Tuesday, December 31, 2013

a year in verses

Hello Lovelies!
I so look forward to this post every year. I am sharing with you various verses that got me through this year and the date I read them. It's a challenge/tradition of sorts to journal  one daily verse. I pray that in this list, you may find a precious gem to treasure in your heart! Farewell 2013 and Cheers to a bright 2014!

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January 31, 2013
May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. Esphesians 3:18

February 20, 2013
 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. Thessalonians 5:13

March 15, 2013
There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking. Proverbs 29:20
April 25, 2013
What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. 1 Corinthians 14:15

May 31,2013
For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. 1 Timothy 4:8

June 11, 2013
And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, "My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you." Hebrews 12:5

July 3, 2013
For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see. Psalm 36:9
Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right.Psalm 97:11

August 8, 2013
When I discovered your words, I devoured them. They are my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God of Heaven’s Armies. Jeremiah 15:16

September 30, 2013
 Honor and majesty surround him; strength and joy fill His dwelling. O nations of the world, recognize the Lord, recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong. 1 Chronicles 16:27-28

October 23, 2013
Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off. Romans 11:22 

November 26, 2013
Rather, cling tightly to the Lord your God as you have done until now. Joshua 23:8

December 16, 2013
And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for the work of His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. 2 Timothy 4:18 

Year in Verse: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Big Red

I probably spent too much time on Pinterest today... Being that I'm off on Mondays, I told myself I would only pin for ten minutes because I had to do some house chores. And as my fellow pinners can attest to, once you pin there really is no stopping! All this to say that I came across a homemade mask with three basic ingredients that you have at home.

Honey, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg are the three ingredients

I did give it a taste, and it was much like a stick of Big Red chewing gum. 
Hence, why I'm calling this mask Big Red! LOL 

I followed the recipe from the pin
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
> mix until it looks like a chocolate paste
(recipe calls for a tsp but if you need more then do 2 tsp, thats what I did!)

you want a chocolate color and a thick consistency

Leave on for about 30 minutes. If it tingles try it for 15 minutes but it shouldn't be bothersome. 
I did the full 30 minutes and was fine. 

The only downside, which really isn't a downside, (because this is a honey based mask) it can be a bit slippery on the face and drips (but not much) if you're moving or doing house chores like is was doing. Big Red is the perfect mask for days that you could sneak 20-30 minutes on a hammock or a couch enjoying music, a good read, or a quick nap. 

And with any good DIY tutorial a ridiculously funny picture needs to be included: 

Viola! Ha! Ha! I look great, don't I? 

The UPS truck parked at my house while I had the mask on. I freaked out, but they were delivering across the street. That would have been an awkward yet hilarious interaction. 

I removed the mask in the shower. It can easily be removed with a washcloth or over the sink with water. The cinnamon and ground nutmeg can be used as an exfoliant when removing the mask, targeting black heads and acne prone pores.  

My face was smooth, glowing, and blackheads gone! The results are evident to me. I will be using this mask quite often and highly recommend this mask. 

Benefits of Honey: 
Acne: Honey is naturally antibacterial, so it's great for acne treatment and prevention. Aging: Full of antioxidants, it is great for slowing down aging. Complexion boost: It is extremely moisturizing and soothing, so it helps create a glow. Pores: Honey is clarifying because it opens up pores making them easy to unclog.

Benefits of Cinnamon:
Cinnamon is an antiseptic, astringent, anti-fungal, meaning it will help reduce bacteria on the surface of your skin to aid in the prevention of pimples and even help dry out existing pimples. It also stimulates and revitalizes the skin by by drawing blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the surface of your skin, leaving it glowing. Cinnamon is great exfoliant and stimulates the pores, which helps the nutmeg and honey to work better! 

Benefits of Nutmeg:
Reduces the look of blemishes and exfoliates the skin to remove blackheads. It is an anti-inflammatory used for skin problems like rosecea and excema. If you suffer from acne marks, nutmeg can also help your scars be less noticeable. 

This is a power house mask!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lyrical Friday - God Be Praised

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Happy Friday! I've had to wait all of November to share today's post with you. The words you are about to hear and read are more than a song, they truly are an anthem that my soul can't help but sing!

The first time I heard this song, it was sung live in a church service. It was as if I was transported to Heaven and all God's people sang in one voice, one accord to our King of Kings. The lyrics of God Be Praised, by Gateway Worship, can only be described as powerful. And as I shared this song with others, they too shared the same sentiments. There are days when my soul is weary and upon crying these words my soul is revived and I can't help but sing.

I pray that God Be Praised may become an anthem for your soul; more than a song, a piece of sacred praise, holy devotion, and a patriotic stand.

David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lordthe God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. 1 Chronicles 29:10-11

O God, we meditate on your unfailing love as we worship in your Temple. As your name deserves, O God, You will be praised to the ends of the earth. Your strong right hand is filled with victory. Psalm 19:9-10

Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. Psalm 113:2 

Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. Psalm 145:2-4

God Be Praised, Gateway Worship

You saved my life from death
When I was all defeated
You spoke Your promises
And brought life to my weakness
Came as a conquering King
And You warred for my freedom
My soul can’t help but sing

You opened up my eyes
For the first time I saw You
Your love commanding life
And deserving devotion
You told me who I am
Now in faith I believe it
My soul can’t help but sing

You’ve made a place for me
Silenced all my accusers
Leading me forth with peace
Filled with joy I will follow
Your cross demands my life
Now Your grace is my anthem
My soul can’t help but sing

Hallelujah, we’re redeemed and made free
By the blood of the Lamb We have won
Hallelujah, we will sing victory
Jesus conquered the grave
God be praised

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

the hope of the afflicted

The goodness of The Lord reflected in this single verse. May this fill you with hope as you endure your affliction. May the truth that God has not forgotten you, restore and renew a right spirit within you. 

I challenge you to do a word search on Hope. You will uncover much light in the midst of your darkness. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Sahrae.

Happy Saturday! With today's special post by Miss Sahrae Rivas, we conclude our Birthday Series for 2013. I have been very blessed by all the Birthday Surprises, and I have heard from many of you that the series has been a gust of encouragement for you as well. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, as today's post is for all the single ladies!

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28... That’s how old I turned last week. A mere two years away from the so-called dreaded big three 0. It’s the age where the little Cuban old ladies turn their knees black and blue in prayer for you! The stigma of finding out you are still single and without hope of a prospect to can change your status. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I hear “pรณngase las pilas” meaning get your act together. I have been asked if I have picked out the names of my future cats! I even had a coworker tell me they thought of me as they watched the news the night before, the report being about an 83 year old woman who had gotten married, FOR THE FIRST TIME! I was then told that there is still hope.Really?! My response to all these antiquated ideas that I should be married with 5 children and 1 on the way is simply: I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I could sit around, and mope, and keep pleading with God as to when this seemingly long “single” stage of my life will be over. I could cry. I could even settle, out of desperation, for any guy. Settling whether to fill a void, or to stop all the questions, more like harassment, of when am I getting married. And its not to say that I haven’t made mistakes, but God has been good and faithful to me (because I wasn't of much help to myself obviously). Being single has not been a prison sentence; it has been an awesome season in my life of self discovery.

As single woman, we need to use this time wisely. It’s not going to last forever. I want God to use me. My prayer has been, "Here I am Lord, send me!" I desire for Him to use me to do great works for His kingdom, to overcome those works that seem impossible. I hope to live my single life mentoring and encouraging young girls. I want him to squeeze every last drop of my gifts and talents during this season of my life; because I know that it will end.

I’ve been blessed to have encountered amazing wives and moms who have spoken so much wisdom and truth into my life. However, the most common feedback I get from the majority is, how they wish they had enjoyed more freedom in their youth. Not that they don't love their husbands and children, but they have different priorities and responsibilities. I truly appreciate their honesty. It encourages me and reminds me to live my life to the fullest. Because I know the day will come when I can no longer travel to Haiti whenever I want. The day will come when I won’t be able to grab dinner with my friends or head on impromptu road trips. The day will come when I won’t be able to serve full force with no hesitation in my ministry. But that’s OK, because I know it means my ministry will have changed. It will mean that the man that God has been preparing for me, my match in every way, who will lead me and our Children in the ways of the Lord, will have arrived... and they will be my ministry.

My encouragement to you.
Don’t allow any one to lead you to believe that it’s shameful to be single in your late 20s, or at any age. Bask in the freedom!! Ladies, use this season to take notes! Soak up wisdom from Godly women... like sponges! I have a list I’ve entitled “future references notes”. I keep it in my head. It’s all the advice and insight I’ve received from woman in my sphere of influence about marriage and kids, and life. I am so grateful that I’ve had these years to take notes and learn from others mistakes, mishaps, and life so that I don’t make the same. I feel so much better prepared for not only marriage but life, as all this wisdom has been poured into my life.

God is perfect in everything He does. You can either endure your days wallowing and complaining to God. You could continue believing that He must have gotten you mixed up with the girl next door who wants to be single. Or you can spend your days believing that God has you here for a reason. Seek, knock and search for His will. Be distracted living a life that glorifies Him. Enjoying the fullness of the abundant life He has before you. And before you realize it, the person God has for you is walking alongside you, hand in hand.

While in this season of my life, I am ready to go wherever God calls me; to do whatever He tells me. I’m not going to spend my days wishing, hoping, and waiting. I’m going to spend them laughing, loving, and living! I know God is good, I know He is faithful. So until the day arrives when my status changes from "single" to "married", I want to spend these years shinning my light for Gods glory. I encourage all my fellow ladies to do the same, live a life of reckless abandonment for the King of Kings. Live your life like there is no tomorrow. I am 28... and Single... and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Yani!

Happy Thursday and Happy Thanksgiving! Today is my all time favorite Holiday and because it is I have invited one of my all time favorite people to write the Thanksgiving Day post. My friend Yani is dear to me for so many reasons. She is caring, loving, compassionate, transparent, honest, and insanely funny. She loves my Jesus so much and demonstrates to me what a life of gratitude should look like. You will be inspired, through her writing, to increase your faith and thanksgiving. Happiest of days to You!

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Sometimes God uses the most unexpected people in your life to teach you lessons. I have many wise people in my life, that God has used for just that purpose. But one of the most recent ones, and the most impacting, was when God used my fifteen year old daughter Samantha to show me how my faith was like an atrophied muscle... it needed a boot-camp style workout. 

Being a Christian for eight years, I have on countless occasions read Matthew 17:20 “ He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.  I know it by memory! I have used it in ministering to others. However, as we currently endure a difficult season in our lives, it must have slipped my mind (insert blushing emoticon here).  

In September, just one month after moving into a new home my husband lost his job. This was a devastating blow for our family. We had spent months praying for this new home. We had just moved in, and desired to have a good relationship with our landlords. And then BOOM!  It felt as if a a nuclear bomb had gone off and destroyed all of our dreams and aspirations. It might sound silly to some of you, but that’s what it felt like to us. Robert is the sole bread winner in our home. No job means no way to pay the bills. We were devastated and quite frankly terrified, but we put our “faith” in God and moved forward. 

Hillsong  was coming to town, and Samantha really wanted to go to the concert. After the move, things were tight and we weren't sure we were going to be able to purchase tickets. With Robert losing his job, the idea of purchasing tickets went from a probably not to a definite No. When we sat her down to break the news to her, she was bummed, and stayed pensive for a while. She tried to find ways that she could go to the concert, and every suggestion led us back to the same response, No. After a little while she looked at us and said “ I’m going to that concert. If it is Gods will for me to go, He will open up the doors and get me a ticket”. Robert and I dismissed it as wishful thinking and got back to more important matters like how we were going to pay the bills. 

As the weeks passed, she continued to hear about the concert on the radio. Week after week, she sang the songs at church, and learned that her friends and practically everyone she knew was going to the concert. Robert and I felt bad for her, but there was nothing we could do. 

Fast forward to Saturday November 23, the day of the concert. Our morning plans had been canceled and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get up to date on the chores. We were cleaning, doing laundry, and cooking dinner. The concert was at 7:30 pm and for sure we were not going. At 3:00 pm I got a text from a friend offering us three tickets to the concert . Samantha automatically looked at me, smiled, and said “I told you”. My faith was too small to believe that God would give us tickets, but not hers. Her faith was big enough that even at the last minute she knew and believed that there was going to be a way that she would go to that concert and jam with Young and Free. Needless to say, we went to the concert and it was amazing, even the seats were amazing! And in that wonderful way that God has of dealing with me, He let me know that I had just been taught a lesson.  

You see, after the concert our friend who had offered us the tickets came up to us, and as we are telling her how grateful we were, she told us, “ To be quite honest when I was informed of the tickets all I could think of was Samantha”. Right then and there I knew that, that was Gods subtle (not so subtle) way of letting me know that it was her faith that got us those tickets. In that perfect moment of clarity I realized that my faith muscles are in need of some serious exercise. 

Looking back at these last three months I realized that God has never let me down. He always comes through, like He did with the concert tickets, in His perfect timing. Our trials are those perfect training sessions for our Faith muscles.

James 1:2-4 says it perfectly, "My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."  We serve an amazing God who has never let us down and never will. He is our Provider, Friend, Redeemer, Savior, and the Lover of our soul. He died on a cross for each and every one of our sins,  He knows the depravity of our hearts, and loves us anyway. He turned water into wine, raised the dead back to life, and healed the sick. And yet we still doubt.

  Psalm 27 says it perfectly :
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?”

Next time the trial comes around, exercise those muscles. And remember who you have put your faith in, or God might just use your kid to remind you ;)

Samantha (left) and the Hillsong Young And Free Concert

 Happy Thanksgiving 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Denise.

Happy Wednesday and Thanksgiving Eve! Today's post is from my cousin Denise. She is no newbie here, you can read her 2012 Birthday Surprise HERE. Praying that the promises of God that Denise shares, may be engraved in your heart and and ever present help in time of need. God bless YOU! 

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You are not alone 

Have you ever been in a crowd of people and felt completely isolated? It's that feeling where you are physically present but no one notices.  I have been hearing this topic from a several people lately. They tell me how they feel lonely, like they don't have any friends, like no one cares but they are constantly surrounded by people. My normal response is, "I know exactly how you feel." 

I spent most of my life feeling this way.  I dealt with a lot of anxiety and depression as a teenager.  I became a Christian once I was in college and Jesus changed my life forever. Most of my fear went away but even as a Christian, there are still those moments where the devil tries to take hold.

I go into these random moments of depression where I feel lost, like I'm in a deep pit and I'm sinking and I can't ever get out again. I have traveled across the country, to the other side of the world even, but nothing is as sad, scary and dark as this place.  

As a Christian, I recognize that there is no reason to stay there. I have a mighty God who loves me unconditionally and will never leave me. Sometimes I wonder why God allows me to go back there again and now I know that it's because, when I get out of it, I love Him even more and cling to Him desperately. 
I was reading Isaiah 60:20 the other night and this verse really encouraged me.  "Your sun will never set; your moon will not go down. For the Lord will be your everlasting light. Your days of mourning will come to an end."

There are times when I feel like I don't even want to be on this earth. Before Christ, these thoughts were filled with despair, they were suicidal because I didn't understand what the point of my existence was. Now when I have these thoughts it's more of a longing and a hope that one day I will be in my real home with Jesus. 

"For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come." Hebrews 13:14 

So now as I wait for that glorious moment when Jesus rescues me from this cruel world, I have to make the best of it and live my life by honoring and worshiping him.  I don't feel so lost in the crowd anymore, because I know that my satisfaction does not come from humans, it comes from the Lord. 

Though I might still feel lonely at times deep down I know that I have someone who loves me unconditionally and is always by my side. 

"But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." Micah 7:7 

"Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you." Psalms 9:10

So if you are feeling lonely or like you don't belong, instead of turning to people to fill that void, turn to Jesus, the only one who can satisfy you.   

"Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied. Psalms 17:15 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Priscilla

Happy Tuesday. Two years ago my friend Priscilla shared with us on taking leaps of faith, click HERE to read. Today she shares with us her greatest joy, being a mommy. A beautiful post this is and a lovely read for soon to be mommies! Without further ado, here is Priscilla. 

Unconditional LoveThe word unconditional means not limited in any way: complete and absolute.

Jesus’ love for us is unconditional, He clearly portrayed that love to us on the cross. 

A mother’s love for her child is unconditional. It is complete and absolute just like the Father’s love towards us. A mother’s job is never ending, it goes on all day and all night. A mother has no vacations, no time off and no sick days. With each new day, a mothers love and responsibility will grow deeper and deeper. Motherhood is a blessing.

When I woke up on the morning of February 28th, I had no idea that my life would forever change. I was 38 weeks pregnant and I was going in for a routine checkup with my doctor before heading to work.

I wasn't ready for what my doctor was about to tell me. My blood pressure and weight had spiked up in the last week and I had developed something called preeclampsia. I knew I was swollen but I had no idea how serious it was. My doctor ordered me to go home, grab my bags and head to the hospital for an induction. I remember being so scared. I was crying and panicking because I wasn't ready, I still had 2 weeks left! I needed more time!

10 or so hours of labor later, at 11:52 that night, I was carrying my baby girl safely in my arms. My heart began to flood with feelings and emotions that I had never felt before. So much love, joy, peace and excitement. I have a daughter, I am a mother. I began sobbing. I knew that I had received the greatest blessing. I never wanted to let her go. I had so much respect and admiration for all moms, especially mine. I leaned over and gave her a tight hug and thanked her for bringing me into this world. I had so much love for my husband and so much more love for God. My heart was full! I felt that unconditional love.

The next few weeks were, by far, the most exciting and challenging. I was in a lot of pain, physically, but my spirit was so joyful and full of love for my little family. I was very sleep deprived but I didn’t seem to care. Things that were once important to me were no longer important. My daughter’s well being was at the top of my list.

On Thanksgiving day, my sweet little Abigail Ruth will be nine months old. These last few months have been the most rewarding and the most challenging months for me as a new mom. Moving to a new town when Abby was just a few months old, transitioning from being a working mom to being a stay at home mom, and being away from loved ones. To know that you are needed by someone 24 hours a day can be challenging, but I wouldn’t trade being a mom for the world. It is a huge blessing and a privilege that many cannot have.

My number one priority is to please God and to be a godly wife and mother. I want my daughter to live for Jesus.I pray that she accepts the Lord into her little heart and that she experiences His unconditional love and that she lives to please Him. I pray that she becomes a strong, God fearing woman. As crazy as it may sound to some, I pray for her husband. I pray that the Lord will send her a godly man who will love and respect her. Finally, I pray that the Lord will continue to give me and Pedro the wisdom and strength to raise our daughter in His ways so that she may honor Him in everything that she does.

Abigail Ruth is our gift from the Lord and I love her unconditionally. I love being her Mama and I’m so thankful that the Lord chose me and Pedro to be her parents. 

Priscilla and Abby

little Abigail Ruth "Abby"

Friday, November 22, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Nicole. part 3

Happy Friday Lovely! Today we read part three of Nicki's . And boy is it a treasure! As I read it last night, I was lost in a sea of tears. My heart and spirit connected with her words and I will never be the same. I am confident that her testimonies have, in a special way, reached your heart and drawn you closer to our precious Jesus. Thank You Mzungu for taking us with you through your journey!

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She quietly stood by my side as I was quieting a baby in the back of the church. She said no words. She had no glimpse of emotion on her face. She just stood. All she was in that moment was a fearless young girl standing next to this mzungu awaiting the chance for my hand to drop to my side so that she could grab it. Once that happens, she will be mine until she leaves this place because she doesn’t want to take the chance that another child will take the place on my lap; or, until mum calls her.

I used to think it was the great work to hold onto these kids with the desire to never let go. It was in those moments I could hold on tight while praying over them, their families, and their circumstances. I’d cherish these moments.

This moment was different though. Before I got the chance to begin to pray, before I was able to whisper something beautiful over her, Mama Scovia called little Jovan away. She looked my way with an innocent smile and waved to me. She was gone before I knew it, on her way over to Sunday school with her older sister. My moment was over. Jovan was with me for just a few minutes. We smiled together and ate a sweetie (candy) and cleaned each other’s hands with sanitizer. And just when our moment was over, as she ran over to her mum, I was reminded that the act of holding must be an act of release.

I think that’s the way of this world – the part I have trouble with. We cherish what we must somehow release.

I wanted to hold on to little Jovan forever. I want to hold on to God’s children and love His people to the best of my ability. After all, God has given me this desire, right?

I used to think it was the great work to do this, until I realized there’s a greater work—seeing it through God’s view. It’s one thing to be able to hold people secure in your arms, in your heart, and in your thoughts about them and never wanting to let that go. But the reality is that we must.

God loves us. He loves us to no end. He released His Son into a desperate world. I think about the cross, and how in that moment of Christ sacrificing Himself, He was releasing us from the embrace of the world into the embrace of God.

There’s a connection, I think, with an offering and the release.

What I mean is that if we hold these things, these moments, too tightly, we can’t make the gesture of offering. In doing this, we can’t do the greater work. The work of loving so deeply and securely that we actually release our hold on what it is that we love so much. By holding onto something too closely, we lose the opportunity to see it as a gift, which I believe actually hinders us from being able to offer praise back to the Giver.

If we hold onto something too closely, we miss the greater work of love.

“Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” –Hebrews 13:15

followthenicki.com Nicki in Uganda, 2013

followthenicki.com Nicki in Uganda, 2013 // There's little Jati!
read about Jati

followthenicki.com Nicki in Uganda, 2013

followthenicki.com Nicki in Uganda, 2013

and read Nicki's chronicles during her stay in Uganda

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Nicole. part 2

Happy Wednesday! Welcome back to the Birthday Series to read part 2 of Nicki's journey.  Get your passport ready, pack your bag, and bon voyage ... you're off to Gulu, Uganda!

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I've never told the bathtub story.

There was a tub. That’s all it was though—an empty beige bathtub with a handheld faucet. My first instinct was, “Damn, I’m going to make a disastrous mess every time I bathe.” I pictured a flood of murky water seeping down the hall into my room. (Which actually happened one morning, but it wasn't my fault, I swear!) Ministry in Uganda is a dirty business; dusty feet, orange-tainted clothes, wash my long hair two or three times just for it to feel clean and the water not be brown, kind of dirty.

Then, there was this one day. This overwhelming, slap-in-the-face, type of day. The kind of day where I prayed on the boda boda (motorcycle taxi) all the way home that I would have enough connection to call my mom and listen to her wisdom. With the time difference I had to wait for her to wake up, of course! It was one of those days where trusting in this great big God of mine, the Creator and Savior of the universe, was harder than getting on that same boda boda with a skirt (NOT easy, people).

It was on this day, in Gulu, Uganda. From one moment to the next, I found myself fully clothed and in fetal position, crying my eyes out for almost three hours… inside of this tub. For that brief time, my world sort of froze. I felt as though it hadn't completely shattered, but it was slightly tilted a little too far over for my comfort, and all I found myself doing was trying to find some sort of balance for my heart, to where it wouldn't topple over and break completely.

I had effectively lost my grip. Had I forgotten what to expect? Had I let my emotions run too deep? Maybe, just maybe I expected too much from someone who was unstable to begin with? How could anyone just leave them? Literally just abandon them in front of my face.

Obviously, God knew the answers to all of the million questions racing through my head.

Here’s the thing— I often wonder how my thoughts towards this world, our duties, this life— how it all would really be to me if I hadn't met Patience and Andrew. While in Uganda, I got a small glimpse into the life of being a mom. I experienced first-hand dealing with the struggles of my kids on a daily basis. I dealt with the personalities accompanied by the attitudes. I saw joy and innocence as well as the hurt and suffering that no child should ever have to experience. It was in the midst of caring for these two precious lives though, that God truly stretched me farther than I ever thought imaginable.

I dealt with their birth mother. She was younger than I with a total of six children. The twins were the youngest of them all at two years old. She was sick. They were starving, literally. And I was found in the mix because God purposefully had me there in Gulu Babies Home on this very same day. She left them there. In that moment, she chose addiction as she walked away from me with her skinny toddlers crying in my arms.

In this moment, curled up in that bathtub, for the first time ever, I actually doubted “purpose”. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe you've never found yourself sitting alone in a tub, but has God ever thrown a curve-ball to you so fast that—forget not even seeing it come—you were just left questioning “is this even real?”

Wisdom from my mom helped only for the moment. The solace provided by roommates, the same.

“God, did I really just experience this? Were these kids that I just grew to love just left behind by their own mother?”

It was in that bathtub that I realized I was trying to remind God of the things He promised to us—telling Him that He was doing it all wrong. Funny right? I didn't think so.

Firmly holding onto God’s promises in the midst of hardship can be a powerful experience. Did I fully trust God at His Word? Definitely not in that moment. I will humbly admit that I had a moment of relapse, but God graciously allowed me to stumble over myself, feel the hurt and vulnerability that He knew I needed, and give me the strength to pick myself back up and make a difference.

He knew.

He allowed the circumstances around me to take place. He didn't feel bad for me, but instead He entrusted me with the blessing of being a part of the beautiful rescue mission that was about to take place in the lives of my twins. Clearly, in my own life as well.

Please be encouraged today in knowing that God’s promises are true. We are loved by a God who is forgiveness, mercy, grace, faithfulness, strength and love. It’s a reminder I need EVERY SINGLE DAY.

And with that truth stored away in my heart, the only purpose for a bathtub from now on is solely to relax! 
Patience, Nicki, and Andrew, first time ever walking in 2 years.
Uganda 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Nicole. part 1

Happy Monday and welcome back to the Birthday Surprise series. Today we welcome back Nicki, or as I now call her Mzungu (white girl). Last year Nicki shared on the Birthday Series about her two week trip to Uganda ( read here part 1 and part 2). Since then, she returned to Uganda for a much longer visit and chronicled her thoughts at FollowtheNicki.com. If you're up for some serious life changing reads, go visit the links. Without further ado, scroll down for the first of three posts by our favorite Mzungu. 

photo credit
Hi everyone!

You know some things I love? Birthdays, for one, so happy 4th birthday, blog!!  I also love getting to hang out and share some words here on Rak’s space. I love her loud, hilarious, creative and insightful heart, and it’s a joy to share here at her blog. Even better—she asked me to talk Uganda for a few posts! I’m excited by that and I pray you take away some encouragement from this week’s posts with whatever the Lord wants to share with you. So off we go…
May 1, 2013 I stepped on a plane bound for Entebbe, Uganda without a clue as to what God had in store for me. He knew.

Questions raged from others on whether this was where God was “really” calling me and for how long. Only He knew.

I had only previously spent two rapid weeks in Uganda less than 9 months before this time. I knew close to nothing about what culture would be like, how awkward the ever-changing weather would be, or how difficult it would be to survive on my own cooking for four months. He knew.

He knew the hardships, the bouts of loneliness, and the depths of intimacy and vulnerability that I would experience. He knew the place I had just walked through with wounds and bruises, and a slightly bleeding heart, and He knew where He needed to take me.

My God knows me. He also knows my absolute confidence when I say that my heart and my life have been utterly transformed because of this crazy leap I took to leave the familiar and cross into the unknown—alone. I am still in awe of the privilege I have been given to share life and ministry with the people of Uganda. The capacity in which I had ever previously served God was easily eclipsed by the glow of relationships birthed, the experience of working alongside churches, ministries and in homes, and the joy of seeing a lost and hurting heart being made alive in Christ.

There was a point where this role of Nicki ended and where the great and awesomeness of God began. This point was an acknowledgment that in order to truly be safe, protected, happy, secure and fully used, I needed to completely abandon myself before God, Creator and Savior. My everything was in Him. My everything is in Him. Uganda pushed me to see beyond myself, my flesh, and to witness the miraculous love of my God. His thoughts and His plans are way above mine; yours too. He knew what I needed and where I needed to go.

All along, He always knew…

photo credit: Nicki, Uganda 2013

photo credit: Nicki, Uganda 2013

photo credit: Nicki, Uganda 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Ziemely

Happy Friday Friends! Today's post comes from my friend Zee. In short, she can be described as encouraging, a gentle and quiet spirit, and lovely. I'm bummed that I can't see her often, but between texts and prayers the Lord has united us in friendship. You will be greatly blessed through her post! 

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I want to start off by saying thank you to Raquel for allowing me to contribute to her blog. I was surprised when she asked last year and I think even more surprised this time around.

I’m from Miami but this past January I moved to Nashville. You are probably wondering why Nashville and to tell you the truth I wondered the same thing for a while. In April 2011, after a very tumultuous 2010, a year in which I lost three close loved ones and ending an unhealthy relationship I truly and whole heartedly gave my life to Christ.

Even though I was confiding and trusting in God I was still taken aback when He planted a seed for the city of Nashville. I was a baby in the faith and in all reality I still am, but I thought I was crazy! I had never been to Nashville nor did I know anyone here. But after trying to put the idea out of my mind for close to a year, I realized that if I didn’t at least start to research the city and the potential move I would be going against something that I felt God was calling me to do.

As soon as I started looking into it, I started to feel more and more at peace about the possibility of leaving my home for the unknown. I applied for 3 jobs and within a month of applying to the third job I was offered a job with my current company and I knew that I was on the path God wanted me to be on.

There are times that I am completely at a loss for words about all that has happened since giving my life to Christ. Has it been easy? NO! Have I had moments of second guessing? YES! Do I regret it? NO! And that is because I know that since that decision, God has been working in me. He is using my time here in Nashville to refine me. There are moments when it hurts and it gets lonely but I look around at all that He has blessed with me and I can’t help but be grateful for the people He has put in my life, His patience, His mercy, His love but most importantly His grace!

It has been almost  a year since accepting my job and making the decision to leave my family and friends in Miami and embark on an adventure in which I knew I was not 100% in control of and if I had to choose one word that encompassed my move it would have to be Grace! I am learning what that word truly means, I am learning to accept it but most importantly I am learning how to offer grace.

Do I have it all figured out? Not at all! Do I still make mistakes? ABSOLUTELY!! So far, my time here has been one of change. I have had my set-backs but it is in those moments in which I am learning the most. He uses those moments to show me that it’s not about me. It is about something greater than me!

May this verse hat has spoken to me more times than I can count, resonate with you. I pray that we continue to accept His grace and realize that we are weak but it is in that weakness where we are made STRONG!

And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

*Last year she was a guest blogger for the Birthday Surprise series, check her last post HERE. Have a beautiful day! 

Zee's home in Nashville 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Birthday Surprise! It's Monica part 2

Happy Friday! Welcome back to the Birthday Surprise series. Today Monica will be sharing with you part two of her journey in Montana and Guatemala. Be blessed!

photo credit 

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.- Genesis 22:9

   During my experience with Ignite, the Lord opened my eyes to how big the Church really is, all the people and the work that’s going on for His Kingdom and all that’s being accomplished as well as all the souls that still needed to be shown His love and compassion. I found myself falling in love with unfamiliar people and places and being very confused as to what to do with my new found desires.
At first I was kind of frustrated  “ God, I had my life planned out already I was going to go to school for this many years get my diploma in this, serve you in this way, get married eventually and who knows I might even thrown in a few kids somewhere down the line, why are you changing the plans on me know? why are all of these new desires suddenly popping up, they don’t even logically match up with anything that is naturally me!” ( which looking back now, isn’t that how God usually works? Gotta Love Him for it)

   But the new desires where there none the less, the Lord grew my perspective of who He was and just what He was capable of and just how sovereign He was in my life and in everyone’s life as well, God has a plan and nothing can really stand in the way of HIs will getting accomplished.
    Half way through my time on the field, while I was translating the story of Abraham and Isaac for the Kids program curriculum down in Antigua, the Lord had me experience my own Isaac sacrificing moment. Was I really willing to offer up my Isaac to the Lord, my life, the plans I had made, all of the promises I believed the Lord had given me or the desires that I believed where God given, was I willing to give that all up if He asked me to? Or did I value the gifts more than the Giver? 

The Lord brought me through a season of doubt, events where lining up in a way that made is seem like those newfound desires in my heart were never going to happen, and it looked as if I was going to be left hopeless and shattered, and that feeling of hopelessness and panic at the thought of not having what the Lord had ( I believed) promised me left me broken. 

    Broken not at the fact that I wasn’t going to receive my desires or that I had misheard God, but Broken at the fact that I had placed my eyes on the promises and not the Promiser. My hope was not on Him who redeemed and saved me ( not to mention Loved me unconditionally) it was on His promises. The Lord used that moment to instill in me the importance of placing my hope in Him, not on the things that He can give me.  Yes the Lord provides for us, but the motivation behind my relationship with God has to be Love and gratitude not what I can get out of it. 

    I ( in my own way) tied my promises to the altar and ran a knife through it. The most interesting thing about this passage to me is that God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but stopped him before he could run the blade through. God is not a liar, and yeah we’ve all heard it before “God was just testing Abraham to see if he would do it”, but how did God know Abraham would really plunge the knife in? How did He know Abraham wouldn’t turn the knife at the very last second? For me the answer lies in the fact that the Lord looks at the heart, and the Lord knew Abraham would sacrifice Isaac physically because he had already done it in his heart. True sacrifice happens within the confines of the heart. 

       My challenge for the duration of my time in Guatemala as well as now that I am home is making sure that when I wake up each morning I put my eyes and hope in Christ, not on anything else, because when my joy is dependent on the God who never changes ( or fails) there’s no person or circumstance that can take it away.

Guatemala 2013

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