5.30.2014

Everyday Blessings // 22


>> getting more sponsors for my trip to Peru
>> new blog design (thanks to this sweet girl!)
>> beach trip with the family
>> warm sleeping bags
>> new recipes to try
>> seeing progress from my work outs
>> photoshoots
>> random mini-roadtrips
>> free Dutch Bros.
>> wifi
>> poetry
>> Steps For Like walkathon
>> listening to a bagpiper in downtown Portland
>> 4-hour long phone calls
>> gelato
>> new iPhone case

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How do you like the new blog design?:)
How are you ending your month of May?


5.26.2014

Romantic Distractions, True Focus


I received feedback from a reader regarding my short romance stories.  She expressed how she avoids reading (and listening to) anything romantic because she struggles with feeling ‘single-and-lonely’ and how thinking such things aren’t ‘helpful’ to her in any way.  She asked me if it’s the same case for me and if, while writing romance novellas, I am affected in a negative way or if it leads me to distraction.

To put it simply, no.  Of course I’ll have moods where it’s difficult to think and read about romantic stuff (because it’s like rubbing salt in the open wound of You’re Single And Everyone Else Isn’t) but that’s not very often.  God has taught me a lot through being single and my view on it has become one of joy-filled contentment because I trust the LORD with my future and whatever He has planned for me - whether that means a relationship or being single for the rest of my life.  It’s an everyday challenge, though.  I’m not saying I’ve got this down pat and I never struggle with the feeling of loneliness.  I do.  And often.  But it’s during those times that I need to turn my focus back to God and rest in the peace of His wisdom and plans for my life.  As far as romantic influences - whether it be movies, books, or writing short stories - it’s never affected me in a negative way or caused me to sway from my walk of contentment.

I wrote up a three-point list of, well, I’m not really sure what sort of list this is.  But I hope that if you can relate to any of them that you’ll be encouraged by my suggestions for each.

1) If you are struggling with being so easily distracted by something romantic, chances are you’re not very content being single.
If it causes an unhealthy balance in your view of life and your desires, then you need to distance yourself and pray that God will grant you grace and contentment.

2) If something romantic distracts your heart from God, you probably don’t have a very strong relationship with Him.
As a Christian, God is the ultimate Lover of your soul.  Not a man/woman.  We long to be loved, and to be romanced, yet if a worldly sort of romance entices your heart and doesn’t profit your relationship with the LORD in any way, then that’s a huge NO.  Work on your relationship with Him.  This is the first step to being joyfully content while single.  He’s the only One who can satisfy you.

3) If romantic things have a negative affect on you, then by all means, avoid them as much as possible.
Someone commented on one of my romance stories and was like ‘This doesn’t help me stay content being single, Raquel.  You should be more considerate of others.’  It kind of made me laugh because #1 - I get more positive responses from my readers (especially thank yous for writing clean romantic stuff) than negative and #2 - if you don’t like it, just don’t read it.  Pretty simple.

With that being said, I hope you continue to enjoy my little romantic stories:)  But remember that the greatest Author of the greatest love story is One who wants to romance your heart and soul.  When feeling lonely or unloved, turn to His Word, spend time with Him not the world.  Remember: you control your heart, but He created it and understands it.  Better than you probably do yourself.

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‘Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.’
- Proverbs 4:23

5.19.2014

About being a virgin and being pure

A lot of people make a big deal about staying a virgin until marriage.  They say that purity is one of the most beautiful things about a person.  They say that saving your virginity till you get married is the best gift you could ever give your spouse.

I’m not ashamed to say that I’m one of those people.  But I would also like to say that if you’re not a virgin, it doesn’t make me think any less of you.

Being a virgin is a strictly physical condition, while purity is about the mind and heart, as well as, the bodily state.  

It’s hard being a sexually-desiring young man or woman in a sex-saturated world that promotes having sex before marriage as ‘just another thing to do’.  If it satisfies you, what’s the harm, right?  You’ll have sex sooner or later.  And who knows when you’ll get married.  If a woman looks appealing to you, has a good body, a beautiful face, and turns you on, why don’t you just get in bed with her?  If a man sweet talks you, tells you how much he’s attracted to you, and makes you feel good just by softly touching you, why not give him a little more?  

Why do you have to be the [seemingly] odd one out and say ‘no’ to this?

Now before I start throwing a bunch of verses out here, let me start by just asking you a simple question.  (And no, this isn’t gonna be that whole candy shop story example.)

What would you rather have...

1) a man/woman who wants you for a one night stand, to satisfy their desires and to pleasure themselves?

OR

2) a man/woman who falls in love with you as a person (not just your body) , and who will not be afraid to enter a committed relationship with you so you two can have sex as much as you’d like and not only for the other person’s satisfaction, but for your own?

Which of those sounds more appealing?  Which of those sounds more sure and long-standing?  Which one sounds more like how God intended it to be?

Hebrews 13:4 says:
‘Marriage is to be held in honor above all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.’

I love that phrase towards the beginning of the verse, where it says ‘above all’.  Above all.  Above all what?  Well, in the previous verses, the writer of this book was giving commands to the Hebrews - ‘love the brethren’, ‘be hospitable’, ‘remember the prisoners and the ill-treated’, etc.  And then comes verse 4.  Above ALL of those, let marriage be held in honor.  It’s as if they were saying, ‘More importantly than all those other commands I just told you, this is the most crucial.  This is the one you need to listen to the most.  This is the one that trumps all the others: that you don’t have sex before you get married.’

I could give several more passages about saving sex for marriage (the book of Proverbs is full of them - and that book was written specifically for young people), but I’ll just keep it simple and down to just one.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, purity isn’t just about being a virgin.  It’s almost the opposite.  Virginity is about being pure.  If you’re pure - in mind, soul and body - then being a virgin will basically, ‘come naturally’.  This doesn’t mean that if you aren’t a virgin, you can’t be pure anymore.  Far from it.  There is no sin too great that the LORD can’t forgive (except for the ‘unpardonable sin’ mentioned in Matthew 12:32).  If you’ve had sex before marriage, it doesn’t mean you’re damaged goods, it doesn’t mean you’ll never get married, it doesn’t mean you’ll never find someone to love you for more than your body.  It means you made a mistake.  We all do.  And having sex before marriage is, honestly, an easy trap to fall into - given that we live in a world where sex is so prominent.  Our brains and bodies are wired for having sex.  God created us that way.  Sex is not the problem here.  Sex is not a bad thing.   It’s the lust and untamed desire to satisfy ourselves before the appropriate time that’s what we need to guard against .  It’s hard!  I’m not saying it isn’t.  I’m not saying that ‘well, you’re not married so don’t have sex and that’s all.  It’s a piece of cake’.  No!  It’s ridiculously hard.  Especially when you’re tempted.  Especially when you know someone who could easily (and wants to) have sex with you.  Especially when you don’t take extra precautions to protect yourself and keep your self-control stronger than your desires.

Purity is a beautiful and wonderful thing.  And it displays such a strong self-control of someone that it’s attractive and something to be honored.  Not many people can say that they saved their body for marriage.  But if you are saving your virginity to give only to your future spouse, you are amazing.  You are a treasure.  And you should be treated as such.  Your purity is something you need to defend.  You’ll face temptations, you’ll face people who want to take it from you, who want to pluck it from you as if you’re just a flower in a field of others.  And you are.  You’re one in a million.  But you’re someone who has a choice whether to let people take advantage of you or to wait to give your everything to the one who deserves it, the one you love and who loves you in return.  Most of the time, the person who wants to take this from you isn’t some random, evil person.  It may be someone you considered one of your best friends.  It may be someone you really, really like.  It may be the person you never thought you’d have a chance of attracting.  And now that they’ve finally noticed you, now that they’ve started telling you everything you want to hear, suddenly, it seems almost okay to give them what they want.  Right?

Wrong.

Your purity is worth defending.  And if the person who wants it won’t defend it with and for you, then that person doesn’t deserve you.  In a world where people WANT something in order to feel loved, the one who truly cares for you needs to GIVE you something.  Amidst many other things, they must give you their promise that you are important enough to them that they will harm themselves before ever harming you - emotionally or physically.  And that includes taking your virginity.  And they will joyfully promise you this, because purity is something to rejoice over.

Some people will look at your purity as a challenge.  Your body is something that no one else has touched, and they want to be the first.  They’ll say anything and do almost everything to be the first one to get you in bed.  And those people are the ones you need to be on the lookout for the most.

Others will view your purity as something to be respected.  To have that much restraint, to face as many temptations as this world has to offer, yet standing firm in your standards and beliefs, is something that needs recognition and honor.

So is being a virgin a big deal?  Yes.  Is it a deal-breaker in a relationship?  For some, it may be.  For others, it’s not.  But if those two questions were about purity, the answer to both would most definitely be ‘yes’.

For my fellow virgins:  I respect and honor you more than you know.  Stay strong.  You are absolutely amazing.

For the ones who aren’t virgins anymore:  You’re not a hopeless case.  None of us are perfect.  But if you’ve decided to live your future life purely, are determined to keep the rest of yourself for one man or woman, then you are absolutely amazing too.

For the ones who had their virginity taken from them by force:  You’re not one to be respected or honored any less.  You can’t control everything that happens to you.  You couldn’t have known that you would be hurt in this way.  Your situation is different than the majority of the audience I was writing for, but I want you to know that no one deserves to be treated the way you have been, and I hope and pray that you will someday meet someone who will love and care for you the way you should be loved and cared for.  And yes, you are absolutely amazing.
  
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‘Fear not, for you will not be put to shame.  And do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced.  But you will forget the shame of your youth...for your husband is your Maker, whose name is the LORD of hosts; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, who is called the God of all the earth.’
- Isaiah 54:4-5

5.13.2014

Friends only for a time



We have all suffered from the hardship of losing a friend.  Sometimes there’s a reason you had to part ways.  Other times, you have no idea how someone who used to be so close to you could suddenly turn and leave your life without a second glance.

‘Why?’ you ask yourself.  ‘Why did this happen?’

All too often that question goes unanswered.  But honestly, there can be a few different reasons why.

One of them being that God obviously has different plans for both of you.  Where He is taking you, the other person can’t go.  They would only hinder you from the walk that He is calling you to.  When God has someone (or something) exit from your life, it’s because they have already fulfilled their purpose for why He had placed them in your life in the first place.  And as hard as it may be, you need to let them go.

When you trust that God has greater things planned for you, the disappointments in life won’t seem as harsh.  His plans for us are only for our good and His glory.  And if that means tearing away something from us - especially something we love - then, by faith, we must accept that His purposes are being accomplished even through our pain.

For the rest of our lives, people will come and go.  It’s a part of the life cycle, and can’t really be avoided.  (If you have a friend who you’ve known for a long time and are still close to, don’t take them for granted! They are hard to come by.)  But when one person leaves, don’t let that discourage you and make you afraid to ‘start over’ and make a new friend.  As humans, we are created with a need for friendships.  And we will always crave for affection and for people to understand and love us.  But just because one person has failed to give it to us - or because they have stopped doing so - doesn’t mean we should give up on people altogether.  Remember to reach out to others.  You never know who may be going through a similar situation and maybe you’re just the person they need - to reach out to them and be able to relate to what they’re experiencing.

But most importantly, remember your true and Ultimate Friend.  The Friend who will never leave or forsake you.  The Friend who is constantly aware of all you’re going through.  The Friend who loves you enough to die for you.  He is one who will never turn away from you or leave you in the dark.  Trust His guiding hand and forever rest in the assurance that your relationship with Him is eternal.  Let the times that earthly friends leave you, be times in which you learn to lean more into your friendship with your heavenly Friend.

5.10.2014

Everyday Blessings // 21



>> random phone call from a friend
>> fro-yo with a friend
>> Divergent (the movie)
>> hiking and exploring with my bro and a friend
>> volunteer serving at my local PRC's dinner event
>> pumpkin pie
>> roadtrip to Seattle with a friend
>> my camera (Niina)
>> Dutch Bros.
>> relaxing in a cute and cozy coffee shop
>> trying out a pizza parlor in downtown Seattle
>> being encouraged by people I don't even know
>> getting lost...and finding my way
>> cheesecake
>> The Amazing Spider-Man 2
>> sleeping with my window open
>> clean blankets
>> Bible pages being completed highlighted
>> celebrating 5 years of having my purity ring on my finge
>> my testimony being shared in the No Sex Movement ministry and getting so much feedback from people who the LORD touched through it.

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How has your May been so far?  Tell me some of the things God has blessed you with this month.

5.06.2014

What defines me


What defines me...
is not what people will most often see.  It’s the person they choose to get to know.

What defines me...
is not how I dress or what clothes I choose to wear.  It’s how I wear them and if they reflect godliness and modesty.

What defines me...
is not my talents.  It’s how I use them.

What defines me...
is not who I’m related to.  It’s who I call family and the impact they’ve had in my life.

What defines me...
is not how much time I spend with God.  It’s how much I live for Him.

What defines me...
is not how spiritual I seem or appear to be.  It’s how much I show my love for - and relationship with - Him.

What defines me...
is not my age.  It’s my maturity and the experiences of the years I’ve lived.

What defines me...
is not how good I am at something.  It’s how hard I try.

What defines me...
is not where I live.  It’s how I choose to invest in my community and those around me.

What defines me...
is not the amount of friends I have or who I choose to be around.  It’s how I treat the ones I do have, and love them unconditionally.

What defines me...
is the way I talk to and about others.

What defines me...
is not my failures.  It’s the fact that I try my best, am willing to own up to when I fail, and the determination to try harder next time.

What defines me...
is not my mistakes.  It’s how I’ve decided to use them to learn and grow.

What defines me...
is not what people say about me.  It’s my true character and the real me.

What defines me...
is my attitude and outlook on life and the meaning of my existence.

What defines me...
is what I plan to do with my life and my goal for my time on earth.

What defines me...
is not how I view myself.  It’s about how God sees me.

5.02.2014

Facing Temptations


You know those days when you’re just like ‘Wow.  I am so messed up’?  ‘Why do I keep going back to what I know is wrong?’  ‘Why do I give in to these temptations when I know where it got me last time?’ 

You keep trying to get away, but only end up running in circles.

It can get to a point where it’s almost depressing.  You keep failing in a certain area of life and you don’t know why.  Well, you DO know why - it’s because you’re a sinful human being.  But you wonder why you keep doing what is wrong when you KNOW what is right.

The Apostle Paul talks about this in the book of Romans 7 where he says:

‘For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate...For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.  For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.’

He is addressing the conflict of two natures - his spiritual heart of flesh and his sinful heart of stone.  Evil is always present.  Temptation is very real.

But, praise God, that we’re not alone in this.  Even the perfect Man suffered from temptation.

‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.’
- Hebrews 4:15-16

As the Son of man and Son of God, Jesus Christ was tempted.  Yet He never sinned.  He was tempted in every single aspect that we as humans are tempted.  Every single one.  Think about that for a minute.

John Piper’s thoughts on this subject gave me a completely new view on it.

‘If a person gives in to temptation, it never reaches its fullest and longest assault.  We capitulate while the pressure is still building.  But Jesus never [gave in].  So He endured the full pressure to the end and never caved.  He knows what it is to be tempted with full force...no one has suffered more.’

This may or may not encourage you.

Part of you may be thinking, ‘Wow.  He endured so much more than I did.  Then of course, with His strength, I can overcome this small temptation’.  And the other half of you might be saying, ‘Well Jesus is God.  We can never not give in to temptation.  We aren’t perfect.  He was - and is.’

We are very likely to feel insufficient when facing our own temptations and the evil that lurks for us in every corner.  And when we come to God with struggles and short-comings, it’s humbling and frightening to stand before His perfection and so keenly feel everything that we have done against Him and His laws.  

But ah, what was the first part of that verse in Hebrews?

‘...to sympathize with our weaknesses’.  Jesus doesn’t feel against us.  He feels with us.  And the awareness of this gives us strength, makes us bold to come before the throne of grace and cry out for help and strength to face our struggles.  He bids us come with confidence and with the right as children of God.

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With every temptation, there is a way of escape.  There is never any need to sin.
- Elizabeth T. King