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:

"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


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.


Anissa [and Hec]

Monday, November 4, 2013

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

Photo Credit:

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"

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.