My Grandmother’s Weakness

I stood before the mirror and took a deep look at myself. I noticed the black circles forming under my eyes. The “way back” forehead that made me the brunt of many jokes as a child. The defined cheek bones that run deeply in my roots. The beautifully darkened skin that speaks of my strength and dignity. “I look like my grandmother,” I thought.

Our resemblance is uncanny. Throughout life people often times thought I was her daughter. My resemblance of her doesn’t take a halt at my face and bone structure. Our resemblance lies within our character.

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She was bold. I am bold.

She endured long. I endure long.

We are not afraid.

Or are we?

I began to remember my grandmother differently that morning. Sure she was afraid. Fear was there, but fear didn’t rule. She, a single mother to many, dominated fear every day. She conquered that life limiting emotion with grace. Today I honor and embrace the weaknesses of my grandmother. In doing so, I honor and embrace my own.

The part of her that she fought so hard to hide from me, her baby girl that never grew up, shows up in her baby girl most days.

That part that made her vulnerable makes me vulnerable.

The place in her that would not let us cross that line shows itself in me. That place that said, “Don’t mess with me” speaks out in my heart today.

You see, I took on my grandmothers weaknesses when I took on her strength. Basically, it was her weakness that made her so strong in Him.

She was a dichotomy. She was weak, yet she was strong. 

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I never realized these truths until the day that I stood in the mirror and saw her in me.

My grandmother was my confidant. I called or texted her every day from the Dominican Republic.

She was so strong. Not once did I think that my multiple problems affected her. She always knew what to say. “This too shall pass Vicki.” “Vicki, God’s got this.” “He hears our conversation and He is working it out.” “You can never get too far from Him. He is always there.”

She never made me feel like she was tired, though I know she was. She never made me feel like I was causing her stress, though I’m sure I did.

She laughed with me. She prayed with me. She became my lifeline. All while being weak.

Understand, her granddaughter, the one she nurtured from birth moved away. I didn’t just move around the corner. I took all of her great grandchildren to another country. She was hurt by that choice, but she never let the hurt choose for her when we talked. Instead she trusted the God who called me to the mission field to sustain as her she missed us.

Right now, I feel weak. God’s strength is my axis on this titled earth. A feeble sensation flows within me every time I blog. I’ve chosen to use that nervous energy for good by letting you know that it takes a Power far beyond myself to accomplish God’s plan for my life. That same Power is available to you. Feeling frail isn’t a good enough reason to not do what He has called us to do.

My grandmother’s death has forced me to finally grow up and to seek after the God who created me. She isn’t here for me to call. I miss her.

My grandmother saw me through special eyes. Her focus was on the person that lives within me. She never ever made me think that she saw me as I saw myself. She was convinced that I was unstoppable. She really made me believe that I could do anything. She taught me to never take “no” for an answer to anything that God had for me. My grandmother taught me to fight. Her own life made her an amazing teacher.

Ladies, its okay to admit that you are weak. It is okay to not be at your best. It’s okay to talk about your fears. The wonderful reality is that weakness and fear didn’t define my grandmother and it doesn’t define you or me.

It’s simply a part of the process of living.

I gave up on the idea that I’m on a road to somewhere. I don’t believe that I’m in the process of becoming. I am already there. I have already become. 

Right now, right here, I embrace all of me. Sure I’ll continue to grow and to develop more and more into Godly character, but  I am already who God has called me to be. My “being” isn’t defined by what I do. My “being” was defined way back when my Father God formed me with His very own hands.

I was amazing in the dark place of conception. I was born amazing. I was amazing as a child. I was amazing as a teen. I was amazing when I went wayward. I am amazing now. I’ve always been amazing. My behavior doesn’t make me great. Christ makes me great. I am who He says I am.

I am amazing.

So here, immersed in the puddle of my mess, I am a beautiful fountain of grace. AND SO ARE YOU!

Embrace your weakness. Your imperfection is part of who you are. Your imperfection only gives light to our Creator. He shines in and through the crevices and gaps in our lives. Grasp hold of all of you.

Fashion Fair takes care of the dark circles under my eyes. Extra hair takes care of that “way back” forehead. But I know its there.

The makeup and the hair pieces only help me to face the world everyday, but those things don’t make me who I am. I am confident that I belong to the creative Maker who continues to enhance all of me each day.

In the Silence…

Mark 15:5 But, Jesus said nothing, much to Pilates surprise.

Jesus was under arrest. He boldly declares His deity when Pilate asked if He was the King of the Jews, but remained silent when His character was questioned. When the people questioned His actions, He was silent and calm.

All to often, I find myself standing before Pilate.

The “Pilates” of this world are humans who so want to see the truth, yet ignore the truth that stands before them. Pilate had the Truth in his presence and could not see it. Pilate questioned the authenticity of Christ because of the opinions of those in his midst. All to often, the “Pilates” of this world decide the veracity of one based upon the ideas of the crowd. It takes maturity to judge someone simply based upon your relationship with them. It takes wisdom to see someone as they’ve been to you and to not decide who they are based upon the mob’s opinion.trust-god-550x320

Here Jesus remains silent.

Silent when they accuse. Calm when they blame. He carried His cross and didn’t complain. He walked down that road knowing and relying on the Truth of Himself.  His confidence was within. His reliance of His ability came from Himself. He was God and no one would ever change that.

So He let them talk. He let them accuse. He took it because He was sure of His call. Those who nailed Him to the cross did issue the call on His life. They had no power over Him. He relied on Himself. He trusted in the power of the One which gave Him the strength to carry that cross. That same power would raise Him up. He was confident of that.

His confidence wasn’t in their choice to believe. His confidence relied on the assurance that He, being God already possessed. He knew who He was. His person hood had already been established. He is God and Pilates belief or unbelief of that truth wouldn’t change His deity.

The Truth was there. The truth existed and permeated the place. Jesus relied on what He already knew about Himself.

The world will misjudge us.

The world will blame us.

The world will lie about us.

The world will hate us.

crossLike Jesus, we must grab on to the huge chunk of wood that is heavy and walk to our destiny.

Walking forward as they mock is daunting, but we must continue down our path. We must stand boldly in the value that He has assigned us. We must boldly face the persecution, knowing that God will resurrect us from impending death.

Christ stood firm and silent. Christ was sure and held His composure. Christ was confident. I will do the same. 

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Beauty For Ashes

I had rough year last year. Like some people, I was thrilled at midnight of December 31, 2016. The year was over. I wished away the sadness of that year as the clock struck 12! We all know that wishing away anything doesn’t work, nevertheless I tried.

It was a year full of sad surprises that took my heart by storm. It was a year that forced me to take a painful look at my life and to accept the realities therein.

The year was full of heart wrenching confessions from those I love, backstabbing from those I had helped the most, loss, and lies about me that tore at the very core of my reputation. Needless to say, the year felt like ash.

The residue of what was burned was my life. 

I was burned. I felt abandoned. I suffered in silence.

Sometimes it hurts too bad to talk. Sometimes the words just won’t surface. When I began to communicate, the words wouldn’t come out right. I couldn’t figure out how to share my pain, so I stuffed it.

I smiled. I pretended. I put up a front. Life had to continue. 

In the midst of my facade, God sent us a team of young ladies to host retreats for the ladies at our churches. My goal was to fake it through their time on HOPE Mountain. Their four month stay with us was the medicine my weary soul needed.

They used a tool called, Beauty for Ashes. It’s not complicated. It’s a straightforward system of sharing your truths with a group of women as we walk towards freedom together.

I was the interpreter for this team. Imagine, session after session of translating things like, “Share your story”, “Shame can only reside if you let it,” “God restores,” “There is hope.”

Here I was, leading these women. We held the retreat on HOPE Mountain for the ladies in our Lajas community. They cried as they shared their stories and gained support from one another. The ladies in our Los Cerritos church laughed and cried so much because we all know one another so deeply. Most of us in that church are related. Then on to Cien Fuegos where the women who have poverty at levels most reading this may never know. I was inspired by their sincerity. They poured HOPE into my dismal soul.

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Our ladies from Cien Fuegos completing one of the activities.

Moca surprised me the most! The room was full of women. They intently listened and shared from their hearts. We all learned things about one another that we never knew. We held up one another as we shared our journal entries and life’s stories.

Four months of this. 

I am the leader, yet I struggled deeply. I felt like an impostor. I wasn’t living what I was teaching them. I knew that something had to happen, so I sought God for help.

During my daily bible reading time, I read the story of Mary and Elizabeth. Mary found herself with child and went to a woman that she felt would relate. She went to Elizabeth and stayed with her until she was ready to face the world. I believe that Elizabeth poured strength into Mary’s heart during that visit. Strength she would need in order to fulfill this purpose that was sprung upon her.

I realized I needed an Elizabeth.

I thought of my sister in laws. Each of them happened to be in the country at the same time, which is a rare occurrence. My sister in laws and I did not always have a great relationship, but we each made a decision to love one another and that choice caused us to look beyond our differences and to accept the complete package of the other. They have truly become my sisters.

So I called them. Each of them. 

They realized how deeply I needed them, so they cancelled all of their plans to meet with me. We met the next morning and talked. I flooded their ears and souls with my agony. They listened. They cried. We laughed. Then we cried again. They gave me advice. They promised their support. They were my Elizabeth’s that day. They reminded me of the beauty that can come from ashes.

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My sister in law, Elizabeth has become like an oasis in the desert for me. 

I went back to work. Leading the groups of ladies at our churches to come to the place of freedom that I now possessed. It felt different this time. I didn’t feel like an impostor. Though I couldn’t be as transparent with them as I was with my sister in laws, I could at least be vulnerable. I could at least let them know that I was walking through a process of forgiveness that felt like death.

I’m still walking. I’m still processing. I’m still on my journey, but I’m closer to my destination than before.

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Here we wrote the names of those we need to forgive and nailed them to the cross. 

A special friend asked me to lead her women’s retreat a few months ago. I was still on my expedition towards vulnerability. I was honest with the ladies which led to their honesty. God performed beautiful surgery that weekend. A ripple effect of generational healing began because I was willing to share.

We can’t tell it all to everyone. I know. We can’t expose ourselves completely with all, but we can at least let those around us know that we are on a journey towards freedom. You don’t have to pretend anymore. You really can tell the truth.

 

 

 

 

Do You SOAP?

IMG_2222I found these cute journals at Sams Club a few weeks ago. They are simply pleasant. I needed something to get my girls excited about spending time in God’s word. It’s time for them to develop their own walks with Christ and to know Him for themselves. So, when I saw the journals on sale, I knew exactly what to do!

A fellow pastor’s wife that I highly respect led me to SOAP while she visited HOPE Mountain. She was preparing for her women’s group and I asked for advice in leading my groups of ladies. She directed me to the Love God Greatly website and my life has not been the same since!

SOAP is straightforward. Its an uncomplicated way to keep me grounded in His word as I apply the scriptures to my daily life. I could see how my life had been enriched. Naturally, I wanted my daughter’s lives equally cultivated.

I gathered my two butterfly princesses one morning. We sat in our recliners in our loft in Virginia with coffee in hand (yes, my girls drink coffee), journals and pens. We talked about the importance of reading the bible every day and how we all need to apply His word to our daily lives.

They both expressed their desire to do so, but felt inadequate. I listened as we sipped on my favorite drink. I shared some of the insecurities I faced throughout life in walking out the scriptures. It was an exclusive morning. It was our special time together. No other siblings around to distract us. We had the house to ourselves and I was sure to take advantage of the moment!

We then began to SOAP!

Oh, it was precious! My girls took scriptures and went through a process that will help to solidify their walks with our Creator. They are learning to walk with Him at a young age and my mamma’s heart is full!

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Starr’s SOAP!

Perhaps this will help you too. Take a moment to SOAP and your time spent with God each day will be full of the goodness of our Savior.

S-The S stands for Scripture. Write out the scripture. 

O-The O stands for Observation. What stood out to you in the scripture? Circle or underline it. Write notes about it.

A-The A stands for Application. How can you apply this scripture to your life?

P-The P stands for Prayer. Rewrite the scripture as a prayer and pray it over your life. 

IMG_2220Our journals are filling up with observations, prayers and applications to scripture. I love that God is teaching my girls now. I love that they have tools to help them maintain their walks with Him as life transits.

SOAP each day to obtain the abundant life our Father intended you to live.

Coffee and Memories

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Its 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The hammocks swing in the breeze and a small group of ladies lay around the pool. The gentle hum of the washing machine assures me that I’m not behind with my laundry. The guys just ran off to work on the land. I can slightly hear the wavering cry of the goats from a distance. Birds chirp and the river softly flows.

This feels like a perfect moment to have a cup of coffee.

I confess. I’m an addict. I am addicted to coffee. 

I’m not sure if its the robust taste. I think that my addiction is rooted in the memories associated with the strong brew.

I remember early morning prayer meetings with my friends at a local coffee shop when I lived in the Dallas area. The aroma of the potent caffeine brings those moments back to life for me.

I remember sitting on my porch and sipping the boiled brew as my children played in the yard.

Coffee has been a constant for me.

Life changes at an accelerated rate. Life keeps happening. It moves on and on, even when I’m slowing down. Life is quick. In one blink of the eye, a lifetime of choices create current circumstances.

Coffee was there the whole time.

I think that I’m addicted to remembering. Perhaps coffee helps me to process each transition.

I’ve recently been introduced to Italian coffee. I love the smooth taste. Mostly, I love the night that it made my acquaintance. Ruben and I went to dinner in Williamsburg, VA with lifelong friends. We spent that Valentines weekend walking down the colonial streets of Williamsburg. Our time with them was special. We’ve been friends for so long. They know us well. Distance didn’t cause our friendship to diminish, it only made us want to spend more time together.

At our Valentines dinner, we laughed about life. We listened as they shared the stories of their travels to Europe. My ears perked as they talked about the coffee in Italy. It was a sweet evening. One that I will cherish. Moments spent with those I love have a permanent place in my heart.

Yet, they come to an end. Moments end. Maybe they just shift into new moments.

Coffee helps me to remember.

The authentic taste. The aroma. The sharp, hot bite on my tongue quickens my response. It wakes me up and says, “Life continues.”

So, I sit today on my balcony and sip. I want this moment to remain. I want to remember today and all of the goodness around me.

The men are back. I hear them slamming the dominoes on the game table. The girls are talking in soft tones and the goats are resting. The breeze keeps us all comfortable and the hammocks keep us snuggled. The birds still chirp. And coffee is by my side. A nice hot cup with a touch of cinnamon and caramel smooths over the moment. Today will be remembered.

A Mountain of HOPE

There is a sensation that accompanies me while on HOPE Mountain. A feeling that embodies peace and tranquility in my soul. It’s an escape from the despair that resides outside my iron gate. A vacation of sorts from the turmoil that invades the city. It takes me away from my reality, from a place of tangible sentiment in the midst of intangible emotions.

It’s a far from perfect place. The pool needs repairs. The main house longs to be remodeled. The outdoor concrete stairs have cracks. One dorm needs paint, another needs bathrooms. The outdoor bathrooms beg for attention. The animals roam the land as if they own it. Clothes hang continually from the lines as group after group trample the grounds. And it can get noisy up here too!

Tucked away in the rain forest jungle of the Dominican Republic lies a place that will make you cringe with its discomforts, yet relish in it’s majesty.

My early mornings on this mountain make me wonder if it was like this for Moses. He met God on a mountain.

God meets me here.

Jesus stole away to a mountain. His place of escape from the multitude and His place of provision for the multitude was a mountain.

This place that makes me feel safe and vulnerable all at the same time is the home I pegged, “HOPE”. Truth is where reality and hope collide. Deep within that collision is where we choose to embrace the whole truth of expectation and vision for our lives.

Faith grasps us here. Hope and Faith are like kindred spirits that hold us together as life unravels. Courage rises to the occasion and enables us to face it. Face life. A long look at what is real to us will cause us to make a choice.

Accepting what is real to me enables me to accept me. All of me. The crooked parts, the broken pieces, the curves, the unfinished self in the making. All of me.

The beauty. The bounce. The caring heart. The joy. The giggles. The sassy. The part of me that is still unknown. All of me.

Hope causes us to believe far beyond our reality. It works with faith and causes us to reach far into the heart of our dreams. It causes us to take risks and to live out the secret longings of our hearts.

It’s a place of abandonment to what seems normal. It’s a stretch into the deep seeded plans that God ordained for our lives.

Hope is knowing that it’s all working out, even though the process may not feel great. Hope is a state of being. A peace in the midst of the many storms of life.

Sometimes my showers on this mountain are cold. Sometimes the rain doesn’t yield it’s fierce downpour. Sometimes the groups are loud and play throughout the night. Sometimes I find someone sitting on my favorite chair in my favorite spot on my massive porch. Sometimes this place is uncomfortable.

I’ve learned to see the beauty in the uncomfortable places in life. The cold showers keep me clean and fresh in this dreadful heat. The rain keeps the flowers and trees beautiful; and it keeps the river flowing. The loud groups keep me feeling alive and surrounded with laughter. When someone is sitting in my spot, it gives me the opportunity to humble myself and to give. The uncomfortable makes life beautiful.

Hoping makes me uncomfortable. So I make an intentional choice to go to my mountain. My mountain is my meeting place with my Maker. I see Him there. In the moments where reality surrounds me, but doesn’t consume me is where I find Him.

Sometimes its on a balcony on HOPE Mountain. Sometimes its in a recliner in our loft in Virginia. Sometimes its in my corner of the bed in the middle of the night or on the wooden floor of our upper pavilion. Sometimes its on my knees or lying flat on the floor. Sometimes tears drown my face and cries flow from my belly. Sometimes I’m full of laughter or just quiet in His presence.

My mountain is anywhere I find Him.

It takes courage and strength to keep believing when life declares defeat. It takes determination and tenacity to hold on when life keeps letting go.

That’s HOPE.

Hope won’t let me stop. Hope won’t let me quit. Hope keeps me and resounds, “Try again.”

My God is my mountain of Hope. He is my mountain. He is my place of solace. I relish in His tranquility. He is my place to reflect as I strategize my next move. He reignites my hope and gives me life over and over and over again. My Mountain of Hope is my tranquility in my boisterous existence.