It’s the Heart of the Matter

#valentinesday2021 I just searched this hashtag on Instagram and there are 446,000 posts already and we haven’t even gotten to the day yet! We are an obsessed people with all things love, love, love. I am glad for that. I, too, love love.

Do you remember that book that was turned into a movie, “He’s Just Not That Into You” by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo? Here’s the summary from Wikipedia, ‘The book is a “self-help” guide aimed for single women. The premise of the book, as stated in the title, tells women readers that if a man in whom you are interested in is not making the effort to pursue you, he is simply “just not that into you.”’

Then there’s the quote from Maya Angelou, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Basically stating that people will show you how they feel about you. We tend to ignore red flags, signs, warnings and that gut-feeling all in the name of getting love from that person(s). We all make these mistakes so this is NOT an, “I’ve got this! Let me tell you all the answers” blog post. (Well, spoiler alert, there is an answer but please just read ‘til the end). And I believe you don’t even reach adulthood before having this type of scenario with at least one, if not a few, relationships.

Side note: I’m sorry for the downer Intro on Presidents’ Day/Valentine’s weekend! Hang in there…I’m going somewhere with this.

We all search for love, long for that special love, the unconditional, never going to leave you, no matter what, thick or thin, “I’m amazed by you“ love. Totally normal! What isn’t normal is what we sacrifice & compromise to get it from those who never intended to love us in the first place. (Cue the Johnny Lee song “Looking for Love in all The Wrong Places”).

So, I’ve been married to the love of my life, by God’s grace, almost 16 years now, and I put that Johnny Lee song to rest quite some time ago – but even now, all that love Mario has to give doesn’t cut it because we are just plain human and fail each other and, at times, flat out break each other’s hearts.

But still , we all need that perfect love and we tend to spend our lives trying to attain it in all sorts of ways, when it exists and is free and readily available if you want to accept it: JESUS, God’s only Son. ❤️

I’m serious! I spent 35 years of my life without accepting His love in my heart because I thought I was too damaged, not good enough and certainly not holy enough. But I’ve been in that relationship with Him for 11 years now, and He has NEVER EVER let me down.

Don’t sell yourself short & believe the hype that love like that doesn’t exist or that it’s for other people, the “put together, well-behaved” people! And don’t miss out because you think you are “a good person” and don’t need “religion.” We all have that longing for the perfect love and the answer is the one and only, the Savior of the World, Jesus.

My Valentine’s prayer for all of us is that no matter where we are, we look up & let that love fill us to overflowing knowing that God sees every part of us and chose us as His own. Most amazing of all, He died for us. He literally laid down His life us to give us something we could never get on our own…everlasting life, everlasting love. Grab your Bible or type in Google, John 3:16 and read it, and then put your hand on your heart. That’s the heart He died for.

Thanks for reading!

With all my ❤️,

Sonia

P.S. Happy Birthday, Madds 🎈

“NMWBYBD” – A Super Bowl Sunday Blog Post

N M W B Y B D. This is the tattoo I would get if I ever got one (or maybe I already have one 😉), just those initials listed and in that order. I’ll tell you why and what they stand for in a moment.

On a day when we tend to gather around TVs and food trays and all the like, I think of winning – who will win? Who will be victorious? Who will get that trophy, the ring, the interviews, the hype and the glory that comes with it?

For the last few days, weeks really…I’ll be honest, probably longer (all year!) I’ve been in a mental, spiritual and sometimes even physical wrestling match with none other that yours truly. There is a laundry list of things that are not going my way ,or the way I think they should go, in pretty much every area of my life right now. Before I go any further I will tell you that I am aware that I have so much to be thankful for & I am. This post is about the other things, the estranged relationships, the dreams that haven’t come to pass, the painful memories of the past hurts that don’t seem to go away, the health issues that keep creeping in and so on and so forth. It can get me down, and I mean down 😩!

So in my funk God kept bringing me to this verse: Luke 22:42

42 saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

Did you catch it?

The “NMWBYBD”?

It’s the “not My will, but Yours, be done” part of that verse. That’s my tattoo because that is what true victory looks like. That’s winning!

Here are the facts: God loves us. God has a perfect plan for our lives. When we surrender to Him (accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior) we get to experience the great exchange of our will (which is mostly, if not all, limited and selfish) for His will (which is perfect and glorious). We get to have those moments where life gets hard and we shift our focus to sit in the “hard” and let God lead us through to the other side.

On a day when we look at winning through the lens of a tv screen may we also remember a garden scene where the real victory took place when Jesus uttered those words ‘saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

My prayer today is that we look at the hard stuff in our lives and turn to God uttering those very same words. The garden didn’t look like victory at the time, but you and I know the truth – that garden, those words, our Jesus, made the impossible possible. He won so we could live victoriously.

Have a blessed Super Bowl Sunday!! Thank you for reading!

With all my heart,

Sonia

Are You Okay With Being Weak?

 

Screen-Shot-2019-10-19-at-2.39.08-PM-1.pngFirst of all, it’s okay not to be okay. Let me lead this blog post stating that fact. We can all take a collective sigh of relief to stop trying to fight the obvious in our lives. I had a thought the other morning – or several thoughts actually – it was like a list that wouldn’t end, and it consisted of all that is wrong with me. All my weaknesses were flooding my mind: i eat too much, i cuss too much, i fight too much, i don’t fight enough, i clean too much, i clean too little, i talk too much, i don’t listen enough, i am gullible, i am cynical, i am emotional, i am cold, i am wishy-washy, i don’t have healthy boundaries, i am withdrawn, i am too much, i am not enough no matter what i do…and the list went on. I’d like to say this was an isolated event, but it wasn’t. So I spent the day trying to prove myself wrong. It was exhausting. It is exhausting. Anyone else do this? Then later that night I had another thought about this whole thought process. It was this: all day I spend fighting the fact that I am weak. I spend my day trying to overcompensate for my weaknesses and prove myself wrong about what I know about Sonia. Each day I am just growing weaker and more defeated. It is a vicious and futile fight. Why is that?

I was never made to be strong in the way I understand strong to be. That is why. Simple, really (but hard for me to comprehend!). I was never made to shoulder these weaknesses and magically nor forcefully turn them into something the world can nod their approval at.

So this morning I want us all to give ourselves a break. We are weak. Let’s just admit it, embrace it, own it. And just before you think this couldn’t be true about you, or true about that person with the perfect instagram – let me tell you, we are all weak. All of us. Different weaknesses – yes, but weak, we are, nonetheless. But guess what? Here’s the good part of that confession. We don’t have to stay like that – just a mess of a person. Let this equation roll around in your mind and believe it – this may the bravest thing you have ever done: your weakness = God’s strength in your life on display.

He will do miracles with those weaknesses! You just have to engage in the exchange. It is hard, let me tell you – that daily struggle is tougher than we imagine sometimes, but when you catch that stride and just let go and let God, something amazing happens. Freedom. Freedom from the thoughts of your limitations and freedom from fears that everything depends on you being strong. You don’t have to hold up all the spinning plates knowing you never learned how to juggle. Let the plates fall – and don’t care if the world laughs at the broken plates because God will pick those pieces up and make something incredible out of all the brokenness. He will put that masterpiece (made from your broken pieces put in their proper place) on blast for your good and His Glory!

Here’s a passage on that topic out of The Message (2 Corinthians 12:7-10):

“7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

Let’s respond to those weaknesses today with God’s divine plan to give us His strength. Let’s stop bullying ourselves. We don’t have to worry about what He is going to do with our weaknesses. Just run to Him. Call out to Him. Let His love lift your head. He loves us.

With all my heart,

Sonia

 

The Physical vs. The Virtual

Yesterday I had an experience that I will never forget. It was a busy Friday afternoon, like any other busy Friday afternoon. I was rushing after work to pick something up from TJ Maxx before heading home to get ready to attend a couples costume event our church was putting on for the Couples/Marriage Group. I had received a text earlier that day that said, “Dress warm!” My costume was warm enough, but I knew my husband’s wouldn’t be so I made it a point to go pick up a long sleeved sweatshirt that would go with his outfit. Before I go on let me back up to Tuesday night – this very past Tuesday night, three days before this story takes place. For weeks now our Pastor’s wife has been making the announcement for donations of small canned goods (the easy-to-open kind, no can opener needed), protein bars, toiletries, socks, blankets and other items to go into big Ziploc bags to hand out to the homeless during these cold months. This is something our church does every year around this time. For the past month or so people have donated items and this past Tuesday night bags were made. Tuesday night is a church night for Refuge, the church I attend. We have services on Sunday mornings and Tuesday nights. Sometimes it is hard to get there after a hard day at work or just a plain hard day, but when I show up my heart, my mind gets recalibrated – I see people, they see me. It’s just connection. It’s just God. This particular Tuesday night, our Pastor’s wife gave me two of these bags to have on hand in my car in case I came across someone in need. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would even get the opportunity because I rush around so much and don’t really stop any one place long enough. My life feels like I go straight to work, home, groceries or to church and that’s it. So yesterday as I drove up to park in front of TJ Maxx  I could see a rather large man, who looked to be homeless, crouched down in front of the trash can outside the entrance of the store. I got out of my car and as I got closer to the front door I got a better look at him. We locked eyes for a moment. He had piercing blue eyes that kind of shocked me because it was such a contrast to his dirt stained face and brown clothing. I saw a look in his eyes that I will never forget. The only way I could describe it was that he looked as if he felt bad for me that I had to see him doing that, picking through the trash. His face haunted me as I made my way through the store. As I stood in line to buy the sweatshirt, I knew I was going to give him a bag if I saw him outside again. I walked out of the store and saw him down in front of the Rite Aid pharmacy a few stores down. I walked quickly to the car and grabbed one of the ziploc bags seeing socks and other items that I know he could use along with the food. As I walked over he looked frightened that I was making a bee line for him so he grabbed his bags and started walking away fast. As I quickened my pace, I yelled out, “Sir!” He stopped and turned around as I caught up to him holding out the bag. I said, “This is for you. God bless you.” He reached out his hand which looked mangled with arthritis and looked up and said, “God bless you.” He looked relieved and thankful. My heart broke in a million pieces right then. I walked back to my car, called my husband and just sobbed as I told him what just happened. This leads me to the title of my blog post tonight. All this happened in the physical – from the people showing up to church and bringing items, to our Pastor and his wife opening the doors and putting this effort into motion, to all kinds of people taking bags and handing them out all over the surrounding cities. All of this was shared by people who showed up to do their part. In a virtual world, this is what is missed. Now I know there are seasons when you just can’t get to a church, that’s not what I am speaking to right now. This message is for all of us who think online experiences “check the box” and fulfill that “requirement”. Guess what!? We don’t have to go to church, we GET TO! We don’t have to donate items, we GET TO! We don’t have to pass out bags, we GET TO! And to the man out there with the brilliant blue eyes, you are being prayed for and thank you for accepting that bag. God used you in my life more than you’ll ever know.

With all my heart,

Sonia

Been Lied To? Have You Lied Before?

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So, here it is, the ugly truth. I have lied before, and I have been lied to. I am typing this right now because someone just lied to me, and instead of heading into the direction I always do, which is to exact revenge in some manner, I need to sit. Sit and write. Sit and write and pray. Sit and write and pray and confess. Confess this, lying to me makes me want to rip your face off. Sorry, it’s the truth. Even though when I lie or have lied – I want/wanted all the grace in the world – I am out for blood when it happens to me. I may not act out all the things that happen in my mind when I am confronted with this, but rest assured I have thought really bad thoughts about how justice could be delivered in the way I think most fitting for my shattered feelings.

So now what? What do I do as my breathing is still faster than I’d like it to be and my mind is still recalling the recent interaction? I’ve confessed my (MUCH) less than godly thoughts, and I’ve had some time to sit. I’ve prayed, “God help me not rip their face off.” So now what…

Maybe you are not like me and don’t have an anger management problem to contend with so you think you’re better than me with this – good for you. Really, I am not saying this in a mean tone as I type. I sincerely mean it: GOOD FOR YOU. I wouldn’t wish my temper on anyone.

I will say this though. In this weakness of mine, I am growing stronger in God’s grace. Just the fact that I am willing to sit here and type and not give full vent to my feelings towards the person who lied, is growth for me. Just the fact that tears are stinging my eyes instead of bad words being hurled out of my mouth at breakneck speed, is a miracle.

So this awful moment – when lies were flung at me, is just a moment in time where I can see God’s hand steady me as I wait. I don’t have to take the bait this time and walk away a villain once again because of my temper. I can remember that I, too, have lied, and I, too, need grace. All this is possible, even if this person doesn’t apologize and make it right. I can be free. I can honor the Lord.

So here it is…the TRUTH, I need God’s grace. You need God’s grace. We need grace from each other. Grace and grace and grace again and tons of truth – and not just a version of it, but the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help us God.

John 8:32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

That’s all for today. Thank you for reading (and praying for me!).

With all my heart,

Sonia

 

The Recovery

Good morning! This is an older blog post that I’m reposting because I needed to read it again!

Mario and I come from a families of musicians. It’s a beautiful thing. The younger generations are making their own way in their musical journeys now. Recently our nieces had a performance and their drummer, their ten year old sister – insert shameless proud “Titi Sonia” plug here https://www.youtube.com/user/MireyaArianaGmusic  – was receiving a pep talk from her dad and Tio Mario about mistakes and how to recover from them. They were explaining that you will make mistakes, mistakes aren’t the issue. It’s all about the recovery.

How do you recover from a mistake? Mistakes are a guarantee in life so what do we do with them? They are obviously meant to teach us something about ourselves and life, but they are awful. Mistakes stink! There’s that sinking feeling in your stomach that you get when you realize you’ve messed up, and then there’s that voice in your head reminding you over and over about it.

What about when someone makes a mistake and you get hurt because of it? Would you agree that it’s about the recovery then too – that it’s about what they do after the mistake? I think that’s what matters when you mess up, the recovery.

Here’s the Google dictionary definition of recovery: A RETURN TO A NORMAL STATE OF HEALTH, MIND, OR STRENGTH.

Today is a challenge to be freed up to admit our mistakes and then to learn how to recover from them. God calls us to be humble and admit wrongs so we can grow and get up and keep going. If you’re like me and you’ve beaten yourself up for mistakes and then run from the recovery part of it, guess what? We have a better way to handle it now with God.  It is going to feel uncomfortable and strange, but we get to grow. We get to learn how to live this life more fully, more abundant and more free.

Here’s a verse from Ephesians about growth:

 Ephesians 4:14-16  (NLT)

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

 

So hang in there with the real relationships. Don’t jump ship because you think there’s a better ship – there isn’t, and as hard as it may be, be patient with yourself and others.

Have a blessed day!

With all my heart,

Sonia

Enjoy this video from my nieces…G Girls Music 🙂

My makeup education 101

Well I was going to post earlier because I had some time to write since I was going to be on the train for about an hour and a half, but I met a really nice couple in the cafe and talked with them for most of the ride (they recommended my new favorite train ride beverage – so thank you for that also!). Her name was Sonja (like my name) also, so this was just meant to be! SIDENOTE: If you’re reading this, Sonja, I really thank the Lord I got to sit with you guys.

Here’s the update to my makeup class as a follow up to my last post. I walked into my appointment ready for anything. I knew it was gong to be a pretty penny for all the products that were being used, but I just wanted to find out about the must-haves and learn about what will work best for daily application.

My beauty teacher’s name was Chama, and she was just the right blend of maturity, relevance, legit-ness and hip-ness (not sure of how many of those are actual words but hey, this is a blog – please give me a break)!  Here are some photos from my time there:

So today was my first day using it all and I’d only remembered a fraction of what Chama said to do, and I’m sure I didn’t do a lot of it right, but just like everything else in life, there’s a learning curve so l will be patient with myself.

Thank you for reading my Friday blog post! I do so enjoy putting these words together. God knows I need this outlet.

With all my heart,

Sonia

 

The Toughest Day of 2017

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Photo taken June 29, 2017 Carlsbad, CA

 

I just googled the most middle day of the year, and it is July 2nd. So almost smack dab in the middle of last year my world got rocked. I read a description somewhere about traumatic events and how you start to describe things as before “that” or after “that”.  On New Year’s Eve a few nights ago I glanced over the year of photos in my phone and found that to be true, this photo marks the point of the “after”.  I wrote about it last September in one of the blog posts so I won’t go into the details here. But here’s the thing about 2018 and beyond, we are guaranteed a tough day – maybe even the toughest day ever. My prayer, a resolution if you will, is for the toughest day to drive us to our Great Savior – the  only one equipped to bring answers, healing, restoration, strength, forgiveness, love and grace through the excrutiating process of rebuilding after heartbreak. Let your heart break when it’s supposed to and then trust God to put it back together the way it was intended to be in the first place.

The Snapchat photo here on this page says it all. In the midst of my greatest pain, sitting there at the beach with my heart in shreds and my mind trying to make sense out of everything, God presented me with a command, “Trust Him.” Everything in me wanted to run and handle life with bitterness, revenge even. But I got up from that bench at the beach and took a step and then another one towards my car, and even though I didn’t how to proceed from there, I did. The power that I needed to forgive and forge a new path was there from God. And that event, that toughest day, opened up me up to a new life. A life of more honesty, more depth and more grace.

So here’s the theme for 2018: GRACE and more grace. Your toughest day can be your greatest day.

Thank you for reading!

With all my heart, Sonia

The Great DINNER Exchange

The summer of 2017 (the one that we are just saying goodbye to) was one of the hardest for our marriages. I shared my idea for this blog post with Mario (my husband of 12 years) and asked what his thoughts were. He said, “Be honest. Tell the story.” So here I go. But before I dive in I have to say Mario is the love of my life. I’m the love of his life. It was at the end of June this year that I discovered something I wasn’t quite prepared for (I will spare you and me the intimate details of this discovery) but safe to say it’s one that rocks you to your core. It was one of those times when you don’t know if everything is just a bad dream. I don’t care how many years you’ve been married – there are some heartbreaking moments when you can’t breathe. I mean…really…the person you love most on the planet holds your heart in their hands and you hold theirs. Tell me that they’ve never or you’ve never crushed it?! Well this was one of those crushing moments. And before this becomes a pity party for Sonia I must tell you I have given Mario equal reasons to feel crushed, and he has forgiven me (maybe he can write a blog post as a follow up to this one to share his story as well).  So getting back to a few months ago…there was something being unearthed in our marriage and in us that needed to be unearthed. I drove to the beach alone a few days after the “discovery” and went for a walk during sunset. I sat on a bench and looked at the sun as it started to set. I was angry and was doing my best to use that anger as a cloak for my broken heart. As I sat there longer and talked to God in my heart about the “why’s” and the “how’s” I felt Him say to my soul the most absurd thing, “Go home and make him dinner.” I literally shook my head no. But again, there was the message, “Go home and serve him.” Even as I type the tears are coming. It was so clear, but I was so angry. How could I do that? How could I do that through this anguish? But I did. I got up, walked to the car and drove to Trader Joe’s and picked up Brussels sprouts for a recipe I wanted to try. I came home and all that was going through my head was, “Why am I doing this after what happened?” I set the table and motioned to him to sit down to eat. He looked at me in disbelief but sat down. We both ate. Afterwards we had one of the most honest conversations we’ve ever had. I was still hurt, but now truth and love were on the table. We have both hurt each other in this marriage. We are not perfect, but now we weren’t running from our mistakes. We were facing them. Together. In the months that followed we put the pieces back together, put one foot in front of the other, got godly counsel and hung on for dear life. So, fast forward to the theme of “The Great DINNER Exchange.” Two days ago we celebrated our 12th anniversary as husband and wife. Mario surprised me with the most elegant dinner I’ve ever had. It was magical. It was amazing. At the end of the dinner I remembered what God had said to me that day at the beach, and I looked at the exquisite table and tears came to my eyes. It felt as if God was saying to my heart at that table, “This is the exchange…that dinner when you were heartbroken for this one where I put it back together the right way.” I obeyed Him, and He delivered far beyond what I could have asked for. I still love our marriage – flaws and all – because it is a constant reminder that miracles happen, that God is faithful, and HE HAS A PLAN. I trust Him because we fail Him, and He still loves us so much. He loves our marriage. So the challenge tonight is to close your eyes and obey God. Push past the feelings, the crushing pain and obey the One who can make sense of it all.

Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions. 1 John 3:18 NLT

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Colossians 3:13 NLT

 

With all my heart, Sonia

P.S. To the man of my life, Mario, you are the hero of my life. I love you with everything I’ve got. Happy, blessed beyond measure, Anniversary!

 

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Notice the “Happy Anniversary” envelope in the corner of photo

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Pre-dinner photo (Mario’s idea) He’s such a romantic and I love it!