Thursday, November 3, 2016

Problem Child

My family —my father, my mother, my sisters, my niece, and my nephew—, my husband, our son Ian, and I were eating dinner at Romano's Macaroni Grill on a Saturday. We were enjoying ourselves, talking, laughing, playing hangman... many things were going on at the same time. Our son, Ian, was getting desperate. The food had not arrived yet, and the more he waited for his french fries the more 'difficult' he was. I was starting to get mad, my husband was annoyed at his behavior and Ian couldn't care less. All of a sudden, trying to reach for a crayon, Ian knocked over a glass of water. A mixture of anger and embarrassment passed through my husband and me and Ian got the brunt of all of it.

Because, how could he let this happen? Can't he stay calm for a few minutes? Can't he watch what he's doing? Why does he has to be so restless? Why are other children sitting calmly and he can't do the same? And all the, "Excuse me, can we get more napkins?" began, followed by angry looks towards our son who sobbed and cried his way through the whole ordeal. The rest of the night went better; we enjoyed ourselves and went home.

The next day, Sunday, we went to church. Sitting in our comfortable chairs, side by side, the three of us were listening to the pastor preach when the pastor's words suddenly crashed down to my heart as the Holy Spirit convicted me of sin and I looked at my son and felt so ashamed thinking back to the night before. What was the pastor saying? Well, as if he had been there last night, he talked directly to parents asking us why was it that when our children dropped something or knocked over a glass of water we made such a big deal. He said, "You don't react the same way when an adult does it. Think about it: an adult knocks over a glass of whatever, and we instantly help them saying 'oh, don't worry. It's nothing' Why can't we do the same thing with our children?" Yes, exactly! Why can't we be as patient, understanding, gracious, and loving towards our children in these situations.

I felt so bad. I was so sad because I know how it feels to drop things or knock things over or make a mistake in front of people. It's embarrassing! And to have someone call your attention, harshly, in front of every one makes it even worse! I remembered 1 Corinthians 13 where it says "Love is patient and kind; [...] it is not [...] rude. [...] it is not irritable [...]" (vv. 4-6) and I prayed to God for forgiveness and I asked Him to help me follow Jesus' example of love, and grace, of mercy, and understanding. I thank God that Jesus was obedient in everything, that He covered everything that I cannot and that in Him I am made new and I can grow in His likeness.

I asked God to help me be gracious towards my son, to help me treat him as I want to be treated, to "with all humility and gentleness, with patience, [bear my son and others] in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:2-3) I know it's not easy, more so because I have to learn to reign in my reactions so that they reflect God's character. And the only way to do that is through studying and living the Word of God diligently. I began that day. I asked Ian to forgive me. And I started working on not seeing him as a problematic child, on not seeing his mistakes or sins as inconveniences or problems. I started seeing them as opportunities for him (and for me as well) to grow.

Then came the day of truth. Ian was eating at my mother's house, and he moved and knocked over a plate full of food. And I saw his face, his eyes welling up with tears and I could see he was worried and, worst of all, afraid of what I might do. And it broke my heart. Knowing that my son was expecting the worst of me broke my heart. But I remembered that sermon, those wise words, God's Word, and calling to love, to be patient and I went over to him. As he started pleading with me, I started cleaning up the mess and I looked at him and said, "Hey, it's ok. It happens to all of us."

And I could almost see the weight on my son's shoulders lift up. He was relieved.

Love is kind, love is not rude.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What Dreams May Come

This week I've been too tired to write. Too tired to focus, to think, and to put my thoughts in order. I've been down. Not depressed, not anguished, not sad; just down. Better yet, deflated. I have many dreams, aspirations, things I want to do, ways I want to help, and inspire others and this past weekend I had a good friend turn the light off, burst my balloon and wake me up. You see, what happened was that she reminded me of a past failure, something that happened about 15 years ago, warning me that if I follow my dream, if I do what I really want to do, the same thing might happen again. And I felt so lacking, so incompetent, that I decided it's best not to go forward with my plan until I'm better prepared.

Rejection would do that to an imperfect, and flawed person. It would do that to a person who's still under construction, like I am. Like you are. And it takes any kind of rejection. It can be that someone rejects me, or my ideas, or my opinions, or my cooking, or my baked goods. Really, it can be anything. Some people take a little, others take a lot to feel rejected. Take my husband, for instance: I have never seen him feel rejected by anything or anyone outside of our home. It takes a lot for him to feel that way. He has a great assurance in what the Lord has placed in him and within him. I, on the other hand, am weaker, most of all when my past failures come back to haunt me, taunt me, bother me, and annoy me. And I let them deflate me.

know I'm wrong! Oh, how wrong I am! I cannot let my past define me because I have been redeemed, and made new; my heart is not the same one I had before. God has changed everything. And even if my failures come after I've been saved for years, and after I've been walking with God for a long time, I know that each day God's mercies are new and that He let go of that past —even if it was just yesterday— as soon as I repented. So I cannot let what other people say dictate what I do because God calls me to focus on Him, on what He has said for me, and about me. I cannot be deflated by the words of others, by my failures, or by what I think people will think of me. I know this! And yet I second guess myself, and I second guess my assurance that this is what God wants me to do. I know I'm wrong when I do this, and yet I can't seem to shake off the doubts that were not there before.

If I know what's right, why is it that I can't seem to grasp it? It's because I cannot lean on my own understanding, I cannot rely on my own insight. I have to acknowledge God, acknowledge what He has said, trust in Him and He will take care of the rest (Proverbs 3:5-6). So what has God said? He has promised to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11); He has promised to hold me by the hand, and help me (Isaiah 41:13). I'm not alone; God is with me, and He has put in me dreams and aspirations, good works that He has prepared in advance for me (Ephesians 2:10). So how do I know my dream is what God wants me to do? I ask myself: does it glorify God? Does it help my neighbor? Will it edify the Church or will it make it stumble? Will it help me to be gracious and show mercy to others?

So even if I feel rejected, or my ideas are rejected, I can trust God and I can trust that He will help me do what He has entrusted me to do. He will see me through. I can focus on Him and rest in Him. He has made me new. I can look at my past failures with confidence, knowing that God led me through them so that He could mold me, so that I could learn from them, so that He may use me now where I am —spiritually, emotionally, and physically— with what He has given me.

And my friend? I will look her in the eyes and with love and grace sincerely thank her for her concern and ask her to pray for me. Only God knows what may come from my dreams, but if I look at my dreams through His eyes, through His Word, I can see such a great blessing... I'll press on.

"And let us not grow weary of doing good,
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."
Galatians 6:9

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

How To Train Your Dragon

I'm in my little, tiny kitchen trying to make oatmeal. It doesn't require much concentration unless I happen to be reading a book at the same time, like I usually do. So I'm in my kitchen mixing the oatmeal with my left hand and reading on my Nook with the other when along comes my son with his "Mom, look at this!", "Mom, you know what?", "Mom, where's the thing I wanted?", "Mom, I can't find this or that", "Mom, dad scolded me!", "Mom, dad wont let me do this!" and so on. I'm concentrated on what I'm doing and, honestly, I just want to be left alone during these 5 minutes of oatmeal-making-reading extravaganza I have going on. But it's not going to happen. I get frustrated, and my son keeps interrupting and I keep saying, "Not now" or "Ask your father" or "Give me a minute" to no avail. He keeps insisting until my exasperation gets the best of me and I snap at him. And he gets mad and disaster ensues.

Impatient. That's what I am. It's like a fire that's burning all the time and sometimes I'm able to tame it, control it, but other times it burns bright, and strong. Yep, my patience tends to be shaky, thin, and sometimes nonexistent. I try to control my reactions when I'm at a doctor's office, at the checkout line, at work, in church or any other public place. But at home, my beautiful little family doesn't get the same measure of control. I sometimes just let my impatience out, unrestrained, uninhibited, wild, and undomesticated. Not my best trait. Not the best thing to share in public. But it's the truth. Outside the house, I try my best to train my patience well, but at home I let my frustrations get the best of me and in return I have given my family the frayed leftovers.

Sometimes it's the funny impatience over the Colts loosing another football game in the most ridiculous way possible. Other times, it's the 'adorable' way in which I play Mario Party or Mario Kart, insulting Yoshi along the way... I hate that dino and its quirks... But most of the time it's the shameful way in which I react and respond to my husband and son, and perhaps the cat. I believe I've made good progress in this area, but I still have a long way to go, most of all if I want to set a good example for our son. Because, you see, my son inherited that explosive, impatient side of me, so the last thing he needs is watching me not exercising self control.

So what can I do to control, tame, and train my impatience, a.k.a. my dragon? What does the Bible say? "...let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath" (James 1:19) and " patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2). So, I have to stop, breathe, think, and show love to the other person. Extend grace. Think of others before I think of myself, before I think about my own comfort. I'm not saying that I have to completely disregard my desire to have 5 minutes to read. I'm just saying that it would go much better if I take my eyes off the reader for a second, look my son in the eyes and tell him, "Let me finish this page. I'll be with you in a moment." You know, answer him in a respectful and mature way because with children, as with husbands, I have learned that I cannot be distracted.

Distraction will make your impatience grow exponentially. What does this mean? This is me, reading my book while my husband watches tv. He will, undoubtedly, interrupt me because he wants me to see a commercial or listen to what the announcer said about my loosing Colts or listen to whatever he's listening. Now this is me taking my eyes off my book for a second and saying, "Oh, yeah, right" and going back to reading my book. My husband knows I didn't pay attention. I gave him a distracted attention. I pretended. So guess what? He interrupts me again. And the fiery monster called impatience rears its head and out come the flames. Same cycle as my son... Now, the easy route would be for me to think, "Hey. I have the right to read in peace, to not be interrupted. He can see me. He sees that I'm reading!" And I would be right, but also, I would be wrong.

If I think only about myself, what can I expect from my husband and my son? They would do the exact same thing. But God wants us to think about one another, to bear one another in love, to think about others first. My husband knows his manners; he knows what's right. We've taught our son to wait his turn, to say excuse me, and to think of others first. And I have to do the same. If all of us, as a family, did this things would go so much easier. If I'm making oatmeal and reading my book and my son comes up to me to ask something, how easy would it be for me to ignore him, scold him for interrupting me or pay him a distracted attention! And how quickly would my impatience arise a few seconds after that at his insistence!

But if he comes and I focus for a moment on him a fire would be squelched, a back and forth fight would be adverted, my impatience would be tamed and the dragon would be trained. And I would be able to go back to reading quickly and unfiery. It's much more easier and the results are much more peaceful when we follow God's instruction to show a little grace, bear with love and be slow to wrath. Impatience conquered! Well, for now anyway.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gossip Girl

Many years ago I had a good friend. She was a new Christian going through rough times and she confided in me. However, part of sharing her problems was talking about an acquaintance we had in common. And that person was being horrible to my friend. My friend was mad, and hurt and the only way she knew how to deal with that was talking behind that other person's back, ranting, and venting with me about her and I lent my ear, but also added a few comments of my own. And that made us closer. We would get together, speak on the phone everyday and she would share the latest terrible things this other person had done that day. I would counsel her as best as I knew how with the little knowledge I had (after all this was a loooooong time ago),  and I would also add fuel to her anger with little bits and pieces of things I'd learned about the other person, too.

And we formed a good friendship. We had a good relationship for a while. Some time later, I introduced her to one of my best friends and our whole group of friends, and they hit it off instantly and almost immediately phased me out. And it hurt. But it didn't hurt more than what happened next. My new friend started talking behind my back and, not only did the group listened and added to her comments, they also made fun of me and lied about many things and misconstrued everything I said. Oh, how that hurt! I was depressed, and sad, and shocked.

For a long time after that, I guarded my heart. I didn't make new friends. I concentrated on my husband and my son and talked to my sisters, and my parents. I didn't trust anyone else. Then, I started thinking that God was leading me to something different. I felt the need to start paying more attention to my relationship with God, to being close friends with God and Jesus. So I started focusing on Him and this led to the biggest, saddest, heart wrenching truth I have faced in the last few years: I had it coming. Everything they said about me, every joke made at my expense, every lie told about me, every gossip, every misconstrued word, I had it coming. I deserved it. It was my fault.

My new friend followed my bad example to the letter. With my actions and inaction, I taught her that, as a Christian, there was nothing wrong about talking behind another person's back. I never corrected her, instead I went right along with her not only listening but also adding to the discussion. Instead of guiding her to a reconciliation, to peace in Christ through her situation, I formed a friendship based on gossip. And I got back from that friendship exactly what I put into it because when we gossip, we basically give the other person permission to do the same to us.

God warns us not to associate with a gossip (Proverbs 20:19). Why do you think that is? Think about this for a second: when you gossip, you harm the person who listens, you harm the reputation of the person you're gossiping about, and you harm yourself. It doesn't matter if the one listening is listening voluntarily and merrily, that person is sinning and you're helping her sin. It doesn't matter if the person you're gossiping about deserves it, you should still love that person as Christ loves you. It doesn't matter if you're right, if you're hurting or your friend is hurting, it doesn't matter if that person did you wrong. You still have to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21), you still have to show love and you still have to handle the situation with grace.

Yes, people do mean things to us or to the people we love most. Yes, people gossip about us, lie about us, hurting us. Yes, people are rash, quick to judge, and harsh. But we don't know their heart, we don't know what motivates someone to act or react the way they do. We don't know their hurt; we just see them lashing out sometimes just because they need an easy target; sometimes just because they are afraid to look deep inside their hearts and deal with their problem. I remember one time I came home from work over-stressed, over-worked, tired, and hungry. My husband said something to me and I just exploded, I snapped. I don't remember what I said, but I do remember the look of surprise on his face as I was lashing out against him because he was just an easy target. He didn't say anything. He just hugged me. He hugged me tight and I sighed, and felt relief. That hug was all I needed. That hug was just pure, loving grace.

Show grace. If someone hurts you, show grace, always remembering that at one time or another your words or your actions have hurt someone. If they gossip about you, or make fun of you, or lie about you, show grace. At one time or another you have been quick to judge, you have made a joke at someone's expense, even if only in your mind. If someone wants to gossip with you, show grace to her by reminding her that the correct way to talk is not behind backs but upfront, looking directly in the eye. I wish I would have done that when I had the chance.

Now, I know that my friend is responsible for what she did and I know she acted the wrong way. But God holds me accountable for my actions. He will deal with hers. I pray that I have another chance to do what's right. I pray that God gives me wisdom so that my speech is always gracious, seasoned with salt, so that I may know how I ought to answer each person (Colossians 4:6), and when I ought to just shut up.

"[...] the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." (James 3:5-10)

Monday, October 3, 2016

Driving Mrs. Angry

My father drives me everyday to take my son to school. We only have one car at home, and my husband goes to work in it at 5am every morning. So my father helps us with that. We usually encounter a few problems on the road, since we live in a very passionate, hectic, and over-stressed society, and my father is sometimes very gracious, other times... not so much. But aren't we all the same way? I know I am.

I used to be the one honking the horn and yelling at other drivers from the passenger's seat! My husband laughed the first time I did this. By the 50th time, he was fearing for his life. He figured, as the man, he was the one that would get insulted, slapped, and punched. But, although I did quieted down a little bit, I didn't stop. Then one day, while my husband was away on a trip, I was driving to my house and a lady tried to cut me off. I honked my horn and, with the window rolled up, yelled at her. I was so angry! But something strange happened: I saw this lady's face transform right before my eyes. Her face looked so distorted with anger while she started yelling back at me, moving her hands, her hair disheveled. I could almost see smoke coming out of her ears! Seriously.

And I felt so contrite, so ashamed. All I could think about was, "I did that. It's my fault that she looks like that. It's my fault that she got so angry." Why didn't I let her pass? I was so close to my house, why didn't I just stopped and let her go through? Why did I have to be so selfish? What would you say about a Christian who causes another person to react that way? What do you think went through that lady's mind when she saw my bumper sticker with my church's name on it?

Guilt. Shame. Sorrow. Sadness. That's what was going on in my mind afterwards. I prayed, and promised, right then and there, that I would never be that person again. I would be patient, and gracious, and not at all selfish on the road. I would think of others, put others first, be polite, and stay calm. And little by little, I started changing. I began treating others with the courtesy with which I wanted to be treated. And I made huge progress, not because I was so good at it, but because God used that incident to call my attention to my problem, and forgave me when I repented and started changing me, and molding me so that I could be better, do better.

Oh, how I wish I could say, "And that's it. Pretty simple!" But that was not it, and it isn't simple. Everyday I wake up and ask God to help me be a blessing to others, and not a burden. To help me be wise in my decisions and with my words. Every morning and throughout the day I have to remind myself that I have to act and react in accordance to God's Word and to His character. I have to exercise self control. And everyday I do the right thing. And also, everyday I fail.

A few weeks back, my father and I had left my son at school and he was taking me to work. And then, a lady didn't wait her turn and blocked us. I wasn't late for work, there wasn't a traffic jam, the light was red, the morning had been calm and peaceful. But still, I snapped. Yes, I yelled at the lady (with my windows closed), and I could practically hear that still, small voice inside me saying, "Hey, be clam. Be still." But I kept saying a thing or two to that lady. I was angry. My father, on the other hand, put the car in reverse, let her pass, and kept on going. Again, I felt so ashamed. Again, I asked for God's forgiveness. And again, God forgave me.

So you see, it's not easy growing in the Lord, but I know I'm not alone. God has promised that "he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6). God is with me, working in me. He helps me in my quest to be more self controlled, to think about the other person first —who knows what that person is going through at the moment!—, to put other people's needs ahead of my comfort, to not be selfish or self-centered. God helps me in my desire to have my actions and reactions reflect His character more than they reflect mine.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Three strikes... you're out?

On Sunday nights we like to order in. It used to be that I would make a really nice, delicious (if I may say so myself) homemade pizza, but from March to November, an incredible heat takes over our beautiful little Island of Puerto Rico, and baking becomes a sacrifice I'm not always willing to make in my approximately 5 by 4 kitchen. So on Sunday nights we order in. A few weeks back, my husband wanted Chili's so he called and we placed an order. Half an hour later, he came home with two completely different dishes from what we order... And I got mad.
I was so mad because I was hungry and he never checks the order once he has it in his hands. Never! I was mad because it was late. I was mad because this meant that he had to go back, get the right orders and come home and it would take about 45 more minutes. I was mad because how difficult is it to pick up the right thing? I was mad because he argued that it was the lady's fault, not his. She was the one who gave him the wrong thing. But how difficult is it to open the bag and check if it's correct? I was mad because he knows I get mad whenever this happens and he still doesn't get it right. I was mad. So mad.
And my husband went back to Chili's. And about 45 minutes later came back. Everything in the order looked fantastic this time. So I opened the bag... Yep, again, mine was wrong. Oh, it was the right dish, but with everything I said I didn't want. You see, I'm a picky eater. I don't want mayonnaise or spicy sauces or tomatoes or guacamole. But my husband didn't check the bag. Again. And I was mad. And he was mad. And the lady at the restaurant? Yes, she took the blame. It was her fault, said my husband.
I wish I could say I was gracious. I wish I could say I thought about the many times I have failed, made mistakes, and done him wrong. Oh, but no. I was furious. I didn't eat it. I just closed the container, told him he could eat it for lunch the next day, and had a big bowl of cereal for dinner. But I was fuming, throwing him darts with every look, and thinking about the many things I wanted to say to him but didn't. And it was not good. But you know what? After a while, we finished eating, watched tv, and it all went back to normal. The next day it was all forgotten, a thing of the past, and a blessing because he had a good lunch without spending another dime.
And it hit me: sometimes extending grace is as simple as getting a bit of perspective. Sure, I had to settle for cereal instead of amazing quesadillas. And sure, my husband made the same mistake he always does, but it was a mistake with no eternal consequence. It was a mistake that took care of itself because it provided for him the next day. What would I have gained if I had stayed mad? Maybe a headache; maybe more than three I'm sorrys from my husband; and a whole lot of tension, uneasiness, and discomfort in our home, around our son, in our bedroom. So no. I didn't stay mad. I couldn't stay mad. I didn't want to stay mad. I gained way too much by just letting it go. I had peace, contentment, and a good night sleep.
We are not perfect. We do well to remember that we mess up, maybe not with a restaurant order, but maybe we leave the lights on, or the clothes on the floor, or the dirty dishes on the sink. Yes, we all have our fair share of strikes. Wouldn't it be great if they were met with a little bit of perspective and grace? After all, we do far worse things in our walk with God and He is always willing to forgive and forget completely.
So those were my husband's two strikes in one night. Has there been a third one? Yes. And a fourth and fifth one. And I have had a lot more than I care to say. But we've tried to be kind with one another and find a bit of funny in those situations. Just the other day he wanted to order Chili's once again. You know what I said to him? "I don't want Chili's. I don't trust you with the order." And my husband laughed and said, "How about Applebee's?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


A Christian since I was a teenager, I have been harsh, rude, judgmental, and self righteous instead of loving, kind, attentive, forgiving, and gracious. A few years ago, I read the book The Fruitful Wife, by Hayley Dimarco, and it changed me and moved me to be different, but it took a while. Actually, it took a spillage incident at a restaurant, scolding my 5 year old, and a sermon the next day to really stir in me, in my heart, the need to change. It came with the realization that I had been way too hard on my son, and my husband, and the rest of my family, and my friends, and the clients at the office, and everyone else.
I've been praying, reading, searching... This blog is basically for me. This is my space to put in writing what I'm learning and what God is working in me and through me so that I don't forget. This is my place to acknowledge where I've failed, to hold myself accountable, and let others know (if there are others reading) that they're not alone. Because we all need grace in our lives. When our children knock down their glass of water at the dinner table; when our husband brings the wrong take out order; when our parents don't pay attention to us; when our siblings hurt our feelings. We need to extend grace to others because we are not perfect, because we also knock things down, we make mistakes, we fail to pay attention to our family and friends, we hurt other people's feelings. We need grace.
God has been gracious to us giving us forgiveness and salvation through grace. And we are called to love one another with a love that covers a multitude of sins. And those sins that hurt too much? Those sins you just can't seem to look past? Forgive and extend grace. Reconcile. One day, you'll be on the other side of someone's hurt. Wouldn't it be great if you set the example today so that they extend love, grace, and forgiveness to you?
I need God's grace as much as anyone. I need to learn how to extend grace as much as anyone. So let's do it together!
Welcome to the Extending Grace Project!