The smoke signal of forgiveness

I've never met someone who was like "Oh yeah, I forgave that person and it was a piece of cake."  I wish that was the case.  But the truth is, it's a pretty tough choice.

Forgiveness is unique in every situation.  There are moments of forgiveness where someone apologizes and you have to forgive them out of Biblical duty (maybe even grudgingly, but you know deep in your heart that it's the right thing to do).  And then there are other times when true strength is revealed by having to forgive someone who isn't sorry - with no apology ever received from them.

I have learned this lesson several times throughout my young life.  Instances have occurred where I felt betrayed or taken advantage of, and very often the person who caused the hurt knew how it affected me, yet never apologized or even admitted to their actions.

And it sucks.

Because not only did I have to focus on healing, but also on letting go of any bitterness I felt towards the person who hurt me.  But forgiveness is part of the healing.

Read that again.

Forgiveness is part of the healing.

Because without forgiveness, you will be stuck in the endless cycle of bitterness and anger - which can very easily grow into hatred.  And I promise you... this will hinder your healing journey more than you may realize.

But starting with forgiveness will promote the healing process and be the best foundation to moving past your hurt.

I'm a very visual person when it comes to reminders.  I love making lists.  I place things in certain areas through my house (or car even!) that will remind me to do this or that.  I link certain reminders to songs.  I'll pray for a certain person throughout my day to remind me to text them when I have a chance.  I also place a lot of significance in physical signs throughout my spiritual journey.

(I promise I have a point to all of this...)

I had been praying for something significant to become the sign for "forgiveness".  In my healing process, it's important for me to remember to give grace to those who have hurt me.  I had been praying that the LORD would reveal that specific sign to me.  Something tangible, something I could see.  And I told myself that once I established what that sign was, that every time I saw it, I would pray for the one who hurt me, and say "I forgive you" out loud.  Words are powerful.  And vocalizing your thoughts gives them existence.

For my birthday weekend this year, I roadtripped to central Oregon with my Mama to see two of the 7 Wonders of our beautiful state.  On my birthday, as we were driving to the Painted Hills, I saw a brush fire in the field parallel to the road we were on.  There was no one attending the fire, no one guiding its blaze.  The weather hadn't been dry enough for it to catch fire on its own.  I was puzzled by the cause of it, and why no one was trying to put it out.

"Smoke," I felt the Spirit tell my heart.  "Smoke is very often used as a signal.  This is yours.  This is your sign - to remember to forgive, to let go, to give grace."

This sparked the memory of a sermon I heard once on the beauty of wildfires.  Wildfires burn down forests, consuming everything its path, and by doing so, it makes the ground fertile.  It prepares the earth for new growth, to make ready for something beautiful.

The painful experiences in our lives - the wildfires - are moments of preparation for breakthrough.

So now, every time I see smoke - from an open fire, from a BBQ, from a chimney, when a candle gets blown out, or even from a cigar - I will pray for you.  And as the smoke travels to evaporate into the atmosphere, I will let you go.  Even when the tears sting my eyes, and my heart starts to remember the pain you caused in my life, I will give you grace.

Recently, I started a new meditation series by Danny Silk called "Finding Your Why".  In it, he asked the meditator “Who are you?” He said that the classic response is one’s occupation - mom, dad, student - or what they did for a living - barista, engineer, teacher.  The first responses that came to my mind were “A forgiven human…a wild soul.” 
He then went on to say that oftentimes in life, we reach roadblocks that hinder us from reaching our full potential.  This could be anything from a bad work environment, to not having a good community...or even someone in our lives that treats us as less than the amazing human we are and who made us think that we had limitations.  As the guided meditation drew to a close, Danny Silk asked that I take a moment to forgive the first person that came to mind when I thought of being held back.  In past meditations, I always responded with one certain individual.  But this time, the face that came to mind was yours.  Then Danny Silk had me repeat this prayer: 
“God, I forgive ____ for teaching me something that changed who I am.  I forgive him for putting a limitation on my purpose and capacity.  I forgive him for changing my alignment with my destiny.  I forgive him will all my heart.  I am not his judge or his punisher. Father, please bless ____ and give him peace.”
It’s not that I haven’t forgiven you already.  But I think many times we forget that forgiveness is a journey.  It’s not a one time done deal.  Forgiveness needs to happen over and over again.  And it doesn’t mean we will heal completely right away, or move on quickly.  

Forgiving someone is about replacing anger with peace.  It's about cleansing yourself from any bitterness you may hold from the pain they caused you.  You can't move on if you have bitterness in your heart.  Release them.  They have no power over you anymore.  Let them go and welcome your true self back.

Give grace.


And find your own smoke signal of forgiveness.

Reclaiming myself through the restoration

If I could describe 2018 in one word, it would be "painful".

It wasn't just a hard year.  Yes, there were some good moments, but my heart experienced more pain and confusion last year than I ever have in my life.  That's why, when 2019 rolled around, I declared this year to be one of healing.  It would be one of breakthrough, of restoration. And God spoke those words over my life in many ways to serve as confirmation that He was indeed going to do some drastic renewal.

(You may or may not have noticed a theme in my latest articles or Instagram posts about healing, etc., so here's a little more insight into all of that...)

In 2018, I listened to what others had to say about me.  I chose to believe their definition of my identity, instead of claiming the true value and worth that God says I am.

In 2018, I gave and gave and gave of myself - physically, mentally and emotionally - to a point where I was so burnt out and empty that a certain fear and depression set in because I was afraid that if I couldn't give more, then I would have no value.

In 2018, I experienced anxiety attacks for the first time in my life.  Some tried to tell me that it was because I'm such an empathetic person, and with my role as a leader in my church, I was just receiving all of the spiritual attacks that everyone was experiencing.  I tried to believe that.  But I have learned that anxiety is just a symptom.  It's a leaf on a tree that is rooted in a deeper issue.  I wanted to ignore the issue, but by doing so, I continued to experience mental and emotional abuse.

In 2018, I discovered the untimely and never warranted feeling of betrayal.  I experienced the pain of feeling like I had done everything and more, but it seemed that even that wasn't enough.

In 2018, I knew what it felt like to not be a priority.  To be an afterthought.  Or just blatantly ignored.

In 2018, my therapist looked at me and said "Raquel, you are in denial over the abuse you have experienced because you can't wrap your head around the possibility of such cruelty existing.  You can't understand it because you can't relate to it."  The truth sounds insane sometimes, you know?

In 2018, I learned that I was stronger than I realized because I had to forgive someone who wasn't sorry, and without receiving the apology I wanted.

People talk about bad relationships and the negativity that many have experienced through them, but an issue that isn't addressed very often is the reality of PTSD from toxic relationships.  It's not just moments of bad memories or triggers for anxiety and fear.  Once you break free from a mentally and emotionally abusive situation, you literally have to reprogram your brain and way of thinking because you are so set in your ways of survival.  You need to unlearn the behavior that you adapted as a tactic for surviving.  This takes more than just a few days, or a few months.  "Moving on" isn't just about not loving someone anymore.  It's about remodeling your life to not include them, and also rebuilding yourself as an individual.  It's about reprogramming your thought process to not live under the power of their words anymore, and instead reclaim your true identity.  It's about reminding yourself that what they said about your worth being based off of the past life you've lived, the mistakes you've made, and that they'll "just have to accept it" and "get used to you" is not true.  I've had those words said directly to my face and without even realizing it, I let that person's view of me become a foundation to how I viewed myself.  And because of that, I was so insecure, worried, and anxious.  I did everything with the question in the back of my mind "Would they approve?", "Would this be okay with them?", "Would they like this?".  I started living under their power, instead of my own.

This process of restoration and rebuilding needs to begin with realizing that certain people can stay in your heart, but not in your life.  Because more often than not, you will have to make decisions that hurt your mind, but calm your soul.  There's a big difference between the two.
Identify what triggers your feelings of anxiety or what causes you to overthink or to feel insecure, because when you have lived in an unhealthy selfless mentality, it only leaves you feeling depleted.  And you will have to learn how to distinguish between "coping with life" or "thriving through it" because you will either feel broken or you will feel alive.  Refocus.  Recenter.  Prioritize your inner peace and mental wellness.  Yes, even if that means cutting ties with certain individuals in your life.  And recognize that if their absence brings you peace, you didn't really lose them.

It's definitely a process.  It won't happen overnight.  You need to be intentional though.  And little by little, you slowly let go.  You grow less in love with them every day.  You don't miss them so much.  You aren't as eager to check your phone and see their name on your screen (when you get to a point where you just block them on everything, then you'll really discover your own power!).  And one day, you'll wake up and you won't think of them.  You won't wonder what they are doing or where they are or if they are thinking of you or not.  They won't be consistently on your mind anymore.

You might be wondering how I can make such a bold assumption.  But the truth is, I have lived this reality.  And 2019 has been full of it.  Oh this year has been full of healing.  Moment by moment, day by day, decision after decision.  I reshaped my soul.  I discovered how great of an affection God has seized me with, and His words of love breathed so gently yet so strongly into my heart.  He whispered me back to life.  He is the God of abundance.  He is the God of restoration, of peace, of completion.  He is the God of wholeness.  He desires to see me living my fullest and best life.

This year of healing has looked a lot like hurting too, but everyone knows that many wounds are painful even during the mending.  And scars truly are beautiful.  They are showcases of endurance.  As this year is drawing to a close (2020 is five months away, people!!), I am continuing to claim healing in Jesus' name.  Not only over myself, but over the lives of any and every individual who has crossed my path and shared their own painful stories with me.

I believe that the year will end in triumph.  I believe that God completes the good works He starts.  And He is not a god of chaos, but of love, of power, and of a sound mind.  If you can't claim those traits in your life and spirit, then you need to start letting Him show you where change needs to happen.

"You cannot acknowledge someone's glory, without acknowledging their pain - because in may ways, their glory emerged from their pain, their strength from the obstacles they've faced and their beauty from the depths of their broken."
- Hannah Blum

I stopped saying "hopefully someday I can"...

...and finally did it.

I launched my own business! 

It sounds weird to say that because I am not a saleswoman by any means, nor do I claim to know how to even run a business.  But one of my DREAM jobs has always been to have the privilege of helping others reach their best and healthiest self: mentally, emotionally and physically. 
Through this business, I will educate - and learn along with others! - the benefits of living a natural and healthy lifestyle through Young Living.  Not only with essential oils, but also by utilizing the other wonderful products they offer!

Your encouragement and prayers would be much appreciated as this is all new terrain for me.  This business is so much more than just making money, but rather, my heart behind it is to serve others and help them thrive through using these natural options in their every day life.
I don't support what I don't believe in, and this company has changed my life in such a way that I can't keep it to myself.  I want miraculous doors to open for others too.

Please consider supporting me by liking my business page on Facebook, following me on Instagram, sharing the crap out of my posts... and if you have any questions, please contact me! 

Tell me how you want your life to change and let me help you reach those goals.