Dedicated to the Best of the Best: Happy Nurses Day!

Over six years ago I started working at a community college in their health services department as their admin. I went into the job having had several years of experience with healthcare providers already so please believe me when I say I work with the best of the best. Unfortunately I do not have the time (nor the HIPAA clearance LOL) to share the countless stories of selfless care, courage, strength, phenomenal care and help this team has offered students and the community, but let me tell you this – they are the epitome of grit and grace. On many days, these nurses remind me that there are angels in our midst, heroes always present and sacrificial help always available because they are ready and willing to help in every situation they are called upon for assistance.So this post is dedicated to them, for the many seen and unseen ways they help change lives.

This excerpt of the Bible in Exodus 1:15-20 is an incredible example of how nurses protect their patients:

15 Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah: 16 “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver.[a] If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.” 17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.

18 So the king of Egypt called for the midwives. “Why have you done this?” he demanded. “Why have you allowed the boys to live?”

19 “The Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women,” the midwives replied. “They are more vigorous and have their babies so quickly that we cannot get there in time.”

20 So God was good to the midwives, and the Israelites continued to multiply, growing more and more powerful.

Clever, capable, courageous….Nurses 🙂 Thank you to the amazing nurses I work with, have worked with and to nurses everywhere. So grateful you chose the vocation of nursing and the calling on your life to help people in need. May continue God bless the work of your hands. Enjoy being celebrated this week! You deserve all that and more!

With all my heart, Sonia

“Be The Reason Another Woman Feels Sunshine, Not Shade”

Good morning! How are you this morning? I’m doing a “sister check-in” right now 🙂 I am tired, another four hour of sleep night. It happens from time to time. I’m on the downside of mid-forties and all the “changes” that comes with, sleep issues being one of them. But I am here and so are you, so I am grateful. The title of this blog is from a post I found on one of the social media sites. I just loved it – so much truth in that statement. We, women, can be shady to each other! God, give us grace!

Mario and I were in the backyard after work yesterday, and I looked up at the trees we planted a year ago along the fence line . I noticed how much the landscape on the embankment behind it has become more vibrant and thick, and I asked if it was because of the trees we planted. There’s a concrete divide between our fence and the embankment behind so they don’t share the drip irrigation we put in for the trees, but I told Mario that I thought they must share something in order to improve so much this past year. Mario mentioned a Radio Lab podcast that he’d heard a while back about that very thing. He sent me the link, and I listened to part of it and was excited to learn there was something to my theory. Here’s that podcast if you want to give it a listen https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/articles/from-tree-to-shining-tree

It got me thinking about this sunshine/shade thing between us women. Maybe it’s because we feel so much, our passion and emotions out in front – whatever it is I hope we learn a thing or two from these trees. Here’s a quote from ecologist Suzanne Simard, “It’s this network, sort of like a below-ground pipeline, that connects one tree root system to another tree root system, so that nutrients and carbon and water can exchange between the trees. In a natural forest of British Columbia, paper birch and Douglas fir grow together in early successional forest communities. They compete with each other, but our work shows that they also cooperate with each other by sending nutrients and carbon back and forth through their mycorrhizal networks.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with competition. I think it’s necessary to push us further in our potential, but it can get tricky with insecurities, fears, jealousy and the like so we’ve got to keep ourselves in check to not throw shade. If you’re in my age group or above here is the definition of throwing shade according to dictionary.com: it’s “a subtle way of disrespecting someone verbally or nonverbally.” That’s why I was so intrigued to read about these trees and their cooperation and competition. I think that is a perfect balance of challenging and encouraging each other. Something to think about this Wednesday morning. I have to leave this post here just like this because I have to get ready for work now, but I have two videos that I hope you take the time to watch. The first one is a Tiny Desk concert I’m listening to as I type. It’s really good! The second is a scene from the movie Seabiscuit and what competition should look like (notice riders 7 and 9 at about the minute and a half mark of the video clip). That is my hope and prayer for all of us ladies, that we would help and root for one another – win, lose or draw.

Thanks for reading today! With all my heart, Sonia

The Story of “I Stayed Up Way Too Late Again”

Good morning! I have about ten minutes because I could not will myself out of bed when I should have. I kept resetting my timer for ten minutes, then ten minutes more, then five minutes and five minutes more. You get it, right? I will get to the point. Last night Mario and I were FaceTiming with our friends and one of them said something to the effect of “Why do we push away what we need?” We were talking about different situations in life where we want what we want but it just isn’t that way. Our “ideals” in our occupation, family relationships, home, church, health are not what we would want them to be, and that’s the point this morning. We push back so often against the change God wants to bring into our lives for no other reason then we want what we want, when we want it, and how we want it. As I am typing this out I realize how childish and immature this sounds. It’s true though. It is childish and immature (aka selfish) to push against those things that God wants for us because He knows best!

I have to wrap it up here with this: Last night I knew I should have gone to sleep earlier, much earlier. I was tired. But NO, I had to stay downstairs watching TV way too late (I can’t even remember what I was watching), then on my phone in bed (a no-no, I know!) and next thing I know Mario’s watch was making the “it’s midnight” chirp. I didn’t even fall asleep at that time! I was now consternated because it was past midnight, and I wasn’t yet asleep. I may have gotten four hours of sleep tops last night. My fault, totally my fault. I know that is a small example of this theme, but what’s your thing(s)? What change has God brought to your life that you’re just pushing against or flat out ignoring? Whatever it is, my hope and prayer is that we surrender. We lay down our ideals and are open to His plan, His way, His will for us because it is good because He is good! That’s all I’ve got today. As I was writing this, this verse popped in my head:

11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13:11 (NLT)

That verse wraps this up. It is time to grow up. God has more for us!

P.S. Please enjoy this song called, “Count Me In” because we are all in this together!

Outfit of the Day

My friend and I are in stressful seasons for different reasons (didn’t mean to rhyme here lol), and we were texting yesterday and decided to do an early morning call to pray this morning to start off our weeks. 5:58am I get this text. “Good morning Sonia! I am finally awake. Lol.” Props to her! I am usually out of bed by 5:30am, but this morning it was hard not to keep resetting my timer. I don’t have snooze as an option on my phone alarms so if I ever want to get more time in bed I have to set the timer for ten minute increments. That’s what happened today – timer city 😦

Anyway…back to the topic of the day (I haven’t had coffee yet so please bear with me!), the phone call lasted ten minutes. It felt so much longer – in the very best way. She prayed first, and it was powerful, heartfelt and so full of love. Then I prayed to end us out asking for God’s filter for all that we will encounter this week. The filter being this verse in Jeremiah 29:11, “I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” (from The Message)

Before we hung up I said, ” Ok, well we’re armored up, ready for the week!” She agreed – we both knew what that meant. That ten minute phone call full of prayer gave us the proper outfit of the day (look up the verses in Ephesians 6:10-18 for the breakdown of The Whole Armor of God). Whatever comes our way, we are suited up for it! Nothing like that feeling of assurance, knowing that God is with us in all things great and small this week.

My encouragment for us this week and the weeks to come is to get together with your praying friend(s) on whatever day/time of the week you’d like. Connect with each other and our Father in heaven & let His Spirit fill you up! It took ten minutes this morning and totally changed how the week ahead looked. If you want to pray with me, I’m here and ready in the morning. Just let me know 🙂 I’m down!!!

Lastly, enjoy this arrangement of “How Deep Is Your Love” because it starts out with “I know your eyes in the morning sun“. Thank you for reading. I am praying for our hearts and minds to be fixed on prayer. I am praying for friends to unite in prayer like never before. I am praying for our outfits of the day!

With all my heart, Sonia

Time to Finish What You Started

Happy Friday! We made it 🙂 Please bear with me as I take a walk down memory lane with some blog post image highlights starting from 2014 when I started writing.

Thank you for coming along with me on my trip down memory lane with these photos above. These are a few of the images used for the John4Four Blog over the last seven years. So much life happened over that time. In looking at all the posts I am overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness. The reason for the title image today is that I have a situation in my life where I need to pray and move on and this is my life verse. I know, I know, easier said than done. But it’s what I am supposed to do if I am going to finish what I started. I have to, as one friend put it last night over FaceTime, “Pick up my mat and walk.” One foot in front of the other – don’t have to have it all figured out. I’m tired of the futility and anxiousness over the what if’s, aren’t you? It’s time, dear reader friend. Time to finish what we started. For me, it’s going back to school to finish this thing out. What is it for you? I will be praying for you and me as we pick up where we left off, dust ourselves off and run after that dream we pushed aside. Move on, courageous one! Pray and move on.

Happy, blessed and glorious Friday!

With all my heart, Sonia

Beware

I received a text yesterday that had this quote, “Beware of people who benefit from your self-neglect, prefer your silence over your truth, liked you better before you started setting boundaries and are intimidated by your growth.” – nakeia homer

A lot to ponder in that little quote. I’ll get back to that later. We live in a time where we scroll through these quotes and the words prompt something from us, some emotion or memory – in all kinds of ways. The words we read strike a chord somewhere, somehow and why is this?

I’ve been reading a book Redeeming Power, Understanding Authority and Abuse in the Church by Diane Langberg. So good! Anyone serving or ever interested in ministry in any capacity should be reading this! I’m in the chapter titled “The Power of Culture and the Influence of Words.” Words. Influence. There it is! The reason these little Instagram/Facebook quotes grab us like that is that they’re meant to.

I don’t have much time this morning but I am going to cite two excerpts from pages 54 and 55: “The words we say to ourselves and the words we say aloud to others need to be true and good, or we damage others and ourselves. Our words, both spoken and thought, must always be submitted to the Word made flesh and to God’s written Word. Apart from an ongoing study of God’s Word written and lived, we will have no true way of assessing our own words or the words of others.”

Here’s the next excerpt, “When others label us, we respond by catching the disease and labeling and dismissing them in return. There are many things in our culture that we as Christians must disagree with in both word and deed. But in disagreeing, we must never dismiss or dehumanize another, or we become ungodly.”

Ok, I have got to wrap this up here, but I just wanted to share the warning about words. It’s important for us. They are powerful so like any power – we have to be responsible with what we say and how we live.

So back to the quote. I was glad to receive it – makes sense. And yes, I need to beware of these situations for sure. But one other thing is that I can’t insulate myself against all pain. I have to continue to take the leap of faith in certain relationships, asking God for wisdom every step of the way. God will reveal who stays, who goes and work it all out while I trust Him. He has a plan for it all. We will grow if we let the Lord teach us through these things so when we speak, we speak from a place of more maturity and love. That’s the whole point of us having the gift of words, anyways – to share God’s love and truth.

Thank you for reading! Have a wonderful Thursday – almost Friday, hang in there!!

With all my heart,

Sonia

Hey, You! You’re Flawless

Photo by Mu00e1ximo on Pexels.com

Good morning! I have about 15 minutes to put these thoughts in this here blog. I wish I had more time, but I wanted to remind us all of something. Yesterday I was talking with a friend after work and made this comment, “I know I’m not perfect.” She stopped what she was doing and looked right at the computer screen (this was on Zoom) and asked, “You do know how God sees you, right?” That question caught me off guard. I know God loves me, but I also know who I can be in my worst moments. I must have just made a face without answering because she continued, “He sees you as perfect because of Jesus living inside of you.” There. There it was – this truth that I set aside, and maybe all of us set this truth aside as we go about our day. She continued to speak of how God already knows everything, absolutely everything about us and sees us as flawless. So I wanted to write about that today. Walk in that truth today. Yes, we still have our skin and all the blemishes that we know about but bigger than that is His perspective and truth about us. Let’s live that out! Live that loud!

Here’s some truth from God’s Word:

“You are altogether beautiful, my darling;
    there is no flaw in you.” Song of Songs 4:7

Here are some lyrics from Flawless by Mercy Me: (I encourage you to look this song up on YouTube and let the words flow over you and SING ALONG)

There’s got to be more
Than going back and forth
From doing right to doing wrong
‘Cause we were taught that’s who we are
Come on get in line right behind me
You along with everybody
Thinking there’s worth in what you do. Then like a hero who takes the stage when
We’re on the edge of our seats saying it’s too late
Well let me introduce you to amazing graceNo matter the bumps
No matter the bruises
No matter the scars
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless

No matter the hurt
Or how deep the wound is
No matter the pain
Still the truth is
The cross has made
The cross has made you flawless
. Could it possibly be
That we simply can’t believe
That this unconditional
Kind of love would be enough
To take a filthy wretch like this
And wrap him up in righteousness
But that’s exactly what He did

Well, it is 6:56am! I made it! I will wrap this up letting you know that I have gotten knocked down more times than I can count so far this year, and it’s just April LOL! Guess what, I keep getting back up. By God’s grace I keep pressing on. I just want you to know that, that this is hard, and we will make mistakes, but we are who God says we are! We are flawless.

Last thing before I hit the Publish button on this thing….as I write I put on music in the background. This morning I chose Respond by Travis Greene on YouTube and this song here came on right after. SO GOOD!! Put this on blast and have a beautiful Wednesday, my flawless friend!

As always, I sign off with “All my heart” because it is with all my heart that I write these words to you this morning, Sonia

Playlist for a Bad Day

To my handful of readers, I hope this blesses you whether or not you’ve had a bad day (week/month…) recently or are right in the middle of one. I was at the tail end of my bad day recently when I finally sat down on the couch to watch tv and just try to forget all of it. I couldn’t shake the heaviness that just felt like it was sitting on me – holding me stuck. The replaying of the day and emotions were showing no signs of leaving my mind. I was just flipping through channels on the remote hoping to land on something like The Office or whatever to lighten things up, when I came across the channel that was going to show the movie, I Can Only Imagine next. If you haven’t seen it yet – find it, watch it! Watch it today, please! I was reminded once again about God’s redemptive power no matter what. I can relate to that movie in so many ways so the tears kept falling after I watched it last night, partly because of the movie, partly because of the day and mostly because God is so so good. Afterward Mario and I were talking about the band Mercy Me (since the movie is based on the life of the lead singer and how his song, “I Can Only Imagine” came to be). We looked up their song list on YouTube and were listening to a few of them when I came across this gem:

This testimony was so honest and made sense why this song rocks me to the core every time I hear it. It’s amazing what worship can do to a heavy heart. The tears turn into joy right then and there. It’s literally miraculous.

We listened to this song last night too, just sat and listened and let these words, the beautiful melodies, harmonies lift our hearts up:

We heard this one too, reminding us to press through and remember how His grace has got us:

And to end this playlist out, listen to this one as loud as you can and remember that He made us flawless:

I’m so thankful this morning that everything, everything, everything heartbreaking, soul crushing, aggravating, gut-punching will be used to mend, mold, shape, transform and bring value and ultimate good for my life and point to the glory to God. If you’re having a bad day (or not), I hope you know how much you are loved and seen right there in the heartbreak. God hasn’t turned away and won’t leave you there. I will end out this blog post with my life verse:

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Oh yes, He does rejoices over us with singing.

With all my love,

Sonia

Do You Suffer From “Spinning Plate Syndrome”?

It’s 5:30am on a dark Monday morning, and although I am trying to switch to tea, I confess I desperately need coffee this morning. For those of you who know me, you know that the better part of this past year I have struggled with insomnia, but thankfully the past few months it subsided quite a bit – until last night. I struggled getting to sleep while this topic of “spinning plates” literally spun around in my mind. I’ve been up since 3:30 this morning praying, reading, avoiding, flat out reasoning myself out of writing this blog post. I’m laughing now because my alarm just went off on my phone, startling me in the middle of typing. It is quite comical that I even had an alarm set today. I am seriously NOT going to get rest until I write, and that is really ok. I think we all need those “motivations” – whatever God uses to put attention on something.

That’s what happened to me and my husband this past year during the Covid pandemic shut down – God got our attention. We didn’t even know it but we were seriously stuck in a spinning plate situation that had only one way out. Looking back on the last year we can see it now, but while we were in it we just kept going. I will seriously spare you all the hints from God that we were not supposed to keep at it like that. We worked tirelessly at all the tasks/demands/jobs/relationships with little regard to how this was affecting our ability to truly connect with God and each other. Let’s face it, it was easier that way, at least for a while. It’s easier to look outward, perform outwardly, get validated from outside sources than to work on intimacy and healthy living within the walls of your home. At least that’s how it was for us – until about two and a half months ago.

After the beginning of 2021 we had lots of talks, prayer and soul searching to make some big changes that ultimately led to stop spinning the plates, sitting down and seeing things for how they really are. And see, did we. We saw once again, like we did at the beginning of our journey with the Lord, His order for our lives. His order, meaning God first and then each other and then everything else. We were out of order, hence the spinning of the plates, and we were in situations and environments that made it all too easy to keep that pace going.

So, we stopped. We made the difficult and scary decision to say no to living out of control. We made the decision to be okay with being misunderstood. We made the choice to rest and trust in the Lord’s faithfulness. We made the choice to choose each other again.

Like any big life change, it will be stepping into the vast unknown. Changes in all areas of your life are pretty much guaranteed. When you let go of all of those plates you were never meant to be spinning, your hands are freed up to receive everything that God has. Don’t get me wrong, it is messy, not perfect and heart wrenching at times since your muscles were so used to working at warp speed to keep everything afloat for so long. Life, as you know it will never be the same, but that is the life giving process of letting go of that control and letting God have His perfect way in your life and mine.

And just know….this is a process. When you stop spinning the plates, things will crash down. Be certain of that. Try, as you may, to avoid the crashing plates, you can’t. You will cringe at the sound. You will agonize over the people staring at the pile of mess. You will cry over the “silence.” But then, God will be right there. You will find He hasn’t gone anywhere, and He will not leave you confused. He will give you wisdom, strength, joy and everything you need to flex the courageous muscles needed for finding joy in the uncertain.

I am encouraged by this Facebook post from Beth Moore on March 17 this year: ‘It’s not too late for a new start. It may be scary as heck. But it’s not too late. I find that, over and over in this pilgrimage home, Jesus finds one way or another to scribble a question in the dirt: Do you trust Me? Then follow Me.” But where are You going, Lord? “Come & see.”‘

I could write and write about shattered plates, mosaics and the like but I’ll stop here and ask for you to listen to this song on blast about our Waymaker but because I am half Mexican, half Puerto Rican, I had to post the salsa version for you all (found at the top of this post). Have a blessed week!

With all my heart,

Sonia

“Hard Sunday” Chicken Recipe

Disclaimer: This isn’t the photo of my chicken dish but it was a legit recipe

This past Sunday was a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly. The day consisted of virtual church in the morning, brunch at home with our daughters, a nasty argument with my husband, a three-hour conversation with friends, a continuation of the nasty argument and finally a home cooked chicken dinner with peace as the main dish. I will spare you all the details of said ugly argument and just tell you that we are dealing with a big change in our lives. I am processing all the emotions of it one way, and he is processing his emotions another way. The difference of how we are dealing with the emotions led to the nasty argument. I read somewhere recently that when someone is sharing their feelings, simply asking the question, “Do you need comfort or solutions?” has solved most of all arguments. I looked up who coined this phrase to give proper credit but just found social media posts about it. A friend of mine said she’d read it or something like it in the book ‘Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs’ by Emerson Eggerichs, which is probably where this came from.

So getting back to Sunday’s events…at the tail end of the second part of the nasty argument, we realized we were both hungry. It was around 8pm, and we hadn’t eaten since midday. I had wanted to make chicken before meeting up with our friends, but we had spent all our time on the first part of the nasty argument that I didn’t get it done. I pulled out my phone and searched “Chicken Thigh Recipe” and just clicked on the first one that popped up. Here it is: https://thesaltymarshmallow.com/crispy-baked-chicken-thighs/#wprm-recipe-container-3611

Seriously sooooo good! I thought it was going to come out tasting as exhausted and angry as I felt, but it was amazing! Mario and I ate our dinner, still feeling the effects of the day, but thankful that we pushed through it all TOGETHER. We received the comfort we both needed right then and, I’m sure, it helped our blood sugar levels come back to normal and gave us a sense of comfort, warmth and the sustenance we needed to put the day to rest. What we both needed was comfort. The solutions will come when they’re supposed to, but it was comfort we were after, and we just blew it in communicating and focusing in on our pain. We forgot that we are in this process together. We are so different, but the need for comfort during this time is the same.

I wanted to write this blog for any and all of us having a few hard days to say, hang in there! God will provide everything we need even when we can’t articulate it or come up with what we need in that very moment. He will provide your very own “Hard Sunday Chicken Recipe” moment, tailored specifically for your heart and what it so needs…comfort from His hand.

Thank you for reading, and special thank you to thesaltymarshmallow.com for that recipe. I will be making this again and maybe next time the blog will be called “Supremely Peaceful Sunday – Chicken Recipe.”

One last thing before I end this: here’s the song Surrender by Natalie Taylor that someone sent me yesterday. I think it goes with this blog theme. Please listen and enjoy 🙂

With all my heart,

Sonia