9.29.2014

Sovereign God


“I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.”
- 2 Corinthians 7:4

“...but we were afflicted on every side: conflicts without, fears within.  But God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us...”
- 2 Corinthians 7:5-6

Believing in a sovereign God is not easy.  Many times it’s so testing on my finite mind that I must remind myself: Raquel, you believe He is sovereign because He is God.  Because if He is God, but wasn’t sovereign...we’re gonna have big problems.

Trusting God’s sovereignty is applicable in every aspect of life.  But when difficulties hit us, when rough times slap us across the face, when storms of life lay us flat on the ground, believe His sovereignty is easy to question.

Why would God allow something like this to happen?
Does He want to hurt us?
Does He want us to get knocked down?

“But He is a loving God!” some will say.  “He would never intentionally afflict us.”

Oh but wait.  Look at this passage of Scripture in Hosea 6:1-2.

“Come, let us return to the LORD.  For He has torn us, but He will heal us.  He has wounded us, but He will bandage us up.  He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him.”

We may never know why He ordained certain things to happen in our lives.  But a trusty, and often-quoted verse is one that I am sure you’re familiar with.

“And we know that God causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” 
- Romans 8:28

With the comfort of that promise, we can REST in the assurance and peace that no matter what great trials cross our paths, He is bigger than it.  He has a purpose for it.  And He is never far from our grasp.  He is a God of comfort.

How could Paul be so joyful in his afflictions?  Because he is comforted by this sovereign God.

“He comforts the depressed...”

The LORD will never abandon us.  He won’t see us going through the storm He designed, without holding our hand and walking with us against the wind and sleet.  He is ever-present, ever-sovereign, never-changing.

Trust the sovereign God who tears, so He will heal.  Who wounds, so He will bandage.  Look for and pray about the lesson He is teaching you amidst these.  And remember the comfort He offers amidst it all.

“For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
- 2 Corinthians 4:17


9.27.2014

Everyday Blessings // 25



>> attending the 13th wedding I was invited to this year
>> books
>> having time to read
>> a new movie poster (Guardians of the Galaxy)
>> receiving donations for my return trip to Peru
>> friends coming over for a movie day (Anne of Green Gables - their pick!)
>> seeing my Marine friend who's on leave
>> hearing from my boys at the home in Peru
>> two friends calling and informing me that they were coming to kidnap me (at 10pm)
>> going to Shari's for pie shakes at midnight
>> starting a bonfire on the beach at 1am
>> finishing a book series
>> Autumn is finally here

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How has your autumn been so far?

9.23.2014

In His Own Image

I recently overheard a girl say that she felt naked without makeup.  That she never sets foot outside of her house if her makeup isn't done.  Later, I saw her (after she had been 'dared' to not wear makeup for the day), and was surprised at how different she looked.  It was only because I had gotten so used to seeing her with a full face hidden behind makeup and had never seen her for who she really is.  She has beautiful features, but is so different behind all that stuff and fuss so it was a bit shocking to see her face so pure and clean. 

I don't have anything against makeup.  I use it myself.  But we must be careful with how MUCH and how OFTEN we do wear it.  Do you want people to get used to always seeing you with it on so that one day, when you don't wear it, they feel like they're looking at a ghost?  Makeup shouldn't be used to hide behind, or to try to make yourself more beautiful.  It should be used to enhance the beauty that is already there.

The above girl's story inspired me to write the following poem.  And to take the pictures below.  It's a side-by-side (unedited) comparison to how much makeup can change a person's looks.


If you would like to join in on the #InHisOwnImage campaign, copy and paste this poem (by me) into a post of your own and take two pictures of yourself.  One without makeup, and one with.  Include them in your post, then comment with a link to it.

We are beautiful, not because the world says so.  Not because of the makeup we use.  Not because of our body shape.  We are beautiful because God created us in HIS OWN IMAGE.  And in His eyes, we are spotless and without blemish.

I will be posting this on Facebook and Instagram (@itsjustraquel), so feel free to join on there too.

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Dear girl,
With face against the mirror
Your tears fall fast 
Down your face
The face that isn't like the other girls
The face with blemishes
That cause insecurity and pain
You feel naked
Without the mask
A mask of powder and pencil
Of mascara and blush
These tools can make you feel beautiful
But are they truly what you want?
Do you want to hide behind them
Or be confident in who you are?
You're not defined by the extra skin on your body
Or the imperfections on your face.
They're nothing to be ashamed of
You're not the Potter, you're the clay
Everyone is made differently
Everyone has their own insecurities
What you must do is embrace your own
Live your life not hiding in shame
Remind yourself of the beauty within
Of who you are in His eyes
Not theirs
Your person is much more than your body
It's your heart and soul and might and strength
And the greatest beauty you can have
Is if you love Him with all of that.

9.20.2014

5 Confessions of a Blogaholic


Below are a few of my favorite things about blogging...


1) I love to meet new people.
Thanks to my social media accounts (this blog, Instagram and Twitter), I have been blessed to meet some amazing people.  A few of whom I can call ‘best friends’.  

2)  I love to encourage.
When I first started this blog, it was with the intention of encouraging fellow believers, to remind them that God has great plans for them, and ultimately, that they aren’t alone.  I have gotten so many emails and comments from people thanking me for my posts, or telling me how God used this or that to really speak to them.  That’s the only reason I continue to blog.

3)  I love to write.
Writing is a passion of mine - right next to my love for God and second only to music.  If I couldn’t write, I think I’d probably go insane.  I believe that God has gifted me with this talent and I choose only to glorify Him in and through it.

4)  I love to hear from readers.
Feedback is always good.  Constructive criticism is always good.  But only when done with ‘grace and seasoned with salt’.  Whenever I get an email or comment from someone graciously telling me about a mistake I made or something that they aren’t sure they agree with me on, I will gladly hear them out.  
And comments just plain make my day.  (Do I hear an amen from any fellow bloggers out there?)

5)   I love my Jesus.
Like I said in reason #2, I began this blog to encourage fellow Christians.  I blog for them, but ultimately for Jesus.  I dedicated this blog to Him and I pray that everyone who reads it may be blessed and encouraged.  It’s not about me, it’s about Him.  

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What are some of your favorite reasons for blogging?  Leave a comment and let me know.  Oh and include your blog link.  I’ll try to check it out!

9.17.2014

Tribute to Love

So many of my friends have found the love of their life and are taking that next big step.  So many of my friends are getting married.  
And this is something I wrote to them...

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When you showed me your ring, the diamond as bright as the smile on your face, my heart was so happy for you, my friend. To think that you finally reached the day that you'd been waiting for and praying about...and now, it was finally here.
When you told me of the look on her face, as you asked the special question that you'd been dying to ask, your eyes radiated with love as you described the beauty that you see in the woman of your dreams.
Little by little, one by one, I have seen God work mightily through your lives. Sometimes in small detail perhaps, but nonetheless, all-powerful. Every drop, every wave, every crash and cloud and clap of thunder through the rain, He composed a song and a dance only for you and yours. Until they collided into one, and you can't dance a note more unless you dance it together. But along the way, somehow, He had designed a passionate love to knit your hearts together, so that when you wed, it was as perfect as two puzzle pieces - so totally different but so perfectly designed for each other. A passionate love that grew over time. When your heart finds its match, it is as if a volcano will erupt unless the two be joined. And when they do, you must decide. Each for yourself. Shall you release all that you had known of before, everything you held dear, and cling with all your might to the one now before you? Will nothing ever stop you from parting ways? Is this love strong enough to withstand the most ferocious flame, the most threatening blizzard, the longest fall into sorrow? 
People don't believe in true love anymore. What with the way today's world has painted a picture of it as a fairytale sort of wispy love and a happy ending that can only transpire when the two love-struck individuals throw themselves into each other's arms, with no thought to the future. But wait. Is this what being in love really is?
I myself have never held this status before. I have never been in love. I do not know the feelings of losing one's breath when your beloved says your name, or of entwining your fingers with the one who you know will absolutely never let you go, or to lie awake at night knowing that someone somewhere is thinking of you - specifically of YOU.
I have not felt it. But I have seen it. And what I have seen with my own eyes far outweighs any love story that was ever written by any mere man.

And what of these people who make up silly stories of what 'being in love' is? Well, I believe they say such things because they don't understand something. They don't understand that amidst the troubling hardships and thorns of life, love is hidden throughout in a myriad of different details. 

It may subside, for love is a temporary madness. There will come a time when your kisses may not be as passionate. One of you may forget a special occasion or anniversary. One of you will unintentionally insult the other. And perhaps there will be raised voices during an argument. These are all just ruts in the road. Do you not know that anything can withstand time only by enduring the messy bits? Life is the messy bits. And oh what a beautiful life to live and to share with the one who has promised to love you, body and soul, through it all.

Stay with him, not for all the things he has done right, but for the choice that you made: to love and cherish him all the days of your life. Choose not to leave her for the one thing she did wrong, but to stay with her for all the things she had done right.
Society says 'oh but if such and such happens, he doesn't love you anymore' or 'if she says this or that, the love she promised you was a lie.'
So I challenge you. When those rough waves come, when the ship of your marriage is being tossed to and fro, hold tight to each other with one hand, and hold on for life with the other. To the main mast of your ship. The pillar of strength. The only One who can see you through any storm. Afterall, He is the designer of all things. Even such a story as slaying His own Son so that you might have a perfect example of what true love is. 

This is true love.
True love is breaking yourself in half so that you can be joined with another half to become one. There will be constant breaks, yes, constant bendings, and fittings, and stretchings...And with these comes pain, for this is a union of two hearts, two souls, two personalities. But true love is what stands when everything else has fallen. True love is what is left when all around you has burned away. 

Defy what society calls love and stand for what they call impossible. Success is the greatest revenge. Avenge the dying legacy of what true love really is, and with every passing day you live as one heart bound to another, I pray that the little spark that started this dazzling flame, will only continue to be fed and that soon, the world will stop and gaze in astonishment at something they deemed impossible.


9.11.2014

God's Love vs. The World's Love


“And now abide these three: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”
- 1 Corinthians 13:13

I’m a true romantic.  But the love talked about in this verse is the truest of true romantic loves.  The romance of the world is very often misshaped and selfish and not able to withstand the many abusive blows it receives.  

But the love of God...now that is the purest kind.  Completely selfless, immensely sacrificial, unstoppable, a burning and unquenchable passion, a jealous and unchanging love.  This makes it the strongest possible kind.  And one that is so incomparable.  It can’t be bought, it is only given.  It is never manipulated, but given with grace.  And it can never, ever be broken.  The truth is, not even death can contain, limit or abolish this awesome love of God.  

Our relationship with God is a romance.  And a greater romance has never been told.  It’s a romance that is eternal, not like the world’s.  It’s a romance that is infinite.  It was being formed before the universe was spoken into existence.  And it began with the powerful love we were just talking about.  That same love is the one, the same power that sustained Christ when He gave up His last breath on the cross to save the chosen sinners.  That love is woven and knit into each of the souls of His elect.  And He is constantly wooing us and romancing us through blessings that He continually pours out on our lives.  When no human stands with us through a storm, He is always there.  When we experience heartache and pain, He remains faithful.  This love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

As God’s child, are you rebelling against the world’s standards of love and showing the true colors of love?  The love that He manifested in smiting His own Son to die in your stead?

World: Love satisfies your immediate needs.
God: Love is patient.

World: Love should be directed towards yourself.
God: Love is kind.

World: Love is only satisfied when you are being shown attention
God: Love is not jealous.

World: Love means that you deserve the best.
God: Love is not boastful.

World: Love is doing for yourself whatever makes you happy.
God: Love is not rude.

World: Love is doing everything for your own benefit.
God: Love is selfless.

World: Love is only there if you treat them right all the time
God: Love forgives and forgets.

World: Love hides behind lies so others think they’re without fault
God: Love rejoices in the truth.

World: Love comes and goes.
God: Love never fails.

9.09.2014

7 Reasons Why I Loved Being Homeschooled


I was homeschooled all through my highschool years.  I am a 2012 homeschool graduate - and I love being able to say that.  All of those hardworking school years were such a blessing.  And I wouldn’t trade them for any sort of education I could’ve gotten elsewhere. 

The following are seven reasons why I loved being homeschooled.  And also why I think it’s so special and incredible and, ultimately, the best way (yes, I may be biased) to educate your children.

And to any of my fellow homeschooler graduates (or if you are currently still being homeschooled), please feel free to comment with any points that I may have missed.



1)  The world was my classroom.
Everyday, everything my family and I did, everywhere we went was a learning opportunity.  School is a never-ending learning process.  Just because I wasn’t in a classroom doesn’t mean I wasn’t studying.  And I’ll be learning new things for the rest of my life.

2)  I could listen to music while working.
This is a huge thing for me because I can’t live without music, and I can actually concentrate better while listening to music.

3)  I could create my own schedule.
My day may have gotten interrupted by an emergency, a quick run to the store, or because my parents wanted to throw in a week-long vacation while the rest of the kids were in public school.  I could work with my own schedule, choose my own times to study, and decide on what subjects to study at which hours.  Cuz honestly, I hated doing math in the morning, but I could work with languages no problem.  

4)  No school outfits.
Three words: sweats and hoodies.

5)  Getting first-hand experience on teaching my own children someday.
I will, LORD-willing, continue this second generation tradition of educating my future children someday.  Being able to help my parents teach my siblings now is a great learning time for me.

6)  Instead of having to hear the world’s viewpoint on certain subjects and then come home and hear the Biblical worldview, being homeschooled is a way to filter the foulness of the world. 
And no, I’m not saying that I was always able to keep my ears innocent, but my parents were able to [try to] control what I would hear, when I would hear it and be able to be right there alongside me to teach me through it.  

7)  Learning at home gave me a love of BEING at home.
Not as homebodies who are scared of going outside, but to have a healthy love for the home and its atmosphere.  I love traveling, but there’s absolutely no better feeling than to come home to my parents and siblings after being gone for a while.


Homeschooling is hard, but trusting that God will provide and give you the strength and patience you need is all a part of homeschooling.  I am so thankful that my parents stuck with my brother and me through our school years, and continue to with my younger siblings.


9.05.2014

I'm going home [to Peru]


I missed Peru even before I had left it. 

I remember standing in the airport, about an hour before boarding, and asking myself if I could really leave. Of course I had to. My ticket was already purchased, family and friends were waiting for my return, and my heart missed my Oregon. Well, not my whole heart. Why? Because I left a piece of it in a little village at the foot of Peru’s highest mountain. In a place called Kusi. And that little piece of my heart has been screaming for my return. 

I am still in awe that I was able to go to the country of my heritage. And that God has given me such a love for it. And with that, I give you some BIG NEWS...
I have been handed an opportunity to return to Kusi as soon as this coming December. It would be during the time of Peru’s summer and instead of working all day while the boys are in school, my team and I will have most of our days free to just spend with the boys.

KUSI, I'm coming home.


(If you would like to know more details, and possibly help sponsor my trip, email me your address and I will send you one of my support letters.)

9.03.2014

10 Tips on Blogging


I’ve had several people ask me how I’ve been able to gain so many followers, if I have any tips on how to get more traffic on their blogs, etc.  I have seen a few such posts, but today (by popular demand), I’m gonna write my own for y’all.  

I don’t claim to be a pro and these suggestions aren't guaranteed to make your blog go from 40 to 400 followers in any certain amount of time, but these tips are from what blogging has taught me and of what I look for in a blog before I start following it.  


1) Know What You’re Blogging About
Before you start a blog, you have to know what you’re planning on blogging about.  Fashion?  Photography?  Movie reviews?  Bible studies?  Music?  Don’t try blogging about different stuff and just do random posts all the time.  Readers don’t like an author who doesn’t know what they’re writing about.  Maybe, to start out, try a couple different subjects, then ask your readers what they’d like to see more of, what they prefer reading about, what they think you’re better at writing.  (Polls are always fun for readers!)  Yes, yes, go ahead and post about that new craft you learned, the last movie you watched, etc. - just keep a good balance!

2) Make Your Blog Fun
Simple but sweet.  If you have a sweet (and busy) background, then keep your header and font simple.  If you have a sweet (and busy) header, then keep your blog background and font simple.  Mix and match, but do it well.  And there are TONS of blog designers who can help you with this.
Find a background that really shows your personality.  If you’re a cheery, bubbly, outgoing kind of person, find a bright and colorful background.  Maybe with some yellows and pinks and light blues.  If you’re a more classic, serene, quiet person, try getting some toned colors.  Browns, dark(er) blues, and mint greens.
Your header should either include your own photography or something that ties in your blog title really well.  Or, like mine, just an elegant font spelling out your blog title, simple background, and maybe a subtitle.
Font is probably one of the first (and most important) things that catches your eye when you visit a blog.  Can you read it?  Is it too large?  Too small?  Does it choreograph with the background well?
Pictures are something that always grab people’s attention, too.  Even if they’re not your own, just use some from Google Images or Pinterest.  Always remember to link back to the source.

3) Have a Guestbook
Many blogs don’t have this, but I would highly recommend it.  When you have a guestbook, it prompts visitors to leave a comment, but not on a post.  Sometimes, people just want to say hi or that they just happened upon your website and really liked it, but that has nothing to do with your recent post so they’re left sitting there like ‘uhhhh...should I comment or nah?’.  A guestbook is a quick and easy solution to this question.
Also, don’t forget to put some sort of email address on your website that they can contact you via privately.

4) Don’t advertise
You post a link to your blog on Facebook: ‘Come check out my blog!  You’ll love it!  Be sure to click the ‘follower’ button when you visit!’
Uh, no.  That’s pressure and that’s something that people don’t like.
When you post a link to your blog on Facebook, the best thing to write is something like: ‘Come check out my blog _____!  And let me know you stopped by’...or something along those lines.
Also, another good way to advertise is to comment on a blog and leave your link after your signature.  But show genuine interest in the post you’re commenting on, okay?  Don’t just be like ‘Hey, nice blog!  Come check out mine!’

5) Write well
Don’t EVER write like this: ‘i just luv my blog!!! and i luv all my fllwrs. i cant rite long. Gtg ttyl!!!’
Is this a joke?  Honestly, stop blogging right now if you’re gonna post like that.

6) Write frequently
If you want to start a blog, be serious about starting a blog.  Don’t just post every two months.  If you want to see progress in your followers count and the amount of comments you get, POST!  Don’t just think everyone will come flocking to a blog that only posts once a week.  This is a BIG thing that I look for in blogs that I visit.

7) Host giveaways
E-mail small shops and ask them to sponsor you.  Give away any extra books, movies, journals, stickers, etc. that you have laying around.  (Just be sure they’re in good condition.)  I promise that you’ll get followers while/after having a giveaway!  Everyone likes fun and free stuff.  Be sure to write good ways for people to enter.  Quick and easy.  Nothing complicated.

8) Photography
Photos grab people’s attention like flies to honey.  Try to have at least one photo in each post.  And if you’re not a good photographer, there are lots of sites out there that can help you out (Google Images, Flickr, Pinterest, We Heart It, etc.).  Remember: link back to the source.

9) Visit Your Followers’ Blogs
This can get a little hectic, but people always love being thanked that they started following your blog.

10) Have Guest Authors
People enjoy hearing from other people on your blog.  And it helps you, and your visiting author’s, publicity.

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I hope these tips were helpful!  Let me know if you’d like me to elaborate on anything.


9.01.2014

My desire, His command


“But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away saying, ‘Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you’.  So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.”
- Luke 8:38-39

Since day one of being home from Peru, I have been homesick to go back.  I left a piece of my heart in a little village at the foot of Peru’s highest mountain, and it’s screaming for me to return.

I came across the above verse during my daily devotions a couple days ago.  It resonated within me as I contemplated the feelings that the afore-demon possessed man must’ve been experiencing after having been healed.  He had seen the power of God work in his very being.  He loved Jesus.  He wanted to follow his Savior.  He wanted to be where He was.  It says that he ‘was begging’ Him.  For what?  To permit him to go wherever He went.  It was as if he was attached to the LORD in some way and needed to be with Him.

But what was Jesus’ answer?

“Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.”

No, you cannot come with Me.  I want you to stay here.  Tell others of the wondrous works which you have seen God do in you.

A painful, yet beautiful command.  Not the answer the man wanted, I’m sure, but nonetheless, it was a what Jesus wanted of him.

This is where I had to stop and wrestle with my feelings.  I want to go back to Peru.  I want to go back to the family I left there.  I want to go back to the new family I met there.  I want to go back to that little village under the beautiful sky, next to the beautiful mountain, and breathe in the beautiful air.  I want to go back to that strangely familiar place where I could speak in Spanish all day and be understood and spoken to in the same language that I love. 

It was all about what I wanted.

Yet just as Jesus denied the man’s request in Luke 8, so He has gently denied mine.  I am returning to Peru next July (plans are already in the making), but I wanted/want to go sooner.

Even though the desires of my heart are to please God, I struggle with wanting to do things that I want to do.  They may be very profitable and godly things, but...they’re not what the LORD has for me in this very moment.  Right now, I am here, in Oregon, with my family.  And He wants me to ‘describe what great things God has done for me’.  Here.  Now.

His commands are always greater than my desires.  And I must remember that His commands are so much more, so much better for me than what I want.  Resting in this knowledge is hard at times, but the peace that comes from completely giving over oneself to the workmanship hands of God is indescribable.

Do with me as You please.