Friday, December 13, 2013

The Handshake that Shook the World.

By now you have probably heard about President Barack Obama shaking hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro at Nelson Mandela's memorial service earlier this week. That story has taken America by storm and every news outlet jumped at the opportunity to publish the infamous photo and the talking heads had plenty to say about it.

Photo credit: ABC News
It was the handshake that shook the world.

The Obama-Castro handshake lead me to think about how it was a Christian thing to do. Whether you are leaning to the right or left (politically, obviously), you have to admit it was a gesture that a Christian would go for. And no I am not just defending President Obama. Trust me, there are some things he has done that I do not agree with and have essentially disappointed me.

How many times have we run into someone who has wronged us and we've been cordial with them? It is not called being superficial, it's called being a Christian [unless it's being done with a malicious spirit]. Have you ever passed by someone you did not like and turned the other cheek or gave them a dirty look? It did not feel very Christ-like, right? Lord knows I have been there before in the past. Not a good feeling.

The Bible talks about loving our enemies-- Luke 6:35: "But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." I don't know about you but loving those who have hurt us is one of the most challenging things I have had to deal with. But it's in the Bible for a good reason. 

Next time you see that person who wronged you extend your hand [or even go the extra mile and extend your arms]. I guarantee that gesture will shake the other person's world and even yours as well. Try it out. I dare you. 

Be Blessed. XoXo

Friday, November 15, 2013

Inspiration--Out of the Mouth of Babes

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” 
― T.E. Lawrence


A couple days ago I was asked to be part of the review committee that is hosting an essay contest for high school students. The essay question basically asks "What Are Your Dreams?" This amazing entity is then going to award a couple students a large scholarship to obtain their dream. Pretty awesome stuff. 


As I read through all of the essays, tears welled up in my eyes and my heart felt overjoyed that despite all of the tragic struggles and pain, these young students still have a burning passion for their dream. I would like to share with you some tidbits of what I read. Wish you could completely read them all, but this will do for now.

Disclaimer: To respect their privacy, I will be referring to them as student #1, #2, etc. 

Student #1: 
Dream: To become a pediatrician
Struggle: Had to leave her family behind to come to the U.S. to achieve her goal


"Good enough" is never good enough for me. My life goal is to someday become a pediatrician and "be the change I want to see in the world."

"Minutes before I got on the plane, I looked up at my father's face and my cheeks started to feel hot, and I could feel a warm tear run down my face. I told him, "Papi, no te preocupes, te prometo que esto va a valer la pena y voy a convertirme un una mujer hecha y derecha."

"Success is not an option for me, it is the only way that my adversity will be worth it." 

"If it weren't for the struggles, I would not be as driven for success and I would not have the will for helping others as I do now." 
________________________________________________________
Student #2:
Dream: To become a pastor
Struggle: Did not grow up with a biological father & grew up in rough neighborhood


"...Growing up without my biological father in my life greatly shaped my dream, but there is no need for complaining because I had my mother and God, the father, in my life."

"I want to help people by giving them a sense of hope and the word of God..."

"My dreams mean the world to me, I'm like a big kid with his favorite blanket and that blanket being my dream, I'm not letting go for anyone, it's what I love and who I am."

_________________________________________________________
Student #3:

Dream: To become a bio-medical engineer & bio-medical researcher
Struggle: Born with an incurable/highly visible skin disease 


"The past few years, I deliberately began to embrace my body and gained the self confidence that was hidden within me. It motivates me to help others not only with this skin disease, but to help those with countless incurable diseases and enable them to love themselves for who they are and what they are capable of."

"I always remember the quote, "nothing lasts forever," whenever I get discouraged by my body and skin disorder because it gives me hope. We should all have hope for a better tomorrow."

____________________________________________________________
Student #4: 
Dream: To become a maternity ward nurse
Struggle: Girlfriend who was pregnant with their child miscarried & his father is in jail 


"Out of something so painful, I will make something beautiful." 
____________________________________________________________
Student #5:
Dream: To become a veterinarian

Struggle: Parents abandoned him as baby

"All families go through difficult times and viewing the glass half empty won't get you anywhere. I know what it feels like to cry yourself to sleep. I know what it feels like when your parents just give up on you. I know what it feels like to look in the mirror and truly believe that you let someone down and you are worthless. However, if I never had a dream I wouldn't be standing here today."
_____________________________________________________________
Student #6:
Dream: To become an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
Struggle: The father came from Cuba when young, dropped out of school and was never able to graduate. He (the father) eventually went to prison, got out, obtained his GED and went to college to become an EMT. 


"Despite all of his hardships, he made sure to become a better person. And just like him, I'll be able to overcome my own hardships."
"I will not quit when life gets a bit out of hand. I will be the best that I can be. I will succeed in life." 

_______________________________________________________________
What would your "profile/story/dream" look like? 

Person #7:
Dream:
Struggle: 

"Motivational quotes" 


Hope you were inspired as much as I was after reading these profiles! Help me keep these students in prayer so they can reach their dream! 
Remember that no matter how young or old you are, it is NEVER too late to dream.
Dream BIG! Dream out loud! 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Open Letter to Our Family & Friends About Why We're Skipping "Christmas" This Year


FROM THE DESK OF ANISSA [& HECTOR]

November 13, 2013

Dear Family & Friends,

This year we are skipping "Christmas." Yep, you read that correctly, we aren't "doing" "Christmas" this year. So, for those of you who usually buy us gifts, we kindly ask that you please skip our names this season [seriously, this is not a joke]. Yeah, yeah, I know it's tempting to start calling us anti-Christmas names, but before you do, please hear me out.

My favorite holiday has always been Thanksgiving. Why? Because it's a meaningful, "warm," cozy, family-centered, and overall delicious holiday. Countless hours are spent preparing the food in the kitchen, friendly football games are played [and watched], many people participate in service activities, some folks attend church to give special thanks, and the entire day is devoted to quality time with family and friends. In the evening nothing is expected of anyone except a delicious meal, meaningful conversation, and the eventual food coma (btw, did you know it's *not* the turkey that makes you drowsy? Just thought you should know).
______________________________________________________________________
Commercial break: Is it me or did Christmas arrive way earlier this year? I remember going to Costco in AUGUST [it was still 90 degrees out] and seeing Christmas items up for sale. I think I stopped and stared for a couple of minutes before gaining my composure again. What happened to enjoying every season/holiday as they come? Oh, and let me not even start about the stores this year in preparation for "Black Friday." Some are going to be open all through Thanksgiving. What has happened to us? Why are we so obsessed with buying gifts? Here's a thought--why not gift quality time to the people you are buying gifts for instead of spending your Thanksgiving standing in line for a material thing (something that will not even last) for them? Sadly, at this rate, I wouldn't doubt people skipping Thanksgiving all together in the years to come. Let's wake up people. Life is not only about material things.
 
______________________________________________________________________

**Okay, back to the letter.**

Before you jump to conclusions, I just want to personally say I truly love Christmas!
I love the warm, fuzzy feeling when the songs come on;
I love the Christmas programs at churches, performance centers, and schools;
I love helping others in different service events;
I love decorating my home with shiny decorations including my nativity set;
I love drinking hot chocolate and watching "Home Alone" and "Charlie Brown Christmas" with family;
I love going out to checkout the Christmas lights on all of the homes;
I love baking sweet treats with loved ones;
I love visiting the National Christmas Tree here in DC;
I love visiting NYC to see the store windows (especially Macy's);
I love hearing about the true meaning of Christmas; and
I love the quality time [whether it includes dinner or not] with family and friends.

Whew, that was a lot of love, but you see I *DO* love the real Christmas.

 What we do not love is the commercialism part of Christmas. Granted, we do enjoy the occasional fabulous deals at the stores, but the entire Christmas shopping experience puts a damper on the true meaning of Christmas--and to me it's tiresome and unnecessary. Hopefully I don't offend anyone with what I am about to say but in the past I have spent countless hours rushing around in my limited time after work to buy gifts for folks who will not even like the gift or use it. We have all been to those family or friends homes months after Christmas only to see that the gift you gave them months ago is still in it's original packaging. Not a good feeling, right?

This year we will be doing more of the things we love (see the LOVE paragraph above) about Christmas and skipping the commercialized part of it. It's an experiment and don't think we have ever done this before. We will see how it goes for us this year. Who knows, maybe next year we will go back to our shopping ways, but with a twist--only time will tell.

We challenge you as well to take a step back [either figuratively or literally] and think about what Christmas really means to you.
We love you and look forward in spending quality time with you this season.

Love,

Anissa [and Hec]

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Evolution [of The Concept] of Friendship Through My Eyes

Photo Credit: 99wallpapers.com

Have you noticed that when it comes to friendship, there are different variances and degrees of the relationship?

Words such as: 
"True/real friend"
"Fake friend"
Close friend
Best friend [BFF]
Childhood friend
Old friend
New friend
"Work friend"
Friend
Sister/brother
Acquaintance

To me a friend is a friend who is a friend. Confusing, but the title of true/real friend should not really exist because if they weren't true/real, then technically they weren't a friend. Right? And when I say friend, by definition I mean a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard (also known as having an actual relationship with that person). An acquaintance is someone who you simply know or know about. You are acquainted with who they are and what they are about, but that is the extent of it. There is a difference. 

Awhile back I was having brunch with a group of girlfriends and we got on the topic of friendship. One of my girls is very well known in this area and she said something that I could [now] relate to. She said she did not have many friends. A part of me was taken back when she stated that because I see her as "Miss I-know everyone-on-earth (okay, okay, well maybe everyone in the DMV area)." But she said, "No, there is a huge difference between knowing a lot of people and actually having a relationship with them." Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding--right on the money. 


Some of you older folks might relate to this, but have you also noticed that you had more friends when you were younger? 

When I was younger (in elementary school) I had the time, energy, and did I mention TIME to have relationships with everyone and anyone. I remember being on the phone for hours and hours and hours just laughing, talking about the day, and gossiping about who liked who. We would sing Boyz II Men songs on the phone and try to test the limit of 3-way calling (fun fact: one time we had about 12 people on the line because person 1 called another person who then called another person who then called another person, etc. It was chaotic but memorable and I still remember like it was yesterday. LOL!!) I had the time so why not?

When I entered High School, my group of friends slightly decreased but my acquaintance circle widened dramatically. I was friends with the seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. It was a good feeling to know a lot of people. On the side, I had a solid and amazing group of church friends. When I entered my 1st year in college (Universidad Adventista de La Antillas), my circle of friends widened again and I made some lifelong friendships. 


I could keep going with the different stages of friendships, but I'll spare you the boring details. Fast forward oh about 12 years, I have reached a new stage with my friendships. My circle of friends has become more defined (I know who is who) and it has definitely shrunk. There are friends that I still have from every stage of my life; the friendships have survived the "test of time (that we all go through)." And there are friendships that have simply dissolved; just because we were only friends for that particular season (which is more than okay). Some people think I have 1,000 friends because I know a lot of people--but nope. Do I have 1,000 acquaintances? Yeah, probably. Friends? Definitely not. It happens. Some friendships have time limits and others don't.

Personally, I thank God for the clarity He has given me about who is who in my life. I am not a perfect friend, but I pray to be a wonderful friend to my friends. I also pray to be a wonderful acquaintance to people I know and who know me. 

I am not going to be juvenile and give a shout-out to every friend in my circle, but there is one friend I do not mind telling you about--it's Jesus! You know why? John 15:13 explains it best--"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." He laid down His life for me and you and He loved us first. What's not to love in a Man like that? And you know in reality we have to think the people that we call a "friend;" would we lay down our life for them? Jesus re-defined friendship.

Side note: one of these days [when I feel really passionate about the topic], I will blog about friendships that cease to exist that you actually care about because let's be real, there are some friendships that die that we are actually relieved about.

There is this poem about this very topic and would like to share with you: 


People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

When you figure out which one it is,
you will know what to do for each person.
When someone is in your life for a REASON,
it is usually to meet a need you have expressed.
They have come to assist you through a difficulty;
to provide you with guidance and support;
to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually.
They may seem like a godsend, and they are.
They are there for the reason you need them to be.
Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time,
this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end.
Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away.
Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand.
What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled; their work is done.
The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.
Some people come into your life for a SEASON,
because your turn has come to share, grow or learn.
They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh.
They may teach you something you have never done.
They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy.
Believe it. It is real. But only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons;
things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation.
Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person,
and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life.
It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant.

— Unknown

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Simple Life: Why I Didn't Want to Come Back from DR.

Coat of Arms of DR
Earlier this week I arrived back home from a 10 day vacation that transformed my life. Yeah, I am sure a few of you just rolled your eyes [haha], but something clicked within me and has changed me. I loved every moment of my Dominican Republic (DR) experience and would do anything to be transported back to the island of Hispaniola.  


DR from the plane

Last year my husband and I vacationed in DR, but only had the tourist experience. We stayed at a wonderful resort in Punta Cana, went on excursions and even went on those annoying and embarrassing tour buses to the capital--Santo Domingo (Sto. Domingo). We saw everything through the tourist's eyes.

Earlier this year one of my sisters got proposed to and I instantly thought--"Yay, this means I'm going back to DR!" As the time was approaching to purchase our tickets to paradise, I offered to arrive earlier to help her with last minute wedding preparations in the capital. Little did I know what I was in store for.

Being in Santo Domingo as a local was completely different from how I saw it last year from the tour bus. It is a congested city with daring and relentless drivers, but when you look closer, there is so much more than that.



On the streets of Sto. Domingo

I stayed in el Prado Oriental with my sister's family who all live within the same radius [family values are important]. We stayed in her uncle's apartment home and never went to bed on an empty stomach. The delicately crafted meals were so flavorful and made with love. There was always breakfast, lunch, and dinner waiting for us. Even if we were out and about in the streets of Sto. Domingo, there was always food portioned off for us on the table when we got back. 



Entrance of neighborhood
Delicious Dominican fare

More yummy goodness
Something I loved was that every time we were going to go out and every night, we would kiss Tia Denia [and other family members] on the cheek and give big hugs. Sounds so basic, but to feel the love was incredible. That's how I am with my "Abuela" in New Jersey, but to have this part of the daily life feels amazing. There was not a moment where I felt the love dissipate.

I learned from one of the cousins that 70% of the people in the Dominican Republic are living in the poverty, but by their attitude, disposition, and outlook, you wouldn't know it. People in the streets greet you like if they knew you from the past, sales people call you "amor" and etc, and many walk around with wide smiles.


The home I was staying in there was no a/c, just a strong oscillating fan. Every night I would take a cold shower and wet my hair so I could sleep well. I survived and would keep doing it. A couple afternoons throughout the week I would lay in the bed reading "Lean In" by Sheryl Sandberg and genuinely felt relaxed. Look, during my week there, I felt no real stress, sickness, discomfort, sadness (except when someone dear to me passed back home), or anything negative.


View from the balcony with my good read
So, T-Mobile charges an arm and a leg (and your right kidney) for international data therefore I opted to not have data while overseas. What a blessing. One of the cousins had wifi at their home and we would go over there to use it to get in touch with our loved ones back home, but other than that, I was more than okay to not have Internet at every moment. It was a relief to not have Facebook notifications popping up, emails streaming in, and other alerts. Jumping ahead, later in the week when we got to Punta Cana, I ended up not having Internet at all (because the resort wanted to charge a ridiculous amount) for 5 straight days...and guess what? I was happy and relieved to have not that ball and chain.

Another interesting fact about my time in Sto. Domingo was that the electricity would go off every single day at least twice a day. I asked about this and they informed me that it is the city's way of saving energy and reducing costs. Surprisingly I was more than okay with not having electricity. There was a night where the light would not come back and the whole family sat on the balcony just talking, laughing and enjoying each other's company. It was unlike anything else I've experienced.

During my time there I also learned about the country's rich history and deep roots. It was fascinating to learn about the island's beginnings and how it began. Last year, my husband and I had visited the Zona Colonial (historic part of the city), but again, this year it was completely different. I saw it with a different set of eyes. There is so much to see and learn! Don't rely on the tour group...it will not be the same.

Founding fathers of DR


Christopher Columbus' last residence


Casa de Colon


First hospital built in the 1500's

If I could spend at least 1 month a year in DR, I would be a really happy woman. I long for the simple, happy life! Yes, I know that's wishful thinking...but it brings me happiness knowing that I now have family over there. People who are truly beautiful inside and out. I pray that God continues to bless their households and business in abundance. 


!Familia Alcantara, mil gracias por todo! Realmente me sentí en familia durante mi estadía en Sto. Domingo. Son una familia muy bendicida y bella. Que nuestro Dios les siga bendiciendo en todo aspectos. Los aprecio mucho, mucho! Les mando muchos abrazos y besitos. 


(Parte de la) Familia Alcantara

     
 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Make or Break You.

My wonderful (and rather large) wedding party on January 1st, 2006

We've all seen the Facebook graphic quote that states, "Welcome to Facebook, where relationships/marriages are perfect, your Facebook friends walk right by you in the street, etc." When I first saw a couple of my acquaintances post that on the social networks, I chuckled internally because I mean really, we are just watching everyone's "highlight reel." BUT we all have that one Facebook friend that vents all of their dirty relationship/marriage laundry. No one wants to see constant bickering on their social networks. Imagine if all of us (who are in relationships) would post each argument/frustration?

We'd see a lot of:


"Ugh, my man/woman does not spend quality time with me! All he/she does is play video games!" 

"My significant other forgot to pick the dog up AGAIN from the kennel, for the 4th time this month!" 

"My man/woman ignores me when they are with their group of friends. I cannot stand it."

"Geez, when will my husband/wife remember to start taking out the trash on Tuesdays? We've been living here for 5 years now, he/she should know the drill by now."  


"Seriously, when will my significant other learn to spend our money wisely and not eat out every day?" 

The truth of the matter is no one needs to see or hear that. Yes, I admit, sometimes I over share on my social networks, but that is one thing I do not share. I respect my husband, myself and others so I do not air any sort of stinky laundry. 

Many people have told me that they think my husband and I are a "perfect couple" and have a "perfect marriage." I always laugh when they say that because I cannot stand the word "perfect" when it comes to us humans. I only know of ONE perfect being and it's GOD. Aside from Him, not even the most holy and pious pastoral couple you know is perfect--nope, not even them. NO ONE is perfect. NO relationship/marriage is perfect. That is the bottom line. We all have flaws within ourselves and when two people come together those flaws sometimes come out and we bump heads. It's part of human nature. 

This coming January (2014), my husband and I will be celebrating our 8th wedding anniversary. No, we weren't 18 when we got married (haha), but we were young and inexperienced. To make a long story short, we almost did not make it passed our first two years of marriage. [Side note: I feel slightly uncomfortable as I type this out, but I know if this helps at least one couple out there, it was worth speaking about a part of my marriage that I never wish to relive (and with God's help, we never will)]. As I was saying, the "D" word was brought up plenty of times during those first two years because it was extremely tough. Only my closest friends and family know this about us and now all of you know, and I'm sharing it because in the past few years I have had many people vent to me about their marital strife within the first two years. The first few years of marriage are the most critical ones and they can either make you or break you. It is very common and almost to be expected to have bumps (obviously, there are always exceptions to the rule and if you're that exception, good for you)!  I just want all of you (married or single) to know that there is HOPE

Getting married and being married is amazing. You have to be in it to experience what I'm talking about. It's like living with your best friend and having dinner and sleepovers every single night! But within your first years of marriage there is also an adjustment period. Think about it, both of you were raised individually in distinct households with a different set of parents, rules, routines, customs, etc. And then you tie the knot and start living together and now you have two different rules, routines, customs, upbringings in one household. Of course there will be friction (at times)! It takes time, patience, love, and gentleness to get a hang of combining (giving and taking) rules, routines, customs, and upbringings. You now have your own home so there is a new family, a new culture and it simply takes time to adjust. Did you know that as the topic of matrimonial success and divorce is studied more and more, research shows that how a couple weathers their first two years together can make or break their marriage? 

What held my husband and I together was God--that, and the willingness to fight for our love no matter how painful it was. We prayed together, individually, with close family and friends, and had our loved ones' support (special shout out to those close family and friends who loved/supported us through it--we love you and thank you!).

We survived our first two years of marriage and still praise God for it today! I do not know where I'd be without that amazing man of mine (Hector, te amo con todo mi alma y corazon). We now look back and laugh about our foolishness and literally thank God in our prayers for taking us through the fire without any severe burns.

Our marriage is not perfect, but I can definitely tell you that we are way more in love now then we were 9+ years ago...Our love and marriage has gotten better and better with the years. It's an unbreakable bond that I cherish. 

Friend, if you are going through marriage "hell" right now (no matter if you're in your first few years of marriage or have already passed those years) please know that with God's help and with YOUR desire to have a long lasting, happy marriage, you WILL get through it! Place all of your marital woes in God's hands and He will work it out for you. Do NOT give up! Keep pressing through. 

Place you and your spouse in this Bible verse, "_______ and I can do ALL things through God who strengthens us." --Philippians 4:13 

May God be with and bless your marriage (future marriage), my friend.

XoXo,

Anissa


Monday, July 22, 2013

In-Progress, but Not Finished Yet.

Usually you hear testimonies once something has culminated, but very seldom do you hear of testimonies that are in-progress. Well, this is exactly what this blog post is...an in-progress testimony. I am sharing because I am extremely happy that God has been opening doors for me and clearly showing me my purpose for this temporary life. 

To give you some background, six years ago I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and since then I knew that graduate school, just like undergrad, was not an option. My only problem was deciding what to study.  I am a huge proponent of education, but my heart did not do somersaults when I thought about "mastering" in that field. I also thought about an MBA (Masters of Business Administration), but the same occurred with that-- my heart was still not content or at ease. A couple other tracks passed through my mind including health related paths (what in the world, Nissy?) and even law school passed through my mind. But nothing felt right. I liked the "idea" of law school and an MBA, but it still did not feel like "the one." I prayed for various years and finally it felt like I had a "Say Yes to The Dress" moment-- I knew within my heart that a Masters of Public Administration (MPA) would be my "soul mate."

Friends, I'm telling you, God's voice was extremely clear and loud! Throughout the whole exploratory phase (6 years), I felt God whispering "Pssst, Niss...what about public service (MPA)??" in my ear but I kept subconsciously ignoring it. Here I am six years later, 10 credits down and many to go, but on my way to obtaining my Masters of Public Administration (MPA)! I am working full-time, studying full-time, and I'm a full-time wife/daughter/friend/church leader, but yet God is helping me in tremendous ways. Please don't think I'm bragging with what I'm about to say, but I am saying this to motivate someone out there that does not think they can do it...but in my first graduate school session, I was taking 7 credits, and God granted me with a 4.0 GPA! When I first saw my grades, I cried because it has already been quite the journey, but like God has promised in the Bible, with HIM, NOTHING is impossible! We just have to believe. 

Wait, my in-progress testimony has more to it. So, to backtrack a little more, during the same time I was applying to graduate school, I thought about what non-academic related activities I can be a part of to enhance my educational experience and to propel me to my future goals and God put an amazing opportunity before me. To make a long story short, I have been nominated, confirmed and appointed by the Montgomery County (Maryland) Council to become part of the Committee on Hate and Violence! It was a long process and included an intimating interview, but I told God, "Hey God, if you want me to do this, please do your thing." I even went so far to decline a board member position earlier this year because deep in my heart I knew God wanted me to serve my community on a different level. I was so daring with me believing I was going to be appointed that a couple months ago I put all of the meetings in my calendar because I believed. Look, I did not believe in MYSELF, but I believed that God lead me to my calling/purpose (finalizing my decision about my MPA and starting on the process of obtaining my degree) and that this was just a glimpse of a bigger picture. I am extremely excited about serving my community in an area that is very near and dear to my heart-- fighting hate and violence. Please pray for me as I work with other individuals to counsel the Montgomery County Council about these delicate issues. 



Photo of the official letter! Eeek! Thank you God!
Quick commercial break: I would like to thank my support system [God, husband, family, friends and mentors] for believing in me and always praying for me. I cannot repay you for all of the love, support and prayers, but know that I do not take our relationship for granted...at all. I love you. 

My friend, if you are trying to find or confirm your purpose, please do NOT give up. Keep looking UP to God for guidance because He sees your heart and knows you want to live your purpose in unimaginable ways. Look at me, it took me six years to come to this realization/confirmation, so a delay is not a "I forgot about you or I do not care about" from God. He is crafting your future right now as you read this. He is putting all of the pieces (small and large) together. Take some time to listen to His "still small voice" and get ready to live out loud! 

Or maybe, you are already living your "purpose..." That's great! Congratulations! But you know what? God is still working on you too! Believe it. There is more to be done, there are more things to accomplish and more goals to meet! Keep moving forward and keep living your God given purpose! 

Wherever you may be on your journey, there is a song I would like you to hear. By the way, parts of the song are about the singer's personal experience, but the parts that get to me are these words:

There is hope, for me yet, 
Because God won't forget, 
All the plans HE's made for me
I have to wait and see, 
HE's not finished with me yet, 
HE's not finished with me yet


Still wonderin' why I'm here. 

Still wrestling with my fear
But oh... HE's up to something, 
And the farther out I go, 
I've seen enough to know 
That I'm not here for nothin'...
He's up to somethin'.





 God's NOT finished with you or me yet. I'm praying for your dreams and life purpose. Please keep me in prayer as well.

And oh yeah, stay tuned for more about my on-going testimony. I just have a feeling that there will be many parts to this long story (to yours too)! Let's believe it! Blessings!

Friday, April 26, 2013

A Special THANK YOU!


*This is a special THANK YOU to all of my readers across the world!* 
Below is a greeting in your language and the list starts with the country language that I receive the most readership from and so on. I thank God for all of you and pray that our good Lord continues to pour out His marvelous blessings on you. 

Thank you for reading my blog!
Gracias por leer mi blog!
感谢您阅读我的博客
ขอบคุณสำหรับการอ่านบล็อกของฉัน
Merci d'avoir lu mon blog
Terima kasih kerana membaca blog saya
Salamat sa iyo para sa pagbabasa ng aking blog
என் வலைப்பதிவை படித்து நன்றி
నా బ్లాగ్ చదివే ధన్యవాదాలు
Vă mulțumesc pentru lectură blog-ul meu
Спасибо за чтение моего блога
Спасибі за читання мого блогу

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Grateful, Grateful, Grateful...



Brian Tracy

Friedrich Nietzsche

Eileen Caddy

Each and every day, whether we believe it or not, we receive blessings. "Small" blessings, "huge" ones and everything in between. Whether the blessing is getting to work on time despite all of the traffic or if it is the blessing of having a loved one cured from a serious illness. Blessings vary, but the real question is are we identifying them and praising God for them? 


Many people say Facebook is full of useless information, but if you look closely, you will find some real treasures. One of my friends, Serge [thanks Serge!], posted about Grateful160.com last month and the word grateful jumped out to me and I clicked. Grateful160 is an online journal where you can input the blessings you are thankful for each day. There are options to have the system email you once, twice, or up to four times a day and when it emails you it asks you the following question: 

Morning Anissa! What do you have to be grateful for right now?

Take a moment and reflect on what you are grateful for right now.

Then hit reply to this note.

When you reply to the email, your blessing gets stored on the grateful160.com website and you can login to view all of your blessings. Also, they send you a weekly recap at the end of the week so you can reflect on your past week! Isn't that amazing? Below you will find some examples of my gratitude [obviously, I cut and paste the ones that are not too private] journal entries. 



This site and concept really makes you stop and smell the roses. Whenever I receive the email, it always stops me in my tracks and forces me to reflect on what I am grateful for. Entering my blessings into an online journal every day has truly made an impact in the way I view things and circumstances around me.

I encourage you to sign up today so you can start getting your "praise on." You will not regret it.

Let's be grateful! 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Not so Holy week?


Hmmm, how do I start this blog post? Let me just cut to the chase and not waste anyone's time. For a couple years now I have been a little disturbed about why some Christians "boycott" Easter. We celebrate President's Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and other holidays [which are all focused around earthly men], but we cannot celebrate a week or weekend where Jesus Christ's sacrifice are highlighted? I feel like it's my Christmas blog all over again from a couple years ago [to read it, click here].

The other day as I was perusing through my Facebook feed, I saw another one of those conspiracy-theory-like graphics that spoke against Easter and it just reopened these feelings. Come on, my people...This is the week that changed everything for you and me. Jesus, came down in form of a baby, grew up, laid His life [selflessly] for us, and rose again! What is there NOT to celebrate? We celebrate birthdays and other special occasions, why not stop and celebrate the one who died for our dirty sins?

People will also say, we should be celebrating God's life, death and resurrection every day/week and my answer to that is, "yes, of course, but don't discount it when it is the week where it is really highlighted by society." Ellen G. White wrote it best when she wrote the following in her book, "Desire of Ages."



"It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross."
Desire of Ages; page 83.

Didn't she say it perfectly? I love it. Again, I say to you who may be skeptical about Holy week including Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday; celebrate it-- it won't do you any harm and no one will take your religious credentials, I promise.

Let's continue to celebrate Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection every day or week, even after Holy Week, because He is worthy of our praise. After all, JESUS is RISEN and is alive! Hallelujah!

FYI: for those of you who may want a refresher of the week that changed everything, check this out [for larger version, click here].  




Monday, March 4, 2013

Live On Purpose!

What is a mission statement? According to dictionary.com, a mission statement is an official "document" that sets out goals, purpose, and work of an organization. I am sure if someone asked you to recite at least 1 mission statement from a company or organization right at this moment, you'd be able to [whether paraphrased or verbatim]. Right? Well, maybe. 
 The real question is, what is YOUR personal mission statement? 

Last year I decided that in order to know where I was going, I needed to know exactly what I stood for and what my purpose was in life. As I was scouring the internet to find information on how to effectively write a mission statement for my life, I stumbled upon the Franklin Covey Mission Statement Builder. My friend, you have to check this builder out! It asked me a series of questions that really set my mind and heart in motion. After answering various questions, it emailed me my finished product... Umm, wow! Seeing it all come together was phenomenal and moving. It literally moved me to tears.

Each of our mission statements are personal, but at the same time, people should know a glimpse of our mission statement by the way we live our lives.

I would like to share one portion of my mission statement that gives me the goosebumps every time I read it:

I will strive to incorporate the following attributes into my life:
  • Abuelo's caring, loving and forgiving spirit
  • MLK's fearlessness and love for God and man
  • Jesus' unconditional love and selflessness
There are also a couple christian songs that support my mission statement and how I would like to live my life. This song directly below is entitled, "The Motions" by Matthew West. Something Matthew specifically says that rings bells in my mind are:

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
Without Your all consuming passion inside of me.

I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
What if I had given everything?
Instead of going through the motions.


And this second song by For King & Country is self-explanatory and does not need any verse to be highlighted because it speaks for itself [in high volume].

Discover your personal mission statement and identify a couple of songs that really speak to your purpose and life. And whenever you feel like you are falling off track, re-read your mission statement and remember why God placed you here in this cold world. Let's warm it up!

Embrace your life's mission and live ON purpose-- it will change you. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Are You Voiceless?

photo credit: eracampaign.org
Last night I had a dreadful nightmare. In my dream something horrible was happening to me and as I looked the person in eye to tell them to stop, I realized my voice had suddenly disappeared. All of the emotions were running high inside of my mind but there was no way to express how I felt. I was lifeless and voiceless. My dream felt like it lasted hours because of the agony, but most likely it was only a couple of minutes. When I finally woke up, I was relieved that it was all a dream.

As I drove into work this morning I could not help but think about my dream in a both a figurative and literal manner. There were many times early on in my life where I was voiceless. Where just like my dream, situations would occur at school or church and just like my dream, I would be screaming inside my mind, but the sound would not leave my mouth. I was shy and afraid to stand for what I believed in for fear of rejection or retaliation. Then right before I turned 13 years old [age confirmed by my mother] I had that infamous "aha Oprah moment" and decided that I was going to use the voice God entrusted me with because enough was enough.

Many of us walk around voiceless because of the same fears that I had when I was younger. We are afraid that someone will reject our ideals, opinions, feelings, suggestions, recommendations, critiques, etc. Our fear inhibits us and we are left essentially voiceless. But whose choice is it, but our own?

What happens when you choose to stay silent in unjust situations? The agony, frustration, and pain eats away at your heart. You end up internalizing all of the negative emotions and it can lead to resentment and eventually a "tongue lashing" aka you explode and we all know that's not pretty.

Friends, I encourage you to use the voice God has given you to stand up for what is right [obviously in a tactful, polite manner]. Whether it is standing up to a bully [hey, I'm talking to adults here too], fighting for civil rights, speaking up about something that is going in the wrong direction at your church/work/school, or basically anything.

Speaking of being tactful and polite, one of my close friends just shared some wise words with me [thanks, Maria!] and I quote, "You can have all the truth in the world, but if you do not know how to say it correctly and are rude, nobody will listen to you." Valuable lesson for all of us to keep in mind, right? 

God gave us a voice to use [whether it's through our vocal chords, writing, blogging, etc.]-- so, let's use it!

Trust me, once you speak your mind and heart [again, in a tactful manner], you will feel like a thousand pounds have been lifted off of your shoulders! I guarantee it. Try it out for yourself and let me know how it goes! :)
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Messenger.

Let me ask you something...be honest with yourself for a moment. Have you ever looked up a church's website and decided to attend based on who was going to preach that Sabbath? Admit it, don't worry, I can't read your mind. 

I want to share a story that occurred YEARS ago when I was not married [just so you know, I've been married for 7 years now]. It's an embarrassing story that has been embedded in my memory til this day. It was a Friday afternoon and I was planning on spending the night at a friend's house so we could attend church together the following day. We really had our hearts set on attending Community Praise Center [CPC] because we loved the style of worship and preaching [we still love it]. We especially loved to hear Pr. Henry M. Wright preach because his messages were so powerful and full of the Holy Spirit. We went online to check who was going to preach at CPC. We did not want to go if Pr. Wright wasn't going to preach. After scouring the website, we could not find the preaching schedule anywhere! So, that is when we had the "brilliant" idea of calling CPC's church office. I got on the phone and a gentleman answered. I asked, "Um, hello, I would like to know who is preaching God's word tomorrow for the 2nd service?" ::DEAD SILENCE:: on the other end of the phone. The gentleman slowly responded, "Why does it matter to you?" I had the audacity to say, "Well sir, my friend and I want to hear a sermon from the senior pastor [Pr. Henry M. Wright]." ::MORE DEAD SILENCE:: Then the gentleman laid it on me, he said, "It should NEVER matter WHO is preaching the sermon because the Lord uses his man/woman servant to preach the word." As you can imagine, I had no words except, "uhh, okay, thank you." As I was hanging up I then realized who I had been speaking to the entire time... None other than Pr. Henry M. Wright himself! I instantly thought, "Tragame tierra!" Which in English means something along the lines of "I wish the ground would swallow me up!" Needless to say, I was embarrassed. My friend and I could not believe it! I remember we sat in silence and thought of what we had just done.

It taught us an important lesson that I still remember today; God's true messengers will always have a word from the Lord for us. It does not matter if it is the most solicited pastor, one who just graduated with his or her Theology degree, or the local layman; God will always have a message for us. 


~Let us look at the message instead of the messenger that way we do not miss a tremendous blessing.~

Friday, January 18, 2013

Are We Negatively "Classically Conditioning" Others?

*Ding*Ding*Ding* 
"Cue the salivating dogs."

Does this sound familiar to you? If you have ever taken a college Psychology course, you must know about Pavlov's dogs and how they would salivate each time they would hear the bell ring. That, my friends, is called "classical conditioning." 


Photo Credit: blog.lib.umn.edu

Photo Credit: nobelprize.org
I took Psychology 101 at Andrews University [which I highly recommend] and 'til this day, it is the course that left a huge imprint in my memory [how appropriate, right?].

Okay, let's do a quick exercise...without thinking too long, answer the questions. 

What do you think of when you see the two golden arches? 
Yes, the answer should be McDonalds

What do you think of when you see the giant check mark? 
Yes, the answer should be NIKE

What do you think of when you see "Mmm Mmm Good!" 
Yes, the answer should be Campbell's Soup

What do you think of when you hear the name or see Michael Vick? 
Did you think of his prosperous football career or did you think of his fighting dog conviction?

What do you think of when you hear the name or see President Bill Clinton?
Did you think about how almost 6 million new jobs were created in the first two years of his Administration or did you think about Monica Lewinsky?

That made you think, didn't it? The names were the "bells" and what we thought afterwards was exactly what we associate the item or person with. 

Now onto the juicy stuff...Haha. 

The other day, as I was driving to TJ Maxx during my lunch break [yes, I occasionally shop during my lunch break], I was listening to Praise 104.1 FM which is a gospel station in the Washington, DC area. Every now and then they have recordings of Christian artists and/or celebrities that say, "Hi, this is Yolanda Adams [or whomever] and you're listening to Praise 104.1." So, as I was driving, they had one air and it was Eric Benet... I am almost ashamed to say this, but the first thing to pop in my mind when he said his name was, "[his] sex addiction while he was married to Halle Berry." Horrible, I know.

But it lead me to think about how many times we see "non-celebrities" in our lives who have either erred in their personal life or even erred us and we automatically think something negative? *DING*DING*DING*{bells} "Oh there goes that girl who cheated on John Doe's cousin's brother's nephew."  "Oh, yo! Isn't that that guy who was caught stealing from his parents?" Instead of "Oh, there is Trisha...I pray she is well." and "Oh, there is Xander, I pray he is making it on his own and is content with life." 

It's definitely something to think about and something many of us may need to improve on.

Micah 7:19 says:
"...You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them at the depths of the ocean!" 

God throws all of our sins at the depths of the ocean [aka thousands of feet below us which we aren't supposed to reach]! Hallelujah. Our folly is that sometimes we do not want to forget the fall of another and hold onto it and treat the person accordingly.

It is my prayer we be able to replace our "negative" classical conditioning thoughts of others with positive ones for a pure mind and heart. Be blessed! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How MY "Liberalism" Has Increased MY Love For God + Others

This blog post is a heavy one for me. Just know this is MY opinion and not generalizing, just giving MY personal experience.

I'm tired of holding it in.

So, here it goes.


Growing up, I had a certain mentality about church, beliefs, norms in church, rules in church, regulations in church, what not to wear in church, etc. I enjoyed church very much [as I still do], but remember all the rules/regulations. For roughly 25 years I was in that kind of church environment. I'm not saying that the environment was detrimental for my spiritual life because I'm still standing in the Lord [thankfully], but it DID affect me. So, as I was saying, for many years I had only one picture of what church was...My view was very one dimensional, as expected.

When my husband and I finally decided to try another church just as a change of scenery, we found things that shocked us and had us gasping at times because we were not accustomed to it. Some of our acquaintances that found out from the grapevine that we transferred over to a "different" church automatically associated us with the word, "liberal." Okay, maybe the music was a little different and maybe the evangelism outreach was progressive [example: having Christian movie nights, block parties for the community, vegan cooking classes, and weight loss competitions]. Yes, we get it. It's different. It is not the Bible time method of evangelism [which for the record is very effective still], but we are living in 2013. I still remember the Y2K (remember that?) when the year 2000 seemed like an outer space age. Well, we are 13 years into it, times change. Yes, I know the word of God never changes [Amen to that], but we can ADD ways to evangelize to the community. We can execute Bible time methods, but also add 21st century methods. It won't kill ya, I promise. Okay, enough with my tangent. Back to the point.

We were labeled [and still are] as liberals. This bothered me at first until I came to the realization of something. Being submerged in a entirely different environment opened my eyes. I saw everything in a different light. I feel more loving now towards things now that before would have me judging left and right. Again, don't freak out or get puffy. This is MY experience and MINE alone [if you can relate, cool...but remember this is ME, Anissa]. Let me confess something to you who might think I am a liberal. I enjoy having instruments and occasionally clapping in my worship [gasps!]. I don't go crazy, but it doesn't bother me. But check this out, I also enjoy worship without instruments [granted, when songs are sung with vigor and not like you're at a funeral]. I can worship BOTH ways and STILL receive a blessing from uplifting a song to God. How about that for a liberal, huh?

When it comes to loving each other and most importantly, God, I feel like I love more freely now. Again, I am NOT perfect or pretend to be [trust, I have my really bad days]. I just see God in a different light now. Before I would mainly see Him as kind of an angry God [yes, I know there are 6 things God hates and 7 things that are detestable to Him like Proverbs 6:16-19 says], but now I see him more as a loving God who cares for me. He even cares about when I have a bad stomach ache [it's the little things]. He cares when He knows I am trying to be a good steward of the money He helps us find amazing sales [it's the little things]. He cares about my salvation and my spiritual well-being [it's the big things]. I can go on and on about how He cares for me. He is an almighty, powerful, but caring and loving God.

I remember years ago we would always talk about "those other guys" who always just spoke of God's love and never of His "wrath." I was the one of the ones talking about "How can these people just preach about God's love and nothing else...?" Now, I sit on the other side where God's love is frequently preached BUT it's accompanied by Biblical truths. Today I was actually debating with a friend about this subject and a quote was born, "We cannot preach truth without LOVE and we cannot preach LOVE without truth." 

I remember back then when a young person [or adult] would commit a public mistake, they'd get displayed in front of the church a-la-Scarlet Letter style. Everyone would snicker when their "charges" were read aloud. Thinking back I liken this to wolves with sharp canines just anxious to have the fresh dead meat hit their mouth. Sounds crucial, but that's how it seemed. The "dead meat" would end up being a pregnant girl with her boyfriend; an unmarried couple that had premarital relations and told someone who told someone who told someone who ended up telling an elder who ended up telling the pastor; people struggling with addiction; a spouse who cheated on their significant other; the list goes on. It was like "the town spectacle." I remember as a child, pre-teen, teen, young adult seeing people get "excommunicated" and never seeing them again.

I never want to go back to that environment. Ever. Jesus was and still is the complete opposite with us sinners. Who are we to be "superior" to Him and act a different way because we think we are upholding God's law?

It is my earnest prayer that church environments such as these are overcome by God's TRUE LOVE and uphold God's TRUE LAW. Please join me in the same prayer.  Be blessed.