Uniquely Inspirational

The Struggles with Expectations

As I got ready for bed Todd turned to me and said, “You know it is going to snow tomorrow?”

“Hush, you don’t say that word around here… nope.” As I refused to accept it. After all, it is October, and I have no expectations of seeing such things falling from the sky at this time. I certainly don’t want to think about it.

The next day I wake up, cold. I get my coffee and start listening to the live stream training from NTS, during this time it happened. Out of the corner of my eye, through the window, there it is. Falling softly to the ground. “It’s snowing,” Todd says with the “I told you so” in his voice. “Yeah, I know” I responded grumpily.

“80 degrees in Houston and 31 in Amarillo. Snow has been falling throughout the day up there and the current wind chill factor is about 17 degrees.” – DrJimFox26

My expectations, and clearly, the forecast expectations are two different things. Although I can expect things to go my way, well, it is not always going to happen. Obviously, I don’t have the knowledge of a weatherman or the means to have my own Doppler radar system. I have to rely on others to give me the information. Then, what I do with that information is up to me. I can allow it to change my expectations, and plans, or I can just ignore it hoping for the best. I’m not like God, able to know what and when things will happen.

There are a lot of thinks I expect. As a mother, I expect my family to keep the house clean. As a pastor, I expect everyone to be at church and participate. As a wife, I expect to be spoiled daily. I’m sure Todd’s working on it. There is only one problem, a HUGE problem. All those expectations are coming from ONE person, ME. Well, if the world was full of “me’s,” all those expectations would be shared. But sadly, it isn’t so, because my expectations are uniquely MINE. Others have different expectations. Their expectations will rarely line up with mine, because of four major realities:

1. People have their own different personalities.

2. People have their own different experiences.

3. People have their own goals or desires in mind.

4. People have different needs. Our spiritual, physical and mental needs are our own. We share the needs, but we have differing means of fulfilling them.

So what to do? If everyone has different expectations, then how can we be united as one? How can my family work together towards each individual’s expectations? How can my church work together as one body, with all these expectations that differentiate us? How can my husband and I grow closer if we have different expectations of each other?

TWO words: COMMUNICATION and ACCEPTANCE.

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Through communication we can share those expectations with each other. Some may not be as simple as the weatherman telling us it is going to snow the next day. Some need to see some physical explanation like the Doppler radar system. But communicating what our expectations are with each other is a perfect start. It requires honesty and throws out assumptions. Some expectations I have, I can change with the correct information. I can change my expectations of activities that involve others by simply listening to their expectations. Honesty is vital for me to know their expectations. For example: If I know that my family can’t help keep the house clean because of work, studies or illness, I can change my expectation of them helping to clean the house. On the other hand, I have to communicate to them what I expect from them as well. Communication has to go both ways. Sharing our expectations with each other allows us to build a closer relationship with others. No matter how feeble, weird, complicated, simple or even selfish the expectation may be. In order to maintain, create, or strengthen a relation with those around us, honest communication is essential.

Let’s not forget the second word of ACCEPTANCE. Here is where communication can get stuck in the gutter. There is a need for humbleness in order to ACCEPT what others have communicated to us. Whether we like it, agree with it or not, accepting the communicated expectations is key to every relationship. We don’t have to like it to accept it. I didn’t like the news of the snow, truthfully I knew the information, but I just didn’t WANT to accept it because deep inside, well I was hoping it just would not…you know…snow. The acceptance of the information has a lot to do with our humbleness vs. our stubbornness. It is a tug-of-war when we just really don’t want the communicated words to be true. In refusing to accept it, we already have decided that your expectation and mine are just not going to work out. We break the line of communication which in turns breaks the relationship.

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I want to make it clear, it is not the different expectations that break a relationship, it is the refusal to accept the different expectations that does. We can still work together when different expectations are stated. This is how we incorporate the differences into the relationship that allows us to go on. One thing I know is that everyone will have different expectations. Each of my daughters has a different expectation from me, yet we work together because we accept each other’s differences and help each other reach our expectations. The refusal to accept the communicated information that may change our expectations is what causes the clash between people just as much as no communication. We just need humbleness (acceptance), the honesty (communication).

Our unique expectations of each other, life itself, and our surroundings, must be ready to be changed. Our everyday life has to be a life of flexible expectations especially when is out of our control. We can’t just expect everyone to know if we haven’t communicated fully. Nor can we expect them to share their own expectations if we have already refused to accept them in the past. We must come together and practice honesty and humbleness in our relationships through the sharing of expectations. This is not a unique way of thinking. It is a necessary attitude to have so that we don’t became enslaved to our own expectations and lose relationships. We may not agree with each other’s expectations but we can work together because often some of those expectations are similar to our own. Those similarities may enrich our relationship and strengthen it. Then, we have to realize that some will be different, we may not agree, but we understand each other and work together. This knowledge also strengthens our relationship. How? Because our common expectations should bring growth and strengthen our relationship as we unite in purpose. This is the Godly EXPECTATION that Jesus himself prayed for in John 17 for us, “That they may be one as you and I are one.”

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “

John 17: 22

And so, as I sit here knowing that I’ve lost the battle against my climate preference, I can change my expectation to: “Todd? You know, it is a perfect day to try out the fireplace.”

My expectations and the forecast expectations are two different things.

Instead, Todd turns on some Christmas music. I guess his expectations when snows falls, means Christmas is coming.

“Really?” I tell him as soon as I hear it. “This is what you think of when there is snow?”

He laughs.

I do need to give him a break. He misses the snow, being from Indiana and all. Now if only I can give him enough information about my need of the fireplace. Will I have that unique expectation come to life? We’ll see.. in the meantime he is still expecting me to cook dinner…{wait, I’m smelling food cooking}… well, maybe not anymore. 😉

Uniquely Mi Vida

A Struggle with Work

Well, here I am sitting in my office on this huge old desk which Todd and I can share, trying to follow up on my to do list. You know that never ending list that if you don’t have it, you get lost in overwhelming “to dos”? yeah, that list. Okay, I confess, I’m moving backwards on my “to-do-list”.

After mailings, reviewing the budget, checking my emails and following up on calls and prayer time, I decided to check on my blog. I realize, “hey I missed lasts week’s blog”. Didn’t I have it in my “to-do-list”? AND didn’t I remind myself, at least twice, to get it done? So what happened?

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Turns out that things just happen at work that distracts you and veers you away from your “to-do-list” or plans that you have for the day. For me it was these lists of over 150 members that I have been trying to organize, locate and find. Doing so will in turn allow me to create ANOTHER concise list… yeah, before you get confused. My second list is an updated list of contacts and follow ups for outreach. In order to be able to have that I had to “clean” out all the lists that I have found… and then find people. Turns out it takes a long time to do.. a LONG TIME.. like more than 3 weeks..

If you see my “to-do-List” you will find that item repeated over, over and over again, cause is a long…long…long process. I even had to split the task into 3 Lists. Then into more specifics or detail ones: In town, passed away, Transfers, Not found, No IDEA… I have learned that my habit of “If you do it, do it right the first time”, can be, as my husband says, an obsession. Or it could be that ADHD part of me. Regardless this task and it’s process, hard or not, has to be done.

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Work has a way of grabbing much more than your attention, it grabs your time, your thoughts, and even your tranquility. It gets into a point that items on your “to do list” can drag you down and be time consuming. The worst thing is that it can cause a great deal of frustration, just like people can, you know? WHen they complain? Or you have a long line in front because such and such machine broke down? Yeah, like that!

I realized that certain people can handle those difficult situations better than most. Others are great with people regardless of the situation, others are patient with the computer more than most and yet others can handle “items” more than others. It all has to do with our personality and skills yet frustrating times come. So what do you do to keep from yelling at someone, picking up the computer and throwing it across the room or just (in my case) grabbing all the papers and feeding it to the shredder, where i really felt they belong. We walk away and take a breath.

Several things I like to do when work is getting overwhelming, frustrating or when there seems to be no end in sight.

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  • Turn on or “up”, the music. For me is worship music. Depending on the need for escape or relaxation, I will listen to different styles or languages (English or Spanish). It really relaxes and I find I can work with a more relax and peaceful mind when I do.
  • Take 5, take your break, even if is just five minutes. Breath a little, talk to the one who works next to you. Share a little of your life, the funny thing that happen, say the day before. You can share your frustrations or difficulties of what you are dealing with. Sharing with others is helpful cause they may have advice that will help.
  • Take a knee, not like the football players take it, but a real down to earth knee to the ground and heart lifted up. Pray to the Lord that He may help you. Ask for comfort, peace, patience and more. You know your frustrations, well so does God. Only God can help you through the day. Sometimes a little short prayer is enough. It keeps your heart in-tacked.
  • Pass it on, not ALL, just some. Divide your task or the situation with another worker and pass on some of the load. I gave Todd the 1st finished list and had him do the contacting letters and some phone calls. If it was a person, I would have asked Todd to talk to him/her. If it was a situation, I would have asked Todd to help me… and so on. I even went around the people here at the church to help me find the “Unknowns”. Big HELP. One thing I have learned is that others can help you, JUST ASK. It does wonders to your sanity.

I found that this week is a lot easier, not only because I finished the lists, for the most part, but because I did the above things. It makes this week easier as I continue to contact those who I have found in the area. I have had great conversations too. I even have had the honor to place them in my prayer request list. (Which is yet another list..) Since the hard work is done and all those crazy lists are more organized, “yay” for me, I can work more calmly.

So as I sit here listening to worship music, in English, I can only relax, enjoy and smile. The fact that hard work may take a LOT of my time, patience and mind is nothing because, for me, meeting people is such a unique blessing. I hope and pray that I get to see face to face some of those names that I have on my list. I guess one has to find the joy in all they do. 🙂 Cause every job is unique, full of unique situations and unique people. But most of all, a UNIQUE YOU!

Uniquely Inspirational

The Struggle with Patience

My daughter is so trying my patience.

Yep!! She won’t tell me if she is having a boy or a girl. What is a mother to do?? After all, she got her ultrasound several days ago and she is MAKING me WAIT until Sunday! That’s like.. almost a WHOLE week! Come on! You only need to open that silly envelope and flash it to the laptop camera…I WONT TELL!

The reality is that I was not born a patient person. I was the 4 year old that could be told “you can have one whole bag of M&M’s if you will only sit in front of a bowl of them for 5 minutes without touching any.” Somehow after trying every possible way to patiently wait for my whole bag, including sitting on my hands, I was done for within 3 minutes, maybe even 2. I could only WAIT so long. My body could only sit still for so long.

It has been very difficult to just learn the art of patience. Growing up, I really do believe, that my dad would have some twisted satisfaction in teaching patience. He purposefully would make me stand there, waiting for Him, to give me permission to talk. Just so I can ask him if I can go to Yvette’s house to play. If I wouldn’t wait, the answer would be “No, you weren’t patient and interrupted me.” The last thing I wanted to do was to get him mad. So I waited, waited and waited until my mind and body wanted to explode. So I would wait the only way I could think of, keeping my mind busy with my imagination. I imagined all that we would do if Yvette would come over, but just so Daddy wouldn’t forget my presence, I would grab his hand. I would find myself playing with my fingers then, swinging his hand, then his arm. The LONGEST 2-3 minutes of my life.

His explanation to me in life was that Patience would teach me maturity. Yeah right…. like maturity would happen…. I hated patience. If patience was a girl, she would be the one I would have avoided. I wanted the answers then and there. I wanted to solve issues then and there. I wanted to enjoy life then and there. No time to WAIT. WAITING was just a WASTE of TIME. I had better things to do in LIFE than to WAIT.

Patience is like a tree, it grows slowly but strong. —Photo by Gelgas on Pexels.com

As life goes on, patience seems to test me. I think I learned it better during my teen and college years. I had to WAIT a lot then. I had to WAIT in the offices, in lines and in the classroom. I had to WAIT for financial aid to tell me if I got my scholarships. I had to WAIT for my professors to grade my papers. I had to WAIT for companies to get back to me during Job search. I had to WAIT for the cute guy to finally ask me out… Well you get it. I was literally FORCED to have patience. I found myself talking to strangers, reading or just studying. But it wasn’t enough. I was antsy constantly. Yes me. So I finally did the only thing I could think of, I prayed: “Lord, teach me to be patient.”

Sometimes patience calls for us to do something for someone else.

I found myself asking GOD to work on my patience daily. So much so that I got a bumper sticker on my car and a key chain (which I still carry) that reads, “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” Though I had learned to distract myself in the process to make it easier, I still felt anxious. Patience became that companion that always follows you, but you really don’t want. Through scripture I figured that the only way I could conquer the lack of patience was prayer. I then learned that patience was not just a sign of maturity but a lifestyle, a needed character trait, and as I grew in my FAITH, I found that it became more and more part of me. Soon patience changed from a necessity, to an everyday pouring out occurrence. It flowed out as part of a new me. That prayer had become a daily prayer until one day the Holy Spirit just increased my PATIENCE as He did my LOVE for people, my HOPE, my KINDNESS… well, it turns out, it was part of my lack of SELF-CONTROL.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

All of a sudden, half-way through college I realized that my dad was not talking about human maturity, (This is a good thing, because I was failing there), but CHRISTIAN maturity as growth and the process of sanctification. Then, all the pieces started falling together, and I found out that patience was somehow becoming part of a trait that I never knew I had. Yet, I had to practice it. I had to realize that even though I hated being patient, I could do it because the Holy Spirit helped me.

God knew my weakness, and so He gave me 3 girls, a ministry that constantly ministers to kids and teens, and guess what? I had no choice than to be… you guessed it… PATIENT. It seems that if you are not very patient, the best way to practice patience is having kids, ministering to kids and working with them. The trait that I lacked, God increased it and moved it into a fruit that I have to use constantly. I could not have done it without the transformation and the power of the Holy Spirit. All because one day I went to my knees and said. “LORD, I WANT MORE OF YOU!! I NEED MORE OF YOU! THERE HAS GOT TO BE MORE.. I WANT MORE OF YOU.”

Finding something fun to do while others shop.

The uniqueness of having patience teaches us to be more creative, more imaginative and helps us do more. How else are we to kill the time in line, at the doctors office and so on. We wind up having to learn to use our time more wisely. We meet people, learn more by reading, spend time with our kids, you know, to keep them out of trouble, and so on. Patience teaches us to extend patience to those who don’t have it. It helps us understand others and in turn we learn to be kind, especially when they aren’t being patient. We learn to be Christlike with others, by being patient with them. Patience teaches us those unique values, like peacefulness, kindness, loving, compassionate and more. We learn to overcome difficulties, endurance and more. But most of all, we learn to depend on God.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Collossians 3:12

Today, I wait.. and WAIT for the day my oldest daughter and her hubby to do this crazy modern thing called, “Reveal Party.” Whatever that is.. until then, I keep myself distracted, occupied and, well.. you know: Praying for patience 😉 Knowing that in the end, regardless, I will be EXCITED. One more unique little gal or little guy to add to my heart! I’m so excited!! So patience is not so bad after all… unless… it is a girl and they name her “Patience”… :O nah…they wouldn’t…would they???

Uniquely Mi Vida

A Struggle with Budgeting

UGH!

Our budget is in turmoil. Okay, not in turmoil just… just shrinking. Now we have to revisit it and tighten the already tight belt. Sometimes I feel suffocated, light-headed, or on the verge of panic when I think of it. The worries come and ask, “What Am I going to do??” Taking a new job has a way of doing that, at least for ministers. We must be the first ones to be willing to take less, and give more. We are willing to help whenever and wherever. We are willing to be the first line item to take the cut until things change. Our hearts are definitely invested and we trust God… but our pocket books… well, the pocket books just don’t agree with you or the math.

So, we decide to redo our budget. The giant question is: What we need vs. what we REALLY need. Forget the needs vs. wants idea… that was left behind like several ages ago… at least 2 decades ago. So much for a temporary thing. Sure we make more than we did when we started, but I can account for that thanks to inflation. (We once made much more money because we were in-between ministries.)

Yet, I have to check myself, because even when “X” amount of numbers in the income line do not exceed “X” amounts in the expense column, and it doesn’t add up… we are some debt because of semi-new/used vehicle. Thanks to the fact that the car that had been paid off for more than 3 years ago went and decided to collapse on our last vacation trip. It just rolled over and DIED. Fixing it was worth more than the car and the amount we had. And in a little town God provided! It was a top notch, last year’s model. Not a High end car but an economical, American car that had what we needed, new car warranty and all for 40% less with less than 6,000 miles. God is good!!

With that said, we took God’s hands and walked into a new ministry. At first we were concerned. Will we have to go back to being bi-vocational? Yes..ugh.. We were wrong, I mean we should and normally would have to, my superintendent would “Highly suggest it.” (Please know that I love my superintendent, and I’m not just saying that because he may read this, because I’m sure he wont..LOL). The thing is that God had gone before us and taken care of our needs:

First, I had paid my health insurance for the year so I don’t have that expense. Since we don’t make much we were able to get a healthcare subsidy, but because it is still so expensive, I went with the lower end of coverage. We save what we can to pay high deductibles. Regardless, I have coverage, not much, but enough to get by.

Second, I had saved every thing I could in preparation for our move. Todd and I both worked at substitute teaching and this allowed me to save one paycheck of every 4 checks. Sometimes 2 of them If I could. I was also able to save my tax return and still able to pay my daughter’s college bill for the semester. (Mind you, thanks for her scholarships, it was HUGE. So I paid it in 3 months time.) Not that the savings will carry us through… it creates a cushion for emergencies even after moving expenses. We just don’t have to worry..much anyways. Somehow God has kept our savings intact even when I have to dip into it.

Third, that new car God provided? Well, my monthly payment is $176. I pay a little more between $180-$200 to bring down the interest as much as possible. I mean, why give the companies more money when all I have to do is pay and sacrifice a little more each month. Over time, most of the money winds up being in my pocket, not theirs. I understand other people wanting to get these expensive cars, with all the high end stuff, brand new or used with many miles at low payment. I learned to take my time, research and yes, expect a miracle of a deal. My vehicle wound up being $10,000 less than the sticker price plus my $5,000 down. I learned that if I can pay a good portion in cash, we can pay off the vehicle in 4 years or less (preferably in 3 yrs average). It must have a monthly payment that is low, really low and reasonable for the type of car, mileage and age. It takes patience, research and lots of prayer.

Fourth, it turns out that the church I am at had a college endowment for students of the church that go to our Nazarene University. My daughter is the only one. It turns out what is given to her per semester is roughly the amount I was having to pay. Plus she was accepted in the internship program so that covered her part. She had not been able to find a job in the Spring while at school so her portion was not in her savings at all. (This is all a God given gift).

Yes, God has gone before us. Yet, we had a part to play. We had to take responsibility as faithful, trusting, called servants of God.

We revised our budget. EVERYTHING was tightened. The question to answer was: What is the minimum we can live off while things were tight. Realizing a second job was not right for now, either one of us. Realizing that the church needed us 100% of the time, and last, realizing and eventually, knowing that somehow God will provide.

In the meantime we have sacrifices to make:

  1. No eating out weekly much less, daily! We go out ONCE a month if the money is there and we limit $10 per person plus tip. We rotate Restaurant pizza 2x a month, setting a budget for $15-20 bi-weekly and the other 2 weeks, frozen pizza. NO JUNKY fast foods. Eating leftovers or sandwiches when out and about. This means I have to cook more often. That means more time in the kitchen, which in turn, helps me keep it cleaner. So what about groceries? See #2
  2. No JUNK FOOD! Avoid, avoid snacks, chips, pop as much as possible. This is hard for my husband who grew up drinking sodas like water. I have to limit his intake, which is not easy. So no more 7-eleven, Sonics or whatever… generic sodas if needed all the way. We have Fruits, popcorn and granola bars for snacks. Hey, I suffer too! It means no candy for me. (I’m hoping one trip to ROSS and one bag of their sour gummies at $3-4 a month is feasible.) We purchase everything generic, and frozen vegetables are better and not much more than the canned. Buy on SALE, and yes, on clearance. Right now I’m trying to stay at a $225-$250 grocery budget here in Texas with 4 adults. Luckily, for my budget, one of my girls is going back to college so it will be easier and hopefully the second one will get a job… but she has her own bills to pay.
  3. Cell phones- I’m highly considering cutting data usage to save us $20 a month and cancelling a phone that is not absolutely necessary. In the meantime we have learned that buying an “AT&T GO” phone for $20 or less, and adding us to the plan saves an additional $15-$25 per person, per month which is added to our “plan.” We spend less on 5 cell phones and plans in a year than some people pay for a single phone. I mean really, add up the costs. Why give them your money for a phone they expect you to throw away. We just keep the phone until it is no longer working. We have saved over $500 a year doing this.
  4. No ENTERTAINMENT outside the house. Now before you all think I’m crazy or faint in disbelief: Let me say that we do budget for ONE event out a month. But we keep it simple. Beside that, we have found out that our family movie nights consist of staying at home, renting a movie, the pizza mentioned above and popcorn. We have learned that family games, whether it be board games, Xbox or the like, also makes for a great family time. Hanging out together not only brings you closer as a family and adds more fun memories but also helps with a budget.
  5. AVOID STORES outside of your list. This is is my weakness… I love sales, clearances, antiques, garage sale shopping and more. So I am having to restrain myself to what I need only, or just $20-30 a month for shopping for home and clothing. (Or roll it to the next month for a funner time later). If you are tempted to go to one of those stores just repeat after me, “I DON’T have the money for …”. Also, when shopping, stick to your list as much as possible. Or send the one in your family that hates shopping. They will go in with the list and back without seeing anything else. (Unless you know that there is a clearance in electronics, then don’t send in your husband alone).
  6. AVOID NAME BRANDS: Don’t get the expensive stuff, health and beauty supplies especially, avoid the fancy brands. Consider a lower cost brand, generic for most. Learn to always buy generic medicines, and such. This will save you half. You don’t really need to go to “ULTA” to buy the items you find at Walmart for 30-50-% less. Basically, be smart. Do your research. DON’T be IMPULSIVE, And if you can’t help it, make sure it is more than 50% off and you NEED IT.
  7. Credit cards are FOR EMERGENCIES, especially if you are in DEBT. If you know you don’t have the money to pay it in full then don’t buy it. If you are expecting the money to be there the next month due to a bonus, an extra paycheck, a raise, or overtime, make sure that you have paid off your debts first before using it. It is ESSENTIAL NOT to RELY on your credit card for your everyday expenses. Unless your debts are paid and you are in a habit of paying it in FULL, MONTHLY; leave your credit card at home. You can call the credit card company and set a limit that you can afford until healthy habits develop. I started at a $250 limit while in college, than added $250 increments as time went on and FROZE it at $2000 (in case of emergency). That is to say, you DON’T spend your limit, is just there in case you need it. I usually use my credit card for: Christmas, vacations, emergencies, big items and work. (Mostly because I hate to carry my debit card or cash during those times). I make sure the MONEY is available to pay it in FULL on a monthly basis. I just refuse to give the company more of my money. So yeah, they don’t make any money from me. So if you are one of those that only pay your minimum amount, month after month, I’m sure you are their favorite customer…cause the moment you can’t, they will garner your wages and all that interest, you made them rich. Me? well, they won’t get rich from me because I don’t give them a chance. Which means: I get FREE service and they pay me to use their money. YAY!!!

So those are my sacrifices, and our new, hopefully temporary, budget. (Please note that numbers 6 & 7 ones are constant rules for our standard BUDGET)… did I mentioned that I haven’t gotten my haircut yet? Yeah… sacrifices. I will have to wait for Christmas for my perm, and do my own hair dyeing too. I think I’m going to have to use Todd’s hair grooming set to groom my dogs for the next 4 months… that alone will save me $200. That said, I better save for Black Friday as well… (Lucky for me, I do have points saved up).

I say all this to say, God has provided: our home, our food, our medical needs, our daughter’s college bill and more. So, we are trusting in God that all these sacrifices will be rewarded someday. I hope one of those rewards is going on a mission trip back to my Island of Puerto Rico. And when my minivan is no longer running, God will provide us another vehicle.

However, there is one area we will NEVER sacrifice or CUT DOWN ON: Tithes and Offerings. Since God has provided we return to HIM what he asks, what He needs to continue to reach people in our town, in our state, in our country and in our world. He does that through us. As HE has been faithful, we too MUST be FAITHFUL to HIM. So we give 10%, our tithe, and more for missions and special offerings, because we are GRATEFUL and we LOVE HIM.

I Give to GOD because HE has given all to me and continues to provide, daily. I have a new car, a van that runs well, I have no credit card debts, I have a home, yes even internet, food is on the table, our lives are not missing anything. And this crazy unique budget that I have to do… well, I would do it all over again if HE asks. I have FAITH that someday it might be easier and I can then tithe and give even more. Someday, I will be able to relax by the beach and enjoy my family…in the meantime I will dream as I watch a clip of a beach, true HULU (only $6.99 a month). And if I get desperate, there is always the lake nearby…


Uniquely Inspirational

Heartbeat of Life

 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.  — John 16:21 NIV

Hearing the heartbeat is the most amazing thing in the world. It is like opening this giant window into a deep, mysterious, dark room. The light just flows right through in such a wave that it not only brings a ray of light, but the whole room becomes something different. It looks different. You see things that you never knew were there before. Your heart leaps and you find yourself dancing with the sun rays. That is how it feels to hear the heartbeat of the child you carry, regardless of his/her size. You can breath and respond to the beat… a song of life. They say you can also hear the heartbeats of puppies in their mother’s womb, the unborn calf, the unborn lamb, the unborn colt, but nothing compares to a human heartbeat for bringing joy.

I remember those moments, the first moments I heard each and every one of my girls’ hearts beat. If I was a musician, I would have composed a song. If I was a poet I would have written a sonnet. If I was an artist I would have painted a masterpiece. If I was a dancer I would have danced with grace. But I was a mother, and I did what mothers do. I created tears of joy, mixed with a smile and a dream. I never new what mezmorizing power hearing that beat would have on me. If I didn’t believe there was life within, I certainly knew at that moment. My heart overwelmed my mind and I began to love that sound.

I suppose that there are some who feel the same way about their pets, animals, trees, or the environment, but that life is “small” in comparison. Because those types of life are not “persons.” I agree with Dr. Seuss and Horton, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” In fact, the heartbeat of those others cannot compare to the soft happy tune of the heart of the baby you carry. The reality of what is to come sinks in. I understand, that to some, this creates fear, worry, anger, realization, and yet to most it is pure JOY. Maybe that is the reason why many fear to “hear” the heartbeat. Maybe that is the reason why they refuse to even hear it when they have come to the conclusion they do not want the child.

To an unborn child, fear is his/her enemy. It is what keeps many women in the dark. And so, they keep the blinds shut in fear that if they open, even a sliver, they will see what they don’t want to see. It is, after all, their choice to keep it close. Yet they forget that regardless of their choice the sun will eventually always shine.

quote-about-newborn-cute-image-5a885921

You see, we can’t keep the heart from beating, it is a reminder of life. It is a reminder that every choice we make has the opportunity to give life, either to ourselves or others. Daring to hear that heartbeat is the first step in reminding us that there is life. It reminds us that we are living, and thus we can bring life, we can, in a sense give it. It is the gift that God gave women. It is what separates us from the earth, animals, plants and so on, the ability to choose to hear, carry and bring about that unique life that is in us. That is the power of life. What a tremendous gift we have. What unique and powerful gift. Our bodies can produce life. Not just any life, but life created to be the image of God.

As I heard those heartbeats long ago, I am overwhelmed by the uniqueness of each. I feel those heartbeats, I see their hearts beating in my mind. I brought them to this world. I carried them. I fought for them. I choose to keep their hearts beating. Nothing else would do for the innocent child who’s heartbeat reminds me of my living. Thank you God for the awesome unique gift to me and all women, to give life.

heartbeat of life at 16 weeks

Uniquely Inspirational

The Problem with “Failure”

Our biggest fear is “failure.” It seems such an ugly word, and many use it to bring us down. Or we simply bring ourselves down. We begin to spiral into the abyss of failure with no way to get out.

I once was  asked, many years ago, if I could ever fail… I thought about the question carefully, realizing that there was a hint of entrapment there. Unless she wanted to know how I failed to be on time most of the time, or “failed” to do the dishes that morning, nothing really came to mind. Surely that is not what she meant. Maybe she was wondering if I have been a failure?? The best I could think of was to see this as a spiritual teaching moment, and what I understood the word to mean within the realms of my Christian life. I responded, “As long as I do what God asks of me, and I follow His commandments I will not fail.” Well, that answer didn’t sit well with the person asking. Apparently her definition for “fail” was different. To me, it was what would cause me to be a failure within my calling and as a Christian. Frankly, I refuse to allow the fear of being one (a failure), to keep me from doing what I believe to be God’s will…. or else I would fail.

We are raised to avoid failure at all costs. In fact, if you are not encouraged to “NOT FAIL,” it is because you are told that you already have. Sadly, I have heard this from many teens, and even some adults. The expectations of parents give the person a nerve wracking stress, crippling them, sometimes for life… if they do not meet them.

Yet, we see failure as our own personal evil, something to avoid and fear. After all… it is the one thing that can stop us from moving forward in our education, jobs, relationships and even in marriage. And if we fail, we may  bring down others with us.

I have come to the conclusion that “fail” is seen and defined differently by many. When asked “how do you define failure?” I get different answers. Everyone defines it differently, and most likely it’s based on their experiences.

According to the Webster’s Dictionary, {https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/fail} “fail” is defined in multiple ways as well:WP_20161003_20_10_12_Pro

  1. to lose strength 
  2. to fade or die away 
  3. to stop functioning normally 
  4. to fall short 
  5. to be or become absent or inadequate 
  6. to be unsuccessful 
  7. to be unsuccessful in achieving a passing grade 
  8. to become bankrupt or insolvent        

Based on these all of us have not only failed but will always fail at one thing or another. We would, by definition, be failures and so why even bother. With so many “failures” in our resume…. how are we going to survive this life? How are we going to come out ahead?

Jesus gives us a way out. He gives us the ability to overcome those failures and pulls us out of the human sense of “failure,” as defined by ourselves and society.  He changes this to focus on His expectations.

For Christians, being forgiven by Christ and living the Christian life, cannot fail, unless we fall short of God’s expectations for us. We no longer need to “conform to this world,” but “be transformed.”(Romans 12:2). God sees failure differently. Simply put, as a Christian, what “failure” is changes from the human perspective into the spiritual perspective. It then gives us HOPE that our LIFE is worth living, that we are not “failures.” We are simply humans that make mistakes and grow, learn, and become better.

For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong—not so that people will see that we have stood the test but so that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed.”                                                                                        —2 Corinthians 13:4-7  (NIV)

Yes, I am aware that my definition, though very biblical, may be controversial in a society where everyone must consider themselves to have failed, or, according to some Christians, or they are not sufficiently humble. Truly, do you actually need to fail to learn? Can’t we learn from observation, and avoiding mistakes others have made? Do you have to go through the emotional whirlpool of embarrassment, depression and more, in order to learn? I truly believe that the person that is constantly learning to do better should not need to feel a failure, or have to have failed, to learn. It seems so negative in all senses of the word, and leaves behind the faith and hope of Christianity. This is human failure… before Christ.

According to the Bible we fail when we: (I have included some Bible verses, but there are many more.)

  1. Do not follow God’s commandments (Lev. 26:14-16, Numbers 32: 22-24, Deut. 8:11)
  2. Do not have faith (Luke 22:31-32, Mark 8:17-19,
  3. Do not see our own spiritual shortcomings before helping others. (Luke 6:41-43)
  4. Do not do it for God (Acts 5:38-39, Mark 10:29-31, Romans 15:1-3)
  5. Do not pray (1 Samuel 12:22-24)

IMG_0178It seems to me that “failure” is not about success, marriage, passing courses, or our health. Failure, biblically, is a spiritual matter. In fact, it leads to sin. In other words, when we do not live a life according to God’s will, we have failed. Yet, when we fail to abide by that, God’s grace provides us an out. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God” (Romans 3:23)–in other words we have “failed” because we fall short.  He reaches out and raises us up, giving us hope once again, forgiving and reestablishing us so that we are not “failures” but growing, getting better. The Bible, therefore, sees failure or “to fail” differently from the secular view. The concept changes when Christ becomes our Savior.

As Christians, we must be held accountable to our faith, to the biblical standards of failure.  Does this mean that we cannot fail in the secular sense of the word? Of course not, we make many human mistakes, but we are not failures according to God. We just simply make mistakes. However, as Christians, the question is, “is it beneficial to us to see human failures as a thermometer of our heart?” NO, we should see the spiritual ones as a way to measure our heart and relationship with God. This will make us not only stronger but it will constantly change us to do better, be hopeful, and seek God more. Otherwise desperation, depression and the loss of self-worth will overcome us.

As unique as each of us are, our mistakes are all different. But they do not make us failures, especially if we strive to see it from God’s point of view. As I have challenged myself to see it from a different perspective, to define “fail” as God does, so I also challenge you. You will notice that you will continue to grow more, better, and stronger if you focus on following God’s will and Word in your life. And next time someone wants to point out your failures simply say, “I have made mistakes, but God isn’t finished with me yet. I will not fail if I learn to do better.” Because after all, you are uniquely you 🙂