Why blog?

It's therapeutic... specially for dorks like me who communicate better when they have the chance to process their thoughts, select their words, and write precisely what they want to say. As much as I'm a "talker", I stumble, stutter, and don't always say things right. English as a second language might have something to do with that (unfortunately, I don't think I could blog in Spanish... I lost my grammar in that language). I like to pour out my thoughts and leave it out there in the cosmos (or the world wide web) for other people to mull over...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Some photos...

You know, it's incredible how addicted you can get to something like Facebook and then your account gets closed... it's like... being disconnected - quite unnerving!

I am about to enjoy some delicious hot cocoa after playing in the snow. But before we get to that, I have to say I had a really nice Thanksgiving. I missed being away from home. I usually eat w/ my in-laws, and the next day at with my uncle. And it's a big family thing - which I was used to for holidays in Venezuela. I think that's what holidays with my in-laws reminded me of; lots of uncles, cousins, aunties, and good food.

Well we had that here! It wasn't our own, but we got to borrow a set of grandparent's for the kids (the pastors) for Thanksgiving Dinner. Each kid had one honorary cousin to match - down to the babies. Then for me there were sisters and brothers and brothers-in-law to talk to and laugh with. And we shared our blessings while we were experiencing a blessing in the making: The wonders of a family in Christ!

It is wonderful to not feel so lonely when you are experiencing a total climate shift from what you have ever been through in your life, and you are 6000 miles away from anything that's familiar! I was a beach baby! Caribbean-coast, snorkling and fishing, dolphin-swimming, not afraid of sharks kid! I look out the window, and I love the scenery, but I've never been more out of my element in my life! And yet, this is my NEW element. I think I'm adapting well, but I would've been miserable had I not been adopted by the local church to the degree that I have been.

The kids are adjusting more than well. They love it! Anakin and Brielle were playing in the snow... so were all of us at different given times, but the kids were pros. Brielle was more interested in eating the snow than throwing it at us, but she got us good a few times. She also couldn't make up her mind whether to eat the snow or contribute to the snowman we were building in the back yard.

And to think I may have completely missed this. I may have been too afraid to tell Paul, "Yes, wherever you go, I'll follow!" and have come to Anchorage, Alaska from Miami, Florida. Even further south from Miami to be precise. I would've never known anything other than the heat, humidity, and hurricanes. And Miami is a beautiful place... Although I'm more into natural scenery, I would say the beaches on either coast of South Florida are amazing. But I thank God for allowing me, in my lifetime, to also experience mountains, and snow... frozen lakes, frosted trees, and beautiful sunsets at 4pm.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Normally my blogs are loooong. Oh my gosh! I apologize to you guys who sat through it all. I'm sorry. I guess if I blogged more frequently then I would write shorter stuff at a time!

Thanksgiving is coming up, and as I go back from the last Thanksgiving to this one, I have plenty more to be thankful for. I have one more baby! A precious addition to the family, my "peanut" Caleb. Our family dynamics has just been charged with love.

I'm thankful for my marriage. I can't say that Paul always makes me happy (or vice-versa), because realistically at times I can be very UNhappy. But these past 5 years of marriage or so we still haven't come across anything so devastating that we can't work through. And we're still in love with each other! In fact, I believe our love for each other is more genuine now then it was when we first got married because we truly know each other better - the good, the bad, and the ugly. And we still wouldn't have it any other way.

I'm thankful for the Lord's provision and the careers He has set out for us. I'm specially grateful for the jobs He has provided for our family, and now possibly even for me.

Ridiculously thankful for Anakin and Brielle. They are cute sweetie pies whose ministries are to love on you and brighten your day. Yesterday I found my ID cards and I was praising Jesus out loud because I was really fretting over them, and then Anakin asks me if I found them - which I say yes - so he starts singing: "Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him, how I've proved Him o'er and o'er..." Yeah a hymn! Which I've only heard ONCE. Things like this amaze me.

I'm thankful to live in a free country. And I pray it stays free - all of it, entirely, and completely - even though it costs us to work hard. My home country (Venezuela) isn't free, and it's heartbreaking that a nation so beautiful and rich in natural resources has such impoverished and oppressed people. One day I'll blog about Venezuela. Today I'm thankful I am in America, that we don't have a dictator, and that we are not socialists. That our health care may be pricey but it's excellent and we have options (even though they are expensive ones!). I'm thankful that I can sing "God Bless America" and that I can have Christian bumper stickers on my car. That I can share God's grace and mercy for me to anyone who is interested and carry my Bible with me wherever I go.

Finally, I'm thankful for all that God had done for me before I was formed in my mother's womb. He created the world for us to live in and decorated it with nature - vibrant and invigorating. He gave us the Law to teach us what sin is and create in us a conscience. Then He gave His only Son as a once-and-for-all sacrifice to forgive my sins because He knew I would not be able to keep the Law out of my own discipline. So I was born with everything I needed to have a relationship with God. An intimate, deep, and personal relationship with the Almighty God, who holds my hand and holds my life in His hands simultaneously.

Please share what you are thankful for! A lot of times we say "Happy Thanksgiving" like it's another holiday, but the world needs to know the goodness of our Lord.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Too long for a Facebook status...

Brielle's birthday celebration was nice. It had an unexpected twist; We were going to simply cut her a cake at home, get some sodas, and give her presents. And then at church, we're invited to another birthday party for a friend of ours, and we ended up merging the birthday celebrations and spending the afternoon w/ the pastoral family. More people to sing "Happy birthday" to Brielle (which made her grin), and she got a few (but AWESOME) extra presents too! The kid's behavior today at church and at the party wasn't uncharacteristic for toddlers (active, all over the place) and yet they were really well behaved today in that I seemed to finally have caught their attention and they listened to me. I was happy that Brielle was not THAT whiny in the sense that once she started (which was often), and I talked to her and asked her to stop crying, she exercised self-control. It spoke volumes to me because it's like Joyce Meyer says in the Women's Bible Study we're doing (Never Give Up), you CAN change your behavior. A 2 year old can do it! I was beaming with pride for Anakin too. Not just today either.

My biggest regret this year has been that I don't have a camera! I take pics with my phone but that's not consistent, or good. I count on other people to take pictures, and my friend Tina did, but then I need to wait until Tina (or Angela, or Donna, etc) can have to time to unload their cameras and get their photos to me. Not to mention I haven't had a decent photo op with my family yet. Since my baby shower thru today there is loads of pictures floating in other people's home and I don't have them. And I want them for my personal keepsakes, and to share with my loved ones. It's important to me. I want a camera (and a good camera too! I'm desiring one with video capabilities as well as photo, but digital so I can upload and share online).

God has kind of showed up in my life this week a little bit... out of the ordinary. He's always there (duh) and that's key in the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus. But this week - towards the end of the week, it felt like He was a bit more tangible than He had been in my life for some time now.

I felt gagged since my last post until now. Like I really couldn't spit out the words to pray. I had prayer burdens. I had the earnest desire in my heart to pray. I had the time and the energy to pray every day. I couldn't get a word out. It was like, "God knows, and He knows better than I do, so why say anything?" In a lot of ways I felt trapped. Trapped by the recovery process of my recent surgery. Trapped by the children. Trapped by the snow. Trapped by the lack of personal resources. Trapped by finances. Trapped by the hopelessness of all the things that were SCREAMING at me to get done but I didn't have the physical energy or capability to do it. And obviously, in moments like these, I DON'T blog.

Which means something happened.

After going through a high fever, terrible aches, swollen tonsils, and painfully sleepless nights, one morning I started to pray. Before the sun was out, before the kids were up, before Paul stopped snoring. And the minute I started talking I also started crying. I said, "Lord, THIS is the reason why I haven't really wanted to pray. I knew I would cry. I didn't want to cry. I really didn't want to deal with these feelings, and I certainly didn't want to open myself up to FEEL those feelings. But eventually the desire to get out of the trap overcame the desire to keep all my emotions on an even plane. And after everything was said, I was done. I felt a good kind of emptied out, like all the nasty stuff was out and all that was left was hollowness, which gave me peace. Then I carried on with my day.

The day showed me that God is faithful. I saw Him, in small ways, already moving to answer my prayers by either causing small changes or giving me the strength and patient endurance to wait on Him. And I am DESPERATE for so many changes my dreaming and longing for it keeps me up for hours when I could be sound asleep.

Then this Sunday at church, the moment service started, something different took over me. I found myself having a hard time concentrating on the words in the Hymns because I wanted to cry. And the words themselves were ministering to me volumes as I sang them! We sang a Hymn called "My Anchor Holds", and it blessed me to really consider that I have anchored myself to Christ - there is no storm, no matter how bad, that would cause me to lose my grip on Him because He won't lose His grip on me. And I wanted to cry just in worship. At the same time, I felt tension. Tension that you could slice with a knife. But I looked at the congregation and the congregation was in worship. It was like the Holy Spirit was moving in a quiet way, bringing confirmation and encouragement in every detail. I did notice that when we were sharing prayer requests, everyone that asked for particular prayer was trying to hold back tears (and some were more successful than others). So there was no visible animosity to explain the tension. And the tension was almost making me nauseaus. So I went to the altar and I began to pray for the gifts of the Spirit (watch out! There's a soap-box paragraph coming soon to a blogpost near you). I asked God to manifest the gifts of His Spirit to help us handle effectively what ever it is our congregation was going through... I certainly had no idea what was up with the tension in contrast with the spirit of worship. All I know is that's why we need the manifested gifts of the Holy Spirit - to have someone pray in tongues and address the need right on by the help of the Spirit who knows everything. Then if God chooses to keep that prayer a personal matter and doesn't necessarily want anything in the congregation to be put on the spot, that prayer is between the person and God. Or God sends the gift of interpretation so that the church can be enlightened as to what's really going on in the supernatural and we can war effectively. Or a completely different process is for someone to receive the gift of prophecy, or of special knowledge, and have that person be revealed to by God what is going on in the "secret", and then maybe give the person the instruction to share, or to intercede in private with the Lord. I'm not saying any of these gifts had to fall on me. I'm also not saying that there was something shady about my church or the congregation - I'm talking about supernatural battles. If you don't believe in demons, or the power of darkness, then NONE Of this makes sense. But Scripture says that these things are indeed there, and we "do not wage war as the world does". It's not about a physical fight of arguing or calling out, insulting another believer. My church has the most awesome demonstration of the fruits of the spirit and agape love with each other that I have ever seen. But if you do believe that there are demons, even though we can't see them, how are we to rebuke them and cast them out by praying based only on what we see with our natural eyes? We need the manifested gifts of the Spirit to pray against these forces that oppress the church, so that the people can overcome in victory. I myself really don't like participating in intercessory prayer in all circumstances because I need to know if God really wants me to pray for that? And in that way? Prayer is powerful! Much more weightier than "be careful what you wish for". And God cannot be manipulated, and He will not answer a prayer that is inconsistent with His character, His Word, or His will. I don't want to pray resisting God, I want to team up with Him and pray the things He desires in His heart.

And so I asked God for the gifts of His Spirit for our church. because another overwhelming feeling I felt, as I was praying about the tension that I didn't understand, was heart break. Big heart break. I felt hurt by what was hurting the church (maybe not EVERY person, but it seemed like there were at least a handful that were hurting with a personal battle or other). I love my church. I don't want to see them beat down by sickness, abuse, unemployment, separation, or depression. I don't want them to be struggling by situations that distance them from their spouses, kids, extended family or friends. Some people would read this far and say, "Maria, that's just life". Granted. It's still heart break. And if there's anyone I can think of that gets personal kicks out of heart break, it's Satan. He is the root for sin. Sin is everything that separates us from God. God is love. Everything that isn't love, and isn't in line with the characteristics of love (patient, kind, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs... etc), is brought into this world by the archtype of Love Incarnate (Jesus Christ), which is Satan. God gave mankind the freedom of choice to let us as a species determine how much territory the kingdom of darkness can have, and we flung open the doors and let it become a global free for all. Even though God is there for the believers, to cover them so that darkness has no victory over them... and even though God is patiently waiting with arms wide open for those that are unbelieving... He's not going to take away our free will to create utopia here on Earth. As a result, the kingdom of darkness bleeds into the church (not by invitation) but like an oil spill in the ocean it can leak in and slowly start covering over everything until people "clean up" - pray, receive God's help in the situation, overcome it. Early detection is the key.

In that altar moment of all these things going on (and obviously, I could put them into words, because I did in prayer specifically and I'm blogging about them now), I just felt God closer than ever before. I don't run on every FEEEEEling. But it was like God was right next to my shoulder, whispering in my ear. And with no audible words I knew exactly how to pray. And I wept. Maybe I even wept MORE because God doesn't have to come that close to me. I'm not all that spiritual (opinionated, yes. indoctrinated, yes. spiritual? eh...). There's nothing about me that makes me deserve anything more than anyone else. And I was praying for God to move in everyone else... there's no evidence that He wasn't, but I can't blog what God was doing in anyone's heart but my own. And altogether, in prayer and worship, overcome by the burdens the church was facing to the point of heart break and at the same time overwhelmed by the awesomeness of our God and His love.... I cried of joy and I cried of godly sorrow. The godly sorrow wasn't anything personal this time, and it wasn't anything that needed to be repented of. It was just sharing in and truly allowing myself to feel what my brother and sister in Christ are going through. The joy was just... "Wow. God, I'm sitting here and having a moment with You. There's nothing particularly special about me but the God of the universe wants to sit beside me and have a moment with me. Wow."

It was very personal. And even with all that I wrote, I was still very peripheral and kept all the details confined to that moment. And what I did share I wrote because I want you to be encouraged in which ever way this blog can encourage you. God is here. God is speaking. I pressed in because I was straining to hear and so He drew closer so I can listen. HE WANTS TO SPEAK TO YOU TOO. I don't know what He wants to share with You. I just know He wants to sit next to you and put His hand over your shoulder too.

What He told me intimately placed me in a Facebook status where I could sing (along with Sis. Debbie):

Now You've won my heart... Yes You've won my heart

And I can trade these ashes in for beauty
and wear forgiveness like a crown
come in to kiss the feet of mercy
I lay every burden down
at the foot of the Cross.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What to do when you're bored?

Oh my gosh... the days are blurring together. It gets dark so early that by 6pm I want to put the kids and myself to bed - only to realize what time it is. The days are long and quite frankly, boring. There's only so much I have the chance to do and the rest of the day is spent at home in the living room. I guess this is where major crafting projects would come into play. I want to scrap book, specially since I don't have a single hard copy of any of our pictures since I got married. But with a new baby came a huge adjustment to our budget and ... well does anyone have stuff to donate? For me to do? I can't clean (I still have 2 and a half weeks to go before I can operate a vacuum cleaner) - but I'll glue stuff for you! ;)

Paul had a great time at "Learn to Return" and he came back w/ a hat to show his achievement. He spent Monday training for crash landings on land, and that included a 4 mile hike with one boot in the snow (part of his "lot", in case he would lose a shoe in the wilderness... better than his partner, who lost an eye and an arm!). Then on Tuesday he spent the day training for crash landings in water. I am so proud of him! He aced getting out of a fuselage under water (holding his breath) in a "helicopter" and in an "airplane" - and he also voluntarily aced doing it blindfolded. They tried to make it challenging for him too - they dropped him w/o giving him a chance to take a deep breath, and they spun his "plane" around... gave him as much vertigo as they could under water. He still did excellent - which is great, because now we know that if he survives the actual crash, he'll make it home. Something to be thankful for since he'll be traveling a lot via little itty-bitty planes out into the bush for the majority of his job - even more so as he's certified.

Now Paul has an ear ache and a fever. But he never gets sick. I'm sure the nap and the tylenol and he'll be back up here, WOWing with me before we know it!

Brielle has been unusually whiny. She cries for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And everything in between. To the point of giving us all migraines and being sent to her room so that we don't explode. And yet she has every reason in the world to be happy!

I'm actually "tired" of the kids. I wish I could say that I rested and recovered from major surgery after a tubal ligation and a repeat c-section, but the truth is that the kids really didn't let me. Paul and Vanessa helped, definitely, but by now I'm weary of being at home with them. I need to do something more, I need to get out of the house. I've applied for part-time jobs and volunteer positions... something to bring a little extra cash for breathing room, give me a break from being MOMMY (some people LOVE it, I need a break) all the time, and to help me gain references/experience while I'm here in Anchorage. I applied to be a dog groomer because I really enjoyed that in Oklahoma City and it's part-time, and all the work stays at work - I can come home and BE home. I also applied for Americorps, which is volunteer work but they pay you for child-care assistance when you are out, and they give you food stamps and a stipend for your time. Vanessa and I are headed over to First National this week to apply there too, although for an office job I prefer part time so I can still spend a big time of the day at home w/ the kids.

Another thing I need to consider is how I'll feel being home all day when it's dark all 24 hours. It might drive me crazy! Or get me seriously depressed. And the kids! They'll be sick and tired of being "snowed in" all day. They would enjoy spending a few hours a day at day care, playing with other kids (except maybe Caleb, who isn't social enough yet to particularly care for that, but coming home to a happy mommy would be good for him too).

Today we were headed over to the bank, completely forgetting that they were closed for Veteran's day. Before we left Paul told me that we got an URGENT email from the pediatrician regarding some of Caleb's lab results. Without a phone, we just stopped by the hospital on the way back. He was examined naked and weighed. The jaundice was gone (woo hoo! Now he's my peanut and not my pumpkin). And he weighed in a 8 lbs 3 oz, which is better than the 7lbs 5 oz he weighed last Friday. I was ecstatic - all he pumping, nursing, and formula is paying off! I've been a 24 hour feeding machine with only 4 hours of sleep during the night, but it's paying off!

However, the Dr said that his urine culture came back with a very dangerous bacteria colony. This bacteria could be life-threatening if left untreated. And it builds a very quick resistance to antibiotics, so it's a one-shot deal to get it taken care of. The Doctor told me that the specimen could've been contaminated at the lab. All other test results for Caleb came back good. So we did another cath-urine test and based on that one we'll see... He may have gotten rid of any bacteria on his own, or he may have less bacteria than last time, which then a shot of a strong antibiotic should do it. If the bacteria comes back the same or worse, he's going to have to be hospitalized and treated with IV... which could cause hearing loss as a side-effect.

I'm trusting God entirely. Whether we end up at the hospital or not, Caleb belongs to the Lord and His plans first and foremost - more than he belongs to me. God brought him here for a reason beyond my understanding, and I'm fully aware of that. And I trust God for a clean culture too. Either way I know God will be glorified!

That's my prayer request right there... and for our personal issues (finances, marriage, parenting, etc... things I always pray for to cover our base). Then I pray for my family members and my friends. I'm praying for a lot of people to find jobs - with more urgency than I want one myself. My dad, Vanessa, Angela, David... everyone I know that is unemployed and searching. I'm praying for God to become obvious in the lives of those who don't know Him personally. And I'm praying for my church. We are small but faithful, and I've seen God bring growth and life since Paul and I showed up Memorial Day weekend. I know the Lord is going to do something great there if we all follow on Pastor's preaching (from Haggai) and be about the Lord's temple.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Long time no post

Holy cow is it hard to blog when you have 3 kids! I feel like I only have small bursts of 30 minutes or so to spare and I eat, use the bathroom, or shower in these breaks. The rest of the time is keeping my baby girl from eating stuff out of the trash (why? I don't know) or my 3 year old from swinging off the stair banisters like Spiderman.

Even now it's 11+pm, 13 degrees outside, and my contacts are blurry. I have my newborn on my chest and a laptop on my lap, while my husband jams out to Guitar Hero on low volume... because this is the only time of night to enjoy this kind of stuff.

I have to say, I love the view over Cheney Lake. The lake is frozen over, which at night reflects this silvery-white solid color from the moon. The trees are barren, and behind them is the mountains - which look post-card perfect. The mountains are snowed over and stick out against the dark sky behind them. I wish I had a camera that would capture the beautiful darkness of this view without flash.

Well, a camera would be nice. Period. =)

Well anyhow, driving by that view (day or night) makes me stand in awe of God. I just can't help but worship Him in the glory of His creation. I'm thankful to live close to beautiful sights like that... didn't really have it in Florida unless you drove out for a while towards the ocean. Nature works on your heart! You are captivated by beauty, your heart feels at rest, you realize the sovereignty of God.

Not only that, but He really knocked on my heart through our Fireproof bible study last Sunday. It drove the point home that we cannot give of what we do not have - specially when it comes to love. The kind of love that will maintain your marriage. The kind of love that leads others to the Lord. The kind of love that nurtures your kids. We get this love from the love of God - we drink it in, pour it over, bask in it, and live through it. 1 John 4:9-17 goes over this again and again: God loves us first, then we love others, because He is love and He lives in us. Now we live through Him, and through love. And His love is made complete in us when we are experiencing the love we give/receive from one another...

"It's all about love, love, love, love, love..."

I think nature, this winter, is how God is helping me to fall in love with Him all over again. He wants us to remember our first love, that feeling of joy unspeakable we felt when we first accepted Him as Savior - when we realized our sins had been washed away, when we felt His presence in our hearts and longed for time in prayer and in His Word.... are you still feeling that love today? I know sometimes I fall away from this love with the busyness of life. Exhaustion drowns out any passion for anything at the end of the day... and at the beginning of the day too.

And then I'm driving home, I look out my window, and I see those mountains behind the lake, which looks completely different from the view I had seen just a couple of weeks ago... And that love is rekindled, and I can't wait to get home. I do whatever I need to do to keep the kids satisfied so I can run to the comfort of God's Word. All of the sudden my life feels like the phrase from Kim Walker's song, "Oh how He loves us" - where she talks about our "afflictions eclipsed by glory". That phrase is exactly it.

It's nice to live in this lovey feeling with the Lord. I was tired of living in worry, disappointment, frustration, and stress. Not that I did intentionally. No one does. But my hormones had the best of me. I wanted to cry all the time... then again, having a baby does that to a woman. My little one is 17 days old! My body is still readjusting. I know that. I know that this is normal. And yet the Lord says, "My grace is sufficient for you," and, "the peace that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts in Christ Jesus." And I take a look at the mountains and it's almost as if the Word that was spoken to bring the mountains into existence speaks to my heart and commands it still.

There are a lot of prayer burdens in my heart, mostly for others and not a whole lot for me. Mines are basic. But I have friends and family struggling and needing various things and I just pray that, not only are their needs met, but that they experience the goodness of God through it. It may seem really odd to taste God and see that He is good in the middle of our trials - even in the middle of our suffering - but He can be so sweet to us it's comforting.