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Looking Forward Backwards

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“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” –Soren Kierkegaard

This last week has brought much change. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it still remains to be seen – all of which I’m sure will be used to take me in the direction I’m supposed to be going. Last night on a drive home with a few friends we discussed why history is important. I think history is vital not only for a reminder, but a viewpoint that God gives to say, “See, that’s why.” In taking a historical look at my life things now make sense, but looking forward, NOTHING makes sense. I think it’s like that for everyone so why do we spend so much time trying to make sense of the “forward life”? So here’s a little snapshot of my history with regards to what looked like a catastrophic event in my young adult life. I got pregnant at 18. I didn’t have a relationship with God. I struggled with what to do with a baby since I was a terrible mess. Many people looked at my life at that time as just a waste because I was a teen mom. What they didn’t know, what I didn’t know, was that that would be the only time I was ever able to conceive. Please don’t take this the wrong way. I was living a sinful life, was an unwed mother, teen mom, college dropout and whatever else tainted my resume – but God knew the bigger picture. In 2006 I was diagnosed with “Unexplained Secondary Infertility” and came to the agonizing realization that I would never be able to give my husband his own biological child (we could not afford IVF). He is not my daughter’s biological father. He helped raise her since she was 10 years old, and she is definitely his daughter, and he is most definitely her dad so for that I am grateful. I thank God for the opportunity to have a baby when I did. That would be the only experience I would ever have to bear a child. God knew that. I didn’t, and no one else did either. I was reminded recently of these verses: Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End…” and Revelation 1:17 “…Do not be afraid, I am the First and the Last.” He knows everything. He sees it all. Jesus’ life did not make any sense in the forward viewpoint either. It didn’t make sense until after the resurrection. I think that’s the point here in everything. Nothing will make sense until those resurrections in our lives. With resurrection comes revelation – then we get to see. I think I spend a lot of time and give a lot of real estate in my mind in trying to figure it out. I try to make sense out of everything when I should be knowing that it just won’t make sense looking forward. My husband told me that in all synagogues the place where the rabbi teaches from points in the direction of Jerusalem so when Jesus was reading from the book of Isaiah (Luke 4:17-21) He was facing the direction of Calvary. For believers, that’s our direction too, and it won’t make sense until we look back. So I have to ask myself, “Hi there, Miss Control Freak, are you going to spend countless hours in agonizing perplexity or are you going to trust and rest knowing that you’re safely in His grip?” That means I need to be okay with loose ends, sometimes no answers and the understanding that it may look tragic today but whatever He has planned, it’s good. So those are the two themes for this week: TRUST. DIRECTION. Trust His direction. Trust His perspective. Trust His plan, and be okay with looking forward BACKWARDS. I’d be interested in your thoughts on your backwards forwards too. Have a blessed week, friends! 🙂

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LOVE. With a period at the end.

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I’ve been crying on and off all day. It hasn’t been a bad day at all, really. I’ve gotten all quizzes finished and my written assignments are turned in for this first week of the fall semester. The tears that have come on and off have been both happy and sad ones for one main reason. Love. Up until yesterday afternoon I didn’t have a clue what this third blog post was to be about. The topic started to come together over a three hour lunch with friends after church during which we discussed how we relate to one another and if we really grasp what God’s love for us means. It was a timely conversation because I’ve had a difficult time this past week with various painful things all coming from relationships. Have you ever had a week like that – where you ask yourself if it’s really worth it at all to deal with those you love? Of course the answer is a resounding “Yes, of course, it’s worth it!” But this week I was physically, mentally, spiritually (and probably hormonally) challenged so I asked the question quite often. So back to the tears…one of the reasons I was crying today was because I have felt quite unloved lately by certain people in my life. I felt deep pain over this. It was the kind of pain that lives in the present tense but also feels like it’s drawing on something historical in your life. It’s the kind of pain that haunts you – the kind you’ve tried to protect yourself from all along. I heard Beth Moore in one of her video studies say that “we can self-protect ourselves right out of our callings“. It stung when I heard that because I knew I was doing that very thing. I’ve been protecting myself for a long time. Even writing this freaks me out because it means you know something more about me and that scares me more than I care to admit. In my brain that means you can have some kind of power over me, and I’ve always fought to control that at all costs because I believed myself to be an ugly human being. What goes through my brain is: If you really knew me, the private Sonia, you wouldn’t want anything to do with her because she’s not as smart as you first thought or as fun-loving as she comes off or as clean and neat as she seems to be. And for some reason, your opinion has always mattered most to me. So in public I’ve always smiled bigger when my heart is breaking (or I want to punch you out because you hurt my feelings) and laughed louder when I want to run to make everyone think all is okay with me. I hide behind walls sometimes, even as a believer. The truth is this, I am an ugly person apart from God, but aren’t we all? We just have varying degrees of damage and perhaps different colored baggage, but baggage just the same. The two greatest commandments are about love and can be found In Mark 12 when Jesus was asked by a scribe which was the first commandment, Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. ‘And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-30). I was thinking hard about what God’s been trying to speak to me about love…both His and mine. Do I really have an understanding that God loves me – that He loves us? PERIOD, not a question mark. Since I’m being honest here, my answer is that I don’t always understand His love for me. I know the Bible says He does, and I have seen His love on display in so many ways in my life, even before I committed my life to Him, but somewhere in a broken place in my heart and mind I want to ask Him, “Do you love me because You have to or because You want to?” I don’t know why I’d want to ask Him that, but I do. I want to hear Him say, “I love you because I take great delight in you.” But even in asking the question, the answer is that He does say that. When discussing this with a friend she suggested I look in the back of the Bible for the word love and read all the verses on what God has to say about it. Jesus gave His life for me, for us, and that’s the display of His love in action. That’s how far He’s willing to go to show us He loves us. The only way for us to have a relationship with Him was for God’s only Son to come to this earth as a baby, live among us for 33 years, die on a cross and on the third day rise from the dead conquering death forever and offering us a way out of a life of sin. The only way for me to have a relationship with Him was for a ransom to be paid for my sins, and He did that. My only job was to receive it, and I did. I do. I just struggle with love in general, so I have to trust Him with my heart in order to know more about His love. I have to be willing to hurt. I know I’ve hurt people by accident or on purpose, and I need to forgive and to be forgiven, but most of all I need to love the way He says I should. In order to do these two commands, I need to know the truth of that kind of love. I need to know the truth. The truth is love is painful, but it’s worth it. We love by action, by sacrifice, by willing to be wrong, by willing to be vulnerable even if it kills you – which it probably will, if you’re like me. We get to see the heart of God through being honest with each other, laughing with each other, forgiving one another, rejoicing with each another, weeping with each another and reconciling with one another. God made us to love Him and to love each other. We are made in His image. I am His daughter, and He loves me. That’s what He says, and I need to take Him at His Word. He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t change His mind. He isn’t cruel, He isn’t out to pull a fast one. He isn’t going to betray me. He isn’t going to deceive me. He is going to free me every day as I walk with Him. So, I am going to grab a hold of His hand as He walks me through the discovery of that truth until the day I walk into eternity with Him. I close with posing the question, “Do you know that God loves you?” If your answer isn’t a confident yes, look deep into His word, cry out to Him and let Him have your whole heart. You can trust Him with it. I’m scared too, but He tells us not to be afraid. Listen to what He says about His love in 1 Corinthians 13 (starting in verse 4-8a): Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. His love never fails. That’s a promise from Him to us. NEVER FAILS. So the way I see it, the more I understand His love, the more I love Him and love others. So let’s travel on the path of discovery of that kind of love….the real kind…the “never fails” kind. Last week I wrote that that post was the hardest to write. I lied – I have accumulated quite the pile of tissues next to this laptop because I am wrecked by writing this one. Until next week, my friends 🙂

P.S. As to the the ugly stuff inside of us, look at what Jesus says about a sinful woman, “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.“(Luke 7:47) That’s what Jesus’ love can do – turn a sinful woman into a loving woman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yn0RHh3BQT4

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Road Work Ahead…Expect Delays!u

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I was driving home from the beach around 9:00pm last week and turned onto a road that leads me to the freeway when all of a sudden I see this black lit up road sign that has this flashing across it: “ROAD WORK AHEAD. EXPECT DELAYS”. I’ve seen road signs like this before but for some reason this one seemed large and magnified to me – almost like I had put on 3D glasses, and this sign was the focal point. And then the thought struck me….this is what God has been trying to say to me all along, but it took a dark night, road work and a big flashing sign to get my attention! Basically He spoke to me through that sign to say that He is going before me to make a way for wherever I need to go so: THERE ARE GOING TO BE DELAYS – EXPECT THEM! There’s road work to be done (and not just road work, but heart work too). This was so profound to me because there are so many loose ends, so many things up in the air, so many situations needing resolutions, so many answers that I’m still waiting on and this constant feeling that I’ve been on an airplane just circling over a landing strip but haven’t gotten the green light to land yet. Have you ever felt that way? I don’t know about you, but I am unfortunately quite famous for jumping the gun when I shouldn’t and not jumping when I should especially when I feel like this. I am a “fixer” among all the things I listed in the first blog post so when things feel out of control – like delays – I try to “fix  it” by changing something so I don’t have to wait.  We all have a bit of “fixer” mentality – some more than others – I tend to lean more towards the “major fixer mentality” hence the timing issue I seem to have. There are several reasons for that. Since I’m the oldest, it was up to me to blaze the trail for my two younger sisters, and, for whatever reason, I also felt it was up to me to beat up anyone in elementary school who would give them problems. I think I was 8 years old when I first beat up a boy. He had been teasing one of my sisters at school because she had burns all over her face from an accident while helping my mom in the kitchen. I think he said something like he couldn’t eat his lunch because my sister’s face made him lose his appetite, and he got everyone at the lunch table to laugh at her. My sister relayed this story to me through her tears so I waited after school for the boy, and then beat him to a pulp. Even now, as I write, in the back of my mind somewhere is the default thought, “Don’t mess with my sisters!” I now know that the protective nature I have isn’t a bad thing when I’m “fighting” the way God calls me to – through prayer and being connected with God. I felt like I was always fighting as I grew up which led to me to lead a double life. There was the sweet, loving Sonia that helped people and brightened up a room and then in my private life, there was a whole other thing going on. It was rage. Merriam-Webster defines rage as “a sudden expression of violent anger.” As I write that word and its definition, tears are filling up my eyes. It’s a sad truth that sometimes the very people that look so loving to the outside world can be extremely hurtful to those closest to them behind closed doors. That was me. I was this person who couldn’t handle my emotions and would fight in explosive and damaging ways. At the expense of those I love, I put on a facade for the world to see and would take out all my frustrations and broken heartedness on them. It didn’t matter what self-help book or doctor recommended treatment I would try, nothing seemed to help. This went on for years. I am ashamed to say that. Before I go on, I want to say that I don’t want to use this blog for any sort of pity party or justification for things I’ve done so I’ll spare you the history lessons as to why I think this rage manifested in my life, but I will say that every wrong behavior has a root. And yes, I had some roots. I know for this reason and many others God has to deal with my mind and heart. During one of my outbursts my husband said, “God can heal you!”  To which I responded, “No He can’t! If He could have He would have done it already”. I am learning that spiritual, emotional and physical maturity is essential, but the spiritual and emotional growth must go hand in hand. That’s why I need to “Expect Delays”. I’ve got some growing up to do, and God has to point out the narrow road for me as I go. This takes time. It takes His perfect time. So today the Lord gave me this verse in my morning Bible reading (for those of you reading through the One Year Bible format you’ll recognize this from today): Proverbs 21:19 Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman. The Lord knows I can go from “zero to contentious and angry” in less than a second so He gave me that gentle yet profound reminder because a little later in the day my husband and I would hit a bump in the road. I would love to say I stayed quiet and remained still before the Lord, but I wasn’t. I got angry and upset. I always wish that I was that girl who could just cry it out and her husband would love her and comfort her, but not me. I just got puffed up with ugly rage boiling up and out of me, BUT the good thing – the new thing, – was that it was over as fast as it started. In the past, this would be an all nighter and maybe go on for a few days, thankfully this was not the case this time. I allowed myself some vulnerability and said I was sorry. But more than that I looked to God. I had a conversation with Him in my spirit letting Him know how I was feeling and asked Him to help me. He did! He does…for all of us as we call on Him. Not only are we to look at the signs that say “Expect Delays” but also “Under Construction”. We are a work in progress! Five years later, in my walk with the Lord, I am as often the raging woman anymore. He is working in me, and I need to be patient with myself and others, and WAIT ON THE LORD. I’ll end this post here, but I wanted to also thank all of you who wrote me words of encouragement and support. It means so much to know we are all in this together 🙂 Please listen to this song (and dance too – it feels really great!). Stay blessed and thank you so much for reading!

With all my heart,

Sonia

 

 

 

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I’ve tried blogging before, but this time my heart is beating wildly and this butterfly keeps following me around too.

Ever have a moment in time – it could last half a day or even a few days…or (gasp) a week or so – of silence. I’m not talking about the background music at work, or the voice(s) in your head, or the normal daily pleasantries exchanged throughout the day. What I am referring to is something entirely different: NO RETURN CALLS OR TEXTS!!! It’s been 72 hours, I think, and my iPhone is eerily silent with the majority of people I have reached out to not responding to my attempts to connect. I don’t know about you, but that messes with me sometimes. Sometimes being messed with that way is a good thing. You get motivated to do something different, and sometimes different is just what was supposed to happen all along, but you were too full of noise to do it. That said, let me back up a bit for those of you who don’t know me (I am hoping that this blog will go beyond the confines of my beautiful circle of peeps so please share, if you feel inclined). I must first introduce myself and include some fun facts, historical info and the reason I am sitting here in a very muggy women’s boutique in beautiful North County, San Diego writing, deleting and writing some more. I turned 40 a few weeks back. I could just end this first blog post right here. LOL! Well, I won’t…I can’t, really because I have made a list of “resolutions’ for this milestone year. Here’s my list: 1) Live fearlessly (no more “people pleasing” – just “God pleasing”). The reason why this is the first of my resolutions probably goes without saying. My fellow “People Pleasers” can we all just breathe a collective sigh and say, “No” for once?!  2) Be more adventurous (I play the “what if” game quite a bit in my head so I usually can talk myself out of most all things associated with fun adventures. I used to be the “play it safe girl”, and although wise, in most cases, it can border on paranoia and party-pooper status).  3) Follow through – no matter how boring or tiresome to see something through to completion, I will now do it. I usually go to the step before the final step in most things – don’t ask me why that is, I don’t know. I hate it. I know that much. That is why this made my resolution list. This blog falls under the “follow through” category. I’ve attempted to do one two times before. It was always weird and had no real direction so I think it was a good thing I didn’t follow through with those and last but not least, 4) Live with an attitude of gratitude – thankfulness always because even the bad is good in God’s Hands. Not like the crazy, smiling, fake Christian lady but a quiet, deep-hearted, thankfulness seeped deep in my soul. This last year has given me plenty of opportunities to dig deep with introspection and get my perspective off what “isn’t” to focus on what actually “is”. The timing is right for my writing, my heart is in it, and hey, I am the “Adventurous, God Pleasing, Follow Through, Thankful Girl” now so why not?! In my 40 years of life I have lived only the last five truly living. You see, five years ago, on July 30, 2009 I gave my life to Jesus Christ and have not looked back. That’s why this blog is called John4four. In the Bible there’s a story in John chapter 4 of this really messed up lady and a beautiful man named Jesus who needed to meet her to change her life that day. She was me, and I was her. If you haven’t read the story of the Samaritan woman, please do. I am crying as I get to this sentence. You see, I am on my third marriage (been married to my current husband for almost ten years and yes, he loves Jesus too – that’s why we’ve been together this long, FOR SURE!) and I could totally relate to the shame and hopelessness she felt that fateful day she went to the well in the heat of the day not knowing that God was chasing after her. I had my daughter when I was 18, and She is now 21. Unfortunately my daughter was dragged through countless failed relationships and left at home with family and friends while I partied, drank and had sex with whoever my latest “boyfriend” was to drown out the reality of my desperation. Before I go down memory lane too far, let me say this…God has turned my ashes to beauty. He has not allowed my pain to be without purpose, and He can do impossible things – like allow me to live to see 40 and actually appreciate my life and all that is in it. In my life I have had a few careers: banking and healthcare, both instrumental in forcing me to talk to many different people and see all kinds of crazy things. I was born in Twentynine Palms, CA into a military household – the firstborn of three girls. My dad is Puerto Rican and my mom is Mexican – yes, please pray for my husband 🙂 I’ve lived in California all my life (minus 6 months when I lived in Arizona – big mistake, not so much the state, but the guy I followed out there). This is a pretty long post so far so I will end here. As this blog progresses, I will be sure to include more historical data relevant to my entries. I am currently working on (in the midst of my messiness sometimes – okay a lot of the time) being a loving wife to my hunk of a husband, being a mom committed to praying, writing a women’s Bible study through 2 Timothy, going to school (online) to get my Bachelor’s in Religious Studies, serving at our awesome church and being a willing vessel to go wherever God, the Lover of my soul, wants me to go. Be blessed, friends, and thank you for reading entry numero uno.