Oh Light

This year at MOPS, our focus is on light, and particularly on how light interacts with darkness.  We can look around our world and see examples of this in the natural world, in society and in the spiritual world.  This Advent season is the perfect time to reflect on what light is and what it means for us personally.  

In the natural world, we understand that it is impossible for any darkness to survive if light is within it.  We have tested this out and know it to be true.  Our children might ask for the hall light to stay on at night so they can have just a crack of light pouring into their rooms. We know that even if the smallest light is illuminated, there is no more darkness… our eyes adjust and we can see.  Light does not fear darkness.  Light wins every time.  Darkness can not survive in the presence of light.

This imagery perfectly describes who Jesus is.  He calls Himself the light of the world.  He does not say He is “like” light, but rather that He IS light.  Jesus is called Light over 10 times in the book of John alone.  In John 8, He says “I am the light of the world; whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”.  Before time, before the universe was created, before light was ignited, Jesus was there, hovering in the darkness.  Jesus knows darkness but does not fear it.  

Can you imagine a world, where in which Jesus’ light does not dwell?  Before His birth, there was only the hope of light.  Before His birth, there were only glimpses.  And then Jesus.  Jesus came in as a child, God and man entwined, of the earth and of divine.  Jesus flooded the dark world with His light.  He is the light of the world.  Everything changed from that moment on.  

But darkness still exists, in the natural world and in our lives.  Jesus knew darkness and plunged head first into it.  When He took his final breath, on the cross, the Bible tells us that the earth shook and was immersed into total darkness.  Seemingly, the light was put out.  The moment of our greatest hope happened in utter darkness.  But the light, and our hope was not put out, because He rose 3 days later, conquering death and darkness.  You see, He had to fall head first into the darkness in order to overcome it and rise up shining victoriously. Jesus went willingly into the darkness so that you and I could receive His light.

I love this song.  One of my favorite lines is “the soul now felt it’s worth” which you may recognize from the traditional “Oh Holy Night” carol.  Have you thought about what that means?  Because of Jesus, my soul no longer wanders.  My soul knows it is the beloved of the Creator.  My soul is fulfilled, quenched.  I know I am valuable and oh so loved because He came, He lived and He died for me.  Does your soul feel it’s worth?

Another beautiful line, “Light will chase and find us”.  Jesus actively pursues you.  He is chasing you.  He is plunging into the darkness to find you and to give you His light.  

Maybe you are reading this today and you know all this.  Jesus’ light is alive inside you and you know your worth.  In Matthew 5, Jesus now says that “You are the light of the world” and to “let your light shine before others that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”. So then be the light.  Bring the light to others.  Expel darkness with your very presence.   

Maybe you can’t see any light because you’re in a season of darkness.  Maybe you’re sad, sick, stressed or struggling. Know that just as He was hovering in the darkness in the beginning, He is hovering in your darkness as well.  If Jesus can be found in the darkness, we can have hope and peace and have absolutely nothing to fear.  Remember that only the light of Jesus can cast out your darkness.  Friend, run into the light… run to Jesus.  

Or maybe you don’t know this light, you don’t feel worthy or pursued.  I’m here today to tell you that He loves you and He has moved heaven and earth for you to read this message today.  THIS is Him pursuing you.  Please don’t let this moment pass you by... if you have no one in your life to talk about Jesus with, I would love the opportunity to connect with you personally. Please message me.

This holiday season, let’s keep our eyes on the Light.  Sweet baby Jesus is easy to love and cherish, but let’s not forget Jesus the man, Jesus the light, Jesus who came to reconcile.  Along with all the food, gifts and fun, let’s remember to be the light of Jesus to those around us and to bring Him praise for all He’s done.

The Cuban Mother's Curse

I'm not sure if this is simply the Cuban mother's curse, or if it knows no racial boundaries.
Forgetting your own child's name.

I grew up as an only child until I was 10 when my father remarried and I gained a brother through marriage, and then my mother remarried a year later and I gained 3 more siblings through marriage.  Before this, I was an only child, hence there should be no reason that my mother would forget MY name, however, the curse was ever prevalent.  Countless times I'd be called the name of my mother's sister followed by an apologetic "Nicole".
But as I grew and so did our family, the names kept piling on... Occasionally I would respond to any number of names... "Lorraine", "Monique", "Mariah", "Natalie".  Usually I was the only one home, so I figured she was talking to me.  My favorite was always when I'd get the long combo name followed by a swift Cuban curse, "Lorrainemoniquemariahnatalie-AY COÑO SU MADRE- NICOLE!" As if it was MY fault she couldn't remember the name of her own daughter.

But you know how they say the tables will turn?
They have.

I have two sons... and yet, I can't get there names together.  I spend my life yelling

It has gotten so bad that my kids actually make fun of me... only 3 and 4 and they have a good laugh at their mother's expense.  Ay, que me espera! I'm afraid to know what awaits me when these boys are teenagers!

So as soon as I let that little "Jo" slip before calling for Marco, he's already laughing and asking me "What do you want JO-Mama?!"  Can you believe the nerve of that kid!?  What a smarty pants!
And of course Jonas joins in the fun... "MA-Jonas?! Noooo... that's not my name!"

If only I could just get it right... I technically should be able to do this seeing as I named them.  But alas, The Cuban Mother's Curse has inevitably taken hold.

Written on Their Little Hearts

You know, sometimes I really don't give my kids enough credit.  I think, oh, they're too little to do this, or that... we'll wait til their older.

Like with praying.  I had been praying for them and over them since they were in my belly, but WITH them?  No, I thought it was better to wait til they were older... until I realized, WHY Wait?!  We began night time prayers and progressed with meal time prayers, and now, 9 times out of 10, they remind ME to pray with them!

But still, I didn't give them credit.  I still wanted to wait til they were older with Bible verse memorization.  I figured that it was going to be too difficult, and honestly, would they REALLY remember these verses word for word for life?  Probably not... I know I don't!  Try as I might, I have a hard time memorizing scripture and especially references... I'm always like "somewhere in the Bible I know it says"... which is about the most unhelpful thing ever.  Thank God for Google... seriously!

So I figured that my limitations would also be theirs, I mean, they're PREschoolers!  But oh, how I was proven wrong.

One day, coming home from church, Marco (at the time he was 3), began reciting the Bible verse they had learned, and Jonas (at the time he was 2) was following along slowly behind.  I.Was.Amazed.

I began thinking about the whole point of scripture memorization.  Yes, of course, it's so that you can bring it up to help others, to answer questions, to offer encouragement or share the Truth... but that's all outward.  What about the inward reason?  Isn't it important to learn, meditate and memorize these verses to help US daily?  To help us remember that we are children of the one true God.  To help us resist temptation and lies when they come at us.  To have the Truth so so so engraved on our hearts and minds that we don't even have to THINK about it... it's second nature.  To know the Word is Truth as simply and obviously as we know that the sky is blue or that the grass is green.

This is exactly what I want for my children.  And what better time than RIGHT NOW to begin putting those words in their mouths that will be written on their hearts.

So that hopefully, when (not if) struggles come their way, they can lean on the truths that they have been declaring since before they can remember.  So that they can hang on the promises and goodness of God.  So that they know that even if they don't have each other, or me, that they have Him and He is enough.

I bought a white board and hung it in my kitchen.  My plan was to teach and review one Bible verse a month.  I don't drill it or shove.  I teach it by repetition and using hand motions.  We say it sometimes when I'm in the kitchen preparing their food and always at night before bed.  They love it and always ask for more or want to also recite the ones from the past.

Here are some of the scriptures we have already done:
- "I praise you because you made me wonderful" Psalm 139:14
- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind" Matthew 22:37
- "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" Philippians 4:13
- "The Lord is good to all" Psalm 145:9
- "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good" Genesis 1:31
- "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever" Psalm 136:1 *This month

As you can see, we haven't been doing it that long at all, but it is something I love and cherish and plan to continue.  We started when the boys were 3 and 2, but I wish we hadn't waited so long.

If this is something that's important to you and your family, let me encourage you not to wait!  Start today!  Give your child some credit... even if she/he's too little.  Try it and you might be surprised, as I was.  They are little sponges and are picking up more than we think.  And even if you have a baby, who will obviously not recite after you... pray these verses over her.  Let her hear you speaking the Truth to her.  We are planting a seeds in our children's hearts and I know that this is just one of the ways He has showed me how to water it.

"I will my law on their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people"- Jeremiah 31:33

Not-So-Tough Mama

*I know I've been absent for almost a year... forgive me as I jump right back in without skipping a beat.  I'll give you a small update.  Marco (4) is now in Pre-K, Jonas (3) is my sidekick, and I keep busy as Coordinator of MOPS of Miami and Group Leader of BSF... so now that you're all caught up, onto my "Not-so-tough Mama moment".

Marco has 2 left feet.

Not really, but he might as well.  In the last 3 months, we have had 3 ER visits.  That brings the tally up to 3 Marco- 1 Jonas.  Marco's winning, but I don't think he'll be getting a prize.

Back in June, he smashed his finger in the closet door while suffering from a fit of rage over a time-out.  It was a bit dramatic. He lost a nail and fractured the finger.

Then on Labor Day, he was wrapped in a towel like a burrito and tripped on a step.  Since his arms were under the towel, he fell flat on his face and busted open his chin.  This wasn't his fault.  He got 3 stitches, 2 of which he pulled all by himself.

Last week, while walking... walking, he tripped and bit through his lip.  The bottom teeth broke the inside of his lip and the top teeth broke the outside.  And he chipped a tooth.  All this damage was done while walking.  Not riding a motorcycle off a cliff... walking.  Luckily the inside of his mouth wasn't badly cut and healed quickly on it's own, but the outside was completely jagged and opened.  He needed 6 stitches, 2 of which he pulled all by himself.

Mauricio warned me that when he had the stitches put on, the scene was ugly.  Really dramatic and emotional.  He barely kept it together.  I thought he was being wimpy... I mean, for real... get over it.

I pride myself on being a tough mama.
You're crying?  Dry it up
You're hurt?  It'll be ok
You have to get a shot?  You'll survive

This may seem harsh, but it's probably a result of my many-many-many trips to the doctor and hospital, being probed, prodded, pinched and pricked since I was born due to my lung disease and RA.  I give myself an injection twice a week without flinching.  I understand that some things are medically necessary, and that although it may hurt, it's still necessary.  Get over it.

Today, we had an appointment with the plastic surgeon to remove Marco's stitches.  I walked in there wearing my tough mama pants.  He had to get them off... if it hurt, that was too bad.  As soon as the nurse came in to remove them, he began to panic.  He held onto my neck and wouldn't let her look at him.

We tried to bargain with him but nothing would get him to put his head up for her.  She finally asked me if it was ok for them to hold him down.  Remember, I still had my tough mama pants on, and I looked at her confidently and said, "yeah, of course... go for it... I'm used to this stuff".

Ahhhh my confidence and ego loves to shine out right before a fall.

They took out a blanket and wrapped him in it.  Two nurses held his arms and legs and another held his head while a fourth removed the stitches.

Seeing him like that.  Tied down and helpless.  Crying and screaming "MOMMY".  It tore me up.

I felt like I was betraying him.  Logically I knew it was necessary, but inside I felt broken hearted.

When it was all over, a nurse handed me a wad of tissue paper and asked me if I was ok.  She said it's a lot harder when you see your child like that...
No kidding!

My tough mama facade was ripped away, and all that was left was compassion, mercy and love.  I hope I can remember that it's more important to portray those qualities.  When all was said and done, I held Marco for a while and whispered in his ear how proud I was of him, how much I love him and what a brave brave boy he was.

New Rule:  Mauricio handles all ER situations from now on.  I can't handle much more of that!

The Less You Write

Some of you may have been wondering where the heck I've been.  Let me assure you, I'm alive and well.

Since moving into our house in September, my blog writing has decreased significantly.  We decided that we wouldn't sign up for internet or cable for the time being in order to save some money and be able to do some much needed fixing to our home.  The only internet access I have at home is through my phone, which all bloggers know it is incredibly frustrating to write and read blogs from a phone.

My first month there I really tried to keep up.  I would write all the time on Word or TextEdit and then transfer my posts over to blogger when I'd get access at either my in-laws or work or even the park!  I would have 3 or 4 posts ready and scheduled a week in advance.  But even with doing that, my enthusiasm for blog writing started to fade.

As I was thinking about why, I finally realized... it's because I have been completely disconnected with my blogging community!  Sure, I could write posts and have them ready, but I couldn't keep up with the blogs I loved reading.  I couldn't interact with the ladies that have brought me encouragement and online friendship as easily.  I was isolated.

So I started writing less.  And the thing about that is, the less you write, the less you have to write about.  Writing is like a flurry.  The more you do it, the more easily it becomes and the more ideas you have and the quicker you get it out.  It's like it just spills out of you.  But likewise, the less you write, the harder it becomes, the slower it is to come out.  It feels like molasses.

I have been warned by some people that if I don't keep up with it, I will lose the followers I have acquired so far... and this is true.  In the last month I have lost 2 followers... I'm not in the 100's anymore.  But that's ok.

On the other hand, I have had a few blog ladies contact me through twitter, facebook or email and ask me where I've been or how I've been doing.  That has been amazing!  And I want to say Thank You to those people... your kindness and friendship means a lot!

I miss writing, but I now realize that I got caught up in the blog competition.  In my hiatus, I've been able to reevaluate why I even do this in the first place.  It's my outlet and my way of documenting my family's stories.  While doing giveaways and link ups are fun, that isn't necessarily the purpose of my blog.

And I'm done spending hours a week reading other people's blogs and writing thoughtful comments when they are never returned.  Basically, I'm purging.  The truth is, I shouldn't care about my follower number.  I'm not trying to make a living doing this.  I don't care to be the #1 mommy blogger.  I can't have a $1,000 giveaway.  I can't make my house Pinterest worthy.  I can't measure up to the competition... so I'm backing out.

If you still want to follow me along my journey, please stay a while.  I hope to keep it real, keep it true to myself and keep it humble.  I would love to share my story with you and I hope we are able to learn from each other.  Because, really... that's what it's about.