Mikala

Entry No. 3 from the Tributes Series

She was just the second student I had upon moving to VA. I had left my private voice studio in Miami, where I had more than 30 students whom I loved dearly. Now I was living in Richmond, without friends, connections, or recommendations. And in came 15 year old Mikala. She was the type of kid who listened to every word I said, took it all to heart, practiced wholeheartedly, and did not settle for less than her best. I had a few students like that in Miami. Now Mikala was blessing me by reminding me that I could have the same kind of fulfillment I had left behind, here in my new home.

Mikala and I connected instantly. She had the passion and the determination needed to grow in her craft, and I had the love and enthusiasm to help her in every way I could. Not sure who helped whom the most, but I know the blessing was mutual. She has continued to study with me, every week for the past two and a half years, with the same courage and drive as she started. I admire her work ethic, discipline, and disposition; three traits that will take Mikala far in life, with the help of God.

Mikala is strong. I have seldom seen a young person suffering so many injuries and illnesses, and battle them courageously with the help of her family (hats off to her momma for being a great one :)) She is also strong in her thinking, not caving in to peer pressure, trends, or fads. She has a mind of her own, knows what she wants, and goes for it. She doesn’t like to lose time, but keeps herself engaged, takes her school seriously, and loves to excel in everything she does. I had the pleasure of helping her with speech three years ago when her mom and I ventured out and started an NCFCA club in RVA. I’m very pleased to see that Mikala is competing next week in impromptu at Nationals, and has become an exceptional debater as well.

I am blessed to have Mikala in my studio, but beyond that, I am honored to have her, as the special human that she is, in my life. One day Mikala and I will be in the presence of Jesus, singing praises to him, together. For now, we just practice.

With Elise at an NCFCA debate tournament

With Elise at an NCFCA debate tournament

Last year's recital. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Last year’s recital. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Dueting with Will. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Dueting with Will. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Competing at NATS with style and finesse. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Competing at NATS with style and finesse. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Mikala singing at last week's recital

Mikala singing at last week’s recital. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

So proud. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

So proud. Photo courtesy of Lynn Cloud

Gabriel’s Visit to the Ophthalmologist

Yes, we finally found a great group of ophthalmology at VCU. What a team! Loved, loved, loved them!

After a long wait, Gabriel finally went to have his eyes checked today. The doctors and the technology at VCU were fabulous, and most importantly, Gabriel cooperated fully and kept his eyes open for the entire duration of the many tests he underwent. Juan and I were in awe.

It turns out Gabriel’s eyes are PERFECT. Clean cornea, retina, optic nerve, the whole shebang. There isn’t even a trace of the series of persistent iritis he had six months ago. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

This is great news, of course. And it’s also disconcerting, only because we have pretty much tested him for everything there is to test, and we still don’t know why he has had such a strong decline in behavior and mood. The only possible explanation, as far as I’m concerned, unless I’m missing something, is that it is purely sensory.

On that note, it’ll be fabulous to have our dearest friend, Maggie, come visit next week 🙂 Gabriel is going to flip when he sees her!

Anyway, thank you for all who have prayed for Gabriel. I know many of you have and continue to do so. Please don’t stop. He has had several good days, and his eyes have been consistently open for three of them. This is INCREDIBLE. We have suspended the use of migraine medication, which has actually seems fine without it. But we still need to figure out what he struggles with and how to help him, so keep those prayers coming!!

Specific prayer request: Pray that he will receive his Med waiver. He has been on a waiting list for a long while, and it would be amazing for him to get those funds. We can sure put them to good use. Lord, provide the waiver before the fall of this year!!

Sitting casually at the doctor's office :)

Sitting casually at the doctor’s office 🙂

Model patient

Model patient

Ready to go have pizza!!

Ready to go have pizza!!

Summer Resolutions

I refuse to make New Year’s resolutions in January because chances are, I will never keep them. They just seem so ominous and unrealistic, usually involving a transformation in lifestyle and habits. January 1st seems like such a random day, to me. Yes, the calendar year changes, but in actuality nothing is significantly altered, other than the fact that we have partied for a month and a half throughout the various holidays, and probably gained 15 pounds in the process. Hence all the diet and exercise resolutions that Weight Watchers and Gold’s Gym take advantage of 😉

But today is different. Today marks the beginning of my summer schedule, which means I’m not working the same type or amount of hours as during the school year. Instead, I will be compacting all my private lessons into two days a week for the months of June and July. Therefore, I am looking forward to having two months of, well, a bunch of free time, and I want to use it well! So here are my resolutions for my summer:

  1. I will prioritize spending time with my family. I will have fun with Gabriel (I anticipate lots of trips to the pool), have plenty of picnics, go to the lake, play games, and have meaningful conversation with every member of my beautiful, loved family.
  2. I will clean and de-clutter my house. I’ll start with closets. I foresee many trips to the donation drop-off at Goodwill. I will, hopefully, tackle drawers and cupboards, and who knows, maybe even the laundry room!
  3. I will deep-clean my house. Once.
  4. I will cook more. My family will definitely appreciate that.
  5. I will take more time to write and compose.
  6. I will start and finish a book to help me grow spiritually.
  7. I will start and finish a book to read for fun.
  8. I will spend more time with friends, which will not be hard, considering I have barely done that lately.
  9. I will venture out more. I will take time to go places around this beautiful city and state, see new sites, and learn more about this culture and history.
  10. I will NOT stress if I don’t achieve the previous 9 nine things I’ve set out to do. Instead, I will be happy if I accomplish 50% of it and satisfied if I reach 75%.

I shall write a follow-up post at the end of the summer with actual, tangible actualization of my resolutions. How’s that for accountability? 😉

These are pictures of my summers during the past two years of our life in VA. I have very good memories attached to every single one of these:

Summer 2013 in DC

2 years ago at Sunday Park

2 summers ago at Sunday Park

Goofing off with this goof

Summer 2013 at Yorktown

Summer 2013 at Yorktown

Gabriel at the pool in Brandermill

Gabriel at the pool in Brandermill

2 summers ago at Jamestown with my brother and his beautiful family <3

2 summers ago at Jamestown with my brother and his beautiful family ❤

With Geneva and Daniel at a Flying Squirrels game. Best fireworks in town.

With Geneva and Daniel at a Flying Squirrels game. Best fireworks in town.

Last year in DC

Last year in DC

2 summers ago at Sunday Park

Last summer at Sunday Park

2 days ago on a date with my beautiful mother to the VMFA

2 days ago on a date with my beautiful mother to the VMFA

10,000 Hits

Today my stats show my blog has been viewed 10,000 times in the span of about a year. I usually do not notice that number in the middle of my admin page, but that number just jumped out at me! While I know that there are blogs out there that are viewed a thousand times a day or more, I do feel honored that my writing, though often times uninteresting or irrelevant, has been followed and read so many times.

Thank you, readers, for all your “likes”, “comments”, and words of encouragement. Writing is a form of therapy for me. This blog is the place where I express my thoughts and emotions, and I am grateful there are people out there who sometimes feel encouraged and entertained by it.

Tributes

A friend on Facebook shared how she is going to pay tribute to meaningful people in her life, not after they die, but while they are still alive. I deeply appreciate this reminder to give words of gratitude and encouragement to those who have blessed me throughout my life. Therefore, I am purposing to write a tribute a week. If I keep up with this goal, I will have expressed my appreciation to 52 of the amazing people in my life, by this time next year. At that pace, it will take me a few years to honor those whom I love. I look forward to pouring out my feelings for them on this blog.

To view all my tributes, click here.

Ode to Joy

A friend on Facebook shared how she is going to pay tribute to meaningful people in her life, not after they die, but while they are still alive. I deeply appreciate this reminder to give words of gratitude and encouragement to those who have blessed me throughout my life. Therefore, I am purposing to write a tribute a week. If I keep up with this goal, I will have expressed my appreciation to 52 of the amazing people in my life, by this time next year 🙂

The first person I have decided to pay tribute to is my friend Joy Osborn. She is my boss. And she is a keeper.

Joy is enthusiastic, and her energy and positive attitude are infectious. In spite of pregnancies and babies, Joy doesn’t skip a beat. She compliments me every time I wear my yellow jeans and she answers my emails at 2:00 AM (I mean, really, does anyone else have a boss who does that)? She greets me with a smile every time I see her in class and her bit of sarcasm suits me well ;). She wears miss-matched socks to camp, comes up with crazy games for the kids, and bends over backwards to make sure everything is well planned and delivered. Joy has helped me when I didn’t know what to do, covered for me when I dropped the ball, and even sewn costumes for my students… because God knows that me and the sewing machine do not get along all that great.

Thank you, Joy, for your love for God, your commitment to integrity, and your passionate dedication to your job and the people in it. You have influenced me way more than you probably are aware you have. In fact, I have subconsciously adopted your way of communicating, by often ending my sentences with “You know what I mean?”

I’m gonna miss you when you move away. If it weren’t because your equally awesome husband is waiting for you elsewhere, I would try to sabotage your departure…. somehow.

I couldn’t find a picture of you and me, but I did find this one from the day you made your way into the hair and makeup room to help with Elise’s “White Witch” hair extensions.

This is not my picture, but has been all over the internet. I just “borrowed” it from you, Joy lol. This picture says it all!

Things I am Horribly Afraid of

I must confess I am afraid. I am pretty sure I am not the only one out there suffering from fear. After all, it is a human emotion, a normal reaction to danger or pain. I just don’t like it. What’s worst, when I give in to it, my reactions and behaviors become detrimental to myself and those around me. Here are the things that make me most afraid:

  • My kids’ future. I fear they might not be safe, especially, but not exclusively, my autistic son. I fear they will go through painful circumstances. I fear they might make bad choices. How could they not? They are human, right? Thoughts of them not following God wholeheartedly can make me shake in my boots.
  • My own future. I fear getting old. I’ve said this before, but confessing it has not quite made it better. At least not yet. I keep working through this fear in hopes I will feel peace about it one day. Maybe when I’m old, I’ll feel peace about being old. But now, I do way too much worrying over it.
  • Loneliness. I guess it goes hand in hand with being old. Not sure why I associate them automatically. I just do.
  • Not being loved. This is not a fear I’m always aware of, but I’ve been discovering that there are many things I do and say because I am afraid I won’t be loved or accepted. Even when I know that I know that I am loved, I default to an unreasonable fear of losing it.
  • Failure. I am afraid of discovering that I may have failed at something, especially the really important things: failure in parenting; failure in marriage; failure in friendships; or as a daughter, sister, aunt.
  • Drowning. I know, I know, this is a little morbid. But hey, I’m posting about the things I am afraid of, and this is definitely one of them. Throughout my many years of driving multiple little ones in the backseat, strapped to car seats, I avoided driving near water, at all cost. Living in Miami, Florida, that was not an easy task. There are canals everywhere! Yet, I chose alternative routes whenever possible. I think I read one too many stories of cars plunging into water. The thought of that happening to me and my children haunted me in dreams for years.
  • Cockroaches. How did I live in So. Florida for almost 30 years, around mammoth roaches called Palmetto Bugs? Just the name gives me goosebumps. They are the most hideous creatures on earth, at least in my very limited knowledge of earth! I am irrationally afraid of them. They cannot really hurt me, and needless to say, they are immensely smaller than I am. My husband kills them in one swoop. But me? No, I run like a pathetic, scared, little girl.

Fear is not an evil or sinful emotion. If it were not for fear, we would not stay away from dangerous or destructive situations. God created us in his image, and I believe emotions are part of that image. In fact, I believe Jesus experienced fear while living on earth, but instead of giving in to fear and responding negatively to his circumstances, he acted in faith and trust, even in his worst moments. It is recorded that as the day of his death drew near, he went up to the mountain and desperately cried out to God. He sweat drops of blood and demonstrated tremendous anguish at the thought of what he knew very well would happen. Jesus felt fear. But he knew how to handle that fear. The danger and pain he would face were absolutely real. But he received comfort in his knowledge of the truth and by delving into prayer with every ounce of strength he had.

So here is what I’m preaching to myself. Here are the truths I need to remember in order to respond to fear in ways that are not destructive to myself or others. I do not want to be controlled by fear. Instead, I want to reflect faith in God through my anxiety, doubt, and even my disbelief. My fear can most certainly result in glory and honor to him. So remember, my heart, these words:

  • I am not alone. “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). When I feel afraid, I have a helper, the perfect helper, who will remind me to trust God and encourage me with his Word. So in time of fear, PRAY, and you will receive his help! “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself interceded for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). Even when I don’t have the sense to pray or the words to voice, He rescues me!
  • God always remembers me, and my children too. “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children” (Psalm 103:17). 
  • I am more loved and accepted than I can fathom. Despite possible loneliness, failure, or disappointment, there is one whose love and delight will never be removed from me. I can draw joy and satisfaction from knowing that “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17)
  • Any suffering on earth pales in comparison with glorious things to come. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18)
  • Any suffering on earth has a good purpose, therefore there is no need to be afraid. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). 
  • Love drives away fear. If I truly remember that his love for me is stronger than anything that can happen to me, no matter how disastrous, then I will be able to experience peace instead of fear. This peace is supernatural and I cannot fabricate it outside of God’s realm. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18). “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27)

Just as true as it is that I can live in fear, it is true that God can and will meet me at my place of need every single time! I may not always remember him, and I may not always believe his promises for me, but my hope is that I continue to grow in my trust and faith in him. I have come a long way already! I have more confidence than I did a few years ago. I have more hope than before. I have experienced victory over fears that consumed me! So in today’s blog post, I purpose to remind myself of the things God has already taught me. I am certain He will continue encouraging me and helping me overcome my fears. I must admit, I’m not sure I will ever be comfortable around roaches ;), but if I can trust him with the huge things, I think I will survive a bug once and again.

Random Reflections in the Month of May

  1. I like sun. I like sun more than I have ever liked it before. Perhaps because winter felt long this year. I’m so grateful for beautiful Spring days, amazing temperature, green leaves, and flowers. Despite allergies, I still love this time of year. Hooray for short sleeves, skirts, and flip flops 🙂
  2. It feels good being 47. I feel experienced enough to handle things I couldn’t have handled in my 20’s, yet strong and young enough to keep up with my kids. Heck, I might be stronger than some of them ::cough:: Elise ::cough::
  3. I am still learning how to be a teacher. Just when I think I am really good, I realize there is so much I’m still learning!! Maybe by the time I’m in my 60’s and ready to retire, I will be one amazing educator!
  4. I’m thinking more in English than I ever have. I need to do more interpreting at church so I keep up with my native language. I still do math in Spanish. But other than that, I’m actually forgetting words here and there. Not good!! Gotta keep up. Gotta keep up. Gotta keep up.
  5. I’m tired of having back pain. In fact, more than tired, I’m scared. If I’m hurting this bad now, what will I feel like in 10 or 20 years?
  6. It has never been harder to parent my son, Gabriel. The difficulty does not come from the level of care he needs. In fact, the energy it takes to care for him now pales in comparison to his younger years. However, it is very hard to see him feeling so bad. He is still closing his eyes. He is still not communicating much. He has better days than others, but most days are hard. I wish so badly that he would express what he feels. If I could change anything in this world, it would be this. I have enough faith to stand it, one day at a time. But sometimes I fear I won’t make it to the next day.
  7. Starting tomorrow, I wrap up my CWorks classes with 4 great showcases (at least I hope they’re great), and in 2 weeks, my private students are having a recital. I genuinely like my job. I feel very grateful for that. I love and appreciate my students and I just have tons of fun with them. How many people can say they love their job this much? I consider myself very blessed 🙂
  8. I am memorizing Colossians 3. You should try it. It’s simply an amazing chapter.
  9. I went to the doctor last week, and he said my iron is high, reserves full, and my red blood cells healthy. Yay!
  10. My life is happy. My life is hard. My like is difficult. My life is good.

Things Above

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth

Colossians 3:2

I am committing Colossians 3 to memory. God has parked me in this passage and has used it to challenge me, teach me, confront me, and encourage me. The truths in this chapter are currently performing an amazing work of transformation in my life. What a gift from God!!

Regarding vs. 2 and it’s life-altering truth, I pray God reminds me of it in my daily life. All the time. I want my mind to be completely and solidly set on things that are much bigger, stronger, and lasting than the temporary ones in my walk on earth.

So when I wake up in the morning, I must set my mind on God’s thoughts, through meditation on his word.

When I do chores, drive my kids from place to place, pay my bills, or wash my hair, I must remember Him in all I do. His purpose for me, in the moment, includes doing all those things, and He can, and will, teach me and show me truth, even in the mundane.

When I interact with my family and friends, I must look beyond my needs and desires and practice loving God by loving others. I must put to death selfishness, as I set my mind on things above: all things lovely and good, pure and holy.

When I work at my job, I must set my mind on giving glory to God in all I do, knowing my calling is higher than the earthly activity I am involved in. As I remember this, I will use opportunities wisely, remain joyful, pray constantly, and reflect his kindness to others.

When I feel discouraged or afraid, I must remember that God has all things under his control and that he never ceases to actively work in my life and those whom he loves.

When I am tempted to be lazy or self-indulge, I must remember God’s calling and commands. May God help me fear him and obey him, be quick to repent, and receive his forgiveness.

When I am senselessly busy, may I stop and rest, and enjoy the gifts God has given me.

Lord, help me to always set my mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

clouds

To the unmarried, Christian teenage girl who is pregnant:

I am proud of you.

Despite glances, gossip, and open criticism, you have chosen life.

Some have looked down on you for not terminating your pregnancy, making the assumption that the choice of birthing a child at such a young age will result in nothing but failure for you and for your child. Others have felt scandalized and even doubted that your faith in God is living and well, and have treated you as if your pregnancy made you unworthy of God’s love and grace.

You have felt ashamed as you have disobeyed the Word of God, which you have desired to follow throughout your life, and now your lack of judgement is worn on the outside, for all to see.

Yet, you have not chosen the “easy” way. You have wisely understood that despite your weaknesses, mistakes, and sinfulness, you have received a gift from God: the gift of life. You have decided that this life is more important than your social standing and reputation. You have put your life on hold and have made sacrifices and changes in order to carry and nurture this baby.

If you decide to parent this baby, you may give up your old dreams and replace them with new ones; you will live for another person and adjust your direction in life. It will be costly. If you chose to bless another family with the life of your child, by choosing adoption, you will suffer separation, yet you will be content in knowing your child will be well loved and cared for. It will also be costly. No matter the choice, you have willingly signed up for a very difficult task, and you have put the life of your baby over yours, and have shown tremendous maturity and displayed the heart of God for each one of his children.

I am proud of you.

So stand tall and rejoice in your choice. Do not let anyone bring you down. Life is a gift from God. Always. You inspire me to be brave and courageous.

I pray for God to fill you with his spirit, so you can obey him always, persevere in suffering, repent when needed, forgive when called for, pray constantly, and trust him in all circumstances.