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


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


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.


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.  


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


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


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.


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.