Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rise Up, DC: #dosomething


*Disclaimer: The views expressed on this blog and post are mine and mine alone, but I'd like to think it is aligned with the Seventh-day Adventist mission.* 

#Sisepuede
#Blacklivesmatter
#WeareallAyotzinapa
#fightforfamilies
#Missingperson
#prayforFerguson
#prayfor_____

#dosomething
"Here's how we can help!"
"Please pray!" 

What does this sampling of hashtags and phrases have in common? They are all opportunities to:

  • Speak up
  • Rise up
  • Be present
  • Help others
 Let's see what the Bible has to say about this:

 Isaiah 1:17 ESV
"Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. "

1 John 3:17-18 ESV
"But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth."

Jeremiah 22:3 ESV


"Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place."

 Proverbs 31:9 ESV

"Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Romans 12:15 NIV
"Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."

Psalm 82:3 ESV

"Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute."


Those are a lot of supporting Bible verses, right? Well, there are plenty more where that came from and we see that it should be an important part of our walk with God. 
In other words, What Would Jesus Do (WWJD)? I say we revive that popular 1990's phrase! 
My heart has been burdened for a couple years now (but has intensified this year) because of the lack of major Adventist presence at Washington, DC area rallies/protests/demonstrations/vigils/walkouts/interfaith activities and also governmental-interfaith programs that assist the community.


Do you know how many times I have attended a rally and have witnessed the Catholic, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Jewish communities standing with the people and not have our denomination present? Sadly I've lost track of how many times it has been. It pierces my heart each time to not have a visible Adventist presence because I know we are also a bunch who love Christ and others wholeheartedly. And no, I'm not saying Adventists are not out there assisting others or standing with the people because I know there are (including me), but there is no visible presence like these other wonderful denominations have. 

Most recently I was accepted into a competitive inter-faith government program that will assist others (will share more about it at a later time) and am the only Adventist. At the information session (before any of us could apply) there were at least 75 individuals in the room. The government officials made everyone state their name, religion, and why they were interested. Wouldn't you know that as folks stated their information I heard Church of Latter Day Saints, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and Pentacostal more than once and Adventist only once?! I was the ONLY Seventh-day Adventist in the room and while I was extremely proud and honored to represent my denomination, I was heartbroken that I was the only one. This needs to change. 


I am committed to stop my griping (about the lack of major support of Adventists) and #dosomething about it. I am launching a Facebook page, DC Adventists for Social Action (DCASA), for the greater Washington, DC area where I will funnel all the information I am aware of (protests/rallies/vigils/walkouts/demonstrations, opportunities to help others in our area and nationally, seminars to learn more to then educate the community, inter-faith activities, etc.) so we can come together as Adventists for the greater good. There is power in numbers! It is time to RISE UP, DC Adventists! It is time to #dosomething!

Friday, November 21, 2014

[Christians + Politics]

Photo Credit: Patheos.com

In many ways I have been a "luchadora (fighter)" since I was a child. My mother tells me that I would negotiate my way out or into things and would not give up easily. This trait followed me into my teenage years, twenties and is still following me today in my early thirties (my husband can really attest to my passionate spirit; gotta love that guy.). Last year I began my journey as a graduate student in a Master of Public Administration (MPA) program and if you do not remember the back story, I invite you to click here to read. Anyway, all of this to say that the career path God has chosen for me may lead me to be a federal or local government worker, start my own non-profit organization, or even run for public office in my state (or federal level). Only God knows what will happen in my life; maybe just one of the three major options or maybe all three. God and time will tell. 

I am a Christian and over the years as I have become more civically and politically engaged and have found my niche, I've also encountered more criticism from folks who strongly believe that Christians and politics should not mix. One of the first things people will say is that "politicians are conniving, vile, selfish, [insert many more negative adjectives] and that's no place for Christian people." To that I say, "That's even more reason to be involved; to be the change agent, the anomaly." Sure, the conniving type of politicians exist, but aren't a couple of the people sitting in our church pews or even church boards the same way? My point is there is good and bad everywhere. Just because we hear more about the rotten politicians on Capitol Hill or in our state capitols, does not mean that every single lawmaker is vile. There are individuals who take their civic duty to the heart and have been effecting change for their constituents throughout the years. If you are a solid Christian (or non-Christian) with integrity, passion and love for others, why not effect change? Are we just going to shy away because there are conniving and "no-good" individuals in the same workforce? We barely hear about those extraordinary lawmakers because let's be real, when was the last time you saw a "feel good" story about a member of congress in section A1 (front page) of The Washington Post (or any other publication)? Our society rather hear the juicy details of the lawmakers affair than what that public official is doing for thousands in their district/state.

Five years ago (September 2009) I had the honor and privileged of being selected to have a unscripted dialogue with the (then) President of my denomination (membership of 17.9 million individuals worldwide as of June 2013) and other Washington, DC area young professionals. The president did not have our questions beforehand and the session was intended to be a free-flowing conversation. I remember burning with excitement and curiosity to ask my question and I did. I asked the president what his thoughts were on members of my denomination mixing with politics, and him being pleasantly surprised at the question [Note: I spent about 20 minutes searching for video of this dialogue, but it's not posted anywhere]. However, there is a news article about it and here are some of the most relevant (to this topic) and interesting excerpts from what the president discussed:

"Be agents of change in both the church and the community."

"Far too few of our members are engaged in any way in the community," "How are we going to reach people if we do not bother to step into their world? We have to stop and ask ourselves a critical question: 'Have we got it right?' The answer is, 'No, not quite right." [Said in regards to being civically and community engaged]

With several participants employed in government jobs, the conversation naturally turned to political involvement. When one participant [that would be me!!] asked whether members should exercise caution when choosing careers in politics, Paulsen said, "If anything, I think we have erred by being too reticent to get involved."
As long as members don't muddle their church's agenda with their civic duty, Paulsen said he saw no reason members shouldn't seek elected public office.
"The church is a voice for right values," Paulsen said. "If laws are compromised and freedom is in danger, we shouldn't be afraid to influence public opinion. We should weigh the issues carefully, know what we're defending and let our voice be heard."
Wise advice, right? To read the full article, which includes other discussed topics, click here.

I do not know where the road will lead me. My God-given passion to advocate, educate, and be involved in my community and politics may lead me to run for office one day or maybe it will not at all. Either way, I know what my personal calling is; to bring light to this world which also might include more immigration rallies, other protests, the halls of congress, the halls of my state capitol, the halls of my future non-profit organization, the community around me, etc. Am I going to stay quiet just because some folks think Christians and politics should not mix and criticize or look down on me? Absolutely not. I look to the Bible and God (not humans), for specific divine life instruction. 

If you feel the burning desire to be a light in the community or in the political arena, ask God to guide your steps and embrace it! Trust me, if it's God's will for your life He will lead every move you make. Speak and rise up, children of God! 


Further Study about Christians + Politics

  • Study the story of Joseph, who was a "political hero" in the Bible times. To read the verses (Genesis 41:41 and on) in the Bible, click here. To read a blog post (not mine) about how we can apply the lesson of Joseph in today's world of politics, click here.
  • Study the story of a strong Christian who lived after the Bible times; Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. He was not afraid of mixing politics and Christianity and look at all he accomplished with God on His side! To read more about his life, click here.
  • Romans 13:1 says, "Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God." 
    • Basically to me this is saying GOD is in control and places the politicians in their respective position. It's ALL part of His divine plan. That's comforting, right?
  • Check out this website, Christians in Politics, based in the United Kingdom (London, England) that serves as a platform for Christians (non-party and non-denominational) involved, or seeking to get involved in politics or public life.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Open Letter to the Unfortunate Renter Lady





Disclaimer: I have permission from Sylvia to post this on my blog.


Take a moment to read this open letter my friend wrote to an unfortunate renter lady. This blatant act of discrimination did not occur in the Ozarks; sadly it occurred right outside of the Nation's Capital in Maryland. 

When will this racism end? When will we start "judging" each other by the content of our character instead of by skin color/race/religion/gender/sexual orientation/political side/socioeconomic status/accent/last name/etc? It is time to rise up against hate like this one; not with violence or by reciprocating the hate, but by battling it with love. Love conquers ALL.

Lastly, after you read this letter please share with your networks and also say a prayer that this wonderful family finds a home 10 times better than the one on "Merry Go Round Way." God bless you. 

Open Letter to the Unfortunate Renter Lady


Dear Ms. “For Rent on Merry Go Round Way”,
It is with great sadness that I write this.  Not because I lost a little bit more of my hope in humanity.  Not because two people I love were hurt and discriminated against.  But I write with great sadness for you.  You missed out on a great opportunity.  Let me explain…
You see, I’m a pretty lucky gal.  My parents are great people.  Everyone they come in contact with love them.  I can only strive to be as loving as they are.  Bear with me for a moment while I share a little bit about them with you. They are a quiet, retired pair, but their story begins about 45 years ago, when they migrated here from Argentina.  From the moment they came to the US, they worked harder than anyone you will ever know.  They suffered more than you will ever imagine; a young couple with no money, living on a few dollars a week and often literally going hungry so their kids would have food for the day.  But they always kept their head up and strived for the American Dream.  They worked hard, paid their taxes, never took handouts from the government and became US citizens.   They raised us four children to be educated and productive parts of our society.  Most importantly, they also raised us to be loving Christians, just like they were and continue to be, never ceasing to work hard for their church every week and show everyone unconditional love.
When all of us children were grown, married and moved out, they worked toward the one last part of the American Dream they were never able to achieve.  Why?  Because they were too busy providing for us to make sure we had everything we needed, including an education.  So this last part of the dream? A house.  Not a rental like they’d always had.  They wanted a home to call their own.  So, in their 50’s, they purchased their first home.  It was a cozy little townhouse, and was their pride and joy.  What they had worked for their entire life.
Then tragedy hit.  My mother had an accident at work, causing her to be permanently physically disabled.   My father had also been disabled years earlier due to a forklift accident at work.   My mother was out of work.  My father as well.  During this time, I had to witness my parents helplessly watch as their dream slipped away, as they were unable to pay for the mortgage while my mother had multiple surgeries and was in and out of the hospital from her accident.  Now, a few years later, they have lost their home and have had to look for another place to call home.  It breaks their heart to have to look for another place, knowing they are leaving behind the one thing they had to show for their 45 years of hard work.  It breaks my heart to hear them reluctantly look for a place to, once again, rent.
However, there are the few occasions when my mom sees a place she really likes and I see a little glimmer of hope in her eyes as she tells me about it and asks me to call for them.  Call FOR them, you ask?  Why would I have to call FOR them?  Don’t they speak English after 45 years in this country?  Yes.  They do.  Don’t they do things for themselves?  Yes.  They do.  So why call for them when inquiring about a rental?  Because after all these years, they know there are discriminating people out there that will judge them based on their lingering accent and last name, Garcia.  I always insist that it is completely crazy to think that people would discriminate because they realize my parents are Hispanic by their accent or name.  But, I call for them anyway.
Well, this past weekend, YOU proved them right.
My parents had seen a nice little one-story home for rent on Merry Go Round Way in the Wildwood Park area of Mount Airy.  My mom had mentioned this area to me before as they had gone for walks around there many times when my mom’s leg was better.  She excitedly told me on Sunday that they had seen the For Rent sign on one of the homes.  So, as I usually do for them, I called this past Sunday morning, and you picked up, Ms. “For Rent on Merry Go Round Way.” You were very polite when I told you that I was inquiring about the home for my parents and you gladly told me all about it.  You said it would be available by December 1st and, since you live just a block away, you would gladly let my parents stop by to see it.  You said they should just call and arrange a time to see it.  So I passed along the information to my parents.  The renting price was within their budget, there were no steps, and it was in a 62 and over retirement community.  It was perfect.  My mom was so excited when you told them to stop by the next morning to see it.
Until you left a message about an hour or so later.  Sorry, but I think I’ve rented it, you said.  Don’t come see it tomorrow, you said.  Thanks, but no thanks, you seemed to say.
My mom’s demeanor went from excited to defeated.  My father just shook his head.  He knew he should have let me make the appointment and come see the house with them.  My father knew you hadn’t rented the house in just that little amount of time.  He knew that it was because you heard his heavy accent and last name and decided you’d rather not have Hispanics “ruin the block.”  But, he was the bigger man, and, instead of getting angry, called you back and politely thanked you for your time and for letting him know and wished you a great evening.  I told you my parents are great folks.
I still gave you the benefit of the doubt and decided to ask my friend (who, like me, has no accent but the “American accent”) to call and inquire about the house for her ‘grandparents.’  Just to see if it was really rented.  A phone call later, I realized you had, indeed, lied and the home was not rented and still very much available, to the right type of person.  You happily let my friend know all about the house that was definitely available.  You know, I really wanted my parents to be wrong.  I wanted to still have faith in humanity.  Faith in that racism doesn’t still exist so blatantly today.  But, alas, I was wrong and you do exist.
I supposed I will go back to doing what I normally do.  Call about the house/apartment, make the appointment to see it and then go see it myself or with my parents.  You see, first of all, I look like any other “white girl” you know.  No one ever knows I’m Hispanic (as if “Hispanic” has a look).  My parents as well, save for the accent and last name, are never seen as “Hispanic.”  So, when I arrive with my parents, dressed professionally, and the owners meet my parents, they always LOVE them.  We have not been to a single look through of a house/apartment at which the owners have not called me that same day, offering my parents the rental place.  Unfortunately, my mom is a little picky and hasn’t liked any of the places we have seen. So we are still looking for that place that will make my parents happy to move.
So, I’m not sad for my parents, because I know God has an amazing place out there for them.  But, like I said in the beginning of this letter, I am sad for you.  You missed out on having two of the best tenants you will ever find.  You missed out on making someone’s day.  You missed out on being a good person and having a clean conscience.  I do hope you find the type of person you are looking for to rent your home and keep your neighborhood just the way you want it.  Your kind should stick together, I suppose.  As for us, we’ll move on to the next place.  Someone out there is going to have some great neighbors and tenants.  But not Merry Go Round Way, sorry.
Sincerely,
Sylvia

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Broken Together

Every so often I hear a song on the radio that instantly (and I do mean instantly) captivates my soul. 

This past week I was lying on the couch and heard this song and had to Shazam it to learn more about the origin. When I Googled the lyrics I found out the meaning behind this precious song (see following paragraph) and was stunned. Few things take my breath away and this was surely one of them. This song is perfect for us married folks. No matter what anyone says or portrays, we have ALL experienced some strain in our marriage at some point or another. What we decide to do with the strain is another story. Some cannot work or choose not to through the pain and strife and decide that being apart is best (and quite frankly, sometimes that IS best for the couple). Others painstakingly work through the tribulation and end up stronger than they were prior to the pain. If you are currently married and are experiencing hardship, know you are not alone. You are not perfect. And neither is your spouse. Be broken together and fight for what God intentionally placed together. 

______________________________________________________________________________

Recommendation: Read the following paragraph and then watch the video with your spouse.

“Marriage is tough. We bring a lot of fairytales to the picture when it comes to marriage. We bring them to the altar with us [thinking]: ‘This is going to be perfect. We don’t have to be apart. We can just wake up together every morning and no one is going to have morning breath. We’re not going to have any problems.’ And then the problems hit and you don’t know where to file those into your picture. . . The idea I’m trying to say is: ‘Can you lay down who you thought I was and love the ‘me’ that is? Can we take this from where we are now and realize that I can’t be that person?’ Only God is going to be able to make this work and broken people can be broken together. To me, it’s probably the most important song on the record.”
--Casting Crowns


Lyrics: 
What do you think about when you look at me
I know were not the fairytale you dreamed wed be
You wore the veil, you walked the aisle, you took my hand
And we dove into a mystery

How I wish we could go back to simpler times
Before all our scars and all our secrets were in the light
Now on this hallowed ground, weve drawn the battle lines
Will we make it through the night

Its going to take much more than promises this time
Only God can change our minds

Maybe you and I were never meant to be complete
Could we just be broken together
If you can bring your shattered dreams and Ill bring mine
Could healing still be spoken and save us
The only way we'll last forever is broken together

How it must have been so lonely by my side
We were building kingdoms and chasing dreams and left love behind
Im praying God will help our broken hearts align
And we wont give up the fight


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bullying Resources/Recursos para Bullying

Please share/Por favor comparte. 

Information taken from Montgomery County Committee on Hate/Violence and Montgomery County Office of Human Rights Bullying Guide [A quick guide on what you need to know about identifying it and interceding it./Una breve guía de lo que usted necesita saber acerca de la identificación y la intercesión.]

Definition: Bullying is unwanted behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated over time with the intent to cause harm. Bullying behavior may include: making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and deliberately excluding someone from a group.


Definición: "Bullying" significa un comportamiento no deseado que implica un desequilibrio de poder real o percibido. El comportamiento se repite en el tiempo con la intención de causar daño. La conducta de intimidación puede incluir: hacer amenazas, la difusión de rumores, atacar a alguien físicamente o verbalmente, o deliberadamente excluir a alguien de un grupo. 

Information for Students/Información para Estudiantes:
  • If you or someone you know is being bullied, seek help from an adult (e.g., parent, teacher, coach, principal, counselor, etc.). 
  • Si usted o alguien que usted conoce esta siendo intimidado, busca la ayuda de un adulto (por ejemplo: padre, maestro, director, consejero, entrenador, etc.).
  • Become familiar with your school's protocol for addressing bullying. 
  • Familiarizarse con el proceso de su escuela para hacer frente a la intimidación.
  • Know your state's laws and policies about bullying. 
  • Conozca las leyes y políticas del Estado sobre la intimidación.
  • Ask educators or other school personnel about anti-bullying programs (i.e., peer mediation) that may exist in your school. 
  • Pregunte a los maestros u otro personal escolar sobre los programas contra la intimidación (como la mediación entre iguales) que puedan existir en su escuela.
  • Be respectful to your peers. 
  • Ser respetuoso con sus compañeros.
Information for Parents/Información para Padres
  • Foster your child's confidence and independence and take action against their victimization. 
  • Fomentar la confianza y la independencia de su hijo y tomar medidas cuando él o ella es una víctima.
  • Do not encourage physical retaliation. 
  • No fomenta represalias físicas.
  • If your child is a victim or bully, contact the school to address the problem. 
  • Si su hijo es una víctima o un agresor, póngase en contacto con los funcionarios de la escuela para tratar el problema.
  • Request a parent-teacher conference so that all perspectives are considered. 
  • Solicite una cita con el maestro para que todos los puntos de vista pueden ser consideradas.
  • Attempt to speak with the bully's parents, but do so using an uncombative approach.  
  • Intente hablar con los padres del agresor utilizando un enfoque no combativo. 
  • Encourage your child to speak up against bullying when witnessed-be an active bystander.  
  • Anime a su hijo a hablar en contra de intimidación--para ser un espectador activo.
  • Seek additional help/support through community resources. 
  • Busque ayuda adicional o apoyo a través de las organizaciones comunitarias.
  • Become knowledgeable and informed about state laws and policies. 
  • Adquirir conocimientos e informados sobre las leyes estatales y las políticas sobre el acoso.
  • Get involved and build a sense of family-school collaboration (e.g. volunteer, join PTA group). 
  • Involúcrese y construir un sentido de la colaboración familia-escolar (voluntario en la escuela, unirse a la asociación de padres y maestros).
  • Monitor your child's internet activity for potential cyberbullying behaviors. 
  • Supervisar la actividad de su hijo en el Internet para interceptar comportamientos de intimidación cibernética.
Information for Teachers/Información para Maestros: 
  • Know what bullying looks like. Assuming that bullying only exists overtly is a myth and it can pose harm on individuals. 
  • Conozca que es el acoso. Es un error suponer que la intimidación solo existe abiertamente y pueden suponer daños a las personas.
  • Be on the lookout for bullying. 
  • Este en el puesto de observación para los comportamientos de intimidación. 
  • Never ignore a student's complaint or your observation of bullying, as your role goes beyond teaching in the classroom. 
  • Nunca ignore la queja de un estudiante o de su observación de la intimidación.
  • Understand the bullying state laws and policies. 
  • Haga un esfuerzo para entender las leyes estatales y las políticas contra la intimidación.
  • Adhere to school's policy, regulation (e.g., Code of Maryland Regulations [COMARI]) about bullying, harassment, or intimidation. 
  • Se adhieren a las regulaciones estatales y las políticas de la escuela acerca de la intimidación, el acoso o la intimidación. 
  • Collaborate with other community agencies (e.g., Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], Department of Education) and other professionals such as school counselors, and psychologists to enhance your knowledge and skills on addressing bullying.
  • Colaborar con otras agencias u organizaciones de la comunidad (por ejemplo, el Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos, el Departamento de Educación) y otros profesionales (como los consejeros escolares y psicólogos) para mejorar su conocimiento y habilidades en hacer frente a la intimidación.

Additional Information and Resources/Recursos e información adicional:
For more information about the information listen in this brochure, please contact: 
Montgomery County Committee on Hate/Violence
Montgomery County Office of Human Rights
21 Maryland Avenue, 3rd Floor
Rockville, MD 20850
240-777-8450

Friday, August 15, 2014

#lovenothate


Itching and I mean just itching to blog about this topic, but cannot at the moment, so for now I'll  just say this. Please feel free to share.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

For God Gave Us a Spirit Not of Fear

Disclaimer: As usual this blog post is Anissa's view only and does not reflect the church she attends or organizations she volunteers with. 

Hello there.
It's been awhile, hasn't it?

I have not sat down to blog in over 3 months. When I cracked open my laptop computer just now to begin writing I could not even remember the website (platform) I use to blog! It feels like years in my mind. Earlier today I was feeling extremely passionate about a couple subjects and decided to post the following on my personal Facebook page:  


Two topics I am itching to blog about (and praying I can write about): 

1) The stigma that accompanies women who decide to keep their maiden name (including among friends). 


2) My experience at this past weekend's camp meeting (it will be an uncomfortable blog post to publish).


I thought it was going to be one of those status updates that fall beneath the radar but within literal minutes, I received a message from a former pastor asking me what happened at the camp meeting this past weekend. And at this very second there are over 60 comments on the status. Something I mentioned on the thread was that this blog post might be a disappointment to those who are expecting something completely different. But here it goes...


This blog post might be reminiscent of a previous one I penned in January 2013 entitled, "How My Liberalism Has Increased My Love For God (to read it, click here)," but this post is different. I can honestly say I was on the road to healing from my past church experience (read the Liberalism post to know what I am referring to) between January 2013 and mid-November 2013, but the healing process halted on November 23rd when my husband and I visited a similar type of church (similar to one referenced in the Liberalism blog post). And don't you worry, I have already communicated with them a couple of times. I am 70-80% ready to speak on a public forum about what transpired that day, but I am not quite there yet. The point is the healing process had to restart after I had made all that progress. It was a rocky restart and to be completely honest I had to restart the healing process for third time in the last month or so because of more of the same (it is related to the same situation that occurred eight months ago--yes, eight months ago). It's tough. 


Anyway, between November 2013 and early July 2014 I had not attended any large church event (not because of what you think, but I just had not) until the camp meeting (sort of like a convention for all of the area churches) this past weekend. Growing up, camp meeting was one of the highlights of my summer; socializing and worshiping with friends, making new friends, seeing old friends, going on hikes, learning more about God, staying up late and cracking jokes, etc. There is something nostalgic about camp meeting and those of you who grew up attending them (and genuinely enjoyed them) know exactly what I mean. When it rolled around this year I was less than excited (compared to my excitement in years past) but was not dreading it.

It began with my procrastination to pack my weekender bag because I knew I had to be meticulous about what I was going to clothe my body in over there. And those of you know me know I try to be modest at all times with my clothing choice, but just knowing I was going to camp meeting panicked me because of my past experiences. When I got to camp meeting to assist with the youth program stage set up I was wearing jeans with a regular t-shirt and scarf, but as time approached for the program to start I started feeling anxious (again from my past church experiences) and decided to change into a jean skirt. I had a black hair tie around my wrist since my hair was down and took it off my wrist because of what people would think. Throughout the weekend I felt as if I was walking on eggshells with various aspects (not just clothing) and thank goodness only one particular friend saw/heard the angst in my face/voice every time I started having these mini anxiety attacks and verbalized my emotion (thanks for putting up with me, friend!). I was mindful to not spread all my angst among various folks because that is not Christian-like either. 


Nothing occurred over the weekend that added to my anxious and fearful spirit. On the contrary, although I felt as if I was walking on eggshells I still enjoyed catching up with old friends, making a couple new ones, and worshiping with many others. The sermons in the youth chapel by Pastor Josant Barrientos (someone I profoundly respect) were light, yet powerful, and thought provoking. You should have seen the altar call! God truly spoke on behalf of His servant and my friend, Josant. 

Photo of the overflowing youth chapel at camp meeting. 

This morning I was retrospectively thinking about what transpired throughout the weekend and realized how much of a damper I had put on myself these past few days. I let fear from past experiences semi-paralyze and get the best of me. It is an awful experience to go through church trauma (or any other trauma), but it should never let it get the best of us. It should not even get the worst of us for that matter. 

*Think about that for a minute.*

It was no one's fault, but my own that I arrived to the camp meeting feeling anxious and fearful. One of my wise sisters advised me, "Don't let bad past experiences spoil your present." My wise husband shared something wise with me as well and said, "The only thing we can create from nothing is fear. We do not need to fear anything, but God." Whenever we have anxiety from past traumas we need to cling even more to Christ Jesus so He can allay our paralysis and fears. After all, God is in control of all things; past, present, and future. 


2 Timothy 1:7
"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."



Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Live Your Legacy: Tribute to Alexa Rose

If you were to pass away right now at this instant [God forbid], what kind of legacy would you be leaving behind? Would you even have one?

I'd like to believe that everyone who passes away leaves pleasant memories, but there is difference between memories and legacies.

Let me introduce you to a tiny fighter who once lived.

Alexa Rose 

Throughout her short lived life [4.5 months], her personality was bigger than her. She was born with an illness, but she fought against it with every fiber in her tiny body. Every time all of us thought she was going to take her last breath, she [and God] surprised everyone [including the medical experts] by being resilient. I strongly believe that before Alexa Rose was conceived and born, God had instilled that warrior spirit within her.

Even though she passed exactly three months ago today, her beautiful legacy will live on forever in many people's hearts. What I learned from the precious baby girl is to keep fighting no matter the circumstance, pain, and discomfort. Life will always throw curve balls, fire balls, and all sorts of things but we must keep pressing forward.

I pray each and everyone of us can leave behind a legacy that will resound in many hearts just like baby Alexa Rose did. What will your legacy be?


Special Request: Please continue to pray for Alexa Rose's parents, family, and friends so God may continue to give them true peace. Thank you, friends. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Harsher the Winter, the Better the Spring.

Has this felt like the longest winter of your life or what? Here on the east coast of the United States it has been similar to the Lamb Chops Play-a-long song, "This is the winter that doesn't end. Yes it goes on and on, my friend! Some meteorologists started forecasting warmer weather not knowing what it was, but they'll continue doing it forever just because [repeat song about 15 times]." That is how this winter has felt-- lengthy, unnecessary, and irritating.

 When we transition from summer [the unbearable heat] to fall, it's a pleasant time. You think to yourself, "Okay, I can deal with this." You pull out your thin sweaters and boots and continue walking. The frigid temperatures then roll around and your thin sweaters convert into thick coats and the gloves and hats make their debut. During the first snowfall you are mesmerized and your heart does somersaults [in happiness] because the winter has arrived.

 The winter continues to play out and it's brutal. Your face literally hurts as you walk to your car [or train/bus] because the wind is whipping your nose and cheeks. God forbid if you forget your gloves because the cold penetrates your skin and the intensity of the pain literally brings you to the point of tears [true story: this happened to me this past week while cleaning the snow off of my car]. Brutal. 

This winter the east coast saw a record number of snowstorms and frigid temperatures, but in between there were unexpected [but appreciated] "warmer" days. Out of no where there would be a patch of sunshine and "warm" weather--one day it was 40 degrees and I saw guys in shorts [haha]!

Spring arrived two Fridays ago and the weather did not get the memo. It even snowed a couple days after the first day of spring while everyone was expecting balmy sunshine, warmer weather and the trees to be budding. It has been a harsh and long winter.

During the never ending frigid days I could not help but think about our lives. There are many of us who are experiencing the longest "winter." Our situations seem "cold," dark, gloomy and never ending. Every once in awhile it brings us pure joy to experience a slightly "warmer" day, but then it gets "frigid" again.

Personally I am experiencing the longest "winter" of my life. I [literally and figuratively] long to see the trees and flowers bloom, the sun to bring warmer weather, and birds to serenade me with their unique song. I long for spring as much as I long for a hot cup of tea, electric blanket, thick socks, and a good book on a bitterly cold day. But let me tell you something, "Spring" is NEAR, my friend! Winter cannot and will not last forever.
As I am currently writing this it is snowing outside--yesterday it was in the 60's and today it's frigid and there is a Weather Winter Advisory in effect for my county. It was completely unexpected [it was only supposed to rain], but that is life. We will have unexpected "frigid" moments surface in our lives, but let's keep moving forward because "Spring" is near. 

The harsher the winter, the better the spring. Imagine when the spring [both literally and figuratively] is here to stay, how amazing it will feel and be. We will appreciate every aspect of spring even more. If our winter had been mild, would we have longed for the spring as much? Probably not.

May there be an eternal "Spring" in your heart, my friend. Praying for you. 
_____________________________________________________


Song of Songs 2:11-12

New International Version (NIV)
11 See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
12 Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.

 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Confessions of a 1/2 Puerto Rican, 1/2 Salvadoran [Born in the U.S.A.]

[Note: I started writing this blog post in December 2013 while on vacation in Puerto Rico]

I am currently laying on a hammock here in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico listening to the waves crash against the sandy white shore. The wind is whipping my curly hair across my face and I'm constantly having to tuck it behind my ears. The air is sweet, salty, and humid. I am in paradise. I am in the land that my half of my descendants hail from. The land that [one set of my] grandparents toiled, in hopes of going to the mainland one day. 

Yep, that's really me in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
where I started writing the blog post on a legal pad.

Over the course of the years I have read many articles about the challenges and blessings mixed race individuals face, but I have not read many about those who are mixed ethnicities within one race.

These are MY confessions.
 
I am sure that my "struggle" began when I was a child, but my memory is failing me and I can only vividly remember it starting in my high school (HS) years. During my high school years [between 1998-2001; yep, I did HS in 3 years, but we'll save that story for another time], we would celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by having a Hispanic Assembly [in private Christian schools, it's called "chapel"]. Every time the Hispanic Chapel would roll around I would feel conflicted on which country I would represent that year. 99.9% of the Hispanics in my HS hailed from only one country and of course it was a no brainer for them on what country flag they would parade in with. For me? It was a struggle. I remember one year walking in with the Salvadoran students and the Puerto Rican students asking "why" and vice versa for other years. It was never just a given on what country I would represent in any given year, but always a thought out process. Sounds silly, but trust me, it does something to you.

There have been times when I have never felt Boricua or Guanaca enough for some because I don't have the country's accent when I speak and do not know all of the slang; my Spanish is kind of rough [I can defend myself in Spanish but I don't sound like Maria Elena Salinas or anyone like that]; and I was not born in El Salvador or Puerto Rico [fun fact: I lived in PR for approximately 2 years].
I feel like I do not belong most of the time and people affirm that constantly. You're probably thinking, "This girl is being dramatic." No, I'm not. To give you just one example: I've had friends introduce people in a room by name and where they are from and whenever they get to me it's like, "Oh, she's from everywhere" and continue to the next person. Haha! I guess it's too much for some to say, "She's of Puerto Rican AND Salvadoran descent, but was born here in the U.S.A."  

Since these are MY confessions I will share this too; over the past few years I have identified more with one ethnicity than the other [cue the eye roll and ill feelings from some]. Do not get me wrong, I will be of Salvadoran and Puerto Rican descent until the day I die but it's just hard to explain. Maybe one day I will be more candid about this topic, but for now I will not. 

Even though I am not mixed racially, sometimes I feel like I am because the Caribbean and Central American cultures are polar opposites. Some non-Hispanics think just because I'm a Latina mixed with two ethnicities it is the same as just being 1 ethnicity or race. Not at all. Sure, the Spanish language [not slang] is the same, but like I said, the cultures are completely different. One of my lifelong projects is to delve deeper [with actual research] into the two cultures to learn more about why some things are the way they are. 

Anyways, I know that there is at least one other person out there who fully understands this and can relate. If you can relate, I'd be interested to hear about how you deal with it.    

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

100 Happy Days Challenge

I, Anissa, personally invite you to embark on a unique and joyous challenge with me [and many others out there]--#100happydays!

I won't bore you with a lengthy explanation about what this project entails but will share a few key points [taken from the website]:

--Every day you have to post 1 photo of what made you happy that day.

--Post the photo on either your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or email [specific instructions on website for email].
       --
It can be anything from a meet-up with a friend to a very tasty cake in the nearby coffee place, from a feeling of being at home after a hard day to a favor you did to a stranger.  

--Use #100happydays to hashtag your posts. 

--To register yourself for the challenge [and to view the official website--which is super cute], click here. 


There are many reasons to want to be happy and it varies from person to person. For starters, it makes you a more optimistic person, it's good for your health, it's a automatic mood changer, and you literally see how blessed you are! And that's just for starters.

As you saw above, you have to register yourself and select which method [social media or email] you will be sharing your photos on. Social media is obviously public, but for those who do not want to share with the world [or at least your 700+ friends], you can email to the site [information listed on official website]. I am choosing to share on my blog's Facebook page [click here to LIKE if you haven't already] because I want to be held accountable for staying on track.   

FYI: I will be starting this challenge tomorrow, February 13th, 2014! Be sure to check my blog's Facebook page.  

Let's BE HAPPY, my friends! Let's also keep each other in prayer as we embark on this path to happiness.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite positive songs that never fails to put a smile on my face: 






Friday, January 24, 2014

Under Pressure.



PRESSURE. This would be the perfect moment to cue that old school Queen song, but don't worry I won't [haha].

If you haven't noticed, pressure is all around us.

Pressure to get married in your 20's or 30's [depending on what group you are talking to].
Pressure to purchase your first home by the time you're 30 or in your 30's.
Pressure to have your career take off in your late 20's into your early 30's. 
Pressure to complete your bachelor degree by the time you are in your early 20's. 
Pressure to complete your master's degree by the time you hit 30.
Pressure to have your first child [if you're a childless married woman] in your 20's or 30's [again, depending on what group you are talking to].
Pressure to have this & that & that & this to show you are doing well financially. 
Pressure to look/sound/be a certain way [i.e. weight, appearance, etc] to fit in.

Our society is obsessed with trying to streamline everyone's life events by age. In the last couple of months I have read at least 5 articles that started off with a number, followed by things you need to accomplish in your [20's, 30's, 40's, & 50's]. Really though? What happened to just living without restraints and timelines?

The pressure can be intense and at times unbearable [yes, IF we allow it to get to us, but let's be real--whether we allow it or not, it has crossed our minds more than once]. The truth of the matter is that there is no model timeline to what every life should look like. Despite what timeline society wants to dictate to us, every individual has the right to live life according to God's timeline for their life. Not everyone will get hitched in their 20's or 30's, not everyone will purchase their first home in their 30's, not everyone will have their first child in their 20's or 30's...I can go on and on.

It is time we march to the beat of our own drum--the drum God has specifically put in our path. No need to get our beat to sound like everyone else's--let's be unique.

The point is...Let's LIVE {Y}OUR LIFE at the pace and timeline God has intricately designed for YOU/us.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

364 Days Left for Victory!

photo credit: indulgy.net

Many of us have experienced going through a bad day [I'm talking baddddd] and instantly feeling like we have a bad life. The mixture of emotions including frustration and sadness sometimes lead us to think that our life is no good. Yes, granted, our life might not be ideal in the very moment of our bad day, but we should not let it dictate our entire outlook on life. After all, things can only look up after they have reached the lowest of lows.

Yesterday was New Year's Day 2014. The words/sentiments you hear during the weeks leading up to New Year's Eve, NYE, and even after are the following:

Resolution, resolution, resolution.
"2014 will be the best year yet!"
"Cannot wait to start over in the new year!"
"This new year will be MY year!"
"I'm excited to end this year. It was so bad!"
"This will be the year of change." 

When the clock strikes midnight on NYE it is symbolic of getting rid of the old [negative] and bringing in the new [positive]. A sense of renewal washes over you and it feels amazing.

So, what happens when the 1st day of the year starts off in a negative way? Here you were so hopeful for the brand new year and something negative already tainted your quintessential picture [and expectation]. Some will probably think, "Oh boy, is this a foreshadowing of how my year will be?" Nope, it's NOT an indicator of how your year will be. Not at all! Bad moments happen all the time. We must rise above and keep living!

Yesterday [mid] morning [New Year's Day] was interesting. Approximately 3  negative consecutive things occurred and it frustrated me. All I could think of was, "Great. This is NOT the way I envisioned starting 2014." By the early afternoon it had cleared up and I pulled myself together with God's help and had a wonderful New Year's Day alongside my dear husband. This situation [as simple as it sounds] reminded me that if we let situations keep us down, that is exactly where we will be--down. If we tackle the situation head on with the best problem solver--GOD--the situation will be turned around! We must not dwell on bad situations or bad days. Let's get up and rise above the things that hold us down.

My friends, did you have a rough start to 2014 already? If so, don't worry--there are still 364 days left for victory! My prayer is that we continue to walk hand-in-hand with our Savior, Jesus Christ and that together we overcome the daily or weekly challenges that present themselves to us.

I leave you with this poem:

A New Year’s Prayer
Author Unknown
May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God’s love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.