12.29.2014

Resolutions of 2014 & 2015

At the beginning of this year, I wrote a little list of resolutions.  I love making lists.  And I love setting goals for myself.  So I thought 'Why not try to accomplish a select few things by the end of this year?'

Here's my list.


  • get a job
  • start working out and doing yoga
  • keep a consistent Blessings journal
  • keep a consistent personal journal
  • read at least 10 books that I've wanted to read before I die
  • finish any novels from last year
  • blog more consistently
  • languages
  • send daily Bible verses to friends

And this the status for my resolutions as this year comes to a close:

- The LORD provided a job for me.  Better than any I was asking for.
- I work out and yoga on a regular basis.  
- I started a Blessings journal but haven't been as consistent with it as I wish I was.  
- ...Or a regular journal for that matter.  I have one.  And write it in periodically.  But the journals that get most of my attention are my devotional one and my random writings book that I scribble down thoughts and notes and stuff full of papers with random things on them.  
- I read lots this year!  And was so happy to get back into it.  I used to be such a bookworm when I was younger and had more time on my hands.  My parents would have to peel me away from whatever book was my current read for me to do my chores - or even to eat!  I read 8 of the 10 books I have on my list to read before I die.  But if you count the series of 6, then I read 14;)
  1. the River of Time series (6 books in all), by Lisa Bergren
  2. A Praying Life, by Paul Miller
  3. The Passion of Jesus Christ, by John Piper
  4. Lone Survivor, by Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell
  5. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
  6. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  7. The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
  8. Radical, by David Platt
- I didn't completely finish a novel this year but I am very close to done.  Also, I discovered a new writing style of mine that I didn't know I possessed.
- I definitely TRIED to blog more consistently.  And except for the times that I was away from home, I think I was pretty consistent.
- Since going to Peru, I can say that I am now fluent in Spanish.  I've 'known' the language ever since I was born but being immersed in it for two weeks this summer was absolutely wonderful and helpful.  Next language to tackle: Russian.
- I did begin my year out with sending Bible verses to friends, but their desire of not wanting to be in a group text message kind of made that resolution fade...

And onward!  

My 2015 Resolutions are as follows:

  • learn Russian
  • try to get published
  • support a ministry outreach monthly
  • work - and hopefully complete - my non-fiction manuscript
  • do a sugar free diet one month
  • keep a consistent Blessings journal
  • read the Bible through in a year

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What are some of your resolutions for the New Year?  And what were some from 2014?

12.22.2014

Music Monday | My Top 15 Favorite Christmas Songs

Courtesy photo via Pinterest

Welcome to the re-start of Music Monday!  According to the poll I had up last week, the majority of my readers wanted me to start this series up again.  So let's see how well it goes.

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This Christmas and New Years will be the first I’ll spend away from family and out of the country.  Well, immediate family, anyway.  I’ll spend it with relatives.  But in Peru?!  This is a big first.  Actually, but the time you're reading this, I may be high in the sky on my way down to South America...

Since the day after Thanksgiving, I have been listening almost non-stop to Christmas music and savoring all my favorite ones, replaying my favorite artists’ versions of certain songs.  Just soaking them all in before I leave.  I decided to share a few of my favorites with you.


God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Straight No Chaser
One of my favorite Christmas hymns.  Sung by a men's a cappella group?  Yes, please.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside – Colbie Caillat ft. Gavin DeGraw
Best. Version. Ever.  Not to mention I love my new sweatshirt that has this phrase on it.  (Check out my guest post here.)

O Holy Night - David Archuleta


O Holy Night - Lea Michelle



O Holy Night - Leona Lewis


O Holy Night – Josh Groban

Yes, I listed O Holy Night four times, but see, the thing I love about this song is that it's such a comforting, beautiful yet powerful and intense song.  And I think that these four artists give it that perfect amount of all of these emotions.

All I Want For Christmas Is You – Anthem Lights
I love the simplicity of the piano and the perfect blended harmony of all the guys' voices.  It makes for such a sweet and lovely version of this song.

A Christmas Song For You – Kem
Kem is a new recent discovery of mine.  This was one of the first songs I heard by him.

Cold December Night – Michael Buble
Michael Buble + romantic Christmas song = perfection.

It's Christmas Time Again - Backstreet Boys
Never really been a Backstreet Boys fan, but this song tho...

Mistletoe - Justin Bieber
Okay, Justin Bieber needs a lot of help, but he is talented.  I think this song is cute and very Christmas spirit-y and I like it.

Mary, Did You Know? - Pentatonix
Absolutely love this song.  Especially the line that says 'Mary, did you know when you kiss your baby boy, you kiss the face of God'.  That gives me chills.  And Pentatonix gives me chills.

Angels We Have Heard On High - Josh Groban ft. Brian McKnight
I pray Josh Groban goes to heaven when he dies so he can join the angels singing.  Cuz I think he must be part angel or something.

Merry Christmas, Darling - Christina Perri
Just...beautiful.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Sam Smith
Keith Urban's version of this song used to be my favorites.  And I will forever love Keith, but Sam kind of took the cake for best version of this song for 2014.

Text Me Merry Christmas - Straight No Chaser ft. Kristen Bell

I think texting is overrated sometimes.  Especially for birthday or celebration wishes.  But when you have loved ones overseas, it's kind of convenient.

Go, Tell It On the Mountain - NEEDTOBREATHE

I love these guys.  And this is seriously the only version of this song I like.  The others sound like something you'd sing in your 2nd grade Sunday school. 

Every Day is Christmas - Colbie Caillat
She originally recorded this song with Jason Reeves (who I love), but the version she did with Straight No Chaser is just amazing.  Check it out.  You won't be disappointed.

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Merry Christmas, peeps.  I have a few posts scheduled for while I'm away, but for now, I'll see you when I return...next year... :)


12.19.2014

Thanks, but no shotgun is needed

I've always found it rather amusing when people tell fathers of pretty daughters, 'Oh you better keep your shotgun loaded!' - referring to, of course, that the daughter(s) would have many gentleman callers.

Whenever I hear this suggested to my Dad, I must admit, I sometimes laugh - or smile (depends on who's saying it).  Because to me it gives an air of 'You need to protect her from all the guys', when in my case, I rarely feel that would be needed.

No, not because I don't have guys interested in me, or because I'm a she-man and can handle anything that's thrown my way (although I try to).  And definitely not because I don't want my Dad's protection.  But simply because he raised me well.  And having strong, true, godly men in my life, I know firsthand what a real man should be.

With that being said, I don't need my Dad standing in front, behind or next to me with a loaded shotgun (seriously, what's that going to do anyway?) whenever a guy comes a-callin'.  I know what I need and want.

I get that it's a joke.  I mean, the only fathers I know of who ever legitimately had a shotgun across their lap whenever a boy came calling were back in the olden days when they were protecting their daughters from casanovas and hardcore troublemakers (not that there aren't those types around today).  But it's really not that funny anymore.  I don't get why people can't see and understand that girls nowadays should be raised by a father who has a decent head on his shoulders and shows his daughter what a real man is so she can expect no less of a suitor.  And if a girl doesn't have a good dad, then at least a fatherly figure should be somewhere close at hand.

My Dad raised me with sound judgement and wisdom.  And he knows that I wouldn't be friends with a guy - let alone interested in one! - who treated me anything less than a lady should be treated.  And I sure wouldn't bring home and introduce any to him that I wasn't 100% confident in knowing is a gentleman.  My Dad trusts me, my judgement, the fact that I trust and respect myself, and knows that I know that he loves me and only wants what's best for me.  Because my Dad has set standards that I view as good and decent, I won't give a guy the time of day if he can't meet them.

I'm thankful that my Dad raised me to know and trust myself.  And no matter how much or how often he lets me make my own decisions and choose my own paths, he is always there for me if and when I need him.  Just because I'm an adult doesn't mean I'll never seek his counsel or advice.  Far from it!  But he raised me well and right so that when I became an adult, I had standards.  I knew how I deserve to be treated.  Not only as his daughter, but as a daughter of Him.


But heck, I'll take a shotgun.

12.17.2014

The gift of prayer


Balancing everyday life, time with the LORD and a full-time work schedule has proven to be difficult.  Before I had this job, my mornings were slow and relaxing.  I’d make a cup of hot tea and read my devotions while still in my pjs.  Loved it.  But now, my mornings begin at 7:30 when I have to get up, get ready, and be out the door by 8:10.  No time for breakfast usually.  And forget tea or coffee, unless I buy a cup on my way to work.  And most importantly, my devotional time kind of went out the window too.

The first couple of weeks, I am ashamed to say, I barely spent more than five minutes in the Word.  My mornings were rushed, my lunch break is too short, and my evenings were full of a shower and sleep.  It’s taken a few weeks to get the feel of my new schedule, though.  And I have been forcing myself to set aside time in the evening to read my Bible.

But, amidst all this schedule figuring-out, one thing I have been constantly grateful for is the gift of prayer.  The last couple of months have shown me how much I have taken it for granted.  And I have realized what a useful and constant tool it can be when take advantage of.  

We have the ability to talk to God constantly.  24/7.  No matter how busy we are, how focused we are, how little time we have to just stop and breathe.  Even then, through the chaos, we can still emit little prayers to the God who is ever watchful, ever constant, and never sleeps.

So yeah, I just thought I'd share that with you all.  Remember that prayer is powerful.  With it, we can talk to the God who created us, designed the universe, placed the stars in the sky, and ordains every event that happens in our lives.  It's an overwhelming thought, really.  Let's not take this privilege for granted.

12.15.2014

My Decision Regarding Sexual Purity

Courtesy photo via Pinterest

I could start this post out by talking about how I was raised in a Christian home, have been a Christian since I was 7, how I was taught from a young age that sexual purity is something special, and that God commands us to have sex only within a marriage covenant.

And those are all valid points.

But the reason I have decided to stay sexually pure until my wedding night is because of a choice and decision I made, based on my own opinions, beliefs, and studies.

I am 19 years old.  And a virgin.  I won't say that I'm always completely satisfied with this choice of mine.  Heck, God gave humans a desire for physical, sexual satisfaction and I am definitely a human.  I've never been downright scorned for 'still being a virgin' (at my ripe old age), but I have felt the condescension from a few people when I've admitted that I was waiting to have sex till I had it with my husband - on our wedding night.  

In today's culture, it's expected of kids our age to have already 'earned that right'.  Some even view having sex as 'proof that you're an adult'.  When I heard statements like this, I started becoming genuinely curious about what people gained from having sex before marriage.  I expected to find some sort of answer, such as emotional stability, self-confidence, satisfaction, or a sense of maturity.  Some have agreed to these.  But all of them have also admitted that these feelings only lasted momentarily.  And if it wasn't a girl feeling broken-hearted and used after giving herself completely to a guy she thought she was in love with, it was a guy who felt incomplete and dissatisfied with how giving his virginity away didn't give him that sense of manliness he had expected but instead made him insensitive and unfeeling.  And all of them - regardless of gender - admitted that after having had sex that first time, they craved more.  Some gave in to having multiple sex partners.  While others decided that they wanted to wait till marriage.  But having already tasted the pleasure of sex, their new commitment was hard to keep.  Even harder than it was before having had sex the first time.

Do I want to experience this or feel this way?  Definitely not.

Sex was created to be done in love between a man and a woman.  Why?  For three reasons.  Fulfillment (1 Cor. 7:1-5), to show their love for each other (just read Song of Solomon), and for making babies.  But let's focus on the love aspect of it.  Why do you think another name for sex is 'making love'?  Today, though, this act is performed so loosely by so many and the purpose has been abused.  People have sex for a variety of reasons.  Or so they say.  Loneliness and satisfaction are two of the most commonly stated ones.  The list goes on and can range anywhere from wanting to fix a relationship, security, to prove something, or revenge.  And to be completely honest, none of those are - or have been - good reasons for me to have sex before I get married.  I know that sex will be awesome and fun.  You don't have to try to convince me of that.  But why would I want to experience it with someone other than the man I choose to spend the rest of my life with?  I don't understand why people would want to do something like have sex with a random person and become emotionally connected to them, just to get out of bed the next morning having no commitment with the person they had sex with, and living their day-to-day life with no guarantee that they'd even see that person again.  Thinking back and remembering the people I know who have had sex, they're still out there - single, lonely, and hurting.  

What's the point?

(Also, I want to clarify that not everyone I know who has had sex before marriage, ended up being left on their own by their partner after having had sex.  Some have pursued a serious relationship.  Some have gotten married.  But the majority hasn't.)

I have heard comebacks from people to my view on sex-after-marriage, and some of their arguments have been ones such as, 'Well how do you know that you're sexually compatible?' or 'What if you don't like each other's bodies?'.  The whole 'don't buy a car without driving it first' mentality.  But what's wrong with that picture?  First of all, I'm not marrying a car.  Secondly, these pictures are based on the physical.  If I marry a man, I'm not marrying him for his body.  I'm marrying him for his heart and soul, and because I love him for who he is as a human being.  If he has a nice body, I mean, that's a plus too, but that's not the focus.  I sometimes feel that this world is all about accepting people for who they are INSIDE, but I look around and see people only wanting what they like on the OUTSIDE.

I'm just stating my opinion and view here, okay?  And if you are one of those people who can - or has - had sex before marriage, I'm not trying to stop you or tell you what to do.  I'm just genuinely confused how someone could.  

It's not an entirely religious thing for me, you know?  Typical homeschooled 19 year olds would be like 'Oh I'm saving myself for my future spouse because it's the right thing to do'.  And that's great.  I'm waiting (or at least trying to) because I've seen what it's like for girls to have sex with random guys (sometimes it is one they 'love'...but that's a different post) - and it's satisfying for a while, sure.  But afterwards, they're left feeling used because all the guy wanted was a one night stand. And I don't want that.  I want to protect myself from lifelong heartache.  I want to experience the bliss of marital sex with one man, and one man only.  And I love that man enough already to honor him and keep my body for his eyes and his body alone.  I'm waiting for someone who will commit to loving me - body, soul and spirit - and who won't leave me stranded and heart-broken.  I'm waiting to have sex the way God intended it to be had.

With all this being said, I'd like to point out the title of this post: My decision regarding sexual purity.  I wanted to word it just right so people don't think I'm throwing this in their faces, claiming that this is the only right way.  I'm not saying that because I'm a virgin, I'm better than people who aren't.  I'm not saying that my way is the right way.  I'm not saying that my decision is better than yours.  I just want others to know there's an option.  Rather than giving yourself over to someone for the sake of satsifaction, and to not feel alone, and all the other crap reasons I listed above, imagine how much more fulfilling sex will be when you finally do have it - with someone who you can trust won't leave you.  You can choose to wait.  

12.11.2014

Everyday Blessings // 28


>> new blog name and design
>> leaving for Peru in 12 days
>> finally getting dreadlocks (checked that off my bucket list)
>> Christmas shopping
>> my grandfathers celebrating their 93rd and 83rd birthdays
>> being nominated for Best Teen Blog of 2014 (see sidebar)
>> free coffee (specifically peppermint bark white chocolate mocha)
>> Guardians of the Galaxy is now available on DVD
>> new luggage (it's purple)
>> humbleness
>> double rainbows
>> Dutch Bros has new sizes for their iced and blended drinks
>> Mockingjay part 1
>> continued donations from people for my trip
>> new friendships
>> black leather jackets
>> new boots
>> buying someone coffee

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How has your December been so far?  What have been some highlights of it?

12.08.2014

10 Things I Love About Oregon




1)  Locations and scenery.
From snow-capped mountains, to hot deserts, to lush countryside, to gorgeous forests, to beautiful beaches.  Oregon has them all.

2)  Lewis and Clark.
This beautiful state wouldn’t even be known if it wasn’t for two brave men who set out from St. Louis, Missouri to discover more of America.  And I am privileged to live about an hour away from the beach where Lewis and Clark first saw the Pacific Ocean.  Throughout Oregon, you will find trail signs that point to the original route they took on their way to the ocean.  Some of my relatives actually live on part of this ‘trail’.  Pretty darn cool.

3) Rain.
Yes, many people may complain about this, and make statements such as ‘It rains all year round in Oregon’ or ‘Don’t ever leave the house without an umbrella’.  But those are both stupid and not true..  It does not rain all year round.  And you do not have to take an umbrella with you wherever you go.  And anyway, if you’re a real Oregonian, you better not be in possession of an umbrella (without a super good reason, of course).  It does rain, but not as often as people make it out to seem.  And Oregon isn’t as unpredictable as many people think either (if you want to start pointing fingers at moody-weather states, go visit Oklahoma).  And anyway, Oregon is green, literally, all year-round.  Thanks to what?  Rain.
Also, when you’ve grown up in Oregon and have learned to love the things you cannot change, you learn to love the rain.  The mist, the drizzle, the evening rains, the storms.  They’re all beautiful in their own ways.  The con to rain?  Mud.

4)  No sales tax.
Seriously.  Nobody likes paying taxes.  And Oregon residents aren’t charged sales tax.  So...I'll just leave that right there.

5)  Pumping Gas.
Nope, we don’t pump our own gas.  Some people may call us lazy for this, but I call us efficient.  We are providing more jobs for people by hiring them to pump our gas.  Kind of a win-win situation, if you ask me.



6)  Portland.
Of course I gotta talk about my home city.  From the huge buildings (yes, some of them are considered skyscrapers), to the incredible bookstores, adorable coffee shops (including Stumptown), the amazing Saturday Market, the Portland Spirit cruises along the Columbia River,  Voodoo Donuts, food carts, ice cream shops (including Salt & Straw) - this city has basically everything you could want.  Not the perfect city, but to me, definitely the best.

7) The Vortex.
Discovered in the 1920’s by a Scottish-born man named John Litster, the Vortex is located in Gold Hill, Oregon.  This tourist attraction is an amazing spherical field of force - half above and half below ground.  It’s basically a place where everything factual becomes reversed in a tornado of phenomenon.  (Read more about it at www.oregonvortex.com

8)  Tillamook Cheese Factory.
If any of you love cheese as much as I do, this little fact about Oregon would excite you too.  If you ever get a chance to visit here, you must make it a priority to visit Tillamook.  Not only is it near the ocean, but you get to taste-test freshly made cheeses - oh and don’t forget to get an ice cream cone on your way out!

9) Diversity.
I’ve always been fascinated with different languages and cultures and ethnicities.  And I think Oregon has one of the most diverse populations of all the states I’ve been to. 

10)  Dutch Brothers.
I’m gonna end this post with a point that has to be one of my absolutely favorite things about Oregon.  And if any of you know me or have been reading my blog for a while, you won’t be surprised by it.  Dutch Brothers was founded in 1992 in Grants Pass, Oregon by dairy farmer brothers, Dane and Travis Boersma.  What began as a simple little pushcart espresso stand, this amazing coffee company now has over 200 locations in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona.  If you ever stop by one, ask for one of my favorites - either an Italian Soda (ask for all their flavors), or a Kicker (delicious hot or iced)...or a layered caramelized macchiato...or one of their delicious fruit smoothies.


12.01.2014

My Voyages | Peru

  

It was 6 months till my nineteenth birthday.  And I was getting that I-haven’t-accomplished-anything-in-life feeling.  I knew for sure that one of my dreams and goals was to go on a mission’s trip.  But I didn’t know where, or how I’d even get started in something like that.  So I decided to execute a plan of action.  I picked the top three countries I most wanted to go to – Japan, Argentina, and Peru – and decided to try to find a group of people who were going to one of these for a missions trip.  I had different reasons for all of them.  Japan – I just loved the culture, want to/am trying to learn the language, and have friends there.  Argentina – I’ve heard only good things about this country, have tons of family there, and all the pictures I’ve seen show such beautiful land and places to visit.  Peru was the country I least wanted to go to.  If I’m honest, it was one that I never really wanted to visit.  The only reason it was on my list of ‘maybes’ was because I have lots of family down there (since my Dad was born in its capital).  And I figured I should meet them someday.  Peru was a country that part of me felt a bit wary of.  People I knew who had been there told me that it’s a very dirty country, the showers are literally drips of water, it’s a very poor country so certain foods are limited, etc.  So I, having the imagination that I do and being an obnoxious over-thinker, started thinking up all these horrible things about it.  Stupid, right?  Immature.  Childish.  You name it.
But back to going on a mission’s trip…
Since I couldn’t make up my mind which country to visit of these three, I decided to let Google choose for me.  I literally typed in ‘Mission trips to _____’ for each one, found ministries and organizations that I’d heard about/knew friends who had gone with them, etc., sent out emails to their directors.  And waited.
In November of 2013, I got an email back in reply to one I had sent about a trip to Peru…the country I least wanted to go to.
“I know a lady who’s organizing a team to go to Peru next July through Scripture Union,” the email read.  “Here’s her contact information.”
I had never heard of Scripture Union before, but I told my parents, who were both very excited and supportive of me, and sent this team organizer (named Amanda - from Pennsylvania), an email.  She replied quickly, telling me that she was excited at the possibility of me coming with her team (all from the east coast – I was the only Northwesterner).  But she needed an answer.  Soon.  Like, within two days soon.
“Well that’s just crazy!” I thought to myself.  I wanted to have at least a week to pray about it, talk with my parents and best friends, estimate the trip costs, etc.  Amanda told me it’d cost about $2k, that I needed to get a passport, and that I could just send her all the money directly and she’d take care of the plane ticket, bus transportations, hotel room, etc.  Sounded easy enough.  But $2k?  I didn’t have that kind of money hiding away anywhere.
I told my parents about the trip details.  They didn’t even bat an eye before telling me that yeah, I should go.  Just like that.  Especially my Dad, which really surprised me.  He’s an awesome, protective, loving kind of father and he doesn’t even like me going to the store after 9 p.m. alone, so it was kind of a big deal that he’d let me go OUT OF THE COUNTRY alone, and meet up with a group of people who I didn’t know from Adam to go on a mission’s trip for a week. 
My parents’ approval was a big confirmation to me.  And I felt such peace about going that I answered Amanda the next day, letting her know that yes, it was a go from me.
That’s when the crazy fundraising started.  I sent out over 60 support letters, let my church family know of my trip planning, emailed a bunch of people, started talking about my excitement to go to Peru on my Facebook, etc. 
Another confirmation that was huge to me was one day when I was talking to a friend of mine in South Africa.  He asked me what ministry I was going to Peru with and when I told him Scripture Union, he got so excited.  Turns out that’s the ministry he goes on his missions trips with and he told me they’re the absolute best.  No one I had talked to so far had said they knew about Scripture Union…but God used a friend halfway across the world to confirm this trip was the right thing to do.
It took 18 people who donated to my trip to cover all my costs.  Never in my most hopeful dreams did I think that would’ve happened.  And slowly, during all this fundraising time and hopeful expectation, God was softening my heart and I was getting excited to go to Peru.
July 2014 came soon enough.  My flight left Portland at 5 in the morning on June 30th..  Killer to get out of bed and drive to the airport at that stinking time of…night.  Before I left home, my parents hugged and prayed with me.  Dad said how much he hoped I would have a wonderful time with family (I was going to stay with them one week before the team arrived).  And then Mama dropped me off at the airport.  And I boarded a plane…first to California, then to Texas, and then I landed in Lima, Peru.  At 10 p.m.  And I cried when my grandfather (Papi) met me in the reception area at the airport.  I was in a strange country, a stranger to all around me, everyone was speaking Spanish (which I thanked God I knew), and then, all of a sudden, I saw my Papi’s smiling face amidst the crowd of faces and his arms were soon around me as he hugged me long and hard.  I hadn’t seen him in over 6 years.  And here I was.  Finally.
One of my Dad’s cousins had come with Papi to pick me up.  I’d heard so much about him.  He kept staring at me and saying how much I looked like Mama, and how I laughed exactly like her, and how well I spoke Spanish.  Apparently my Peruvian family didn’t think I could be so fluent in it because I lived in an English-speaking country.  But I surprised them.



The week with family flew by.  And every minute of it was fabulous.  Except maybe for the first couple of days.  I had horrible jet lag and had caught some sort of bug on the flight down.  Sleeping was pretty much number 1 on my list when I first got there.  But the rest of the week was filled with sight-seeing, trying new foods in incredible Peruvian restaurants, meeting my cousins, and their spouses, and their babies, and taking pictures, and enjoying Lima.  It’s not that great of a city.  And there is so so so much traffic.  Certain parts of it are beautiful, but for the most part, it isn’t very well kept, and some places are very trashy and dirty.  There are 8.5 million people in Peru’s capital.  And it takes about 4 hours to drive from one side of the city to the other.  Pretty big.

The team arrived from the States on July 8th.  I met them at a hotel and we all spent the night there. I met everyone the next morning, and we had to be on a bus headed for Yungay at 7 a.m.  It was a 9 hour drive.  Not very comfortable, but the people I was with made it fun.  I’d heard some horror stories about teams not getting along on some trips, but if there was ever a more perfect group of people, I don’t know them.  Because our team was the best.  We all enjoyed each other’s company, made each other laugh, encouraged each other.  I can’t think of a single person on my team who I didn’t like.  Honestly.  The best group of people ever.  I felt so blessed and at peace because I was with people who I got along with, and who got along with me.



After the 9 hour ride, we had arrived.  To a small village in the hills at the foot of Peru’s highest mountain.  It was a breath-taking view.  So many beautiful views from every single place you could stand in Kusi (Quechua for ‘home’).  And all the boys!  So many of them to love on and spend time with.  Me and one other team member were the only two people who knew Spanish fluently, and, I must say, we had an advantage to be able to communicate with the boys.  I bonded with so many of them.  They would tell me about their life.  I got to share about Jesus’ love with a few of them.  It was amazing.
Our team raised enough money to buy the boys a flat-screen TV.  And we were SO excited to present it to them.  We all crowded around it to watch the final World Cup Game (Germany vs. Argentina).




The week we were in Kusi flew by.  And so much happened over the course of those 7 days that it would take me a month or so to write about all the details of it.  And also…sometimes it’s best to just keep certain memories in your own heart.
And then I came back.
To Oregon.
I had missed it, yes.  But gosh, I missed Kusi so much.  I was in a sort of depression (you could say) for about two weeks after getting home from there.
And then one day, Amanda messaged me on Facebook.  “Raquel, how serious are you about going back to Kusi?”
I replied: “Let me put it this way.  If I could go back tomorrow, I would.”
“Well is December soon enough?” she asked.
Gosh.  Was it ever?!
Plans were a little rocky at first.  I didn’t have any money since getting back from Peru in July.  I didn’t have a job, was trying to find one, trying to save money for immediate needs and bills, etc.  It was overwhelming, honestly.  I needed $2,500 in 3 months.  But little by little, piece by piece, just like last time, God placed everything in perfect rhythm and put the puzzle together as easy as a breeze.
I purchased my ticket within a month.  And the rest of my funds were paid off a little after.  So it’s official.  I’m going back to Peru on December 22nd.  I will spend Christmas with my family.  My team will come down on the 29th.  It’s only a group of 10 people this time – one of them being one of my best friends, Cody, and Amanda too, of course.  We will spend the New Years celebration with my [adopted] family in Kusi, and I will be back to the States on January 9th.  I can't wait.  I can't wait to see everyone.


I keep having to remind myself that I’m actually going back.  Not because I forget.  But because it’s like another dream come true.  I am so blessed.  So so blessed.  And what a perfect time to go back too.  I have a full-time job now, but my boss is giving me the leave I need to go.  And my job will be waiting for me when I get back.  My family completely supports me.  So do my best friends.  All the money is raised, my needs are paid for and taken care of…and gosh, I’m getting excited all over again just by writing about it.

I want to say a special thank you to all my blog readers who are supportive of me too.  Your comments on my past posts about Peru, your emails, your encouragement – they all mean so much to me.  So thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a fan of my blog, for reading my scribblings, for loving my excitement, and being supportive through prayer or donations.  You have blessed me so much.

Glory be to God.


11.29.2014

Change is inevitable


Change is inevitable.  

It’s a way of life that is unavoidable, regardless of if we don’t want it to happen. You can shelter yourself, shield yourself against the world, never venture far from your house…but whether you think the change is ‘out there’ or not, your very self is one of the developing, constantly changing dynamics on this earth.  

With change, comes good and bad. We learn through circumstances – sometimes painful, sometimes joyous. Whatever the case may be, our brains and hearts will always be affected. For better or worse. And nothing can stop it.  
As we grow older, life experiences will impact us in ways we never knew existed. Our tastes and opinions will change. Our likes and dislikes will take drastic turns. And our very speech, through life and emotions will, sometimes, make a 180 turn.  
I, for example, have seen a difference in myself. A drastic one. Like I explained in my ‘big announcement’ post on the blog name change and all. I’m not the same person I was 6 years ago. I’m not the same girl who started this blog. I talk, think, write, and communicate differently now as a nineteen year old young woman. And yes, even the things I love have changed.  
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve discovered so many things about myself. And I’m not one of those ‘find your inner self’ type of people. But yes, I have gotten to know myself a little better. It’s a soul-searching adventure to explore your heart and mind. And when you realize something about yourself, or admit your love of something, or think through your passions in life, I guarantee that you will surprise yourself. And the treasures that you find will be something exciting, intense and dramatically life-altering.
Change is inevitable. And everyone experiences it. What we, as judgmental humans, need to remember is to accept it. Accept the change in others. Accept it in yourself. Recognize the fact that people go through stages, they deal with different life situation, they grow up, they mature, they do stupid things. It’s all part of life. It’s part of learning. It’s part of growing.  

And that’s okay.

11.26.2014

Time for a change | big announcement

I began blogging 6 years ago. I began this blog 3 years ago. I remember the day I decided it was the next project I wanted to tackle. I excitedly told Mama about the idea, and she was all for it. Said I needed an outlet for all my writing craziness.

I wanted to think of a clever, eye-catching name for it. The first one I thought of was 'God's Daughter'. But that was way back before tons of bloggers started calling themselves 'Daughter of God', 'Daughter of the King', 'God's Girl', 'His Daughter', etc. Yup. I was the hipster who started the trend. (Not really. But anyway, moving on.)


I was looking through the past years of posts I have written on here and 1) thanked God for improvement in writing skills. I was/am sorely embarrassed by my writing techniques three years ago, compared to now, 2) I am beyond astonished that y'all have stuck around for this long..., and 3) I've decided I need to move on. No, I'm not deleting this website or anything like that. Simply deciding to make a few changes in my little corner of the blogging sphere. Don't worry. I'm gonna stick around a little longer to annoy you. But I've changed. I'm not the same person I was six years ago. I'm different. And different is good.


So, after this post is published, the blog will no longer be titled 'God's Daughter', but simply, 'It's Just Raquel'. And let me explain the meaning and reason behind this name:


1) All of my social networks usernames are @itsjustraquel (Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc). I have a new blog fanpage on Facebook too!!


2) This is just me. I'm not perfect, I'm not glamorous, I'm not 'the norm', I'm not super trendy, I'm not as good of a writer as I wish I could be. I'm just me. This blog is just mine. I'm just Raquel. I seek no glory for myself but for my God. And while this blog will always be written in the hopes of encouraging others, I also wanted to make it more friendly and approachable. And, like I said before, I'm ready - and needing - a change.

PLEASE NOTE: I will be changing the URL for this blog, as well, but not until next month. I just want to make sure everyone knew about the change before this URL suddenly isn't available.

And since tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, I thought it only appropriate to give thanks, not only to God, for this blog, but also to YOU. Thank you for being a loyal and continual follower. Your support and encouragement is such a blessing.


11.22.2014

19 And Still At Home

I’ve had several people ask me when I plan on moving out.  I think most teenagers are expected to graduate, move out, and go to college when they turn 18.  But here I am, at 19, a 2012 graduate, still living at home.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Or is there something wrong with the mentality of 18-and-leave?

I will be honest, moving out doesn’t seem like an absolutely horrible idea.  I’d get to make my own schedules and my own rules.  (And before you go jumping to the conclusion that just by that statement, I’m some rebellious child, I say those thoughts in complete respect and honor of my parents.)  While moving out doesn’t seem like such a horrible thing, at the same time, living at home has so many benefits.    

I have decided to continue living at home while I’m single merely because of the fact that I love my home.  My parents love each other and that love has poured over into making the house we live in a home.  Whenever I’m away, even if it’s just for the day while I’m at work, the thought of going home at the end of it makes me happy.  I get to take a shower, sleep in my own bed, wash my clothes in our own washer and dryer, and know for certain that there will always be food when I’m hungry.  My parents have rules – most of which I have no problem abiding by.  Sure, we don’t see eye to eye on everything.  Who does?  But they have instilled in me the Biblical command of obeying and honoring them since I was a wee thing, and since growing older and being able to actually understand what that meant has proved to be challenging and rewarding.  My parents are fabulous too because they don’t lord themselves over me, commanding me to do this, demanding me to do that.  Instead, as I’ve become an adult, they have graciously and patiently asked me or told me their opinion, instead of instructing me.  “No, Raquel, we’d rather you not go see that movie.”  “No, we’d prefer if you stayed home tonight.”  Wording things this way gives me the choice whether or not I can or will do something.  And let me tell you, I love and respect my parents enough that if doing something they’d ‘prefer I not do’, I don’t have as much happiness and fun in whatever it is I’m doing.

Still living at home doesn’t mean I think I’m incapable of living on my own, providing for myself, that I’m not responsible or hard-working.  It’s been a choice of mine.  And of course my family has had a bit of an impact in telling me how much they’d miss me if I ever did move out.  At home, I am surrounded by ones who love me.  And being such a people-person, living on my own, as a single young woman, would be difficult cuz I’d get lonely very quickly. Haha

Living at home is much more affordable too.  I don’t have to worry about paying taxes or rent or household bills.

Living at home gives me time and availability for ministering needs and daily life events that I couldn’t otherwise do if I lived on my own.  Our family home is constantly buzzing with activity, people visiting, spending the night, coming and going.  And living at home has given me many opportunities to practice hosting.  And my Mama is one of the best teachers.

God has placed my parents in my life as my protectors, mentors, guardians, and the ones in authority over me.  People are quick to take that as the evil ogre picture of parents beating children into submission because they’re ‘above’ them in authority.  But no.  Like I explained above, my parents are fabulous, kind, patient, and very fair people.  And I have accepted them as the ones God has placed in my life above me, ones who I am commanded to honor and respect – not by them, but by God.  Honoring authority comes from loving whoever is in authority above you.  I love my God, therefore I want to obey and honor Him.  The same is with my parents.  Because I love them, and they love me, I want to show them my honor and respect and gratitude by doing as they ask, acting upon what they would have me do.

And living at home is one of those ways I can do that. 

11.13.2014

Everyday Blessings // 27


>> getting a job
>> loving my job
>> fabulous and fun coworkers
>> space heaters
>> granola bars - with chocolate
>> meeting like-minded believers
>> visiting an invalid friend and introducing him to amazing movies
>> new music (check out Tenth Avenue North's new album, 'Cathedrals')
>> new books (even though I have a pile already)
>> one-on-one time with parents
>> getting home from work to my little brother yelling 'I missed you!'
>> snowy flurries
>> woodstoves
>> hearing from a friend who you haven't talk to in forever
>> naps
>> getting back into crocheting (I've missed it)
>> 5 weeks till I leave for Peru
>> my bro showing up randomly and spending the night
>> a comedy movie that I actually like
>> THIS

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P.S.  I'm giving away the coffee cozy pictured in the photo (above).  I absolutely love it.  And whoever wins it will love it too.

To enter:

1) follow the blog
2) comment what your favorite thing is that happened this month
3) heart Onana Knits

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Winner of the Sparrow Fall Designs gift certificate is:

Emily Ruth

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There are gonna be some big changes happening here on the blog soon.  Keep an eye out!

11.07.2014

A dream comes true


  As we drove out of town, I saw the newspaper office’s sign.  
  “I have always wanted to work at a newspaper.  As a reporter or columnist,” I told Mama.
  “You should call them and see if they’re hiring.”
  “I doubt it.”
  “Try anyway.”
  I shrugged.
  Upon arriving home, her encouragement kept coming to the front of my mind.  Well, why not?  It’s worth a try.
  I guess I had just been so tired of places telling me that they weren’t hiring, or that they needed someone with experience, or that they’d give me a call back and never did.  I was so tired of getting ‘no’ as an answer.  But what I was tired of more, was the fact that I didn’t have a job.
  So I called.
  “Hi, I was wondering if the newspaper was hiring,” I asked in a breathless rush.  Part of me was sure the answer would be negative, while the other half of me waited with hopeful anticipation.
  “Yes, as a matter of fact.  We are in need of a writer.”
  My heart skipped a beat.
  “Our editor just stepped outside for a few seconds, but I can have him call you back.”
  My heart sunk a little.   
  “Okay,” I replied and gave her my name and number.
  After hanging up, I didn’t know what to think.  I told Mama that they were hiring, then went back to reading my book, trying to not get my hopes up that he’d call me back.
  About fifteen minutes later, my cell rang.
  “Hello, I’m looking for Raquel,” an older gentleman’s voice said.  He had a soothing, kind, calm voice and I immediately felt comfortable.
  “Yes, this is she.”
  It was the editor from the newspaper.  Calling to ask me if I’d like to apply for the position.  After saying that I did, he gave me his email address (which I scribbled down and read back to him just to make sure I had gotten it correctly) and told me to send him my resume and a writing sample.  I told him I would as soon as I got off the phone with him.  He said he would look forward to reading them, and then hung up.
  I was starting to get a little excited by now.  Here was a job opportunity that had been a dream of mine for however long.  Plus they’re actually looking for a writer.  I wasn’t just applying on a whim.  And the editor had given me a call back on the same day I had called them. 
  I quickly texted a friend (who has been very encouraging in telling me to apply for writing jobs) and he offered to read over my email, resume and sample writings that I was going to send in.  I was so happy to have a second opinion on it, so quickly agreed to email everything to him.  Instead of sending in a writing sample, I decided to send in two.  And I also gave the editor details about my blog, and included the link after my signature.
  I prayed silently as I hit ‘send’ and the rest of the evening was spent over-thinking.  One of my many faults.  Will he like it?  Did I send it to the right email address?  Did I miss anything in my resume?  A typo would look horrible in an application as a newspaper reporter!
  Thursday passed.  Then Friday.  I had meant to call in and follow up on my application that day but with our family’s annual bonfire and preparing all day for guests, I got too busy.  Saturday, I was gone from home.  Sunday, the office is closed.  
  But Monday morning, I called.
  “Hello, my name is Raquel Duarte.  I called on Wednesday and spoke with you about applying for the job position.”
  “Oh yes, hello.  I meant to call you this weekend, but my schedule got rather busy, I’m afraid.  May I call you back this afternoon when I’m free?”
  “Absolutely.”  And again, let my name and number.
  The two hours seemed to crawl by.  I went to town, took books back to the library, came home, read devotions, ate lunch, read a book...and then, my phone rang.
  I quickly said a prayer as I answered.
  We talked for almost an hour.
  “Well, Raquel, I have a really good feeling about this, and I really love your writing style and enthusiasm and command of the English language.  I’m prepared to offer you this job.  Do you want it?”

  And that, ladies and gentleman, is how I got my dream job of being a reporter for a newspaper.

  Glory be to God.

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In honor of my new job, I wanted to show some respect to legendary journalists who I have always admired and who have been inspirations to me in my writings.  Real life ones and fictional... ;)

- Ernest Hemingway
- Martha Gellhorn (later, Martha Hemingway)
- E. B. White
- Joseph Pulitzer
- Barbara Walters

Fictional:
- Skeeter Phelan
- Tintin
- Peter Warne
- Sophie Hall (well, she's technically a facts checker...)
- Clark Kent
- Babe Bennett
- Joe Bradley

Kudos to anyone who knows what books/movies those fictional reporters are from!  Comment if you do!