Tough Questions

#SickOfMe, Chapter 1 Blog

5/30/19

Tough Questions by: Genesis Juarez

I gave my life to Jesus at 15 but it was not until I was 19 that I had any type of follow through. I committed to attending church and youth group, and began actually cultivating a relationship with Jesus. Now At 27, I think back at the past 8 years as a believer and think… THANK GOODNESS his Grace and Mercy abounds. If I had to sum up my testimony in one sentence it would be this: I am who I am today because of Christ and despite myself, it is not I but Christ’s relentless pursuit for me, unending love, and saving grace that has kept me from falling into eternal darkness.

My spiritual walk has been one of emotionally led spiritual highs, and ever wandering lows. I’ve had moments where I felt so close to God, and I have also avoided anything that reminded me of my profession of faith. I’ve continuously tried to escape conviction and owning up to my sin. There were seasons of faithful church attendance and thriving communion. I even did a brief stint in bible college followed by a complete overstay in the Chicago night scene. Did I mention God’s Grace is sooo real to me? One unplanned pregnancy, and an overwhelming God moment later, the kind where you know God is so not playing with you so you better get your act together, I find myself in the best place I’ve ever been. I am blessed to be part of a church that loves Jesus, the Word, and people. Toxic and unhealthy relationships are out and new God centered friendships are forming. My career is blossoming in ways I could have never expected and my son is amazing! Happy and healthy, what more could I ask for?

Fast forward to the past couple of months… God has been speaking to me in questions; tough, heart displaying questions. I’ve been scared for the longest time to answer. I know, that these questions will reveal to me my true heart condition. You know the saying, “When you know better you do better?” Well I’ve been avoiding knowing better; because if I allowed God to reveal these truths about myself then I will be held accountable for the aftermath and actually have to change. The thought of changing is truly overwhelming to me. I am too scared to even start; but I hear the ever so gentle whisper of God saying, “Not by your might or by your power, but by my Spirit.”

C’mon SOMEBODY!

I started reading Sick of Me by Whitney Capps, and guess what I was bombarded with in just the first chapter? QUESTIONS. So many soul searching questions. Capps writes,

        “Perhaps you’ve sensed, like me that despite all your spiritual striving, something feels off in a way you can’t quite describe….If I had to sum it up, I’d say this. For all our best efforts, we don’t look dramatically more like Jesus today than we did yesterday. We aren’t growing more spiritually mature. We may know a bit more, but our lives don’t bear the difference. I have countless list and tips for better marriages, friendhships, and finances. But do I really, truly look more like Jesus?” Pg. 2

There it is. My God moment. And while my self-preservation tries to kick and say, “Well compared to the rest of the world (non-believers) you do.” But let’s be real, the Bible doesn’t call me to compare myself with unbelievers, it doesn’t even say compare yourself to believers. We compare ourselves to Christ! Jesus is the standard, and although yes, while in our earthly bodies we will all always fall short, that doesn’t exempt us from striving for H O L I N E S S…

When I examine my life, my speech, and how I spend my time, and I evaluate if it reflects Christ to those around me, I’ll be honest, more often than not, no. Do you want to know why I think that is? I believe that there is a drastic difference between the “Believer of Jesus” and the “Disciple of Jesus”. To be be a believer requires profession of who Jesus Christ is, but to be a Disciple, one must become like Christ. True imitators of Him. And we can only travel from point A to point B by following the leadings and promptings of the Holy Spirit in the process of sanctification. Yes, we are all trying to be our best versions of ourselves, but here is another tough question, WHY? In today’s world the lines between Self-Help and Sanctification have been blurred so let me try and clear it up a little: Self-help is you trying to become better so you can be happier. Sanctification is you trying to become better so you can be holier, and only through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It’s all in the Why. You’re “Why” is what keeps you going during the messy middles of your life. Remember your Why, and if you need help finding a valid reason, here is mine: Because HE is WO-RTHY.

The tag line to Sick of Me is “From Transparency to Transformation.” So while we’re getting raw and real about the mess in our lives, let’s also vow not to stay stuck there. I know I’ve lingered in transparency far too long. Can we boldly ask our GREAT God for BIG faith during this season? The kind that truly believes in the transforming power of Christ within us. HE has come to set the captives FREE y’all! Do you believe that for yourself? When I look at myself, I can’t say that I do, but when I look at JESUS, how could I ever doubt? Today, I choose to believe that true transformation is for me. Last question, will you join me?

The Things We Do

by: @daywithmonica

The heart… Oh, man. Who can understand it? Right?! We’ve read the words in Jeremiah 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” What?!?! I mean let’s be honest here. If this is what the Bible says, surely, we must operate from confusion all the time, right?

Let’s chat.

Almost three years ago, I went on quest to discover my heart. The REAL, deep and hidden places that lie there. I prayed one of the most audacious prayers I could ever pray: “Lord, show me me.”

Oh. My. Word. Yeah, friends. Yikes!

I believe that most well meaning humans go about life desiring good. They function from a well balanced place and are; well… nice. That’s good! This is good! But is good, enough?!

“Ok, God. I’m ready. Let’s go. Let’s figure me out. Let’s open these closed doors and let’s see what’s inside.” My intention was good.

In the hallways of this place, the organ that pumps passion into my veins, was still beating ferociously. It was warm and functioning from the innate value, most well meaning humans operate from. Good. From this place I was able to still celebrate and feel deep emotion at the birth of my children and amazing happenings of those who I love around me. As well as I could mourn with the loss of a child and broken hearted humans. I was still functioning… good.

As the journey continued, I gleefully open doors of my heart wide, all smiles and in childlike laughter. Beautiful majestic memories and images, stored in my blood pumping organ, life giver. But as I continued at my pace, and with Jesus at my side, goosebumps would begin to infiltrate my warm, good meaning space. Door after door, Jesus the gentleman that He is, would never just barge into a closed room. He’d gently, wait. He’d gently ask me, “Are you ready now?” He’d gently hold my hand and open the door with me, but not after I said to Him first, “I’m ready.”

Here I wasn’t greeted with the aroma’s of my mom’s perfume that brought comfort when being homesick would paralyze all reason, as a child. There wasn’t any scents of the meals my grandmother would make us every summer, back in our homeland. No. Here the scents were different. Smells of old like when you walk into a thrift shop. Smells of garbage that desperately needed to be taken out. And yes… even smells of death; the literal kind. I am almost convinced that if you aren’t familiar with the scent of a rotting rodent, you don’t know hood. *That’s just my opinion, but stay focused, girl!

Moving along.

When we walked through these doors, here is where I knew I needed to spend the most of my time cleaning up. Here is where I was face to face with the realities of pain and epiphanies of sufferings. Here is where Jesus and I took down the slabs of wood blocking both So/un’s from entering in. Here is where I understood that many of my mistakes and grievances, they spent time in these rooms FIRST, before transforming into words that roll off my tongue and out my lips.

The things we do and the words we say stem from someplace. Sometimes we feel there isn’t any logical explanation for the things we do, yet even still, we do things and operate from all the different rooms of our heart; both good and bad.

Why do we do this?

Because beloved, everything flows in and out of the heart. And if we aren’t careful, the same emotions we have chained and locked up in a room, will seep its way into our bloodstream, pump itself into the plumbing of all the rooms of our hearts and out our mouths. Out our actions. Out our intentional withholding. Out our social media posts and tweets. Out our selfish friendships. Out in traffic or out in line at the post office. Out on our growing teens and fickle bosses. And even out on the people who love you the most. Yes, we are given instruction: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23.

Yes, beautiful; rooms left abandoned and unchecked for leaks, mold or mildew do rot. Rooms left abandoned and unchecked for fits of rage, bitterness and depression those rot too. Unruly tenants such as unforgiveness, slander and jealousy… leave those unattended and they will barge into the safest rooms of your hearts relationships and raise havoc, just so that they could be the center of attention. This. Happens. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been instructed to guard our hearts.

“If you never heal from what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.” – Toby Mac

See… Why Toby gotta be all in my business though? I’ll tell you why. Because when you first read it on your insta feed, it made you feel some kind of way and now that you are reading it again on the blog, it’s confirmation. So, what now, boo?

Close your eyes and take a journey into your heart, beloved. Walk down those cobwebbed hallways and look for those boarded up rooms. If it feels too scary to go through alone, ask Jesus to lead you. Remember, Jesus is a gentleman. He will only go where He is invited. Invite Him into those dark spaces. I promise you, nothing can separate you from His love (Rom. 8:38). Not even your ugliest, ugly.

Happy New Year, friends!

With you and for you,
Mónica

Don’t Be a Drag: The Aftermath

by: Sofia Gonzalez

@mrsg_p214

Processed with VSCO with a8 preset

Several weeks back, our last Re|defined Table Brunch was called MindFull. This event focused on the invasive realm of mental health. A topic talked about far too little in various platforms of influence. It is a topic that’s so relevant to our lives, we often miss it-glossing over symptoms and erratic behaviors that we have deemed our new normal.

A few of us, some dear sisters of mine, took the stage and spoke from our personal truth-we highlighted the Way, the TRUTH, the Life…the Man Jesus as the Cornerstone of all healing.

My focus? First, the diagnosis. Like an onion, I peeled away at my cinematic tale of inner-city teaching turned volatile to the make-up of my soul. Thrusted into a world of PTSD with stress and anxiety, my symptoms told the story. My decisions pointed back to my condition. With imaginary bullets flying over my head, my heart rate skyrocketing, I relived terror-filled moments for the sake of my sisters before me. Just touching the surface, I showed them my battle scars, wounds just recently closed. Knots almost stuck in my esophagus, I concentrated on breathing out God’s fame, pointing to the One who saved me. Yet, you see, the enemy didn’t feel satisfied. Post-diagnosis, the flame dart would be thrown at my home, my family, my marriage, my faith-community, and most fragile still, my unborn child. I just about lost them ALL. Yet, as I also like to say, repeating the poetry of the Psalmist: “Had it not been for the Lord who was on my side…” (Psalms 124:1) followed by, “I feel like preaching this morning.” And oh, I pray I did.

The admonishment? Healing is an investment. Healing is a series of decisions in small spurts and large leaps combined. We often look for the immediately in our trauma-healing. Yet, if you study the healing crusades of Jesus, the person remained ill for many days, months, and even years. The woman with the issue of blood, 12 year battle. The paralyzed man almost decaying near the pool of Bethesda in the 5th chapter of John, 8 years of infirmity. Let’s talk about death before the Man steps in. Lazerus? Dead for 4 days. Even in the account of the woman with the issue of blood that I covered, Jesus was on his way to a high official’s house to heal his daughter. Yet, because of the pesty faith of one woman, the healing was delayed, and you guess it, the little girl DIED before Jesus entered her room.

You gotta shake your head at this, put honest. Why doesn’t and didn’t Jesus heal people right away? The discerning answer: Jesus is much more interested in our process than our exit. Jesus is often much more inclined to our deep spirit and heart transplant than He is our escape. That’s where His Savior hands dig in. He’s not afraid of our blood, our mess, our errors, our screams, our trauma, our lack of trust—NONE OF IT! So He waits, like a doctor standing outside the patient’s room. He peers through the glass window of our circumstance, waiting for us to wave Him inside. He puts the cold stethoscope against our chest cavities to acknowledge the fact that we STILL got a heartbeat. There is a pulse-we will survive.

As Jesus once put it in Matthew chapter 11:6, “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Don’t take offense to the timing of our Savior.

Passing through the most difficult seasons of my life (yes there’s an s at the end of season), I had to make a series of positive choices that pointed me to my healing. I mean total healing. Here ya go:

    1. Professional and pastoral counseling: The value of sitting down with caring and expert individuals, and carving out time to do this was paramount to my outcome. Do it and do it now if your condition has you under water.
    1. Fitness training and health: What we eat and how often we move our bodies plays a critical role in our mental health. You can’t have one without the other. Service your mind, but service your body too, ladies. I joined a functional (HIIT) training program, and was introduced to boxing. I revolutionized my diet, and am now a pescatarian. I lost 50lbs., inches, and body fat in the process. Now, it’s my lifestyle. I can’t live without it.
    1. Engage Spiritual Disciplines: Journaling, praying, studying the Word, hearing sermon after sermon, getting lost in worship, struggling with God about my condition…all of it. Get in there. Face it head on, don’t avoid your greatest wounds. The Triune God wants to meet you there. Like a good teacher, He waits for his students to enter his classroom. There, He teaches us, gives us coping strategies, basks us in His love and grace. Get to class, and don’t be late. I beckon you to linger. Stay awhile. Trust me. Just linger.

The culmination: Don’t be a drag. At one point, I carried out a blow up doll that I ordered off Amazon. You should’ve seen me at the gas station blowing this thing up. Suitable for a bachelor party, there I was blowing her up for the cause of Christ. Yet, we are not honest with ourselves or others who can be trusted. We carry around this imposter, and we drag her around. She poses as us. Fine, stiff, nothing wrong based on outward appearances. Yet inside, we are screaming, hollow, damaged, and dying.

Paralysis– just like physical paralysis, so shall go our invisible condition if left untreated. Our brain’s cerebellum controls body movement. Paralysis would point to diseased or injured neurons not being able to send signals to the body. Likewise, our emotional disease and psychological injuries can do the same.

Yet, ONE THOUGHT…can change things. Our thought-life must get under the Obedience of Christ. If we can control the way we think, it can drastically alter our healing experience. “..we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Lastly, I pointed the women to ONE woman in scripture who changed the trajectory of her path with ONE thought. Circling back to the woman with the issue of blood. In Mark, we bump into her. Luke wrote about her too. I’m out of time, just like I ran out of time that day, but her account was stupendous, pointing to the deity and dumanis of Christ. 12 years. Pushed to the ledge of society, ceremonially unclean, barren, broke… I can definitely keep going. Spent all her money, did all she could. She was officially out of options, and almost out of hope. On the edge of paralysis, a thought breaks loose in the synapses of her mind.

She heard the Savior was coming to town. He was there. On His way to perform another healing for a 12 year old girl. It’s all or nothing. She shoves, pushes, nudges, embarrasses herself through the sea of moving bodies. And here’s the line: “because she thought, If I could just touch his clothes, I will be healed” (Mark 5:28). So many things happened, I could write another 5 pages on this. The skinny: Power is released from the garment of His robe, and IMMEDIATELY, she is healed. The Savior turns, knowing who touched him, still poses the question of “Who touched me?” In other words, come out and identify yourself to the crowd so I could talk about risky, pesty faith that will make one well. She went from woman to daughter by the way. Jesus, man He loves us.

The hem, she touched the hem. Jewish men wore a prayer shawl in those days. Scholars believe Jesus could be found wearing one from time to time. It was called a tallit. It had tassels at the bottom known as Tzitzit. This signified the Torah, God’s breathing law given unto Moses. I speculate that power was released because she touched the very Word of God worn off the back of the Living Word! Wish I had time to unpack that.

Woman bleeding for 12 years; little girl 12 years old. Not a numerical coincidence. Twelve signifies authority and government rule. Also the symbol of faith. Biblical numerology is worth studying. Gets me everytime.

The moral: We don’t have to live in bondage anymore. Chains are meant to be broken, bleeding intended to stop. It’s all in our process, our thoughtlife, our understanding of the Rhema, our push and shove to our Savior. The ending line in this account was for the little girl who had already died when Jesus got there. Yet, even when it looks done and dead, The Resurrection will deem otherwise. Sometimes, things need to die in order to resurrect. He tells the girl in Aramaic, “Talitha Koum.” This means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”

If the shoe fits, sister…wear it!

Worth The War

Hi friends,

So, let’s start with a #ConfessionSession.

I am behind on life. That’s it.

A couple of weeks ago, we hosted our 3rd quarterly brunch of the year, Mind-Full. And much like every brunch time past, it wiped me out. This time however, I got smart. I got really “good busy” just to make sure I ride right over the wave of darkness that comes immediately after any spiritled outpour.

Wisdom.

I met with friends, attended my movement meetings, went to conferences, worship gatherings, dates and simply put, got really “good busy.” That was the first week.

Fast forward to today, just completing week two, and friends I am behind. I got really “good busy,” got really “good filled,” but then got really good tired. And my heart is stretched. For reasons too unorthodox to try to explain, I am knee deep in my season of waiting well and I only ask that you help me pray over what next looks like.

Next week we begin our last #BibleStudy of the year, “Breathe… Making Room for Sabbath.” Coincidence? Surely, by now you know coincidence is really heighten confidence. Although I may be behind in life, like this blog post, I am not behind in pausing when I need to. I am not behind on checking in on my heart, my health and my mind to ensure I don’t leave room for anything outside of God’s best for me.

So, no; not coincidence. Necessary.

You are valuable and your contribution too, is necessary. You are necessary and your thing is necessary. Ride the wave right over the temptations that set up traps to isolate you and uproot your good seeds. Fill your mind and heart with the Word of God and speak truth into any and every situation. Surround yourself with the squad that can pick you up when you’re down or whisper in your ear,” you are worth the war” when you’re laid out. BE this for your sister too. You are BOTH necessary.

Love and light,

Mo

Disappointment Sucks

By: Sofia Gonzalez @mrsg_p214

Re|Defined Women #BookClub, Love Life Again

I’ll never forget the day, and my long term memory isn’t as sharp as I’d like it to be. I was a freshman in high school: wild, young, and full of teenage angst and energy.


My dad was home earlier than expected. His face somber and pale. I threw my backpack on the floor and headed to the fridge for some afternoon rummaging. He cleared his throat by the counter.


“Hmmhmm, mija I think you need to go sit down with me. There’s something I have to tell you.”


“Ok, is mom cooking? I’m starving.”


He didn’t respond. I looked up from the fridge door, his eyes started to swell with tears. Dad doesn’t cry much. He had my attention.


He sat down first, and patted the couch for me to sit close to him. It immediately spilled out like a sudden knock of a glass of milk from your elbow, as you watch the glass and its liquid splatter everywhere.


“Your mother and I are getting a divorce.”
 I didn’t say anything, I felt the room closing in on me. My brain started to feel pressed, my heart beating quick beats, now poking at my skin.


“Why?”


“The love isn’t there mija, and I’m thinking of taking a job in Washington DC.”


Silence. Raw Silence, and then the dam broke. My father broke down into bite size pieces in front of me. He wept in his hands, as I stood there in a paralyzing shock, as this was too much for my teenage world to absorb. I did what any 14 year old may have done. In a panic, I ran out of the house and ran and ran for blocks as I cried uncontrollably. Over 20 years of marriage shattered in an instant. I become part of the statistic of a Latina who will be raised by a single mother. The road ahead seemed grim. But. God.


In Love Life Again, by Tracy Miles, she had me at one of her opening lines to chapter one when she said, “There came a time I had to accept that my life had not turned out the way I thought it would and no amount of wishing it were different was going to change it.”


Her open door policy with chapter one initiated so much respect for her in my mind’s eye, as she unfolded the culprit of her demise: Adultery and divorce. Those two words are enough to level an open field like Hurricane Maria’s work in Puerto Rico’s terrains.


Dang. She confronts the reader at the onset. Happy, joy has to be a choice. As disappointment sucks…it will literally suck the joy, peace, and happiness from the byways of your soul like a sailing ship on an oceanfront, never to return.


Through the disdain and the classroom of experience, I have learned the same. Loving life again can’t be circumstantial, but a constant posture that we will have to aspire towards everyday. Do we honestly think that our days are limitless? All the more reason we need to reach, grab, and put on joy each and every sunrise.


Because you see, sadness is seductive, almost sexy. We drape it over us like a blanket in the dead of winter nights, pulling it under our chins, wrapping our feet from the bottom so a toe doesn’t wiggle out.
 But happy?
 But joy?


That’s like grasping for straws. Or wind. We try to grab it, and let it go at the reckoning of a snatcher, a circumstance that would care to rob us blind. How easily do we let it flee. We hardly fight for it. Like a lover about to leave the midnight train, and we have one chance to convince them to stay. We let them board. We listen to the whistle blow. Cement blocks stick our feet in. We standby on the platform of life, watching the train pass us by.


Nehemiah said, as they were rebuilding the Jerusalem ruins, “Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (8:10).


Happy-joy? That’s a choice. It can exist even inside of grief’s quarters. Going deeper, it has to transform into a mindset, a psychological posture that one must embrace daily. Even if it be gradual, it must be progressive.

Do you know what else? It is proven that sadness, despondency, and depression lead to lethargy, a slowed heart rate, and even suicidal ideation. Yet, joy and happy actually fuse in us strength, clarity, energy, and an actual release of endorphins in our brains. Not unintentional by the Maker.

Choose joy, my dear heart. 
Choose happy today.


Your heart, your soul, your close knits, your Maker will be glad you did.


“For the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
 – Nehemiah 8:10


IMG_0023