Routine Prayer

Most nights are pretty predictable at my house.
I get home after the gym. Eat a quick meal while the kids do some last minute running around, screaming and playing hide and seek with their baby brother.

Get the bottles of milk ready for baby David, or Toddler David, I don’t know really it sounds weird. He’s a 40lb 2 yr old wearing 4T…it’s hard to call him a baby…
Then we all head to Sofy’s room to talk about our day and start story time. 

Right now, we are reading a children’s version of the Bible which (Lord don’t strike me down for saying this) makes the stories a little less boring and a lot more understandable for the kids.
They interject occasionally and ask questions, sometimes random, so I’m not always sure if they are really paying attention. 
Today we were reading about David and Goliath, but Vicky wanted to talk about Adam and Eve and the bad fruit. The whole being “naked” in the garden really blew their minds.
“And then they had sons. And one son, Cain, he killed his brother!” Vicky was really concerned about this. They all were, but they quickly chimed in that they could never do that to each other.

Meanwhile, David is laying back on one of Sofy’s pillows drinking his milk and minding his business.

After we finally get through a story, we share thoughts about what we read and how it can apply to our lives presently.

Then, we take turns each night saying a quick prayer, before everyone heads off to their bed, bunk, crib, and so on.

Each of us prays slightly different, but for the most part we thank God for everything that we have including each other.

Gaby thanks God for family and friends, and video games.

Sofy thanks God for family and friends, our house, books, and her ipad.

And tonight, for example, Vicky thanked God “for our lovely home and socks”, among other things.

So, last Wednesday I went out to dinner with two good friends of mine. I rarely go “out” and even less smack dab in the middle of the week. But sometimes it’s really hard to find time for friends and loved ones, so I made a point of setting aside that night.

Of course by the time I got home, around 10:45pm, they were fast asleep.

Fast forward to the next night, after we read as usual, I started to ask whose turn it was to pray, but quickly remembered.

“Okay guys. I’m gonna pray, since I missed my turn last night.”

“I prayed last night, mom.” Sofy said softly.

I looked over at her surprised, “You did?”

“Yea, you weren’t here. I forgot, but when Gaby and Vicky were asleep, I prayed by myself.”

I gave her a kiss and hugged her tight for a few moments.

I was shocked. Sofia had taken the initiative to pray on her own. Neither I nor her dad had to remind her or ask her to do it.

I felt so much joy in my heart.

She only just turned 10 last month, but suddenly it felt like a real turning point.

So, yea. Most nights are pretty predictable; and I try to stick to a specific routine with the kids.
But I guess some of the best moments are the ones you don’t plan for.
————–

And I just have to add, I’m no religious nut. (Oh boy, here she goes ::reader rolls eyes::)

I believe in God, and I believe in prayer, and I believe in the Bible.
I curse; I get angry; I yell; I can be a BITCH. (Ask my sisters.)

I’m not perfect, and I’m not a fanatic.

But I don’t think I have to be.

You don’t have to be an every Sunday chruch abiding Christian in order to believe in God and the Bible, or have a relationship with Him.
Whether or not there really was a talking serpent; an ark that carried humans and creatures for 40 days and nights through the flooding of earth without them devouring each other; whether Methusala lived to be 969 or not; or whether Jesus was God’s Son or just a REALLY good person.
All of these are debateable points, but I believe. And I think it’s good to believe, and have faith. Anyting can be interpreted hundreds of ways; we are humans, it’s in our nature to doubt and question. And I don’t have a problem with my kids having doubts or questions.

I just want them to believe for themselves.
And honestly, I couldn’t be prouder of my big girl and her growing heart.

Being a Good Human is Hard Enough

Each morning I wake up easy enough. Then again, I suppose I shouldn’t say “easy“. I toss and turn and SNOOZE 3,4,5 times? And like quicksand, the more I resist the deeper I sink.

I mean “easy” in that for the most part we don’t have to think much about your actions.

MORNING ROUTINE

1: Open your eyes

2: Take that first morning breath, or let out that first morning sigh (especially on Mondays).

3: Throw the sheets off your body and swing your legs over the side of the bed.

All simple things we don’t think twice about. 

Drag yourself to the toilet, then the sink, wash your face, brush your teeth, peruse the closet, choose an outfit, then shoes (some of us my take a tad longer with this part), apply makeup.  

Besides the harrowing decision of which pumps to wear, in general, none of these are very tasking deeds, nor do they require any ethical, moral or common sense decisions.

Although, I will say it does take some common sense to look in a mirror BEFORE walking out the door in some outfits. Something I have forgotten to do all too often.

Why didn’t I get rid of that blouse the last time I hated it. -_-

Needless to say, there are a lot of people lacking in this area.

The HARD part of getting up each day is figuring out how to be a good wife, a good mother, good daughter, sister, aunt, employee, boss, friend, Christian, Buddhist. 

Being a good human is hard enough; a good Christian, damn near mythological feat. I mean right there I just sinned. 

Whatever you are, even an atheist, it takes dedication and constant application to convince people that something doesn’t exist; particularly, invisible fantastical beings like God (although I see him all around), or the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa, The Abominable Snowman, Big Foot.

Did I just compare Jesus to characters from children’s tales? 

Yes, I did.

Isn’t that what many think He is, just a great character from the past?

SANTA

Santa is based on the story of Saint Nicholas, Jolly Old St. Nick. He was a real man, who couldn’t go down chimneys or fly around on a sleigh; or walk on water or heal the sick; however, he did bring happiness to many needy children and families in real life.

Matthew 19:21 (NIV) Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 

“Obeying Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships.” (StNicholasCenter.org)

I think it’s wonderful for kids to believe in Santa. He isn’t make-believe. The same goes for Jesus. Once kids are too old, or stop believing, or find out from friends that Santa “isn’t real”, the explanation really shouldn’t be so complicated.

You see, St Nicholas (Santa) WAS a man, a Christian. He loved Jesus, and he loved to help people. The tradition of Santa Claus has been kept alive through parents, to honor the good Nicholas did, and to give children something good to look forward to and someone positive to look up to.

Don’t skip the next section because I titled it Jesus. You made it this far.

JESUS

Jesus may not be on earth today, but He was a man, He did exist, and while He was here He did many great things. Why? Because He loved us. And whether or not you believe that He resurrected, or is in heaven, or that He is actually God AND the Holy Spirit, you can at least still believe what He once was, what “men” once wrote about Him, the same way “men” wrote about Saint Nicholas.

You can live your life in a way that glorifies His life, His purpose; that sheds light on the good He did, and more importantly, WHY He did it—out of love and the simple goodness of His heart with no gains.

If Jesus, the man, went to heaven, wouldn’t you want to go there too when you die?

Whether Jesus was God or just a simple man, doesn’t He sound like someone you want to be more like?

You can’t work your way to heaven?
The Bible teaches that you cannot go to heaven through works alone. You have to believe in Jesus and the whole “story”

I understand that; I get it.

You can’t out exercise a poor diet.

But whenever someone does something good, any good action, whether they like it or not, they are representing what Jesus stood for and glorifying him. They are eating His fruit AND exercising His good works at the same time.

Is it easy to be a good person? No.

Is it easy to do what you know and feel is right even when others tell you not to waste your time, because others don’t care, and won’t reciprocate? No.

Is it easy to believe in something or someone that you cannot see? No.

But Jesus doesn’t take the form of one man or thing, but many. Men and women, doing good all over the world. Jesus is Amorphous. He is a budding flower, a cloud, a snowy mountain top, the growing green blades of grass, a sweet melody, a ripe fruit, a beautiful creature (even ants -_-), a crying infant, a walking toddler, a smiling child, a helpful sibling, a loving parent, a sweaty laborer, and whether we like to believe it or not even some lawyers and politicians.

He is all around us in everything we see and do. 

So one myth (Jesus) yielded another (Santa). Well, folktale or not, I hope He leads me to become a legend as well. 

DOING GOOD

I guess it is inherently selfish, because doing good makes YOU feel good, so in the end you are really just pleasing yourself…

But also, hopefully, by doing good you make others feel better and motivate others to do good and seek good in turn.

If you don’t know me, you might be thinking, “Gosh, this girl is a Jesus FREAK!”

Hardly.

I just believe what I believe, and I’m not afraid to say it. I make plenty of mistakes and my fair share of bad decisions. And among other things, I curse…occassionally…like a sailor.

So, I guess the question is: How can I be a good person all around? How can I do right by everyone around me, keep a sane mind and somehow be happy also?

It is really hard. 

I can’t, by myself. 

I’m not perfect, and I don’t want to be perfect.

But I do want to be good…

And I will keep keep trying. 

Terribulence

On a flight to Vegas. Pilot comes on over the p.a. in a barely there, muffled voice to let us know to buckle up because it’s gonna get a little bumpy for the next 10 minutes or so.

“Please fasten your seat belts and remain seated until the fasten seatbelt sign is turned off.”

The other passengers barely lift their heads in recognition of the all too familiar announcement; instead they, and by they I mean we, grunt and frown because the in-flight movie is paused until he is done speaking.

…….

How ungrateful of us…

If only life offered us this same luxury. A little heads up before the storm; a chance to buckle up and ride it out calmly.

Nope.

Doesn’t work that way.

Life gives no warning about the troubles that will cross our paths. We seemingly pilot ourselves; mark our own trajectory; and often take wrong turns.

Sometimes, you hit a slump, bad patch of turbulence, air pocket flips your shit upside down. Suddenly, alarms start going off, and you are nosediving out of control.

And suddenly, every movie with an emergency landing scene flashes before your eyes, and you start yelling “Pull Up! Pull Up!”

……

As it turns out the next 10 minutes aren’t even that bad. We assume the pilot overreacted with his warning; what we don’t know is all the adjustments to the gauges and flight patterns that were made, post warning, so that we could navigate more safely.

Oftentimes, life gets you down and things seem out of control, YOUR control. When you’ve exhausted all your options and made every effort… you just have to buckle up, have faith, and ride it out.

You may not know what’s going on behind the scenes, or perhaps not even like the final outcome, but you’ll find that you can pull through.

Wether you pray to God for help, or ask friends and family for help, or seek professional help.

Whatever problems you are facing, try to keep a positive mindset and have faith. You CAN get through.

Below is one of my favorite poems. There are varying versions, but regardless, I find it pretty motivational.

It is an excellent REMINDER of Who is in control.

——

“Footprints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson

One night I had a dream–

I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord
and across the sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene I noticed two sets of footprints,
one belonged to me and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that many times along the path of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I also noticed that it happened at the very lowest
and saddest times in my life.

This really bothered me and I questioned the Lord about it.

“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you,
you would walk with me all the way,
but I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life
there is only one set of footprints.

I don’t understand why in times when I needed you most,
you should leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never, never leave you
during your times of trial and suffering.

When you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”

God’s Mercy: The Shrimp Boat

5 de Junio 1980
Port of Mariel, Cuba
———-
Many waited in the large room. Among them, my parents and sister—only 10 months old at the time—my aunt, uncle and cousin.

Like pupils, they listened intently for their names, not just to indicate that they were present, but because it meant they were a few steps closer to freedom.

The summer heat only added to the bubbling tension. As each name was called, uneasy looks turned into smiles. Families, couples, men & women headed into another room. Sometimes one after the other, but more often than not, the order didn’t seem to have any rhyme or reason. 

The room grew empty as people rejoined each other in the other room that may as well have already been called America. 

After some time, my father found himself alone; only a few others whom he didn’t know remained.

He waited, conjectured, speculated, imagined the worst; he prayed; and then he saw my mother and sister returning with a guard. 

They hadn’t called his name. He would not be authorized to leave through the Mariel boatlift.

He had previously been imprisoned for attempting to leave the island, and now, years later despite a wife and infant, it seemed they weren’t going to let him go so easily.

My mother couldn’t speak as she approached him. Fear welled up in her eyes, and in his heart. 

He bit his bottom lip, opened his mouth, then hesitated. 

He told her to take my sister, and go ahead with my uncle.

“Tranquila,” he said and held them close as she sobbed. 

“Despidese ya, que usted no lo va a ver mas,” the guard sneered heartlessly. What joy could he find in separating a family?

She kissed him one last time. He cupped my sister’s face in his hands and kissed her forehead lightly, smelling her hair at the same time, hoping to remember her sweet face whenever he smelled the familiar baby cologne. 

My mother’s heart ached, but even at 19 she was obedient and loyal. 

My father watched them go, towards an uncertain future, but better nonetheless, even if the sea would forever lie between them.

My aunt held my sister for the majority of the trip, while my mother vomited over the edge of the boat that brought them to the United States. She was seasick the entire voyage, perhaps heartbroken and distraught by her decision as well. 

———-

Thankfully, with the help of God and the support of our families, my father was able to leave Cuba a few days later. The boat that brought my father to the United States on June 10, 1980, and would eventually reunite my father with his family, was named God’s Mercy; and so has it carried us ever since. 

———-

This is just a piece of the story of my parents exodus from Cuba; however, the sacrifice they were willing to make that day is not unlike those they have continued to make over the last 35 years. They always put their families’ needs first, above and before their own desires. My parents have been amazing examples and pillars of instruction my entire life. I am so grateful to have them both. More than anything though, I am grateful to God for his mercy and the blessings he has bestowed on our entire family.

“Perfectly Inconsistent”

Do you know any “perfect” Christians? 

Me neither!

I’m not perfect, but rather often inconsistent. Does that mean I should just give up, and not pray anymore? Or just stop talking about God or giving His advice because people will question me and my level of “Christianity”?
Why? Because I make mistakes, because I curse and make jokes or poke fun when I shouldn’t; because I get angry or jealous or impatient at times.
The point is just that, we aren’t perfect. And thank God! Or he should thank us, ’cause otherwise he’d be pretty bored up there! 

J/K @TheBigGuy

I’m joking of course! O_o 

We have to work on ourselves all the time. Whether it’s being a good Christian or just a good person in general.
It’s like dieting. Just because you have one bad meal, it doesn’t mean you need to ruin the rest of your day or week by continuing to eat poorly.
You just have to start over at the next meal. 

A Happy Meal?

Several months ago, I took my daughter to Mcdonald’s after a doctor’s visit. (Probably NOT the healthiest option, but it made her smile after getting some routine bloodwork.) It’s not called a Happy Meal for nothing.

She unpacked her happy meal, chicken nuggets, fries, and a cheeseburger with no pickles.

Using the fries as teeth, she pretended to be a vampire. I snapped a picture for posterity, (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) and laughed at my silly little girl. Sofy giggled and all the fries fell out.

“Now you do it, Mommy.”

Suddenly, there was a loud grunting and whining from across the room; someone was pounding on one of the tables.

Everyone turned to stare at a tall hairy boy, maybe six foot, late twenties, at least 250 pounds. His tattered white t-shirt was a size too small; his shorts fell slightly askew below his waist. He wore heavy looking, black laced up shoes, like those you might put on a child whose feet turn inward. His dark black hair was as untamable as his spirit.

He was a giant compared to the woman next to him who tried ineffectively to appease him.

Her brown hair, pulled back in a short ponytail, was highlighted by whites and greys. Her skin was the reddish brown of someone who might toil under the sun all day, like farmers, construction workers, or beggars. She reached out and placed her callused hands on his, shushing him. The dirt under her fingernails contrasted sharply against the boy’s pale white skin.

Her eyes looked up at him, but past him as well, pleading for the boy to calm down.

His squinty eyes looked confused, and he gnawed at his balled up fists as he continued to moan in in-compliance.

People were staring, including Sofy, who seemed frightened by his loud outbursts. His pounding rattled the chairs around his table.

“It’s not polite to stare,” I reminded her and reached out for her little hands.

“Mommy, what’s wrong with him?”

I explained that some kids are just born different: speech impediments, physical abnormalities, mental handicaps, and so on.

“It’s very sad and nobody’s fault. And it’s not nice to stare at or make fun of someone because they are different.”

The boy grew more upset until an old man, his father, finally came over with a tray of food. The man took off his dirty Yankee’s cap and brushed his hand through his thinning, and also greying, hair. He had the same burnt skin as his wife. He needed a haircut and a shave. His jeans were dirty and torn at the heels from dragging. His belt had grown too big for his waist, and you could see where he had added extra holes and cut off the excess.

He was a third of the size of the boy, but he calmly motioned the boy to take a seat. After some quiet negotiating, the boy listened and sat next to his teary eyed mother. He and his mother shared a 10 piece nuggets meal, a burger and fries. The father had asked for a cup for water; he went to the soda machine and got some fruit punch for himself. That was all.

Perhaps he had already eaten?

I felt so blessed to have not one, but three, happy and healthy children. I couldn’t begin to imagine the struggles they were going through, physically, emotionally, and monetarily.

We picked up and headed for the door. As I reached the door, I looked back for one last look at the depressing situation that I was leaving behind, that which they couldn’t.

The old man looked up at that moment, and I realized I had seen that face before.

**********

A few days before, I was waiting at a traffic light when I noticed a beggar walking down my lane. He held up a cardboard handwritten sign.

“I HAVE AN AUTISTIC SON. I CAN’T FIND WORK. HE NEEDS FOOD AND SPECIAL CARE. PLEASE HELP.
GOD BLESS.”

I was so angry. How could this lazy man pretend to have a sick child in order to get pity and charity from other hardworking people.

He’s probably gonna get drunk, or buy drugs.

Needless to say, I didn’t open the window. Although I’m always inclined to give money to the homeless, I thought I was going to teach him a lesson.

**********

I never thought I would run into him and his Autistic son at that McDonald’s, and see first hand the circumstances he so poignantly described on cardboard.

Now, whenever I see him, I always ask about his son. I give him what I can.

I don’t know how he got there or why, but I’m not supposed to. I’m no one to judge or determine worthiness…

What we receive is not ours to keep and hoard, it is His for us to give.

Ecclesiastes 6:12 NIV
For who knows what is good for a person in life, during the few and meaningless days they pass through like a shadow? Who can tell them what will happen under the sun after they are gone?

Proverbs 11:24-25, 28 NIV
[24] One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
[25] A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.
[28] Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Proverbs 3:27-28 NIV
[27] Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. [28] Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you.

**********

This post is in no way intended to indicate that Autism is necessarily a sickness or a weakness, or that people with Autism can’t function normally, and live happy lives.

The boy in the post had other problems and limitations which weren’t caused by the Autism.

This is a portrayal of events that actually took place from my point of view, and I have no expert knowledge about Autism.

In no way is this post intended to offend anyone with Autism, nor anyone with relatives who have autism.

Time Travel

Sometimes, you do things you don’t regret;
Nevertheless, can never forget.

Life’s not black and white;
Rather, decays into greens and browns and grays.

Often, not right or wrong;
Least wrong can still feel farthest from right.

Don’t dwell, time traveler.

Though ends don’t justify the means,
You can’t live presently in the past.

Move on.

Move forward.

Forgive.

Learn.

Be grateful.

Yesterday brought you here;

There’s always tomorrow…

**********

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Psalm 103:2-5 KJV

[2] Bless the Lord…and forget not all His benefits: [3] Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; [4] Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; [5] Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Church

Recently my daughter’s teacher asked me if we go to church?

My son and daughter attend a private Christian School, and I wondered hesitantly if she was asking because one of them had done something wrong.

But then I thought, I do go to church everday.

Every morning when I wake up and thank God for another day; and I pray that I will be a good person and do the best I can to do His will. I also pray that I’ll win the lotto, AND promise to share the winnings.

Every time someone asks me for help or advice, and I can sit, listen and we work together to find a solution.

[1 Corinthians 14:26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.]

When my dad tells me stories about his past experiences, situations he faced, and how God helped him get through when he was certain failure was at hand.

When I give money to the homeless lady, not knowing where the money will go, but certain that’s as far as my job goes.

Every time I go over the homework with my kids; when they happily recite their weekly bible verse from memory; when we read; when I watch them play together or help each other out; when they pick up their room. That last one happens… sometimes. Besides, cleanliness is next to Godliness… Isn’t that one of the commandments?

When I lay down with each of my three kids at night and pray with them.

[Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.]

My youngest doesn’t really know what she’s doing, but she puts her hands together and says thank you for everything from Mom and Dad, to pollitos and papitas.

When my family gets together on saturday nights, despite our differences of opinions and lifestyles. Family always comes first, THEN cigars, whiskey and pork rinds.

When I lay down in my bed at the end of a long day and pray for family, friends, work (Please less work); when I give thanks for all I that I have; when I look up a verse on my bible app, or read a short devotional.

There’s an app for everything! iChurch? J/K O_o



Without a doubt going to church has its merits. It reinforces what you believe, reminds you to practice good habits. At times, the message speaks to you, like it was specifically tailored to your struggles that week.

But if you listen, God is speaking to you all day long, through the people and situations you endure, at work, at school, at home, even in your dreams; in every opportunity that you are given to be like Him.

I guess I could make time to go to church, but I don’t want to dedicate just one day, morning or afternoon to be open to God’s message.

**********

Rather than go into that long explanation, and fearing the awkward silence had already lasted longer than a second, I replied, “No, we don’t go to church.”

“Really? I thought most certainly that you did. Your daughter is so sweet, and the way she talks about God, I just can’t believe it. She is just such a sweet little girl, and a joy to teach. You are obviously doing a good job.”

[Proverbs 22:6
Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.]

I gave myself a good ol’ pat on the back and thanked her.