12.20.2012

Everyday Blessings // 9


>> the first snow
>> talking to friends out of the country
>> Christmas gift shopping
>> teaching my last art class (bittersweet...)
>> sending Christmas packages (one to my bestie...another to one of my favorite Christian bands)
>> decorating the house with Christmas lights
>> waking up to a good song on my radio alarm clock
>> working on my novels

>> celebrating 12:12 on 12/12/12
>> comfy pajamas
>> reading good books that I've been wanting to for a while

>> live streaming with these two guys (kudos to anyone who knows these two dudes...)
>> late night chats with besties
>> discovering new passages in Scripture
>> making new friends

>> speaking at a young ladies' Christmas tea - 'Guarding Our Hearts'
>> being tickled
>> singing beloved Christmas songs

>> decorating a random tree by the side of the road
>> having a stash of emergency chocolates in my room

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What are some blessings that have occurred in your December so far?

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'...Be astonished!  Wonder!  Because I am doing something in your days [that] you would not believe if you were told.'
- Habakkuk 1:5

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12.07.2012

The Unending Love Story

Many people think of Christianity as a religion.  And to many people this may be true.  But for me, and for many others I know, being a Christian is about cultivating a relationship with the Author of all romance.  When you look at it in that light, it makes Christianity, being a believer, being a Christian, so much more endearing.  So much more true and personal.  Jesus Christ wants to have a personal relationship with each of His children.  If you profess to be one of His, then yes, He wants to have an intimate relationship with you.

Especially for us girls, being loved, being cared for, being won by a man is something so special, personal and romantic.  And girls, I have some amazing news for you...

You already are won.

You have been loved since before the beginning of time.  

The Creator of the Universe cares for you.

The Bible is His love letter to you.  The cross was His gift.  His spilt blood and broken body was the greatest gift of salvation anyone could ever give you.

But no!  It doesn’t stop there.  His love for you reaches beyond the gift of the cross.  That wasn’t the end of the story.  His love has continued since that day.  He continues to woo you and care for you and caress you.  Until when, you say?  Well, to tell you the truth, there really isn’t an end to this love story.

While you live on this place called Earth, Jesus is Someone you must have faith and believe in.  He left you His love letter, He washed you clean with His blood.  He is the One you can pray to whenever you want and wherever you can.

But there will come a day when you will meet your heavenly Husband face-to-face.  A time when this love story will reach its climax.  His love knows no end.  And He will never stop romancing you.

So many girls dream about being swept off their feet by a handsome knight in shining armor.
So many girls want a man to save them.
So many girls want to fall in love.

A prince - not a knight - came to this earth.  Not wearing shining armor, but a robe and sandals.
And He did save you.  2,000 years ago.  On a cross. 
And He has loved you since before the beginning of time...

...

‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness...’
- Jeremiah 31:3

‘Praise the LORD!  Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good;  For His lovingkindness is everlasting.  Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the LORD or who can show forth all His praise?’
- Psalm 106:1-2

‘We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us.  God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.’
- 1 John 4:16

...


12.02.2012

Everyday Blessings // 8

Can't believe it's December already.  Wowzers.
So happy!:)


>> this being my first December 2012 post
>> French toast and maple syrup
>> reading a friend's novel and being blown away by it
>> finding out that two friends of mine are dating...and I totally called the relationship
>> visiting grandparents
>> staying up super late talking to a bestie
>> making new friends (in different countries)
>> writing...writing...writing...
>> Peanut Butter Dream Bars
>> getting paid
>> being asked to speak at a ladies' tea
>> finishing books 
>> having our family photos done by a dear friend
>> finding great deals on Christmas gifts on Black Friday
>> having a bestie read something I wrote and her telling me that she couldn't stop crying (in a good way, of course)
>> being followed on Twitter by some of your favorite bands
>> making 11:11 wishes
>> hot showers

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What have your first days of December held for you so far?

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'When You did awesome things which we did not expect, You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.'
- Isaiah 64:3

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11.12.2012

Everyday Blessings // 7

I have two more Saturdays to prove to you that I can actually post these blessing posts ON Saturday...
Please forgive me for missing the 10th.



I am thankful...

Day #4: ...for lots of blankets on my bed and a woodstove that we can build cozy fires in to keep us warm.  

Day #5: ...that the LORD allowed me to being my ministry, First Night of Freedom, and for all the doors He has opened up for it to grow.

Day #6: ...that know matter who is President, Jesus is - and always will be - The King.

Day #7: ...for the friends God has blessed me with.  The true friends who ask me if I need prayer...who stay up till 1 in the morning listening to me vent about my day...who text me all throughout the day and let me know that they're thinking of me. 

Day #8: ...for people who take me up on my offer to be a sister in Christ to them and to pray and encourage them if they need it.

Day #9: ...for little sisters who leave notes and give me massages.  And still enjoy snuggling for nap time.

Day #10: ...for being free and able to worship God in any and everything I'm doing, whether it's cleaning the house, tidying up my room, scrubbing a sink, folding laundry.  He is always with me.  And deserves me praise all the time.

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What are some things you were thankful for this week?

11.06.2012

The Fight Against Injustice - What is Your Calling?


Each of us is called to fight for a certain cause.  To fight against a certain injustice.  

For some, that calling is to minister to the homeless...to fight for the lives of unborn humans...to shelter orphans...to raise awareness about AIDS...

For a while, I thought my calling was to support the Pregnancy Resource Center.  I tried raising funds for my local one - organized a concert, raised money at a dance I hosted, etc.  I did raise funds to help them out a little.  But I was always hitting roadblocks along the way.  The concert was basically a failure (under 100 people showed up).  The dance raised only about $100.  I felt as if I should just keep pushing forward, but didn’t know what else to try doing.  And let me tell you something, readers.  When the LORD is wanting you to focus on something other than what you’re aiming for, He WILL put up roadblocks in your road, until you realize that you’re on the wrong path.  Even if what you’re attempting to do is to glorify Him...if it’s not what He has planned for you, He will gently pull you back.

So after feeling stumped and depressed (like I couldn’t figure out what to use my talents for, how to glorify God through my abilities, WHAT exactly He wanted to make me a warrioress against), He tossed something across my path that led me to start fighting against one of the biggest injustices of this world.  Human trafficking.


I began my ministry, First Night of Freedom, in August of 2011.  (Read the whole story HERE)  Little by little, the LORD opened more and more doors for me to be able to further my ministry.  And most recently, I was able to become part of the Volviendo team.  It’s been an incredible journey.  And the LORD has taught me much about faith...trust...perseverance...passion...and desire to glorify Him through it all.  

Also...there’s nothing quite like the feeling of having the support of family and friends, and having people whom you don’t even know, stand behind you in your efforts.  It’s an incredible feeling when you receive a ‘thank you’ card from a rescue shelter across the ocean, letting you know that your package of items for the girls was received with joy and gladness.  These all prove as confirmations to me (and others) that this is, indeed, my calling in life at the moment.  And through it, I have been able to meet so many fellow fighters and together, with the LORD’s help, I know that we can make the odds lessen in our favor.  And He will bless our efforts to fight for the freedom of slaves.  


---

What do you sense is YOUR calling from the LORD?  What has He placed in your lap that you feel an urging to fight against?  I would encourage you to pray about it.  Talk to your parents, close friends, maybe even your pastor.  Explore ideas of what you’re best at and how your talents can help in serving a certain kind of ministry.  May God bless your endeavors!

...

'The King will answer and say to them 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me'.'
- Matthew 25:40

...


11.05.2012

Fully Satisfied in the LORD

I know I refer to myself as 'one of the most romantic girls you'll ever meet' (and that hasn’t really changed at all) but the LORD has been revealing Himself to me in new ways.  Ways I didn’t know existed.  I’ve been falling in love with my Jesus and growing in my relationship SO much with Him.  I’m at a point where I am awestruck by the wonders that I’m constantly discovering about Him.  I didn’t know a love like this could exist between me (a sin-filled creature) and God (the Creator of the Universe).

The LORD has brought me through many trials this past year.  Many of them were lessons which, in the end, showed me how I had not been focusing on God at all.  How He had taken a back-seat in my mind.  That I had placed other things  as my focus, instead of keeping Him the center of my life.  Many of these lessons I learned the hard way.  Very hard.  They were very painful to experience.  It took a lot of healing (which I am still going through).  But in the end, I came out a victorious daughter of the King.  And looking back now...I wouldn’t trade all that pain for anything in the world if it meant that I would be as close to my God as I am now.

One of the main and biggest things I learned is how I had been prioritizing my dream to be a wife and mother, above my calling to serve my Creator.  It was a very humbling process when I realized, and had to admit to myself, that my sweet, romantic dream of marrying the ‘perfect man’ and having lots of little ones, wasn’t what should be at the forefront of my mind.

The LORD convicted me in this and struck a chord deep in me.  My ultimate goal right now, as a single young lady, should be to please and honor my heavenly Husband.  My dream in life should be to work towards being all that I can be for my King.

Since coming to this realization, I confessed my sin (of not keeping my Jesus first in my life) and committed myself to striving towards being a better daughter to Him, a better woman for His glory.  And let me tell you...I have never felt so satisfied, so in love, so at peace with my LORD and Savior.  I never thought I’d be saying this, but...if God chose for me not to get married and serve Him as a wife and mother under my husband’s authority, I would be perfectly content being single and doing everything I could to further His kingdom as an unmarried woman.  That’s not to say that I don’t want to get married anymore.  Far from it!  But I am waiting on Him more fully, more completely (and yes, I am still very romantic;).

Let me close with this verse from 1 Corinthians...

'The woman who is unmarried, and a virgin, is concerned about the things of the LORD, that she may be holy both in body and spirit...'

Dear single sisters, take heart in knowing that all you need, you already have. A man won't make your life any better. Be content with being fully satisfied in the LORD. He is the only One Who can fulfill all your desires. Your single years is the opportunity for you to focus on Him and advance His kingdom in ways you won't be able to if you (LORD-willing) marry one day. Take advantage of the time you have now to 'concern [yourself] about the things of the LORD.  And also, even though this may be hard to imagine, once you DO get married, the person you marry can not ever be that perfect person you always dreamed of.  Only Christ can be the unchanging, perfect Husband.  Learn to cherish Christ NOW, so that when your future husband disappoints you, you can know how to love him through your relationship with Christ which has been founded solidly through your single years, and in turn, you will grow in your marital relationship together - with Christ at the center!

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'Delight yourself in the LORD and He shall give you the desires of your heart.'
- Psalm 37:4

11.03.2012

Everyday Blessings // 6

I can't believe it's November already.  In some ways, I'm sad that 2012 has passed so quickly.  And then another part of me can't wait till the New Year.  God has taught me so, so much this year that I can't seem to wait to start afresh and start a new year with all the lessons that I learned spurring me on to walking a better life for Him.

A lot of people I know have been doing a day-to-day thing (which began on the 1st), posting 'what I'm thankful for' each day of the month.  I thought I'd just consolidate my thankful list into my Everyday Blessings post...and I promise, I will post these every Saturday of this month.  I know I've been absolutely horrid at keeping up with y'all, but life has been excruciatingly busy.  And yes - before you ask;) - I will be updating y'all on it.  Keep an eye out for a post either Monday or Tuesday!;)


So here are the things I am thankful for...

Day #1: ...a family who loves me.  Who is always beside me in my journeys and adventures.  My greatest team of supporters.  And I sometimes wish we could always stay together forever.

Day #2: ...cold mornings outside, but warm on the inside.  A home.  A place where God dwells in, with my family and me.

Day #3: ...music.  It's such a part of my life.  I would be blind any day instead of being deaf.

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What are three things that you are thankful for??
  

10.31.2012

Dear LORD


You amaze me.

So often I stand in awe of You.  Of everything You have done in my life.  The ways You have molded and changed me...yes, even with pain...and I come out victorious.

You remind us in Your Word that we are 'more than conquerers through Him Who loved us'.  And You are the Ultimate Conquerer.  This world will give us tribulations and sorrows, but we can take courage in the knowledge that You have overcome the world.

You remind us to be still and watch You fight for us.  You are our salvation, through life's every trial.  And when we are still, we can see You more clearly and we can know more truly that You.are.God.

You remind us that when we are hated by the world, it is only proof that we are true followers of You.  We should 'not be surprised when the world hates [us]'.  For YOU were 'despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief'.  But through our persecution, You have given us peace.  True peace.

...

'Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give unto you.  Not as the world gives, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid.'
- John 14:27

...

You remind us that we are made new through You.  That You make all things new.  And no matter how many times we fail in life, You are loving and faithful and righteous to 'forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness'.  Thank You, heavenly Father, for never giving up on us.

...

'Then all men will fear, and they will declare the work of God, and will consider what He has done.  The righteous man will be glad in the LORD and will take refuge in Him; and all the upright in heart will glory.'
- Psalm 64: 9-10

...

10.24.2012

Be Still


The Bible has many verses talking about peace and stillness.  And in each of them, they are, in some way, referring to the LORD.

'Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'
- Psalm 46:10

God is a God of wrath and judgement and jealousy...but He is also a God of peace and comfort.  So often we give in to the rush of our lives, the busyness of our schedules and don't make time for Him, don't make time to be still and know that He is God.

This last Sunday, my Pastor was speaking on faith (Hebrews 11) with Exodus 14 as a referral verse.  It's a very well-known story of the Bible - not only among Christians, but many non-Christians can also tell the story of how God parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross over on dry land.  And it was through faith in God that Moses led the people to the edge of the sea (something quite alarming to face, don't you think?).  In that present moment, try to imagine what was going through the Israelites' heads.  'Moses just led us out of Egypt and we thought we were free, but look at this! We're either gonna drown or be killed by our former masters.'  In verse 12, it says, '...'For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness'.'

For one minute, I feel like telling the Israelites just how stupid they are.  Didn't God just bring you out of the land that you'd been captive slaves for for hundreds of years??  Why are you doubting His power now?

But then another part of me says, 'Raquel, they are mere human beings - just like you.  If you were in that same situation, you may have been freaking out too.'

And that is so true.

How many times have I faced a sea of fear, and behind me is something that is overwhelmingly painful and I'm caught right in the middle?  What is my first reaction?  Is it to get down on my knees and raise my hands and say 'LORD, I'm trusting You.  You have Your purpose for this.  You have a reason and a plan.'

Or do I immediately start panicking and freaking out and saying, 'God, do something!  Get me out of here!'

And what is God's reply to situations like these?  What does He want us to do?
Well, what did He tell the Israelites?


'But Moses said to the people, 'Do not fear!  Stand still and see the salvation of the LORD which He will accomplish for you today...'

- Exodus 14:13


On our own we can do nothing, right?  We can't fix our life problems, we can't heal people, we can't keep ourselves comforted through times of sorrows.  Only HE can.  All we need to do is let Him.

No, not 'let' as in 'God, I give You permission to do this'.  But as in, 'God, I am standing back and letting You complete the work You started here.  I don't understand, but I'm trusting You.  I'll be still and see Your salvation.'

'The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way.'
- Psalm 37:23

God never leads us to something that He knows we couldn't get through.  With His help, we can - and will.  With and through Him, all things are possible.

...

'And my tongue shall declare Your righetousness and Your praise all day long.'
-Psalm 35:28

...

10.23.2012

A Bible Story


So far, through my Christian walk, I have been blessed with four different Bibles.

The first...
was a small, green, leather bound New King James version that my parents presented to me when I was about 6 years old.  It's worn, of course.  And in my young mind, underlining in my Bible was a super cool thing to do then.  So you will come across occasional pages with little scribbly notes next to verses that I had memorized, that I heard often, etc.  My first Bible.  And it will always be dear to my heart.

The second...
was a thick, large-print, maroon, leather bound New King James version that my aunt gave me as my baptism gift.  She signed it in the front, along with a blessing.  I was at that stage where I liked highlighting verses, as well as underlining them.  Oh and I put stickers at each book of the Bible, every first chapter. Don't ask me why.  I think it was a way of 'when I see a sticker, it's the start of a new book'...I really don't know.  Oh and the fact that it was large-print...I think my aunt bought it because she was the one who could actually read it;)

The third...
was my first introduction to the New American Standard version.  Well, Mama has always been using the NASB, but it was my first personal experience with it.  And I love it.  I think each of us have to find that certain version that just sort of 'clicks' with us, you know?  Some prefer New King James...some like the Geneva...some read the regular, old-English King James version.  For me, New American Standard was my favorite - and still is.  This Bible was large, maroon leather bound.  It was also the Bible I had when I rededicated my life to Christ, so it's very special to me.  And it was the first Bible that I actually cared to read and study.

The fourth...
Well...you all ready for a story?:)
I had been going through a lot of new growth in my Spiritual walk...and I just felt that in order to completely start fresh, to start new, I needed a new Bible for my next step in my Christian walk.  I wanted one that was a little smaller than my current, large, NASB...but I didn't want it as small as my first green, pocket Bible.  I wanted a sort of in-between-medium-sized one.  I was gonna start saving up the money for it, and one day I was talking to Mama about buying it and she said, 'Well, our church is going to be presenting new Bibles to all the graduates this year, so maybe you should just wait till after that'.  I thought that was a good idea:)  So I did.
The Sunday that they were going to be presented, I watched as my pastor held three wrapped Bibles in his hands.  Two of them were the pocket-sized that my little green one was.  The third was a sort of in-between-medium-sized one.
Oh that bigger one is gonna probably be Noah's, since he's the only guy graduating, I thought to myself.
When Pastor called us up to the front to pray over us, he handed each of us one of the wrapped Bibles...and which one does he lay in my hands?  The perfect sized one.  The one I'd been eyeing.  And later, when I unwrapped it...it was an NASB.  Complete with the day of my name, date of graduation, and my Pastor's signature written in the front cover.  I almost started crying.  And later when I was telling a dear lady friend/mentor of mine, she said, 'Isn't God such a romancer?  There you are praying for this perfect Bible and He just decides to give it to you on your graduation day.'
So this new, beautiful, perfect sized Bible has been a constant companion of mine since early July.  I decided on a color-code for it and that has been super fun to do while studying and reading through books.  God is so good to me...and I never deserved this perfect-for-me Bible.  But He decided to bless me with it, and indeed, it has been a blessing.

So there's a little Bible story for y'all;)

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What is your favorite version to read in?

Tell me about your first Bible...or your current one...


10.17.2012

Everyday Blessings // 5


>> Oregon's first rain
>> getting texts from one of my besties right at the moment I needed them
>> starting my very own portrait drawing class.  I'm the teacher.
>> making progress in learning Japanese
>> possibly being able to attend a concert where one of your favorite Christian artists is performing
>> the October dance being a hit and everyone having fun at it
>> friends who console you when technology doesn't work
>> having the opportunity to speak about your ministry at a documentary showing
>> joining Twitter
>> when one of your favorite bandmembers from one of your favorite bands tags you in a comment (on  Twitter) 
>> getting a stain out of one of your favorite shirts
>> reconnecting with old friends
>> watching Anne of Green Gables with your sisters
>> having a movie day with friends - complete with chocolate and junk food
>> visiting art school for the first time in months...and people saying 'we miss you!'
>> a friend finishing a painting for you and being able to finally hang it in your room
>> drinking sparkling water
>> singing in the rain

PS: It's my sister, Eunice's, birthday today:)  She's turning 11!

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How has your autumn been so far, friends??

...

'But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; He is their strength in time of trouble. The LORD helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them. Because they take refuge in Him.'
~ Psalm 37:39-40

...

10.10.2012

Introduction to Young Living Essential Oils



For those of you who didn’t know...A few months ago, I signed up with Young Living Essential Oils as a distributor.  YL has been a very big, and extremely useful product in our family’s life for the past several of years.  A friend from church introduced us to it and we were buying oils through him, until Dad and Mama talked about it and decided to join in spreading the word of Young Living and getting others to know of its benefits in day to day life.  And I thought, ‘what better place to talk about it - and let people know about it - than through my blog??’  And really, peeps, even if you can’t sign up with it/use it at the moment, let your parents know or extended family or friends.  I guarantee that someone - including yourself - will be greatly benefited by this product!

I’m going to answer some frequently asked questions below.  Consider this an ‘item review’ like I’ve done in the past.  And of course, contact me (miss.raquel316@gmail.com) with any questions:)


// What are essential oils?
Essential oils are the natural, aromatic liquids found in shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes and seeds.  They help protect plants against insects, environmental conditions and diseases.  They are also significant for a plant to grow, live and adapt to its surroundings.  Essential oils are extracted from the plant sources via steam distillation and are highly concentrated and far more potent than dry herbs.  While their chemical makeup is complex and their benefits vast, essential oils also have a very pleasant aroma.
Essential oils have played a very prominent role in life throughout history- and are even referenced to in the Bible (46 books out of 66) as aromatics, incense, and ointments over 200 times.
Today, the different grades of oils are used for aromatherapy, massage therapy, emotional health, personal care, nutritional supplements, household solutions and much more. (therapeutic grade oils = read more below)
Many oils (deemed as ‘essential oils’) are derived with harsh chemicals, diluted and/or copied and reproduced in a lab.  Cheap copies bring cheap results and have the potential to be toxic.  Therefore, it is very important in choosing high-quality essential oils.
Young Living Essential Oils is the leading provider of essential oils and offers more than 300 single oils and blends.
They are:
- 100% pure (which make them powerful and effective)
- sourced only from known botanical species
- sustainably grown and harvested on their own farms
- grown on chemical-free lands in carefully nourished soil
- unmatched throughout the essential oils industry
- so pure and natural, they’re used and recommended by health professionals around the world

// How do you use essential oils?
There are three ways to use essential oils.
1) Inhalation
2) Topical Application
3) Internal Consumption

Categorization of each oil is based upon well-documented, scientific information, as well as literature from experts on essential oils.  The information is intended as a guide; and each bottle has labels with specific directions for use.

// What are Therapeutic Grade Oils?
Basically, there are 4 grades of essential oils.

Grade A: pure, therapeutic and superior quality.  They are made from organically grown plants and distilled at proper temperatures.  ‘Virgin’ soil is usually where they were raised.

Grade B: the most common essential oil and is sometimes labeled as ‘pure’.  While Grade B oils are considered ‘food grade’, they aren’t always recommended by professionals for ingestion because they may contain pesticides, fertilizers, and/or carrier oils.

Grade C: perfume grade and usually containing the same type of chemicals as Grade B oils.  They also often contain higher yields of oil per harvest. 

Floral Water (‘Grade D’): a byproduct of the distillation process.  Often used for more expensive oils, such as Rose Oil, since it takes 5,000 pounds of rose petals to make just one pound of essential oil.

// How do I know if essential oils would work for/on me?
It’s never not worked on anyone.  Each bottle has a topical, aromatic or dietary use label on them.  Some oils may be used more than one way, while others can only be used for one.  Some oils must be diluted because of their extreme potentness (which can sometimes cause irritation to skin).  Very rarely people have encountered skin discomfort from using Young Living essential oils, but most of the time, it’s a manifestation of their need FOR the oil, because the oil is extracting toxins from their body through their skin.  Young Living therapeutic grade essential oils have an intelligence about them that deciphers the need to remove these toxins from a person’s body.   

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So there ya have it!  I kept this first post kinda short - just to introduce you to what Young Living essential oils are and how they’re used.  My next post will be about the 9 oils that are known as the ‘Everyday Oils’ and I will be posting about how they have benefited the health of our family.  They are the ones that are/can be used most frequently and come in your Starter Kit when you sign up!

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To learn more about signing up, click HERE.  The link will direct you to my Mama's website where you can explore more about Young Living.  
To sign up, click the 'Enroll Now' button at the top of the page under her email address.
Oh, and when you sign up as a distributor, you automatically get a wholesale discount on every purchase you make with them.

My sponsor/enroller # is: 1333654 


9.27.2012

Jesus, I Am So In Love With You


The last couple weeks have been a huge stepping stone in my walk with the LORD.  A lot of things have happened in my life the past few months that have really altered my outlook on life.

Every Christian experiences trials and tribulations.  Every person learns lessons - sometimes the hard way.  Everyone is tempted - and some of us take the wrong path.  Everyone fails.  Everyone makes mistakes.  Including myself.

But our God is a loving God, as well as just God.  He purges us from our sins by ordaining for us to go through certain growths in our lives that test us, that draw us closer to Him.  Pain is part of the perseverance.  Reward is part of the gain.

These last couple weeks, God has used different people in my life to show me what His love really is.  (And people, you know who you are;)
I recently started a Bible study online with a friend who I met through my blog.  Through this Bible study, God has manifested Himself to me in ways that I'd never known Him before.  My belief in God isn't a religion.  It's a relationship.  And in order to cultivate and grow in this relationship, I have to keep up my end - by studying His Word, by praying, and by sharing His love with others!!  So far, my friend and I have dove into James, Ephesians, 1 John, 1 & 2 Timothy, Colossians, and we're currently reading Romans.  Passages from each book, from each chapter, have really stood out to me.  Passages that I've read, and reread, and rereread, but reading them through THIS time has been eye-opening and awe-inspiring.

I have come to a point in my Christian walk that I have never been before.  A step closer to heaven.  I am SO in love with my Jesus, readers.  It's...overwhelmingly indescribable.  Great is His faithfulness.

---

I would like to share a passage of Scripture with you in closing.  It is one that I discovered only a couple months ago.  And every time I read it, I cry (no joke).  The other day, I was flipping through my Bible, and I turned a page and it was there.  One of my little sisters was in my room with me, reading her Bible, and I asked her to pause and listen to me as I read it.  And as I did, I just started weeping.  My sister came and gave me a hug and we read it together.  It's become a passage of Scripture very dear to my heart.
Read it through slowly.  Savor every word.  And really think about what is being said.  I pray it blesses you.

...

'For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth...and length...and height...and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all understanding, that you may be filled up with to all the fullness of God.  Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.'
- Ephesians 3:14-21

...


9.21.2012

The Imperfect Letter


A friend and I had decided to write letters to each other.  

This particular friend told me that they were unsatisfied with the way the letter kept turning out.  That they had rewritten it about 4 times.  And were thinking of rewriting it again.  

‘There are tons of spelling errors, my handwriting is terrible, and it sounds...weird in certain areas.’

‘Oh, just send it already,’ I told them, rolling my eyes.

And as I was writing my own letter (to them), their words kept coming to my mind.  Oh, I thought to myself.  My handwriting looks horrible right there...that didn’t make any sense...that ‘a’ is too fat...

So I stopped and looked at my letter...complete with its sloppy handwriting (which, by the way, was indeed not very neat...some days, it just isn’t, you know?), a couple words I had crossed out (because a better word came to mind a few seconds later)...and the list goes on.  As the thought crossed my mind to just rewrite the whole darn letter, yet another thought took precedence over the former.

Raquel - let’s just say my conscience was telling me this, okay? - you aren’t perfect.  Nothing you ever do will be perfect.  Because of the sin in this world, the sin that Adam and Eve committed, everyone in this world is imperfect.  But take heart!  You are God’s daughter.  Even if you are imperfect, even if you make mistakes...you are a beautiful mess.  

I smiled to myself, signed my name, folded the letter, stuck it in the envelope and then chatted my friend.  ‘Your letter is finished - complete with imperfections!’

Dear friends, you will never lead a perfect life.  Every day you will make mistakes.  Every day you will make a wrong choice.  But... ‘I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.’ (Phil. 1:6)

We may not be perfect, but we are forgiven.  We may fail in life, but we are shown grace.  We are a work in progress.  A painting not yet finished.  A beautiful mess.  An imperfect letter.

...

'But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift.'
- Ephesians 4:7

...

9.14.2012

Everyday Blessings // 4


>> feeling autumn in the Oregon air
>> being able to go to three friends' weddings this year...and another one in November
>> wearing shorts and an oversized hoodie
>> listening to amazing song covers {like this one}
>> big brothers who take you on dates...and little brothers who cuddle in your lap while you read your Bible
>> planning one last beach trip before summer ends
>> blaring Owl City's (ft. Carly Rae Jepsen) song 'Good Time' when you're hanging out with friends
>> falling asleep on a boat in the middle of a peaceful lake
>> twirling the idea around of possibly starting your own YouTube channel for your own covers of popular songs...
>> finding a kindred spirit who lives across the country and does a Bible study with you every evening <3 p="p">>> being utterly obsessed with KPop...and not ashamed to let everyone know about it!!
>> organizing an autumn dance (in October)
>> the blissful quiet after there has been so much pounding (do to re-roofing) over your head
>> the satisfied feeling of writing a chapter in your novel and it turning out exactly the way you wanted it to
>> finally catching up in editing your friend's novel (after being gone for a whole week)
>> planning to reorganize your room 'just a little'...but it turns into a couple-hour-long-thing
>> being asked to second-shoot/sidekick for an autumn wedding
>> buying 5 new books from one of your favorite authors for only $3
>> jumping at a big opportunity and saying, 'God, this is all in Your hands.'

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Have a lovely Friday, my friends!

...

'You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.'
{1 John 4:4}

...

9.13.2012

Thought Life

'Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD my Rock and my Redeemer.'
- Psalm 19:14

On the camping trip I went on last week, the father of one of the families led us in a Bible study every night.  We went through the book of James.

Out of all those evenings, sitting around the campfire, listening to him reading and then all of us giving our little tidbits on what we gathered from that chapter...I came away from that trip with a new outlook on life.  Something that he read really made me think.  It was just a little verse, a small phrase.  But nonetheless, when we were talking about it and how we were digging around it, just really made me think and ponder on it...

‘...being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.’

From that one verse (chapter 1, verse 8), we went off on little rabbit trails...and one of the things that Mr. B. pointed out was our thought life.

Three things in our bodies never cease working (unless we’re dead). 
- breathing
- heart beating
- and thinking

While our breathing and heart beats are measured and held by God, our thoughts are of our own doing.  Being ‘double-minded’, as James says, means that we may think one way, but act completely different.  That others may think our thoughts and hearts are this way, but they’re actually like this and this.

This made me stop and ask myself, What consumes my thought life?  What are some things that I think about daily that really shouldn’t be in my head and heart?

I stood convicted.

My thought life wasn’t all pure and beautiful, the way it should be as God’s daughter.  I saw myself, almost as if I was another individual looking into my own thoughts and heart.  And what I saw, I was ashamed of. 

Sometimes we can get so caught up in just living, that we don’t even consider what our brains are thinking of.  You can be thinking of sports while washing dishes.  Or thinking of love while mucking out a stall.  Music, while folding laundry.  But let us remember to keep a fervent look and hold onto God’s Word and His promises.  We should be able to say exactly what we are thinking and not be afraid of what may come out of our mouths.  That anything that does proceed from our lips, would only be God-glorifying.  And manifesting His Name.

One of the ways I have been training myself to keep more focused on him is...whenever I catch myself thinking of something ungodly, impure, and just plain wrong, I immediately say a prayer and then start reciting verses - out loud.  It has helped me SO much the past few days.  I would encourage you to try this too.  And may God bless your efforts.

What fills up your thought life the most?  What do you constantly find yourself thinking about?  Is it worldly goods and treasures...or God’s redemptive power and love? 

...

‘Create in me a clean heart, O God.  And renew a right spirit within me.’
{Psalm 51:10}


...

'Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.'
{Philippians 4:8}

... 

8.31.2012

This Crazy Love.

 
This post is actually the result of three different posts that I had in mind.  They each had to do with love.  And in the end, I just decided to put them altogether.  I thought they would fit.

So, lately, a lot of my peers and friends have been getting together with someone.  Someone special in their lives.  Someone that they really, really like.  Someone that is taking up a lot of their attention and time.

Okay, I’ll just say it the way it is.  My friends are beginning to start relationships and I feel left behind.

There, I said it.  I was honest.  And I know (for a fact) that all of you people are experiencing this too.  Don’t lie.

This is gonna be a bit of a difficult post to write, just because I really, really want you all to know where I’m coming from.  And that I’m NOT complaining or whining.  Really.  This is something that the LORD has been working in my heart and I just want to share what I’ve been learning.  It’s one thing to complain and not be content with your life...but it’s another matter entirely to let someone know you’re struggling.

It’s hard to see your peers with someone they love.  And you, alone.  When they have someone to hold hands with, and hug, and kiss, and sit close to.  And then there's you, without any of those.  Don’t bother trying to explain what that feeling is like.  Because I experience it too.

But something that my heavenly Father has been teaching me is this...
No one - no man - can love me more than He does.  And that I must remember that He will not withhold anything good from those who walk in righteousness.  Anything good.  And anything that He sees fitting for me; to bless me with.


‘For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD gives grace and glory; No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.’ 

- Psalm 84:11

Another thing He has shown me is to not worry that I’m single.  To be anxious for nothing (Phil. 4:6).  For He makes everything beautiful in His time (Eccl. 3:11).

Dear friends, when our direct relationship with Christ is what we focus on and strive to cultivate and cherish and work at...everything else will fall into place.  Everything. 

He loves us so, So, SO incredibly much that He loves to bless us.  He takes delight in blessing His children and seeing them happy.  You may wonder sometimes ‘well, why doesn’t he bless me with a guy/girl?’  or ‘If He wants to make me happy, why hasn’t He sent my significant other to me already?’

I have a very good answer for that.  Really, it’s the only answer there IS to those kinds of questions.

         He is perfecting you for the one He has chosen for you.

The reason you haven’t met that one special person is because you’re not ready for them.  You may think you are, but God is writing your story, right?  And He doesn’t think you are.  That person will come in His own good timing. 

God has a person set apart for YOU. That person may not be perfect in this world's standards, and maybe not even in yours. But in the eyes of God, that person will be the perfect one for you. The Father has made BOTH of you precisely for each other.

And until you meet that person, all we can do right now is glory in this crazy love that God has for us.  This amazing, unfathomable love that He loves us with.  Friends, we will never, ever be able to grasp how much our Father truly loves us.  In every little detail of our lives, His love is engraved so deeply into it.  We may not always see it.  We may not always understand right away.  But through lessons learned...through tears cried...through impatient waiting...God continues to mold us into the person He wants us to become.

Stop and think - or at least try to - of this crazy love.  This crazy love that the your Jesus has for you.  I promise you’ll never be able to think on it long enough to fully understand it.  I’m still trying...

 This was a Facebook status of mine a few days ago.  I thought it tied in well to this post:

Even when life hurts...and is confusing...of one thing I am sure. This crazy love that God has for me. I'm still trying to wrap my imagination around how big it is...and I know I never will. So all I can do is return, is love Him back.

8.29.2012

His Purpose For You

So many times, we get caught up with trying to find ‘our purpose’ in life.  Even as Christians, we sometimes fail to remember that Christ is our purpose...and the reason we are alive.

Sometimes we try to look ahead to the future, thinking to ourselves ‘Ooh, my purpose is somewhere in the future.  God will reveal it to me tomorrow...next week...next month...next year...’

But no.

Your purpose is here and now.

And that purpose is to serve God.  To love Him.  To obey Him.  To follow the purpose He has for you right here, right now. 

What your goal should be, isn’t in the future.  What you are supposed to become, isn’t ahead of you.  You are living your purpose right now - even as you read this!  Your purpose is to live for the glory of God and to serve Him in everything you say, do and think.  His plan for your life involves every minute detail in every part of your day in every little thing you do. 

You are serving your purpose in being the soft clay that God is forming into the beautiful person He wants you to become.   

What greater purpose to have?

8.21.2012

Everyday Blessings // 3

 
>> attending a friend's wedding {and being assistant coordinator}
>> getting a hug from one of my best friends {a.k.a. my big bro} after he'd been gone for the weekend 
 >> riding Knight on the beach
>> friends surprising me and showing up at my house with ice cream
>> getting an anonymous text from someone and then finding out that it was someone I never thought I'd talk to again
>> editing my friend's novel {so.much.fun}
>>  reaching 200+ followers on instagram


>> finding the perfect dress for a special event
>> knowing that there are some friends who will stick with you through, literally, anything
>> staying up late watching movies
>> finally listening to that song that has been playing over and over in your head
>> having a group of friends that I text Bible verses to daily
>> fasting (along with hundreds of other abolitionists) for the A21 Campaign every 21st day of every month.
>> finding a book that I've been looking for at a discounted price
>> hanging out with a friend...and ending up helping her give her horse a bath
>> staying up late texting a bestie
>> colorful pages in your Bible from the highlighter pens marking your favorite verses
>> receiving an e-mail saying how encouraging a blog post was 

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Winner of Jessica's Jewels giveaway is Mikailah! Congratulations! 

And also, I guest posted at Aidyl Ewoh's blog:)

8.17.2012

He Picks Us Up


Warning:
I really have no idea how well-written this post is.  I felt so led to just...pour out my heart with y’all...at 11:41 at night.  And, as everyone knows, when it’s that late, Miss Raquel can tend to ramble more than she usually does.  I hope this post speaks to you - that God speaks through me to you.  That is my prayer.

---

Do you ever have those days when you feel like such a failure?  When sins and mistakes come back to haunt you...and breathe lies in your ear, telling you that you are a sinner.  That you are a failure.  That you amount to nothing.

And you believe those lies.  Because in a way, they are true.

Everyone has something in their past that they are ashamed of.  Every single one of us.  It may be something that we made a mistake in physically...emotionally...intellectually...or spiritually.  Something that we wish we could forget.  Something we wish we had never done.

We all have regrets.  Regrets of our mistakes and failures.

I know I do.

There are personal things that I have done that...I wish I could erase.  I wish I could go back in time and STOP myself from doing them.  Tell myself just how much of an idiot I am and that I shouldn’t go any further in this sinful indulgence.  I am the first one that would step up and say that I make mistakes.  It’s a part of who I am.  I’m not perfect.  I know a lot of people think I’m this fabulous, beautiful, perfect girl who has such an amazing blog and is surrounded by friends.  But really, people...I fail in life...probably even more than you.

There was a time in my life...a certain chapter...that I felt dead.  I was steeped in this horrid, horrid place of trying to do what I thought was ‘okay’...what I thought was ‘making me feel good’...what I thought I could do, just so long as I didn’t go too far.  And only by the grace of God can I say that I was rescued from it.  I made a mistake...but I learned from it.  I hit a huge bump in the road...and it through me off-track...but I learned from it.
It takes healing, though.  Falling hurts.  And the pain is sometimes, seemingly unbearable.  But when you fall, you have the best Healer to pick you up.  Someone who loves you so, so dearly that He is willing to pick you up...to fondle you...to hold you...to caress you...to tell you that He loves you...no matter what mistakes you’ve made.  No matter how much you’ve failed.  No matter how many times you’ve failed.

No matter how many times we fail, God will never NOT be there to pick us up.  He will never get tired of us asking for His forgiveness.  Granted, that doesn’t mean we should continue on in whatever we’re doing.  But if we make a mistake, He is faithful and just to forgive us.  In fact, He already did.  A long time ago...when He felt three spikes being driven into His wrists and feet.  As He hung there - bleeding, in pain, and suffering from feeling all the dirty sin that He had never, ever felt before...He felt the wrath of God the Father being poured out on Him, killing Him...for my sins.  For your sins.  For all the mistakes and failures that you and I will ever make in life.  All of that has been paid for, covered by His blood.

'In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.' //Ephesians 1:7

It takes time to heal.  It took me...a while (and many encouraging people...whom I love so dearly), to truly see how much God loves me...and has forgiven me.  No matter what I have done in my past, He has forgiven me.  He looks beyond that, into who He is creating me to be.  He has my life story all written out.  And He used all those little incidents...all those little mistakes...and failures...and falls...and hurt...to continue to mold and make me into who He wants me to become.

Dear readers, I know a lot of you think I’m some incredible person.  But really.  The Miss Raquel you know through this blog...is full of sin and mistakes.  She fails every single day.  If you think she’s amazing - if you think that she’s beautiful - if you think that she’s incredible in what she does - if you think she’s encouraging - if you think she’s a blessing - if you think of ANYTHING that you like about her...it’s only because you see what Jesus has done in and through her.  None of her amazingness is her.  None of her beauty...none of her encouragement...none of her writings...nothing is done by her.  The Miss Raquel who you know is only a tool in the hand of the Mighty King.  She is only an instrument being finely tuned by the Master Musician.  A light kept burning by the fire of love that she has for her Savior...and He has for her.  She sins every day.  She makes mistakes every day.  But she has come to the knowledge that her God is bigger than any mistake she can ever make.  That her King can look past any blemish on her because it has been covered by the Prince of Peace.  That she can smile and be happy and radiant...because she is loved with an everlasting love that only God the Trinity can bestow on her.

Glory be to God.


---

It takes a while to truly realize how forgiven you really are.  Sometimes you just need someone to tell it to your face for you to really understand.  God uses different people in many different ways - and speaks through them to His children.  Words coming out of the mouth of someone can really be God’s words to you.  Everyone has struggled - or still is struggling - with something from their past.  Even you - the person reading this.  If you haven’t come to the knowledge of just how much God loves you and has forgiven you, I would encourage you to find someone who can pray for you.  Someone you trust, who you feel comfortable pouring out your heart to them.  And who can encourage and lift you up (parents are #1 for this).  You don’t always have to give details about your mistakes...because they’re in the past.  Some failures are only meant to be known between you and God.  Don’t live in fear, dear reader.  God can free you from any bondage of sin.

8.03.2012

Miss Raquel's Vlog, #1

I am very, very excited to be presenting to you my first-ever vlog.  I would like to give the filming credit to my good friend, Rachel Jones.  She did amazing and it only turned out so well because of her.  Thanks, Rachel. <3 p="p">
Readers...I introduce...myself... :)


7.26.2012

Everyday Blessings // 2

Yes, I've decided to change the name of these posts.  'Pleasurable Delights' reminded me too much of Turkish Delights (from Narnia) and while I love Narnia and all, i don't like how those candies had to do with the White Witch and all that stuff.  So...I'm changing it to  
Everyday Blessings. ♥

---


>> Having friends over for my graduation 
>> Receiving the whole set of The Hunger Games (from M. family)
>> Getting the Hunger Games poster (from Daniel)
>> Money in my wallet
>> A Dutch Bros. gift card (from D. family)
>> Going to see The Dark Knight Rises with three friends and my bro
>> Bonfires
>> Sleepover at a friends' house
>> How It Should Have Ended videos
>> Getting first and third place ribbons at the fair
>> Being told I have an 'amazing singing voice'
>> Being comfortable wearing my bro's hoodie and not caring if it's oversized on me
>> Goodmorning texts
>> Someone calling me 'sweetheart'
>> Adding to my book collection
>> Being inspired to play piano, violin and cello more often
>> Singing in harmony with a bestie
>> Roasting marshmallows (I like mine coal black...)
>> Meeting new friends through old friends
>> RSVP-ing 'YES' to wedding invitations
>> Making wedding favors for my friend's wedding
>> Adding more photos of my friends to my friendship heart on my wall
>> Hearing about an actor who goes to visit shooting victims in hospital - and being a real hero to them (when I heard about this, my respect and admiration for Christian Bale went up about 2,000,000 notches)


7.18.2012

Everyday Blessings // 1

I was inspired to start these weekly posts by dear Hazel.  She does an 'Enchantments' post every once in awhile...with a list of things that make her happy and...enchanted.

Oh and I know I don't give very many shout-outs to people and blogs, but Hazel deserves one.  She's...radical.  And she has an amazing blog.  She is such a gifted writer and I have never read a post that I didn't like by her.  She deserves 1,000 followers but is at a steadily growing pace of about 40 right now.  You should visit her blog.  And follow her.  And comment on her posts.  And tell her that Raquel says she loves her and sent you over to show her some love.

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>> Pinterest
>> when people follow me or like a photo on Instagram
>> making collages (I finished mine for my graduation)
>> people telling me that I make them smile
>> sunsets (Oregon has been having some amazing ones lately... ::sighs::)
>> homemade ice cream
>> when my cat wants to cuddle with me
>> guest posting
>> little girls' curly hair
>> spending time with Jesus
>> massages from my big bro
>> friend requests on Facebook
>> not getting tired of a song that hits home every time you listen to it
>> fuzzy blankets
>> clean rooms
>> fresh bed sheets
>> weddings
>> random acts of love and kindness...like this:

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What are some of your everyday blessings of this week?


7.11.2012

No Regrets


Do you ever have those moments when you already know something…but then one day, you really know something? It hits you like never before. You actually grasp the meaning of something you thought you knew a long time before.

I had one of those moments just a few days ago.

I realized that I am going to die.

I don’t know when…I don’t know how…or where…or what from…

But I suddenly realized that I will leave this earth someday. I, Raquel, will not be here. I will not be alive. I will be gone. Dead. Buried.

This realization took me by such force that I seriously sat in shocked, scared into silence for a few moments…just puzzling over what I had just come to a complete and full understanding of.

I always observe moments like these as special ‘signs’ (if you will) from God. Almost like little nudges that He wants me to be thinking about this…

And it did get me thinking.

I asked myself what I was doing in my life – today, right now! – that will make a difference for eternity. What am I doing that is touching people’s lives? What do I want to do with my life?

All these questions, all my thoughts, were running hundreds of miles an hour. (A friend of mine had to call my name a few times before I actually came back to earth.)

Anyway…I won’t go into detail about what I sense the LORD calling me to do. Actually, there is no one thing. There are a few.

But I would just like to remind each of you, dear readers, that life is short. It really is. We never know when we will be called before our God to stand in judgment for all the sins we’ve committed. I’m not saying that we are saved through works, but…wouldn’t you want your good deeds – your deeds for the LORD – to outweigh your sinfulness? I know I would…

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I pray that you’ll search your heart for the reason you’re living…Who you’re living for…and what your goals are in life.

Live each day to the fullest. Never put off for tomorrow what you can accomplish today. Never waste a second, a moment, a minute to love someone with God’s love. It may be the only moment they’ll ever hear it.

Live with no regrets.

6.20.2012

What's a Young Woman To Do?


During our single years, it is easy to wonder (and complain) about being bored and not knowing what to do with our spare time. We don’t have a boyfriend…we’re graduated…we may not have a job…

What’s a young woman to do?!

Well, you may not know this, but…your single years are possibly one of the best times of your LIFE. The time that you spend being bored and wondering what to do, is the time you can be using to change the world.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he tells them (in verse 34): ‘…the woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the LORD, that she may be holy both in body and spirit.

Our unmarried, single years are a time to grow stronger in the LORD. More firmly rooted in His Word. It is a time that we are free from the distractions of a husband and family and should have the tunnel-vision to learn more about our God. Not that we should stop focusing on God when we do get married…but that we should have ourselves fully armored now.

And not getting married is a possibility that we must all consider, as well. Not every girl is called to a life of ministry through marriage. God may have ‘singleness’ written in your story. And that is also a beautiful calling. ‘But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the LORD, how [she] may please the LORD…’ (verse 32)

So ladies, during our single years, let us look at them as a challenge. A challenge to be ministers of our LORD and Savior and not idlers at home. Let us keep busy – helping others, serving others, teaching others…and praying that God would speak through us all the way. Stay the course, dear sisters.

::hugs::
<3

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Guest posting over here today.