11.16.2017

#PluviophilePoems

Hey peeps! 

I know a lot of you have been wondering why my blog has seemed neglected lately, but it’s only because I’ve been focusing on compiling pieces of my writing for something very exciting and special.

I'm getting my first book published!!

And I can’t wait to share it with you all!
More details coming soon:)


I'm keeping everyone updated through my social medias, so I'd recommend staying tuned through those platforms - 



I will be having a couple book release parties in the next two weeks.

And it will also be available on Amazon.com by the end of the month.

10.02.2017

Impactful Praise

I wasn't feeling well coming off my shift at Dutch this morning.  I told my supervisor at BGC that I might need to go home early because I was in pain.

I texted a best friend and told him the same thing.  
"You'll be fine," he encouraged me.  "The kids need you.  You should go."

I knew he was right.  I love my job enough any way to tough it out.

It was a pretty rough shift, though.  I had a migraine the whole time, some of the kids were being difficult, I had to yell to be heard, and plus, the continuing pain wasn't very fun to deal with.
My supervisor was kind enough to let me go home an hour early and as I was grabbing my things to go, one of my 3rd graders came up to me.

"Where are you going?" he asked.
"Home," I replied.
"I don't want you to leave yet."
"I'm sorry, but I don't feel well.  I'll see you tomorrow, though, okay?"
"Okay," he said, and started to walk away.

To anyone who has children, siblings or has worked with kids, have you ever noticed that certain look they get when they are trying to give off the vibe of not caring about something but you can clearly see that deep down, they actually do?  This kid had that look written all over his face.
I had this sudden urge to call him back, and when he came to stand in front of me, I put my arm on his shoulder and said, "Hey, I want you to know how much I appreciate you listening to me in gym and homeroom today.  You set a great example for the other kids and it makes my day to know that you care about what I ask you to do."

He just stared up at me, standing very still and looking very stunned.  And I knew why.

He hadn't been very well-behaved today.  In fact, he was probably one of the kids who was the most difficult in the groups I supervised.  But he has a special place in my heart and I believe, with everything in me, that young souls need to be encouraged and praised for the times they do well because how else will they know - or desire - to continue doing good if they don’t get recognized for it?  But I took the one example I could think of him behaving well today to praise him for it, and I know that impacted him more than all the times I had to reprimand him for not listening.

As I drove home from work, with the image of his blank face still in my mind, I realized that perhaps the other reason he seemed to stunned by my praise and gratefulness was because he may not hear those kinds of words coming from an adult in his life very frequently.  And my heart resonated with that so deeply.

It also reminded me of something too…
So often we can clearly see the times we’ve screwed up and fallen short of God’s wise guidance in our lives but don’t acknowledge the times when we have freely chosen to follow His Word.  But you know what?  I think it’s the other way around for Him.  No, He’s not turning a blind eye to our sins.  He is a just God, yes, nevertheless because of His perfect sacrifice, He picks out the moments when we have followed and yielded to His perfect plan…and what does He do?

“Now it shall be, if you diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.”
- Deuteronomy 28:1

And I just think that’s such a peaceful promise to remember.

I feel like a lot of people - probably the greater percentage of humanity, honestly - has this terrifying image of a big man in the sky who's always angry and on the lookout for people who screw their lives up so he can punish them for their sins and laugh at their pain.  

But the God I know is so far from such a brute.  

He is sovereign and holy and Someone to greatly fear.  Not out of being scared to make Him angry, but fear to fall short of His glory.  He is more than just that.  He is loving.  He is faithful.  He is kind.  He is gentle.  And these aren't character traits all divided by percentages.  He is ALL loving.  He is ALL faithful.  He is ALL kind.  He is ALL gentle.  Always, all the time.  And He has our best best best interest at the forefront of every pen stroke He writes in the story of our lives.  
He has plans for our futures - to give us hope and blessings.  And no matter how many times we fall flat on our faces and seemingly "take the wrong turn", He's there to meet us.  He's there to help us back onto our feet.  He's there to say, "Come on, beloved, you've got this.  I'm here for you.  I designed this road to grow you and strengthen your heart, soul and mind.  Don't count the times you've stumbled.  Count the steps you've taken and how many feet you've moved forward.  Look behind you only to see how far you've come.  And look ahead for the fullness of joy that awaits you.  Come on.  I only see your beauty and worth.  Don't stop now."

The kids may have needed me, like my friend had said, but gosh, I think God used them in my life today in a very special way.

8.30.2017

Promise Me You Will Never Settle


I've been seeing many of my peers settling lately.

The jobs/relationships they're in don't make them happy, don't make them better people, and even go so far as to make them complain about their lives.  I'm not saying there's any such thing as "perfect", but I am saying that there is something pretty darn close to it, and everyone has a choice to have it or not.  I see a lot of people settling because this world is accustomed to it.  And they'd rather settle for anything just so say that they can say they have something instead of nothing.

But here's the thing - you should never settle for mediocre.  It's the road to cheating yourself.  Settling is tolerating and shrugging your shoulders while saying "I guess this is the best I'll ever deserve."  Settling is merely existing, because living would make split ends.

Settling is also about perspective.  Can you look at the man or woman you're with and honestly say "I can't imagine being with anyone else. Even though the world might tell me that I can find someone better, I don't believe I can.  And I choose him/her."?  Can you think about your job and say "Yes, I look forward to the days I'm scheduled because I love what I do"?  Can you look around at your home, your bedroom, your bathroom and say "Yes, I love it and this is exactly how I want it to be decorated, etc"?  See, it's a matter of perspective.  It's opening your eyes, weighing your heart and your feelings with what your brain knows and understands and seeing if they match up.  Feelings are feelings and will always be flimsy.  They can change in the whisper of a breeze.  But knowing, having a firm knowledge in a truth that may not be tangible, but can be experienced; now that is something you can base your decisions on.

A funny thing about settling is that it doesn't feel bad - which is why so many people do just that.  Most of the time it's pretty darn comfortable.  People settle into okay jobs, okay homes, okay relationships because hey, that's what fell into their lap, landed in their path, was available at the moment or what have you so, they took it.  They settled.  They thought "Well, this is probably meant to be mine because it's right here in front of me."  And you know what?  That's fine.  An okay life pays the bills, keeps you warm and fed, keeps you moderately happy.  Cool.  But where's the living in that?  Where's the passion?  Where's the memory-making?  The moments of unforgettable, extreme times of hair-raising suspense and challenging obstacle courses that end in a thrilling adventure?

"Okay is not the reason you risk absolutely everything you've got for the smallest chance that something absolutely amazing could happen."  

You should never settle for less than your soul deserves.  Whether that be in your job, your friends, your finances, your relationships.  You keep your standards high, your work ethic strong, and you make friends with whoever you find along that path to passion and greatness because I promise you, it will be worth it in the end.

What you want exists.  There is nothing new under the sun.  It's just gonna take effort and hard work and a heap of patience to get it.  But you can.

Now promise me something?

You'll never settle.

Ten years from now, will you be able to look back and say that you chose your life or that you settled for it?

Don't settle, darling.  The world is already too full of mediocrity.  Stand out and be different.  Be the person everyone wonders how they can become more like.

(Click here if you live paycheck to paycheck.  Email me here if you want to be put in touch with someone who can help.)

8.28.2017

"Honest Feelings & Bad Timing Make the Most Painful Combinations"

I wish I had been brilliant enough to come up with that title, but no, as you see, it's in quotes.  I found it while scrolling through my Twitter feed.  I just had to save it to my phone because wow is it relatable, truthful, and inspiring.

I feel that many times we express our thoughts and feelings out of honesty and knowing that vulnerability is key to relationships and blossoming beginnings, but damn, occasionally the timing seems to be all wrong.  And I hate that.  I know it's not "wrong" because I believe that every last second is penned by a sovereign Master Planner, but in my finite mind, I wonder if things could've happened at a different time and actually worked out a different way, you know?  (At first, I typed "worked out.", but then thought "No.  It did work out.  Maybe not in the way I wanted it to, but it did, somehow end up at a certain end.")

There are always going to be "what if" moments in life.  And the majority of the time, we'll never have the answer to "why" or "why not".  But this should never stop us from being hopeful, from continuing to wonder, continue to pursue.  Honest feelings are good 100% of the time.  Because nothing is better than being honest and conveying your thoughts and feelings.  Bad timing is another thing, though, because you really should try to convey your honest feelings at an appropriate time.  But even if you think you did, and nothing comes of baring your heart, don't let that discourage you.  It just wasn't meant to be.  Plain and simple.  Sucky, I know, but true.

One area of honest feelings and bad timing happens often in the arena of love and relationships...

As a 20-something year old, I have a much different idea of what love is compared to what my 5-year old self thought.  When I was younger, "love" seemed like a far off fairytale dream.  I saw it lived out in my parents' marriage, and in my little mind, love was when Dad and Mama kissed or held hands and told us children that they loved each other.  It was something that made me feel safe.  That never made me doubt whether my parents would ever not be together.  As I've matured, love has become something I have learned a lot about.  Yes, there are times that it's soft and fragile, but more often than not, it's harsh.  Love is something to be feared.  It's a raw passion, an explosive firework; it's something reckless, real and dangerous.  This shouldn't make oneself afraid to fall in love, though.  Your heart is the strongest muscle in your body.  And your soul is the most powerful part of a human - for it is eternal.  And something eternal can, and will always, withstand the power of love.

I think probably the most difficult part of relationships comes from the way people inevitably change over time.  When you make a commitment, you're not only saying "yes" to the person you have grown to love in the present moment, but you're saying "yes" to continue loving and cherishing the person they will yet become in the future.  Whether you like the changes or not, you're choosing to love them through it all.  And sometimes, you are willing to love them wholly and fully, but they aren't.  And the honest feelings + bad timing becomes very apparent.  But here's the thing:
Love should feel secure and safe, yet have a wild side too.  You need someone who loves you enough to match your effort.  Most importantly, you need to know that love is important to life.  At the end of the day, all that's going to matter is love - and how you connected with the individuals around you, how deeply you loved them, how much of yourself you gave to them.  Don't ever think that a broken heart should stop you from feeling and giving love.

Now close your eyes and breathe.  And please understand that you are still young, and the universe is infinite, and no matter if you find human, physical love, God's grace and unending love will always be enough.  I believe it will always be the perfect piece that fits into that lonely, empty space in your heart.  No human could ever fill that void.  And if you need a perspective of the kind of love God has for us, here's a quote from an amazing man who I greatly look up to -

"Our loveliness to God doesn't rise and fall with our usefulness.  We are not a commodity for Him to use.  We are a treasure that He gave everything to buy back."
- Mike Donehey

8.07.2017

For Some Reason


A few months ago…

I was browsing through my Bible app in search of a new daily devotional to begin.  My eyes landed on one titled “Goliath Must Fall” - a shorter version based on a book by Lou Giglio.  I read the synopsis, started the devotional, but read too far ahead and, a devotional that should’ve lasted me a week, I was finished with in just a couple of days.  In it, Giglio refers to emotions and feelings such as fear, anxiety, stress, etc. as “giants in our lives”.  But by God’s power in and through us, they must - and will - fall.  It was a very encouraging little devotional and I wished I had made it last longer.

---

Sunday, July 30…

My church live streamed a message from our sister church in Montana where Lou Giglio was guest speaking.  The title of his sermon was “The Giant of Fear”.  There were a few things he said that really stood out and resonated with me.  But instead of going into a lot of detail, I’ll just copy what I wrote down in my note-taking journal:

“We can’t take down giants.  But the thing is, God never asked us to.  We aren’t the hero in the story called the Bible.  Jesus is our giant-slayer.  Fear is a crime scene.  It’s already dead, but it’s still deadly.  Yes, there may be giants in our lives, and you may not be able to control what happens in your life, but we can choose where to focus.  And choosing to lift your eyes higher than the giant, to Someone greater, can be what causes your whole life to change.  You can worship in the circumstance if you choose to see God in it.  And worship is a weapon that pierces the darkness and leads us to the light.  The antidote to fear isn’t courage.  It’s faith.  And the soundtrack to faith is worship.  You have the power over the playlist in your life.  And fear will fall at the sound of Jesus’ name.”

---

Thursday, August 3…

I had been having a pretty stressful day.  I was filled with anxiety, worry, and insecurity.  I kept trying to ward these feelings off by praying and listening to worship music, but nothing seemed to be piercing the veil of darkness I kept feeling around me.
After work, I decided to go to Ross to look for summer dresses.  I can safely say that I’ve driven to this Ross at least a dozen times, but for some reason, I took a wrong turn.
“Great,” I thought to myself as I turned a corner in the parking lot, trying to find an exit back onto the main street.  
To my left, I saw a building with the words “Life Way” on it.  A Christian bookstore.  
“I’ve never seen that place,” I said aloud.
Completely befuddled that something like a Christian bookstore had escaped my notice in the past times I’ve driven down the street directly in front of it, I decided I was in no hurry to get to anywhere and took the parking spot in front of its entrance.
Upon entering the store, I was greeted by a woman named Gwen who asked if she could help me find anything.  
“Not particularly, no,” I replied slowly, then blurted out, “Bible studies?  Devotionals maybe?”
“Right this way,” she said, and led me past four or five aisles until we came to one she waved me into.
“Thank you so much!” I said.
She laughed softly at my enthusiasm.  “Let me know if there’s anything I can help you look for,” she said before walking away.
I stood at the end of the aisle, looking at the shelves to the right and left of me.  I didn’t know what I was looking for.  I didn’t know which author’s name to search for.  I didn’t even know why I had thought of Bible studies and devotionals.
“Okay, God, for some reason, You had me make that wrong turn and led me to this place that I didn’t even know existed in this neighborhood.  You want me here.  Now show me what You want me to find.”
Immediately, I got this overwhelming sense of peace and felt God’s presence so strongly that tears came to my eyes.  He was here with me.  In this aisle, in this bookstore, in this city.  
I gently brushed the books in the top left shelf and mouthed the titles and author’s names.  I saw a few I knew but none of them really stood out to me.  I was waiting for confirmation.  I didn’t hear Him say “This is the one!”
I saw a thin little book tucked away in the others and pulled it out to take a closer look, but when I did, my fingers fumbled and I dropped it.  Reaching down to pick it up off the floor, my eyes went to the bottom shelf that I was now level with.  
“Goliath Must Fall”.  The words were big and bold in front of my face.  The book by Lou Giglio was displayed prominently, not like most books on a shelf where you just read the title on the thin edge of the cover.  No, this book was facing out, so I could read the whole front of it.
Now the tears really started coming as I reached for this book.  I turned it over and started reading the back cover.  Words like “fear”, “rejection”, “addiction”, and “anger” kept jumping out at me, but one line at the bottom said this - “…fix your eyes on the size of your God, not the size of your giant.”

And I heard God say “This is the one!  This is the reason I led you to this bookstore.  This is the reason you needed to come here.  I wanted to give this book to you.”

The price sticker said $16.99.  When I got to the counter, the lady at the register said that for some reason it was on sale for $11.


Okay, God, I see You.

8.04.2017

Ten Seconds of Courage

  
  It was just another day at work - making coffee and serving smiles.  I was assigned to register, being the first person the customer would chat with and taking their drink orders.  

    And then he walked in.

    I knew all of our regular customers by name and their drink orders by heart, but I’d never seen this guy before.  We made eye contact and I felt a weird sensation vibe through me.  Not only was he attractive but there was something about him that made me feel like I’d known him forever.  
    “Hi,” I said.
    “Hey,” he replied with a smile.
    The rest of our interaction was kind of a blur.  He ordered a freeze, paid with a card, had never been to our coffee shop before so I told him that I’d buy his next drink.  I asked him what he was up to and he said he was headed to work.
    I’m not the kind of person who gets nervous easily or fumbles around when a hot guy is talking to me, so it was definitely out of character for me to be as scatter-brained as I was during my exchange with him.
    After he left, I turned to my coworker.  “That’s my custie crush.”  (It’s kind of a thing, I guess, in the barista world to have a “custie crush”.  I hadn’t really had one up until the day I met this guy.)
    “Oh yeah?” she laughed.  “He was pretty cute.”
    I waited and waited for him to come in again.  Finally a couple weeks later, he did.  But this time, he ordered two drinks - the freeze and also a blended chai.  
    Dang it.  He has a girlfriend.  He’s probably getting this for her, I thought to myself as I made it.
    “Who’s the chai for?  I know you don’t drink chai tea.”
    “Oh it’s, uh, for a friend.”
    “Oh okay,” I said with a nod and smile, and my heart was like “Yay! I was wrong!”
    “Well here you go.  Have a good day!” I said.
    “Thank you, sweetie.  You too,” he smiled and winked at me.

    I didn’t see him for a few weeks after that.  I was sad, to say the least, but then told myself that maybe he didn’t live in the area and the times he had come in were just because he was passing through.  Oh well.  My custie crush was someone of the past.

    “If he ever does come in again, though,” I told myself trying to be hopeful, “I’m gonna give him my number.”

    I’m a huge believer in men being the pursuers, but sometimes, they need a little encouragement, ya know?

    One afternoon, a week or so after I had made that decision, my coworker and I were outside taking pictures for our social medias.  I heard a car pull into our parking lot and its subwoofers were bumping.  I turned to see who it was and lo and behold, he steps out of the car.  I was giddy with excitement, and then suddenly nervous.  I had promised myself that I would give him my number the next time he came in.  This was my chance.

    I rushed inside (funny story - we have special keys to get in the back door, but I didn’t have one with me, so I legit climbed through the window…) and was assigned for register on that shift (again).  There was a sweet, elderly lady who was a regular giving me her order right before him.  As I relayed her drink request to my coworker, I wrote my name and number on a stamp card in preparation to give to him.  But I wrote my name very sloppily (my hands were shaking, okay?), so I threw the piece of paper away and grabbed another one.  This time, I wrote my number wrong.  The same cell number I’ve had for about 6 years.  I threw that paper away too.  Finally I wrote my name legibly and the correct phone number and looked up into his beautiful hazel eyes and kind smile.  
    “Hey,” he said.
    “Hi… I haven’t seen you in a while.”
    “Yeah,” he said, “I keep missing you whenever I stop in.  Do you remember my drink?”
    “24 ounce extra sweet white mocha freeze, no whip cream.”
    “Good job,” he smiled, then handed me a full stamp card (so his drink was free) and started walking towards the drink pick-up station.
I had missed my chance.  The stamp card with my name and number written on it was still in my hand.  I was too nervous to call out after him though.  
    Dang it, Raquel, I thought to myself.  You’re never like this.  Just give the guy your dang number!
    “Hey.”  He had walked back to me.
    “What’s up?” I asked.
    “Wanna go out some time?”
    “When?” I asked.  “Tonight?”
    He laughed.  “Naw, I’m working, but - ”
    I cut him off by pushing the neatly written note towards him.
    He looked confused for a minute, then grinned as he read what was on it.  “Nice,” he said with a nod.  “I’ll text you.”
    After what seemed like forever (but my coworkers assured me it was only about 20 minutes), I got my first text from him.  We exchanged messages for a little while before he asked if I was free on Sunday.  I said that I was, after church.  He said that would be perfect and that he was excited to take his favorite barista out on a date.


    “I’m sure you already know this, but you’re very beautiful:)” he said.  “And also, I’m glad I got your phone number today.  I’ve been trying to get a hold of you somehow.  I’ve even called around to other coffee shops in the area to ask someone for your name and to give them my phone number for you, but I’ve had no luck.  Until today.  My dad always tells me that it only takes ten seconds of courage.  Hey, are you free on Saturday?  I got the day off and I don’t think I can wait till Sunday to see you…”

7.28.2017

"Nothing Will Ruin Your Twenties More Than...


...thinking you should have your life together already."



This statement resonated so deeply with me.

The path to our destination is not always a straight one.  It's a rather scenic route.  But maybe it's not about which road we take, but what we embark on.  Is it on our own judgement and the way we feel?  Or the truth that our soul knows and can trust?

Life is amazing and awful all at the same time.  And in between these climax moments is the routine, the everyday, the ordinary.  But the truth is that each of these times has significance in your growth.  If you were to fast forward ten years from now and choose to look back on these moments, you will see why they had to happen and for what purpose.

God says, "You're gonna be happy, but first, I'm gonna make you strong."  Because without the painful times of maturing, you won't enjoy the good times as much.

I know people who graduated college at the age of 19.  I know people who were making a million dollar budget by the time they were 25.  I know people who are single and have children.  Or people who are married but waited 5-10 years before having children.  I know people who love each other but aren't together.  Or people who hate each other but are married.  There are people waiting to love and who have so much love to offer.  You don't have to do anything just because you see others doing them or because someone tells you that it's what you should do.  I promise that the day you stop giving weight to people's opinions of what you "need to do" with your life, is the day you will feel free.

The point is, everything in life happens according to the time allotted us.  It may not seem fair, but the beauty of trusting in a sovereign Creator is knowing that He has a purpose through it all.  You may look at your friends and think "Oh they have their lives together", "They're so far ahead, and I'm so far behind", or "Why can't my life look more like theirs?"

Be patient.

You're right where you're supposed to be.

The best advice I've been given as a twenty-something year old is:  l e a r n.  Ask questions, make mistakes, learn from them, don't regret things because you never lose in life.

You either win or you learn.

7.13.2017

Are You Ready To Be In A Relationship?


This article isn't some sort of quiz or step-by-step process to figure out if you have "what it takes" to be in a relationship.  It's an article to help figure out for yourself if you believe you are ready.

Since when is it hard to be loyal and committed?  Since when does "being in love" mean just a phrase, not a deep soulful promise?  Why even try to be in a relationship if you're not ready or willing to commit to one person?  Figure out what you want before you go around investing time, energy and emotions into relationship after relationship.

You want to meet someone, have deep conversations with them, hang out, feel a connection, see that they prove their loyalty, and if it leads to something more, that's amazing.

I get that.

But if you're still figuring your life out and trying to understand who you are as a person, then don't mistake love for lust.  No one is in a hurry, but almost everyone is looking for that special someone to spend the rest of their life with.  You can so easily make them think you want more than you're making apparent.  That's when it can get messy, and that isn't fair for either of you.

Sure, there are instances when people misread your friendliness as interest.  Or you really did like them, but after a few dates, you just don't see it working out.  That happens.  And that's okay.  But learning the difference between being ready to pursue something or not will save you a lot of awkwardness and heartache.

I think that one of the greatest mistakes people make these days is thinking that "all it takes is to have a boyfriend/girlfriend".  "All it'll take to make them happy will be to have a significant other".  "Being in a relationship will be the best thing that's ever happened to them".
And no matter if they verbally admit to this or not, more than half of my generation most likely believes this.

But the truth is, a relationship isn't going to fix anything.  It's only going to make life harder.  Relationships take work.  Of course they're not as difficult when both people know how to communicate and know how to deal with issues correctly and maturely, but that's a skill that should be honed before committing to a relationship, you know?
All these "taking breaks from him/her" isn't how relationships should work.  If a few months into dating, you "need a break" from them, it's usually you that's the problem.  If you truly care for someone, you deal with your crap before you even start a relationship.  And if you actually end up marrying that person, you won't be able to "take breaks".  So learn now, okay?

I'm not saying that you have to have your life altogether before even considering dating someone.  You'll never have it altogether.  That's part of being a human.  You're always going to be working at improving yourself and the environment around you - even while you're dating, even when you're married.  But do you think it's fair to someone for them to be dating an individual who doesn't know what they want in life, doesn't know who they are, doesn't have goals, doesn't know how to handle conflict, doesn't know how to trust someone because they have huge trust issues in their past, etc.?

I'll answer for you.

No, it's not.

So the next question to ask yourself is - are you ready to be in a relationship?

And I'll let you answer that one.


---

This article was originally a guest post over at Embrace This Joyful Life.