6.01.2019

When you can't find beauty in the pain, here is what you need to do instead


I think that we sometimes try to make things not seem as awful and ugly as they really are.  We don’t like facing reality, especially when it comes to our own hearts and lives.  We try to remind ourselves of what we have heard in the past - that there is beauty in the pain, that beautiful things rise from the ashes, that love is a battlefield, that healing is a good journey.

And sometimes, we find ourselves in these circumstances or situations that we never dreamed of being in, and they make us feel like maybe we are missing something.  Because this is definitely not how we have heard things are supposed to happen.

But you know what?

Life is messy.  And no two journeys are the same.  And sometimes we need to realize that and allow ourselves to acknowledge that we won’t always find beauty in the pain, and some loves aren’t meant to last, and being broken is okay, and sometimes “healing” looks a lot like “hurting”.

I have discovered many things on my own journey of healing.  I think the biggest and most beautiful realization I came to, though, was this: 


There will be no other time in eternity that I will have the opportunity to worship God through my pain.  


That’s a crazy thought, isn’t it?  Heaven won’t have any sin or darkness or suffering within its walls of light and love.  So right here, on this earth, is the only time that we will experience sadness and hardships… and even through those moments, we still have the privilege of worshipping our Creator.  That even when it hurts, we can still praise Him.  

That puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?  And honestly, I believe that is the deepest level of worship because no matter how much we “feel” like praising Him, having faith in His promises and worshipping Him in spite of whatever unpleasant circumstances we face, He sees our humble hearts that are still striving to glorify Him amidst the blinding pain.  And declaring the greatness of a sovereign God while standing with an open wound is a powerful act of true worship.  It shifts our focus from our pain, to the Healer.  It will pierce the chaos and confusion and make way for healing and revival.  And that is a beautiful breakthrough.  

Healing might look a lot like hurting, but wow is that journey full of grace and goodness.  We are never left to flounder in our pain.  We are not meant to live lives of regret and shame.  Our temporary residence here on earth isn’t meant to be survived.  We were created to worship and glorify our King, to thrive in His abundant grace, and to bask in His redemption.

Remember that no pain is wasted in His hands.  Even if the outcome is simply to be a beacon of hope for others who are experiencing life hurts.  They may find healing in your wounds.  They may feel the most ministered through your deepest hurts.  And when they see you worshipping, while also knowing everything you have gone through and experienced, healing becomes attractive - because it was never about you.  You, alone, in your pain isn’t a pretty sight.  Pain is scary.  It’s something we shy away from.  But how we choose to handle our hurt is all a testament of Who we choose to serve.  This is why it is so important to share our stories because when we tell people about our past, our journey, up until the present here and now, they get to secondhand witness God’s goodness over our lives.


“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
- Romans 8:18


So when you can’t find beauty in the pain, remind yourself that it is temporary.  But even in that pain, God can - and should still - be glorified.  Jesus came to this earth as a man so that He could identify with us.  He humbled Himself enough to get down in the nitty gritty, to feel the pain, to be hurt, to be betrayed.  He understands sorrow, gut-wrenching pain, ugly crying, loneliness.  And He knows all you have been through.  He is the only one who has seen every one of your broken moments.  And still, He remains.

Remember what I said about your deepest wounds being your greatest source of ministry?  Well, Jesus has the scars to prove His.


“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed.”
- 1 Peter 4:12-13

4.14.2019

It's okay to feel


Feeling is scary.

Even if you are feeling good feelings, it can be scary to allow yourself the moment of bliss to experience something so ecstatic.

And then, there are those moments of bad feelings.  Feelings of pain, anxiety, fear...memories of rejection, heartbreak, loss.  And sometimes, it can seem as if you have no control over how much you allow yourself to feel these things.  They come in waves, sometimes just flowing gently upon the shores of your thoughts and then ebbing away slowly.  Other times, they overtake you like a tsunami and you are lost, dazzled and confused under the tide.

It's scary.

And because it's so scary, I think people have gotten really good at stuffing those bad feelings deep down inside, away from the surface.  But this isn't healthy.  And the reason why is simple.

Because feelings that are buried alive never die.

A lot of people believe that "to deeply feel things" means that you are overly sensitive.  Or that you can be easily offended, or misinterpret things said to or about you.  But I tend to disagree with this.  Why?  Because I deem myself as a sensitive person.  And it's not because I fit those descriptions, but merely because I feel very deeply.  It took a long time for me to understand what that meant, but once I did, my heart and my mind kind of clicked.

You see, I have discovered myself being sensitive to feelings in the fact that I can find significance in the smallest things.  I find beauty in the details.  I feel happy over little pleasures.  Warm beds in cold rooms, shiny crystals, tiny plants, a stack of books, a baby's smile, the way the sunlight fills a space, a delicious smelling cup of coffee. These are all things that a lot of people could see a million times in a day, but perceptive and emotional people will truly notice them, and feel something based on what they behold.

Also, my emotional state can shift based on the feelings of the people around me.  I am very empathetic and can sense emotions and energies very easily.  Honestly, it's hard to handle sometimes because I don't want to pretend everything is okay when I am aware that it very clearly is not.  I can't just listen to someone tell me about the pain they are experiencing or the trauma they are going through, without having a sense of urgency to help or support them in some way.
I can also walk into a room and feel my emotions being drawn to different energies around me - whether they be fear, sadness, pride, anxiety, happiness, excitement - and I internalize everything (which isn't always a good thing).  And sometimes I, unknowingly, burden myself with weight that isn't even mine to bear.

It took certain mentors and counselors to help me see and understand this part of me.  And it was a while before I could embrace it - as part of my identity.  I say "identity" because being emotionally sensitive isn't just a personality trait.  It is part of who I am as an individual.  I don't place my identity in being a person who feels deeply, but rather, I am a strong person who feels deeply and passionately because I choose to.  It's scary sometimes.  I've found myself sitting on my bed, crying, because of all the emotions I was feeling at one time and I didn't even know why.  (And no, this wasn't during my time of the month.  Trust me.  I can tell the difference.)  It tends to happen when I have been around a lot of people, and when I am decompressing, it's as if I am letting go of all the emotions I had been receiving and feeling from everyone I had been around.  This is why I don't like big crowds.  I don't like being around a ton of people all at once.  I don't like loud or chaotic places.  "But you love going to concerts, Raquel" you might be thinking.  And yes, I do.  But concerts are different because I am going to feel the music I am familiar with.  And most likely, everyone else who enjoys that type of music is going to have similar energy to what I do when I listen to it.  Also, when I can focus on one thing in a situation (in the instance of a concert, it would be the artist and their music), then I can tend to block out - or at least minimize - the affect of everyone's emotions and feelings around me.  Crazy, right?  It's insane to me how God made our bodies and minds to be so interconnected.  When one part of us is feeling a certain way, the rest of our self is affected.

And this is important to realize!!  Because allowing yourself to feel is necessary for any valuable growth in your life.  You need to face things directly, no matter how scary they can be, in order to learn from them.  You can't be blind to whatever it is that is causing you to feel certain ways.  You need to openly acknowledge them.

I can always tell when I have been pushing feelings aside and ignoring them.  And if I allow them to stay buried alive, I know that eventually, they are going to burst out at the worst moment and affect me negatively (and most likely those around me, as well).

So a practice I have taught myself is to schedule times throughout my day or week to simply allow myself to meet my feelings.  I always prepare myself, mentally and emotionally, with prayer.  I ask God to meet them with me, and I acknowledge the peace He has given my spirit.
And then, depending on the volume of feelings I need to address, I usually situate myself comfortably in my bedroom or living room, turn on some soft music (ambient or meditation music are my go-tos for these moments) and then I simply meditate, slowly allowing these feelings to surface and for me to deal with them.
Other times, if the feelings are deeper and more intense, I like to go outside (preferably during a rainstorm) and allow myself to feel the physical cold around me, as I call to mind whatever feelings I have been holding inside.  The rain is a beautiful way of helping me physically wash myself of the feelings and free my heart from having them pent up inside.

In either of these scenarios though, I am in control.  I am the one allowing myself to feel.  I am pausing in my busy schedule and giving myself permission to release any emotional burdens that I was carrying around and that were affecting my wellbeing.

This is good.  This is cleansing.  This is healthy.

I would encourage you to do the same with any feelings you have been withholding.  Taking care of your mental and emotional energy is just as important as your physical.  I know that it can be scary sometimes, though.  Especially when you are first getting started in cleaning out the closets and digging up graves.  This is why I strongly suggest people to see counselors and therapists who are trained in helping individuals face their demons.  Seeking help doesn't make you weak.  It's a sign of honest vulnerability, and that, my friend, is strength.

You are strong.  You are the most powerful substance you know on this earth.  Feelings can come and go.  But you have the power to control them.

4.06.2019

This is the season of healing



We talk a lot about traumas in life.  Depression, anxiety, heartbreak, loneliness... just to name a few.  It's good to be real and bring these things to light, instead of trying to hide them and "just deal with it".  But we can't stop there.  That can't be where our conversations leave off.

We need to introduce people to healing.

And lately, I have felt a very strange heaviness to write on this topic.  Maybe because it's not as common of a subject as I think it should be.  Or maybe because I need to be real with myself and remind my own heart of everything that I am about to write.  So I apologize in advance for switching back and forth between writing to "you" or writing to "us".  I'm just being raw here.

This is the season of healing.

This is the time and space,
the place to begin.


Acknowledgement
Acknowledging that you're hurting, acknowledging the pain, acknowledging that you need to be healed - this can take some time because very often, our initial instinct is to think "I'm fine.  I'm okay.", and stuff our pain deep down in that bottomless mental cave called "denial".  But the thing is: feelings buried alive never die.  They need to be faced head on, dealt with, let go, and only then can you truly begin move on.  It's not an easy task.  I don't think it ever will be.  It's downright scary.  No amount of encouragement or support can lessen the blow you will experience when you take on this feat.  But at the same time, no amount of therapy or counseling sessions or medication will stop our struggle if we don't first give ourselves permission to stop seeing ourselves as damaged goods, as a broken heart, or a worthless human shell.  So instead we must acknowledge the strength it took to survive the abuse and trauma we've experienced, and once we remind ourselves of this fact, we are building a solid foundation to healing and growing into an even stronger individual.


Responsibility  
We are the only ones responsible for our thoughts, words, actions, and yes, our healing.  Healing is a time consuming process, and it's also a responsibility.  You can't heal unless you want to.  You can't expect your heart to mend overnight just because "you don't want to hurt anymore".  It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort.  It will be a daily mindset, an area of focus.  And it's going to take responsibility.  You are the only person who knows yourself.  You know what you are capable of.  You know what is best for yourself.  You know how you feel when your mind and heart is healthy.  And you know the familiar red flags and warning signals when you are in a situation that is toxic.  So there's no better person to stay accountable to than yourself.  Oftentimes we think that we are helpless, that we don't have control, that we "just can't".  But you have the power to heal yourself.  Claim it and consciously use it to heal your heart and mind.  And don't let whatever is causing you pain continue to control you.  It is not your owner.  Breakthrough begins when you realize this.  Your faith will make you well.


Forgiveness
One of the greatest steps in the healing process is the art and practice of forgiveness.  This is imperative to your healing because without it, bitterness will fester.  And hey, let me be the first to tell you that it's okay if the one you need to forgive is yourself.  Sometimes it's easier to forgive others, but then we hold this subconscious anger against ourselves because we "allowed" ourselves to be hurt by another individual.  This is a very wrong mindset to have, though, because by thinking that way, we're taking responsibility for another person's actions when the truth is, this is never in our control.  They made their choices and they will have to live with those choices.  You don't have to let it affect you, though.  You can move on.  You can forgive.  You can heal.  It takes being a warrior and fighting for your own self, battling against your deepest fears, defending your soul in the process.  Just remember to still be gentle with yourself.  Give yourself grace.  Grant yourself forgiveness.


Time
There is no deadline for healing.  No secret recipe with ingredients on "how to not be in pain anymore".  Your body is designed to heal itself, though.  Whenever you have gotten a cut or bruise, your body feels the pain (acknowledgement), recognizes it as a problem (responsibility), decides not to let it to affect the rest of the body (forgiveness), and over time, the bleeding stops, the bruise disappears, the wound heals.  This doesn't mean that there won't be a scar.  This doesn't mean that years down the road, something won't trigger a memory of the time you felt the pain.  This doesn't mean that you were never damaged.  But what is true is that it doesn't have authority over your life.  Remember that wounds don't always heal the way you want them to.  They heal the way they need to.  Give yourself time and much, much grace to allow yourself to heal.  And guard your heart during this time.  Set boundaries.  Whatever you need to silence the anxiety, to distance yourself from anything that reminds you of your pain, don't hesitate to make drastic changes in order to care for yourself.  Healing is messy.  It involves detachment, moments of darkness, days where it's hard to get out of bed, and sometimes it's difficult just to breathe.  This is okay.  You aren't alone in feeling these ways.  Just remember not to stay there.


Love
People blossom when they feel loved.  When they surround themselves with humans and things that are beautiful and make them happy, they grow and thrive.  Words are powerful.  And what we say and think about ourselves determines our outlook on life, and has the power to kill or encourage new life within us.  Loving yourself is not wrong.  Self-care should never be looked at as a bad thing.  Without watering our own garden, we can't be expected to tend someone else's.  But let me ask you this.  Would you be friends with someone who talked to you the way you talk to yourself?  If your answer is "no", then I strongly suggest you rethink your self-talk and recognize areas of your life that can drastically change based on how you view yourself.  Another big step in learning to love yourself and your life is by choosing to listen to your heart.  Listen to what it's feeling, instead of begging for it to not.  It's not a curse to feel.  It's merely something you need to gently train yourself in.  Listen, acknowledge, and process.  Bit by bit.  Don't let it consume you.  Don't let your thoughts control you.  You are the greatest and most powerful living substance you know.  You breathe air, you speak words, you have feet to take you on adventures, you have eyes to capture polaroids of memories.  You are beautiful.  You are fascinating.  Feelings and thoughts are fleeting.  They appear randomly (sometimes without you even consenting them to), and can change your whole mood - if you allow it.  There's nothing wrong with nodding a greeting in their direction, letting them know they are seen, but you have the choice whether or not to let them affect you.  Do what is best for your heart and mind.  Love your heart.  Be gentle with yourself.  Feed your soul whatever it needs to heal from the pain of whatever was hating it before.  I know for me, personally, the greatest comfort and love I have felt is through spending time in my Father's presence.  He is the ultimate Healer.  And His love does radical things to broken hearts.


This is the season of healing.

It's a good place to be, although not always comfortable.  Just remember that the pain you are experiencing is only going to make you stronger.  A wildfire may be scary, but in the aftermath of its burnt path is fertile soil for a beautiful future.  Embrace this time.  Don't let it consume you, but let it do its work.  Breathe through the panic attacks.  Linger in the moments of happiness.  Treat yourself in ways that make you feel loved and safe.  Take care of your heart.  You are not alone.  You are a warrior amidst a battle that is being fought by millions of others just like you.

You got this.

@untamedworshiper


P.S. This is my first blog post as a 24-year old.  I find it kind of fitting because I know God has a lot of healing prepared for me in 2019.  Let's do this.

3.31.2019

Are My Eyes Still Tame? | BOOK RELEASE


Hey you wonderful people.

I'm sorry that I have been absent from this corner of the internet for a little while.

I've been working on something pretty big.

And it's finally here, so I wanted to share it with you all.

You ready?

cover artwork by Heather Dunlop

Now available on Amazon, my second poetry collection "Are My Eyes Still Tame?"...

I poured my soul into this project.  And I hope you can feel that when you read it.

In its pages, I write about different aspects of my life that I have seen, perceived, and beheld through my brown eyes.  I always hope that you, my readers, will find relatable truths in my unapologetically raw words.

Everything I write is written from a vulnerable part of me that I only share because I want others to know they aren't alone in the experiences they've gone through... the heartache, the pain, the ecstasy, the honesty, the growth, the life lessons.  We each have our own journey, but they are all connected because we share the common bond of being created by the Creator.
When you read my book, I hope you will find something relatable, something that will resonate with your own heart.  I hope you laugh, and in all honesty, I hope you will cry too.  Just remember that to feel is to be alive, to be human.  And I hope you feel so, so many things while reading this collection of poetry and prose.  And I hope it reminds you that you are alive.

So hey, after many, many tears, long nights of pouring my heart into this book, frustrating draft revisions, and impatient final days........it's finally here.

I hope you snag a copy. <3

Post pictures of it on social medias and tag me!  I want to hear your thoughts and see everywhere this little piece of me ends up.

And one last thing...
Thank you.  Thank you so much for your support, your encouragement, and the part you play in my life.

2.24.2019

That place called "church"


Every Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people who call themselves Christians, gather at a morning or evening service (with a potluck afterwards, if you're lucky) in a building called "church".  They sing songs, listen to hear a 45-minute sermon, chat with the people they only see once a week, and then go to their respective homes to live another week of work and play, and show up in seven days to do the same routine.

And that's what it is to a lot of people.

A routine.

Every once in a while, you might meet those "behind the scenes" church goers.  The ones who are at the church before anyone else is - setting up, prepping for the long day ahead and for the crowds that will soon ensue the building.  There is definitely a lack of commemorating these individuals for their serving hearts, so shout out if you're one of them!

For others, going to church is just "the thing to do".  It's the way they were raised and how their parents were raised.  And they know their grandparents would be disappointed if they didn't dress nice in their Sunday best and go to the presbyterian church down the street.

It's almost like a mandatory lifestyle.  Something people feel obligated to do.  Heaven forbid you don't attend church if you call yourself a Christian, because once you title yourself as one, not going to church would appear sinful and hypocritical.  (Oh and don't forget to take communion.)

I think I can safely guess that if you were to ask anyone, "What is the church?", you would most likely receive an answer along the lines of "It's a place that Christians go to on Sundays".  They would refer to the church as a location, a building.  And while that is the convenient name for the gathering place, "the church" itself is much more than that.  It's the title of the group of people who follow Christ.  Maybe you've heard that answer too?

A good verse that clarifies that statement is Ephesians 5:23.  It says that the husband is the head of the wife "even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and He Himself is its Savior."

But let's take it a step further, shall we?

The overall American culture view of church is "attend, sing, listen, leave".  And while I firmly believe that going to church is very beneficial for my spirit, and necessary for community, fellowship and challenging my spiritual growth, I just as firmly believe that my faith isn't restricted to the four walls of a building.

I can worship God anywhere.
I can listen to a sermon anywhere.
I can meet up with fellow believers anywhere.

The significance of my faith isn't determined by the number of Sundays I manage to make it to church.  If that were the case, I'd be a pretty bad Christian since I only went to church once this month.  (Does that make you cringe?  Sorry, I don't have time to explain my personal life and reasons why I didn't attend.)

My point is: if you have a personal relationship with God, you are the church.  His Spirit resides in you.  Your body is the literal, physical temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), so worshipping Him isn't something that should only happen once a week.
Honestly, God has met me more powerfully while I've watched the sun set on the horizon while driving through the Argentinian countryside than in a lot of churches I have visited.  Why?  Well, my guess is because the majority of the people attending those churches were doing so out of obligation, not because they had a yearning to meet with Him.


"God created everything that surrounds me - the fields, rivers, the forests.  The land is my church.  And I pray.  Each day."
- Uhtred Ragnarson, The Last Kingdom


You don't need rows of chairs and a stage to officially be in church.  You don't need a bunch of instruments and "professional" worship leaders to praise Him.  All you need is a willingness to learn about Him, to know Him more intimately, and He will always meet you in the moments you set aside to spend in His presence.

I am a member of the body of Christ, the family of God.  And I love the church I attend every Sunday (or as weekly as possible) because I love to be surrounded by fellow believers.  The people there have welcomed me into the family, the messages I hear are thought-provoking and feed my soul, the worship is incredible.  I don't go because I have nothing better to do and I want to keep up a good appearance.  I also don't worship God only on Sunday mornings.  His Spirit is tangible in that place.  Yes, in that building.  But it's not because it's a holy location.  We make it holy by acknowledging His presence there.  So if that is the case, then why can't my place of worship, my "church", be in the forest I go for a hike in, or at the foot of a waterfall I discovered, or in my bedroom with my Christmas lights flickering around me, or in the car on my way to visit my family, or while showing my friend one of the best views of Portland?

I speak His name everywhere I go.  I try to share His love with as many people as I come in contact with.  I watch sermons and listen to podcasts because I love being encouraged in my faith and I am uplifted when I hear words of wisdom from teachers who I can learn so much from.  And I worship my God through my service, through my words, through my writing, through my music.
There's no limit to how much we can praise Him.  So why confine it to one day a week at a place on 15th and Cedar?


"For through Him, we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the LORD.  In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit."
- Ephesians 2:18-22

1.15.2019

The Faith Aspect of Doubting

To have feelings of doubt can be a scary thing.  Sometimes it's frowned upon to feel doubt - about your decisions, your life choices, and yes, even your faith.  Because, in a sense, it's as if you're unsure, you're second guessing yourself, or even just plain wrong.  You've probably equated doubt as sinful at one point or another because, in most churches, doubting is looked at as a lack of faith.

Then guilt starts to creep in.

I think we, as a believers, tend to get a lot of judgement passed on us because doubting is considered faith taboo.  If you believe in something, you should never doubt it.  Right?

Wrong.

Want to know why?

Because to doubt is simply to not be sure of something.  It is a lack of understanding.  We, as humans, have a finite mind.  It is in our nature to doubt, to be curious, to be skeptical, to ask questions.  What we don't understand, we instinctively doubt its authenticity.  Our hearts desire truth, to know what is real, therefore we question God.


"Faith is developed in doubt.  Faith always develops in doubt.  Faith learns to depend on God because of doubt.  If you never doubted God, you would be Him... God is not going to allow you to become so arrogant that you never have doubts.  If He removed the doubt, He would remove the need for Him; for you to know that He is God and you are not.  That's why you doubt.  There are benefits to the doubt... That's where you find the revelation of the goodness of God.  Not in your self-confidence, but in your self-doubt."
- Stephen Furtick, "It's Okay To Have Doubts"


King David is a prime example of being faith-filled, yet still having doubts.  In Psalm 77 he writes about his times of doubt.  He cries out in questions, such as "Will the LORD...never again be favorable?  Has His steadfast love forever ceased?  Are His promises at an end for all time?" (verses 7-8)  This is the same man who is known in the Bible as "the man after God's own heart".  Interesting how David is never referred to as a sinful doubter, or a man of little faith.  But in his efforts to know and understand God more fully, he questions Him.

Now this isn't to say that we should doubt and question God to the point of being blasphemous.  Or to view our doubt as a dead end.  "Well I don't understand so forget this."  When our doubts begin to push us towards rebellion and make us question who God is or His authority and power, this is where we must retreat back to our solid foundation and remind ourselves of what we already know is true.  But rather, challenging our faith and seeking answers to the honest questions we have is good!

Doubt can very easily take over the battle instead of being commanded by faith - which David does in the verses directly following his doubt-filled please.  He fights against his humanly feelings by recalling to mind the truths he does know and is certain of, regarding God and His faithfulness.

"I will remember the deeds of the LORD...  I will ponder all Your work and meditate on Your mighty deeds.  Your way, O God, is holy.  What god is great like our God?" (verse 11-13)

Our Creator is far beyond our comprehension and His ways are not our ways.  We do have His Word, though, in which we learn more about His character, and ultimately, His sovereignty.  Yet even then, He reveals Himself to us in little sparks rather than an all consuming forest fire.  What we know about Him cannot be fit into a human sized box.  Think of it as breadcrumbs that we will be following all the way to heaven.  We're never going to understand Him fully, and seeing Him move in our every day lives just acquaints us more with how He works, not His intention for every occurrence that takes place.


"What the Bible reveals of God is precisely what God wanted revealed of Himself - no more and no less.  But it isn't everything about Him.  Scripture raises as many questions as it answers."
- Barnabas Piper, "Help My Unbelief"


This is where faith and doubt unite as our human brains attempt to grasp at Who God is, what He's doing, and why He's doing it.  Questions like "Why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?" or "If God is the Healer, why doesn't He answer the prayers of the sick and heal them?"  These are questions that many people cry out in the midst of pain and suffering.  Who wouldn't?  But does this mean that they are sinning because of their lack of understanding, because of their "lack of faith"?

In Mark 9, we are told the story of a father who brought his demon-possessed son to Jesus.  The father says "...but if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us."

He used the word "if", implying that he was doubtful.  He showed that he was hopeful by bringing his son to Jesus, yet at the same time, he was worried that his child might be ruled by this evil spirit forever... unless Jesus really could heal him.

Jesus answered the bereaved father by saying, "If I can?  All things are possible for one who believes."  Here He is acknowledging that the father indeed was filled with doubt, yet He encourages him to believe.

The words which the father answered Him are ones that are often quoted by many:

"I believe.  Help my unbelief!"

If there was ever a moment of raw honesty in the Bible, I think this is it.  He not only acknowledged that he had faith, but that he also needed Jesus to help him attain a deeper understanding of the faith he desired.

That is where I want to be.

In moments of pure vulnerability, brutal honesty, telling God that I believe in Him, I have faith in His authority, yet even then, I need more.  I want more.  I want to know Him deeper, more intimately.  I have questions, but I know He has all the answers.  I question His ways only because I don't understand them.  I doubt my worthiness of His forgiveness and grace, only because I believe He is holy and just.  I am skeptical of His love because it is reckless and unfathomable.

And a truth I do believe in, a cornerstone to my relationship with Christ is this:

"If I am faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself." (2 Timothy 2:13)

Don't let doubt and unbelief rule, but instead, let it be part of the journey to seeking Him and asking faith-filled questions with the intention to fall into a deeper relationship with your Creator.

1.10.2019

6 Ways to Set Yourself Up For Success in 2019



1. Change your mindset.
Decide whether or not the views you had in life for 2018 are the same ones you want to proceed with and how you want to think and view the way you're going to live in 2019.  Whatever situations you feel that you failed in, whatever ways you feel you lacked wisdom, in whatever situations you feel you needed more guidance, figure out what you fall short in as an individual or how you need to change, and refocus on that as you proceed into a new year.


2. Let go.
Anything that ties you to heartache, pain, or makes you feel worthless - let. it. go.  Don't allow yourself to bring the past into the future.  Sever ties.  Cut off anything unhealthy from last year.  Yes, this includes people.


3. Forgive yourself.
You made mistakes, you allowed people into your life who didn't deserve your friendship, you went places you shouldn't have, you spent your time unwisely, you bought things that added no value to your life, but hey.  It's okay.  Forgive yourself.  Move on.


4. Let yourself heal.
Take time for yourself.  Allow space and moments for you to rebuild a foundation.  But this year, a stronger, more solid one.
I've said this a million times, but I know I'll probably say it a million times more before I die: no matter how much you think others will be there for you, in the end you are the best only person who knows what you need.  You are the only one who can protect yoruself.  Healing always takes time, so it's not like the end of 2018 was supposed to have all the answers and be all that you needed for you to be done with pain and heartbroken.  But at least give yourself a good head start to be on the right path for 2019.  And remember that healing takes time.


5. Embrace the new.
Not all new things are scary.  Or sometimes the new is scary... and it's good.  Or even the best thing for you.  2019 will bring lots of change and eye-opening situations.  And it will stretch you, just like 2018 did.  But you survived last year, right?  So you got this.  Don't be afraid of turning your life around and, in essence, starting over.  It's good to get a fresh start, a new beginning.


6. Focus.
Decide on what the most important things are in your life.
Prioritize them.
Whether it be family, your job, your faith, your hobbies.  And yes, it's okay if "Myself" is at the top of that list.
Decide what you want to invest in.  These are going to be your primary topics of focus in the new year.  These are going to be what gets you out of bed in the morning, what keeps you going, what keeps you invigorated for 2019.  Choose wisely, and don't doubt your heart.  And don't compare yourself to anyone else, either!  We are each living our own journeys.  Whatever causes you to be distracted, feel insecure, doubt yourself, feel discontent or compare yourself to someone else, cut it out of your life.  If it's not adding anything good, helpful or encouraging to your mind and heart, it needs to go.

Enter 2019 with a fresh perspective, a self-awareness, and a renewed spirit of confidence.

You got this.

1.01.2019

What 2018 took from me


At the beginning of 2018, I vowed to myself that it was going to be a great year.  I was going to learn a lot, I was going to be willing to learn a lot, I was going to go places, I was going to push myself to try new things…  And I did all of the above.

Followers have been asking me to talk about my last year - favorite things, worst things, to share what I’ve learned, which resolutions I actually accomplished, etc.  Here are a few:

  • Road-tripped to Redding, California, by myself.
  • Got septum, navel, and industrial piercings. (The septum piercing didn’t stick around for long)
  • Got more tattoos.
  • Moved.
  • Became manager at Black Rock Coffee Bar.
  • Expanded my plant and crystal collections.
  • Read 12 books.
  • Started boxing training.
  • Visited family in California and Texas.
  • Read at a poetry slam.
  • Road-tripped to Canada.
  • Became a worship leader at a church.
  • Didn't eat fast food.

This year has been one of the best and worst years of my life.  I’ve lived and learned and lost a lot.  Honestly, sitting here and writing this is helping me process it all.  And it’s not easy.  But I know it’s for the best.  I need to.  I’ve kept things at bay for far too long, afraid to feel what is bound to be felt when topics are brought to light and memories resurface.  It’s crazy to realize how much I’ve changed and developed in the last year. 

I titled this post “What 2018 took from me” because at the beginning of the year, I asked my heavenly Father to expand and decrease me.  To bless me in ways only He knows how to, but to also take away anything that wasn’t for my good.  Anything that wasn’t His best for me.  And anything that needed to get out.

Two months ago, I watched a sermon by Pastor Robert Madu, when he guest spoke at Elevation Church in Texas.  I can honestly say that it was the most life-changing and impactful sermon I have ever heard.  Throughout the last two months, I have re-listened and re-watched it almost a dozen times.  The sermon title is “Get Out” and in short, Pastor Madu speaks on telling anything negative, unbelieving or ungodly to get out of our lives.  Because, as believers, we “have not been given the spirit of fear, but of power, of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).   Therefore, anything other than the fruit of the Spirit needs to get out.  The sermon is so much more than that.  Honestly, if you have 45 minutes to do anything today, watch/listen to it.  (Seriously, stop reading this and go do it right now).  Another topic he touches on in the sermon is how we, as humans, are all connected.  Not just because we are all made by the Creator, but because our lives are all entwined by feelings and emotions, situations, experiences, everything!  We affect each others’ lives through words and touch.  The impact you leave on someone just by a five minute interaction can affect them for the rest of their lives.  How are you choosing to influence others?  How are you choosing to decide things for your own life?

Not only was this sermon motivational and affected me so deeply because of the pure authenticity in his words, but it also resonated with a lot of what I learned this year.  And if there are three lessons that I want to share with you the most, they are these:

1.  2018 took loneliness from me.
There is no one you should invest time in more than yourself.
I’m not saying this in a self-centered way, but rather “put your oxygen mask on before assisting others”.  If you can’t love and care for yourself first, no one else will.  If you don’t respect yourself, no one else will.  And here’s the biggest one for me - if you can’t enjoy your own company, no one else will value it either.  
I have always been a social person.  I would rather spend time with other people than spend time alone.  I have never enjoyed going out and shopping or being out in public by myself.  I always wished I could have someone to call up and ask them to join me.  Quality Time is my greatest love language, so naturally, I want to spend time with other people.  That’s how I get my cup filled.  Or at least, how I thought I needed to.
Until God really started teaching me about embracing - and enjoying! - my own company.  No, Raquel, it’s not weird to go out to dinner alone.  It’s not crazy to road trip by yourself to another state.  It’s okay to go on a date with yourself.  It’s hella fun to go to a concert by yourself.  
For so long, I think I just felt awkward because it was so far out of my comfort zone to do anything like that alone.  But once I started challenging myself and stepping out to at least try doing things on my own, it honestly wasn’t so scary anymore.  You can often find me strolling through downtown Portland, exploring parks, going on hikes, road-tripping, perusing in a bookstore, at a nice restaurant… all by myself.  2017 taught me much about choosing the right people to surround myself with.  2018 taught me that I’m my own best company and friends will cross my path when God orchestrates them to.  Until then, I can be my own best friend.

2.  2018 took misplaced security from me.
It's easy to get wrapped up in people or places that you feel comfortable with/in.  You can even go so far as to say that you love them so much that you set your security, your value, and your worth into whatever you gained from being around them.  Whether it be words of affirmation or feeling like you have purpose or direction in life.  It's not easy to admit this.  And usually you only realize it when circumstances change and those people or places aren't as prominent anymore.  It throws you off.  The rug gets pulled out from under you.  Because basing your security in anything changeable will mean that your identity will shift as well.  And I learned this lesson well in 2018.  God gently reminded me that my occupation(s) in life shouldn't be where I focus and base my identity on.  And it takes a lot of refocusing to rebuild a foundation of security.  But this new year is going to be so good.

3.  2018 took unhealthy relationships from me.
In the words of Halsey, "And I was like 'You know what? I'm done.'  And I cut a lot of people out of my life.  Some for a little bit of time, and they came back around.  Some for good."  This just about sums up what I did this year.  And I hope you know that you have the permission and the power to do the same.  Anyone who reminds you of your past, continuously points out your flaws, manipulates or takes advantage of you, makes you cry on a regular basis, needs to get out.  You deserve to be surrounded by people who build you up and remind you of the good they see in your heart, the amazing impact you have on lives around you, and encourage you to love life and always strive for better.


Happy New Year, dear readers.  I pray it holds many lessons and blessings for you.  It's going to be an amazing year.

---

2018 favorites:

“For thus says the LORD who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), “I am the LORD, and there is none else.  I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land.”
- Isaiah 45:18-19

“But remember the former days when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings.”
- Hebrews 10:32

“O LORD, You are my God.  I will exalt You.  I will give thanks to Your name for You have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness."
- Isaiah 25:1

“Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves.  So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.  For He inflicts pain and gives relief; He woads and His hands also heal."
- Isaiah 5:17-18

“Finally, be strong in the LORD and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
- Ephesians 6:12-13


Sing My Way Back - Steffany Gretzinger
Born Again - Cory Asbury
Tethered - Phil Wickham
Steady Ground - Christian Carcamo
Defender - Rita Springer (Upperroom version)
Freedom - Kim Walker-Smith
Move - Chris McClarney
Known - Tauren Wells
Living Hope - Phil Wickham
Hypnotized - Tory Lanez
Forever Right Now - Conor Matthews
You & I - Picture This
There’s No Way - Lauv ft. Julia Michaels
Drunk Me - Mitchell Tenpenny
You Might Be - Autograf ft. Lils
Electric Touch - ARIZONA
Born - OneRepublic
Over & Over - Ben Rector
Battle - David Guetta ft. Faouzia
Born To Love You - LANCO
Jet Lag - Gavin Haley
Fractures - Illenium ft. Nevve
My Thoughts On You - The Band Camino
Green Lights - NF
Jump - Julia Michaels ft. Trippie Redd
Without Me - Halsey