishaps. Both my husband & I were raised by single mothers, so we don't quite have the full picture on how partner parenting works. Everyday is a learning process, and I couldn't have asked for a better mate <3

Friends: I'm a passionate music inclined soul that thrives with the energy of my surroundings. I don't like negativity or care much for rebellion... so I can be very picky about whom I allow into my close circle. I left many wonderful friends back home, I've gotten close with the ladies I've had the pleasure to fellowship with over our church moves. And of course, a whole new set of sisters- my fellow army wives. Now given our moves & circumstances I've spent a LOT of time indoors... alone... with kids... and my social skills have been on the decline. I'm far more comfortable texting and emailing than I am talking on the phone or in person. Sometimes I can be pushy, bossy and overbearing. I'm used to being in "mom mode" and dealing with children, so sometimes it's hard for me to break out of that mindset. So if you're reading this & you've experienced it- I AM SORRY! Feel free to let me know, I won't take offense, I promise!

Fitness: Just recently after my 25th birthday I made a big decision- I became a beach body coach.
Staying home, having 3 kids, I got comfortable with my husband and I let myself go. (gasp)
My husband is a runner. He was a competitive track runner when we first met and he has maintained his physique & energy levels, while I got real far from where I first was. I've never been skinny, I've always been thick, and my frame hides weight very well. So I felt OK with being 50lbs overweight because I didn't look that heavy. Well that eventually caught up with me. I had no energy!!! I would take my kids to the park & sit on a bench instead of playing with them. There came a point where Nevaeh said to me “You don't love us! Daddy plays with us and you don't, you just leave us and sit, you're be mean” (heartbreaking) I knew it was time for a change. A Pastor once told us “Christians should be attractive- we are made in the image of God, our bodies are temples. Love yourself & be confident- God makes no mistakes” I started to hide because I wasn't happy with myself, and now I'm working to find that image of God hiding underneath the weight. I want to give him glory as I reconstruct my temple working out to P90X3, and honor him with the way I care for the body he has given me, with healthier eating. KEEP ME ACCOUNTABLE!

Flash: I started sewing from home in 2011. I got elbow deep into crafting with all my free time at home. I opened a little store & read somewhere on Etsy that  a fancy camera worked wonders for product appeal- so I got a DSLR camera. Once I had it in my hands I couldn't stop clicking. Now, I'm known to shoot people a few times a month, I've flashed unsuspecting children, and framed my family. (Photog Humor) I've jumped into the wonderful world of photography. I've still got much to learn. God made our world majestic and beautiful and I am determined to capture a glimpse of his beauty in my work. Be it in the innocent smile of a child, or the tender embrace of a husband & wife whom he has brought together. I want His light to shine through the lens. Love is all around us. God is Love. Would you open your heart to him today and dare to be loved?

So I just told you who I am, now -Who are YOU?