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Identity

Have you ever felt that no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t reach your goal? To make things worse, the devil is right there to rub in your defeat.

This happened to me recently and it devastated me. Up until this point, I was positively optimistic that I was making leaps and bounds toward my end goal.

Immediately following this event, however, I questioned and doubted my improvement so far. I felt like all my hard work had not been successful in getting me where I wanted to go… which was in a forward direction. As the feelings of hopelessness and failure came close to consuming me I began to believe the lies consuming my mind.

Then I heard the whisper of hope, of love, of The One Who gave me my identity. The voice was quiet, yet it spoke with authority and a sweet tenderness that could not be mistaken nor could it be overlooked. These gentle and genuine words made me happy. It made me feel adequate and it spoke to me reminding me of the purpose I had inside that I had forgotten existed. The purpose that was given to me by my Creator and King before I was born.

The voice urged me to realize that I was made in the image of the Creator of the universe and it reminded me that He didn’t make mistakes or failures.

With restored confidence, I found the courage to silence the lies that were screaming and consuming my mind. My heart was able to receive the truth that the still small voice whispered to me in place of those lies.

This was not the cure-all to feeling defeated in my final goals, but it was a small victory in which I won back some ground from the grip of the devil over my life.

We stand with Christ Jesus, our Victor! In knowing that we stand as conquerors, there is no lie or deceitful words that will stand against us. When we walk in our God-given identity, then every distortion and falsehood falls off of us in defeat.

Life is full of battles that are fought in the spiritual realm as well as battles that are paralleled in the physical realm. We are equipped with the Holy Spirit and we are called to stand firm in the truth the Lord instilled in our hearts. Resist the lies that Satan tries to plant in our hearts and minds and walk in the truth of who you are! Walk in the identity that Jesus Christ died to give to us.

Whatever battle we are called to face we must remember, first, we will never face anything alone. Next, the lies have no ground in our lives. We are equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit residing in us and we have the armor of the Lord covering us to protect us and equip us. We have to pray the armor of God over every area of our lives if we are to receive the victory we already have in Christ.

Prayer:

Dear true Definer,

When the lies of the devil try to drown me and wrongly define me, let me be reminded of the whisper that tells me who I really am in Christ. Help me tune out every voice that wants my attention except Your own. How often I allow the lies of the enemy to take root in the garden of my heart. Holy Spirit, come and pluck up the deep roots of lies I have accepted and allowed to grow alongside the wheat of Your truth. The harvest has come and I ask that you take the tares that have grown deception in my heart and mind and cast them into the furnace, Father. Help me to see my true identity is found in You alone! Thank you for creating me in Your image, for giving me purpose and a divine design. Thank You for creating me to look like You, Oh, Almighty God.

In Your name, I pray, Amen.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Don’t Blow Away

FullSizeRenderIn case you haven’t noticed yet, I love rollerblading. I have mentioned how it is an escape, as well as a sanctuary for my thoughts to bloom in. I love that I can find new ways to travel down, and given such beautiful views. I love that I can hear the silence and just spend time with God in solitude. There are so many things I love about rollerblading, the ones I have listed are only a few.

But there is one aspect of rollerblading that I do not always enjoy. The wind. The wind is welcomed, only when you’re going with it, but almost impossible to travel in, when you are going against it.

When you were going with the wind, you could go on for miles. When you are going against the wind, however, you could go only a few blocks, if that, and feel completely exhausted.

In life, I find myself often times loving going with the wind, but then when I change direction, and suddenly, I’m going against the wind, my journey becomes so much more difficult.

The wind can represent doing things because others are doing them, or it could even be going with the status quo. Many people are so terrified to go against what others think or act in such a way that those individuals are seen as outcasts so they stick to what they see others do. The only thing is it gets tiring trying to impress others all the time and living for their approval.

The difficult part is that when we go with the wind, i.e. the pressures of this world, internal-pressure, temptations of the flesh and so many other things, the reward of reaching our goal is not accomplished because we were too afraid to go against the wind.

When we go against what everyone else is doing or expects of us and when we finally reached the end goal after pushing hard against the world, what we gain is treasured and that much more worth the opposition we had to face in order to attain it.

For me, when I make it to wherever it is that I’m rollerblading to, I am so elated that I made it there, despite having to go against the wind during my track.

The same goes for life. When I finally reach something that I have been striving to reach, for a long time, the joy that I receive far outweighs the battle it was to get there.

On a hot day, nothing feels better than blading with the breeze, as it basically pushes me, and makes the work easy. But I can not let the wind determine where I go, especially if where I need to get to, is the other direction.

Just like going against the wind, there are times when I need to push back against the pressure and keep pressing into the “wind” as it tries to blow me the wrong way. I have to stand firm in what I know to be true, even when no one else is in agreement with me.

I am called to trust God’s hand will always guide me down his path, that what God tells me is the unfailing truth. I have to trust that the Lord has directed every step I take, even if I take it alone.

Let the wind be your guide, but never be afraid to confront your wind head-on, when the Lord changes your direction.IMG_5550

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

 

Fruit of Your Labor

Recently, I went to Connecticut for a family party and it was incredible! They had a plot of land and they all lived in close proximity to each other. By close, I mean next door or across the street. The siblings, all with families of their own now, still were close not only in proximity but in relationship to one another too.

This was encouraging to see but the part that really amazed me was how they grew all their own produce. They had blackberries, plums, Asian pears, mulberries, hazelnuts, tomatoes, squash, to name only some of the many plants they tended to on their grounds. That was most inspiring to me, the fact that they planted all these plants and had prospered from their fruit and land.

They had livestock and it impressed me how they lived off of their own crop and the work of their hands.

I got to talk with Bill and Amy, the owners of the one section of the plot of land, and they talked about how their son, Andrew, was the true visionary for their abundance.

Apparently, Andrew saw, in his head, what he wanted to plant and where it would grow best. He took into account how tall each tree or bush would grow and what the perfect way to plant each one of them so the view overlooking the mountains was not lost. He did extensive research on this project and it paid off. He even mapped out where each plant had to be planted because of its projected height.

(Backstory: Andrew is one of the most creative people I have ever crossed path with. He works with leather and will make a life-size replica of something like an elephant head. He “dabbles” in art and is able to put professionals to shame. Anything he puts his mind to becomes a masterpiece and now in addition to his long lists of artistic abilities, he has a green thumb as everything he grows thrives.)

When he first had the idea to plant all of the produce, Andrew was the only one who saw the end result before the seeds had even been buried in the ground. This, however, did not discourage him to give up on the whole endeavor. IMG_5404.JPG

The parents relayed to me their skepticism at first, of their son’s most recent project. Andrew was away when some of the trees arrived, Amy recalled, and he told them that they had to go in the ground immediately, so Amy and Bill went out there and planted them despite their ability to grasp their son’s vision. They told me how they were not able to see the goal that their son had seen but waited patiently.

As time went on though, everyone was able to see the progression of the plants and trees as they continued to grow. Suddenly the vision was shared by all and it was all due to one person enduring and persevering despite any and all challenges.

While I was spending time with the family, I got to taste the fruits of their labor, literally. It was all so delicious and naturally sweet. I only saw the final result, I did not get to see the process to get to that point.

This, however, made me think about my own internal growth. I thought how I do not see myself experiencing growth while in that moment of self-expansion. God is the one who sees, like Andrew, what the end result has in store for me but how he differs is that he also sees the journey that we have to face and the victory that awaits us over it. He sees what the climate around me will threaten to do to me and how to best protect me against the elements of life.

(The climate can be those things in life that could launch me forward and they can be the things that could freeze me to the bone and hinder me if I am not sheltered properly.)

The Lord has to make sure that the thorns do not grow around me, stealing all of my nutrients and nourishment. If the weeds do grow around me though, then I have to be so rooted in Christ, that even though I am surrounded by unhealthy growth, I am not affected by it.

Like Bill and Amy, I may not be able to see the end result of what God has planned in my life. I may look at the current state and be unsure how I could possibly be all that I was made to be. I need to remember that like a tree, the seeds in me take time to grow into a big strong foundation. When I look at where I am, I need to remember patience is important but also see how far I have come already as I trust the Lord to take me further, still.

I heard it put this way, “You can rejoice in the outcome but do not live there.”

If I live in the outcome, I would be missing so many lessons that are going to bring me there. I also cannot live there because then I will postpone the joy that the Lord wants me to experience in my current tribulation. To be like Christ, I have to be joyful in the testing, or in this case, as my tree or vine, continues to grow.

I have been equipped to persevere but I need to know that my strength comes from God alone. Even if there are other trees and vines around me, I can only depend on the One True Vine.

In life, others may not see the journey I have traveled so far, to get where I am, but that does not disregard the progress I made so far. I may not see the improvement myself, but a seed takes time to become something great, and my odyssey has to be treated the with the same persistence and patience.

Like me only getting to see the end result of the fruits and vegetables planted, many people may not see how much hard work and diligence that was required of each one of us to get that final outcome.

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 2 Corinthians 9:10

When I Think Of Summer

What do you think of when you hear the term summer?

Many people think of cookouts, beaches, breaks from the stresses of life and school, and so forth. Every location celebrates summer differently, and every person, for that matter. When one is in a sunny environment, they tend to think of the beach and swimming to cool off. People in a colder environment might think of joining those in the warmer climate for a break from the chilly temperatures. I do not think of summer as a break, only because I still have responsibilities I have to take care of. Instead, I think of rollerblading, summer scents from the grill, sunrises on the ocean and sunsets on the bay, I think of ice cream at Woohoo (a local homemade ice cream spot).WooHoo

Thinking about summer made me curious what others thought about it, so I decided to do my final interview on the subject of summer. I interviewed everyone that I had previously interviewed, but instead of asking a bunch of questions this time, however, I asked only one. The sole question I asked was ‘what summer meant to them’. It was fun to see what my family and friends thought of when asked about summer. The answers varied as much as the ones who gave them.

The first person I asked was Sam, my sister-in-law, who loved telling me all the different things summer meant to her.

“A summer day on the island usually consists of bare feet, bathing suits, and tan (or burnt) salty skin,” she laughed and added, “gathering with my cousins that I haven’t seen in months.”

Sam’s family has this tradition called the Pearce family beach day. All of her of her relatives come stay at the grandparent’s beach house and spend the day together at the beach. She talked about another aspect she loves about summer, being island camping with her family, where they cookout and have fire pits in the sand, to tell stories around and eat s’mores.

“Summer makes me think of rowing my old blue boat down the creek to the special hidden spot just under the bridge, and crabbing for hours. Saturdays are for Surf City Yacht Club Laser races with my dad. A summer day in Beach Haven makes me think of Fantasy Island, and the occasional Ferris Wheel ride, that I still take when I want to get in on the carnival action.  I think of elephant ears, Country Kettle Fudge, Chowder, and ice cream.”

She said some of her favorite things were the wine tastings and pig roasts, but some other things she thought of, were romantic beach walks with her husband, morning jogs on the beach that leads to a dive in the ocean, fully clothed, a good book and a cup of tea out on the porch, and the unmatchable sunrises, when you are up that early, and sunsets that engulf the night sky with a ray of colors that cannot be replicated.

She ended by talking about what summer used to look like for her.IMG_9429.JPG.jpeg

“Childhood summer memories that have stayed close to my heart are playing in the sand and catching fireflies. We would run through the dune grass, gently catching fireflies only to release them and watch as they fluttered away.  Although I have grown up, it is amazing how the excitement and beauty of summers on Long Beach Island have never changed.”

It was fun seeing all my sister thought about when she thought of summer and how those memories of summers past, still stayed with her.

Next, I interviewed my friend Asia. Asia talked about how summer, for her, is usually a time of transitioning, whether it be in a relationship, a new location, a transition from work to school or whatever it is, her summer is when it happens.Asia

“It seems logical that it would be a transition, but I always thought summer would be a time to just chill and relax. But I’m always reminded by summers, that rather than a long time of rest, I usually tend to experience God when a lot is going on.”

(Side-note, isn’t it so amazing that it does not matter which season of life we are in, God still reveals himself to us, both in the stillness as well as the busyness?).

“I always find that when I’m in summer I want to jump forward to the next task,” concluded Asia.

I love the friendship I share with this girl because she is so inspiring in everything she does and never takes any credit, but instead, gives glory and honor to God. Getting to interview both times was such a delight and encouragement to go further in my own walk with the Lord.

After finishing my interview with that friend, I decided to talk to another friend about his interpretation of what summer meant.

“Church on Sundays, going to the beach two to three times during the week, relaxing by the pool with some friends, going on a nice morning runs, reading my bible outside with iced tea, and being with the ones I love,” responded Andrew

What I loved about this answer was that he was able to sum up the important things in a single sentence. He is one of my spiritual brothers and our relationship has reflected that. He and I have a special friendship, where we know how to push each other’s buttons, and we always have the best time together. It has been cool to see him grow into a man of God, as well as witnessing our friendship blossom too.Memory lane

Following smiles, as I have nicknamed my friend Andrew, I asked another friend who has helped me to grow in God continually. Sean is one of those people who naturally have a servant’s heart and I am honored to have a role model in my life like him. In everything he does, he does it in humility and exalts God in every aspect of his life.

“This summer was probably one of my craziest summers.” He said with a smile in his voice, “most of the time summer means vacation – doing something fun – traveling and being outdoors. This summer, [however], I was working at 2infinity (a trampoline park in Lakeland).”

As he paused, I could hear his wheels turning, “Summer means a time of working. Pushing myself to perform at my best. Summer still means a lot to me with opportunities to travel, but as I’ve grown up, it’s how I can prove myself – the testing period of my life, to see how far I can go, [and] because of my hard work, there is a reward in the fall time.”

The rest he got in the fall, was a gift he was thankful for, from God, because of the summer work and his obedience. It is a gift that God gives his children, after they follow him obediently, through a season of perseverance and labor, but it is never given to us, our way – it always will be in God’s way – in His timing.

Before ending he stated, “It is a time of stretching and growth from the Lord. It’s really interesting – I don’t know why God chooses to do things in me in summer – that’s my tax season.”

He was then, by my pressing, encouraged to add a little snippet about good leadership and what that entails.

“Even if I’m at work, church, or just at home, I serve. I serve by taking initiative. I serve so people don’t have to worry about [the responsibility and stress of] being in leadership. I take initiative be willing to serve. If you allow yourself to give away your time to another human being, that is a good use of your time. We’re never perfect, we make mistakes, but it is just being obedient to the voice of the Lord is key”Sean Sunset

Sean has been appointed to many positions of leadership, especially in the summer time, because of his natural nature to put others above himself and as he continues to serve, God gives him more opportunities to lead.

After hearing Sean’s take on summer and the busyness it brings, I asked Marissa what summer meant to her.

“I think a lot about resting, going to the beach a little bit, and doing nothing.” She continued, “I just went through my first summer where I was still doing things and nothing really changed.”

Her point was valid though when one is in school or a job that takes off in the summer, summer has a completely different meaning than if a job or education is year-round. I love Marissa and how she always brings an optimistic perspective. She is another role-model I look up to, and spending time with her, is always something I enjoy. Even though her summer is packed with work and plans, she still is on the worship team at church and makes time to spend in the word and with fellow disciples. I love her playing – it always allows me to come into a place of pure worship where it is just the Lord and me. I thank God for her heart, and for using her to bring others to sit at his feet as well.

Next, I thought I would reach out to a person that does have a seasonal job and has off only for summer and for school breaks.

My aunt who works at the school said that summer is a time to relax and “a time to recharge my batteries”. She talked about how in the summer, she has more time to spend outdoors and with friends that she has not seen during the school year, as well family she has not seen in the “off” months either. It gives more time just to stop and dwell on what the Lord is putting on your heart. The urgency to get things done is not as strong in the summer so it is easier to stop and rest.

She said, “my fall, winter, and spring is so focused on work, that when summer comes it’s a breath of fresh air.”

In the summer she likes to take on smaller projects, like a taking a teaching or a painting class. This allows her to stay sharp and to keep learning, even as she is not in the actual classroom.

Later on, I interviewed my mom on what summer meant to her. Being a real estate agent, she is always much busier in the summer month since this is a seasonal island. Ask anyone and they will tell you that June to the beginning of September is the most hectic months for a real estate agent. This, however, was not mentioned too much when asked what summer meant to her.

“The fun of having a filled house, with the family, the dog, and the activity” was the first thing she mentioned. “The light reflecting off the bay, putting on our sneakers, and riding our bikes to the end of the island, enjoying the beautiful breeze as we listen to worship music,” were other things she wanted to make note of.

She went further to discuss the beauty of the sunset on the bay and the sunrise over the ocean. Grilling and sitting on the deck with a nice refreshing drink and friends that stopped by, was discussed as well. We have not grilled too much this summer, however, but when we did, we loved basking in the sweet fragrances that filled the air, and the conversation taking place, while we waited.

“This moment is what summer means to me,” referring to the orange glow of the sunrise falling on the houses as the sun rose over the roofs as we sat on the porch, one morning, before our bike ride.

I love that my mom finds beauty in everything and everyone. She sees God moving in everything and is constantly reminding me of God’s presence surrounding us. Watching the sunrise on the ocean and worshipping with her, as we wait for the full picture of the risen sun, is one of both of our favorite summer activities. When I leave in the fall, this will be a sight that I will miss every morning, and look forward to when I come home on school breaks. 

Afterwards, I got to discuss with my sister, the significance of summer to her. Like Sean and Marissa, my sister has a job that does not stop in the summer so summers do not mean the same thing they did when she was growing up.

“Summer to me used to mean spending the entire time at the beach, but now it means trying to get done as much work as possible, before September hits. I say my vacation times have changed to be more April, October, and December.” When she was younger, she said that she would go sailing, surfing, working and “do everything that required me to go off grid”. Summer was an escape for us growing up. None of us wanted it to end and would try to take advantage of the precious time we did get away from the hustle and bustle of schoolwork, homework, planning and structured schedules with no extra room for anything else.

Although my sister’s schedule is a bit more structured now, like it was growing up, it is still nice to be able to see her when she flies up for a week to visit in the middle of the summer. The time we spend together now, even via FaceTime, has brought us much closer in our relationship. The age difference also grows to be less, as we both are getting older.

My nana answered then. “[When her children were young,] Summer became a free time because the kids didn’t have school.

She talked about how once my aunts and uncles were older, they would all go down to the shore house and take sailing lessons. And added how, now, the weather is perfect for gardening.

“When I was a kid growing up in Lyndhurst we would put a screen out on the porch and we would get to eat eat out there,” She reminisced.  “It went by too fast!! We would think ‘I got two months – wonderful. Then the next thing we knew, the cady ditz (August bugs) were making noise, telling us that summer was coming to an end.”

“I like summer clothes better than winter clothes – you don’t have to wear as many,” she as she laughed. “I like the summer food too,” she continued, “right now, we have the New Jersey corn and tomatoes, and we have a farm near us where I get them.”

I loved hearing how summers were for my nana as a child, and as to how they are for her and my papa now. Her birthday is also during the summer so that was always another thing to celebrate beside having off from school. It was fun hearing as she went down memory lane during her summers and it made me feel like I was traveling those old familiar paths with her, in the way she recounted the events and memories that occurred.

Following nana’s trip to the past, I interviewed my pop pop on what his thought of summer was.

He had this to say, “I am so blessed that I have all these blessings, and thank God for blessing us, with so much abundance. [Summer is] To be able to go to the shore, go to the ocean, and the bay and think how fortunate I am.”

Pop pop loves getting to see his family come together and spend time together at the beach house. We all go with him to church on Sunday mornings and since we live together, we are able to go upstairs or downstairs to see each other. Sitting out on the deck, enjoying company and the sunset is another thing that my pop pop enjoys doing. He loves just spending time with us all together – That always makes him the happiest.

 

I later asked my friend mike what summer meant to him.

“What summer means to me is relaxing time spent with family and friends, as much as possible. Most of my life, summer has meant time off from my busy schedule during the year.” Then paused to think for a moment, “However, in the past few years, it has meant just the opposite. Summer time is now filled with constant home renovations on two Victorian homes that require constant attention. Combining that with a busy real estate schedule, results in much less time off than I have been accustomed to. This is not a problem for me, as I love to spend time doing both. I just have to plan relaxing time now and that’s ok, compared to before when I just relaxed without planning.”

It was great talking to Mike and seeing how summer does not look the same now, as it has in previous years. I definitely relate to summers changing over there years and what they represent for me in that specific season. It is nice getting to have a relaxing summer but some people, like Mike, thrive in the busyness of summer but welcome the opportunity to relax when all is said and done.

In concluding my interviews, I asked my uncle his thoughts on the matter.

“Summer is a time that centers around friends and family because you’re with your them more now than you are the rest of the year. It’s about being around the water and being around friends you’ve known for a long time – its like a home away from home.”

He then talked about the appreciation everything we have here. We have so much at our fingertips that we are given. 

“We live in a beautiful area and we are very blessed with this life and blessing we receive from the Lord.”

Summers are ‘people focused’ more than ‘event focused’ – in the winter it tends to seem like many things are focused on the event more, but summer at the beach is more about family and friends – the time shared.

My uncle finished by saying, “It means doing fun things, doing more outdoor activities like tennis and sailing, it means just being at the beach – I have spent all my summers down at the shore, and that’s what it means to me.”

I enjoyed listening to my uncle tell of his summer. He was able to summarize many things about summer that makes it such a delightful season. It allowed me to see what he believed to be important and what summer is supposed to entail. I could not agree more with his take on what summer means. And what a perfect way to outline what summer means.

Life at the beach, in the summer, offers such a fantastic place of fun, laughter, friends, and life! There is always so much activity everywhere and always fun places to visit. Families come together and friends are reunited after a long time away from each other. Summer is a time for physical, emotional and spiritual growth as we persevere through our jobs and responsibilities. It is a time of transition in our lives and our circumstances. It is a time to celebrate life by cooking outside and delighting in the warm weather that meets you as you head to the beach. Summer is hot dogs and hamburgers. It’s warm weather and swimsuits. It’s time that is not rushed and hugs that have been contained for the long months apart. Summer is sunrises, sunsets and unmatchable beauty by the Creator as he displays his artwork for all to partake in. Summer is the memories made that linger long after the sand has left our feet.

Your way, or God’s way?

IMG_5480.JPGRedirection. This can be a frightening term that intimidates many people. It sounds like you will have to take ten steps back, for your five previous steps forward, putting you five steps behind where you started. That is not something anyone wants to do. However, redirecting is not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but it does mean backtracking.

When I went rollerblading the other day, I was going strong and going far. The only thing about my journey, was the route I was taking, was not going to get me to my end goal of the lighthouse, like I wanted.

Here’s what happened. I was rollerblading and the path was so brutally rough, unleveled, and just plain miserable to trail down. This made my ride so it was not enjoyable at all, to the point, that I was contemplating giving up on the whole trip altogether. But there was a part of me, that wanted to have that accomplishment of making it to Barnegat Light, despite the rigid terrain, I had to travel to get there.

So, all I did, was, take some back roads that had fewer bumps and uneven roads. I was POSITIVE these back streets would get me to the same place by means of a different passage.  The new route I traveled, was much smoother, and it gave my already sore feet, a break from the jagged concrete. I was making strides towards my end goal of the lighthouse, or, at least, so I thought.

Then, I fell. I was not badly injured, although the rocky pavement had left its mark on me in multiple places. At that point, I was not sure if it was even worth it to keep going, or if I should put my tail between my legs, and call my mom to pick me up… several towns away.

I found myself torn between what I should do. Should I attempt to pick up any remaining pride I had left, and journey on, or should I give up, find a way home, and forget my hope to make it to the end of the island.

While I was debating this in my head, I remained on the ground pondering where to go, and how to access the shuttle, if that was the route I was going to take. As I sat there, a woman had come across the street asking me if I was okay, to which I responded yes, but she was not convinced since I had made no effort up until that point, to get up. I got up, then and assured her I was fine. My quandary still hung in the air, though. To turn back or to press on, that was the question.

I decided then, to keep going, with more determination than I had before I fell. However, what I realized was that I was going the wrong way and that I would have not found the way to the lighthouse if I tried to get there by relying on my own internal map to guide me. I would have ended up getting more lost than I was already. Then, I would really have had to call my mom or find my way to the nearest shuttle, which I had no idea how to do, or where I had to go to find one. Although I am a local to the island, I have never had to take the shuttle anywhere, but I digress.

Back to the map, I was drawing about redirection. Had I not fallen, I would have not known how I was off the right path, to begin with. It took bringing me slight pain to understand how, by taking my way, I was really going down a dead end.

Because of the minor injuries I had gained on my adventure, I then, told my smartphone to get me directions, actual directions, not my “directions” to the lighthouse, because I wanted to make my pain worth the achievement of reaching the lighthouse.

I had wasted so much time because I thought I knew the way, that when I finally dusted myself off, the sun had already begun to set. My own path had taken me so out of the way that I was aiming to go, that I lost the daylight that I started my trek out during.

Once I was back on the right trail, I was able to find the lighthouse within a few minutes. I was still a long way off, but I was much closer than I had been previously. 

But nothing else on the ride there would prevent me from reaching my goal anymore. I was steadfast on arriving at the lighthouse. The final miles seemed endless, but now that I was on the right path, I no longer cared how long it took. My GPS said it was about forty minutes, but I do not know how accurate that was when I factored in the elements, such as the wind, and the bumpy road, I faced.

When I eventually got to Barnegat Light, my day had been made complete. I was able to proudly say that I made it, not in my strength, but in the Lord’s mercy and persevering through his grace. He is the only reason I made it. The sun had not set yet, and that gave me ample time to get myself situated, take some photographs of the lighthouse, and find the perfect spot to rest, as I basked in the beauty of the clouds surrounding the well-built sanctuary of the sea.IMG_5477.JPG

Suddenly all the self-inflicted pain of going the wrong way vanished, and I was given such a sacred moment with the Lord, as he revealed his magnificence and grandeur to me, through the view he placed before me. I had no soreness in that instant, it was just me and the Creator. All the other people at the lighthouse disappeared along with my suffering because it was such an awe-inspiring encounter with the Maker, that nothing else mattered.

Have you ever felt like this, like you had something bad happen in your life that made you want to give up, but the little voice inside of you, pushed you not to give up?

Have you had that moment where you had to make a conscious decision, to push back against your circumstance?

That time, where you may have even known you were going down the wrong path, but went down it, nonetheless?

Redirecting — it only means that God knows what he wants for you, better than you know, yourself.

The reward is great when we follow him and trust him to lead us, but, so are the storms that he allows us to face when we try to find an alternative route. Many know this as the path of least resistance. What we tend to forget, however, is that Christ did not take the path of least resistance, but instead, took the path that would save the most souls from eternal suffering. We are required to go down that path as well so God’s guidance and hand on us, can be the only way we possibly make it through.

Like the reward of watching one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen, the reward in heaven, that awaits us, as saints, is indescribable, and well worth the hard trail we have to trek down, in order to get there someday.

Next time you want to try going your way, not God’s way, remember that there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ, who is the only way.

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”

Psalm 46:1-3 “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Exodus 15:2 “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him—  my father’s God, and I will exalt him!”

Job 11:13-16 “Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then, free of fault, you will lift up your face; you will stand firm and without fear. You will surely forget your trouble, recalling it only as waters gone by.

Changing Failure Into Success

Failure is something we all experience in life. It is that thing that both holds us back and challenges us to push forward. A quote I have on the front of my computer says this, “The pleasure of success feels best after the pain of failure.”

We are called to confront our failures head-on and admit that we messed up but not allow that to keep us from learning from that defeat and learn not to make those mistakes again next time around. If we dwell on our missteps, then we have already admitted our loss and let our insecurity reek havoc on our lives. The best thing to do when we fail is to not let the poor outcome of our situation keep us knocked down.

Thinking about failure and its dictatorship over our lives got me thinking, why do we let it control our lives? Many times it is not intentional, no one goes around saying how they are hoping that failure has victory over their lives but too often, we subconsciously bow to defeat thinking that there is no way we can overcome it. I talked to a few people who were willing to share some of the personal losses they have encountered and how they claimed victory over fear and failure. I interviewed a couple relatives, my friend, and my mom.

First, I asked each of them was in their own opinion, what was their biggest failure in life.

Andrew simply said, “relying on my own strength and not God’s.”

Following that response, my mom said, “prioritizing and staying in the presence of God regardless of the situation.”

Next, my aunt replied, “My biggest failure was my first marriage. I consider it the biggest failure because it is the most important decision in your life and when you two are separating it is the biggest failure of your life.” Then continued, “it is emotionally difficult and leaves a very deep scar because you are reminded of it on a daily basis and you never fully rationalize that it’s not your fault and you never fully forgive yourself.”

She added her biggest failure was the same as my uncle’s in that she felt that her first marriage was not rooted in a solid foundation and they were not equally yoked. She talked about how it was difficult because neither party was willing to admit how bad things actually were between them since they both had extremely different values.

I appreciated their vulnerability to open up to me and I hope that their lessons from their failed marriages will be lessons that I can learn from someday when I am entering into a marriage of my own. I want to be able to have a marriage like the one between my aunt and my uncle currently because I see how they are equally yoked and the relationship is Christ-centered. The marriage they are joined in now shows me, that there are such things as wholly, Godly, matches out there for those who are looking.

My next question was to inquire about a situation they all dealt with and how they overcame it.success-what-it-really-looks-like

First, my aunt talked about forgiveness. She said, “I was wronged and wanted to retaliate, but it was 3 weeks from Christmas and I was convicted that I shouldn’t, so I prayed that God would change my heart toward this person. I was really diligent in praying every day for forgiveness and a month later, I encounter this person, and I felt a supernatural love for them. I had no ill will or resentment for them anymore.”

It was inspiring to see how she overcame her fleshly nature as well as the urge to get payback from someone who had hurt her and was seeking the Lord wholeheartedly to help her, by taking away these awful desires of her flesh to have revenge.

A situation my mom said she had no choice but to overcome was, “handling a relationship incorrectly in a way God wouldn’t have had me handle it.” Then continued, “I think God keeps testing me with the same personality until I learn my lesson. I have to be constantly prayed up and ready to confront my problems in the Lord’s strength not my own.”

This was vital to remember because when we try to do anything in our own strength failure is guaranteed. But when we act in the Lord’s strength, anything is possible. When we seek him in prayer, the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf, granting us access to doors that would have otherwise remained closed.

My uncle answered, saying his experience in overcoming something difficult was during his flight training at the Navy Academy.

“My whole flying training.” My uncle explained how all the information he was required to remember was like getting a drink of water from a fire hose, “so trying to finish the training at the speed they were trying to train you was difficult, because you were trying to keep up with the pace of the program, but I was able to complete it, and I overcame it just because it was just something I had to persevere through and had to put all my effort toward to reach the end goal.”

This was encouraging to hear, because my uncle is one of those people who always seems to know what he is doing, and failure does not seem to be something he does. It was nice for me to hear that while he was going to school at the Naval Academy, he had many moments where he felt like he could not do it, but knew that he had no choice but to do it and as a result, was victorious over things that threatened to hold him back.

Andrew responded with this: “When I was really stressed out one time, and I was trying to alleviate the stress, but instead of going to the Lord and asking him to take the stress away and help me, I stressed myself out more by relying on myself to get through the obstacle. I got really angry, had outbursts, and cursed when I shouldn’t have. I went to my grandpa, and he mentored me and told me how to deal with the situation.

Andrew’s advice was something many of us tend to do when things are not going in our favor, we get mad, have a temper tantrum, like a two-year-old, and then have to realign our focus, so that we are tuned into the Lord, so he can help us out of our disastrous circumstances. The key is remembering that without God, we can do nothing, and our work is in vain. He wants to help us if we only cry to him.

After that, I asked about how we can use the failures we have experienced in the past to help guide us in the future.

Andrew went first. “Failure can be a guide because when failure comes you need to rely on God, and he will always there for you to help you through it. You can learn and grow from it.”

“[Failure] shows us what we’re doing wrong, and, I always learn more from my mistakes than I do from my successes. The harder I fall, the deeper I evaluate, so I don’t repeat the failure.” My mom commented.

Next, my uncle chimed in, “It does make you wiser.” He said smiling. “You learn about yourself.”

Lastly, my aunt gave her reply about using failure as a guide. She said how failure could be used as a tool that allows self-reflection and for one to prayerfully consider how to handle the situation differently, in the future. It grants room for growth and improvement.

“Your failures become your testimony of God’s strength in your life and proof that he is working in your life.” She stated.

The last question I asked each of them was what are the key things you have learned from this failure? And how could they apply that insight in the future?

First, went my uncle, saying how he could, now see all the blessings from the Lord from that failed marriage had produced, and how God had someone perfect for him, in the future, my aunt.

He added, “I think generally is what you learn from your failures, is what you’re good at, what you’re not good at, and what your best assets and talents are, and how are they best used. In my life, I know what I can do well, and not do well, and that guides me on a regular basis. Although pushing your boundaries on an intellectual level, your own tendency is to work in your comfort levels.”

As he said this, it reminded me that we need to step outside our comfort zones so God can take us further, into what he has in store for us.

“God will always be there for you, and never forsake you and he always has my back. There is nothing in this world that God cannot fix.” Andrew mentioned.

“To be God-focused and knowing that being God-focused trumps everything.” Remarked my aunt, about the lessons she has taken away from her failures.

“I think the importance of prayerfully asking for God’s direction in your life.”

Speaking of another lesson she took away from her short-comings. 

Finally, my mom told me what she had gained, in means of understanding, from her failings.

She talked about how she gets so caught up in what she is doing, work-wise, that it is too easy to forget to focus on what the Lord is trying to do with her, and around her. I love my mom and am proud of the accomplishments she has achieved, in business. She does not mean to, but she tends to hyperfocus on the latest deadline.

She has perfected the art of answering without noticing what she has responded. My brother jokes, saying if I ever want something, wait until she is so fried from work, then, she will give me whatever I ask for. My mom is someone I look up to, with her work ethic and with her walk with the Lord. Although she gets crazy busy with work, she is always there for us and inspires me to seek the Lord on a deeper level.

The most important thing she has taught me is, “to readjust my focus.” When life tries to steal my focus from the Lord, I am reminded to try and find God, before making any, and every decision. My mom instilled that in me, therefore, I am grateful for the lessons she has not only taken away from her faults but that she has been able to pass on to her children so we can learn from her, on how to be better versions of us. 

Failure is part of life. When we fail, we are finding a new way not to use, in order to filter through the ways to use. We do this so we can reach our desired target. Fall seven times, and the Lord will pick us up eight times. New ways to try to accomplish something, like the light bulb, would have never been approached, if the creative mind behind those mistakes, gave up when circumstances became difficult or impossible for them. 

Those pathfinders and trailblazers are the same individuals, who are now known, not for their defeat, but for the success they had, only after their failures.

That should be motivation enough, for us to go out into the world, and fail. For when we fail and make mistakes, we learn, and, as a result, we are able to grow.

I thought it might be nice to include (down below), what some well-known individuals say about failure.

~Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill~

~Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. Henry Ford~

~I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Thomas A. Edison~

~Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street. Zig Ziglar~

~Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat. Theodore Roosevelt~

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_failure.html

Pass It Down

Family. What comes to mind when you hear this term?

For me, I think of all the generations that have paved the way before me leading up to the present generation. I think of how my family continues to grow more branches on its tree and the branches go wider as well as up. As children grow up and get married another limb is added to the great tree.

I thought it would be cool if I got to talk to some of the branches in my family ancestry. I was able to get four very different perspectives from my grandfather, you will see me refer to him instead as ‘pop pop’, my grandmother aka nana, my mom and my sister, Adi who just had a baby of her own.

Three generations.  Four accounts. Four perspectives about life in the present.

I started with something easy, ‘what did you want to be when you grew up’? I was not expecting the variety of responses I received from this, however.

“Successful in whatever job I had.”My pop pop told me. “[I wanted to] Become a good manager and be respected by my peers and subordinates.”

“[I wanted to be] a nun.” Said my mom, “I was changing my name to Sister Marie St. Bernadette.” She continued. “As I got older, [I wanted to become] a Physical Education teacher then Physical Therapist. 

“I wanted to be an architect.” My sister remarked then said, “I thought dad’s office was the coolest. I loved visiting R.I.S.D., [Rhode Island School of Design], and all the old buildings.”

Even while we go out walking today, she still is intrigued by the architecture of all the houses we go by. I find it amazing that after all these years, she is inquisitive about different types of structures and the material used. There is no doubt she is her father’s daughter.

“A wife and a mother. I love my house. I like to cook.” My Nana answered.

She said that was always what she wanted to be ever since she was little. She loves being a mother to her six children and now is a great-grandmother to her expanding number of great-grandchildren. She loves to serve all of us by cooking for us, giving us advice about life and living, being someone who is there if we need anything and she loves every other aspect of mothering even after her children they are grown and are children of their own.

This is a perfect transition though because the next question I asked was what advice each interviewee had for their children and future generations.

Nana’s advice was simple and to the point, “Enjoy it [Being a parent]. Love your kids. It goes by very fast, the first thing you know they don’t need you. Enjoy every minute of it.”FullSizeRender-1

Next Adi responded that she has a book of advice she is going to give Eliana when she is older but gave one piece of advice for now. 

Save up enough so you do you not have to work your first year so you can take a maternity leave for a year.”

Mom said to “Delight in every age and stage.  Never let the negative situations overpower the joy that is to behold.” She added, “Always have the Lord at the forefront, even if/when they walk away from him – make opportunities in camps, schools, concerts, to get the word and presence back into their lives.”

“Be honest and fair and don’t show partiality and love them – love God first, your wife second and then the children. Always teach them right from wrong. Reward good behavior. Always be there for them.” Pop pop advised.

The following question I asked was about living a happy and successful life. I asked them to tell me what they knew now that they did not know when they were in their early twenties.

“Marriage is 50/50 but if you want a really great marriage make sure it’s 40/60 and that you are the one that is giving more than you get. I have a husband who tells me every day how beautiful I am.”

Nana went on to say how she would argue with him about it but papa stands firm in what he knows to be true in his heart. His wife is still as beautiful today as he is fell for her.

Pop pop said, “Being more aware of God’s presence and the presence of the Holy Spirit and observing the holy spirit working in my life and in the lives of other people.”IMG_3595

This is what he realized later in life that he did not understand earlier on.

Adi said that in her life she saw how many opportunities she had given to her when she was in her early twenties that many people are not fortunate enough to have. Doors that were opened that she took for granted. She went on to say that when her daughter is older, she is going to make sure that Eliana takes the opportunities that push her forward such as internships starting in high school to gain experience and connections.

My mom responded to happy and successful tips she did not realize earlier as being,“Confidence in the Lord as my strength, directing my path, and being my peace.”

She went on to discuss how she needs to remember that every day, “I lacked confidence and found God as the source of strength.”

Another question I asked was something funny that their child or children did or said when they were little.

My niece, who was  still very little, only a few months old, thought she was “singing along with Andrea Bocelli and her mouth was wide open and [the] noise was coming out and she truly thought she was singing along with him.”

My sister flashback to the scene, “all the sudden I look down and she looks very focused because she thinks she is singing along to the music.”

As I wrote this, I was laughing as I, myself thought of the scene.

My mom recalled her funniest memory of my siblings and I, as the car ride to school and the dialogue that went along with it.

“I think the cutest and memorable was the shout from the back seat of the car when driving the family to EC.  “Swipture voose!”’

[Because as a child, I could not pronounce my “r’s”].

“Always redirecting and keeping us on task.” My mom said.fullsizeoutput_338

Another story she reminisced about was “when Aunt Sharon fell and looked injured.  [Then I say,] “Can we just Pway!”

 [Again with my Boston accent as I put my hands out in front of me to emphasize the importance of the request]. 

A third recollection she had was “getting the Christmas photos back and noticing Parker put his socks on his ears.”

Hearing my mom talk about these stories brought me back to when they happened and allowed me to relive those precious moments too.

I think my pop pop’s story was one of the funniest I got to hear, only because I had never heard it before.

“When I came home from work they would always run and hide and Sharon would put Bonnie in the close hamper in the bathroom and she would hide behind the sofa and she was easy to find and I would start shouting ‘where are they’ then I would go into the bathroom and start to move the clothes hamper around and I could feel the weight and I knew Bonnie was in the clothes hamper so I would keep yelling where are they and would turn the hamper upside-down gently and Sharon knowing that Bonnie was in the hamper, would be giggling hysterically, thinking that I didn’t know Bonnie was in the hamper.”

I was able to picture my mom in the hamper as her dad turned her upside-down and played with her.

The final question I asked was about the effect of the war on each of their lives. I made a note not to specify which war so they could tell me which one had the biggest impact on them.

First, I asked my pop pop since he is a navy veteran and fought in World War II.

“I saw first-hand the hurt that came to a family of one of my buddies when we sat on his front porch and a kid pulled up on his bicycle and delivered a telegram to my buddy’s dad. The telegram informed him that his son had been killed in Normandy, France.” He went on, “I served with many guys on submarines that went through the second world war. I personally witnessed the phycological trauma that had impacted them. They were my shipmates.”

My sister talked about a life-changing event that was not a war but was still significant to this Country, September 11, 2001.

“September 11th was the most impacting war event that affected me. I can tell you exactly where I was sitting and what paper I had in my hand when we heard that the two towers fell. We housed all the kids who couldn’t go home because they lived in the city and the bridges were closed.” She recalled about the “boys from Nicaragua who were already staying with us from the orphanage as well.”

We gave a full house a new definition.

“At the same time, it was horrifying because we had people trying to kill us on the other side of the world and that is when I really understood what race was. [Being on the] wrong side of race. It’s terrifying.”

She talked about how these other countries were allowing racism against us just because we were American.

Then my mom answered, “I don’t remember much other than the Vietnam protests when I was in kindergarten, we were sent home when J. F. Kennedy was assassinated that was the most memorable political disturbance.

It was a blast doing these interviews with my family and hearing the different life lessons and stories they had to share. It was a welcome trip down memory lane for all of us and it helped me get a more vast perspective on my own life and experiences as well as lessons I hope to pass down to my grandchildren someday.

Hopefully, this encourages you to go out and learn about your family history and take the time to see how they got the perspective that they have now. Walk in their shoes, so to speak.